literary food blog, for readers with good taste.

Eighty Days & Cinnamon Rolls

Eighty Days & Cinnamon Rolls


Last Friday, the world celebrated International Women's Day, a holiday that represents how far society has come in its treatment of women – and how far it still needs to go. That is why, in a world where women are underrepresented in the world of literature, among other fields, it is important to remember those who made a mark in even more tenuous times. Eighty Days, a new work of narrative non-fiction from Matthew Goodman, helps us do just that. Eighty Days is a bonafide romp, following two female journalists in their worldwide race against time and each other.

The year is 1889 and the competitors are Nellie Bly, a famed investigative journalist for Joseph Pulitzer's The World, and Elizabeth Bisland, a genteel and intellectual literary columnist at The Cosmopolitan (a magazine that was reincarnated in a much saucier form). Inspired to break the fictitious record set by Jules Verne's Phileas Fogg in Around the World in Eighty Days, Bly set off across the Atlantic one fateful November morning – not realizing Bisland was hot on her tail in the opposite direction.

Goodman's story is an education in a great many realities of the time: colonialism, transportation, technology, racism, sexism, fashion, culture and economics. It is the inclusion of these various aspects of life that elevate this book from an itinerary to an adventure, showing modern-day readers the challenges and benefits of a more, shall we say, leisurely pace of travel than we experience currently.

Our two protagonists are at once inspiring and infuriating, managing to display impressive bravery and insulting elitism at various turns. Unlike air travel, the days of ships and trains did not allow for much variation in routes, which means each woman traveled through the same ports. Most of these checkpoints were under British control at the time, meaning English and British gold were all they needed to pass through the likes of the Middle East, South Asia and the Orient. Some legs of their travel threw up unfamiliar obstacles, such as seasickness, days-long "layovers" and threats of disease. By and large, though, they traveled in comfort – first class most of the way – and still found ways to complain about the accommodations, climate or natives.

That's why the continuation of their histories beyond the completion of their journeys adds so much depth to the narrative. For one of the women, the passage of time brings comfort and success, while the other struggles with near-infamy and loneliness. It is this honest and realistic portrayal of Bly and Bisland's achievements and setbacks that makes Eighty Days a book that can inspire women, despite being written by a man. Having learned so much from this book, I can only hope to see more like it.


Like the "world-girdling" tour Bly and Bisland took at the end of the 19th century, cinnamon rolls are quite the whirlwind. Baked in their own caramel, they are crunchy on the outside and soft within, meaning can be as messy and ultimately satisfying as a race 'round the world. And, like the women they honor, they're full of sugar, spice and everything nice.




  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter (room temperature)
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar (packed)
  • 1 sheet frozen puff pastry (thawed)
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter (melted and cooled)
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar (lightly packed)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon


Preheat oven to 375ºF. In the meantime, combine room temperature butter and 2 tablespoons brown sugar using a fork. Divide this mixture evenly into the cups in a muffin pan. Depending on how you slice your dough, you should be able to make 11 or 12 rolls.

In a separate bowl, mix the remaining brown sugar and ground cinnamon.

On a lightly floured surface, unfold and flatten puff pastry sheet. Brush the whole sheet with melted butter. Leaving a 1/2-inch border on the puff pastry, sprinkle the sheet with the brown sugar/cinnamon mixture.

Starting with the end nearest you, roll the pastry up snugly like a jelly roll around the filling, finishing the roll with the seam side down.

Using a sharp knife, slice the roll into 11 or 12 equal pieces and place these, spiral side up, into the muffin pan cups.

Bake for 20 minutes, until the sticky buns are golden on top and firm to the touch.

After baking, invert muffin tin onto a baking sheet. The cinnamon rolls should come out easily with the caramel sauce over each.

Source: I received this book as a free Advanced Reading Copy from the publisher, Random House/Ballantine Books.

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