Lanternfish Press

Rare & Strange

A Hobbit's Thanksgiving

Amanda ThomasComment

If you're anything like me, you've totally tried to convince your family (or your in laws) to serve a hobbit themed Thanksgiving. No? I guess it's just me then.

I've never managed to convince my family to give up the traditional turkey dinner. But here are some sneaky ways to bring hobbit cuisine to the table this year.

Seed Cake

Seed cakes date all the way back to the middle ages. Traditionally flavored with caraway seeds, they are also quite tasty with other flavorings like orange and lavender. Below is my recipe which is based heavily on this one.

Preheat the oven to 350˚F.

Combine in a mixing bowl and set aside:

  • 2 1/4 cup all purpose flour
  • 1 Tablespoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 Tablespoons ground almonds (or cashews)

Cream until smooth and light colored:

  • 3/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar or maple sugar

Add one at a time, mixing after each addition:

  • 3 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 Tablespoon orange zest

Add alternately, the dry ingredients and 

  • 1/3 cup milk

Gently fold in:

  • 3 Tablespoons caraway seeds

Pour the batter into a 9x5 loaf pan which has been buttered and lined with parchment paper. Sprinkle with a little sugar if desired.

Bake for 60 minutes, or until lightly brown on top and a toothpick comes out clean.

Allow to cool 10 minutes before removing the loaf from the pan.

Rabbit Stew with Po-tay-toes

A delicious stew that Sam Gamgee would be proud of. It is based on this lovely recipe. I've added some herbs, potatoes and carrots to the mix. As an aside, Hunter • Angler • Gardener • Cook is a fantastic resource for anyone who hunts or just enjoys cooking game.

Salt and set aside for 10 minutes:

  • 2 cottontail rabbits or 1 domestic rabbit, cut in small pieces

Brown the rabbit in batches over medium-high heat with

  • 1 Tablespoon butter

Cook until just beginning to brown

  • 1 Tablespoon of butter
  • 1 medium onion, thinly sliced

Sprinkle with

  • 2 Tablespoons flour

and cook until browned.

Return the rabbit to the pan and add:

  • 2 cups chicken stock

Add:

  • zest from 1 lemon
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 sprig fresh rosemary
  • 1 medium potato, cubed
  • 2 carrots, sliced

Cook gently until the rabbit is falling off the bone, 90 minutes to 3 hours. Remove the bones, bay leaves and rosemary. Add:

  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 2 Tablespoons capers
  • 1/4 cup white wine

Do not allow the soup to simmer once the sour cream has been added!

Garnish with:

  • minced parsley
  • fresh cracked pepper.

Free Form Apple Tart

This recipe is originally from The Kitchn blog. I love it because it's so easy to make. No complicated puff pastry, no fancy tart pans. And it's generous enough for a big gathering, especially when served with vanilla ice cream.

A confession, I am known to use store bought puff pastry for this. Making puff pastry in the midst of Thanksgiving is a bit much for me. I'm not huge fan of the pastry from the original recipe. I prefer this one. But seriously, if you're making your own pasty, just about any recipe will do.

Preheat oven to 400˚F.

Roll the pasty dough to a rough 9x15 rectangle and transfer to a baking sheet lined with a silicone mat or parchment paper.

Fold over the edges of the dough to form a lip all the way around. Prick the crust all over and refrigerate while you prepare the filling.

Core and quarter before slicing into 1/8" wedges:

  • 2-3 apples (~1 pound) Choose and apple that is decent for baking such as melrose, winesap, cortland, jonagold, gala, or braeburn.

Toss the apple slices with:

  • 2-4 Tablespoons brown sugar 
  • 1/2 teaspoon almond extract

Arrange the apple slices neatly in overlapping rows running the length of the crust. Dot the top with:

  • 2 Tablespoons unsalted butter, cut in small cubes

Bake for 45-50 minutes. Halfway through baking, rotate and sprinkle with:

  • 1/3 cup sliced almonds, toasted

Prepare the glaze while the tart is baking.

In a small sauce pan, bring to a boil:

  • 1/4 cup (seedless) fruit preserves (Apricot and raspberry both work well. Blueberry is delicious but makes everything an alarming shade of green)
  • 1 Tablespoon orange liqueur or water

Remove the tart from the oven when the crust is browned and the apples have colored a bit. Brush with the glaze and serve immediately.

Introducing Anca L. Szilágyi, Author of Daughters of the Air

InterviewsFeliza Casano

Daughters of the Air will be out in just four short weeks, so we wanted to get to know author Anca L. Szilágyi first. If you're in Seattle on December 5, join us for the Daughters of the Air launch party at Hotel Sorrento hosted by Hugo House. (Find more details on the Hugo House website.)


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Welcome! Please introduce yourself for any readers who aren't yet familiar with you and your work.

I was born Queens and raised in Brooklyn. I feel an affinity for those two sprawling boroughs of New York; large cities have always inspired me. It's no surprise, then, that I married a map-loving urban planner! These days we live in misty Seattle. Even though it's been nine years since we moved west, I still marvel at the flora of the Pacific Northwest--lavender, rosemary, and artichokes grow wild in the street, and the magnolia tree in our yard bursts into intoxicating lemon-velvet-scented blossoms.  

My writing is an elastic sort of realism--gritty or fabulist or both. Growing up, I gobbled myths, fairy tales, Narnia; later on books like The Tin DrumInvisible Man, and The Bloody Chamber left a mark on me.  I like to stretch form too--increasingly I'm experimenting with lyric essays, mostly related to foodartmemory, and culture. Many of the essays, my short fiction, and obliquely, Daughters of the Air, draw on my family's experiences during the Holocaust and the Communist dictatorship in Romania, and as immigrants and refugees in 1970s-80s New York City.

Pluta is the teenage girl at the heart of Daughters of the Air. Tell us a bit about where she comes from.

In high school, I took choreography workshops at the Gowanus Arts Exchange, a vibrant arts space in a creepy, creaky former soap factory. I've been obsessed with the strangeness of Gowanus ever since--it felt so odd and secretive and dangerous. Pluta is also quite strange; the earliest seeds of the book are her dreams, which came to me while recovering from surgery in 2001 (which I wrote about here). I kept thinking about her, and picturing her alone in Gowanus, but I didn't know why. At some point between 2001 and 2003, I began worrying about the rhetoric of the War on Terror; there seemed to be some troubling similarities with Argentina's Dirty War, and that history became part of Pluta's.

Back in September, we went on a bit of a crawl through parts of Brooklyn as you showed me a few parts of Gowanus that Pluta discovers over the course of the novel. Are there any settings from Daughters of the Air that no longer exist?

Gowanus is very different these days. There were no luxury condos back in the mid-late 1990s, when I was dancing there, and certainly not in 1980. The Public Place is what has changed the most, or at least it has for me, because I'd spent so much time looking at it, especially as the F train soars over it. Before my time, it was the site of a manufactured gas plant, then it was the fenced up patch of wilderness included in Daughters of the Air. Now it's paved over. The iconic neon Kentile Floors sign, which could be seen from the train, is also gone, though it may be coming back to a playground in the neighborhood. 

What comes next for you as a writer?

Embarking on the tenth draft of my second novel! It's about a struggling diorama artist working as a paralegal in 2008, set against the backdrop of the Bernie Madoff scandal. There's a third novel on the back burner, and some short stories and essays floating around in the ether.

Where can readers visit you online?

My website is ancawrites.com and I'm on Twitter (@ancawrites) and Instagram (anca_szilagyi). Come say hi!

How to Haunt Yourself

Christine NeuliebComment

Halloween has always been one of my favorite holidays. It goes back to when I was a four-year-old kid, learning to draw ghosts and witches with a clumsily held pencil. I'd bring the drawings to my mom and she'd indulge me by shrieking and cowering in fright. I was too little to know she was pretending; I really believed my drawings could strike terror into a grownup's heart. The power was intoxicating! Muahaha.

Costumes, dark and spooky atmospherics, the once-a-year chance to flirt with the idea that there might be more things in heaven and earth than are dreamt of in our philosophy: what's not to like about Halloween?

Looking for a literary way to enhance your celebration of this spookiest of holidays? Visit the Academy of American Poets list of Halloween-themed poems and marinate yourself in some gorgeously spooky language: 

The south-wind strengthens to a gale, 
Across the moon the clouds fly fast, 
The house is smitten as with a flail, 
The chimney shudders to the blast. 

On such a night, when Air has loosed
Its guardian grasp on blood and brain, 
Old terrors then of god or ghost
Creep from their caves to life again; 

And Reason kens he herits in
A haunted house. Tenants unknown
Assert their squalid lease of sin
With earlier title than his own.
(more)

(If you enjoy that and you're still craving more, you can move on to their lists of vampire poems, ghost poems, and poems about the underworld.) 

My suggestion, once your head is full of all these creepy words? Wander distracted upon a blasted heath or a lonely moor, wearing a bit of lace at your throat. Listen to the sound of the wind--or are those voices crying? Try not to go mad; but write a poem, either way. 

Don't have a blasted heath or a lonely moor handy? That's okay; you can read "A Sublime Contagion," Sarah Perry's essay on the ancient roots of gothic literature, at Aeon Magazine:

As I walked the green miles of the Undercliff where the French Lieutenant’s Woman met her lover, there came a change of air. The dense undergrowth was obscenely verdant — bees worrying at pink rhododendron, peacock butterflies crossing my path — and now and then I’d burst out and find I stood at the cliff’s edge overlooking the sands of Golden Cap. It was impossible to imagine any other human setting foot where I’d set mine. When the path sank into a darker place and I found myself among the ruins of a great house, I shivered as if I’d grown cold. A high, pale-stoned wall with windows pointed at the upper edge put a black shadow at my feet, and fragments of its foundations were scattered about like broken teeth. A little further on I could see the wet black lip of a well. There was a thick silence. (more)

Then? Write a poem.

Enjoy These 5 Spooky Reads for Halloween

Feliza Casano

'Tis the season, right? I have to admit that I'm not exactly the biggest fan of horror - I'm easily grossed out by gore and an easy target for jump scares. But give me the right kind of creepy and I'll be left thinking about a book long after I've finished it.

With Halloween coming up fast, I've picked out 5 creepy-as-heck novels that might not scare you, persay, but leave an impression of lingering unease days or even weeks later.

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The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson

Listing anything by Shirley Jackson might actually count as cheating, because there are few authors with as much mastery over terror. My introduction to Jackson's work was in high school, when my high school English class read her short story "The Lottery." (If you've never checked out any of Jackson's work and don't want to commit to a novel, "The Lottery" is a short story that should be on your list.)

The Haunting of Hill House is a slim tome that packs a major punch. Four characters gather in the eponymous Hill House at the behest of one of them, Dr. Montague, who is researching supernatural phenomena in the old house.

Anyone who's ever watched a horror movie understands that this is a terrible idea.

The supernatural phenomena experienced by the characters during their time at Hill House are difficult to explain, though the reader is left with a number of possibilities. Hailed by such diverse sources as The Wall Street Journal and Stephen King, Jackson's Hill House is a classic of psychological terror that's defined haunted house stories for generations.

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World War Z by Max Brooks

Now for an about-face: Max Brooks' World War Z features one of the least subtle terrors in the genre: a world-wide zombie horde.

What really sets World War Z apart is the way it's framed: as the tagline on the cover indicates, it's crafted as an "oral history" of the events surrounding the zombie war, gathered by a journalist who makes rare appearances in the story. 

(I'm to understand that this journalist is played by Brad Pitt in the film version, but also that the journalist is basically the only similarity between the two forms of media.)

What makes World War Z frightening is this very framework. The journalistic style and the way each narrator's speaking style is crafted manages to achieve nearly-complete suspension of disbelief, leaving the reader with the unsettling feeling of reading a historical document from the future.

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Another by Yukito Ayatsuji

Another is almost a marriage of what makes The Haunting of Hill House and World War Z frightening. In this paranormal horror story, a teenage boy transfers to a new school, where all of the students ignore a single girl in the class. Convinced they're bullying her, he tries to befriend her, only to discover the students had been trying to stave off a deadly curse - and by acknowledging her existence, he undid it all.

While Japanese horror tends toward the psychological, Another forces readers to face one of the terrifying concepts of zombie fiction: that death can come for anyone at any time, indiscriminately.

I'd say Another is more similar to Hill House in terms of its reliance on psychological horror and supernatural phenomena, but one thing I appreciate about the novel is that there's simply no explanation for why it happens. Unlike Hill House, which offers a few possible "solutions" to the events of the story, the supernatural events of Another have no explanation. They just happen. Which might be the scariest thing of all.

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The Afflictions by Vikram Paralkar

An encyclopedia of diseases always has the potential to leave a lingering impression of unease, depending on a person's nature, but Vikram Paralkar's The Afflictions isn't just any encyclopedia of diseases. It's an encyclopedia of fictional diseases - illnesses of the spirit rather than illnesses of the body.

Conveyed through short encyclopedic entries, The Afflictions explores maladies that are all existential or philosophical rather than physical. As with World War Z, the book's framework is what makes it even more terrifying: the diseases seem utterly real, as if at any moment the reader could contract an affliction that might make them disappear from the memories of those around them.

While not precisely scary, The Afflictions is the sort of book that makes you lie awake in bed at night, contemplating what you've just finished reading, which for some readers is truly the goal.

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Meddling Kids by Edgar Cantero

Like just about every other American-raised kid, I grew up watching the Scooby-Doo cartoons in just about every iteration, reading the Nancy Drews and Hardy Boys and Boxcar Childrens that my local library provided, and did go through the "mystery novel stage" that seems so common in American elementary schools.

Edgar Cantero's Meddling Kids knows this and seizes upon it, shaking readers hard and refusing to let go.

While I expected a nostalgia trip featuring a rubber-masked bad guy based on the cover, the book was a deep dive into reflections of twenty-somethings on the events of their childhood with one very unsettling addition: the idea that the monsters you feared during childhood were, in fact, very real, and that they're not especially interested in leaving you alone now that you're an adult.

Lanternfish Press at Collingswood Book Festival 2017

EventsFeliza Casano
Collingswood Oct 07, 9.51AM.jpg

Collingswood Book Festival

Our first time at a local book festival with a surprising number of author connections

Just a hop-skip away from our home base in Philadelphia is the Collingswood Book Festival, an annual one-day event held in Collingswood, New Jersey. 

It was our first time at this event, so we took the opportunity to make a few new friends (and hang out with one of our authors.)

Other Worlds artist Saul Rosenbaum stopped by to sign a few things and hang out with us in the slightly hot but otherwise lovely day. 

You can pick up a copy of Other Worlds on our website! And, if you're in the Philadelphia area, keep an eye out: there may be a few coloring parties on the way.

But that's not our only connection to Collingswood: Salamanders of the Silk Road author Christopher Smith lived in West Collingswood Heights (on Lincoln Avenue) from 1980 through 1987 and graduated from Haddon Township High School in 1987. He attended Audubon United Methodist Church and worked as a busboy at Rexy's Bar and then at Chubby's 1 1/2 Hearth.

We had a wonderful time at the book festival this year, and we look forward to another visit next fall!