Amy of Amy's Cooking Adventures
selected The Midnight Library
by Matt Haig* for our April Lit Happens online book group. While this is not a cook-from-the-book group, I almost always head into the kitchen after reading any book or watching any movie.
On the Page
I really had no idea what to expect from this book when I read Amy's announcement. And, in the end, I found it a fascinating premise though I didn't anticipate it starting in such a dark place. Spoiler alert - and warning - if reading about depression or a suicide attempt doesn't appeal to you, skip this book.
In any case, the idea is that between life and death is a library, a library whose shelves are lined with books of how your life would have played out had you made different decisions.
Nora Seed is a desperately unhappy 35-year-old who lives just outside of London. She views her life as a failure in both the personal and professional realms. She gave up on a competitive swimming career despite her Olympic potential; she canceled her wedding just two days before the ceremony; her brother still bears a grudge that she quit their rock band; oh, and her beloved cat has died. She feels utterly alone and decided that ending her life is the way to solve her problems.
Instead of her suicide attempt ending her story, it's the launching point for the book. She lands in the Midnight Library where her childhood school librarian instructs her that all of the books tell the story of the life she didn't live. She just needs to pick a book to see what would have been...what could have been...had she, for example, continued swimming and competed in the Olympics. Or being a glaciologist. Or stayed in the rock band with her brother.
Questions in our online book group centered around fulfillment, contentment, satisfaction, and regret. I think the take-away should be that no life is perfect. And following the thread of a life you didn't choose also has its pitfalls. My advice: reflect on mistakes, make amends if you've hurt someone, and don't waste too much time on regret. Live the best life you can...forward!
On the Plate
There was actually quite a bit of foodie inspiration in this book, surprisingly so, I think. Then again, I can find foodie inspiration just about anywhere. But I landed on Pães de Mel (Brazilian Honey Cakes) for this post.
"Wow, she resisted saying, as she gazed around at the lavish furnishing, the sweeping floor-to-ceiling curtains, the pristine white bed the size of an acre, the TV the size of a small cinema, the champagne on ice, this silver tray full of 'Brazilian honey cakes' as the card informed them" (pp. 174-5).
..."Nora watched Joanna bite into one of the cakes and wondered how good any plan could be if it didn't involve eating something so clearly delicious as a Brazilian honey cake" (pg. 175).
Okay, so the mention of 'Brazilian Honey Cakes' had me
picturing something very different than these: pães de mel, plural, and pão de
mel, singular. I was thinking more of a light honey-spice cake, not a heavy
cake shrouded in a layer of chocolate. But, you know, it was delicious!
The origins of these honey cakes are debated and both make
sense. Regardless, if you are a fan of spice cake or gingerbread, Pão de Mel is
a recipe you absolutely need to make!
Ingredients makes a dozen cupcake-sized cakes
Pão de Mel
- 3/4 cup whole milk
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
- 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
- 1/2 cup honey
- 2 large eggs + 1 egg yolk
- 3/4 cup organic dark brown sugar
- 1/2 Tablespoon pure vanilla extract
- 1/3 cup oil (I used olive oil)
- 3 Tablespoons cocoa powder
- 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1-1/2 cups flour
- Also needed: muffin pan; butter for the muffin hollows; wire rack that fits into a baking sheet
- 1 can or jar dulce de leche
- 4 cups chocolate chips (I used a 100% cacao chip, you can use any bittersweet chocolate)
- sprinkles, optional
Pão de Mel
Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Butter the pan and set aside.
In a medium saucepan over medium heat, stir the milk, spices, and honey and let come to a quick boil. Remove from the heat, cover, and let stand for 15 to 20 minutes so the flavors can fully infuse into the milk..
Place all of the ingredients together in a large mixing bowl and whisk until well-combined.
Fill the muffin hollows about halfway and place in the preheated oven. Bake for 20 to 22 minutes – or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
Slide a butter knife around the edges to loosen the cakes and invert them onto a wire rack. Place another baking sheet on top of them to flatten their tops, if they were puffy. Mine weren't too puffed. Let them cool for 10 minutes.
Slice them in half horizontally. Spoon about a teaspoon of dulce de leche onto one of the halves and sandwich them together. Nestle the wire rack into a baking sheet to catch all of the drips. It makes clean-up much easier!
Place the chocolate in the top of a double boiler and heat until the chocolate is melted. Stir until smooth. Pour the melted chocolate over each pão de mel
, letting the excess drip onto the baking sheet below.
Sprinkle with decorating sugar or other sprinkles, if using. Let stand until the chocolate sets.
*This blog currently has a partnership with Amazon.com in their affiliate program, which gives me a small percentage of sales if you buy a product through a link on my blog. It doesn't cost you anything more. If you are uncomfortable with this, feel free to go directly to Amazon.com and search for the item of your choice.
Click to see what everyone else read in April 2021: here.
Great choice of recipe Cam. I love that we got so much conversation about this novel.ReplyDelete
Sounds like an interesting read Camilla! I am making a point to read this book soon. The Brazilian honey cakes look delicious.ReplyDelete