Episode Number: 103
Episode Title: Iron Fangirl (listen to this episode)
Transcript by: Susan the Great
Support us: If you’d like to help us with our accessibility work and compensating Susan for her transcriptions, you can support the show in a myriad of ways!
Please contact us if you spot any errors.
Renay: Hi friends, I’m Renay!
Ana: And I’m Ana.
Renay: And you’re listening to Fangirl Happy Hour.
Renay: On today’s episode, we’re gonna do some feedback and updates, and then we’re gonna discuss the book that we’ve all been waiting for: The Stone Sky by N.K. Jemisin, the last book in her Broken Earth trilogy. Then we’re going to talk about a comic that I recommended to everybody and Ana took my rec and she read it: Space Battle Lunchtime by Natalie Reiss! And then, our long-awaited cooking segment. Ana, how do you feel about this?
Ana: [laughs] Ah, just to think about my cooking experience just makes me laugh.
Renay: It’s quality, guys, you’re gonna like it. And then of course we’re gonna do some recommendations.
Renay: Okay, feedback and updates. Ana, take it away.
Ana: We are almost halfway through to our next patreon goal of $300 per month, and once we hit that, we can start discussing a TV show episode by episode. And it’s probably gonna be Lost. Can you imagine watching Lost again after ten years, knowing how it ended, and going back to the start?
Renay: But I don’t know how it ended. I stopped watching Lost after season…2?
Ana: Guys, guys, please. Please. Make this happen.
Renay: Next: somebody reblogged one of our episodes and said something so nice. It was tirkdi on tumblr, and they wrote this huge long thing and it was so great and I’ve been sitting on it, and sometimes I’ll just go and reread it because it makes me so happy. So I’m gonna read it to everybody else because I have a giant ego. You’re welcome. They said. “I started listening to this podcast about a month ago, and now it’s one of my favorites, one of only two that I make a point of listening to the day it comes out, the other being Hellbent, a podcast that I learned about from Fangirl Happy Hour, so it kind of gets double credit. I always love hearing Renay and Ana discuss SFF, and if you like science fiction and/or fantasy and listening to funny and knowledgeable women discuss it, I bet you’ll like this podcast, too. I’m tumbling this episode in particular because of The Stone Sky and Jemisin section. No spoilers in it, but I actually squeed out loud listening to it because Renay expressed how I feel about Jemisin’s writing. Every book is better than the last, and how are we gonna be able to handle her books in a few years? Not being able to talk about The Stone Sky with anyone is killing me, so hearing it discussed even in a non-spoilery fashion and given ten thousand space bees was balm for my stone-eaten soul.” Ana, I’ve read this so many times. It makes me so happy.
Ana: This person’s really nice. Next, we just wanted to say thank you so much to our new patron bees at the $5 level, and to say that our first patron episode will be out next week and it contains a lot of yelling about politics, because #onbrand.
Renay: [laughs] And our last update is the announcement of a found family rec list. I’m making a found family rec list. I’m really excited about it. I love found family stuff. I made a special form on the website to help people find our rec form, cause the other is a google link. It’s hard to remember! You can still bookmark it it will work, but we have a new one at fangirlhappyhour.com/rec-headquarters. And you can go there and use the form whenever you want, and tell me all about your favorite found family books, and movies, and whatever else that you have that has found families in it that you love. I’m really excited about this reclist. I’m ready for it!
Renay: The Stone Sky is the third book in the Hugo Award winning trilogy by N.K. Jemisin. It is the final entry in the Broken Earth trilogy. The Fifth Season, its follow-up The Obelisk Gate, and The Stone Sky all tell the story of Essun. and the Stillness, and the way the world ends over and over and over again.
Ana: It’s over.
Renay: I know.
Ana: What are we going to do?
Renay: But right off the bat we’re gonna do ratings, because I think that’s how we need to anchor this discussion, because I’m giving this book ten thousand space bees.
Ana: Okay, me too. No, I’m giving it forty thousand space bees.
Renay: Congratulations N.K. Jemisin, you just got fifty thousand space bees. I mean, you can’t spend these, so they’re not really worth much, but you have them! You have a space bee army now. Can attack your enemies.
So if you haven’t read this series, if you’ve been putting it off, if you’ve been waiting for it to all be out, now’s a great time because you will not have to live with the cliffhangers.
Ana: And also I’m pleased to say it actually ends really well in terms of completing the trilogy. There certain series that are disappointing, or don’t fulfill their full potential, but this did not happen here in any shape or form. All the answers are given, everything we had been waiting for is unveiled, and more even, cause I wasn’t expecting for example to have a full-on narrative from Hoa’s perspective about his story. And then we have that in this last book.
Renay: Even the things that we don’t get answers to, the things that are still mysterious because the way that the Stillness works in this book: it’s a world where you can’t ever know what’s happened, because it has ended so many times. Even those things feel perfect and right. And the way that she ended this trilogy was brilliant. This work is brilliant. This is a genius piece of speculative fiction.
Ana: Yes. Because it’s so unique at the same time that it’s so fucking familiar, right? It has a magic system that is completely unlike anything I have ever read before, but the people are still people.
Renay: What makes these books so successful for me is that the character work that Jemisin does in them makes you care really, really deeply about the world. In the first book when we meet Hoa, I didn’t really think that he was going to be an important character, and I wasn’t as invested in him. And it was the same with Nassun. It’s really brilliant that she rooted those characters in those first two books and made you really care about them, so when the third book comes around, you’re already invested and wanting to know what happens to them.
So much of this story feels like the layers of Earth. Because she spent so much time layering the characters, layering the world building, to get to the point of the third entry in this series. And considering that the book is about earth, and people with earth magic skills, and earthquakes, I think that’s unbelievably cool.
Ana: Because in many ways she went like strata, right, for the first book it was like superficial, and then she went deep, and then she went deep all the way to the core. And that works also in terms of the storytelling, because for the first book you have everything from Essun’s perspective and then it expands to include Nassun’s in the second book, and then in the third book it includes Hoa’s, too. But then there is a twist there.
Renay: In twenty years somebody’s gonna be like, “So what are the classic science fiction and fantasy books I should read?” This series are gonna be on it.
Renay: I think they should teach this in writing classes. It’s so smart. It’s so smart! I wish I had more words to describe how I feel about this book. Inspiring and enriching and gutting!
Ana: So gutting. But I like the word inspiring, because I was recently watching a documentary about Northern Ireland, but there was a quote that was used there. And I’m not sure where the quote comes from. I tried to google it and there are so many people that this same quote is attributed to. It’s about like how art should be about comforting the afflicted and afflicting the comfortable, and I think this book does that. And this is why it’s inspiring as well as gutting, because it just shows a level of both writing skills, but also a breath of hope in people, even as it shows how people can be utterly awful.
Renay: I also think that this book is rooted in the time that we are currently living in in a very specific way. I really think that The Stone Sky and the other books in the series as well, argue that if there is a system of oppression built on the backs of people, it doesn’t deserve to maintain itself into the future. There’s nothing inherently moral about being patient and waiting for change.
Ana: It also shows how cyclical that can be and the way that oppression can work in different ways and be maintained and sustained throughout the centuries to the point I was watching right now a documentary on education in the United States about how a lot of schools are going through a new period of segregation, that effectively mirrors the one from the 1960s and before. But it’s done now through different methods. This is a continuation of oppression
Renay: The Stone Sky and the previous books are a critique of oppressive systems and I’m really, really new to discussions of oppressive systems and how oppressive systems interact with any sort of intersectional identity. But so many lines in this book just shook me to my core. Especially Hoa. Because Hoa’s story, even though all the other characters go through so much shit and pain and suffering, Hoa’s story made me rethink how I approach thinking about power. Hoa in these books is a Stone Eater, and he has all this power, and in The Stone Sky we see where he came from and how easily his power was yoked to something that he didn’t believe in, and how with all his power, he was still in the end powerless to make the change that he had decided on. So when I say it made me change how I think about power: if we’re always pushing and pulling on each other, using our various powers, whatever they might be, we’re just going to continue to propagate the same systems in different structures and different ways, and you only… win, maybe—which it might be the wrong word—when you opt out.
Ana: Well, this book doesn’t give you any answers, any concrete answers about how to fight oppression. It provides options: different ways of looking at it. I wouldn’t say any of those ways are wrong or right, cause they are such impossibly big decisions to make that these people are faced with.
Renay: Hoa says you can always make different choices.
Ana: That is the crux of this entire series. And of the entire system of the Stillness, of the Sanzed, of everybody who has ever held power within these books, which you can expand into reality. Everything’s about choice. How do you choose to build your society?
Renay: And if your society is focused on the accumulation of something – capital, power, influence, magic, anything. No matter what you do to undo those systems, if you don’t address the root of the problem, you just recreate them in different ways.
This book blew my mind.
Ana: I know.
Renay: If you have not read The Stone Sky yet, this is our spoiler tag. So if you don’t wanna be spoiled for what happens in this book, and I highly recommend that you just don’t get spoiled for what happens in this book unless your name is Jenny, skip to the next segment.
Renay: Guess what?
Renay: Hoa and Essun can have rock sex.
Ana: They can, forever and ever and ever and ever and ever and ever to eternity!
Renay: Well, for several billion years.
Ana: Yes, until the Earth dies, I guess. I mean he did eat her boob. Maybe in some quarters…?
Renay: We went from super heavy discussion to this. Yes.
Renay: It’s still us. Don’t worry. we’re still here.
Ana: Oh, I loved it. I loved they end up together. I’m not sure if they are a couple-couple but they are family and it doesn’t matter. There’s love there.
How do you feel about the fact that most of the narrative in second person—and I would wager the entirety of the series—is Hoa telling the story and how do you think that impacts what we are really reading? How much of everything that we have seen is really Nassun, Essun, and everybody, and how much of it is Hoa’s impression of the world and of those characters? Does it matter?
Due to him being what he is, he sees through magic what’s inside people, right? The way that he looks and narrates the story could be looked at it as the reality of the truth. But you know how much I love unreliable narratives, and I wanted to know how unreliable it all is. And I’m not sure if it matters, if it doesn’t matter. It wouldn’t change the way that I feel about the book, but it’s something that keeps percolating inside my head.
Renay: I suspect that question has to be answered reader to reader, because it’s up to how much you trust Hoa and his narrative. The more we learn about Hoa, the more it’s clear that he has been an important figure since the very beginning. And because he hides who he really is in the first book, and the second book he tries to help save Essun’s life, and in the third book we get his own past. He tells it very dispassionately, very much like he’s a viewer of his own experience, because he’s no longer that person who fought with the Earth, who was turned into a Stone Eater.
Ana: And who was as oppressed as Essun was. What I loved the most about it is how their stories mirrored each other’s. In the same way that Alabaster opened her eyes up to the reality of who she was, the same way his eyes were opened too, and then he had to do something about the same way that Essun had to do something about it.
Renay: So many of the decisions that these people in this book make are made out of love and it changes the whole future.
Renay: At the end of the book, Essun and Nassun are facing each other. Essun wants to return the moon and the end the Seasons. Nassun is mad and she’s losing a second father, and she wants to turn everybody to Stone Eaters. The book doesn’t tell you, “Hey, this person is the villain. This person is the bad guy.”
Ana: Even Father Earth.
Renay: Yeah, because you can’t really pin him as a villain in this.
Ana: No. Look at what was done to him.
Renay: He was a victim, and I guess you could maybe argue that some of the villains were like the people who controlled Hoa, or Old Sans, were villains, but by the time we’re reading the story, those are gone. They’re no longer part of this particular story.
Ana: You just have the people that exist now having to deal with all of the bullshit and having to make hard choices on survival. Like Hoa said, it’s all about choices and that comes down to daily choices too, when you are trying to survive apocalypses. And there’s so much loss in this book. What about Lerna?! Just gone!
Renay: I did not see that coming.
Ana: Just completely fucking gone! And, of course, Essun was pregnant, and she knew what would happen at the end.
Renay: But she didn’t want to watch another of her children die.
Ana: Yeah, and the third one completely lost to her because she realized in the end that Nassun was not hers anymore. Out of her own choices and how to parent her, she lost Nassun, or Nassun’s love, until the very end when that love, kind of like, comes back. That was so beautiful. My god, another thing that I don’t see people talking about, but I find these books really funny. You say that Hoa’s narrative is detached and I can see that, but I also see how he uses humor.
Renay: Hoa is very, very funny.
Ana: Absolutely. And then Essun as well sometimes cause she’s so—
Ana: You can get humor through that. And there are also like really interesting beautiful things in the world. So for example when Nassun arrives at Corepoint and that town’s full of Stone Eaters waiting for her and she realizes —she stays there for a while and she realizes they have like a community ther. And there is that one description of the the one Stone Eater standing there with food in his hand and then the fish comes and eats out of his hand and he looks gleeful even though they don’t have expressions as much as humans do. And I thought that was so unbearably beautiful.
I loved to learn about the story of the Stone Eaters too: how they came to be and what they made of themselves for the past forty thousand years. And even Steel I could understand what he wanted Nassun to do, because he was just so tired. Like what it was saying was just difficult to pin someone as a villain because I could see everybody’s point of view. And in the end I was really sad about Schaffa.
Renay: That part scared me, actually. When Nassun and Schaffa go through the core of the Earth so close to the source of Father Earth’s power and Schaffa is just like convulsing. It was scary. That’s scary.
Ana: I thought he was going to come up full Guardian again, and just attack her, and I wouldn’t have been able to cope with that. But that never happened. These books, man, they are heavy. But beautiful.
Renay: There’s so much to talk about in them. Can you believe that at some point, N.K. Jemisin was like, “I don’t think I have the skills to write this book?”
Ana: I can because hashtag #impostersyndrome.
Renay: Can you imagine if she hadn’t pushed through that? We wouldn’t have got these books.
Ana: Oh my god, yes.
Renay: Of course everybody already knows that we’ve rated this and given it fifty thousand space bees.
Ana: She’s gonna get another Hugo for this one. Maybe for the entire series.
Renay: I wouldn’t be sad if she won a Hugo for this book. Out of all the speculative fiction being published right now, this is one of the most challenging, intense, thoughtful pieces of literature that exists in our field.
Renay: And even if you don’t like it, it’s really hard to deny that there’s something going on in these books that’s really saying something about our current society and the structure of our communities that matters. It’s a message. It’s important. Um, the epigraph, I want you to read that.
Ana: “To those who survived: breathe. That’s it. Once more. Good. You’re good. Even if you’re not, you’re alive. That is a victory.”
Renay: And now for a very big change in tone: we’re going to talk about Space Battle Lunchtime by Natalie Reiss, which is a middle-grade comic from Oni Press, about Peony, who is recruited to compete in Space Battle Lunchtime, a galactic cooking show. Ana, when I read this the first time, I fell in love, I loved everything about it, it was so cute. So I now need to know whether or not you liked it.
Ana: It was okay?
Renay: Oh noooooo…
Ana: There wasn’t a lot to it. It is cute. I finished reading The Stone Sky and I immediately read this one.
Renay: Oh no.
Ana: It was a welcome respite.
Renay: That doesn’t seem like it would be a good decision, going from The Stone Sky, which is very rich and complicated to a middle-grade comic about a cooking show. Ana, what did you do?! You should have taken a break!
Ana: Yeah, in hindsight, possibly. I mean, it was okay! I thought that there was just not a lot to it.
Renay: I loved it so much. I’m so sad you didn’t like it as much as I did.
Ana: It’s kinda like The Great British Bake-Off in space and also with villains.
Renay: I don’t know what The Great British Bake-Off is—
Ana: It’s exactly what this is, but without aliens.
Renay: Yeah, so Peony is competing in a galactic cooking show against a bunch of other aliens, many of which are rude, except for Neptunia, who is—
Ana: A potential ally and a romantic interest?
Renay: I want them to hold hands.
Ana: Awww. Have you read the second volume yet? Because it ends on a horrible cliffhanger.
Renay: I have not read the second volume. I should have had you read the first and second together.
Ana: Yeah, maybe we should have done that.
Renay: Because then you would have had the second volume, and it might have made it feel more substantial? But I mean, it’s a middle-grade comic book, so it’s not meant to be like super in-depth. It’s just super fun and cute.
Ana: Yes. It reminded me a lot of Nimona, and Lumberjanes, and the art is really cool, too.
Renay: If you like Hellcat, I think this is comparable. But also Ana didn’t like Hellcat very much.
Renay: So maybe that was my first mistake.
Ana: No, there are no mistakes here. This is a mistake free zone.
Renay: Since the comic is pretty short and I do want to talk to Ana about some of the details, this will probably be kinda spoilery. so if you haven’t read this comic and you plan to, definitely check out now but it’s really short, your library may have it, give it a shot if you like cute middle-grade comics.
Renay: Zonda comes in and goes, “Hey can you do this cooking show?” and she’s like, “YES!” and later in the comic they askED her if she can do something and she’s like, “Mm, maybe? No, wait, YES!” She’s full of confidence and I loved it.
Ana: That’s definitely one of the things I liked the most, too. There is no moment of, “Oh, maybe I shouldn’t do this, what are you talking about taking me to an alien cookery show?” She just embraces everything, every single opportunity, and she believes in herself.
Renay: Yes, and that’s what I think I took away from it the most, is like she has so much self-confidence in her cooking abilities that she doesn’t let herself get intimidated. When she has to pair up with Neptunia, she’s like, “Listen here, you’re not gonna be all space loner. we’re gonna do this together and we’re gonna win.” She’s very, very confident and I loved all of that.
We mentioned the art style earlier but I really loved the water-color feel.
Ana: It’s very different from what we are used to in terms of comic books. It’s less glossy, it’s still cartoony, but—I wouldn’t say muted colours, because there are very bright colours, but I think watercolor’s a good way of describing it. Does she do the art too?
Renay: Yeah, she does all of it!
Ana: But do you know, it’s really interesting because this is by Oni Press and they also publish Princess Princess Ever After, which I really enjoyed, the same way that I enjoyed this. But also felt it was just too—too short, too short, too little, not enough.
Renay: So what you’re saying is that once this comic finishes, and you would read the whole thing, that you might be more inclined to like the thing as a whole.
Ana: Possibly, yeah. It just felt very abrupt and very unfinished.
Renay: Deliberately, because there is a cliffhanger right there at the end that wants you to suffer.
Ana: Yeah, they do.
Renay: I was trying to think of other things that’s like it that I loved, that had the same tone, that were books, and the first thing I came up with was Mars Evacuees by Sophia McDougall.
Ana: Mm, that’s a good one.
Renay: I just don’t read enough middle-grade to know about books like this: that have the same tone and involve confident girls and cute friendships.
Ana: The one thing that I want to talk about, that comes straight to my mind right now, it’s something that is not middle-grade at all, but I just finished reading it. It’s science fiction set in space, and it’s about a very confident woman too, and just like this is a cookery show, the book is about janitors saving the day and it’s the new Jim Hines books called Terminal Alliance. And it’s a group of janitors that work in this spaceship and all of the command crew dies, and all of the other humans become zombies, and they are the only ones left to save the day. And they just use cleaning supplies, and it’s just so much fun! [laughs] The Janitors of the Post-Apocalypse series by Jim Hines just came out literally yesterday.
Renay: There’s a short story by John Scalzi that I really liked that kinda hits the same ridiculous, but hilarious tone: Important Holidays on Gronghu by John Scalzi, which is a short story in his Miniatures collections which I don’t know if you can get in hardcover, because it was like a Subterranean Press special thing. But I think you can get the ebook, and all the stories in that are super cute. But that one specifically reminded me of the tone of this story. And I just really, really, really want more stories like this, but like in prose. And comics too, but like, also in prose.
Cause we were talking in our Slack group the other day about Becky Chambers and A Long To A Small Angry Planet and how a lot of people just don’t like it because they don’t think it’s quote-unquote “serious” enough. I was like, “is there a subgenre that we can create that is socio-domestic science fiction.”
Ana: Yes, cozy space opera.
Renay: Anyway, that’s what I want more of, socio-domestic science fiction like Space Battle Lunchtime.
Ana: I think that’s a worthy pursuit.
Renay: All right Ana, how many space bees are you gonna give this very incomplete volume?
Ana: Three and a bottle of honey.
Renay: Okay, well I’m giving it five, obviously, because I loved it so much. But I think I was prepared for the cliffhanger and I knew that there was gonna be a part two. In the future I’ll have you read the second volume and see how you feel about it.
Ana: Have you read the second one?
Renay: I have not.
Ana: So you also don’t know what happened.
Renay: I also don’t know what happened, so we’re going to have to find out. I’m just gonna be extra confident that Natalie Reiss is gonna pull this off.
The first and second volumes of Space Battle Lunchtime by Natalie Reiss are out now, I obviously highly recommend them, even though I haven’t read the second volume. I’m just going on faith.
Renay: And now the thing that everybody who was super invested in our “Cheesecake: pie versus cake” debate has been waiting for: it’s our first cooking segment. This was brought to you by our patrons, so thank you patrons for letting us do this and making it possible. We made cinnamon rolls.
Ana: Inspired by our reading of Sunshine, who is a big cinnamon roll baker. And by me and my love for cinnamon rolls as a new discovery in my life, because we didn’t have them in Brazil. And we tried to cook it. And I tried to cook mine vegan and gluten-free.
Renay: Her first mistake.
Ana: To terrible, terrible results.
Renay: So throughout this segment, you will hear several of our clips from our baking adventures. PS Ana’s are quality. Cooking stresses me out so mine are less exciting, because I follow recipes exactly and don’t let anything bad happen because I’m afraid of being made anxious and quitting. Ana is the star of this show.
Ana: Renay, just tell me, were yours delicious though?
Renay: Yes, Ana. Yes, they were.
Ana: Were you actually able to eat them, I guess?
Renay: Yes, yes, we were.
Ana: I’m so sad.
Ana: Hi space bees! This is your cooking show with Ana and Renay of Fangirl Happy Hour, and this is Ana from my kitchen in Cambridge, and I’m fucked.
I have never baked anything in my life. I do not have a mixing bowl. I have a food processor which I will hopefully adapt correctly to this task. I don’t have baking sheets, a baking tray; I’m using a lasagna dish. I hope that would be okay for making this thing.
And as you know I am a vegan and I have also recently become a gluten-free person, so I am doing gluten-free vegan cinnamon rolls. My flour is made of a combination blend of rice, potato, maize, and buckwheat. I’m replacing milk with almond milk, I have—not gonna add any butter or oil apart from coconut oil and the sugar is gonna be coconut sugar, because it’s important to me that I don’t eat crap. Sorry.
Ana: Beforehand, I had to prepare a buttermilk mix for some reason, which is a combination of unsweetened almond milk and apple vinegar? It smells awful. I have no idea—oh, do you know what? I think this is—I think this is creating a yeasty mixture, because there was no yeast in this recipe? And I think this is what this is. They asked me to let it stand for about five minutes and I can see there is something happening here, so. Okay. It doesn’t smell as foul as it was smelling five minutes ago either, which I guess is a bonus, because I wasn’t understanding how apple vinegar was going to go into this thing, but I think that now I know.
Ana: And now I need to prepare the filling, which goes….five tablespoons of sugar? I’m going to use the coconut sugar, because it has a lower glycemic index, which is very good. Oh my god, five tablespoons? Oh my god, this is a lot of sugar. Can I use just four? Is this gonna ruin the recipe? Oh shit, I’m just gonna use like like half-spoons. I’m doubting, I’m doubting! And then of course for the cinnamon, they ask for only two teaspoons, and I’m like ,”Is this a cinnamon roll or is this a sugar roll?” Clearly I should change and add more cinnamon and less sugar.
See? I feel very brave right now. I’m mixing and mixing and mixing and a pinch of salt for some reason. Oh god. [mixing sound] Was that too much salt? Should I, add more cinnamon? Oh will. Should I add more sugar in the end? Fuck. I don’t know. Maybe a little bit more sugar. Let me taste this thing. Mm. Mmmmm. Okay. Tastes very —cinnamony.
Ana: So for the dough—[bash] Oh? Oh, I wonder if I have baking powder, I should have checked this things before, shouldn’t I? Uh, baking powder, and baking soda—YES! SUCCESS! I DO HAVE THOSE THINGS! Um, are they still valid? Yes! Best before 2018. That’s great. It’s even like, completely shut because I never used them. Amazing.
Ana: I need to combine all dry ingredients in my food processor. It doesn’t look big enough for the amount of flour. [deep breath] Wish me luck.
I am adding the flour now, to the mixing bowl. Oh, okay, so half of it just fell outside the mixing bowl. This is an excellent start to this process. Why did I let Renay convince of doing this? I do not know. I have more flours in my hand and around the mixing bowl that I had inside the mixing bowl.
Two tablespoons of sugar. More sugar, okay. Jeez Louises.
Ana: One and quarter-teaspoon of baking powder. One and a quarter, seriously. In Brazil we call it “by the eye” or ???? and my eyes are telling me that a quarter of teaspoon was exactly what I just added.
Half teaspoon of baking soda. One teaspoon of cinnamon. And half teaspoon of salt. Do you know, I would like to understand why do you add salt to sweet things? If any of you know, I would be interested in finding out. Presumably some sort of binding stuff, right? Okay, I’m going to combine all of these things. What do I combine like just mixing it? Or do I use the motor? I don’t know. I’m gonna try and use the—thing you do. Just a moment, it’s gonna be a little bit noisy—oh! OH! OH! …Shit.
Ana: I guess it was mixing by hand, because this is not making anything, and now I have flour all over me. [laughs] Oh my god, I am—uuugh.
Anyway, I have to add the buttermilk mixture. Am I supposed to do this by hand? It doesn’t say here. Listen. I was reading the instruction manuals for this food processor that I have, this magic mix thing and it says that if I leave the—if I use the dough blade for a minute, it creates a dough. I think that’s what I’m gonna do. [clanking] Oh my god, yes, this mixture of almond milk with the vinegar. It smells like yeast. This is amazing. Oh my god. Science.
Okay, hold on, I’m gonna turn on the food processor and create a dough. For one minute!
Ana: No. No no no no no no, this is very, very not a dough. Okay, this is very cakey. Not doughy. I think I need to leave this in a bit longer. [banging] Shit guys, I have no idea what I’m doing. I have literally no idea what I’m doing. Okay, let’s do this more.
Ana: No, this is very cakey, this is not dough at all. What the fuck do I do now? What the hell do I do now? I think I’m gonna have to add some more flour, because another problem, okay. Another problem is this thing with cups, okay. What the fuck is a cup. So I calculated it to a cup is a 140 grams, so I added 350 grams of flour. But now with this, with the amount of liquid that I was asked to add, it’s just cake, it’s just liquid, it’s just not a dough at all that I can spread, and then chop up like I’m asked to. [sigh] Don’t panic, Ana, don’t panic.
Ana: Yep, yep, no, not a cake. Not, not, not a bread. It’s a cake. Fuck. I don’t know what to do. Can I make a cinnamon cake? Instead of cinnamon roll? Can you try to add another cup of flour, I guess? This is a complete disaster. This is a complete disaster. Should I have done something different? I don’t know. [cries]
Ana: Okay, now I think I added too much fucking flour!
Okay. I’m gonna need to knead this by hand until this becomes a sustainable thing. Oh my god. Oh my god, I left the fridge open. Fuck.
Yeah, I should have done this by hand, obviously.
Ana: I think I have what is required of me. I also have flour, liquids, and fluids and things all over the kitchen. [running water] [sighs] Oh my god. [rumbling] My sweet baby Jesus. My sweet baby Jesus. Ah.
Anyway. I should probably say that I am excited about this even though it’s going to hell, to shit. Mostly because I’m very excited about cinnamon. There’s cinnamon—and this is your teachable moment—is a really healthy ingredient. It helps with a number of diseases. It lowers cholesterol. It’s really good against inflammation. It’s good for your bowel movements and other assorted things. And I try to have some cinnamon every day. I have a bowl of fruit in the morning and I usually add some cinnamon to it, because it’s just really tasty on top of being really healthy.
Ana: Oh no, it’s coming apart. This not good. It’s just coming apart. I don’t know how long do I do this for and if it’s gonna work at all. Is it because of the flour that I’m using? But the recipe had a gluten-free flour. I really don’t know. I don’t—it doesn’t say, the recipe, for how long I need to do this nedding? Or kneading, I don’t know. I don’t even know the word. Oh, I feel like a cook in a restaurant and this is not gonna be good. I feel it in my nuggets.
Ana: Renay, I do not have a rolling pin. How am I going to spread this in a rectangular fashion? Fuck. I’m gonna use my hands. This is an acceptable way of spreading things out.
Okay. Now I need to spread the filling, which is very brown because I don’t have white sugar, it’s all coconut sugar and coconut sugar is brown, and lots and lots of cinnamon. That’s a lot of filling here, and I don’t have enough—I don’t know! I don’t think this is gonna work~! I don’t think~! This is gonna work~!
Ana: I’m supposed to roll this now, and it’s just not happening properly. Oh my god, it’s coming apart~! It’s coming apart~! I don’t think—oh my god, this is a terrible dough! It’s coming apart! And then I have to cut it in pieces, right? Fuck.
Ana: Then put them like this, right? All together inside my rectangular lasagna bowl. Well, this is not all falling to pieces, I guess? And I can just about chop it, and I don’t have escapee cinnamon.
I’m gonna have to stop recording and take pictures of this before I put it in the oven because it’s hilarious. It’s like the shape, it’s a thing that doesn’t look like anything. I am so sorry, but this. I don’t think is gonna work properly—oh shit this one opened. I think there is a lot of dough. Possibly not a lot of filling. I thought it was a lot of filling but maybe it’s not. I don’t what’s gonna happen.
Ana: Okay. I think I have done what I could. I followed the recipe. I don’t have the right baking tools and I’ve done what I could. I’m gonna let it rest a little bit in preparation before I put it in the oven. When I take it out of the oven I will record a little bit more and talk about the results of this terrible experiment.
Renay: Already having yeast trouble!
Julia [Renay’s Mom]: [laughing in background]
Renay: I haven’t even started yet and I’m already having—problems! Well, okay, so step one. Create some yeast. Oops.
Renay: Okay, well our next step is in the bowl of the stand mixer, fitted with the paddle attachment, combine flour, sugar, and salts. Flour, you need how much flour do we need. Three and a half cups of all-purpose flour.
Renay: I definitely wanted flour all over myself. Yes. Yes! There’s flour everywhere! I think I got flour up my nose. So we have the flour in and now we’re going to put the sugar. We need one-fourth cup of sugar, and salt.
Okay, here I have 500 measuring spoons from different sets, because apparently I’m cursed. Listen. Baking….is hard.
Renay: Okay, my flour and sugar and salt are mixed together. Success! Step two, part one, is finished. Now we go back to the yeast, to see if it’s actually working. My yeast failed. And then mom came and did yeast, and hers is doing fine. I’m not bitter.
Renay: So we need: buttermilk. I like to drink buttermilk, but every time I say that people get this look on their face, as if I said I like to and make out with cows. Mom says buttermilk is like yoghurt, but a liquid yoghurt.
Renay: The next step of part two is—add yeast mixture, buttermilk, egg, and butter. So I need to get my butter. Do I have a dough hook? We do have a dough hook! Cool.
Renay: I just fucked it up. Just say it. Renay, you fucked up your first yeast.
Renay: Hey, Zach.
Zachariah: Hi, Renay!
Renay: My first yeast failed!
Renay: Okay, it was me. My water wasn’t hot enough. I’m on step two and I’m already stressed out.
Renay: How you doing?
Zachariah: Uh… [clanking] Stealing a piece of bacon.
Renay: You’re eating the bacon? How come I get in trouble when I eat the bacon but he can just steal bacon whenever —
Julia: I fixed extra bacon because I knew he’d come and get it.
Renay: But if I walked over there and picked up bacon, she’d be like, “Get your hands out of the bacon!” Zach, you’re spoiled.
Renay: Just ten.
Julia: Ten! I could eat ten.
Renay: You’re cute.
Renay: Guys, I don’t really know how this is gonna go for me. It might be a disaster. Let’s see. On a mixer with low speed, so I gotta put it on here. It’s looking a little upset. My stand mixer is real upset right now. Listen, I love my stand mixer and I will not hear a word against it. I just use it because last time I didn’t use it, it ended badly.
Julia: You mean when flour went –
Renay: Yes, I sent cocoa powder to the ceiling!
Renay: It’s real sticky~, the dough is real sticky~! Listen, I put the amount of flour that it called for! My sous chef is criticising my skills. What do you mean it’s not sweet enough?
Renay: Flouring my rolling pin. Lightly flour the rolling pin. Okay. Lightly flour my surface. I underestimated the amount of flour I needed. Cool. Rolling out some dough.
Renay: So our three-fourths cup measuring thing, died. Mom killed it. It was her.
Renay: Cinnamon. How much cinnamon do I need to use? Ah! [coughs] Cinnamon? Up my nose!
I hope you guys like cinnamon because cinnamon is going in this container. So far I haven’t done worse than Ana though, let’s put it that way.
Sorry Ana, I love you.
Cinnamon rolls are so expensive because apparently you put two tablespoons of cinnamon in them.
Renay: I don’t understand, spread butter over dough? I think I understand, it just wants me to put the butter directly on the dough? I’m not cut out to be a pastry chef. Things I’ve learned during this process. Help! Help! This is so much butter. I just put an entire stick of butter on this. [laughs]
All right, it’s not super even but whatever. Ta-da!
When Ana listens to this she’s gonna be like, “You put how much butter on your cinnamon roll?”
Ana, do you know how to cook? My mom wants to know. I don’t think she knows how to bake. Cooking and baking are two different things. Yes, they are. I know they are, because in Sims, you can earn the cooking skill but you can also earn the baking skill. Just because you’re like a gourmet level chef doesn’t mean you have any baking skill points.
And now I’m supposed to sprinkle this over the dough.
Renay: Starting with one long side, roll the dough into a log. But I need press this down first.
Renay: Pinch seam to seal. Place log seam side down and cut into rolls. No. Wait. No. So instead of cutting it using a knife, I’m going to cut it using dental floss.
Renay: Gonna make some glaze. Now I’m making this glaze. And it’s—I need one-fourth cup of whole buttermilk. Man, this is involved. Uh, this is never gonna be smooth. Not really sure this recipe realizes that this cream cheese does not wanna be smoothed.
Listen, I’m making glaze for these cinnamon rolls. And this is a shit ton of confectioner’s sugar that I’m about to use. That’s a baker’s term. A shit ton. Confectioner’s sugar is not vegan, is it? Oh well, confectioner’s sugar is I guess is vegan except for how it’s got sugar in the title, so it wouldn’t matter if it was.
This reminds me of the time that I made a cake. That rainbow cake that goes around the internet sometimes. That sucker! The icing alone took eight sticks of butter. These cinnamon rolls are reminding me of that cake right now. Well, that’s some glaze. The glaze is complete!
Renay: We also brought you not just our—
Renay: Tears and joy, mostly tears on Ana’s behalf here.
Renay: We also have a history of like cinnamon and cinnamon buns, that I went out and researched so I could teach everybody something about cinnamon. So cinnamon originally came from Ceylon which later became Sri Lanka in Western India and it was brought to Europe and other Middle Eastern countries, by land traders because there was not really ship trade at that time—on the white people’s side. I’m pretty sure China was doing it way before us. When it became a really hot commodity, explorers decided to go out and look for it, and course the Portuguese discovered it.
Renay: And created a spice trade that eventually like spilled over into war, because the Dutch wanted control of the market. The Dutch won and kicked the Portuguese out, but then instead of like helping out with the people who lived there, they just set themselves up in place of the Portuguese. and then the Dutch officially monopoliZed the cinnamon trade for years and years and years.
And so finally in the late 1700 the English—not any better than the Dutch to be clear—they came and took control from the Dutch, but because the saplings of cinnamon were being spread all over the world, it lowered the value of that market. Sri Lanka eventually got independence from greedy white people, but it took hundreds of years. and the lesson from this is that white people are awful.
So cinnamon was often used as an incense and a flavoring in wine, and the Egyptians used it in embalming. As far as I can tell from my research they though it had medicinal or antiseptic properties.
Ana: Actually, it does have that. It’s really good for you, I try to eat cinnamon every day as part of my healthy vegan diet, because it’s really good and healthy for you.
Renay: Wow, the Egyptians were onto something guys!
Ana: The Egyptians were onto everything. Hashtag #awesome.
Renay: It’s not really clear what the Romans did with cinnamon. I think that was just a wine thing, because I don’t think they used it in cooking. I can’t really find any evidence that they were big cinnamon eaters.
And then around the Middle Ages, it made its way north into white people land. This is another thing that set off that big age of exploration where everyone was like sending white people to storm other countries, and steal all their tasty goodies for themselves by colonizing the shit out of everything. So that’s how cinnamon made its way into like Europe and the UK.
Ana: Okay, right, moment of truth. It’s time to remove this from the oven. I only opened it once and it seems to be going okay, and now I’m doing it.
Oh my god, this looks… Oh my gods they are little stones. They are literally little stones. Oh my god. They are rock solid. Well, that went well.
Renay: Zachariah, give me your final impression of my cinnamon rolls.
Zachariah: These are way better than Panera’s cinnamon rolls.
Julia: Oh my goodness. That’s better than Cinnabon.
Zachariah: These are dangerous. Mm-hm.
Julia: Obscene. Better than sex. Well, maybe not.
Renay: Yes I need you to finish the one I could not finish, Zachariah, and you’re apparently just gonna sit down and dig in. My mother’s scraping her plate. [scraping noises]
Julia: Good icing.
Renay: And there doesn’t seem to be a ton of agreement on where the cinnamon bun started, but I think we can pin it to Europe. A lot of different people were experimenting with spices, and yeasty bread. So you have the Chelsea Bun that cropped up in the 18th century. In the 19th century, Germany had this thing called Schnecken. I know that’s a mangling and German people are going to send me so many angry emails. Does that sound right to you Ana? Schnecken?
Ana: I really don’t know. My impulse with German is to make things, like, harsher, so like, “SchMERkin!”
Renay: Okay Ana, are you ready for the next twist in the cinnamon bun saga? So cue immigration!
Renay: Immigration where the English and the German came to America and brought their family recipes for both Chelsea Buns and Schnecken. I don’t know if that word’s right, somebody’s going to send me so many—so many bad emails going, “Renay! You suck at pronunciation!”
So when they brought these things over they created a market for these sticky buns, which here where I live we call honey buns. Like there’s a dude who has dedicated his entire life to researching cinnamon buns. His name is Dr. Ronald Wurtz, living his best life, researching some food. He marks the merging of the Chelsea Bun and Schnecken as where the rise of these huge American style cinnamon buns started.
Renay: They get really big, although they keep the structure of the Chelsea Bun, but they having the filling and the coating of the Schnecken. Now I’m a little confused because like I said, I haven’t done tons of research. A lot of sources fought over whether the cinnamon bun came from Sweden initially, because they have something over there called a Kanelbullar ?
Ana: I don’t know how to say it, but when I was in Sweden I saw a lot of it. It’s really big there.
Renay: Yeah, they have like a cinnamon bun day.
Ana: Oh my god. It’s just the smell of it. It was just amazing.
Renay: Yeah, it bears a really, really strong resemblance to the American cinnamon roll, but I think what happened, based, like I said, on my extremely limited time with this topic, that the Swedish version developed organically based on the flow of spices into Europe and the comparable spices in other areas that probably made their way over. And their version uses cardamom, which I have never used in any cinnamon roll I have ever made for any reason because I don’t really like cardamom. Live your best life, Sweden, congratulations on your cinnamon rolls.
That’s kinda where I stopped, because I was getting real deep into some food history, but I’m pretty positive that if you go in different places across America, the cinnamon roll looks way different, because it’s gonna vary region to region. But the one I made is a Southern version, like super thick rolls, dripping with glaze and cinnamon, no nuts, made in an iron skillet.
Ana: Oh my god.
Renay: It is not vegan. it is not gluten free.
Renay: It is delicious.
Ana: Oh my god. I am so jealous.
Renay: And now we know, sorta where the cinnamon bun came from! And that white people are awful.
Ana: Thank you, Renay, for this very educational segment.
Renay: You’re welcome. I didn’t want to just bring people us flailing around in the kitchen recordings. Food history is apparently a thing, and people argue about it!
Ana: It is! I mean, can you imagine being a food historian? That’s probably the coolest thing.
Renay: I can’t. I’d be fatter than I already am.
Ana: Would you have to eat the things that you were researching?
Renay: That’s just good scientific practice!
Ana: How do you rate your own cinnamon roll?
Renay: Eh, I’d give em a 3.5 out of 5.
Ana: No Renay. Renay. Be a Peony.
Renay: I don’t wanna be a Peony. At this point I’m not a baker. I’m really bad at baking. I get stressed out and I didn’t like the bottoms of my roll. They weren’t good. I mean they were edible. But, they could have been better, Ana. The bottoms could have better.
Ana: I’m giving mine -1 space bee, cause I couldn’t even eat them.
Renay: What did you do to yours to make them do that?
Ana: Well, if you listened to the thing, you will notice that bit where I added 250 more grams of flour without adding the corresponding amount of liquid to it.
Renay: Ana, how often do you bake anything?
Renay: Was this the first time that you, like, baked something?
Ana: No, I have done like a banana bread, and…yes, banana bread. The end.
Renay: So I basically threw you into the deep end of advanced baking.
Renay: And you made it even harder by doing it gluten free and vegan.
Ana: Yeah. Fangirl battled cinnamon rolls, and I lost.
Renay: See, now you’ve made me want to go and figure out how to make a good vegan gluten-free cinnamon roll and then give you the recipe. But I will test it for you, and then make sure it tastes edible, and give it to you.
I can’t eat a lot of gluten-free stuff. The texture is wrong. It triggers my gag reflex. Which is apparently extremely sensitive according to my doctor. Every time I go to the doctor they’re like “Say ah!” and I’m like, “Ah, oh my—” [retches]
Ana: [retches] [laughs]
Renay: I can’t even say ah because it triggers my gag reflexes, I don’t have the ability to control it. So I can’t eat gluten-free.
Ana: It’s fine. it doesn’t have to be gluten-free. It was just an experiment I was doing.
Renay: It’s not really a good idea to experiment when you’re already experimenting. You weredoing three different experiments!
Ana: I know, gods.
Renay: Talk about confidence.
Ana: I guess I can get five space bees for confidence.
Renay: You can. You can get more than five space bees. I’m pretty sure that I’m giving you like twenty, because that was—you took it and you’re like, “I’m gonna confidence the heck out of these cinnamon rolls.” It didn’t work out, but you gave it your best shot. I’m proud of you.
Ana: I’m pretty sure I forgot to add an ingredient, too.
Ana: Yeah, because afterwards I found it! [laughs]
Renay: But don’t you have a list?!
Ana: I did have a list and I followed the recipe, but then I found the coconut oil just sitting there and I said, “Oh I forgot to add the coconut oil.”
Ana: Renay. I did so many things wrong. I don’t even know where to start.
Renay: This was the most educational segment we could have ever done to expose Ana’s lack of chemistry skills.
Renay: I’m really proud of you for giving it a shot.
Ana: Listen, next time you’re cooking your first curry, so.
Renay: Something that Ana knows how to cook, but I’ve never made a curry, so this is gonna be—
Renay: Cinnamon roll adventure: complete.
Renay: Space bees, please send us your favorite cinnamon roll recipes so we can feature them in a future newsletter. And if you have any good gluten-free, vegan cinnamon roll recipes, apparently I’m gonna need them.
Renay: All right, it’s time for recommendations. Ana, what you got for us?
Ana: I think I talked about this before when it first started airing: Jane the Virgin. I watched the first fifteen episodes or so of the first season back when it started, and for some reason I stopped watching it. And then a couple of weeks ago I was feeling a little bit down, so I thought, “I need something light and funny,” so I resumed it, from episode fifteen of season one. And I am now almost done with season two and it’s so good, it’s so hilarious. I come back from work and I watch one episode every night and it’s just so nice. I love it to bits and I highly recommend it. Especially if you like families; if you like relationships between women; if you like really outrageous twistariffic plots; and a bunch of romance.
Renay: And telenovelas.
Ana: Yeah, absolutely. Must love telenovelas is a prerequisite. What do you have for recommendation? You have two, right? You dastardly villain.
Renay: Yes, I have two. My first rec is a story called From The Point Of View of a Cat by Karel Čapek, and I’m probably mispronouncing his name. I’m sorry! I was alerted to this short story by one of our listeners, biblioaesthetica, on their tumblr. And it’s a story from the point of view of a cat and it’s super touching. I love it so much. I want everybody to read it. I’m gonna leave a link to it in our show notes.
Ana: I read it, because I followed the link, and I loved it. Because it’s really nice.
Renay: If you like cats, you definitely should read it.
And then my second rec is a book called Never Split the Difference by Chris Voss, about negotiating, about how to negotiate, and work-slash-business situations, but I do not have any of those situations in my life currently. I just have me, trying to communicate with other humans, in a human way, and not seem like a creep or somebody who doesn’t know how to use words properly. This book, if you are like an anxious person, as I am, if you read it, it teaches you how to not have to talk. If you’re in a conversation with somebody you don’t know very well, and you don’t want to have to say anything, it will teach you the techniques to keep the other person talking and you can just sit there and only have to chime in when you need to urge them to keep going or say, “Okay” and nod. I love this book. I mean, I assume that it has actual practical implications for interacting with like sales people or billing departments or whatever else. But for me, as a person with anxiety, I took the advice away of how to engage with people in a way that makes you look really empathetic, gives you the time to sit there and not have to come up with a bunch of words, and allows you to not be so stressed in conversations. It’s very, very handy, I highly recommend it. It’s not very long. In case you would like to learn how to do that, this is the book for it. Never Split the Difference.
Renay: Ana, what are we going to discuss next time?
Ana: Next time, we will have another Vault episode, and we will be discussing the movie Ever After: A Cinderella Story, which we both love very much.
Renay: We’re recording this on the week of election day in the United States and just in case you need a pick-me-up, you can go read all the great election news. There’s a lot of it.
Ana: Yes. Let me tell you, it was great waking up today to great news for a change.
Renay: Also, go bookmark our new rec form and help us put together some awesome rec lists. You can use it whenever you find something that you like.
Ana: And if you have any thought you can send them to us at email@example.com. You can also chat with us on Twitter at @fangirlpod.
Renay: If you want to help support our show, you can become a patron for as little as $1 a month at patreon.com/fangirlhappyhour. Your support helps us keep making a great show and bringing you cool history facts.
Ana: Our show art is by Ira and our transcripts are by Susan. You can read all the available transcripts at fangirlhappyhour.com. Our segment break music is by Chuki Beats and BoxCat Games.
Renay: Drink some water, tell a creator you loved something they made, and contact your reps about their garbage tax plan. The GOP took pretty a solid boot to the rear on election day, so now’s a great time to drive home the fact that you really, really despise their tax shenanigans.
Ana: We are recording this on November the 8th, exactly one year since the Orange Menace took over. We made it. It’s been a quarter of the way through it, and we are still here, so let give ourselves a pat on the back.
Renay: Thanks for listening, space bees.
Ana: See you next episode.
Renay: Pash, I really wish you would not do that right this second. Thank you. She’s here next to me, licking her butt.
Renay: Think we should have to read a history book. Maybe we should read Hamilton.
Ana: Oh my god. What?
Renay: Haha, it’s only 800 pages, Ana! [laughs]
Ana: Shit. My hands are full of shit.