I have to try to like the thing you are trying. I cannot think “ew, gross” as an anticipatory matter. I have to think “hey, this is going to be great! I can't wait to try it!”
The way I first started liking olives was this: I would take a bite out of a Kalamata olive and pay attention to all the flavors. Yes, there was a gross, bitter olive flavor. But after about a year, I noticed that the aftertaste of a Kalamata olive had this lingering sweetness that was reminiscent of really good cold-pressed olive oil. I started to concentrate on that when I was eating them, and gradually, I began to affirmatively enjoy Kalamata olives. Green olives took longer, and those salty black ones in a can took about seven years.
I have to keep trying. It took me a year to like the first kind of olive, and probably four or five years to like all olives, and not just some kinds.
I have been using the olive method on other teas in the interim, but it's kind of boring to have eighteen tea newsletters that are like “same result, ha ha ha.” To make a long story short, though, I got a little 10 g sample of this tea and I steeped it one afternoon and thought, “this still has that flavor I'm not good with, but I like other parts of it, so let me work with that.”
So this last week, I've been leaning in and working through the sample day after day, applying the three steps above. And here's the spooky part: repetition definitely does weird things to the taste buds! The tea does not taste the same here on my fourth sitting (I've been doing about 6 steeps per sitting in a 70 ml teapot = 1680 ml = 56.8 ounces).
The part of this tea that I don't like is almost unnoticeable when I started the fourth steep. I have to try to remind myself that it's there! I have to overgrew the tea to overemphasize it and then I say, “oh yes, it still tastes like THAT.” But mostly, it tastes good. It's astringent and golden and mellow and calming. It feels less like I learned to like the tea and more like my brain drowned in tea and said, “I give up, I refuse to communicate the taste you don't like to you anymore since you aren't listening.”
Huzzah! Minor victory is mine! Now let's move on to other kinds of steamed greens and see what we can accomplish.
Happy 80th birthday, Mom!
This weekend was kind of a whirlwind because my mother turned 80 and so I went to see her for her birthday.
Here is Mom blowing out candles on her birthday “cake.” It's not cake. She doesn't like cake. It's haupia, which is a kind of Hawaiian coconut dessert that sits somewhere between pudding and jello in texture.
As you can see, she is blowing out eighty candles (plus one for good luck) in binary, because once you hit that age, a candle for every year means that the first one you light is almost burnt to the cake by the time you get the last one lit.
the marquis who mustn't
To remind you: this book is coming out in a little bit more than a month! There is a Q&A below. It might get cut off by your mail client because you all had so many delightful questions. If you don't see the “until next week” on this email, look for something that says “view full message” to read the whole thing.
Q. Is this book going to give me a craving for a particular food the way “The Duke Who Didn’t” had me ordering bao?
A. There are mentions of food in the book, but it's not as ever-present as in The Duke who Didn't. I spent most of the time writing tDwD doing recipe tests. This book? I spent most of the time throwing clay. That gives you some idea.
You will end up craving tea cups.
Q. If it’s a book about teacups is it a book about tea?
Some day I will write at least one book about tea! (I already have two in my head). But this isn't one of them. This is a book about teacups. Tea is mentioned peripherally but the book is truly about the clay, not the contents.
Q. When are we getting the cover?
Q. Could you please tell us a little bit about Naomi? You gave us some information on Kai, enough to make me curious anyways, and now I'm curious to know a little more about his match.
Naomi's mother and aunt own the inn in Wedgeford. She was born in Wedgeford; she has lived there all her life. Her parents love her and she's welcome and accepted in her community. Naomi's difficulty is in finding her place in adulthood in a community that has known her since she was a child.
Everyone knows her and knows where she belongs, and she's been told enough times that even the reminder rankles. By the time the book starts, she is pretty close to the point of bursting the next time someone tells her exactly where she should be.
It is easier to talk about Kai because he is the outsider who comes in and shakes things up. But he would not be capable of doing this for Naomi if she did not desperately want things to shake.
I'm saying less about Naomi because I think what she needs for herself is a little more spoilery than what Kai needs.
Q. How long have you known the title?
Q. Please show us your teacup inspo board!!
It's less a teacup inspo board and more a teacup inspo shelf. These don't photograph well--even the images on sales web sites can't capture the way the glaze reflects the light.
Here I am trying to capture the sparkle of this in sunlight: it truly doesn't.
And to be clear, these are all beautiful but I am pretty sure that they're not real. They are reproductions using a particular method that involves depositing pigment and wax in a specific way that will spread in the kiln. (You can tell this by running your finger over it: you can feel the millimeter difference between surface and pigment.)
Q. I had no idea that there were ambulance classes in the 1890s. Can you tell a bit more about that, especially If there's something neat you learned that didn't make it into the book?
Q. What made you want to write a book about historical paramedics??
Okay, so first of all, ambulance classes, as they were taught at the time, are closer to what we would consider first aid: they were intended for lay people and not as career training. Second, the ambulance class isn't the most important subplot in the story by a long shot. It is mostly a vehicle for two people in a fake engagement to look into each others' eyes and apply bandages etc etc.
One of the reasons that the ambulance class does not take greater prominence is that back when I was thinking it might, I did a bunch of research on what they would teach in a historical ambulance class and the answer is: genuinely horrifying stuff, because they were just learning that germs existed and didn't understand the efficacy of double-blind studies as a method of sorting through medical practices.
For example, AND THIS IS WRONG, some advice in the time says to put bicarbonate of soda on burns. NEVER DO THIS. This can cause additional chemical burns to the wound, and you should never do that. Others say to put flour on burns: this risks infection, do not! Choking advice pre-Heimlich is actually quite wrong. Et cetera et cetera.
Unless I made this book into another “oh no, historical medicine is evil” book (see: The Heiress Effect, A Kiss for Midwinter), there's no way for me to actually unpack the difference between what is historically accurate and what is good medical practice. I do not want to risk someone thinking that the treatments Naomi would have learned are “as good as” or “natural” or even “will do in a pinch.”
I would feel awful if someone harmed themselves using a method mentioned in my book. So TL;DR Naomi probably learns some frankly horrifying things off screen. Let's ignore that.
Q. If Kai and Naomi were fiber arts, what would they be?
Kai is lace-making: intricate, delicate, planned in advance and executed to perfection
Naomi is weaving: not the first thing you think of when you think of “fiber art,” not the flashiest one out there, but it's the one I'd personally miss the most if it had never been invented.
Q. What shoes are Kai and Naomi (or anyone else else!) wearing right now?
I typically send my tea newsletter at a time that's late in the evening in the UK, when they'd be at home, and so the answer is house slippers, because neither of them would wear shoes indoors.
Q. What gas station snack would each of them be?
One of my personal failings is that I am unfamiliar with gas station snacks. I am the person who always brings a packed lunch on road trips because anytime I walk into a gas station…
Okay, very much a side story here. Hot dogs are part of my childhood food baggage: when I was a child, every time there was a sale on hot dogs, it would always be something like “1 pack for $1, limit 2 per person” and my mom would get all 7 of her kids to stand in line with $2 each and buy our limit 2 per person hotdog pack. Imagine being 3 years old and putting hotdogs on the counter and having the person at the register say, “are you buying these for yourself?” and having to insist that yes, yes, I did in fact want to buy 2 packages of hot dogs, what else was I gonna do with my allowance? So we'd always stock up and my mom eventually built up a stash of Budget Emergency Hot Dogs. But at one point, we were moving. Before we left, we had to eat all the Emergency Hot Dogs, because we did not waste food. This meant we had hot dogs for every meal for what felt like a month and a half. (Was probably a week or so? But kids have no concept of time.)
This is a very long answer to a very short question, but basically, every time I see hot dogs on the little roller grills in a gas station, my gastrointestinal tract attempts to leave my body.
So I am going to convert this question into which Japanese convenience store snack they each would be.
Naomi: Tamago sando. It's just an egg salad sandwich on white bread. But also, the Lawson Tamago Sando is the thing the late, great Anthony Bourdain said was “insanely delicious and incongruously addictive,” and honestly, I could eat those every day for the rest of my life and be fine with it.
Kai: Umeboshi onigiri. This is a pickled plum inside a rice ball. All the complexity is on the inside.
Q. What lie do each of them believe about the world/themselves?
This is such a marvelous question and the only answer I will give is that the lies will show up the first time you're in their point of view, but I'm not going to tell you which ones are lies.
Q. Is there a reason that you spell the word “marquess” in the title “Once upon a Marquess” and “marquis” in the title “The Marquis who Mustn't”?
YES THERE IS I AM SO HAPPY SOMEONE NOTICED THIS
“Marquess” is the British spelling for that particular title, which standardized sometime in the early-ish 1800s, for a reason that I vaguely remember but am unable to fact-check (namely: anti-French sentiment during the Napoleonic wars).
Kai's apocryphal family title is not British, and is typically translated as “marquis” rather than “marquess.”
Q: Will you please share one (or more!) fact about tea cups that you weren't able to work into the book?
A: TEA CUP FACTS. I am so glad someone asked this question! I do have to mention that Kai is a GIGANTIC POTTERY NERD who at some point in the book gets drunk and does what drunk pottery nerds do (has Opinions about pottery) but um the main thing I'm gonna put here is that there are multiple known “patterns” of tenmoku including oil spot, hare's fur, and partridge feather.
Q: Is there brown sauce in it? Will the next one be called The Count Who Couldn't? Or…may I propose: The Ombudsman Who Oughtn't?
A: In order: Yes, but mentioned only in passing; no; and obviously we need more Ombudspeople as romantic leads.
Q. How many books are thinking for this series?
Q: How many books do you have planned in the series?
A: I am so sorry. I know the answer to this question but I hate (hate) giving it out, because if I do, someone will put books on Goodreads, and sometimes when they do that, they invent dates, and then someone else will see it and email me and ask when it's coming out, and it might not be on the date invented. This does not really make people upset, because you all are very reasonable, but I am not reasonable, and it does make me feel like a failure and then I go into a despair spiral.
I have stopped telling people about books that are coming out as a protective mental health measure on my part. I would not need this if I could write books quickly, but I cannot.
Q: Are there any cats in the story?
A: One of the rejected plots (perhaps to be used in another book) heavily involved a cat. At this point, I think there may be a cat as background window dressing if that didn't happen in a scene I deleted.
Q: Is the Duke Who Didn’t going to show up on a screen at some point?? Tie in availability of the town’s sauce??
A: I would love for this to happen (after I finish the series) but I have no control over what happens with film rights. There's a tiny percent chance of material being optioned, and then a tiny percent chance after that of people (actors, directors) getting attached, and a tiny percent change after that of the show getting greenlit. Even after principal photography has happened, things still sometimes don't make it to the screen. As an example, Disney just shot six episodes of Holly Black's Spiderwick Chronicles and then decided not to air them. Maybe someone else will buy them? And maybe they will just never be shown.
Q. When can I expect the audio?
The answer is a little more complicated than it usually would be as the person who has assisted me with this has gone on to do other things and so I have to figure out a whole new process. I am committed to getting it done but it will take time.
Q. Which characters from one of your other series would Naomi and Kai each be most likely to be friends with?
Naomi is great at making friends. I think she would get along well with just about everyone, but she'd probably get along best with Jane from The Heiress Effect. She would definitely admire her for doing exactly what she wants!
Kai is the kind of person who has a very small number of very close friends. He would get along with Smite from Unraveledreally well, if they ever got to know each other well. They're both rigid rule followers who come from wildly opposite perspectives: Smite is extremely upright, and Kai was taught rules by a father who was a charlatan.
Q. If Naomi is capable in medicine, anatomy, health, does this give her superior knowledge of the male anatomy?
Q. Is Kai FRENCH???
A. Very much no. Kai is ethnically Chinese. He was born in Wedgeford. He has lived in a lot of different places, but France is not one of those places. I am sure his father has been to France. (He is named after my great-uncle.)
Q. What tea pairing would you recommend for The Marquis who Mustn't?
I would suggest one of the rare Japanese post-fermented teas, for reasons that will not be discussed here.
Until next week!
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