A weekly round-up of books, news, thoughts, recipes, and miscellany for the weekend.
Read: The Great Contraction.
Tuesday brought the announcement that Hachette Book Group (one of the Big Five publishers) will be buying the Perseus Books Group imprints, while the distribution arm of Perseus will be sold to Ingram. This follows news that broke in May that HarperCollins (another Big Five publisher) will buy Harlequin (most known for its series romance, but which also publishes fiction and nonfiction for women) from Torstar, the Canadian media company.
I think Dennis Johnson, co-founder of indie press Melville House, sums up the big picture best here:
“…It’s just another consolidation story, one that’s been predicted all along: More of American publishing is going to consolidate, not necessarily to fight Amazon but simply to survive in a marketplace that dictates consolidation, and has since before Amazon existed. American publishing, after all, has been consolidating slowly since the 1960s. It’s only accelerated recently, and now the other shoe will drop soon enough — HarperCollins merging with Simon and Schuster is the one most are predicting.”
For agents, consolidation means less places to sell books, since imprints within one house often won’t bid against each other in an auction. For writers, this means less competition for your book, which is never a good thing. This is especially important in the nonfiction realm, since Perseus is primarily made up of fantastic nonfiction imprints like Running Press, Basic Books, Da Capo, and others that will now come under the Hachette Book Group umbrella.
Of all the coverage since the news broke on Tuesday, this article is my favorite. It manages to capture that particular feeling and mood that washes over publishing people when news like this breaks. It’s one of quiet concern, contemplation, and increasingly shaky optimism.
Anyone who knows me knows that I get a great kick out of trying wild game. It was only a few years ago that I’d never even had a taste of venison, but now I’ve grown to love it in all its forms—steaks, pastrami, jerky, whole roasted loins, sausage.
So when we got our hands on some elk…OH BOY. We were so incredibly lucky that a very generous farmer friend of Jarrett’s shared a roast from an elk that he’d gotten on a hunting trip to Colorado. This is some of the best meat our country has to offer—a native species that still roams free, grazing on a natural diet of grasses, plants, leaves, and bark. I can’t even think what a cut of meat like this would cost at a fancy shmancy gourmet grocer. I speculate one trillion dollars.
Naturally, I was sure that I’d completely bungle the cooking of it. So first thing to do? Always, without fail, go to Hank Shaw first. But in skimming through his wild game recipes, I realized that I wanted to go simple and do just a basic pot roast with subtle spices, so that we could really taste the elk-y goodness.
Next step? James Peterson’s Meat. I’ve cooked out of this book for years, and I trust James Peterson with my life and my best meat. I also highly recommend his new book, Done, which does wonders for teaching readers how to discern when food is perfectly done. He also writes an occasional blog, and all his posts (like this one about blanquette de veau in Paris) are filled with wonderful stories, techniques, and tips.
We adapted his recipe for Beef Red Wine Daube (which is a traditional stew of southern France) and used Hank Shaw’s preferred cooking times for wild game. It was a simple roast: brown it on the stove top, cover it in a whole bottle of red wine, toss in some carrots, onion, celery, and garlic, then cook over low heat for 3-4 hours, until the meat falls apart. The nice touch was to thicken the gravy with a beurre manié (a paste of 1 tablespoon flour and 1 tablespoon butter) so that the gravy was silky rich.
She was a beaut!
Drink: Strawberry Mint Sangria.
It’s hot out. Amazon and Hachette are still in a deadlock. Brazil is still managing to hold on in the World Cup. Tensions are high.
But conditions are perfect for a great big pitcher of destress sangria. Best enjoyed outside, in the woods, while camping, where you have no cell reception and can’t constantly check for updates on publishing/projects/soccer/the real world.
If you want to buy just one drink book for all your needs, go for The Ultimate Bar Book by Mittie Hellmich. It is, in fact, the ultimate.
It has recipes for over 1,000 cocktails, and you’ll always find that certain drink you’re faintly dreaming of. It’s especially inspiring if you have a well-stocked bar, but it also has easy, no-stress recipes for laidback imbibing. We loved this one:
Strawberry Mint Sangria
Makes about 6 five-ounce servings
2 cups sliced strawberries
½ cup fresh mint leaves
2 ounces brandy (2 mini bottles work great, if you don’t want to commit to a big bottle of brandy)
One 750-ml bottle chilled dry white wine
One 12-ounce bottle chilled club soda
Combine everything except the club soda and let sit in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours and up to overnight. Add the club soda, serve, sip, and exhale.