What You Should Read, Watch, and Listen to This Holiday Season
One of my favorite things to do at the end of each year is cure my FOMO by scouring the “best of” lists from every media outlet I regularly read: best movies, best albums, etc. I’m a true believer of Umberto Eco’s argument: “We like lists because we don’t want to die.”
This year, I’ve invited some of our editors to share with us what content they’ve been consuming this year—from books to Youtube channels! If you want to learn a new thing or two, or mostly be entertained, read on for their recommendations. Whether you’re chilling on your sofa or fighting the boredom of a long flight, we’re sure you’ll find something interesting below.
Recently a break, for me, has meant disconnecting from all things screen. This means the laptop, TV, and phone are all off limits. Thanks to some “winter cleaning and purging” I forced myself to do, I’ve unearthed and started to pore over old issues of Lucky Peach, cookbooks I never got the chance to really read or use (including Jessica Koslow’s Everything I Want to Eat from 2016), and novels gifted by friends that I ended up sticking into the bookshelf and forgetting about (The Leopard by Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa, All Among The Barley by Melissa Harrison, and Eat Up by Ruby Tandoh for instance).
In addition to what I was able to dust off from storage, I’ve also been reading and listening to a few other things that will probably prove helpful in filling in the gaps of my semi-screen-free winter break, and that I can highly recommend to the like-minded: The Best American Food Writing 2019 edited by Samin Nosrat, The Racist Sandwich Podcast, and My Favorite Murder podcast (a guilty pleasure).
The name Fuschia Dunlop first came to my attention last year, though she’s been popular in the West for a while. Not only did she pop up on David Chang’s show Ugly Delicious (still my favorite food show on Netflix), but her memoir Shark’s Fin and Sichuan Pepper was also translated and published in Chinese. As someone who was born and raised in Sichuan province, it was both nostalgic and mesmerizing for me to be re-introduced to something that I’m very familiar with, but from a completely new and nuanced perspective. Her new cookbook The Food of Sichuan was released this fall and is listed among the best cookbooks in 2019—it currently sits on my desk, taken hostage from our KS library. It’s a masterpiece filled with authentic recipes and introductions to traditional cooking methods and ingredients.
For those who are interested in Chinese regional cooking, Netflix has released a new documentary series Flavorful Origins, from the most renowned Chinese food documentary director. Seasons one and two focus on Chaoshan (a region in Canton) and Yunan. The first season already motivated me to book a trip to Canton for the upcoming holidays, so I believe that’s convincing enough. For a more entertaining option, try this short but heart-warming Japanese series Midnight Diner: Tokyo stories.
Beyond the screen, I enjoyed reading the essay collection You and I Eat the Same and listening to podcasts concerning the global representation, authenticity, and credibility of Asian cuisine, for example, Financial Times Culture Call with the owner of Mission Chinese and Dave Chang’s talk with Indian food writer Madhur Jaffrey.
For the Christmas holiday this year, I’m flying home to see family in the U.S. Apart from down time in the form of rest and relaxation, that also means about 20 idle hours to fill of round-trip travel. And while I love a good plane movie (I have an inexplicable affinity to watch ones that make me cry in public), I’m also excited to dig into a new book series—the “His Dark Materials” trilogy, suggested to me by fellow Harry Potter-enthusiast, Ruby—and get caught up on podcasts like NPR-favorites “Hidden Brain” and “This American Life”.
For light entertainment, I’d highly recommend following this Instagram account for endless fun from the New York Times Cooking comments section (you can read more background on it here). I’d wager one day our own community will rival theirs in wit and flair (challenge accepted?). And if you’ve ever wondered what it’s like to work behind-the-scenes at a food publication, I loved this fun-loving piece from JJ Goode’s column at Taste (a go-to resource for great food writing) on the art of transforming chef’s recipes into ones us lay people can work with.
Christmas: Don’t get me wrong, I like that single day of eating and wintry coziness (a novelty for Australians), but otherwise, the season over here is a struggle for me. It’s cold and dark outside and you generally can’t do anything except overeat and wear elasticated clothing until you greet the new year, in bracing cold and darkness, and think—yes, another year gone—and another few months until I see the sun in Berlin. People tell you it’s a time to reflect, but I prefer distractions. Here are mine:
I am a sucker for the people interviewed over a meal trope, whether it’s The Guardian’s Lunch With... column, or in podcast form like Ottolenghi’s ‘Simple Pleasures’ or banter-rich Table Manners hosted by singer Jessie Ware and her mother Lennie—their dynamic and occasional menu-planning paranoia is both hilarious and relatable, and I’m looking forward to tuning into the episode with Queer Eye’s cooking expert Antoni Porowski (and while you’re at it, watch this charming video of him challenging co-star Tan France to cook a French omelet).
Then, to lift me out of my seasonal affective disorder, I need some nostalgic nourishment. I like to go back to the program that perhaps started it all for me: The Two Fat Ladies, the hit UK cooking show from the 90s that featured its two outspoken, delightfully inappropriate hosts, Jennifer and Clarissa, traveling around the UK on a motorbike, goggles, leathers and all, cooking for everyone from cloistered nuns to local fishermen. They will entertain that mulled wine right out of your hand. You can find most of the episodes on Youtube.
My seasonal project is to make cultured butter, inspired by this video by the talented Magic Ingredient on Youtube—my fellow editor Xueci and "Weird German Food" dream partner showed me the channel and I find the videos nothing short of meditative to watch. Xueci, sorry for stealing your recommendation. Peace.
The days between Christmas and New Year’s Eve are some of my favorites, as they equate to pure coziness for me. Sleeping in, wearing sweatpants 24/7, sneaking into a café to read the newspaper, then go for a walk and right back to the couch, where books and my laptop are already waiting for me. I surround myself with a mix of new things that I didn’t have time for yet, and personal classics that are simply part of my holidays. Will I watch all movies based on Astrid Lindgren books again? Of course! Do I keep listening to the Christmas album by Sufjan Stevens? Most likely! Another round of watching all the Harry Potter movies? Certainly! And since there’s a new Star Wars movie coming up, why not watch all of the old episodes again?
But as you most likely know all of these already, here are a few other favorites that got me excited this year: "Killing Eve" is one of the best TV series I've seen in recent years, and since you can’t stop watching, you'll be done with both seasons in less than 12 hours. Time to grab a book—for me, reading is the essence of coziness and the best reason to push your mobile phone and laptop far away from you. Some of my highlights this year were "An Absolutely Remarkable Thing" by Hank Green and "The Testaments" by Margaret Atwood. And although these are older, I've finally managed to read Stieg Larsson's "Millennium Trilogy" —so make some coffee, sandwiches, and settle down on the windowsill with these three books. On my to-read list is Ali Smith’s “Seasonal Quartet” and the debut novel "A Woman Is No Man" by Etaf Rum.
And if you just want spend time without books, movies, and TV series, just scroll through the Instagram account "cutest.cows"—you're welcome!
Published on December 24, 2019