Obsessions #4: Welsh Rarebit with a Poached Egg, Bacon, Scones, Butter, Cream, Jam, a Pot of Lapsang Souchong Tea and Some Sausages
Everything I've Been Reading, Watching and Listening To in November
This is the fourth edition of Obsessions, a monthly newsletter-within-a-newsletter highlighting all of the things I’ve been reading, watching, listening to and generally obsessing over for the past few weeks.
What I’ve Been Reading
The Bad Beginning (Lemony Snicket, 1999)
I didn’t read that many books this month and I am (sort of) at peace with that. I’ve been trying to come out of my little reading slump. What better way to do that than with YA fiction?!
I’m going to be real with you: I am not an adult who reads YA. Hell, I was barely a YOUTH who read YA. As soon as I could wander over to the adult section of the library, I was out of the Teen Zone and into the Books of Mature Minds. However, I am trying to rid myself of my Inner Lit Snob by re-reading my favourite series from childhood: Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events.
Words cannot describe how much I loved these books as a kid. I was obsessed with the lives of the Baudelaire children, or as I pronounced it in my anglophone 10-year-old brain, the Boulder children. I read these depressing-ass books over and over and over again, which probably should have been the first sign to my parents that I was mentally ill. Anyways, in an attempt to reconnect with my inner child, I’m starting from the beginning. The Bad Beginning, if you will ;)
The first book in the series was never my favourite. As a kid Snicket Scholar, I much preferred the later books, as the series explored the mysterious VFD organization. As an adult, I liked it a lot more than I anticipated. The writing is simple enough for a young person to understand and love, yet still funny, weird and sad enough to stand out to an adult.
I’m halfway through the second book, The Reptile Room, now. I’m loving reconnecting with characters I spent so much time with as a child. Although I loved Violet the most when I was younger, reading about Klaus’ love of reading and books made me full-on teary-eyed. I also somehow forgot that each book introduces a different library that the children spend time in, which again, made me wistful as a Person Who Loves BOOKS.
Sarahland (Sam Cohen, 2021)
The other book I loved this month was Sarahland. Published earlier this year, Sarahland is queer Jewish writer Sam Cohen’s first collection of short stories, almost all of which star at least one character named Sarah. These lesbian femme-focused stories were gross, funny, smart and filled with '90s and ‘00s pop culture references to Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Tegan & Sara and The Craft.
I loved the magical realist tone and how this collection defied genre expectations, as well as how the idea of twins echoed throughout it. My favourites were “The First Sarah,” a queer reinterpretation of the biblical story of Abraham, Sarah and Hagar, as well as “Becoming Trees,” a story where the main characters... become trees.
A few of the stories didn’t quite work for me, but the ones that did really made this collection a super unique and fun page-turner. However, head’s up for sexual assault in the first story. While it’s a great story, if you don’t want to read it, you can definitely just skip past it and still enjoy the rest of the book.
Goodreads Challenge Update
My Goodreads goal for the year was to read 52 books. With four weeks of the year left, I am, however, at 45, which is the average number of books I’ve read for the past few years. However, this leaves me with a month to read seven books. If I keep going with these Lemony Snickets, I can probably make my challenge, but I am also trying to remember that goals are an illusion and that it’s more important to enjoy reading than to reach an artificial target.
While it is motivating for some people, I do think that the Goodreads Challenge is slightly flawed. I think it unfairly pressures people to complete books they may have started but aren’t interested in finishing, just so they can log it. Personally, I am a big believer in NOT finishing books you aren’t enjoying. My personal rule of thumb is to read at least the first quarter of a book and if you still don’t like it, move on! While I read 45 books so far this year, there were probably 20 more that I started but didn’t want to keep reading.
Also, shouldn’t A Little Life count as like, four regular novels?! And what about logging my friend’s, never mind my OWN, unpublished manuscripts, of which I read five this year?! C’mon, Bezos!
What I’ve Been Watching
Phantom Thread (Paul Thomas Anderson, 2017)
In anticipation of Licorice Pizza’s release, I’ve been trying to watch all the Paul Thomas Anderson movies I’ve never seen before. While There Will Be Blood blew me out of the water when I watched it for the first time a few months ago, Phantom Thread was a really close second to being my favourite PTA film.
Set in post-WWII London, the film stars Daniel Day-Lewis as Reynolds Woodcock, a fussily masc dress-maker, and Vicky Krieps as Alma, a young waitress who Woodcock falls in love with and brings into his house of couture.
I almost never say film bro shit like this, but the LIGHTING in this movie! This was truly one of the most beautifully composed and lit films I’ve ever watched, and I also adored the costume design and sets.
However, it’s the dynamic between Woodcock and Alma that’s the crux of the entire film. While I was spoiled by Twitter several years ago regarding the turning point of the film, I had no clue about the ending and was truly losing my mind watching it alone in my apartment.
And, of course, as a food enthusiast, I was blown away by the way Woodcock eats. In one infamous scene, for breakfast he orders welsh rarebit with a poached egg, bacon, scones, butter, cream, jam, a pot of Lapsang souchong tea and some sausages. ABSOLUTE KING SHIT.
Spencer (Pablo Lorrain, 2021)
I’ve had Spencer on my radar since some friends of mine saw it at TIFF and raved wildly about it. It didn’t disappoint! Directed by Pablo Lorrain, the film follows three days in the life of Princess Diana over Christmas 1991.
Prior to this year, I honestly didn’t know that much about Princess Diana or the cult of obsession behind her as a tragic figure. However, after listening to You’re Wrong About’s five-part series on her life earlier this year, I was definitely converted to a fan of the People’s Princess.
I think this background knowledge really enhanced Spencer for me. There are a few images that won’t hit quite as hard if you don’t know their significance in Diana’s life. I was particularly blown away by the image that’s featured on the poster. The context of this shot in the film is absolutely heartbreaking.
While I’ve heard some criticism of the film as being slow, I really loved it. I found it pretty well-paced for a nearly two-hour film, and there is a good mix of tone with some levity provided by the last scene.
But, it’s Kristen Stewart’s performance as Diana that really sealed the deal for me. As much as I love KStew, she has never exactly disappeared into her roles. In this role, however, she completely embodies the character.
Overall, if you like slightly surreal movies about women losing their minds, make sure to check this out. The costumes and sets are breathtaking on the big screen and I’d highly recommend seeing it in the theatre, instead of waiting for streaming.
Selling Sunset: Season 4 (Adam DiVello, 2021)
Like the rest of the world, I binge-watched the first three seasons of Selling Sunset during August 2020. The reality series following the ups and downs of the real estate agents of LA’s Oppenheim Groups was instantly, magically transfixing. Christine Quinn’s outfits! Davina’s $75 million dollar house! The ridiculous interstitial music!
The show was so engrossing, I got my reality TV-averse boyfriend hooked on it. We even made up our own song that would be featured in the show, which we started singing to each other at random: “Walk into the club, all eyes on me / You already know I’m the VIP / Head-to-toe with the get-fresh flow / Hop in the whip / LET’S GO!” Early quarantine really WAS a dark time.
Since then, not a week has passed without me wishing for the next season to drop on Netflix. On November 24th, my prayers were finally answered.
Well, kind of. While the first three seasons are hypnotic, the latest season was… not. Season Four suffers from what I call “Housewives Disease,” in which a single conflict is spread across multiple episodes with little plot or character change, much to the dismay of the viewer.
While there were some good moments like the chair purse, Vanessa laughing at Emma’s “cheeseburger empanadas” and the dog birthday party, overall, there was too much emphasis on Christine’s conflict with Emma, in a way that was ultimately pretty boring and unsatisfying. Still, I can’t wait for Crishell and Jason to hook up in Season Five!
House of Gucci (Ridley Scott, 2021)
This movie is terrible, and not even in a good way. DO NOT PAY TO SEE IT UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES!
What I’ve Been Listening To
The A.V. Club Presents Film Club
Not to keep talking about Paul Thomas Anderson, but I’m going to keep talking about Paul Thomas Anderson. Hosted by two film critics for the website, Film Club did a really great five-part overview of how all his movies fit into his career.
Listening to this retrospective made me appreciate PTA even more as a filmmaker, and I especially enjoyed their discussion of Magnolia, which is personally my least favourite PTA movie. There are spoilers, so make sure you’ve seen the movies first if you don’t want to find out plot details.
I also dove into their archive and found a few stand-out episodes. “Why Turning Books Into Movies is Such a Challenge” brought up some really great points about adaptations and how films based on books need to add some other visual or sonic layer to boost the narratives.
Likewise, “On The Art (And Ethics) of Writing Negative Reviews” was a fascinating discussion about not only film criticism, but arts criticism generally. If you enjoy film podcasts, this seems like an excellent one to keep up with Hot Takes about new releases.
Harsh Reality: The Story of Miriam Rivera
While only a half of the episodes in this six-part series have aired so fair, Harsh Reality: The Story of Miriam Rivera combines two of my favourite topics: reality TV and queer history.
Hosted by actress Trace Lysette, the podcast tells the story of the 2004 British reality show, There’s Something About Miriam, a dating show which starred Miriam Rivera looking for love among six eligible bachelors. However, the men did not know Rivera was a trans woman until the final episode of the show, which later caused them to collectively sue the production company.
It was a cruel premise, and the podcast doesn’t shy away from the damage Rivera suffered because of it. However, the podcast does a great job of telling Rivera’s story and reintroduces her to an audience who might not be aware that she was the first ever openly trans reality star.
2021 Spotify Wrapped
I can usually clock what’s going to be on my Spotify Wrapped from the beginning of the year. While I was anticipating Charli XCX to be my top artist for the second year in a row, I was absolutely shocked to find out it was actually… The Beach Boys? This was confusing to me, until I remembered how reading Jeanne Thornton’s Summer Fun caused me to listen to the Smile Sessions on repeat for an entire month.
While many posted that their “audio aura” was “wistful,” “bleak,” or “miserable,” my Leo ass is happy to report my main moods were “bold” and “confident,” because I almost exclusively use Spotify to listen to pump-up pop music. If my Top Songs 2021 playlist doesn’t make you start death-dropping in your living room, I regret to inform you that you no longer have a pulse.
What I’ve Been Cooking
I got really into eating pork this month, since it’s pretty cheap and easy to cook. Pork chops can literally be made in ten minutes; I am a big fan of this recipe for Blackberry Sage Pork Chops from Budget Bytes. Pair them with this recipe for Roasted Brussel Sprouts and call me Rachel Ray, because that’s a thirty-minute meal!
I also made Pork Bulgogi for the first time with this recipe from My Korean Kitchen. The marinade was absolutely to DIE for. I made it with pork shoulder but would love to try it with pork belly next time.
One of the few upsides of winter is that eating cream-based soups and stews is not only weather-appropriate but EXTREMELY comforting. I made this Leek and Potato Soup from Once Upon A Chef, but I also added bacon and celery and left it chunky to add some texture. I also made this Chicken Pot Pie from Bon Appetit, which was definitely too ambitious for a weeknight but was delicious nonetheless.
Still, the best thing I made this month was by far the Cinnamon Apple Galette from Alison Roman’s Thanksgiving video. I’ve only attempted one galette before, about five years ago when I first started getting interested in cooking. My first galette was pretty bad though, so I never tried again until now.
People Reading This Newsletter: When I tell you that this galette was perfect, it was PERFECT. Like, 11/10. Like, we ate all of it in twelve hours for dessert, slept, then ate for breakfast perfect. And it was EASY! I truly did not believe it until I did it myself. Pie dough is SIMPLE!!! Do yourself a favour and make this thing. I’m going to make it again for Christmas dinner.
Sparkling Water of the Month
This month I drank the other offering in the President’s Choice soda-inspired Spark!ing Water collection, Ginger Ale. It tasted like… ginger ale. Is it time to retire this segment already?!
Overall Review of November 2021
November is truly tied with March as one of the worst months of the year. Coming off the all-year-anticipated highlight of October, November is a grey-day mess with Daylight Savings Time and no good holidays. Being 20 months into the pandemic only makes an already bad month even worse.
Still, I’m trying to do everything I can to keep the Winter/Global Disease Sads at bay. I’m sticking to my normal routine of reading and journaling in the morning, as well as getting back into going for a short walk every day to make sure I get outside.
But I’m also giving myself a lot of levity, indulging in YouTube videos and what can only be described as a “ridiculous” amount of bubble baths. I hope you can do the same for yourself!
Thanks for reading! Make sure to subscribe to never miss a newsletter and to like, comment, and share it if you enjoyed it: it really helps me find more people interested in my writing. You can find me in the meantime on Goodreads, Letterboxd, Twitter, and Instagram.
I am extremely in favour of deconstructing internalized book snob ideas, and of letting go of reading targets! my life got way better once I divested from the idea i'd been raised with that reading is ethically good in itself, and that reading some types of things is intrinsically better than others. 🕊
True fan!!! Fan enough to still like you even though you must know how I feel about your House Of Gucci review. 😜