runpunkrun: dana scully reading jose chung's From Outer Space, text: read (reading)
[personal profile] runpunkrun
Moon Woke Me Up Nine Times: Selected Haiku of Basho, by Bashō Matsuo, translated by David Young: A delightful collection. David Young's introduction is informative and easy to read, which is a rarity in poetry collections and must be praised, though you won't learn a thing about Bashō from it. Young says you can get that everywhere else; instead, the introduction addresses Young's approach to translating these poems, and I was quite surprised at the amount of latitude Young gave himself. Due to the differences between the number of syllables in English and Japanese, he disregards the West's belief that haiku must conform to a 5-7-5 arrangement, which is fine by me, but he also elides cultural references he thought would be lost on English-speaking audiences, reorders the lines themselves, and even removes the occasional question mark, and I don't know how I feel about that. The result is lovely, but is it an honest reflection of Bashō's words?

In Young's hands, Bashō's poetry is clear and simple, each haiku a meditation on life and nature. They are, by turns, longing, playful, soothing, and contemplative, and it's remarkable how many sensory details they include. So much is packed into these little sentences, giving you brief glimpses of another life, transporting you to where Bashō was three hundred years ago, listening to the rain, gardening, or:
Big white leeks
washing them off
feeling how cold
The poetry is transcendent, in that it moved me to a different place. Once I came back, though, I wondered a lot about the choices Young made. I really would have liked some translator's notes (outside of those in the introduction), but instead I'll have to content myself with reading Jane Reichhold's Basho: The Complete Haiku and go over her notes to see how their translations differ. This is actually Young's idea, and he helpfully includes an appendix that correlates his page numbers with Reichhold's numbering system for easy comparison.

Really accessible, and highly recommended.
runpunkrun: dana scully reading jose chung's From Outer Space, text: read (reading)
[personal profile] runpunkrun
Let Them Eat Cake: Classic, Decadent Desserts with Vegan, Gluten-Free & Healthy Variations, by Gesine Bullock-Prado: If this cookbook were an animal, it'd be a platypus. Male platypuses have venomous spurs on their hind feet. Did you know that? But they only produce venom during breeding season, which is between June and October. Their venom isn't lethal to humans, but its effects have been described as "excruciatingly painful."

This cookbook isn't venomous, and instead of excruciatingly painful, it's actually quite delightful. The author's funny, able to admit when she's made a mistake, and is capable of pointing out the problems of palm oil in a non-confrontational way. The book, though, is like if you started out with a beaver, and then someone was like, oh, but what if I can't do buck teeth? And someone else was like, my daughter only likes animals with duckbills. And then suddenly it's laying eggs and has venomous spurs on his heels.

BECAUSE—I swear this made sense when I started out—this book takes a standard, traditional muffin, quick bread, cake, pie, tart, or cookie recipe, and THEN it gives you a vegan variation, a gluten-free variation, and a "healthier" variation, which in this case means a version with a lower glycemic index and more fiber and nutrients. So, like, grapeseed oil instead of butter, and whole wheat or spelt flour rather than white flour.

It's unwieldy. As someone who is currently cooking gluten-free, I'm fine with checking this out of the library, but I'm not going to buy it. I guess if you were experimenting with your diet, or you bake with wheat at home, but need to make things vegan for the people at work, or gluten-free for your in-laws, or more nutritious for the school bake sale—then maybe. The focus is definitely on the traditional recipe, with little boxes afterwards (or on the pages before, the book's not picky or well organized) that explain how to make it vegan, or GF, or healthier by adding egg substitutes or switching out the flours. Sometimes the vegan variation will require an entirely different recipe, which is actually easier to deal with than a paragraph of text about substitutions, so while I might try making the biscuits and scones, I'm going to photocopy the recipe and write in the GF changes myself. Using this as a book would require a lot of flipping back and forth between the main recipe and the variations. I imagine it'd be very easy to make a mistake and put in the wrong amount of something.

So the layout is kind of baroque, but the colors are nice, and almost every recipe has a photo, even if they're sometimes a few pages away from the recipe. I suspect that the photos are of the traditional recipes, though, rather than any of the variants, because I'm a suspicious person by nature, and we all know vegan or gluten-free baked goods don't always look as nice as the traditional versions. Oh, can you merge two variants together and make a vegan gluten-free whatever? Never once brought up by the author. So I'm guessing...try that at your own risk.

If you're interested in cutting down on wheat or animal products, or if you cook for several groups of people with different dietary restrictions, then maybe this is the book for you. If you're straight up vegan and/or gluten-free, I don't see the point. The recipes are pretty standard fare, except for the cake section which is full-on bananas; they involve a lot of layers, if you have the time for that. Measurements are by volume and weight (grams), and there's a helpful introduction to each recipe, but no storage advice, and the index isn't thorough enough for me.

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