2023 Reading List

Welcome to the 2023 Reading List!

As always, I’m pulling over the books I didn’t get to last year and I’m full out dropping a couple that I just could not finish. In process or finished reads are in BOLD. They are not really in any particular order.

I read 31 (and 3/4) books in 2022, a number I’m very happy with. I hope to meet and/or top that this year.

After reading the synopses of these, they are dropped for 2023:
Land of Big Numbers, Te-Ping Chen
Empire of Pain, Patrick Radden Keefe
Things We Lost to the Water, Eric Nguyen
Intimacies, Katie Kitamura

As of Nov 28, I’ve read 35 books (counting GNs) and I’m currently reading Gwendy’s Final Task and The World We Knew.  :)

Surprise gifts:
Garlic and Sapphires, Ruth Reichl. NYT food critic’s memoir. Really enjoyed it!

Comfort Me With Apples, Ruth Reichl. Another memoir. Very good, but a bit more personal that the one above. This woman hung out with the chefs that we venerate these days: Alice Waters, Jonathan Waxman, Wolfgang Puck – hell, she was even besties with Danny Kaye, who was an amazing gourmet cook!! 

Making It So, Sir Patrick Stewart. YES! Got my preorder and started! SO GOOD. Of course, I read it in his voice! He starts at the beginning, in England during WWII when he was born. LOVE IT! (But I will say, it is very much geared towards theatre nerds than Trek nerds.)

Holly, Stephen King. About Holly from the Mr Mercedes books. This character will not let him go!

Book Nick picked up:
Gwendy’s Final Task, S King and Richard Chizmar. Final book of the Trilogy: Gwendy’s Button Box, Gwendy’s Magic Feather and this book. It’s NOT AT ALL what I expected, but good in a Stephen King kind of way. 

Pulled from a donation pile: 
Brave New World, Aldous Huxley.  Surprisingly readable, considering he’s English and the book is old. HOWEVER, the notion of children being encouraged to “play erotic games” does squick me out a bit. The whole premise is using pleasure and conditioning to control the population. Creepy, man. 

Goodwill hurl! (late Aug)

On Gold Mountain, Lisa See. I always get her books.

Wake, Lisa McMann. Some creepy story about people invading your dreams.

A Cat Is Watching, Roger A. Caras. Author is a wildlife authority and this is a book about cats!

Preserving the Harvest, cookbook with tons of canning/preserving info.

Chinese Cuisine, cookbook of authentic Chinese recipes, directly translated from the Chinese. Cool!

Born Standing Up, Steve Martin. His autobiography/memoir. I’ve read some of his fiction – he’s a good writer.

The Revenant, Michael Punke. Yes, the book that the movie is based on.

Drowning Ruth, Christina Schwarz. I think I may have read this long ago? Looks interesting even if I have.

Teachings of Zen, Thomas Cleary. Just curious about Zen.

The Rules of Magic, Alice Hoffman. As I’ve said, I like her writing, so I picked this one up, too.

Ollie’s Graphic Novel HURL Aug 6!
Memories of the Future, Siri Hustvedt. Sounded interesting. Started this (9/6) and while it’s called a novel, it is actually a memoir!! And a GOOD one, too! She’s got a conversational tone rather like Mary Karr and I am IN LOVE with this book!
Get Jiro!, Anthony Bourdain. I think I’ve got the comics of this? It’s Tony, I’m IN.
Fables: Farewell Last of the series, will hold on this.
Fables: Happily Ever After
Fables: Snow White
Fables: Storybook Love
All Fables GNs/collections are done by various writers and artists, but ALL these are Willingham, Buckingham and Leialoha.

Books brought forward:
Fear, Bob Woodward. Yes, THAT Bob Woodward. Nick picked this one, but I’ll read it, it’s about T****.

A Country Road, A Tree, Jo Baker. WWII historical fiction set in Paris. VERY English, which to me, means rather dry and boring. I’ll probably get through it. See next!

To The Lighthouse, Virginia Woolf. I didn’t count this as READ in 2022, I’m about 1/4 into it… Probably won’t finish. VERY English. Blech.

Paper Son, S.J. Rozen.

Fifth Chinese Daughter, forgot about this one, it’s my treadmill book. Finished this one. It’s dry, but OK. You really have to remember it’s written in the 40s and in the Chinese way: third person – even tho it’s an autobiography.  It’s odd. 

Jasmine, Bharati Mukherjee. This is a short novel and a fast read. The story is pretty good, nothing special. It’s a story about an Indian girl’s journey from a poor, remote Indian village to New York, then to Iowa. The pacing is good, I’d recommend for a good summer read.

The Distance Between Us, Reyna Grande.

The Good Demon, Jimmy Cajoleas.

The Silver Star, Jeannette Walls. This is NOT a memoir, unlike the two books of hers I read last year. I like her voice, I hope it carries into fiction. 8/7 Almost finished. It is a retelling of her rather terrible childhood with different characters. It reads well, but has not much new to offer as far as her stretching her writing abilities.

The Interior, Lisa See. NOT a Chinese historical fiction, more of a mystery. Just started this one Dec 20, so it won’t be finished this year. It’s pretty good. It’s a mystery within a historical setting.

Island of Sea Women, Lisa See. This historical fiction is about the island of Jeju, a Korean island where the women open dive into the sea for food and products to sell. It is a matriarchal society, which is interesting in itself. I picked this one up randomly at Ollies. It is typical See, except for being Korean rather than Chinese. This novel starts during the Japanese occupation of Korea and the island of Jeju (1930s-40s) and covers the decades into the 21st century. It’s a good read.


Ollie’s Hurl!!

Fairest: Return of the Maharaja Graphic Novel, various writers and artists. This is an offshoot of the Fables series, which I LOVE for the art! The stories are usually pretty engaging, too. This one is really good! It’s a collection of the comics series for this story line. Excellent!

The World That We Knew, Alice Hoffman. Set in WWII Germany and France. A Jewish girl leaves her home in Germany with a golem her mother had created for her. History AND magic. A good read so far! 

Crush, Cathy Alter and Dave Singleton. This is a collection of essays from famous people and their first crushes. It’s pretty interesting. Not a page turner, but good! Almost done with this one, I recommend it.

Burn the Place, Iliana Regan. This is a memoir by Michelin star Chef Iliana Regan. It’s about her life and how she ended up being the renowned chef she is today. It’s a good read! It is about growing up queer AND being a chef, so a great twofer.

The Road Home, Richard Paul Evans. I was hesitant to start this one when I discovered it was the third of a trilogy AND it had a whiff of religion to it, but I started it today and it’s oddly good – no religion so far. Perhaps I resonate because I am familiar with Route 66, but the author also has a conversational tone that reminds me of Stephen King a little bit. It’s my treadmill book and will be a quick read! Good read, does not require reading the first two. Skirts religion nicely.
Continue reading “2023 Reading List”

Looking for VSG/Bariatric info?

Hi there! If you’d like to see ONLY my extensive research on Vertical Sleeve Gastrectomy, bariatric diet and managing GERD (reflux), you can filter out all my other posts and see just those by clicking HERE. You can see my vlogs about my VSG journey here.

To see any category (recipes, for instance), use the drop down menu to the right labeled “View Posts by Category” and select the category you’d like. Thanks for stopping by!

Cooking Rules to Break at Will

As they say, rules are made to be broken! I agree! Especially when cooking.

Of course, you need to KNOW the rules in order to break them well, but there’s a LOT more wiggle room when cooking than Food Network would lead you to believe.

Today, I watched a quick cooking video by Jacques Pépin on FB [SHOUT OUT to Nick for getting me Cooking My Way SIGNED TO ME for my birthday!!!] . It was a pasta dish. As he’s cooking he mentions that he does not like pasta cooked al dente. ::angels singing:: NEITHER DO I! [Al dente means that there is a bit of raw pasta in the center when you break a piece of it and/or it is still a little stiff.] For most uses, I like my pasta just past al dente, except for mac n cheese. I’m sorry Food Network, but mac n cheese pasta should be SOFT. Ain’t nobody wanting al dente nonsense in their mac n cheese!

Another Southern rule: too much dressing. I counter that “too much” is an OPINION. I will grant that you can “overdress” really soft lettuces and spinach – they will wilt and that is gross. But sturdy lettuces and cabbage? DROWN IT. If there ain’t a puddle at the bottom, it ain’t enough. FIGHT ME.

I also stand by my use of SALTED butter. That’s right, SALTED. I’ve used it 100% of the time as long as I’ve cooked and guess what? It makes zero difference. Even in baking. [I heard that GASP. Shut it.] The old saw is that you “can’t control” the salt if you use salted butter. That is nonsense. If you use the same butter, then it should be consistent, right? It’s been my experience that all grade A salted butter has similar salt content. French or Irish butter is a different animal. Every sweet recipe on the planet will call for a tiny amount of salt. OR you can use salted butter and call it a day. I made a recipe that called for unsalted butter and after my friend got over her heart palpitations that I used salted, she said the recipe tasted the same. MY POINT EXACTLY.

The judges on these shows clutch their pearls when a cook uses a wet measure for dry ingredients or vice versa. PUHLEASE. There is very little difference between the two. If you are baking, you should be using weight rather than volume anyway, so who cares? [I weigh my pasta flours rather than use volume, but it’s not necessary.] I saw an IRON CHEF use a wet measure for flour and no one batted an eye.

The judges also whine when they see peppers being roasted on a gas stove flame. They will insist they can “taste the gas” in the roasted peppers. Bullshit. But they’ll be fine with it if a celebrity chef does the very same thing.

Judges also ding cooks for using canned tomatoes. Again: BULLSHIT. Italians use canned tomatoes ALL THE TIME. Giada Di Laurentiis uses them pretty much exclusively on her show Everyday Italian. If I hear ONE MORE JUDGE bitch about canned tomatoes, I may have a conniption. Scott Conant is THE WORST for this. He whiiiinnneeesss about the “canned taste”. OMFG. Get over yourself. Everyone uses canned tomatoes, canned beans and dried pasta. Millions of Italians can’t be wrong. I use dried pasta for most dishes, but I do enjoy making pasta as well. They are totally different beasts and really cannot be compared. I do like fresh stuffed pastas such as ravioli or agnolotti.

Which brings me to overall bias in these Food Network cooking contests. There is a different set of judging rules for celebrity chefs over “regular” chefs and yet another for “home cooks”. I don’t mind judges being kinder to home cooks, but I DO mind when they are judging each other, and suddenly the hard and fast rules aren’t really important. I also see a lot of piling on, especially on Chopped. If one judge points out some nitpicky thing, you can be sure the others will glom on and point it out, too. The gas roasting is a favourite for this behaviour, as is the canned tomatoes. STAHP!

Cooking is as much art as science. Yes, baking is MORE science, but there is still wiggle room in some things, such as salted vs unsalted butter.

So, use that salted butter! Roast those peppers on the stove! Cook your pasta AS YOU LIKE IT! Measure with any vessel that’s handy! Drown that slaw! These are small, insignificant things that really only matter in a cooking competition – and even then, not as much as they act like it does.

Get in that kitchen and CREATE. I have failures, like any cook. Fewer than I used to, but I still have them. Even the failures are usually edible, but they have not come out as intended. Who cares? MANGIA!

Autumn Arrives!

And with it, the impending birthday! It’s not as fun as it used to be, for sure, but still nice to keep having them, I guess.

Fall is usually a semi-depressive time for me in general and this one is no different. So, let’s get caught up, shall we?

– Last week of September, MRC laid me off, citing ‘labour cost is too high, gotta make cuts’. Hmm. Ok.

– It was fine, tho, because I had a big catering gig at the condos! Great Gatsby party for 75+ ppl! It was a huge success and I was very pleased overall, as were my clients. Shout out to Nick for helping me set up at the party and keep things filled.

– The layoff continued and I decided to poke around for another prep job. Got a callback from a well known BBQ place here in ATL. I’ve got an interview today and I might stage tomorrow. The only drawback is a 7am start time. OUCH. But I think their pay will be better than MRC and I know I’ll do more than be a human veg-o-matic.

– I also contacted MRC to see if they’d be recalling me, because the schedule is perfect and I can do the job with my eyes closed. They said ‘SURE! You can come back and work the line!’. Um. I HATE working the line. I feel like I was demoted. Not happy with that. I’ll work one shift this week, but I hope the BBQ joint is cool and I can take that. It’ll be worth the hellish start time if I can actually cook and learn about BBQ.

– I am also pursuing a retail job at a local well known liquor store. They’ve been incommunicado, so I doubt anything will come of it.

– Just this morning, I got an Indeed lead for a food research company looking for contractors. The pay is bleh ($15), but it’s actual research, so that interests me.

That’s pretty much all that’s going on. The headcold that has plagued me for 2 wks is on the way out. Trying to get back to exercising 3x/wk. I consider working in a kitchen exercise, but I want to try to keep doing weights at least. We’ll see. And with that, I’m off to do said exercise and get ready for my interview. Kinda hope I like the BBQ place despite the hours. I really like being in the kitchen. :)

Whittling Away the Socials

This is a crosspost from SubStack. I usually post from here to there, I wanted to try something different.

The other day, I logged out of Twitter (“X”), probably for good. I was seeing the exact same posts with different users and slightly different titles – the work of bots, no doubt. It’s bad enough I can’t see anything from anyone I follow, but adding bot posts to a feed that’s already logjammed with ads is egregious. NOPE.

A couple of days ago, I get a mystery warning from FB about a post that “violates cybersecurity rules” and had been removed. Um? What? Of course the post in question was not given. I could not find anything missing from the last month, so one can assume the post is old. Hell, it could be FIVE YEARS OLD for all I know. Whatever, FB, WHATEVER.

THEN, this morning, I pop over to IG (in Chrome) and there’s ANOTHER warning about a comment “violating community rules”, but the popup advising me of this is in a reload loop that cannot be stopped. I tried everything, disabled my ad blockers, etc., to no avail. I could read what it was about in between reloads (of about 1-2 seconds) and the comment they were bitching about was me telling an IG semi-celebrity how much I loved his posts and how helpful his videos are! LOL Yeah, buddy, that is some horrible shit right there! How AWFUL of me! So I closed the tab and tried the app. While not in a reload loop, the app is also disabled with the challenge message and will not refresh. So, just for shits, I tried Safari and IG worked fine. It did not give me the popup at all, so again: WHATEVER. FB has ruined IG just as I said it would.

If the IG app continues to misbehave, I guess I’ll stop using IG as well. It’s a shame, I like to post my food on there. There goes TWO socials in a week. :(

Which brings me to Substack.

I normally post to my blog, then repost here (to Substack), but today, I decided to post here first. Just to see the results. I’ll likely repost this to the blog since it’s turned into a longer essay than I anticipated.

I’m still reading books at a pretty good clip. I’ve read 23 this year with 2 in progress now. I average about 30 books a year – a number I’m proud of. Reading has always been one of my loves. It’s why I have a huge vocabulary and a wide knowledge base. [Edited out the reference to this blog, if you’re here, you know about the Reading List post, right?]

I have a catering gig at the end of the month. It’s the biggest one I’ve done: 75 people! I have done the recipes before, the biggest issue is storage of the prep and finished food pre-party. I’ll figure it out. I’ve got 2 fridges, which helps, and I have several items I can prep early in the week and hold until the gig. I hope IG gets straightened out, I’d like to post this catering gig there. Sigh.

If you like this newsletter, feel free to share it. :)

FOMO and Current Events

I expect to suffer MUCH FOMO this coming weekend due to DragonCon happening. We are not going this year for the first time in…? Forever? I’ve been OK with it so far, but this weekend will be tough. Going to try to stay away from media as much as I can. (HA! RIGHT. I’ll be all over it and whining the whole time! LOL)

While I’ve not had much to write about of late, as you know from lack of posts, we feel that things are turning a corner, however, for us and our close friends. One friend got a new job, another finally found a house to rent and yet another is buying the house he’s rented for a decade.

The friend buying the house is particularly relevant to us, because he is using some sort of Fannie Mae plan that offers a GRANT to pay the down payment. This could be OUR ticket to buying this place and getting the full on security we want. Renting is awesome, don’t get me wrong, but when renting from an individual, there’s always the chance of the house being sold – which is what happened to my friend who ended up buying. Anyway, this Fannie Mae product is very interesting to me and I’m going to enquire about seeing if we qualify. The business bankruptcy might cockblock us, but even so, by consulting with our friend the mortgage lender, we can at least get a plan to work towards the mortgage, even if we don’t outright qualify now.

Let me tell you: having something to work TOWARDS will make all the difference, I think.

We have been sort of floating since the pub failure. Now that we’re on firmer ground – with Nick’s new job and my p/t job bringing in more money, we’re getting better all round. We are ready for The Next Thing. And I think that Thing will be securing our domicile.

I also just got an enquiry about catering a large (75-100ppl) party in September. I’m not certain I can handle it – it really depends on what they want to do and if they’ll pay. Prepping, cooking and holding that much food is pretty tricksy in my small home kitchen. We’ll see. Shout out to Lauren for hooking me up with the condos in Buckhead. They loved my food and these people are the ones who contact me for catering. So, THANK YOU LAUREN! XO

I guess we’re in good shape for the shape we’re in. I’ll take it! Oh, keep an eye on the reading list, I’ve been updating it quite a bit. I’ve finished some books and I’m adding more! We were in two Goodwills this week, and you know I canNOT stay out of the books! Ciao ciao and have a great week!

Bland Malaise

This is what I’ve begun calling the overall feeling I have had forever. Bland malaise. Bland because it’s not defined or even very sharp, it’s like a light blanket. Malaise is an undefined BLEH, again, not defined, just BLEH. A blanket of BLEH that covers my life! Perfect!

This is why my blog posts are few and far between. There is literally nothing exciting happening over here. I cook. I do laundry. I do TEV stuff Mon/Tue. I do prep Wed/Thu. I get drunk on Fridays. (Which I am trying to reel in. It ends up wasting Saturdays and there’s NO POINT in it.)

I do have a new recipe that I’m working on, a shallot tart thing, that will be up soon. It’s easy and pretty, tasty warm or room temp. Perfect for parties and catering, too. Not that I get any catering gigs. But yanno. ::shrug::

Nick has been working a lot. They are short a person in production, so he has to carry the load of two. As usual. Overwork was the issue at Minuteman and it is the issue here. This is the plague of working in America. Management is poor and employee retention is not going to happen when you work your people to burnout. This is not a difficult concept, yet I see it across the board. When did it become the norm to beat employees like rented mules and then wonder why you can’t keep people? This idea that fewer employees is saving money is just not real. IT IS NOT REAL. Fewer employees means that you’ll have turnover, which costs far more than simply hiring enough people to carry the workload without having to work 60 hr weeks. It is not rocket surgery.

We had a conversation about hobbies and art the other night and I had an epiphany. A small one, anyway. The reason I feel so unfulfilled, even with cooking, is that it’s ephemeral. What I do is consumed, so there is nothing left to represent my work when it’s done. Sure, I’ve got recipes and photos, but the actual work is gone. I think this is why I feel that I don’t really accomplish anything. I know I do intellectually, but it doesn’t feel that way. With other forms of expression such as drawing, painting, building, etc., you have an actual thing that exists in the world. It’s just different than what I do.

Hence the bland malaise.

I’ll trundle on, I always do. I’ll do the things I’m supposed to. I’ll cook and write recipes. I’ll hope that we can get a vacay this year, but it’s not looking good, thanks to Nick’s job that is managed poorly. We fucked around and waited too long to get Dragoncon tix, and now they are full priced $175. The only way we’ll do THAT is if we can split them with friends. It’s just so fucking annoying. I can tell you, however, that I WILL NOT be paying fucking $350 for us to carouse Dragoncon for a day. NOPE.

I hope that I can find a way to feel a bit better than I do now. Perhaps another party will help… Whatever, onward we must go. Qaplah’!