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I don’t care what anyone says, even if you aren’t in love Valentine’s day is fun. It’s cheesy and it’s commercial but what’s so bad about eating lots of chocolate and celebrating love?—any kind of love! Know what else is cheesy and fun? The Twilight saga. I’m a firm believer in not criticizing or ridiculing something unless I myself have formed a first-hand opinion of it, so when everyone started talking about (and making fun of) these novels and I found myself unable to intelligently add to the conversation, I went out and bought all four.

Four days later I emerged from my room—starving, dazed, and feeling a little bit like I had just been punched in the brain, heart, and gut repeatedly for 96 hours. And now that I can give an informed opinion here it is: these books are achingly romantic, atrociously written, and people…they are weird. The entire premise of the novels is that these two characters, Edward and Bella, are more attracted to each other than any two beings have ever been in the history of the universe, but they can’t physically consummate their relationship because Bella smells so delicious to Edward that there is a chance he will literally tear her apart and drink her blood if he loses control.

Explaining why he recoiled from her the first day they met, Edward tells Bella:

“To me, it was like you were some kind of demon, summoned straight from my own personal hell to ruin me. The fragrance coming off your skin…I thought it would make me deranged that first day. In that one hour, I thought of a hundred different ways to lure you from the room with me, to get you alone” (273).

All of this sex-before-marriage-leading-to-physical-destruction-and-eternal-damnation is especially poignant when you think about the fact that the author, Stephanie Myer, is a devout Mormon.

For a series that mentions food all of maybe five times, these books are wrought with hunger. My sisters and I read them together and for all of the talk of werewolves and vampires, mind-reading and glittering skin, the thing that we all had the hardest time wrapping our minds around was how good Bella possibly could have smelled. We spent more time than I care to admit theorizing about what her skin could have smelled like to torture this poor vampire so much that he had to flee to Alaska just to escape the scent. Ande decided on french fries, Gemma said warm chocolate cupcakes, and I thought probably sticky toffee pudding or hot sourdough bread. In the following (hilarious) exchange Edward tries to describe his hunger for Bella using first food, then alcoholism and narcotics addiction as examples.

“You know how everyone enjoys different flavors?” he began. “Some people love chocolate ice cream, others prefer strawberry?”

I nodded.

“Sorry about the food analogy—I couldn’t think of another way to explain.”

I smiled. He smiled ruefully back.

“You see, every person smells different, has a different essence. If you locked an alcoholic in a room full of stale beer, he’d gladly drink it. But he could resist, if he wished to, if he were a recovering alcoholic. Now lets say you placed in that room a glass of hundred-year-old-brandy, the rarest, finest cognac—and filled the room with its warm aroma—how do you think he would fare then?”

We sat silently, looking into each other’s eyes—trying to read each other’s thoughts.

He broke the silence first.

“Maybe that’s not the right comparison. Maybe it would be too easy to turn down the brandy. Perhaps I should have made our alcoholic a heroin addict instead.”

“So what you’re saying is, I’m your brand of heroin?” I teased, trying to lighten the mood.

He smiled swiftly, seeming to appreciate my effort.

“Yes, you are exactly my brand of heroin…I did my very best to stay as far from you as possible. And every day the perfume of your skin, your breath, your hair…it hit me as hard as the very first day.” (273)

Gemma is going to hate this.

Because blood is the main cause of hunger throughout this novel I got obsessed with finding blood-related recipes to post here. I couldn’t bring myself to give you a recipe for blood pudding, or something involving blood sausage, so when I remembered that it’s blood orange season I could hardly contain my excitement. There are so many wonderful and delicious ways to use blood oranges–both sweet and savory–but this blood orange panna cotta is perfect for Valentine’s Day. Not only is it easy to make, it’s scrumptious, fun to eat, and bright pink to boot!

Blood Orange Panna Cotta

Makes 4

INGREDIENTS:

1 1/2 teaspoons unflavored gelatin powder

3 tablespoons cold water

1 cup fresh blood orange juice (about 6 blood oranges if they’re small like mine were)

1 cup heavy cream (buy more than 8 oz so you can whip the rest)

1/2 cup granulated sugar

1/2 teaspoon good vanilla extract

3/4 cup buttermilk

DIRECTIONS:

Squeeze blood oranges, reserving half of one for garnish. Set aside.

In a bowl, sprinkle gelatin over cold water and set aside for about five minutes to form.

Pour blood orange juice into a saucepan and bring to a low boil until the liquid is reduced by about half—7-10 minutes. Pour the reduction into a bowl and allow it to cool.

Pour cream and sugar into a sauce pan over medium heat and bring to a simmer (not a full boil!). In the meantime, put hardened gelatin into a saucepan or microwave and heat until melted. Whisk gelatin and vanilla into simmering cream until fully incorporated and pour mixture into a metal bowl over an ice bath, stirring constantly until cool to touch. Whisk in buttermilk and blood orange juice and transfer to four ramekins (or teacups, in my case). Let set at least 2 hours but ideally more like 12-24.

When you’re ready to plate the panna cottas it helps to let them sit in a shallow dish of warm water first to help the edges pull away from the ramekin. You may have to cut around the top edges a bit and guide it out with a knife.

Whip remaining cream and add sugar to taste. Top with slices from remaining half blood orange.

Happy Valentine’s Day, everyone! TEAM JACOB!

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