Monday, October 5, 2015

Apple Graincakes w/ Blackberry Reduction Sauce for Updraft

          I recently finished author Fran Wilde's debut, fantasy (with a slight flavor of science fiction), young adult novel Updraft (published Sept. 2015) and boy is there a lot of food in it! Food is not a main feature by any means but it sneaks in very often and subtly informs the reader of the world and society Fran has created; a city of living-bone towers above the clouds.

          Being so high in the air with no earth to till or fauna to domesticate, you can imagine the diet of such a society is very limited and specific. Fowl, of course, is a major part–goose being the most desirable with its juicy fat (did you know the bar-headed goose is the highest flying bird, reaching heights of nearly 21,120 ft?)–and I imagine eggs would be too, though not mentioned specifically that I can remember–I assume birds would not only be hunted but also breed for meat and eggs. Being a people of the sky, birds are not only consumed, but mimicked in their mode of transportation (the people use wings/gliders to get around), and have become a part of the cultural identity and superstitions of the society. Birds are eaten, yes, but you are never to break a wing bone as it is considered terrible luck (though we learn that one portion of the society sets themselves above this. Dun, dun, dun!).
          We also learn that there are towers that keep bees and harvest honey, and towers that trade in various spices (the bees and spices sometimes mingling to create what I am sure is very delicious honey). We know that there are stone fruits (examples being peaches, cherries, apricots, plums, though none are mentioned by name, only category), as well as apples and blackberries (blackberries I can see, being bushes and vines, but where do they keep the trees?). Tea is also very prevalent and is used not only for drink but also for dye. Chicory specifically is mentioned, as a tea as well as to chew on. Graincakes are noted, but not what kind of grains are used to make them, so for the recipe below I chose oats and the like, as that's what I had on hand and I couldn't imagine how a tower society could manage rice, though I have no idea how they could grow and harvest other grains either...It's all a big mystery! (like, how do you get rainwater if you live above the clouds and are terrified to go down there? Hmm...) I would love to pick Fran's brain about it, but it's not pertinent to the progression of story; these are simply things I think about. ;) I'm just so intrigued! Can't wait for the next book, to potentially learn more of this background info or to discover new foods!

Fran Wilde is also the creator of "Cooking the Books", an interview series made up of written essays/interviews and podcast episodes that bring together genre fiction authors and food! Be sure to check out the episode in which Fran talks about Updraft!

Apple Graincakes w/ Honey & Blackberry Reduction

Blackberry Reduction
1/2 Cup Blackberries
1/2 Cup Apple Cider or Juice
3 Tbsp. Honey
2 tsp. Oil, such as Hazelnut Oil
1 tsp. Apple Cider Vinegar
1 tsp. Allspice
1 Cup Rolled Oats or Barley or other similar grain–or mix them up!
1/2 Cup Apple Cider or Juice
1/2 Small Red Apple, chopped into about 1/8" pieces (no need to peel)
2 Eggs, well beaten (make sure the whites are completely broken up)

1. Reduction: Combine the blackberries , apple cider (or juice), & honey in a small pot over medium heat & bring to a simmer, stirring often. Mash the blackberries with your stirring spoon & cook the mixture until thick & reduced at least by half. Set a mesh strainer over a bowl. Remove the blackberry reduction from heat & pour into the strainer. Stir the mixture so that smooth blackberry sauce falls to the bowl below (make sure you scrape the bottom of the strainer) & the seeds & pulp are left in the strainer to discard. Whisk the oil, vinegar, & spice into the blackberry sauce & set aside to cool. Once cool, pour it into a plastic sandwich baggie.
2. Graincakes: Combine the grains, apple cider (or juice), & apple pieces in a liquid measuring cup & heat for 30 seconds in the microwave, & then stir. Pour the beaten eggs into the grain mixture & stir to combine thoroughly. Heat a little bit of oil (or goose fat!) in a pan on medium heat & swirl it around. Once it's lightly sizzling spoon about a 1/3 cup-worth of the egg/grain mixture into the center of the pan. Let cook for a couple of minutes, until golden brown & then flip & cook until that side is golden brown. Remove from the pan & lay on a paper towel-lined plate. Put a little more oil in the pan if needed & repeat the cooking process until all of the mixture is used up.
3. To Serve: Lay a few of the apple graincakes on a plate & drizzle with honey. Snip one of the corners of the baggie containing the blackberry reduction sauce to create a tiny hole & drizzle the sauce over the cakes (I made a zig zag pattern, but it would probably be prettier & more symbolic if you did swirls, like wind). Eat with your hands or a fork made of bone (or applewood?) because metal is scarce & precious. Best served fresh & warm & with chicory tea if you have it.

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