This week I tried a recipe from Gone with the Gin‘s literary cousin Tequila Mockingbird. Here all of the drinks are (excellent) puns on famous books like “Infinite Zest,” “Bridget Jones’s Daiquiri,” and “Gin Eyre” (just a few of my favorites).
I read the short story “The Yellow Wallpaper” by Charlotte Perkins Gillman in an American literature class last spring (it was assigned at the beginning of the semester before my workload got too heavy so I actually read it, and it saved my ass in the essay on the final). It’s a pretty depressing story about a woman who is struggling with what we would diagnose today as postpartum depression, but because it was the nineteenth century, they just told her she was crazy and locked her in her room. It’s a fun read.
Anyway, if you feel like toasting to Ms Gillman without needing the college credit, then try this variation on a screwdriver- The Yellow Wallbanger.
1 1/2 ounces vodka
4 ounces orange juice
1/2 Galliano liqueur*
Combine the vodka and orange juice. Then add the liqueur so it sits on top (and gives it an extra yellow coloring).
*I could not find this liqueur ANYWHERE, so I used Limoncello which is so much easier to find and (I think) achieves basically the same results.
This weekend I attempted one of my first baking experiments of the new year – specifically, macarons which I loved eating in Paris but always figured that a mere American mortal such as myself could not make the same pastry. And I wasn’t entirely wrong.
Ever the type-A student, I had to thoroughly research macrons (because I am also super cool) and turned to the ever-wise queen of cooking/entertaining/folding a fitted sheet: Martha Stewart. Her website has a basic macron recipe with a pretty helpful video which you can find here.
Macarons are a gluten-free (but don’t worry- there’s a ton of sugar in them!) sandwich cookie that actually originated in Italy in Catherine de’Medici’s court, but are now most associated with France. Basically, they involve sifting powdered sugar and almond meal and then eventually mixing that with a meringue and baking them. Then pair up the cookies by size and sandwich them with a filling (that’s usually included with the recipe).
The first time I made these, I used the Martha Stewart recipe, and it did not go super well. In the video, she talks about removing the air bubbles from the meringue – a suggestion I took very seriously and over-whipped the mixture right before piping it onto cookie sheets and the individual cookies eventually spread together. I baked them anyway, but they definitely were not a success so I threw them away and started again.
The second time I made macarons, I decided to go with this chocolate recipe that I highly recommend. This time the mixture thickened properly, and they came out pretty (and delicious)!
A Book I Meant to Read
This summer I spent the Fourth of July at Absolute Monarchy HQ: Versailles (which you can read about here). Some of the people traveling in Paris with me had already been there and were not impressed so I decided to go on my own and had an amazing day! (Seriously, don’t miss it if you’re ever in Paris.) I went because I had re-watched Marie Antoinette and was curious about the French queen’s life at the palace which led to my buying Marie Antoinette: The Last Queen of France by Evelyne Lever…and then letting it gather dust on my bookshelf once I got back to the States.
Earlier this year I finally finished the biography, and it was so good! I don’t think I really need to go over the story so I’ll say instead that Lever really captures the arc of Marie Antoinette’s life: being a young bride to an over-spending French queen to a prisoner during the French Revolution.
My favorite story is about how she built a fake peasant village on the grounds of Versailles so she could pretend to be a milkmaid…while the French people were struggling to put bread on the table.
But, seriously, Marie Antoinette is such an fascinating person, so check this biography if you’re interested…
Or, You Could:
Check out Sofia Coppola’s Marie Antoinette (2006). I didn’t love this movie the first time I saw it years ago, but I watched it again last March and really enjoyed it. So much so that I wrote an English lit research paper on it.
Unlike Lever, Coppola isn’t as interested in meticulously examining the queen’s life. Instead she tries to impress to the viewer how extravagantly the French monarchy lived while still making Marie and Louis XVI sympathetic figures.
Macarons were not as difficult to make as I assumed, but they were not super easy either.
Some recipes say you can use ground almonds instead of almond meal, but having tried it both ways, the almond meal is so much better because it’s easier to sift.
Follow the time suggestions on the recipe – they really help.
While I was in Paris last July, a friend of mine asked me where the name “Jane Austen Drank Here” came from. I talked about it a little in an older post, but as I was thinking about working on this blog more after my study abroad, I decided to mix my way through a few of the novelty cocktail books I collected this summer. My first choice was “You’ve Got Ale” from the book “Gone with the Gin” by Tim Federele. And, yes, this is a movie-themed cocktail book.
4 ounces ale
2 ounces ginger ale
2 ounces Champagne
Pour the ale into a glass. Add the ginger ale and then the Champagne.
The end result was good (not as heavy as I expected), but I think if I made it again, I would use an apple-flavored ale or a cider for a crisper taste. I used the dark ale because I already had it in the fridge (leftover from a game of dirty Santa last month).
I stopped enjoying reading pretty early in college. I had always been an avid reader who would stay up late to finish a book (probably because I didn’t have a T.V. in my room), but toward the end of my senior year of high school and into my freshman year of college, reading became more work than fun. I was an English lit and art history double major which meant that I was CONSTANTLY reading for school, and at the end of the day, the last thing I wanted to do was read some more. Unfortunately, I did not curb my book-buying/hoarding habits and now have a sizable library of barely-started or even unopened books. But it’s beginning to change now that I’ve graduated and have free time – reading is relaxing again. So even though I don’t like to make resolutions in the new year, I have decided to curb my book-buying in favor of reading books I already own – like book-shopping but free!
College also showed me that I have no idea what I’m doing in the kitchen. Like, I can make a few pasta dishes but that’s basically it – nothing fancy. Since I’m home for a while (with my mother’s supervision who will make sure I don’t set the kitchen on fire) I’ve decided to make a concerted effort to learn how to cook. Especially now that I can use a kitchen with ample counter space and a good dishwasher (both of which my college apartment lacked). So I have no excuse.
But since I am trying to accomplish both of these un-New Year’s Resolutions, I figured why not pair them? So until I make a very sizable dent in my library, Jane Austen Drank Here will track the books I meant to read and the foods I don’t know how to cook, meaning that I’ll pair a relevant dish to whatever I’m reading – that Marie Antoinette biography and some macarons may be first on the menu… Let’s see how this goes…
I would like to take a moment to say that I know next to nothing about the NFL. In fact, the only quarterbacks I can identify are the ones with Niquil commercials. So when we drove to New Orleans in October, I didn’t realize that the Falcons were playing the Saints at the Superdome that weekend. Which explained why everyone was in the French Quarter.
I had to go to New Orleans to work on my capstone art history paper on Holy Name of Jesus Church and had to go through Loyola University’s archive (everyone goes to New Orleans for schoolwork, right?). My mom and I spent most of the drive listening to The Dead Authors Podcast and then wandered around the French Quarter with the NFL fans.
My mom used to live in New Orleans so I got to relax while she played tour guide. We checked out an exhibition on Mardi Gras (Because heaven forbid that I go anywhere without visiting a museum)
and then had beignets at Cafe Du Monde. Which I enjoyed with chocolate milk instead of coffee because despite being 21, I have the palette of a 10-year-old.
We spent the next day in Loyola’s Special Collections and Archives which was about as much fun as it sounds so I’ll gloss over it. But their campus and the church I was working on are beautiful. Their campus has a statue of Jesus that faces St. Charles Avenue. I think the sculpture’s official title is probably something like “The Resurrected Christ,” but the way his arms are raised looks like a cross between a shrug and a touchdown – earning it the nickname “Touchdown Jesus.” Which is as close as I came to football that weekend.
I suddenly find myself with a lot of time on my hands. From about November 20 to December 11, every minute of time was regulated, most often in the service of homework and research. And then I walked across a stage and someone handed me a piece of paper (not my actual diploma, mind you, but that’s a different story), and suddenly I had a college degree. Which is weird because I thought I’d feel more adult-y by this time. But more to the point, I’m now done with school…at least for a little while. And following my Godbrother’s advice, I now get to figure out how exactly I want to spend my time without an educational institution weighing in with its thoughts. One of the many things I learned this summer is that I actually enjoy writing. And more specifically, enjoy writing this blog. So I’ve decided to keep writing it, even though this was originally conceived as a travel blog and I have no trips officially on the books now. But having nothing noteworthy going on has never stopped anyone in my generation talking about themselves so why should stop me? And enough people have told me they enjoyed reading it and thought I had a flair for it for me to continue on with the blind self-confidence that I think everyone has a little bit of at 21. I think as I move forward, it will mostly become a platform for me to write about smaller adventures I take and let me shamelessly push on you any piece of pop culture I think everyone should be reading/watching/listening to. It occurred to me that this blog is called “Jane Austen Drank Here” so I might as well make use of the novelty cocktail books I’ve startedcollecting lately and share some recipes here, too. But now to the present:
I think I’ve already mentioned somewhere before that I am a huge fan of Billy Collins– former U.S. Poet Laureate. His work is excellent to read, but I highly recommend finding one of his readings on YouTube because his delivery makes his work even more hilarious than it is on the page. About a month ago when I should have been paying attention in class, I dug through the Internet to find that he was doing a reading in Atlanta a week after graduation. That information fell by the wayside once I was in the hurricane of final exams and papers, but once the storm cleared, we (my mom and I) took a weekend trip to Atlanta for the reading.
The Atlanta Writers Club hosted the event which was surprisingly small considering his notoriety. (We guessed that they just didn’t advertise too much because I wasn’t kidding when I said I was digging through the Internet to find the information.) My uncle went too which was nice because he first introduced me to Collins’ work when I was 17 which I continued reading throughout college.
The reading was excellent. He read a bunch of my favorites and a few new ones from his book “The Rain in Portugal” that’s due next October. A perfect graduation gift to myself. And we got to meet him after as he signed books so I now have a signed copy of “Aimless Love” and a picture of him and me with a goofy English-major-meets-famous-poet grin on my face.
The next day we went to the Buford Highway Farmer’s Market to poke around, but we mostly just bought a lot of cheese. The place is a massive international grocery store where you can get pretty much anything including live eels. (Spoiler: We don’t buy live eels.) Anglophile that I am, I wandered over to the British food section where they sold Mars Bars. I got pretty addicted to Mars Bars this summer because they sold them in the refectory at the university we stayed at in London. For some reason they always seemed quintessentially British to me, and now always remind me of the summer I spent in London. So basically I decided to get one at the Farmer’s Market the other day even though I’m pretty sure you can get them at Publix. But whatever. Cheers to the “exotic,”right?
Today back at home, I decided to revisit Collins’ 2008 Commencement Address to Colorado College, and damn is it lot more insightful than whatever was said at my graduation. I’m not going to regurgitate the whole thing here, but suffice it to say that he spends the speech discussing time, the past, and the future like you’re supposed to do. Toward the beginning he says, “Robert Louis Stevenson, representing the Pessimistic view [of the future] once said concerning the Future that ‘everybody sooner or later will sit down to a banquet of consequences,’ to which I can only add ‘Pass the butter.'” Reading this speech again (and for the first time since graduating), I don’t think I’m so much sitting down at the banquet of consequences as I am sitting down at the banquet of possibilities. Which is both thrilling and utterly terrifying. I suddenly have this long stretch of time to figure out what it is I want to do before maybe (but most likely) going to graduate school. And as someone who is often susceptible to binge-watching NBC sitcoms on Netflix (If you’ve never watched 30 Rock, you really should.), having this much free time is dangerous and daunting. But thank goodness I have decided to revive this blog to track in the (here’s hoping) wittiest way possible what I’ll get up to. So as I sit down at the Banquet of Possibilities, I turn to a drinking Jane Austen and say, “Pass the Mars Bar.”
Billy Collins Commencement Address– Full
Decided to share only one of Collins’ poems because otherwise I’d copy and paste them all. Instead, here’s a link to his reading “Consolation” which I find particularly relevant as a traveller who isn’t traveling.
So this is going to be my last post for this trip. I know, I know. You’re heartbroken. But I’m planning on keeping this up when I travel because 1) my daily life is not interesting enough to warrant blogging and 2) this world really needs more snarky, unqualified opinions. And I’m happy to fill the void.
About the name: Someone asked me about the “Jane Austen Drank Here” name in Paris so I thought I’d wait until the last post to explain it. Amy Sherman-Palladino who created “Gilmore Girls” had a production company called “Dorothy Parker Drank Here.” Since I basically worship Amy Sherman-Palladino (she’s usually on my fantasy dinner party invite list), I decided to steal her idea and modify it for my own personal use. I liked using Jane Austen as the subject since I like her work and because you don’t generally associate her with drinking like you do Dorothy Parker. I honestly have no idea where or what Jane Austen drank, but the name seemed fun.
This particular post is called “Exit Through the Giftshop” in reference to the Banksy documentary and because whenever you leave a tourist-y place, there’s always a gift shop. I would know since I’ve been in most of them at this point. Seriously, I bought way too much junk on this trip.
I’d also like to thank all of you who have been reading this over the last two months. Even though the work is its own reward blah blah blah it’s still nice to know that there are people out there reading this. So thank you.
I’d also like to thank my mom for letting have this trip. And for giving birth to me. A shout out on my blog will, of course, not make us even. But many thanks and much love to you, Mama, all the same.
So goodbye/cheers/au revoir/ciao from Europe. See you when Jane Austen goes drinking again.