Wolf Hall, by Hilary Mantel

Last night, the BBC series Wolf Hall won a Golden Globe for best limited TV series. If you’re curious about reading the novels first, here’s an adaptation of my Goodreads review of the first installment.

I shy away from Booker prizewinners, historical fiction, and any novel that starts with a family tree. Wolf Hall flies all three red flags, so when a coworker plopped an extra copy on my desk before the series came to PBS, I knew I was in trouble. I resolved to read just three chapters, but the book bewitched me. This is a novel about the Tudors that isn’t just about sex and scandal! It’s about modernization and philosophy and family and Renaissance art and street fights and ancient recipes and also sex and scandal. Most of all, it’s a book about balance: charm and force, fact and invention, the sacred and profane.

The opulence of 16th century royal England helps Mantel ply her greatest strength as a writer: restraint. Mantel’s choice to write in a vivid present tense cuts through the cloud of historical fact. The knowledge of each character’s fate threatens to deaden the story. After all, we know where each head ends up. Instead, Mantel’s present tense creates a sharp sense of trepidation. This urgency keeps you awake at night to read. There’s nothing foregone about this book. Even minor characters are animated with arguments, favorite foods, and crushes.

Mantel’s prose is precise and rhythmic. Yet within this tightly-controlled narrative, Mantel leaves space to meditate. On travel, on sons, on food: passages tinged with medieval transmutations. My favorite is this disorienting hallucination while Cromwell is ill:

If you liked Wolf Hall, check out what happened when I asked Twitter’s librarians for book recommendations:

Sweet Potato Hummus &
The CSA Cookbook

Garden Betty's CSA Cookbook

Linda Ly of Garden Betty has written the kind of cookbook you whip out for a party (leek and mushroom crostini) and when you’re down to the dregs of your last grocery trip (chard and cheddar frittata). There are recipes for the overlooked (carrot top salsa) and for the alien (kohlrabi home fries). With relatable storytelling and realistic recipes, Linda’s The CSA Coobook is a clear path through the crowded garden of cooking with the whole vegetable. Ahead – a review of this cookbook, starring a spicy hummus recipe to brighten your workday.

Linda frames The CSA Cookbook with stories of cooking with her Vietnamese parents, who declared all parts of the vegetable bổ– nutritious. Through the preface and the introduction, Linda chops veggies for her family, compares her school lunches to PB&J, grows up, and moves into a tiny house with a baffling garden. Despite flashbacks to shriveled windowsill herbs, Linda takes on the garden. It flourishes.

If you’ve ever considered the detritus of prepping vegetables or opened a CSA box on your doorstep, you’ve had this moment. You’ve peered into your trash or cardboard box and thought, what the hell? Linda’s thesis is simple. If we have a template for using the stalks and seeds and leaves, we can all reduce food waste and make our budgets stretch.

I’m approaching my first farm box anniversary, so this book is a benchmark for me. While I’ve gotten better at using up vegetables (and even resurrecting them), I still pile stalks in the trash. So when The CSA Cookbook arrived, I swept it up and read it on my balcony, facing my new herb garden for inspiration.

Since Linda answers questions with this cookbook, I asked it mine: help me pack lunch. I’ve been having trouble packing hardy, healthy lunches that won’t wilt by noon or drive me to the break room donuts. Like a Magic 8 ball, it fell open to the summer rolls recipe.

Well, first I read the introduction and flipped through it a bit. I settled on the mobile, self-contained summer rolls because I thought the colorful bundles would be cheerful at the office. Rice paper still sulked in the back of my pantry from the last time I tried summer rolls, and I had all the vegetables, too. For a snack, I chose sweet potato hummus.

The summer roll recipe was clear and easy to follow. I appreciated Linda’s step-by-step guide to rolling rice paper, colorfully photographed by Will Taylor. The citrus soy marinade was bright and tangy.

The sweet potato hummus, however, was a revelation. Making hummus is as simple as blending chickpeas and olive oil. This is going to save me a lot of time and money– and one less plastic container will hit my recycling bin each week. For a hummus amateur like me, this recipe was a little confusing. I wasn’t sure if I was supposed to cube the sweet potatoes before boiling them (the ingredients lists 1 lb. of cubes), and I wasn’t sure when to add them to the food processor. I boiled the potatoes whole and added them last, and I’m happy to report that the hummus turned out perfectly. Because this recipe is so fundamental, it’s open for adaptation.

 Not pictured: the misshapen summer rolls.

Americans wasted 35 million tons of food in 2012 [1]. The 106 recipes in The CSA Cookbook try to answer one question: how can we reverse that? There are policy debates and food system revisions, but the simplest changes start in small kitchens. Here is Linda’s sweet potato hummus recipe to start yours:

Savory Sweet Potato Hummus
Author: 
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
 
I'm going to share the hummus recipe with you, since it changed part of my grocery routine permanently. Below, find Linda Ly's recipe for Savory Sweet Potato Hummus.
Ingredients
  • 1 pound sweet potatoes, cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 1 (15 oz) can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 4 garlic cloves
  • ¼ cup olive oil, plus more for serving
  • 1 tsp ground cayenne pepper
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • ½ tsp kosher salt
  • Zest of 1 lemon
  • Juice of ½ lemon
  • Smoked paprika for serving
Instructions
  1. Bring a large saucepan of water to a boil. Add the sweet potatoes and boil until very soft, about 10 minutes. Drain, reserving about ½ cup of the water, and let cool.
  2. Add the remaining ingredients (except the smoked paprika) to a food processor and pulse continuously until smooth. If you're sensitive to spice, I suggest starting with only ½ tsp cayenne pepper and adding more to taste. As your mixture transforms into creamy hummus, you can add some of the reserved sweet potato water (1 tbsp at a time) if you prefer a looser consistency. Serve with a generous swirl of oil on top and a dusting of smoked paprika.

 

If you’re in Southern California, I recommend Farm Fresh to You. Use the code JILL3744 for $10 off your first box here.

Learn how to use that box: The CSA Cookbook is available on the Garden Betty website and beyond.

I wrote once about buying physical cookbooks in an food blog world. What’s on your shelf?

Zines & Tangerines:
Art in the Orange County Great Park

oczineheader

To get to the OC Great Park’s Zine Library and Reading Room, stroll along a paved path through Southern California pastoral. Neon flocks of soccer teams caw across the fields as you walk towards the rising orange balloon. Veer left over the stone white pavilion. You’ve gone too far if you hit the merry-go-round, but riding it may turn you back around. Across from the carousel, cowed by towering trees, the industrial Palm Court Arts Complex houses a curious collection of papers. Curated by L.A. Zine Fest in collaboration with festivals in Brooklyn, Houston, Scranton, and San Francisco, the Zine Library and Reading Room displays over 200 zines from across the country.

Inside the complex, zines line stout white bookshelves just high enough to lean on. Their covers tilt towards you at a friendly angle. Go ahead-— pick one up! Don’t hunch in the corner like I did before the kind attendant led me to the Reading Room, a clever space painted to look like a living room with ample couches and coffee tables. The vibe is Rifle Paper Company meets coffee shop art installation. Every Sunday until August 2015, the Great Park hosts fireside chats  here; next up is a music video director for The Black Keys. On one blank wall, plein air projection Tom Brown teaches you how to paint the Great Park. His paintings hang in the neighboring room, a navel-gazing exhibit that’s overshadowed by the den next door.

The Reading Room is a nesting doll of a gallery experience. The curators chose 200 zines; then you choose a stack and create your own narrative. Here’s mine, starting with first-person stories about building community from DIY We or Don’t We. Essays like “My Eight Members Cambodian Society” and “Feminist Community Building in Bellingham, WA” explored finding fellowship in the unlikeliest places. There’s even a recipe for Timefighter’s Soup, shared by “a group of friends in Olympia who love to collaborate on community media projects,” but find that it “sure can take a lot of energy to fight time.” Peaches and Bats is an experimental journal tinted with Southern Gothic. The Greatest is a group portrait of the nursing home where artist Kelly Froh volunteered.

Through zine after zine, I jotted down notes about gardening and poetry and awful eighties movies like Return to Oz. I searched for more in-depth curatorial notes, which only exist as brief summaries taped on the shelf beneath each zine. What was the vision behind the exhibit? Who wrote what I’m holding? I Googled, but guiltily, resenting iPhone intrusion into this analog space. Tell me how a shortwave missive from Maine (with an origami radio pop-out) ended up next to a beginning guide for gardeners from Washington. Tell me how they ended their flights nestled in a fake living room deep inside the Orange County Great Park.

The Orange County Great Park is as controversial as a park can be. It’s fielded criticism on a prescriptive design, bloated budget, and misuse of public funds, prompting investigative press and an audit. Beyond the fiscal fiasco, the park is designed along the worn-out utopian scheme that shaped UC Irvine and much of its namesake city. Architect William Peirera designed the university during the space race. His blueprints are echoed in Popular Mechanics and Time Magazine sketches of cities that loom with Brutalist architecture around pockets of nature.

In his design manifesto called Architecture, Nature and the City, Pereira called the architect “a reformer, interpreter of new needs, a critic of yesterday’s misconceptions:” one who built social frameworks. In a balanced community, there would be scientists, artists, and technicians who would work and picnic separately. Le Corbusier’s contemporary city influenced Pereira’s “urban forest” ideal. His blueprint was fiction: it not only constructed a world but also populated it with archetypes. Each space has a purpose: there are no ambiguities in Peirera’s design.

So the OC Great Park isn’t a philosophical match for anarchopunk zines, which are photocopied to fill that liminal space where traditional texts break cleanly at the margin. But it does assign artists a room, even if it’s an industrial one, and that’s valuable.

As children, parks are where we make our first friends and build our first social codes. We break bread at picnic tables and we vote to make the slide a tag safe zone, oblivious to the real politics of public space. The Zine Library & Reading Room taps into this sense of ownership with its make-believe living room, where you curate the exhibit by choosing what you read and who you share it with. While zines might rhyme better with an indie art gallery, the OC Great Park pulls off a haptic and immersive experience that invites you to sit next to strangers in shared suspension of disbelief. In doing so, the exhibit refutes the strict design of the park itself by creating a place for undefined and imagined experiences.

If you’re craving something more concrete after lingering there, the OC Great Park farmers market bustles with local vendors just around the corner. There’s a makeshift alley just for nonprofits– including a free health clinic. Right at the intersection, the Irvine Parks department hands out round stickers, asking passersby to vote on how they use their parks and changes they’d like to see. I would put my sticker in the field marked “more grassroots arts experiences.”

Further reading:

  • You can buy DIY We or Don’t We? and many of the zines in this collection through this website. Support artists!
  • This exhibit was curated by the LA Zine Fest. Did you know Orange County has its own?
  • Do Zines Belong in OC Public Libraries?
    “In library college, I wanted to be an archivist and work with special collections, which is like working with zines in a way,” says Zehdar, “because zines are very unique and they’re not mass produced and that’s how special collections are: rare materials that are not mass produced, which to me is very interesting.” From OC Weekly.

 

Have you ever created or read a zine? There are lots of tutorials online.