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Old 03-10-2021, 05:20 PM   #1
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Book Club - March 2021 - The Art of Escapism Cooking...

After discussion, we selected The Art of Escapism Cooking: A Survivor Story with Intensely Good Flavors by Mandy Lee. It comes in Kindle format along with hardback and used copies on Amazon.

I was thinking we would kick things off next week to give people a chance to get the book!

Grab a beverage, snack, and please join us! I've never participated in a book club before, so all suggestions and comments are welcome!
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Old 03-10-2021, 05:30 PM   #2
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To kickstart discussion, the first questions that came to my mind were:

What are your thoughts about the book's cover and do you think it will depict the content accurately? How about the title?
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Old 03-12-2021, 12:54 PM   #3
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I procured the book. Its subject area is much wider or messy than I thought. To be honest I've never read any book of this kind - the ones that you find on supermarket bookshelves, and people add to their kitchen or sitting room book shelf etc.

Going to read some selected passages though.
I'm used to reading more "formal" books of established categories than abstract stuff. I've read a lot of epics, dramas, classical oratory, etc., and this is new waters for me. Let's try :D I mean I will hold the nose, close the eyes, and jump in. lol.
Oh and if anyone needs a passage from the book I can send it for personal use, if that's permitted here. As long as I don't violate any rule anywhere.
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Old 03-12-2021, 01:45 PM   #4
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I've looked this book over on Amazon and I didn't find it interested me much, but I'd like to participate in the club. Maybe I could just lurk around and follow you guys and read another title when it comes up? :)
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Old 03-12-2021, 03:12 PM   #5
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I've looked this book over on Amazon and I didn't find it interested me much, but I'd like to participate in the club. Maybe I could just lurk around and follow you guys and read another title when it comes up? :)
Of course
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Old 03-13-2021, 12:26 PM   #6
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I've looked this book over on Amazon and I didn't find it interested me much, but I'd like to participate in the club. Maybe I could just lurk around and follow you guys and read another title when it comes up? :)
You know you are always welcome!

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I procured the book. Its subject area is much wider or messy than I thought. To be honest I've never read any book of this kind - the ones that you find on supermarket bookshelves, and people add to their kitchen or sitting room book shelf etc.

Going to read some selected passages though.
I'm used to reading more "formal" books of established categories than abstract stuff. I've read a lot of epics, dramas, classical oratory, etc., and this is new waters for me. Let's try :D I mean I will hold the nose, close the eyes, and jump in. lol.
Oh and if anyone needs a passage from the book I can send it for personal use, if that's permitted here. As long as I don't violate any rule anywhere.
I don't think we should post copywritten passages unless it is to quote it with appropriate credits.

It's a different kind of book for me as well, but that was one of the reasons I wanted to give a book club here a try. I've got the book and am intrigued. As for the cover, it IS messy, which slightly appealed. I'm not messy when it comes to food, so it actually made me want to reach for a bolt of paper towels. However, I loved the title. For me, I can escape to the kitchen and immerse myself in cooking. It's calming for me if I am left alone to do my thing. Since it is calming for me, I try to give anyone who is in the kitchen space. Lots of space. Like even if I need to dash in to get something to drink, I will wait until they are fussing at the stove or something.

I could make escapism cooking my "art." Goodness knows I have no other artistic ability.
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Old 03-13-2021, 01:01 PM   #7
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You know you are always welcome!

I don't think we should post copywritten passages unless it is to quote it with appropriate credits.
Under the Fair Use doctrine, it's okay to post an excerpt from a copyrighted work for the purpose of critiquing, education, etc.
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Old 03-13-2021, 10:08 PM   #8
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Under the Fair Use doctrine, it's okay to post an excerpt from a copyrighted work for the purpose of critiquing, education, etc.
I thought the reference was for more than an excerpt but, yes, an excerpt would be fine.
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Old 03-14-2021, 12:07 PM   #9
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Currently I'm busy building a website. Hoping to comment on an excerpt soon. Maybe in 2 days.��
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Old 03-14-2021, 07:58 PM   #10
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I'm looking forward to everyone's comments.
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Old 03-16-2021, 08:50 AM   #11
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Excerpt from the book THE ART OF ESCAPISM COOKING (2019) by Mandy Lee



Orange Chile Sambal
This recipe was born out of my nitpicking on sriracha. Donít get me wrong; I love sriracha just like any other reasonable earthling for its creamy and intense pepperiness, garlicky and mildly sweet heat level, and letís not forget that ingenious design of the squeeze bottle. But I wanted something more acidic and fruity that would add more zing and pop to dishes. So, out came the orange chile sambal.
MAKES 1 CUP
14 ounces (400 g) red cayenne peppers, goat horn chilies, or red jalapeŮo peppers, stemmed
1Ĺ ounces (40 g) Thai hot chilies, stemmed
1 small navel orange
10 garlic cloves, peeled
2Ĺ tablespoons fish sauce
2 tablespoons distilled white vinegar
2 teaspoons light brown sugar
1. If you like a super-smooth consistency, I suggest charring the peppers over an open flame, letting them cool, and removing the charred skins. But if you donít mind a grittier chile sauce, you can skip this step.
2. Zest the orange and place the zest in the cup of an immersion blender or in a standard blender. Cut away the pith to expose the flesh, and remove each segment from the surrounding skin with a knife. Place the segments in the cup or blender.
3. Squeeze the juice from the remaining orange flesh into the cup or blender. Add the chilies, garlic, fish sauce, vinegar, and brown sugar, and blend on high speed for a full 2 minutes, until extremely smooth.
4. Transfer the puree to a small nonstick saucepan and bring it to a boil over medium heat. Lower the heat to maintain a gentle simmer and cover partly with a lid to avoid splattering. Cook for about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the mixture is reduced by half.
5. Let sit at room temperature for at least 24 hours before using. Store in a squeeze bottle in the fridge for up to 1 month.


End of excerpt


I read the "Orange Chile Sambal" piece and found it to be really simple and kind of new to me. Coming from Sri Lanka, a land of thousand chilli sambals, this one I found intriguing, kind of. For me this is some kind of chilli sauce than a sambal. However, I will try this recipe when I can find some time away from the computer.

One of my favourite chilli sambals is made with red chillies, red shallot onions, salt to taste, and "maldive fish" finely ground on grinding stone, and lemon juice added. No heating whatever.
You can also add tomatoes and some sugar to make it more gentle in its flavours, or substitute chillies with naga morich which is extremely hot. I would add or remove those ingredients depending on what I want the sambal to eat with.



I posted the whole recipe so that others would know what I'm talking about.
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Old 03-16-2021, 11:31 AM   #12
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I went to Amazon to read the preview before deciding whether to buy the book. Kathleen, unlike you, I found the cover a turn-off. To me, it looked like one of those overstuffed man-meat-bacon-grease-grill hamburgers that rank right up there with 'fatties' wrapped in bacon. I don't eat that way, and that overloaded food doesn't appeal to me. The drippy cover, therefore, didn't appeal to me.


My understanding is that we are not discussing or critiquing the actual recipes, so much as the narrative in the book. Yes? No?
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Old 03-16-2021, 01:12 PM   #13
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My understanding is that we are not discussing or critiquing the actual recipes, so much as the narrative in the book. Yes? No?
My understanding is that we could discuss all of it.
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Old 03-17-2021, 07:23 AM   #14
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[QUOTE=lastmanstanding;1648187]Excerpt from the book THE ART OF ESCAPISM COOKING (2019) by Mandy Lee

One of my favourite chilli sambals is made with red chillies, red shallot onions, salt to taste, and "maldive fish" finely ground on grinding stone, and lemon juice added. No heating whatever.
You can also add tomatoes and some sugar to make it more gentle in its flavours, or substitute chillies with naga morich which is extremely hot. I would add or remove those ingredients depending on what I want the sambal to eat with.

,

I find the idea of chilis and fruits intriguing. I do enjoy spicy foods but I don't know anything about sambals. How does one use them?
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Old 03-17-2021, 07:42 AM   #15
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I went to Amazon to read the preview before deciding whether to buy the book. Kathleen, unlike you, I found the cover a turn-off. To me, it looked like one of those overstuffed man-meat-bacon-grease-grill hamburgers that rank right up there with 'fatties' wrapped in bacon. I don't eat that way, and that overloaded food doesn't appeal to me. The drippy cover, therefore, didn't appeal to me.


My understanding is that we are not discussing or critiquing the actual recipes, so much as the narrative in the book. Yes? No?
We can discuss everything and anything in the books. It looks like a man-meat-bacon-grease burger, but I've had the book for almost a week and, having glanced through it, I think it is something very different. Not that you will not encounter grease etc. I think I will definitely gain ideas from it. Ingredients and combinations such as the one above are really new to me.

On a side note, my bacon-wrapped breakfast fatty will turn you into a believer if you like bacon and eggs! It is breakfast sausage wrapped around scramble eggs with salsa and cheese. Bacon holds it all together. I cannot eat more than a thin slice, but it really is pretty yummy to serve on occasion. My co-workers devour it.

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My understanding is that we could discuss all of it.
Agreed! Over the next week, I think we should read the Introduction and "My Days as a Ma-Jiang Line Cook." If I include the introduction, the book has eight parts. Two per week will get us through one month.

To kick start the discussion, I ask, 1. "Why did Mandy Lee (author) choose to tell this story rather than simply assembling a cookbook?" 2. "Do you engage in "Escapism Cooking"? If so, how/when?

Please feel free to add comments/questions of your own!
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Old 03-17-2021, 08:15 AM   #16
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I'm a bit like Linda, can I lurk for a bit? This one doesn't appeal to me but I love the idea of a book club.
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Old 03-17-2021, 06:49 PM   #17
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Everyone is welcome!
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Old 03-20-2021, 04:02 PM   #18
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I went to Amazon to read the preview before deciding whether to buy the book. Kathleen, unlike you, I found the cover a turn-off. To me, it looked like one of those overstuffed man-meat-bacon-grease-grill hamburgers that rank right up there with 'fatties' wrapped in bacon. I don't eat that way, and that overloaded food doesn't appeal to me. The drippy cover, therefore, didn't appeal to me.


My understanding is that we are not discussing or critiquing the actual recipes, so much as the narrative in the book. Yes? No?
It does look like that, but it's not like that at all. In fact, I think the cover is the antithesis of the contents. It's a memoir/cookbook by a woman who was profoundly unhappy while living in Asia, particularly Beijing, so I think the cover is an exaggerated reminder of what she left behind at home.

It's Asian recipes interspersed with her thoughts and memories of living there. There are definitely techniques and ingredients that I have not used before; I'm debating whether I want to get some and try out some very different dishes.
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Old 03-21-2021, 12:05 AM   #19
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Not exactly my cup of boba...

I picked up the book from the library Wednesday and spent the next two evenings reading the wordy parts of the "chapters". I read the Intro, Pantry, the beginning of all six sections, and some of the lead-ins to individual recipes. I thought I would like this book for its theme: having to move someplace strange and using cooking as a way to cope. When we left our lifelong home of Ohio in 2000 for Himself's job transfer, we headed to the foreign country of Massachusetts. At least it seemed like a foreign country, even having its own language at times (I STILL call it "pop". Defiant little crab, aren't I?)

The author comes across as angry to me. I'm pretty sure I would be angry, too, if I had to live in a politically oppressive, disgustingly polluted city like Beijing. However, I used cooking after we moved as a way to compensate for missing my kids, my life-long friends, and familiar areas. I used it as a way to greet new neighbors to the street, welcoming new families with a prepared dinner the day after they moved in. I used cooking as a way to bond with new friends and acquaintances, not as a way to isolate myself. So while I did read a good part of the book, it wasn't really enjoyable.

As far as the recipes go, my taste buds are more Eastern European than Asian. While we enjoy many foods from that region, there are textures and flavors that turn us off. And we've had quite of few items, having a Taiwan-born nephew-in-law in the family. While I'm happy stir-frying and searing my way through meals we like, I don't want to invest the time or money in learning any of the recipes that Mandy Lee presents.

I'll catch up with you guys on the next book.
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Old 03-21-2021, 07:15 PM   #20
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I think that Mandy Lee wrote the book for cathartic, personal reasons. I once moved 9 times in 11 years, but I loved bouncing around the world. At the time, I truly thought I would never be anywhere long. Mind you, I was born in a location where there are seven generations buried in the local cemetery (and I have lived in my current place for almost 30 - that still shocks me.) During those years, I escaped via cooking family recipes and, as I get older, I often wish myself back. Cooking family foods kept homesickness at bay. While I did dip toes into the local foods, I was never as far as Mandy Lee was in that I could always base new foods on familiar ingredients and techniques. Sure, I could not find red molasses, but I could find blackstrap. And while it was not quite the same, it worked for the moment.

Mind you, I never was "stuck" in a location for six years. While I am the type of person that can generally see the light side of most situations, I don't know that I have the ability to "sustain sunshine" for six years if I found the place truly disagreeable.

I do have food preferences, but I also LOVE to explore new foods, techniques, and flavorings. I've always been a "Jack of All Trades, and Master of None." I get bored staying in one lane for too long, so I am very excited by the thought of trying some of the "new" ingredients and recipes.

Like CG, texture can be an obstacle for me. As I move through the book, it is something in the back of my mind that I will keep in thought when I weigh which recipe to try.

\I cook to escape often. Sometimes to reduce anxiety. Sometimes to "go somewhere" when I have no time to travel. Lots of reasons, so I can empathize that much with Mandy Lee. I do appreciate her writing even though she does come across angry. However, it seems that her voice comes through and allows me to sense what she is feeling. I do like that.
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