Thursday, March 29, 2018

April Fools! The Questionable History of the World’s Wackiest Holiday

By Erin Sherry
Spring 2018 Intern
This week, people across the globe are dusting off their pranking shoes and plotting which practical jokes they’ll attempt to pull on their friends and families for April Fools’ Day. From good-humored gags to elaborate hijinks, there’s no shortage of fun to be had on the year’s unofficial day of tomfoolery . . . but where did it all start?

Turns out, no one’s quite sure!

According to a Time article, countless cultures around the world have celebrated a version of April Fools’ Day since antiquity, yet historians remain locked in heated debate about when and where—not to mention why—April 1 became recognized as a day of international funny business.

Some trace its origins to the Greco-Roman Hilaria festival, which celebrated the first day following the Julian calendar’s vernal equinox with parades, masquerades and jokes.

Others think the answer lies in after the Christian world transitioned from the Julian calendar to the Gregorian calendar, which moved the date of New Year’s Eve to January instead of early spring, and made “fools” of the uninformed folks who continued to celebrate the new year on the wrong day.

Though hotly contested, one theory even points to Geoffrey Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales as predicting April 1 (alluded to in the text as March 32) as a day of trickery, as it is when the character Chauntecleer is outsmarted by a fox. However, most scholars seem to be in agreement that the March 32 reference was most likely the medieval version of a typo, and warn of its extreme unlikelihood as the origin of early-April antics.

Maybe April Fools’ Day can’t claim one creation story for certain, but we at PSG think the beginning of spring is an excellent time to celebrate light-hearted hilarity. Bring on the friendly fooling!

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Reading Up an Appetite: Stir-Fry Inspired by Haruki Murakami

Reading Up an Appetite: Stir-Fry Inspired by Haruki Murakami
By Erin Sherry, Spring 2018 Intern

Earlier this month, I shared a recipe for Butterbeer Cupcakes inspired by the wizarding world of Harry Potter. After indulging in the magic of their butterscotchy goodness, I found myself craving something a bit more savory, but no less literary. This time around, I looked to the mind-bending novels of Haruki Murakami to guide me in the next chapter of my culinary literary quest.

The characters that populate the surreal worlds of Murakami tend to share a few things in common: most notably, when things get sticky, it isn’t unusual to find them putting on a pot of coffee and cooking up a meal. One of my favorite Murakami confections comes from The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, when the narrator, Toru, makes dinner while waiting for his missing cat to come home. The “simple meal” Toru whips up becomes almost a recurring character throughout the novel, and every time it’s mentioned, I crave it more and more.

Just like the novel, this delicious and original “simple stir-fry” is easy to fall in love with. Just sauté cubed beef with a handful of chopped onions, green peppers and bean sprouts along with a generous portion of soy sauce, garlic, salt, pepper and ginger. For the full Murakami effect, enjoy with a fresh pot of coffee, and if the phone rings—don’t answer it!

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Viva San Pietro! Inside Gloucester’s Fiesta

Viva San Pietro! Inside Gloucester’s Fiesta
By Trina Scuderi, Spring 2018 Intern

Summer is my favorite time of the year. Not just because of warm weather and beach days, but because of a celebration in my hometown of Gloucester, Massachusetts.

 St. Peter’s Fiesta is an annual celebration of St. Peter—the patron saint of fishermen. Gloucester is known for its large Italian American fishing community, so it’s no surprise that St. Peter is so heavily celebrated.

Fiesta Sunday is the last and most important day. My aunt lives down the street from all the activities, so she’ll host a cookout every year. Shortly after we arrive to my aunt’s house, we’ll all walk down the street to watch the parade. My mom will buy flowers and pins of St. Peter for all the girls.  

Somewhere between the marching bands and baton twirlers, a statue of St. Peter is carried through the streets of Gloucester. The men will shout, “Me chi samiou tutti mutti?” and expect the response, “Viva San Pietro!

The Greasy Pole competition is later in the afternoon, and hundreds of people will congregate on the beach to watch it. Men will run along a horizontal greased pole—sometimes hitting it on the way down, more often slipping off the side and into the ocean—to capture a flag at the end.

The first round is considered a courtesy round; no one can take the flag. This gives all of the contestants a chance to run before the actual competition starts. Winning the Greasy Pole on Sunday is one of the most prestigious honors. The Sunday winner is paraded through the streets, and congratulated by everyone they pass by.

This year, St. Peter’s Fiesta begins on Wednesday, June 27, and ends on Sunday, July 1. I can’t wait!

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

PSG Bookshelf: Our Childhood Favorites

PSG Bookshelf: Our Childhood Favorites
By Erin Sherry, Spring 2018 Intern

As a creative writing major pursuing a career in publishing, it might not come as a surprise that books have always been important to me. From memorizing P.D. Eastman’s Go, Dog. Go! at age two to penning whole volumes of fan fiction inspired by Cornelia Funke’s Inkheart trilogy in middle school, I still carry the childhood books I loved most close to my heart.

Thankfully, I’m not the only member of the PSG team who still harbors a soft spot for their favorite children’s books. Don thinks Theodor Geisel was a genius, and is a longtime fan of the lesser-known Seuss stories, especially On Beyond Zebra! He first read Stephen King’s The Stand when he was “tween-ish,” and finds himself returning to it again and again. Kate devoured Gail Carson Levine’s Ella Enchanted “dozens of times,” and loved imagining herself in Ella’s shoes so much that the 2004 movie didn’t quite live up to her expectations.

Though she hasn’t read them in a while, Nora says she was obsessed with “anything and everything” Winnie the Pooh growing up, and that A.A. Milne’s stories still mean a lot to her. Tess loved Barbara Cooney’s charming illustrations in Elinor Lander Horwitz’s When the Sky is Like Lace, and Colleen still remembers shedding more than a few tears at the hands of Wilson Rawls’s Where the Red Fern Grows.

If you’re like the PSG staff, the books you loved most in childhood never really leave you. What are some of your favorites?

Thursday, March 8, 2018

Shh...It's a Secret (Recipe)

Shh…It’s a Secret (Recipe)
By Trina Scuderi, Spring 2018 Intern

As mentioned in my previous blog, I bake a lot of cookies. Walnut cups are my most requested, and I’m here to share the recipe with you!

The walnut cups consist of two parts: the dough and the filling. The dough requires 2 sticks of butter, 2 cups of flour, and 1 package of cream cheese. I mix all my dough by hand, and have learned that room temperature butter is a lot easier to work with. You’ll be fine with butter fresh out of the fridge or freezer, but your hands will be cold.

When the dough is ready, you’ll want to start lining the cupcake tins with the dough. This requires patience, as it is time consuming.

The filling is just as simple. All you need is 3 large eggs, 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract, 2 cups of brown sugar, and 2 cups of chopped walnuts. I prefer dark brown sugar as opposed to light. It’s sweeter and gives the cookies a deeper flavor.

I typically use mini cupcake pans so the cookies will be bite sized. Although, by using a smaller pan, you’ll want to double the filling recipe. It’s also a good idea to keep an extra cup of walnuts on the side, because when you get towards the end of the filling the nuts somehow seem to disappear and then all you have left is sugary goop.

When the tins are lined with dough and the filling is ready, scoop about 1 teaspoon of filling into the cups. You’ll want to leave some space because, similar to cupcakes, they will rise.

Bake them for 10–20 minutes at 375 degrees (Fahrenheit) and bon appétit!