How are creatives staying inspired this season while doing their part staying at home? L&L thought they’d check in on their fantastic authors to find out! This week we fly to Brooklyn to drop in on Natalka Burian, author of the powerful and lyrical novel, DAUGHTERS OF THE WILD (September 22, Park Row Books), about a young girl in a dystopian society fighting to save her lost child while discovering a mysterious and thrilling power of her own.
Right before all of this began, I ordered a bunch of scented candles. I was hoping that my family could painlessly ride out the rest of the winter in a hygge-inspired, pleasant-smelling atmosphere. Little did I know that these scented candles would be one of the few tools available to create variation in our monotonous daily lives. I’ve been burning several from Hi Wildflower and Brooklyn Candle Studio, and it makes things feel as glamorous as it’s going to get over here.
Dynamic Dance Breaks:
I’m home with one first grader and one fourth grader, and we’ve been craving dynamic breaks from remote learning and run-of-the-mill screen time. We’ve been learning sign language with youtube video maestro ASL Meredith. We’ve also been enjoying tons of dance videos with Joseph Corella of 567 Broadway. The steps are easy enough for everyone to follow along, plus the music is really fun and accessible.
I know people are wild about sourdough right now, but I’d like to humbly add Samin Nosrat’s incredibly tasty and, even better, incredibly easy focaccia recipe in the running for best pandemic baking project. You can mix the dough in the evening, leave it alone, and have effortlessly beautiful fresh bread to enjoy for lunch the next day. Another big winner for me are these browned butter Bon Appetit chocolate chip cookies.
Escape to the Page:
So far, during this stretch of social distancing, I’ve enjoyed: Eula Biss’s On Immunity (which I never read when it came out—and I’m kind of glad I didn’t because it feels like an absolute revelation now), Samantha Irby’s Wow, No Thank You when I need to laugh, and when I’ve craved immersive otherness, I’ve been transported to drought-razed California via Chelsea Bieker’s Godshot. I’m also reading The Martian for the first time, which feels otherworldly in a very important, break-from-reality way.
In my day job, I work in hospitality, so I’ve been finding lots of new ways to use grocery odds and ends, and languishing produce, in my personal pandemic cocktail program. I’ve been making tons of spritzes, because I find drinking more than 1 ½ drinks makes me feel lousy. A tried-and-true method has been making syrups with fruits or herbs slightly past their prime (literally just a tea/infusion/or even something that could be in the jam family, and throwing a sweetener like sugar or honey until it’s the consistency you want) and adding them to seltzer with a spirit or some wine. My favorite so far has actually been a red bell pepper syrup! I’ve also just added these to plain old seltzer for my kids to spice things up in the afternoon.
Want to try this at home? This is a very flexible recipe, loosely based on one of our earliest drinks at the original Elsa on 3rd St. in Manhattan. (It was called Notorious Lightning!)
I make a very basic syrup simmering:
1 cup of water
1 cup of sugar
About 1/2 a red bell pepper, chopped, in a small pan.
Take it off the heat when it has the flavor you want and strain out the pepper. Let the syrup cool. (If you don’t use it all right away, which let’s face it, you probably won’t, you can keep it in the fridge for 5 days.) Once you have the syrup made, there are lots of directions to take.
I like to fill a tall glass with ice, add about 1/2 or 3/4 oz of syrup, an ounce of freshly squeezed lemon juice, give it a quick stir (or a spin in a cocktail shaker if you have one) and then top with sparkling wine.
For those in need of something a bit stronger, try this:
2 oz mezcal
3/4 oz fresh lemon juice
3/4 oz that red bell pepper syrup
A pinch of red pepper flakes
Shake and strain into a beautiful chilled glass, or enjoy over ice.
If you want to go the extra mile, all of these can be garnished with a fresh red pepper slice. (This makes me think of that episode of The Simpsons when Homer is on an all-bell pepper diet and Moe serves him a drink in a bell pepper!)
DAUGHTERS OF THE WILD is on sale now!