Good sir, may I please have the honour of your acquaintance?
GUYSSSSSSS (for the record, I consider "guys" to be gender neutral, as I am from New Jersey, and though I'd written that before the Blue Willow Webinar, I feel the need to annotate regarding my home state: I think that the Jersey Shore is an accurate comparison to make for Essex but that does not apply to New Jersey as a whole. Essex is a county (est. pop. 1.8 million). New Jersey is a small but densely populated state (est. pop. 9.3 million) with immense regional differences despite the small size- see this fabulous map to better understand (it's about ten years old and some of those zones have shifted a bit, but it gives a good idea of how people who know New Jersey see New Jersey) and the Essex bit of Jersey is really just the shore and mostly just that little green bit that involves Seaside Heights).
But I digress.
First, let me say that I KNOW that I am like, three months behind in writing up/posting all the fabulous things I’ve baked from Paris Daillencourt is About to Crumble, and I promise I will get back to that, but I REALLY want to talk about the re-release of Glitterland.
This was the first book Alexis Hall published, but this was the fourth I read, and while the other books I’d read were fabulous and so very clever, Glitterland spoke to me in a way that I genuinely didn’t know a book could. And I say that as someone who has read a lot, and has always read a lot. I am spoiled rotten when it comes to books- I grew up with basically unlimited books between an aunt who works in publishing and handed out books like candy, another aunt who took me book shopping at this really fabulous new & used bookstore every year for my birthday, and a mother who supported reading and bought me pretty much every book I ever asked for. If I have ever lacked for anything in my life it certainly has not been books, and Glitterland was, from the first page, special.
It is genuinely difficult to explain my love for Glitterland because it feels deeply personal. I do not expect everyone (or anyone) to read it and react like I do, though I think it's a brilliant book in its own right and that it's a great idea for anyone to read it.
What I love about this book, on the most basic level, is that it has given me language for things that I have experienced but was never able to articulate, and it does so beautifully. I won't share what lines in particular are so meaningful to me because that feels a bit like exposing a raw nerve or open vein, but what I will share is one that sort of explains what reading this book does for me.
"I could remember feeling better but I somehow couldn't believe in it."
When I feel that way, rereading Glitterland is sometimes enough to make me believe in feeling better. I can read it and think, someone else wrote these words, and there are other people who have read them and related to them and that feeling of connectedness is really special... and having it without having to leave my house or talk to other people is even better.
The unfortunate flipside, however, is that I identify with Ash to a degree that I'm quite sure no one wants to identify with Ash (because he's an asshole, but also because he's even with all his character growth I don't think anyone is looking at him and being like, oh yeah that's the goal). And while I love Darian, I never really identified with him. I'm not posh like Ash is posh, but I'm bougey enough to have mocked Jersey Shore, including the fake tans and itch to correct what I was taught to consider "bad grammar." So, despite having read the book many, many times, I did not see any of myself in Darian.
Until one day I was listening to the audiobook and I looked down at my shoes and thought, "oh.... oh.... I guess there is a little Darian in me too," because I was wearing a pair of converse that were so completely glittery... Shoes my sister had bought me for my birthday because she felt that I had to have them because they were "the most you shoes ever!"
|They really are the most me shoes ever, excepting maybe the Docs I painted.|
So, yeah. Sometimes you don't even realize that you're not quite as much the misanthropic, clinically anxious, bipolar lunatic you think you are... sometimes you're just a little bit of a glitterpirate, and that is a truly lovely thing to realize about yourself.
And, also, since this blog is supposed to be about recipes... I should tell you that Darian's Nanny Dot’s Cottage Pie is PHENOMENAL: it is wholesome, comforting, and delicious. If you, like me, had never heard of cottage pie, it's basically ground beef and veggies in a rich gravy and topped with cheesy mashed potatoes (basically shepherd's pie, but beef).
|This is messy because it's reheated for lunch the next day with friends, |
but I put it in this CLASSIC casserole dish (which I definitely did not steal from my mother)
because I thought Nanny Dot would appreciate that aesthetic.
Glitterland comes with a recipe for this, so that is the recipe I used.
Do, please, buy your own copy (if you buy from Blue Willow they have fun bookmarks and signed bookplates), or borrow from your local library. I read from the library first, but I knew as soon as I read it I would want my own copy for rereading. I now have... uhm... a lot... the newest edition is special becuase it has the best cover and annotations (!!!) and extras (the scene with Max and Niall!!!) but the first print edition (the one with the cover one friend described as looking like a magician, which I can now never unsee) has the best layout for the recipe with ingredients all on one page and instructions all on the following, so that's what I baked from, but I compared and they are all the same.
|Do please note that I painted my nails silver and sparkly in honor of Darian.|
This recipe is great for a variety of reasons- first, because it's written in Darian's voice and he is love.
I also love that it is extremely unhelpful in some respects, in the way family recipes are... you get things like half a jug of beef stock; a package of mince (ground beef); red wine, mixed dried herbs, salt and pepper (with no hints at amounts), and options for "poshos." I went with ketchup and cheddar because I wouldn't want to be accused of being a posho, even if I might be from Darian's perspective (but definitely not from Ash's.)
I will say, for my American compatriots, that you want to preheat to 355F.
For the un-measurable things... I went with about a cup for the beef stock (half of a standard 2c Pyrex measuring jug), probably two teaspoons in total of herb mixes from (one Italian seasoning and one with more onions and garlic), a and a few heavy glugs of wine that if I had to guess was probably 1/2-3/4 cups? A pack of mince- one prepackaged container of ground beef.
While this loveliness simmers (and smells incredible), make your mash.
|While potatoes boil, grate your cheese.|
|I lifted the lid to stir about once every five minutes until I was satisfied with it.|
At this point, the recipe calls for you to put the beef and veg and gravy in a casserole dish, but I just used a pan that could go in the oven so that I didn't have to do more dishes.
|I don't think I've ever been so hungry in my life as I was while this baked- it smelled SO GOOD.|
|I maybe went a little overboard with the cheese and butter in the potatoes so it was a little oily and not as pretty as it could've been, but you won't do that. You'll be more reasonable.|
I really feel that I cannot overstate that it is SO DELICIOUS. I don't have words. It's love. I'm going to make it again and again, and next time I'll try with all the posho substitutions, and get everything pre-chopped and pre-shredded at Trader Joe's. I can't wait. It'll happen soon.
I wish I could make you Ash's salad, because the conversations Ash has with Amy and Max in preparation for this salad are amazing. The conversation with Max, in particular, is one of my favorite things I've ever read in my entire life. Everything about Max. I love Max. EXCEPT he suggests the worst possible salad because pears and honey ginger sound lovely but blue cheese is *disgusting* so I cannot, I will not, I cannot make that salad. When I worked at Trader Joe's I wore gloves when handling packaged blue cheese because I couldn't stand the smell of it getting on me.
I did paint a coaster of it. But that's as close as I will get to a pear and Roquefort salad with honey ginger dressing. Sorry.
I promise I'll be back with more Paris soon!