Monday, June 26, 2017

A TRIFLE DEAD Week 4 Discussion

a trifle dead livia day

This week marks the end of our A Trifle Dead readalong. I hope you all had fun with this quirky mystery! I'll share some concluding thoughts on the book at the end of this post. Don't forget about Tif's readalong of The Hate U Give coming in July.

This final discussion post contains SPOILERS. I tried to be as vague as possible as to the identity of the Trapper, but it's impossible to discuss what happened without a few major plot reveals, so if you haven't finished the book yet you may want to avert your eyes. In the meantime, you can read the discussion posts for chapters 1-8, 9-14, and 15-20.

royal tasmanian botanical gardens hobart
Royal Tasmanian Botanic Gardens in Hobart
Photo by Sally Cummings via Flickr
I thought the conclusion of A Trifle Dead was really well-done, even though I had guessed the identity of the Trapper about halfway through the book. I think if there's one thing we've learned from this novel, it's not to trust people who eat their side salads.

One of the funniest scenes in this section is when Tabitha gets cranky about the sandwich her kidnapper makes for her:

He came back a while later with a doorstop dark rye sandwich on a plate, looking pleased with himself. ‘I know you like pesto, and smoked salmon, and semi-dried tomatoes, not sun-dried. There’s some baby spinach in there, too.’ Hipster food. My stomach gurgled anyway. Talking about murder raises an appetite... Best not mention that I hate the combination of smoked salmon and semi-dried tomato. Could have been worse. Could have been capers.

Whatevs, girl, capers and salmon are a god-given combo. Tabitha also takes issue with her tea:

He had put sugar in it, which annoyed me. I only take sugar in coffee. For a stalker, he sure hadn’t been paying much attention to my actual likes and dislikes.

Ha! How inconsiderate of him. Wth is hipster food, though, I wondered. Naturally Buzzfeed is here to give us (me) the answer, with a supes-helpful listical showing "regular food" versus "hipster food." Including hipster sandwiches! After reading that Buzzfeed post, I don't think Tabitha has ANY room to complain about hipster food, considering what she serves at her café. Miss ‘tofu and ricotta salad roll, deconstructed.’

Moving on, do you guys have any idea what a "blueberry syrup cake," the cake Tabitha made for Bishop before she was kidnapped, is? When I googled it I mainly got recipes for blueberry syrup. Is it like a poke cake with blueberry syrup poured in the holes, or more like this recipe where the syrup is mixed into the batter before baking? Or just cake covered in blueberry syrup? It sounded more unstable than that.

But in positive news, we FINALLY get Tabitha's trifle recipe in the final chapter. Her recipe for espresso cup mocha trifles is:

Chocolate jelly. Coffee custard. A dash of sour cherry curd, for contrast. Tiny specks of tiramisu sponge dotted throughout, and whole marinated cherries sitting fat and juicy on top of the cups.

There were also some more trifle recipes at the end of the book, although I have no idea where they came from. Day's readers? Friends and family? It would have been nice to have an introduction to that section, but maybe I missed it. What I do know is those recipes sounded like a lot of work.

Personally I enjoyed A Trifle Dead more than a trifle (see what I did there?). It was really fun, fast-paced, super quirky, and I loved the setting and the food talk. I also appreciated that there were other mysteries about the characters outside of the central mystery of who the Trapper was. I didn't care a ton about those mysteries, but they added layers to the book that made it more than a silly mystery.

One frustrating aspect of the novel was the whole Bishop/Stewart situation. I cooled on Bishop during the second half of the book for various reasons, but I'm not really feeling Stewart either. Meanwhile, Tabitha seems to be feeling both of them equally. PICK A SIDE!

What did you think of A Trifle Dead? Did you try any of the trifle recipes? Notice anything I missed? Let us know in the comments and thanks for reading along with me this month!

Monday, June 19, 2017

A TRIFLE DEAD Week 3 Discussion

a trifle dead livia day

We're nearing the end of our June readalong of A Trifle Dead by Livia Day. I hope you're enjoying this quirky book! Today we'll be discussing the food and happenings of chapters 15-20. You can check out the entire readalong schedule in our June newsletter, and read our previous discussions for weeks 1 and 2 on this blog.

milk bar sydney
Sydney Milk Bar, 1946
Image by State Record Authority of NSW via Wikipedia
Not a lot of noshing or cooking going on in this section of the book, since Tabitha shuts her café down in the hopes it will flush out her absentee landlord. But she does go to a catered party and immediately starts hating on the hors d’oeuvres. There's "sushi made with semi-dried tomatoes and pine nuts," which admittedly does sound pretty disgusting; and vegetarian sausage rolls (seems like an oxymoron) that "looked like something had died inside them." Yum. Tabitha also has issues with "toothpick food," I guess because people put the used toothpicks back on the platter and then they roll around and touch the uneaten food? The aesthetic and sanitary implications of eating food with toothpicks isn't something I've ever considered, to be honest. Do you have any pet peeves when it comes to catering?

In addition to investigating the Trapper, some personal revelations came out in these last few chapters that makes this passage particularly poignant:

When I was a little girl, Dad used to take me out to his favourite milk bar near the station (probably the last place in Hobart that called itself a ‘milk bar’) and order me lime spiders in glasses so tall I had to stand up to drink them through the straw. It’s basically lime syrup, ice cream and lemonade, thoroughly disgusting, and they never fail to cheer me up.

A "milk bar" is an Australian store that serves as a corner store-cum-delicatessen and serves things like fish and chips, milk shakes, etc. They're not as popular as they used to be, but according to Wikipedia they're still a common sight in most Australian suburbs.

As for lime spiders, these things look incredible! I don't even care if they're disgusting, I want to try one based on looks alone. For a more adult version of the drink, you can use lime cordial in place of lime syrup.

And now for a more serious topic: Tabitha's choice of pizza. Apparently she's a fan of pineapple pizza. I know this is a divisive topic and there are a bunch of people who think pizza with pineapple isn't "real pizza." I've never had a chance or desire to try it. What do you think? Real pizza or no? (As an aside: Speaking of weird pizza–and weird sushi–I saw a sushi pizza on TV the other day that actually looked pretty good.)

What do you think of the mystery so far? To be honest, I found the last few chapters fatiguing because it seems like Tabitha's dashing about with no solid clues or logical train of thought. I have a suspect in mind, but only because s/he seems the least likely person, not because there's any evidence pointing to them.

It is curious how the Trapper stuffed Tabitha's fridge with ping pong balls, though. I'm thinking s/he filled a giant trash bag with ping pongs, put the bag in the empty fridge upside down with the top loosely twisted closed, then shut the door just enough that the balls wouldn't roll out, but they'd still be able to pull the bag away as the balls slid out. Any other ideas? You could also get a large sheet of plastic or cardboard, use it to cover the open fridge with space at the top to pour in the balls, then shut the door and pull away the board.

Obviously I've put a lot of thought into this.

herb soup
German herb soup
Back to the food! Some other foods Tabitha mentions are peach meringue roulade, another dessert like pav that's usually served during the holidays; friands, small almond cakes similar to financiers; and Bavarian herb soup. The herb soup really caught my attention because I love soup (who doesn't?), but I've never seen it made entirely with herbs before. It looks absolutely delicious. In Germany, it's traditionally served on Holy Thursday, or the Thursday before Easter, which is also called green Thursday. This super green soup is perfect for that holiday, no? I really want to try it. For a Mediterranean-style version, see Yotam Ottolenghi's recipe.

What did you think of the book this past week? Have any ideas who Tabitha's mysterious tormentor is? Spotted any foods I didn't mention? Tell us in the comments or paste your link into the linky below!

Next week will be our final discussion, when all will be revealed!

Monday, June 12, 2017

A TRIFLE DEAD Week 2 Discussion

a trifle dead by livia day

It's time to kick off our second discussion for our June readalong book, A Trifle Dead. We're discussing this culinary mystery through food! Today we'll cover chapters 9-14. To see the full schedule, check out our June newsletter. You can find the previous week's discussion post here.

west hobart
"Mellifont Street West Hobart" by Graeme Bartlett
via Wikimedia Commons
This segment of A Trifle Dead was light on the foodstuffs, since Tabitha spent most of the time going to parties with Stewart, the slightly sketchy Scots reporter, and Ceege, her cross-dressing flatmate (OF COURSE Tabitha's roomie is a cross dresser. See: quirky). I was super jeals of her Oscar party, though – I've always wanted to throw an Oscar viewing party like that! Have you ever thrown an Oscar party and was it up to Tabitha and Ceege's standards?

tim tam
Photo by slgckgc via Flickr
One food item mentioned in this section are Tim Tams. I'd heard of Tim Tams, but never bothered to find out exactly what they are. UNTIL NOW. It turns a Tim Tam consists of two biscuits with a cream layer in the middle, covered by chocolate. And as of 2017 you can actually find them in the US!

Another junk food Tabitha has a weakness for are jaffas. They're candy-coated chocolates, kind of like M&Ms, except the coating is orange-flavored. The name jaffa comes from the jaffa orange. They're hugely popular in both Australia and New Zealand.

A post shared by Dedric Lam (@dedlam) on

"Echidnas on the march"
Photo by Cazz via Flickr
Finally, when Tabitha and Stewart go to the Hobart Coffee Festival in Salamanca Market–a non-existent festival, by the way–Tabitha mentions in passing seeing "chocolate-coffee-bean echidnas." What is an echidna? It's not a food, it's an adorable animal native to Australia and New Guinea that's distantly related to the platypus. They look a bit like a hedgehog and are sometimes called spiny anteaters.

That's all I have for this section, except that I loved this description of one of Hobart's suburbs:

West Hobart is a steep, multi-hill suburb between our little city and the first bushy slopes of the mountain. Most days, it’s green, leafy and cheerful, despite the freezing wind that cuts straight from Antarctica.

What did you think of the food in this section? Have you had a chance to try jaffas, Tim Tams, or anything else? Let us know in the comments or paste your link into the Mr. Linky!

Monday, June 5, 2017

A TRIFLE DEAD Week 1 Discussion

a trifle dead by livia day

Welcome to our first discussion for A Trifle Dead by Livia Day! Today we'll be covering Chapters 1-8, focusing on the delicious foods we read about this past week. To see the full schedule, check out our June newsletter.

salamanca market hobart tasmania
"Salamanca Market at Salamanca Place, Hobart, Tasmania"
Image by Jes via Wikimedia Commons
The first few chapters of A Trifle Dead have been fun and very fast-paced, with short chapters and a ton of quirky characters. And I mean **QUIRKY**.

Tabitha Darling is the owner of a café in Hobart, Tasmania, that serves updated and hip versions of classic desserts. This is much to the consternation of her parents' friends, a bacon-and-eggs crowd who continue to crave Tabitha's mom's cooking. When a dead body is found in the flat above the café, Tabitha's Nancy Drew instincts kick in and she starts poking around, with a little help from a cute Scots blogger and more than little discouragement from Sergeant Bishop, her high school crush.

So! Onto the food. One of the first things Tabitha mentions are salad rolls. In the US, "salad rolls" are basically Thai spring rolls, but it seems in Australia they're just, like, a sandwich?

When I was growing up, a salad roll was a confection-like sticky bun filled with cheese, tomato, lettuce, beetroot and sliced egg, all glued together with a mock-mayonnaise.

Sounds like a sandwich to me. The Food Pornographer has photos of a salad roll that looks similar to Tabitha's description, or if you want to check out a more modern version of the salad roll, there are some yummy pics of Sweet Gossip's salad rolls, supposedly the "best in Australia."

humming bird cake
"Hummingbird cake"
Photo by ulterior epicure via Flickr
Another dessert that made me reach for The Google was hummingbird cake. I'd never heard of hummingbird cake and thought it was a weird Australian thing, but turns out it's a spice cake that originated in the good ol' US of A! It's especially popular in the South and is made with banana, pineapple, cinnamon, pecans, and vanilla. Think carrot cake but with bananas.

Speaking of cake, what did you all think of the muffins Tabitha brought Crushed Velvet, the up-and-coming band that's only eating blue food as a publicity stunt? The parmesan and onion savory cupcakes sounded soooo good, and I love the idea of blue velvet cupcakes. This recipe from Marilyn's Treats looks almost exactly like Tabitha's.

But the real culinary stars of this section were Bev's pav nude sculptures. LITERALLY FOOD PORN. Fortunately, thanks to Mandy, I already knew what a "pav" was and didn't have to google it. Pav is Aussie for pavlova, a meringue-based treat covered in fruit that was named for the ballerina Anna Pavlova. It's one of Australia's and New Zealand's national dishes and is usually served during the holidays.

Here's the always delightful Mary Berry to show us how to make it!

Have you had any of the desserts or sandwiches mentioned so far in A Trifle Dead? Find some recipes you want to try? Let us know in the comments or paste your link into the Mr Linky below!

Also, bonus question: Are you Team Bishop or Team Stewart?