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Wisti’s American Classics

This week, I attempted to make apple crisp cookies and also list what I feel are five seminal works of American literature. You know… after me and some friends had bottomless mimosas at brunch. It, uh, went something like this:

 

Actual video content will come soon!

I will be doing posts in three parts.  First, I’ll give updates on my recovery process. My relationship ended about three months ago, so I’m still healing from the abuse. Next, I will give an overview of my baking experiments. Last, I’ll provide the promised list of books.

So, let’s get this shit rolling!

Part 1: Recovery, The Nightmares 

Apparently, they stop. If you’re reading this, and going through this, they stop. Other people have assured me. They’re not like those nightmares where you’re still in college or high school and are late for an exam or forgot to turn in a paper. Apparently, those are eternal, but abuse nightmares do stop. Mine have not. Usually, they’re some iteration of him being in my apartment. He’s angry and screams at me until I feel that weird melting sensation in my chest and knees, like my body is falling into itself. It’s a physical, all-consuming shame akin to how you feel when being reprimanded as a child.

Last night, I did not have a nightmare.

I’ve missed my dreams. My dreams are surreal and meaningful and usually pleasant, and I meet incredible, kind people in my dreams. A friend once said, “You dream like Jung’s Red Book.” Last night, I had a good dream. I saw a friend I knew my senior year of college. There was something waif-ish about this friend. She talked like she was strung out on quaaludes 24/7 and wore glasses without lenses. She was also sweet and kind and maybe the most genuine person I have ever met. We first met in a basement where she made me an avocado and tomato bagel sandwich, the avocados smothered in salt, which she called “sodium” as she lovingly gushed, “I just adore sodium, don’t you?” It was a beautiful, intense friendship, but one I sensed had a shelf life. She seemed perpetually lost, and last night she came to me in my dream. She did not recognize me, but I recognized her. I told her who I was. She only remembered me a little, and she said I lost weight, and that, “You’re completely different now.” I said, “It was nice seeing you, but I have to go.” I remembered I had to climb a sandstone pillar with my other brother. We climbed it together, but before we got to the top my brother turned and said, “The hardest part is swinging your legs to the other side.” I just kept climbing and climbing until I woke up. I don’t know what was on the other side, but I woke up feeling fulfilled.

Maybe that’s progress.

Part 2: Baking 

All the hoity-toity prudes of the world consider my method of eating apple crisp DISGUSTING, but I’m right damn it. Apple crisp is basically apple pie broken into pieces. Clearly, you’re supposed to grab a handful and shove it in your face like when you eat popcorn blackout drunk at 3AM. Some people would say to use a fork, but come on! Apple crisp was CLEARLY INVENTED to be eaten with your hands, but WHATEVER. I tried to remedy this dilemma by making an apple pie baked good only crazy people wouldn’t eat with their hands – apple crisp cookies.

After failing several times to figure out how baking ratios work, I found this site that basically gave me a simple overview of roughly how much X, Y, and Z to add to get my cookies to cookie. And guess what? They cookied! They didn’t dissolve into sand upon being touched like that scene with Pip from The Halloween Tree that terrified me as a child! (Drinking Game Idea: Take a shot every time Wisti makes an obscure reference in a blog post. You would be two shots deep by now!)

Anyway, the first batch turned out pretty good. Here is some testimony from my friend Carrie:

Here’s the recipe I used the first time:

INGREDIENTS

1 stick butter (Do NOT substitute margarine. Margarine is morally wrong.)

½ cup brown sugar

1 ½ cup flour

1 egg

1 egg white (egg whites supposedly make baked goods crispier and these fuckers weren’t as crispy as I wanted – I would recommend adding an additional egg white if you attempt these at home)

1 teaspoon baking powder

¼ teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon vanilla extract

2 teaspoons cinnamon

1 teaspoon nutmeg

1 to 2 teaspoons of apple juice (to taste)

¼ cup of rice crispies

1 tablespoon of vanilla ice cream

  1. Cream the butter and sugar. You will notice that you’re asshole ex-boyfriend STOLE THE GOD DAMN WOODEN MIXING SPOON YOU’VE HAD FOR FIVE FUCKING YEARS when he moved out, so you have to use a slotted plastic spoon which is an abomination against our nonexistent God.
  2. Add the vanilla and the eggs. If you don’t have an egg separator, like me, getting that fucking egg white will be a bigger pain in the ass than that obligatory junior year feminist lit seminar where you have to read Gender Trouble and explain how it applies to Oranges are Not the Only Fruit and/or Toni Morrison’s “Recitatif.”(Now would be a time to take a shot…)
  3. Mix your dry ingredients, which sucks because I HATE FLOUR SO MUCH I HATE IT AND I DON’T KNOW WHY!
  4. Gradually add in the dry ingredients. Use a mixer, set on medium, if you have one. If not, you can probably get by using a wooden mixing spoon but OH WAIT YOUR GARBAGE EX TOOK IT SO NOW YOU HAVE TO USE YOUR MIXERS WHICH ARE A BITCH TO CLEAN!
  5.  Add the rice crispies and vanilla ice cream. Mix in using the wooden spoon you don’t have anymore. </3
  6. Roll the cookies into small balls and line them on a greased baking sheet and bake at 325 degrees for… for… ??? Profit!

The oven in my studio apartment is always a little hotter/colder than it claims. I cooked my first batch for 8 minutes and they came out burnt. The cookies ended up coming out perfect when cooked for 5 minutes, but I’m honestly not sure what temperature they were baking at. I recommend baking them at 325 degrees and checking in every 3 minutes or so until they look done.

For the second batch, I made the following alterations:

  • I added half a cup of ice cream instead of a tablespoon.
  • I added another half cup of rice crispies
  • I peeled and sliced an apple, ran it through a food processor, and added it to the dough.

They did not turn out as good, but I don’t think that was due to the alterations. I think it’s because my dumb ass A) forgot to add salt, which brings out the flavor and B) didn’t up the cinnamon/nutmeg after upping the other ingredients.

If you decide to make these at home, I suggest you add the alterations but DO NOT FUCKING FORGET SALT. Also, add about a half teaspoon more of cinnamon and nutmeg. I also think some ground ginger (maybe half a teaspoon or a teaspoon) would add a little more flavor to the recipe.

Personally, I was not a fan of these cookies, but they got rave reviews from my friends so maybe this is like Ernest Hemingway and Quentin Tarantino. Objectively good, but I just can’t fucking get into it.

Part 3: Book List, Bitch! 

Wisti’s American Classics

  1. Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck

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I just had a very long discussion with a friend regarding a very long argument I had with my insurance company this week. Said friend (who worked at a cancer hospital for years) quipped, “I honestly think health insurance companies want their sickest patients to die because they’re no longer profitable.” Mind you, I am speaking from a position of relative privilege, so I will eventually be okay. Most people do not have that advantage because this is fucking America and we do not take good care of each other in this country. That’s kind of the point of Of Mice and Men. Capitalism is a system propagated by the mighty feeding off the weak. As is par for the course for Steinbeck, characters here are largely powerless due to the crippling forces of poverty and the worker exploitation. George’s biggest act of autonomy in the novel is shooting Lennie (who has the mental capacity of a child) in the back of the head. This spares Lennie from the painful death by lynching he would have received after he unintentionally killed Curley’s wife.

If a heartbreaking portrayal of the predatory nature of capitalism isn’t American, I don’t know what is!

  1. Slouching Towards Bethlehem by Joan Didion

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How could I not? Didion observes the 1960’s counterculture with one eyebrow severely raised, revealing the more shallow aspects of the Cultural Revolution. Perhaps her most scathing observation regards “how it is possible for people to be the unconscious instruments of the values they would strenuously reject on a conscious level.” My friend Matt aptly noted during our drunken ramblings that Didion, TS Eliot, and Hunter S. Thompson pair quite well together. Didion’s Slouching Towards Bethlehem is an American Waste Land. The wave Thompson spoke of kind of hit its peak. Instead of being a world consuming tsunami, it was just a moment in time. Didion shows us what happens when that wave recedes back into the ocean. Where do we go from here? What fragments should we shore against our ruins?

Also, you know how Didion describes John Wayne in “John Wayne, A Love Song”? How when he rode through your childhood, he forever shaped the direction of certain dreams? Exactly how I feel about Han Solo.

  1. Sula by Toni Morrison

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We all know the saying! “If you make a list of American classics and don’t include Toni Morrison, there’s seriously something wrong with you and you should contact your doctor for evaluation to make sure you’re not dying because Toni Morrison is vital to American literature and that junior year professor who said Faulkner was the only American author who deserved to win the Nobel Prize was a sexist prick.”

First, Sula is a straight up awesome story. Budding screenwriters of the world! Sit down and read about 10 Toni Morrison novels! Your writing will improve 8,000%. The story explores the roots of racism by showcasing the lives of several African American women who are forced to absorb the burdens of the men in their lives. Morrison’s characters must find a way to abide by culturally acceptable rules of normalcy. The titular character defies all such normalcy, making her a scapegoat in the Bottom. With her trademark hint of the supernatural, Morrison pulls back the curtain of American society and reveals what it’s like to be “an artist with no art form.” Through the lens of African American women, Morrison explores Virginia Woolf’s notions of a woman needing a room of her own to create. Sula is someone who lacks the outlets necessary for creative expression, and her story is a lamentation of how many artists America lost by not granting them a room of their own.

  1. Angels in America by Tony Kushner

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America is, all things considered, a fairly young nation, and we lack the very ancient myths that other cultures possess. There is no American Gilgamesh. There is no American Odysseus. Mormonism in Angels and America is portrayed as a means to add a spiritual backbone to a country lacking a unified cultural or spiritual identity.

Angels in America also tackles the AIDS epidemic. The outbreak of HIV and AIDs was on par with tuberculosis, but with a stigma attached unmatched in American history. In some ways, the work is still relevant today. Sick people are one of the most marginalized groups in America. Kushner’s characters reject this. Prior outright refuses his duty as a prophet because humans can’t just stop. The world only spins forward, for better or for worse, and things like sickness and death must be lived with rather than pushed into the margins. The two-part play triumphantly ends with Prior proclaiming, “We won’t die secret deaths anymore. The world only spins forward. We will be citizens. The time has come.”

  1. Democratic Vistas by Walt Whitman

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It kind of demanded American literature you know, like, become a thing? So how could it not be number one on my list? Whitman’s sprawling essay laments the materialism of the Gilded Age, while simultaneously demanding that American authors create the spiritual, intellectual, and moral backbone of American culture. I guess you could maybe say he was asking for a lot.

There’s a certain cynicism mixed with hopefulness in Whitman’s “Democratic Vistas.” Whitman did not think we needed to make America great again. America was never great. Whitman had no self-aggrandizing notions about a time in history where we were somehow pure. Such a time did not exist. Whitman instead thought that, with the right moral guidance, we had to make America great period. He felt authors should provide this guidance. There’s something beautiful and tragic about that call to action, especially during a time where many people (*raises hand*) feel American Democracy has more or less failed. “Democratic Vistas” reminds me of the last line of the Mountain Goats song “Magpie.” Read it and, remember what we had here, when there was something left to save.

Honorable mentionsFear and Loathing in Las VegasNotes of a Native SonUncle Tom’s Cabin (didn’t love it, but in terms of influence…),  American Pastoral, Slaughterhouse Five, pretty much everything by Faulkner, sorry Faulkner, pretty much everything by Raymond Carver, sorry Carver, and Why I Stayed: The Choices I Made in My Darkest Hour by Gayle Haggard (go ahead… take another shot…)

Please leave me suggestions in the comments for my next baked good or next book list! The first one to comment will receive a baked good made by me if I don’t fuck up the request too bad!

Also, feel feel to share what you consider American classics! What did I miss? What are you infuriated that I included? Let me know!

 

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4 thoughts on “Wisti’s American Classics

  1. I find Gravity’s Rainbow to be a destroyer of world’s marvel, fwiw, but I feel like you can’t talk about Pynchon without someone doing a handwank gesture so whatevs. To me the scope of it is amazing and the problems it’s dealing with feel vital, but I know a lot people find it pretentious and whatever else. Big shrug.

    The cookies sound good, and I’m sorry about yr spoon.

    Like

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