Welcome to my new blog! After getting a lot of positive feedback from my Instagram, smooches_and_seitan, I decided it was finally time to make a blog where I can share my favourite romance novels, vegan recipes, tips for vegan travel, and reviews of all the cookbooks and novels I read and cook from. This blog also includes content from my old reviewing site, Xo Editing and Writing. Thank you for joining me. I’ll be posting weekly, so tune in for my adventures as I navigate plant-based cooking, baking, and how to eat well in European countries everyone describes as “hell for vegans.” It’s going to be an adventure!
I credit my love of romance novels for a lot of things, among them, my ardent feminist views, my decision to pursue a career in publishing, and my optimism and belief in a happily ever after, but before 2014, they weren’t even on my radar. I’d read plenty of Sophie Kinsella and Meg Cabot in high school and loved those books for their spunky characters and happy endings, but at the time, I didn’t realise that many of those books fell under the romance genre. I didn’t even really know about literary genres, full stop.
I didn’t start using Goodreads until 2014, so before then, the way I picked out books went: walk into the library, go to fiction, non-fiction, and teen sections, choose books with nice covers and interesting plots, check out, go home. Sometimes I’d peruse the library’s online catalogue, looking for books similar to those I’d read before, but I generally preferred my more serendipitous way of finding reading material. I had no idea how to articulate what exactly I wanted to read; I just hoped that luck would lead me to some books that I would enjoy. I never even asked the librarians for help, something I cringe about now that I myself am a certified librarian and geek out when my friends ask me for book recommendations.
I started using Goodreads at the suggestion of my brother, a wonderful person and an attentive listener who is always looking for ways to make my life easier. When I lamented that I had no way of tracking all the books I was reading, he told me to sign up for a Goodreads account, and oh, am I glad I did! Soon after that, I read what I consider to be my come-to-Jesus book: Nocturne by Syrie James. I devoured this book one cold, wintry morning, and after finishing it, immediately logged on to Goodreads to find other books like it. Somehow, I found my way to a page of Eloisa James books, and from then, I was hooked on romance. After Eloisa’s Desperate Duchesses series, I found Julia Quinn’s Bridgerton series, which I know now is the gateway series to regency romance. Since then, I’ve devoured hundreds of romance novels from all sorts of sub-genres, and in the process, found a community of like-minded book-devourers on Twitter, Instagram, SmartBitchesTrashyBooks, All About Romance, and Love in a Time of Feminism. Reading romance is absolutely the best decision I have ever made.
This book. THIS BOOK. I flew through this book earlier this week, ignoring work and staying up way too late to get through chapter after chapter, and nearly cried out “YES!!!” at the HEA. Things I love about it:
-the setting is subtle; I normally love world-building even in my contemporaries so I can really sink my teeth into the story, but this book’s lack of a clear setting makes it so much easier to focus on the relationship between the characters
-Lucy is a confident, driven, badass heroine who takes no shade from her arch nemesis-turned-true-love, Josh
-Lucy’s boss, Helene, is incredibly supportive and the complete opposite of the Dragon Lady archetype I so often see in books set in/around workplaces with female bosses
-Lucy is the seducer in this book, making her feelings towards Josh clearly known, and mostly unabashedly so
-Josh is a vulnerable, shy, self-conscious supportive hero
-Josh loves Lucy’s ambition
-the sexual buildup is INSANE
-this book combines two of my favourite tropes: enemies-to-lovers and forced proximity
This is probably one of the best contemporaries I’ve ever read. I love how openly feminist it is, I love that Josh is an atypical beta hero, and I love that Lucy loves her body and eats donuts and cheese with abandon. I can’t wait to read Sally Thorne’s other works, and I now completely get why everyone has been freaking out about this book. GO READ THIS RIGHT NOW.
I read this book cover-to-cover in one evening, and spent a good amount of time after finishing it wondering, “did I like it?” After mulling it over, the best I can say is “meh”.
Losing It is about Julia Greenfield, a 26 year-old virgin desperate to have sex, so much so that it populates all of her thoughts and dictates a good portion of her decisions. I found Julia to be an unlikeable heroine; she’s selfish, lazy, immature, and has no regard for the feelings of those around her. She actually reminded me a bit of Carrie Bradshaw in that she was so focused on her own life that she barely heard what her best friend said in their phone conversations, and didn’t seem to find issue with the fact that she basically ruins the biggest break in her aunt’s career so that she can have a very awkward car ride with a guy she *might* have sex with.
Julia reminds me of how so much of society views millennials; she’s not ambitious or creative and thinks that the world revolves around her. She’s made it to 26 with no career plan, she can’t cook, she can’t focus, she has few friends, and all of her social interactions revolve around her accomplishing what she deems to be the most important goal in her life: having sex.
I was gripped by this book mostly because I wanted to see if in the end she somehow, some way, redeemed herself. Spoilers: she didn’t. Yes, she learns that there is more to life than sex, but this is only after she’s had sex! I also hated that in order for her to figure to plot out her next steps, she has to be engaging in post-coital conversation, as though her life couldn’t start until she’d finally accomplished her “goal” of losing her virginity, and as though it isn’t until she’s had some sort of relationship with a man that she can come into maturity.
This book reinforces all the hangups around virginity and sex that make society so complicated and, at times, dangerous, and I so wish that Julia had managed to become a more understanding, more knowledgable person without those traits somehow being tied to her sex life.
Cooking is one of my passions, and it was also a saving grace this past year while I was finishing up my last graduate degree. There are few things better than knowing you have a warm, filling lunch on a day when you’re in class for six hours straight. Coming home at night after a long commute and experimenting in the kitchen was also a great way to de-stress. My cooking has developed so much in the last year, and it’s mostly thanks to these cookbooks.
- The New Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone by Deborah Madison
I bought this book on a whim after SmartBitchesTrashyBooks listed it in one of their Daily Deals roundups, and oh am I glad I did. While I knew that vegan food could be exciting, this book taught me how to go completely off-piste, creating meals that were totally new, rather than new versions of old favourites. My top recipes from this book include the Oat Bread, Cashew Curry, and all of the Red Lentil Dals.
2. The Taco Cleanse by Wes Allison, Stephanie Bogdanich, Molly R. Frisinger, and Jessica Morris
I love cooking Mexican food, but prior to getting this book (also from a SmartBitchesTrashyBooks Daily Deals email), that usually meant utilising the many packets of Trader Joe’s Taco Seasoning that I brought with me from the US and dumping it into some beans. This book taught me how to get the aromatics of my favourite dishes down pat, and there isn’t a recipe in here that hasn’t turned out wonderfully. My absolute favourite is the Minimalist Nacho Cheese, which tastes just like that delightful neon yellow cheese that comes out of a container at sporting events, thought the Beer Battered Portobellos are a close second.
3. Veganish by Mielle Chénier-Cowan Rose
What I love about this book is that it teaches you the basics, then has guidelines for when you want to branch out on your own and start experimenting with your own flavours. This book helped me master risotto and introduced me to Angry Sauce, aka the best pasta sauce of my whole life (so good that my Mom told me it was better than my Grandma’s!).
4.Moosewood Restaurant Cooks at Home by the Moosewood Collective
This is an oldy but a goody. My parents let me take this from their cookbook collection when I became a vegetarian two years ago, and since then I have made so many delicious recipes from it. Standouts include the Italian-Style Tofu Pizza, Tofu Burritos, and the Risotto with Pesto and Green Beans. This book might have been published in 1994, but it’s evergreen.
Pro-tips: Something I’ve found to be essential when using cookbooks is to write in them. Make notes about what worked in a recipe and what didn’t, note what spices you added or took out, and note if the portion sizing is correct. This helps future-you the next time you flip back to that recipe, so you know you’ll get a perfect finished product without having to really think about it.