Transcript / LoLT: Three Great Stories About India and Two New Books — 28 June 2024

Transcript / LoLT: Three Great Stories About India and Two New Books — 28 June 2024

Friday, 28 June, 2024

This is a transcription of LoLT: Three Great Stories About India and Two New Books — 28 June 2024

[cheerful music]

Melissa: Coming up, a delightfully unusual cookbook.

David: A romantic comedy in reverse.

Melissa: Plus, our distraction of the week. I’m Mel.

David: I’m Dave. This is the library of lost time.

Melissa: I’m going backlist today. Way back to 2016. The book is ‘A Super Upsetting Cookbook About Sandwiches’ by Tyler Kord. Before I talk about this book, I need to mention another. Or, more accurately, a series.

Melissa: Back in the 1970s and ’80s, an author named Lawrence Sanders was all over the best-seller lists. He wrote more than 40 mystery novels, including the Deadly Sin series featuring a detective named Edward X. Delaney. Teenaged-me loved these books. And one of my favorite things about them was that Edward X. Delaney loved sandwiches. He introduced me to the idea of a sink sandwich. That’s a concoction that’s so sloppy and gloppy, you need to eat while hunched over the sink. As a kid, I found this idea fascinating, and it’s stayed with me for decades.

Melissa: So, this book. The author was the chef at a wildly popular sandwich joint in New York. His cookbook is a cousin to the New Orleans cookbook Turkey and the Wolf by Mason Hereford. In both, the recipes are super creative, and over-the-top. The writing is very voicey and irreverent. And in the case of this book, it’s almost a memoir. You learn things about the author Tyler Kord as you bounce from one delicious recipe to another.

Melissa: I will now read you the headnote for a recipe called Lazaro’s Revenge. It’s scrambled eggs, pickled jalapenos, Mexican chorizo, and cheese on a toasted English muffin. Here we go:

‘Sometimes I wake up feeling like the worst person in the world. More often I go to bed feeling like the worst person in the world. Look, I know you’re not my therapist. In fact, you are essentially paying me to write this, so if anything, it’s more like I should be your therapist, and in that regard I guess I’m not doing a great job. And with this newfound understanding of my role in your universe, let me prescribe this sandwich the next time you are about to go to bed feeling like the worst person ever. It’s spicy and meaty and delicious, and it always makes me feel better about things. It helps if you look up at the stars while you eat this sandwich and think about how unfathomably large the universe if and how small your problems must be in the history of the enter, potentially limitless and timeless universe.’

Melissa: This book has snarky footnotes and asides snuck into the recipe instructions. You could happily amuse yourself by reading it and never making a recipe. But! The recipes are very alluring. As he says in the intro, you could serve all of these things on a plate instead of in the form of a sandwich, but sammies are more fun.

Melissa: Here are some of the sandwiches I would like to make this summer: The Don’t Cry For Me Argentina, which is roast beef with pickled onions, fried shallots, and smoked French dressing. The Frito Kid. That’s chicken with black bean hummus, maple syrup, and Fritos. There’s also a version of a fried bologna sandwich called The Empire Strikes Back. We could do a head-to-head competition with the fried bologna in Turkey and the Wolf.

Melissa: These sandwiches are definitely project recipes — they have multiple components that require cooking before you can start assembling stuff on bread. But there are also lots of great sauces and relishes you can put on a regular ol’ sandwich to make it special, and there’s a bit in the back about how to construct your own awesome sandwiches by layering contrasts: elements that are salty, fatty, acidic, sweet, and crunchy. You could use his chart to make a summer sandwich bar for the most fun cookout ever.

Melissa: Or, at minimum, read this book from cover to cover in search of all the amusing bits he’s tucked into every page. It’s ‘A Super Upsetting Cookbook About Sandwiches’ by Tyler Kord.

David: A few weeks ago, the New York Times had an article about the best books of the year so far. I was glad that a few of our picks made their list. There was Percival Everett’s ‘James’, which the editors over at Amazon have also picked as their best of 2024 so far. The Times also had ‘Martyr!’ by Kaveh Akbar. ‘Wandering Stars’ from Tommy Orange. And ‘Beautyland’ by Marie-Helene Bertino, which Mel will talk about next week in our space episode. That Times list also included a book that is now on my TBR: ‘Good Material’ by Dolly Alderton.

David: This is the story of a relationship that’s fallen apart. In the end, we hear from both parties. For the first couple of hundred pages, we hear from Andy. Andy’s a stand-up comedian. He’s funny, but he’s also devastated that his girlfriend Jen has left him. He’s 35, so he’s also suffering a bit of a mid-life crisis brought on by the breakup, exacerbated by his struggling career. The last part of the book is written by Jen. We get her view of what went wrong.

David: This is a deconstructed romantic comedy. It has the parts: quick dialogue, character chemistry, and lots of flirting and misunderstandings. But it also has the wisdom to talk about why relationships fail — or at least why this one did — and how it takes both people to make one go. You get the meet-cute and the funny, but you also get the literary examination of a relationship.

David: The Times compared the author to Nora Ephron, which is high praise for me. This looks like a great beach read. It’s ‘Good Material’ by Dolly Alderton.

David: And now our Distraction of the Week. [magical sound effect]

David: We released the India episode of Strong Sense of Place last week. Whenever I research, I frequently find more than I can use—and India was no exception. So, I’m going to tell you three short bits about India that I thought were amazing.

David: First, there are giant rainbow squirrels in India. Imagine, if you will, a squirrel about twice the size of your typical gray squirrel – over a foot long. This chonker is a squirrel that can leap 20 feet between trees. Now imagine that his fur is orange, maroon, and purple. Those creatures exist. They’re rather unimaginatively called ‘Indian giant squirrels.’ They can be found in central and southern India. We’ll put pictures in the show notes.

David: Second, the largest election of all time just finished in India. The 2024 Indian general election wrapped up on June 1st. Over 600 million people voted. The Election Commission of India has a few rules that make voting easier for voters but challenging for officials. First, every voter should be at most 2 kilometers away from a polling station. That means that electric ballot boxes find their way from jungles to the Himalayas and back again. Second, a polling station serves at most 1500 people. That means that urban areas have polling stations everywhere. Ultimately, the Indian voting process involves nearly 11 million government workers and security forces. It’s done in shifts around the country so security can move and deploy. All of that ensures that India has a free and fair election – and no voter is left behind.

David: Third and finally, there’s a free kitchen in western India that makes a lot of food. They make 100,000 meals a day.The Golden Temple in Amritsar has been feeding people for free for the last four hundred years. I imagine it was a little more modest in the 1600s. But now it’s open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. It serves lentils and rice, vegetables, a flatbread, and rice pudding. There’s a staff of 300 and another few hundred volunteers.

David: If you’re curious, we’ve got a link to a video that will show you the whole operation. The dishwashing situation itself is enough reason to take a look. And that’s it. Those are three short bits about India that I thought were amazing.

Melissa: Visit for more on the books we talked about today and photos of the giant rainbow squirrels.

David: Thanks for joining us on the library of last time. Remember to visit your local library and your independent bookstore to lose some time yourself.

Melissa: Stay curious. We’ll talk to you soon.

[cheerful music]


Top image courtesy of Unsplash+.

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