Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore & Oatmeal Two Ways
My boyfriend got just as hooked on Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore as I did — at the same time, in fact. While on vacation, I noticed my book would go missing, only to turn up a few hours later with the bookmark stuck between new pages. We began a heated battle to be the first one to finish the book, each of us tearing through the mystery, biting off greedy chunks and feasting on the plot twists and new revelations. It was a book for both of us. Him, the Mac-obsessed designer with more tech savvy than I’ll ever have, and me, the stubborn analog-lover whose sentimental heart bleeds for vinyl records, newspaper delivery and recipe cards. Mr. Penumbra’s central conflict is just this: the tension between technology and books, both of which are at the heart of a bibliocentric mystery that tumbles across the pages.
And like its namesake dusty bookshop, Mr. Penumbra is easy to get lost in. It’s a book for book lovers, and it’s evident that author Robin Sloan himself shares the deep, almost religious reverence for reading that proud bookworms possess. Mr. Penubra is an affirming, deliciously addictive love letter to the magic of reading, one that reminded me of all the reasons I find such joy in books.
Not only does a quirky mystery help drive the unfolding action, but readers are guided along through the plot by highly lovable, eccentric and thoroughly modern characters that range from a special effects artist to a career-focused Google employee. Equal parts strange, familiar and comical, the characters provide modern grounding for a story that can, at times, veer into nearly surreal territory.
And despite how compulsively readable the novel is, it’s also one I found myself thinking about long after my boyfriend had stolen the copy for himself… again. I wondered about this dichotomy between technology and books, the new and the ancient, the lightning fast and the painstakingly slow. Are they incompatible? Does one always produce better results? Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore seems to offer an answer, as do the two recipes that were inspired by this book.
The first recipe is for baked oatmeal, a hearty, almond- and blueberry-laced morning treat whose crisp edges are the result of about 40 minutes in the oven. The second is a super-quick, thoroughly modern preparation of steel-cut oatmeal that takes only 5 minutes to cook inside a pressure cooker. Both have their merits, though of course, the old soul in me preferred the slowly baked oven version. Try them both, then treat yourself to a morning curled up with Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore.
BAKED OATMEAL WITH ALMONDS AND BLUEBERRIES
- 2 cups rolled oats
- 1 cup blueberries
- 1/2 cup sliced almonds
- 2/3 cups maple syrup
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 3/4 cup milk
- 1 large egg
- 1 1/2 tablespoon unsalted butter (melted)
- 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
- Lemon wedge
Place half the blueberries and half the maple syrup in a medium saucepan over medium heat and squeeze in a bit of lemon juice. Cook until berries are soft, about 5 minutes. (This step can be omitted to save time).
Preheat oven to 375°F. Heavily butter an 8-inch square or 9-inch round baking dish.
In a bowl, mix together the oats, half the almonds, remaining maple syrup, baking powder, cinnamon and salt.
In another bowl, whisk together milk, egg, butter, vanilla and almond extracts.
Arrange the maple-covered blueberries (or just half the total blueberries if you skipped the first step) in a single layer at the bottom of the dish (don't worry if it doesn't cover the bottom completely). Cover with the oat mixture, then drizzle the milk mixture over the oats. Gently tap the dish against the counter to make sure the milk saturates all the oats. Top with remaining plain blueberries and almonds.
Bake for about 40 minutes, until the top is nicely golden. Remove from the oven and cool for a few minutes on a wire rack. Cut into slices or squares and serve.
PRESSURE-COOKER STEEL CUT OATS
- 1 cup steel-cut oats
- 1/2 cup milk
- 2 tablespoons butter
In the bowl of the pressure cooker, combine 1 cup steel-cut oats with 3 cup water, ½ cup milk and 2 tablespoon butter. Close and seal the pressure cooker, set it to high temperature for 5 minutes. Once 5 minutes are up and cooker's alarm has sounded, carefully release the pressure valve (following your model's instructions) and allow pressure to lower. Remove the lid, spoon the oatmeal into bowls and top with desired ingredients. I like mine with just a bit of brown sugar, cinnamon, maple syrup, toasted coconut and dried cranberries
Source: I received this book as a gift, but have seen it at local bookstores as well as online.