A Book Review | 01

Twain's Feast

While working at Textbook Services on campus, I am constantly surrounded by books. To some, whatever. To me, endless inspiration. While I walk the aisles of the textbooks that I have counted, stickered, checked-out to students, and done inventory for, I can’t help but want to read those that catch my eye. That includes anything under English, art, history, geography, various languages, philosophy, psychology, sociology, mass communications, marketing, anthropology, feminism… you get the idea. I would read nearly every book in the place if I had the time. To some, I find myself more sucked in than with others, so I check them out, and bring them home with me to read.

One such book is Andrew Beahrs’ Twain’s Feast: Searching for America’s Lost Foods in the Footsteps of Samuel Clemens. It covers several of my favorite topics: literature, history, and food. It’s a reading for Geography 111, those lucky kids.

In the book, Beahrs explains his love for Twain, and his journey of falling in love with the food that Twain wrote about. He writes of eating breakfast on his 33rd birthday with Twain; he cooks a meal of “a mighty porterhouse steak an inch and a half thick, hot and sputtering from the griddle; dusted with fragrant pepper; enriched with little melting bits of butter of the most unimpeachable freshness and genuineness;… a great cup of American home-made coffee, with the cream a-froth on top,… some smoking hot biscuits, [and] a plate of hot buckwheat cakes, with transparent syrup,” to quote Twain.

Each chapter is separated based on various American meals Mark Twain wrote about while traveling abroad, and missing traditional cuisine found in the states. One that stuck out to me was “It Makes Me Cry to Think of Them; Prairie-Hens, from Illinois.” As I have spent my entire life in Illinois, of course this sticks out to me. But also, within the chapter, Beahrs travels to Newton, Illinois, a town approximately 60 miles from where I went to high school. While the only reason I have ever been to Newton, was to see the experimental/metal band Side-Lined that originated there, it is also the home of the last 300 Prairie Chickens in Illinois. He went to this farm, and learned all there was to know about the area: farms, population, way of life, food.

Included in the text were various ways of cooking Prairie Chickens:

Prairie Chickens Stewed Whole

Skin the birds, cut off the head and feet, draw them without breaking the intestines, and truss them so that they will be short and plump. Put them into a large saucepan with sufficient butter to prevent burning, and brown them; when the birds are brown, add for each one a tablespoon of dry flour, and stir them about until the flour is brown. Then put in a gill of tomato-catsup for each bird, enough boiling water to cover them, and a palatable seasoning of salt and pepper, and cook them slowly for two hours, or until they are tender. Serve the birds with their sauce and plain boiled potatoes.

-Juliet Corson, Practical American Cookery and Household Management, 1886

My favorite quote from Beahrs’ book:

“I’ve always hated it when people say that America doesn’t have a real cuisine, as though fast food were the only thing we can truly call our own…food is our most basic connection to the world, our fundamental means of sustaining ourselves on earth; it’s always seemed intuitively wrong to me to say that America lacks rooted culinary traditions. Surely we have them, even if many have been buried beneath a sodden heap of McNuggets.”


50 things before 25

Photo Courtesy of Steve Adkisson

Photo Courtesy of Steve Adkisson

For the past few years, I’ve noticed my own decline in the search for a more inspiring life. I can’t say every aspect of my life has represented this, but I don’t see the world through the same open eyes that I did when I was in high school. To combat this, I’ve compiled a list of things that I want to accomplish before my 25th birthday. At that point, three and half years from now, I hope to be living a creative, professional life. Along the way, I want to photograph, and post about, the following:

1. Go to Europe again
2. Buy weather-proof shoes
3. Invest in professional “adult” clothes
4. Bake a from-scratch cake or cupcakes
5. Learn calligraphy
6. Join a college club [done]
7. Submit my writing for publication
8. Get a camera [done]
9. Keep a consistent blog
10. Learn cooking basics & master a few dishes
11. Sort through all of my emails/subscriptions
12. Try yoga
13. Throw a “Finer Things” party
14. Visit Springfield, MO.
15. Finish my 365 Day journal
16. Buy a coffee maker
17. Embroider/knit/sew something
18. Volunteer [done]
19. Try good sushi
20. Write to “Dear Abby”
21. Don’t wear make-up for a month [done]
22. Don’t drink pop for a month
23. Don’t eat meat for a month
24. Don’t drive to class for a month
25. Wake up at 5am everyday for a month
26. Read “Emma” by Jane Austen
27. Read every book I own, and donate all the ones I don’t hold dear
28. Take a college art class
29. Figure out what wine I like
30. Go on a juice cleanse
31. Make a collection of handmade cards
32. Make a “London” scrapbook
33. Make a “Miguel + I” scrapbook
34. Make a high school memories scrapbook
35. Visit Mrs. Van Natta
36. Photograph my parents
37. Photograph my grandparents
38. Photograph my hometowns
39. Move all of my (non-storage) belongings out of my parents’ house
40. Move into a non-student housing apartment
41. Have my own business cards
42. Keep a plant alive
43. Go to Mexico
44. Go to Canada
45. Write up a solid resume
46. Buy decent cooking utensils
47. Make my internet presence my portfolio/brand image
48. Try 10 new (to me) restaurants/businesses/places in the surrounding area
49. Obtain an internship (or two)
50. Graduate college

How to Pack

Photo: Personal Property

When preparing for a trip, the first thing I do is lay out all the things that I know that I either want or need to take with me. To take into account: climate, upcoming activities, lodging, and possible national differences from home.

Photo: Personal Property

When I studied abroad in London for six weeks, I was able to fit everything I needed in one medium-sized suitcase, a carry-on bag, and a personal bag. From this experience, I now know it is very unlikely that I will ever need to take that much with me on future travels because I now know what is truly necessary.

Rather than explaining all the things that I packed for a six week long trip, instead I’ll lend suggestions for a trip of a shorter duration. For example, I find it to be considerably easier planning for my trip if I decide on a few basic colors for my clothing. I usually stick to black, navy, and cream, with accents of lighter blue and red. That way, you don’t need to pack full outfits for each day, and can use each item multiple times.

For a two-week-long UK vacation during the early summer, I would suggest taking:
-1 compact umbrella
-Shoes: 1 pair each of flats that can be dressed up, versatile sandals, sneakers, and boots for when it rains (wear bulkiest shoes during flight to save space in suitcase)
-Converter plug-in
-Toiletries: be sure to follow flight regulations before arriving at airport, and pack them in a quart-sized zip-lock bag! Another helpful tip is to invest in bars of soap and shampoo to save space for other items in the baggie
-Pants: 2 pairs of blue jeans, 1 pair of black jeans, 1 skirt, 1 pair of shorts
-Tops: 3 cardigans, 4 undershirts, 5 neutral shirts, 1 button-up
-Dresses: 2 casual, 1 nicer
-Undergarments: research before-hand if there are washing machines available where you are staying, to pack lighter and bring a small amount of detergent with you
-Raincoat/Jacket: the rumors are true! It really does rain frequently in this region, and the summers aren’t as warm as most American areas
-Accessories: bring (inexpensive) fun jewelry with you to brighten otherwise neutral outfits
-Copies of travel documents, all forms of ID, travel insurance, maps, medications
-Travel journal, pens, stamps for postcards to send home
-Something to read on the plane

Photo Courtesy of Kathy Adkisson

Preseli Venture: The Ultimate Experience

Photo: Courtesy of Kailan Harms

Photo: Courtesy of Kailan Harms

When arriving by train at Fishguard, you will be greeted by a friendly face, and a large van in which you will be helped to load your bags into. Once seated and secure, you will be driven along winding roads wide enough only to allow one car at a time. When meeting others traveling in the opposite direction, one of the two cars are forced to drive backwards, until coming to a driveway or other road, in order to get out of the way. The realm of this country area is truly a magical scene: grass as tall as corn stocks hug the sides of the narrow roads, making a solely lush green window-scape.

Photo: Courtesy of Rachel Fink

Photo: Courtesy of Rachel Fink

Preseli Ventures, nestled in Britain’s only national park, Pembrokeshire Coast National Park, is the ultimate travel accommodation. This twenty-five year-old adventure destination is the perfect place for a week, or weekend, spent in Wales.

Photo: Courtesy of Nicole Aeschliman

Photo: Courtesy of Nicole Aeschliman

I participated in a weekend trip at Preseli Ventures aimed at study abroad students. Upon arriving at the five star lodging, we were shown our beds, showers, and common area. The common area included tables for eating, a fully-stocked bar, stereo system, pool table, and television. The common area is the only place in the entire area with wifi or service of any kind, placing you in a world away from distractions.

While there, I went coasteering, cliff jumping, kayaking, and hiking along the coast (shown in last picture) with some great friends that I met while studying abroad at Richmond, the American International University in London, England. I held multiple jellyfish in my hands, swam past a seal lounging on a wooden door, ate incredible homemade food, and felt completely alive and in the moment. If you ever get the chance, go.