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Very Good Things

Recommendations on podcasts, movies, TV, books, recipes, restaurants, technology, travel, shopping and more. Things that make life more interesting or satisfying.

Terrible, Thanks For Asking Podcast – Explores Hard Things With Honest Answers

Terrible, Thanks For Asking is raw and intimate podcast that explores hard things people go through that are difficult to talk about and typically shied away from when the topic arises. The host and author of It’s Okay to Laugh (Crying Is Cool Too), Nora McInerny Purmort (who is a 30ish widow mother with her own grief), wants to explore what’s really going on when others ask ‘How are you?’ when clearly the answer is not ‘Fine’. She feels there is strength and value in being able to speak honestly about pain so each week she explores something heartbreaking and uncomfortable with her interviewees. There’s crying, laughing and awkwardness but you get the sense that Nora is a genuine comfort to the people she speaks with and that they benefit from being able to tell their stories to an empathetic listener. Listen to the podcast. Buy the book.

Broadchurch Season 3 – Suspenseful And Hard Hitting TV Crime Drama

Broadchurch is a British TV crime drama that is currently airing season 3 and one episode away from the finale. Hardy (David Tennant) and Miller (Olivia Colman, who is also in the excellent Fleabag) are investigating a sexual assault that takes place in the small town of Broadchurch and the impact it has on everyone that is connected to the victim. Whilst the whodunit component of the show is intensely suspenseful, the more moving and hard hitting parts are when the show explores themes of consent, teens with technology and porn, misogyny and sexism. The key cast have been present for all seasons and whilst there are story links to the first two seasons, you could watch without having seen them and still be enthralled. Watch the series on iTunes if you haven’t started yet or on iView or itv.

 

Veja – Ethical Sneakers That Look Good

Veja is an ecological and fair trade footwear and accessories brand that manages to hit the mark when it comes to being both ethical and fashionable. Their sneakers are made differently by using organic and fairly traded cotton; wild and fairly traded rubber; recycled plastic bottles and vegetable-tanned leather. Their products are also made in high standard factories in Brazil and their logistics network works with an association aiming to reintegrate people facing social exclusion into work. If you are one my friends reading this, stay away from the Taua white leather (pictured) as I don’t want us rocking up to the same place wearing the same shoes. Veja has shoes for men, women and kids. The kids‘ shoes rival the adult shoes in coolness. Buy Veja. Read more about the project.

 

Fleabag – A Dark, Hilarious And Heartbreaking Comedy TV Series

Fleabag is a six-part comedy series adapted from the award-winning play about a young woman trying to cope with life in London whilst coming to terms with a recent tragedy. Fleabag (the main character’s nickname who is played by Phoebe Waller-Bridge) describes herself pretty accurately in the first scene as having “a horrible feeling” she’s “a greedy, perverted, selfish, apathetic, cynical, depraved, morally bankrupt woman who can’t even call herself a feminist.” It is a comedy but it’s very dark, blunt, heartbreaking in parts and unlike any other comedy I’ve seen. Her godmother who she can’t stand (played by Olivia Colman) is hilarious. Season 2 begins filming this year. Watch some clips (start with the Obama one from episode one) and the trailer. Watch the series on Amazon Prime (7-day free trial) or BBC Three.

Spelt Salad With Squash & Fennel Recipe

This grainy and substantial autumn/winter salad recipe with roasted squash and fennel is from The River Cottage Veg Everyday cookbook by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall. It is a complete meal in itself but also works well as a side dish. Fennel is high on my list of favourite vegetables so I find it hard to experiment too wildly with this recipe but you could easily use other vegetables based on the season. The recipe serves 4 and you will need:

  • Butternut squash
  • Olive oil
  • Fennel bulbs
  • Garlic
  • Walnuts
  • Pearled spelt (or pearl barley)
  • Lemon juice
  • Parmesan, hard goat’s cheese or other well-flavoured hard cheese
  • Parsley
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

View the full recipe.

S-Town – A New Podcast from This American Life and Serial

S-Town is a new podcast from Serial and This American Life, hosted by Brian Reed, about a man named John who despises his Alabama town and decides to do something about it. He asks Brian to investigate the son of a wealthy family who’s allegedly been bragging that he got away with murder. But then someone else ends up dead, and the search for the truth leads to a nasty feud, a hunt for hidden treasure, and an unearthing of the mysteries of one man’s life. I deliberately avoided reading or listening to anything about this podcast as it would have been easy to start comparing it to Serial even before it launched early this week. I’m glad I did as I’ve been captivated by the story, people and Brian Reed’s telling of the events and am equally annoyed and delighted that they released all seven chapters instead of stringing out the suspense over weeks. Five down, two to go. Addicted. Get into it.

TV: American Crime Story Season 1 – The People v. O.J. Simpson

American Crime Story is a true crime anthology TV series in which the first season covers the trial of O.J. Simpson for the murders of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ron Goldman. The show is based on Jeffrey Toobin‘s book The Run of His Life: The People v. O. J. SimpsonA behind-the-scenes retelling of the trial, it is a fascinating look at the implications of race, celebrity, media and the criminal justice system on this infamous case in America in the early 1990s. It is one of the best cast shows I’ve seen recently with Sarah Paulson as Marcia Clark a standout. Apart from the superb acting of all involved (including Cuba Gooding Jr., David Schwimmer, John Travolta and Courtney B. Vance), these re-creations of the real people they played are uncanny.  There are 10 episodes, all around an hour each. Watch the trailer. Watch the series on Netflix.

Spaghetti with Clams, Saffron and Leek Recipe

Spaghetti alle vongole would be a top contender if I had to choose a last meal. This creamy (but not in an over-the-top way) take on it is one of many great dishes in a Gourmet Traveller Seafood cookbook from 2004. If vongole/clams are not available you could substitute with pippies. The following serves 4:

  • 20g butter
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 large leek, washed well and thinly sliced
  • 4 cloves of garlic, crushed
  • 125ml dry white wine
  • 1/2 cup chicken stock
  • 1 cup pouring cream
  • Large pinch of saffron threads, soaked in 1 tablespoon boiling water for 10 minutes
  • 1kg clams (vongole), soaked in cold water
  • 400g spaghetti
  • 2 teaspoons chopped dill
  • 1 tablespoon chopped flat leaf parsley
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice

 

View the full recipe.

Queen Chow – Hong Kong Street Food in Enmore, Sydney

Housed in Enmore’s Queens Hotel and inspired by Hong Kong street food, Queen Chow by Merivale delivers Cantonese classics and diverse dim sum. The food was outstanding and service friendly and informative so I will excuse the fact they forgot our duck and that the fortune cookies at the end told extremely lame fortunes (“the only thing better than a cookie is cookies”). We chowed down Queen Chow steamed dim sum platter ($32); Honey glazed pork spareribs ($21)Salt and pepper squid, silken tofu, prawns with chilli bean mayo ($24); Snow pea leaves, ginger, shaoxing ($16); South Australian pippies, black bean, chilli, Young Henrys Natural Lager ($36) – a standout dish; Hokkien noodles, Sichuan pork slices, black fungi, garlic stem ($24); followed by a couple of fruity desserts that were a little underwhelming after all the goodness that preceded them. We completely missed the fact there is a cocktail bar upstairs which would have been a more sensible option than finding an alternate venue for a nightcap and being forced to eat bread due to ridiculous licensing laws. Queen Chow takes online bookings and is at 2/167 Enmore Rd, Enmore, Sydney.

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