Notes on apple picking, plus 7 excellent cookbooks and bookbooks to read under a blanket.
Hellooo. How have you been?
I paused this newsletter to work on a few exciting personal projects (more details soon!) but now I’m back and it’s officially fall. There are a lot of things I like about autumn on the East Coast—Concord grapes, boots, ultra saturated fall foliage—but I’ll always be sad about the end of summer. Still, I recently decided to get over my seasonal denial and get to an apple orchard.
Do you think apple picking is basic? I’ll admit the combination of corn mazes + engagement photoshoot + city dwellers living their upstate fantasy can sometimes feel like a parody of itself...but also, so what if you like it? I, for one, had a great time at Rose Hill, a family-owned pick-your-own with an excellent low-intervention cider taproom in Red Hook, NY. I took home 25 pounds of crips Macouns and Empires with dreams of making apple sauce and conquering my fear of baking pies, none of which happened. We ate them raw, shaving a few into salads and devouring the rest with peanut butter. I’m gearing up for a second baking attempt—c/o of the grocery store, this time—so please send me your favorite apple recipes!
When I’m not getting reacquainted with my oven, I’m working my way through a heavy stack of library books. Reading under a blanket will forever be one of my favorite cozy home hobbies, so this week I’m sharing a peek at my recent reading list. Here’s a new fall playlist for background music.
Here’s a juicy premise: An extremely unlikable Upper East Side housewife thinks her husband’s latest bestselling novel is mocking her, and accordingly descends into madness. Or is she being gaslit all along? Elizabeth Moss bought the rights to star in the movie adaptation of Virginia Feito’s book, so read this before it comes out and the library queue responds accordingly.
RIYL: Upper East Side etiquette, long-simmering tension, overcoats.
Need an excuse to cancel your plans and stay in? Make milk bread using Kristina Cho’s debut cookbook as your unflappable guide, then dig into the other lineup of excellent Chinese bakery mainstays. Think: Crackly pineapple buns, coconut jasmine cream buns, and pork floss (!) and seaweed (!) pull-apart rolls (!)
RIYL: Baking projects, bao, squishing soft yeasted dough between your fingers.
I was obsessed with fantasy novels as a kid, but haven’t read much of the genre in recent years. Leave it to the prolific N. K. Jemisin pull me straight back into that sense of wonderment! Her latest book focuses on a world where cities are alive and embodied in demigod-like avatars that fight against evil forces (of course), and New York City is on the precipice of its dangerous birth. If reading about the demigod of the Bronx stomping evil with Timberlands gets you going, read this immediately.
RIYL: Dreaming of superpowers, fantasy books for adults, New York Fucking City.
Abra Berens’ latest cookbook is the perfect thing to lull us into stew season. The grain and legume bible features flexible recipes for all the pantry favorites, from seared eggplant topped with fried lentils to jammy barley thumbprint cookies. I especially like her ideas for turning one big batch of whole grains into a week’s worth of non-repetitive meals.
RIYL: Shifting into soup mode, meal prep that isn’t eating the same thing all week.
A far-out window into the flourishing psych-rock music scene in 1960’s London, Los Angeles, and beyond from David Mitchell (author of the epic Cloud Atlas and other boldface hardback novels). It focuses on a fictional band, Utopia Avenue, but features “cameos” from Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Pink Floyd, and everyone else you’d expect to bump into at the Chelsea Hotel.
RIYL: Almost Famous, stylish prose, acid trips.
My friend Iris, a bonafide English teacher, lent me this hefty debut novel from Pachinko author Min Jin Lee. It mainly follows Casey Han, a broke Princeton grad wrestling with the expectations and realities of her Korean immigrant parents and the rarified Manhattan world she (barely) occupies, but I found myself transfixed with the chapters focusing on her community too.
RIYL: Ann Patchett, Pachinko, expensive clothes you can’t afford.
This twisty book about the plight of a failed novelist is best unspoiled, so I won’t say much about the plot of The Plot. Except: I’m usually the annoying person who can guess a movie ending five minutes in, but I shrieked out loud when I finally realized where author Jean Hanff Korelitz was heading...almost immediately before it happened.
Read if you like: Bad Art Friend and/or the Bad Art Friend discourse!! Enough said.
Pair one of the above with a good cup of tea (I’m very into tart hibiscus tea from Alaya Tea these days). Repeat as necessary, more often if the weather is rainy.
I also have a piece about small-batch kombucha brewers putting tea in the spotlight out in Food and Wine’s Thanksgiving issue. Catch it in print now, or keep an eye out for a link to the digital version.