F*ck you, polar vortex. A few days ago we returned to your icy clutches, but we’ve got the tan-lines to prove that for 10 glorious days, we were free.
Our Barbados trip was by no means perfect (Theo got the stomach flu, and there were the usual complex dynamics at play when one vacations with one’s spouse, child, parents, sister and brother-in-law) but it sure was pretty. I’ll let the photos do the talking…
I promise I’m not trying to make you insanely jealous, but there’s more…
I’ve never actually been part of a book club before, but I hear they often involve, like, your mother-in-law and a lot of red wine. And a book! Sometimes there’s a book.
With this classic model in mind, I wondered if perhaps we could up the ante a little by deliberately pairing a novel with a tipple? In the service of highlighting appropriate literary themes, of course. The bleakness of this current winter is mitigated only by my penchant for dystopian fiction – you know, the kind of novel that practically drives you to drink – so I hereby call to order The Symmetric’s first meeting of the Dystopian Book Club.
THE BOOK:The Circle by Dave Eggers (Knopf, 2013) describes a digital near-future where a seemingly benevolent tech conglomerate feeds on the public’s desire and complicity for constant communication, connectivity, and affirmation, leading to a world wherein social media participation is mandatory and privacy is essentially nullified. The story follows Mae Holland, new hire at The Circle, and her assimilation into the cult-like company’s culture and philosophy. The novel is not exactly subtle, but it’s a pretty enjoyable plot-driven read that will probably make you squirm the next time you go to hit the ‘like’ button on your friend’s latest baby photo posted on Facebook.
THE DRINK: We’re pairing the book with an alcoholic beverage that goes down easy – if it tastes good enough you probably won’t realize you’re getting drunk (and/or essentially having your private life stripped away), right? We’ve deemed it “Ultimate Transparency” for both its see-through appearance and Mae’s decision to “go transparent,” having her every move filmed for the world to watch. Here’s how to drink (and make) the Kool-Aid, so to speak:
1 shot orange vodka
1 sugar cube
blood orange juice squeezed from half an orange
Fill glass with ice and pour vodka over top. Dip sugar cube in blood orange juice and place it on top of the ice. The sugar cube will slowly break apart and insidiously seep into the rest of the cocktail, infusing its flavour (is the metaphor working here? Gosh I hope so).
And now, to discuss: Have you read The Circle? Holy sh*t do you think all that could really happen?? Do you have a favourite novel you’d like to see given the Dystopian Book Club treatment here? Pray tell, my friends.
This morning Chris, Theo and I are escaping the big chill and heading to Barbados for a little sun, surf, and family time with my parents (who we’ll be meeting down there). I’m looking forward to tearing into some novels, and my dad can’t stop talking about taking Theo for walks on the beach to pick shells. CANNOT. WAIT.
I’ve still got blog posts scheduled and Gillian will be here to keep the homestead safe (and take care of our dog). I see lots of duty-free rum in her future. You can keep up with us on Instagram where I’ll undoubtedly be posting a ton of bikini selfless (ha, no). See you soon! xx Shanan
Image above: Theo in Barbados last year, standing at the beach gate in the early morning. Photo by Shanan Kurtz/The Symmetric.
So, I’m a child of the 70s. My mom was a full-on, real-deal, granola-loving flower child who owned a whole foods store when I was little. I was raised on sprouts, nut butter and chickpeas. When I was six and we moved from the country to our new digs in Toronto, she floated around the neighbourhood handing out squash from her garden to the yuppies on Cottingham Street. Big hit, right?
I’ve tried many dishes from this book, but the dal with rice and raita that we’ve coined the “Crowdpleaser Weeknight Indian” recipe is by far the biggest hit in my household (and now Shanan’s!). Without further ado…
DAL (serves six)
1 1/2 cups of red or brown lentils, yellow or green split peas, or hulled mung beans (I use beluga or French lentils for their firmer texture)
4 cups water
2 dried whole chiles (I omit when I’m making this for my kids)
1/4 teaspoon turmeric
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger
1 cup chopped onion
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1/2-1 tsp garam masala
ghee or oil
1. In a medium pot, cover the lentils with cold water and add the whole chilies (if using), turmeric and salt. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer, stirring often, until very tender (about 30 mins for red lentils, 45 for peas or an hour + for mung beans). Add small amounts of water if necessary.
2. Meanwhile, heat the ghee or oil in a small pan, add the cumin seeds and cook for 10-15 seconds. Stir in the onions and ginger and cook until onions begin to brown, about 5-10 mins.
3. When the lentils are tender, remove and discard the chilies. Stir in the onion mixture, lemon juice and garam masala, and extra salt to taste.
COCONUT RICE (I usually just wing this in terms of quantities!)
white basmati rice
black mustard seeds
unsweetened shredded/grated coconut flakes
ghee or oil
1. Cook rice as directed, using coconut milk instead of water (or do half and half).
2. Meanwhile, heat ghee or oil in a pan and add cashews, cumin seeds and mustard seeds. Saute for a few minutes and remove from heat. Lightly toast coconut in the same pan, stirring frequently. Stir coconut and cashew mixture into rice and serve.
1 medium tomato, diced
1 small cucumber, peeled and chopped
1 scallion (white and green parts), finely chopped
1 teaspoon finely chopped mint (or cilantro – equally tasty)
1/4 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 1/2 cups yogurt (I like to use goat yogurt for its richness and more savoury flavour!)
salt and fresh ground pepper
Combine all ingredients in a bowl, chill for 30 mins before serving. Enjoy the raita alongside the dal and rice.
Happy New Year! I’ve missed you. Lord, have I missed you.
This holiday kicked my ass. All 20 days of it. Okay, maybe not all 20 – but certainly the last 5. And today to discover it was ANOTHER SNOW DAY (rural-speak for: no buses, schools closed, kids home AGAIN!), I thought I might just lose my mind.
Why, you may ask? How fortunate to have had time off to spend with family and loved ones, to enjoy the holidays to the fullest, yada yada. This is true, but three weeks later I am officially self-diagnosing a case of Holiday Burnout.
Unfortunately, I have no one to blame but myself. And, my naughty list is not only self-inflicted, but Bridget Jones-worthy (minus the tobacco and one night stands). I drowned myself in a sea of soft cheese and booze (you know you’re in for it when the first holiday party you attend is actually in November), replaced coffee with eggnog lattes, proclaimed President’s Choice frozen appetizers their own food group, and did not a stitch more exercise than walk to my car.
I heard myself say chipper things like, “it’s five o’clock somewhere!” when asked if I wanted a drink at oh, I don’t know, 2 p.m. I traded in my high-waisted wool pants for what I have now dubbed my “buffet dress” – a waistless tunic that allows for generous holiday binge eating. That’s when I was actually dressed. A good portion of the past three weeks has been spent in my new Christmas PJ’s. My eldest daughter pointed out to me the other day that she had been counting my pajama days, and I had probably better get dressed (and take off the crown that came in my Christmas cracker? No!).
Not to throw other members of my family under the bus, but I’ve learned holiday burnout may be contagious. Exhibit B: My husband, typically an evolved guy with decent taste, degenerated into a football-watching zombie in yes, Joey Buttafuoco pants.
So January 8 is the new January 1 for me. I’m swearing by anything green. I’m wearing clothes with a waist. I have thrown out all the chocolate, party mix (you know the nuclear orange sh*t with ringolos in it?) and the tree. Bye bye Bridget, it’s been swell. Joey – I’ll see ya next year.