Cookbooks

Caipirinha

If there is one thing you should know about me, it is this: I love a good drink. A well-mixed and balanced drink can set the right mood, put you in a good frame of mind, and compliment whatever situation is happening around you.

In my quest to learn new things, and try different activities, I decided to test out some recipes for drinks.

Spring is struggling to arrive in my neck of the woods, so I thought I would encourage it’s speedy arrival by testing out some summer-y, beach-y, feel-good-y recipes. I’m as happy as a clam drinking beer and ciders, but a light and fruity mixed drink is a sure-fire way to scream IT’S FINALLY SUMMER! (Even when it is still cold and sometimes snowing. In May.)

Without further ado, I introduce to you… the caipirinha!

I was first introduced to this drink about four years ago. I was hanging out with a friend, and his Brazilian friend was coming over. She had just come back from Brazil and brought with her some authentic cachaca, a rum-like drink made from sugarcane. She made this drink so easily, and it was a great and refreshing drink, so I figured I would try my hand at it!

I used the recipe found in the fantastic and gorgeous recipe book, Beach Cocktails. (Can you call it a cookbook if there is no actual cooking?)

IMG_0719It is a fantastic recipe book with colourful and bright pictures, descriptions of processes and different types of alcohol, as well as tools, syrups, and bitters that can be used to enhance your beverage experience. I’m sure I’ll refer to this book again in the future.

It’s not a particularly complex recipe and consists of a small handful of ingredients: lime, cachaca, superfine sugar, and ice. Easy peasy.

Where I’m from, it can be hard to find cachaca, but I managed to find a store that had three bottles left in stock! I bought two. (Seriously, this stuff is really hard to find!) I didn’t have any superfine sugar, but I had special fine sugar, and I’m 100% sure that it is not the same thing. But it’ll have to do! I had ice cube trays in the freezer and I bought a single lime on my way home from work. I’m not a huge fan of a strong, overpowering lime taste, so one lime is more than enough for one person.

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Now, the picture in the book makes the drink look a bit green – like a pale green colour – which comes from the lime. The cachaca isn’t green like I had originally assumed. The label is green. It’s deceptive. Especially if you’re only half-paying attention. The picture in the book made it look delightful and light, and I hoped mine would turn out the same.

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The picture in the book. The goal.

The directions are pretty simple:

  • Cut the lime into quarters
  • Add one to two teaspoons of superfine sugar
  • Put both of these ingredients into a shaker and muddle together

According to the book, muddling consists of crushing ingredients together with a spoon or muddler to help release flavours. As if I need an excuse to buy bar accessories, I picked myself up a muddler. I have a small 8oz shaker, so I put two teaspoons of my not-so-super-fine sugar in with two lime wedges. And muddled the crap outta it. There is an impressive amount of lime juice in limes. This would become my only regret during this process: getting too caught up in the muddling and releasing too much of a flavour that I’m not really favourable toward.

 

 After the muddling, I needed to scrounge up some crushed ice. I only had large ice cubes in my freezer, but I also have a hammer and a ziploc baggie, so I went about smashing and making my own crushed ice. The ice had been crushed, the sugar and lime muddled, and ready for the the final ingredient, cachaca. Add two ounces to the tiny shaker, and fill with as much ice as possible (the instructions said only half a cup, but I wanted to water it down a bit). Carefully pop on the lid and shake, shake, shake. Keep shaking until the drink is cold, or until the shaker is so cold you can no longer hang on to it.

After struggling to pop the lid back off, pour it into a glass, garnish as desired (with a spare lime wedge) and enjoy!

 

The Verdict: So lime-y! That was totally my fault. I’m aware of my lost love for limes, and I muddled too much. But when I wasn’t being completely turned off by the overwhelming lime flavours, it’s a nice, light, and refreshing drink! It’s cool and smooth and would make a great addition to a wildly hot summer afternoon. The sweet flavour with the light alcohol is ideal for some backyard patios or garden parites. But enjoy responsibly! Cachaca has 40% alcohol content, and because of it’s light and sweet taste, these drinks can be downed pretty quickly.

For my first real test into mixed drinks, I must say, this was rather successful! I’m excited about trying other drinks soon.

Because I’m curious…
What is your favourite summer mixed drink?

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Book Reviews · Children's Literature

A Soldier’s Sketchbook by John Wilson

A Soldier’s Sketchbook: The Illustrated First World War Diary of R. H. Rabjohn by John Wilson.

Rating★★★★★

Still wondering, Can it really be true?

During my undergraduate experience, I was interested, studied, and specialized in military history. My entire academic career has included many variations on the phrase, “Really? You are interested in military history? Really?” More often than not when I purchase a book about military history, I’m met with some hesitance and the cashier asking if I need a gift receipt. Nope. It’s for me, I swear.

Because of this passion and interest I’ve had since I was about ten, I was immediately drawn to this book. I have a small collection of published letters and diaries from the Great War*, and when I saw a book that included not only personal diaries of a soldier, but also his sketches?! I was sold before I even opened it up to take a peek.

I have done extensive primary resources research and have looked at dozens of Great War soldier’s papers, including letters, diaries, leaflets, tokens, and random artifacts interspersed. Every time I read the personal writing of soldier’s in conflict, my heart breaks. It’s been over one-hundred years since the start of the First World War, and next November will mark with centennial anniversary of it’s conclusion. Despite the difference in time, reading letters and diaries from soldiers makes me feel so much that it is hard to put into words. (But that’s a blog post for another day.)

Back to Wilson’s book!

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John Wilson, “A Soldier’s Sketchbook” (Toronto: Tundra Books, 2017), p. 23.

Published by Tundra Books, this book is beautiful, well laid out, and is organized in such a way that enables the reader to easily identify between supplied background information, further elaboration by Wilson, as well as the passages written by Private Russell Rabjohn. The book is broken down into several parts, describing the different directions of Rabjohn’s experience in the Canadian Expeditionary Forces, while also including general background information on major events. From Vimy Ridge, to Passchendaele, to Amiens, Wilson offers useful information to give context and greater meaning to the diary entries.

Aside from the battles and movements by the Allied forces, Wilson includes different aspects of a soldier’s life, such as living conditions, entertainment, leave, movements in Europe, demobilization, as well as the different duties and tasks assigned to Rabjohn. This helps to develop a greater understanding of the experiences of Rabjohn, and likely, the similar experiences of other soldiers.

Reading the life and experiences of a soldier is a powerful way to humanize the costs of war, as well as look into the complex and dynamic relationships developed through conflict, and how it changes a person. Throughout the selection of diary entries, the reader can see the changes in Rabjohn as well as his myriad of reactions to the horrors he is facing. The end of the book brings into sharp focus the realization that the First World War was fought on the back of civilian soldiers, not professional soldiers. In several of his entries, Rabjohn names soldiers who were killed or wounded, a constant reminder about the deadliness of their situation.

Overall, I thought it was a fantastic book. I was impressed with the detail Wilson offers about the war as a whole, as well as into the life and experiences of Russell Rabjohn. My only critique of the book would be the lack of additional information about Rabjohn after he returned to Canada. There are a few mentions throughout the book about the self-published book Rabjohn released in the 1970s, but aside from that, there was no mention about what became of his life after the war. Did he stay in the Toronto-area where he was born? Did he continue to draw and become an artist? How did he assimilate back into civilian life after fighting a war for more than two and a half years?

These were the questions that I was left with in the end, and I would have really liked a brief afterward about Private Russell Rabjohn.

The last few lines of the book had me tearing up. After carefully reading every line of the book, every entry provided by Rabjohn (and selected by Wilson), it’s impossible to not feel something. It’s an informative, moving, stunning book, and I will definitely be suggesting it to everyone I know that is interested in military history and the experiences of soldiers.

I recommend this book to adults and children alike, however I would suggest that younger children be introduced with discretion. There are some mentions of wounds, death, and bodies that may be disturbing to very young children.

Because I’m curious…
Have you ever read diaries or letters from soldiers during conflict? What did you feel? Did it make you think?

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John Wilson, “A Soldier’s Sketchbook” (Toronto: Tundra Books, 2017), p. 15.

*Note: I don’t use the alternative names for the First and Second World Wars. I know many people (even academics) refer two of the most major conflicts in human history as World War One and World War Two, but I literally cringe every time I hear it. Labeling the wars in this way makes them sound like they were movies, and takes away from the human losses and casualties of war. It’s okay if you don’t agree, and you are fully entitled to use the terms you feel most comfortable with. However, when writing blog posts about these conflicts, I will exclusively refer to them in the following terms:

  • The Great War or the First World War
  • The Second World War

This is just my preference when I’m writing. Thought I would give a heads up in case the language isn’t clear for everyone!

Book Reviews · Teen and Young Adult Fiction

Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon

Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon
Illustrations by David Yoon

Rating★★★★★

Live life in a bubble…or risk everything for love?

This book could not have come into my life at a better time! Like several other people I know, I picked up this book because I saw that the movie is coming out some time this year. Starring Amanda Stenberg, the fantastic actress who portrayed Rue in The Hunger Games movie, it looked like an interesting story and I was intrigued.

The book focuses on Madeline Whittier, a teenage girl living with SCID, severe combined immunodeficiency, and her unique life. She is allergic to everything and cannot risk leaving her house for fear of a trigger causing her to lose her life. Told as a first person story from the perspective of Madeline, the book brings to life a character so rich and dynamic that is it impossible to put down. Maddy is funny, clever, and retains a cheery outlook on life despite her circumstances. She has a special bond with her mother, her only family, as well as her nurse, Carla.

When Olly and his family move in next door, she develops a relationship with him online, eventually meeting in person. Nicola Yoon masterfully interprets the fear that can come with falling in love, while simultaneously weaving in the potential doom that comes hand-in-hand with Maddy’s illness. Through her relationship with Olly, Maddy discovers new things about herself, develops as her own person, and craves to live. The once compliant and dutiful Maddy seeks to live in spite of her health, and chases adventure with Olly.

I enjoyed this book very much and blew through it in a few hours. It’s an easy read with an animated lead character that keeps you engaged. More than just the story itself, the book inspires feelings of wanting to experience and live your own life, which I think is one of the more powerful elements. Facing fear while wanting to explore the unknown, and conquering these hesitations, leads Maddy and Olly down a path to interesting revelations.

The books brings up themes such as family, trust, love, fear, and courage. Becoming your own person in spite of your fear and building relationships with others that are uniquely your own struck a chord with me. Being identified by who you are as a person, rather than your relationship with others or your circumstances in life, can be a challenge today. Seeing Maddy’s character develop while struggling to reconcile it with her past life and family speaks to the pains of growing up and making your own place in the world.

I recommend this book to everyone, and I look forward to reading Nicola Yoon’s next novel The Sun is Also a Star.

Because I’m curious…
Have you read Everything, Everything? Did you enjoy it?