So as you may or may not know, this year’s Banned Book Week ran September 21-27. Banned Book Week gives us an opportunity to discuss censorship and literature and to celebrate reading in all its forms.
Banned Book Week may be over, but it’s never too late to talk about these ideas. This year I created a few calligraphy bookmarks that take quotes from some of my favorite banned books and put them together in groups that I think illustrate some of the reasons the books are banned in the first place (power and social justice, love and relationships, and adventure).
I always take opportunity of banned books week to read or reread a banned book. As the title “challenged book” suggests, these titles are ones that are controversial and stir people’s passions. Many people believe that children especially should not be presented with this material as it is difficult and often challenging to one’s fundamental beliefs about the world. But this is exactly the reason these books are some of the most important works of our time. Many of the books people cite as more appropriate for children, like the works of Dickens or Shakespeare challenge some of these same beliefs and say similar things, they’ve just been accepted by society at large over time.
We read challenged books because they have something to say about our struggles as human beings. They provoke us to think critically about the world around us, get us to ask questions and yes, sometimes they put our beliefs on the line. We should be encouraging people to think critically about the world around them and about their society in particular. People shouldn’t be afraid of thinking–just the opposite should scare us. If the beliefs we hold are valid, they should stand up to just this type of challenge, and if they don’t–then they really did need to be looked at more closely.
But beyond what these books teach us, how they can change our lives if we let them, they are also expressions of art. And these works of art are a vital part of our culture, and shouldn’t be ignored any more than we should shut up a Picasso or a Pollock. After reading, we can evaluate the work of art of course, but that doesn’t mean it should be censored or shunted aside. It is worthy of consumption, evaluation, and perhaps appreciation.
If we don’t read banned books, we lose the greatest works of our greatest writers. We miss ideas that both elevate us and that bring us down to our most animalistic natures. The content of the individual work is ultimately of minimal importance. What’s more important is how we’re taught to read it.
And so ends my little rant on the importance of banned books. To learn more about banned book week and which books are banned, check out the American Library Association’s page.
To take a closer look at my bookmarks honoring these great works, head over to my Etsy page.
This is the first food blog type post I’ve ever made, and I’ve learned quite a lot. I was planning on doing step by step photos, but that won’t be possible because a) there’s not enough light in my kitchen, b) my camera is not good enough, c) I don’t have enough hands or a tripod. So we’ll have to stick with the (bad) glamour shots for now.
This first recipe comes from Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. We’re starting with the Harry Potter series because it’s one of my favorites, and it happens to be a banned/challenged book and we’re coming to the end of banned book week. Knickerbocker Glory is mentioned pretty early on in the book, when Harry accompanies the Dursley family to the zoo to celebrate Dudley’s birthday:
“Harry had the best morning he’d had in a long time. He was careful to walk a little way apart from the Dursleys so that Dudley and Piers, who were starting to get bored with the animals by lunchtime, wouldn’t fall back on their favorite hobby of hitting him. They ate in the zoo restaurant, and when Dudley had a tantrum because his knickerbocker glory didn’t have enough ice cream on top, Uncle Vernon bought him another one and Harry was allowed to finish the first.” (26)
I won’t go too much into the role that food plays in the Harry Potter books in this post; I’ll save that until the end of the series (we’re doing all seven books), and then I’ll write up a discussion about food in the Harry Potter books. However, I will say that in this paragraph food helps to reveal the temperaments of the whole Dursley family, but in ways that have already been established by the narrative. We know that Dudley is a spoiled, over-indulged child, that Vernon and Petunia are unwilling to both see what they’re doing to both of the boys, and that Harry is continually given the short end of the stick, but taking all he can get. The one dessert allows a very tangible display of this entire family dynamic.
But now, to dessert! This recipe is quite an undertaking as I prepared it today. If you are not a masochist, have far less time than I do, or don’t feel like making parts of this dish than by all means don’t. It would be very easy to use store bought ice cream, hot fudge, caramel or dulce de leche, and so on. This dessert will still feel very special and is dinner party ready, even if you don’t make everything from scratch.
If you’ve never had knickerbocker glory before, you’re not alone. I’ve never had it either, and never really knew what it was. I knew that it had ice cream in it, but I never appreciated its complexity. The BBC recipe I adapted this one from, mentioned that this was a way to use up leftover Christmas pudding. Since I’ve never had a proper Christmas pudding, I made one up that is very very simple, but still utilizes what I understand to be the common flavors. But if you actually do make Christmas pudding, feel free to use that instead.
I did this all in one swoop, but if you are having people over for dinner, you’ll probably want to prepare some of this in advance. You really can prepare all of it in advance (up to 2 or 3 days) except for the whipped cream and the chocolate sauce, and just assemble it right before serving. This is enough for about four servings.
1/2 cup (4oz) honey
2/3 cup (5oz) light corn syrup (this isn’t the same as high fructose syrup–it’s not super great for you all the time, like white cane sugar, but it’s great for candy making)
2 cups (12 oz) granulated sugar
1/3 cup (3 oz) water
1 tbs baking soda
Ice Cream Base
2 cups (1 pint) heavy whipping cream
1 cup (1/2 pint) whole milk
2 egg yolks
2/3 cup (4oz) granulated sugar
2/3 cup (4oz) Christmas pudding (recipe follows)
2/3 cup (4 oz) orange curd (recipe follows)
1 package instant vanilla pudding
2 cups milk
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp cinnamon
1/8-1/4 tsp nutmeg, allspice, cloves
1/3 cup chopped pecans (or walnuts or any nut of your choosing)
This was my improvised creation that turned out quite yummy, but you could also add dried fruit, or make it an adult treat by adding brandy or rum (though your ice cream won’t get quite as hard). Orange Curd
4 oranges, 1 zested, all juiced (I added the zest of all four oranges, and nothing bad happened–if you like a smoother curd add just the one, if you like a more orangey explosion, add more)
1 1/2 (about 7oz) butter, cut in small pieces–either cubes or thin slices
4 egg yolks
2/3 cup (4oz) granulated sugar
Chocolate Sauce (feel free to use store bought fudge or chocolate sauce, but something nicer than Hershey’s)
chopped assortment of fruits (fresh or frozen, if frozen thaw before using): strawberries, blueberries, cherries, raspberries, any combo of fruits of your choice
real whipped cream
Make the honeycomb candy (if you can only make one thing from scratch, I recommend doing this, because it’s just so much fun)
Get out a fairly deep walled baking sheet and line it with parchment paper. If the parchment paper won’t lay flat, you can crinkle it first.
In a large skillet (really do use the skillet, I tried doing this in a sauce pan and I had to transfer the molten sugar syrup) combine all the ingredients except for the baking soda. Have the baking soda measured out, so that when the mixture reaches the right temperature you’re ready to go.
Heat the syrup, stirring fairly frequently, until it reaches 300F (the hard crack stage) on a candy thermometer. You will eventually turn the heat to high, but you can either do it all at once or go gradually.
Add the baking soda. It will bubble up alarmingly and get puffy, stir all the baking soda in and cook for 30 seconds to a minute.
With extreme caution (get your oven mitts if you’re nervous) pour the mixture into the prepared tray.
Let set while you prepare the rest of the dessert.
When hardened, break/crumble the candy making at least half a cup of very small pieces (but feel free to give some of the leftovers to your neighbor/friend/mom–share the love).
Tips: Having everything ready and within reach before you begin is vital before making candies. You won’t have time to do things after the syrup starts to heat up, or it will certainly burn. Prepare the ice cream base (don’t forget to freeze your ice cream insert the night before if you need to do that for your machine):
Put the milk and cream in a sauce pan over medium low heat until lots of bubbles start to form and it almost boils.
While the cream mixture is heating, whip the egg yolks and the sugar until pale and fluffy and doubled in size.
When the cream is ready, temper the mixture into the eggs by adding a little at a time and whisking constantly. This will gradually bring the temperature of the eggs up without scrambling them.
Return to sauce pan and heat until the mixture thickens enough to coat the back of the spoon.
Take off heat and chill in the fridge while you prepare the pudding and the orange curd.
whip up the pudding
Combine milk with the instant pudding and whisk for two minutes.
Add in spices and nuts.
Let set, pressing a piece of plastic wrap over the top to prevent a skin from forming.
make the orange curd:
Zest and juice the oranges, first scrubbing well to take off most of the wax.
Reduce orange juice and zest in a sauce pan by about half over medium low heart.
While the juice is reducing, whip the egg yolks and sugar like you did for the ice cream base, until light and fluffy and doubled in size.
When the juice has reduced, add the butter, stirring until melted.
Take the juice and pour small amounts into the egg mixture, whisking the entire time.
Return mixture to the stove over medium heat, stirring frequently until the mixture coats the back of the spoon (you want it to be a little thicker than the ice cream base, but not too thick or the consistency won’t be right).
Take off heat and allow to cool while the ice cream churns.
finish the ice cream:
Churn ice cream base according to your machine’s instructions.
Separate into two parts, adding 2/3 cup pudding to one and 2/3 cup of the orange curd to the other. Mix thoroughly.
Put into freezer safe container and freeze to desired consistency.
Put everything together:
Make the chocolate sauce by combining all the ingredients in a microwave safe bowl, stirring every twenty seconds until smooth.
Whip up some heavy cream and stir in half a cup (more or less to your taste) of the candy, no need to add extra sugar to the cream.
Cut up the fruit and have it ready to go.
This is the way I layered mine, but feel free to experiment and get a little crazy: Christmas pudding ice cream, caramel sauce, fruit mixture, orange ice cream, chocolate sauce, whipped cream. You can also make the layers smaller and have more of them, but I wanted to make sure that unlike the restaurant at the zoo, I put plenty of ice cream in mine.
Top with a cherry or some of the honeycomb candy for extra prettiness.
Wipe the sweat off your forehead from the exertion and enjoy!
Variations: If you’re using ready-made ice cream, experiment with the flavors of fall and use butter pecan, cinnamon, or pumpkin ice cream. You can use seasonal fruits like apples and pears instead of the berries and keep the sauces and toppings the same.
Make a tropical version (this could easily be dairy free) with coconut and mango ice creams, sesame candy, and different sauces.