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Friday, October 31, 2008

Omnivore's Dilemma by Michael Pollan


This review has been a long time in the coming, as, in a most unaccustomed fashion, it took me a while to read this book. I found this was not the book to read right before bed, at 10:00 at night, as I could only manage a page or two before my lights went out. I don't know why it took me so long, because this was an amazing book. Pollan takes the reader on a food adventure that is thought provoking, disturbing while quietly challenging they way we all look at the meal in front of us - all without being obnoxious or righteous.

The book begins simply enough in an Iowa cornfield as Pollan breaks down the history of corn and the future of this simple grain. He deftly weaves this into how we eat this product and what it’s doing to us and agriculture as a whole. From Iowa we travel with him as he visits his steer (#534) in the Colorado grassfields and again in the feedlot in Kansas.

The middle portion of the books moves into sustainable agriculture at its finest as he spends a week at Polyface farm. Polyface sounds like an amazing place. Pollen starts the week on his stomach in a field examining the soil at the behest of Joe Saladin, and over the course of the week helps to move the cows from pasture to pasture, he assists in moving the chicken pens and describes they symbiotic relationship between the chickens and the cows. He talks about the rabbit and chicken house and the symbiotic relationship that exists there, he describes the cow barn in the spring and how the pigs turn 3 feet of cow muck, hay and fermented corn into black compost. And to Pollans credit, he participates in the chicken slaughter. During it all, Pollan contrasts and compares “conventional farming” with this picture of “sustainable farming” with the help of Joe.

In the third segement, Pollan has moved to California and examines what it means morally and ethically to be vegetarian while giving up meat for a month. He has also decided to make a meal completely from those items he has grown, foraged and hunted himself. We follow the author as he learns how to shoot a rifle and goes on his first hunt. I found this section not as strong as the other two, but still interesting.

This book is presented in such a down to earth matter that the reader can’t help but start to question how their food arrived on the table, and, more importantly, where it arrived from. Pollan doesn’t pontificate. He doesn’t raise his fist and pump it toward the sky and tell us we are all Bad People for Eating Meat. He doesn’t bombard us with anthropormophisism or silly sentiment. He took himself on a quest, told us what he found, and I appreciated that more than anything.

Has this changed how I look at my food? You bet it has. Even more surprising, it changed the Husband's outlook as well.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Bangkok Royal Thai Restaurant, Duluth, MN

10/16/10 - Editing to add Bangkok Royal restaurant has regretably gone out of business.  If you want Thai food in Duluth, I strongly recommened Thai Kratong in Canal Park (S. Lake Ave). 

It was a dark and stormy day. The rain was coming down in cold sheets of stinging pellets and the clouds hung heavy in the sky. So when the lunch invite came across e-mail, there was no hesitation in saying YES! And the negotiations began...

We agreed to try the new Thai restaurant: Bangkok Royal. Not certain it was even open, we knew we could walk across the parking lot for Bridgeman’s Friday fish fry as a backup. We knew it was in the location of the former Saigon CafĂ© back behind Bridgeman’s in the Village Mall -for those of you from the area.

The interior has had a facelift and a bit of a renovation. The decor is simple: white linens, simple pictures from Thailand, long drapes in the windows, with one end of the room elevated to accommodate floor tables and cushions. Overall appearance was one of elegance. Did we make a mistake in coming for lunch?

We were given a single sheet of heavy stock paper for the lunch menu and the waitress explained that with our lunch order we would get either one fried spring roll or one fresh spring roll and we were left to figure out the menu. At first glance my apprehension grew - I knew what Phad Thai was (and it has peanut butter and peanuts in it), but it took explaining from the waitress to figure out the rest. Ahh! Not so difficult after all - for example, “With Ginger” explains the base of the dish, and you can then choose between chicken, pork, or beef.

I picked Phad Cee Eow (“pad cee oo”) with chicken - wide rice noodles stir fried with vegetables in a dark soy bean sauce. My dining companion chose “with basil - chicken”: stir fried with house roasted chili sauce, vegetables, bamboo shoots and topped with basil. Beverages were one coffee and one tea.

The spring rolls came first - piping hot, lightly fried with a tangy sauce on the side. The main dishes were delicious. The Phad Cee Eow was flavorful and saucy, perfect “comfort food” for a rainy day. The Basil Chicken was bright and crisp - the vegetables being yellow peppers, thinly sliced sweet potatoes, bamboo shoots and bean sprouts (I think....). The chicken in both dishes was thinly sliced white meat and cooked to perfection. Even with sharing dishes, there was enough to take home for lunches.

Lunch prices ranged from $9.95 to about $13.95. I grabbed a menu to take with and dinner prices start at $13.95. Would I go again? Yes.

After I got back to the office, I told another co-worker about Bangkok Royal, and it sounded like he was going to try it out later that evening. I will have to get his thoughts.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Recipe Review from 10/20/08

It seems hard to believe that we are already through October. The weather has remained, for the most part, absolutely fantastic. We've had some rain and cool nights, but I think I've counted only 4 day's where nighttime temps were 30*. Even this weekend with The Big Storm bearing down on us. What was predicted to be a snowy blustery day became a very blustery day with scattered rain showers. The Dad and the Husband fit in a trip to Menards for landscaping supplies.

But I digress. I thought I made more last week but it looks like I have only two recipes to review.

Three-cheese Mac n' Cheese (Ckng Lght, Sept 08) 4.0
The Husband helped with this one - I grated the Gruyere, Parmesan and mozzarella cheeses while he chopped the onion and started the pasta. Then I prepped the flour, salt and bay leaf while he sauteed the chopped onion. So really it was a tag-team event.

I had two issues with this recipe, the first one being the directions were out of order. It takes time to get water heated up, so WHY do they put the "prepare pasta according to directions" as the second paragraph after chopping and grating and sauteing? It should be number one. The pasta will remain warm until the cheese roux mix is prepared.

My second complaint was this ended up on the dry side, not as creamy as either of us would have liked. I think this was in part because the cheesy roux was done and we were waiting for the pasta to finish. Oh well. It still had good flavor and made a comfortable amount for two people with leftovers for the coming day.

Joe over on Culinary in the Country also made this dish and you can read his review here.

Cranberry-Apple Pie (modified from Cooks Illustrated) 4.0
About a year ago, Cooks Illustrated had a recipe for a Cranberry-Apple pie. I made it, but I had to modify the recipe - it called for cooking the apple in a microwave and I don't have a microwave. The resulting pie was good, but not great, and it was way more work than I wanted to deal with when I had several other pies to make.

The Husband recently requested a cranberry-apple pie, and this recipe has been floating around in the noggin. I pulled it out and decided to do it my way. I took 2 cups of cranberries, 1/4 cup oj, sugar and a splash of salt and boiled the mixture until it made a jam like consistency and set aside. While that was going on, I pre-baked my bottom crust. I let the crust cool for a bit then spread the cranberry sauce in the bottom. I peeled, cored and sliced 2 Cortland's, 2 harlesons, and 2 red barons. Tossed these with a mixture of 2/3 cup sugar, 2 tbsp flour, 1 tbsp corn starch, 1/4 (1/2?)tsp cinnamon and 1/8 all spice; then layered over the top of the cranberries and tucked everything in. Baked for 1 hour.

Result? Very good. The tartness of the cranberries was offset by the sugar (I think I would do less next time) and the apple juices mingled with the jam enough so all the yummy flavors melded together. My one mistake was not using my deep-dish pie plate, so I wasn't able to fit in all the apples. I wish I had taken a picture.

Friday, October 24, 2008

The Gunslinger (Dark Tower - Book I) by Steven King


I have a confession to make - this is the first time I have read a Steven King novel. Ever. Yes, I know he is reputed to be an excellent writer, but I don’t do horror. Period. But, I was talked into trying this series and after reading the afterward (I tend to do things backwards), I was intrigued enough to read the book from the beginning.

I read it in one sitting.

Then I went and begged my friend for the rest.

In this book, we are introduced to Roland, the last of the Gunslingers. The story revolves around Roland, Jake (from an alternate Earth) and the Man in Black. In a world turned upside down from some kind of climatic change, revolutions and war, Roland is the last of the Gunslingers. Jake is a young boy, found in the middle of the desert at a way station (a nod to Cllifford Simak perhaps?). The Man in Black carries knowledge of the Dark Tower that Roland wants.

I loved the setting - an eclectic cross between a Clint Eastwood spaghetti western and a fantasy novel with a tich of Victorian England thrown in (complete with Stonehenge). It’s almost Steampunk-ish, but not quite. Dark and mysterious, the story pulls the reader along as Roland revisits the past while doggedly pursuing the future.

I can’t wait to start the next book.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Ledge Rock Grille - revisited

The Parents treated the Husband and myself to dinner at the Ledge Rock Grille, Larsmont Cottages - just south of Two Harbors, MN - last Friday night. I noted our first visit back in June 08 here.

Our first experience in June was outstanding, and so it was with delighted anticipation that we returned on a brisk fall evening. Unfortunately, our expectations were sadly disappointed for this return visit. The ambiance was still just as fun, with the open kitchen at one end and big windows at the other, but it was the food which, somewhere in the intervening months, took a downward slide.

The Husband ordered the Spicy Chicken Flatbread.
The Mom ordered Baked Seafood Cannelloni
The Dad had a steak off of the "Hawaiian" menu (it was Tiki party week)
I had Parmesan Crusted Stuffed Portobello with flatbread.
We shared an appetizer of fancy fried onion wedges and Dad had some rather tasteless French Onion soup.

The menu seemed to be lacking...something. There were only 4 steak items - and this includes the Hawaiian menu. The Steak Kabob appetizer, Hickory Scented Filet Mignon ($34.00!), steak and onion flatbread and the "Hawaiian" dish Dad ordered (which was a "hanger" steak, aka flank steak). Three of the "Wood-fired" specialties were, as we came to realize when the Husband ordered his dish, merely 10" pizzas. Prices ranged from reasonable to outrageous with no middle ground. I certainly do not mind a small menu, but there needs to be a reasonable range of dishes and prices.

Dad was underwhelmed with his dish. We were all shocked that the two choices of steak were either the filet mignon or a hanger steak. Talk about two ends of the spectrum. The Husbands "wood-fired" Spicy Chicken Flatbread was merely a pizza: bits of diced chicken with some melted cheese and - this is funny - 4 whole cherry tomatoes neatly spaced around it. Visually laughable.

Mom's seafood dish was good, if not a bit rich as it was smothered in a cream sauce. I did enjoy my Portobello mushroom but I didn't need 8 wedges of flatbread. Some sauteed veggies or a wild rice pilaf would have been a better side.

The best part of the visit (other than just being out with good company) was their wild rice bread with lingonberry butter. Oh my. Served warm, the sweet butter melts delightfully over the nutty bread. I could have ate a couple baskets of that alone with some cheese and wine. Mmmm...

So it is with regret I am reporting back that Ledge Rock Grille did not stand up to the quality of our spring visit. Sadly, we probably won't go back for a while now.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Recipe Review week of 10/13/08

Things were "cookin" up this week, thanks in part to the Husband! Two of the recipes made last week were made by him.

Roasted Brussel Sprouts and Salmon (Everyday Food issue ??) 4.0
Super simple recipe - salmon, brussel sprouts, olive oil, salt, pepper. The recipe called for prepping the sprouts and slicing in half. Then toss with olive oil and seasonings. Place on a baking sheet covered with aluminum foil and bake at 450* for 10-13 minutes. Remove, add prepared salmon, and finish baking.

In hindsight, the recipe must assume that the salmon fillet is very thin. Because our sprouts were done waaaayy before the fillet was. And the oven temp was much to high (450*) to be cooking salmon in. In retrospect, I would start the salmon first OR do sprouts and fillet at the same time. This was nice for its simplicity of flavors and ease of prep, and we would do this again.




Cider Braised Chicken and Cabbage (Irish Cookbook) 4.0
I'm not entirely certain what the prep was like for this as the Husband assembled it before I got home. From what I can deduce from the dishes though, I think the chicken breasts were lightly breaded and briefly seared before being placed in a sturdy baking dish on top of a bed of sliced carrots and onions. Sliced cabbage was placed over the top of the chicken and a combination of broth (vegetable in this case because I had some open) and apple cider (a substitution for hard cider) and everything is allowed to bake for about an hour.

Absolutely delicious! Tender onion, firm carrots, such flavorful cabbage, juicy chicken! This would be a great dish to serve to company. We'll be making this again.



Walnut Crusted Pork Chops with Autumn Wild Rice (Ckng Lght Oct 08, pg 177) 3.5
This was my Sunday dinner dish: a finely ground walnut crust flavors a lightly seared and steamed porkchop which is served alongside a wild rice pilaf of Swiss chard, onion, carrot and mushroom. I thought the flavors of this dish were really good, but it lost points in putzyness. And it really wasn't all that complicated - I think I was sidetracked by the fact I had just overcooked my banana cake for book group.

To review: a couple of thick cut porkchops are drizzled with Worcestershire sauce and a mixture of salt, pepper, dried sage and finely chopped walnuts are pressed into the surface and allowed to chill for 30 minutes. The wild rice is then put on to cook (mine only takes about 20 minutes). Onion, carrot, swiss chard, and mushrooms are lightly sauteed and mixed with the finished rice. While this is going on, the pork chops are seared then steamed in a bit of chicken broth.

So this wasn't by any means a complicated recipe, and it had good flavor. This would also be good for company (providing no nut allergies!). I served a broccoli cranberry salad on the side for some added veggies.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Interlude



I have hit a bit of an interlude - I'm kinda between books right now. I am reading Omnivore's Delemma by Michael Pollen and the Bhagavad Gita by Eknath Eswaran, but I haven't settled on what sf&f book I want to read next. And I'm not in the mood for a mystery.

I've been plugging away at a couple of knitting projects. I'm working on a pair socks for Socktoberfest over on Ravelry. I'm doing a baby rib pattern from Sensational Knitted Socks and it is coming along very nicely. I am about to start the heel flap - I just need a moment to sit down and start.

And last night I finished another "scrappy" dishcloth then attempted to cast on a hat for the Husband. After two attempts with the yarn coming up short on a count of 120 sts, I called it quits for the night.



Garden still needs to be torn down and bedded for the winter. Hoping to do that Saturday if it doesn't rain. Yard needs one more mowing and porch trim under the eaves could use that final sand and paint. Need warm weather for that though.

I thought I was done with canning after last weekends adventures, but the applesauce turned out so good I want to make some more.

And I'm taking Friday off to take the hounds into the vet for fall shots and check-ups.

Even Ben has found himself in a bit of a interlude.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Recipe Review from 10/6/08

It's the best time of year...and the busiest. I knuckled down on Sunday and got some of my apples processed: three pies (froze two, baked one), and 7 pints of applesauce. The applesauce is cooling as I write this and the burnt sugars on the bottom of my stock pot are soaking. I am fretting that it will never come off! Between the pies and the applesauce I estimate I used about 15 lbs of apples, and I still have about 1/4 of a grocery bag left. At least with it being nice and cool I can leave them out in the garage.



And I have to finish canning some salsa yet tonight as well. The Husband is somewhere out in the "back 20" deer hunting so I grabbed a moment from chopping to get this entry ready for Monday.

In the meantime, I made a couple new recipes:

Brat, Beer and Cheese Soup (Penzey's Catalog, Harvest 08) 3.0
I was underwhelmed by this recipe. It sounded good, it looked good in the pot, it smelled good...I just didn't think it was anything worth repeating. Pretty simple recipe actually: Saute onion, carrot, and celery until soft. Add a tablespoon of flour and stir till warm, then add the broth, beer, potato and spices and simmer until potato's are done. Meanwhile, the kielbasa (my sub for brats) is lightly fried and set aside. Cheddar cheese is stirred in and the sausage is added last. We didn't puree some a cup of the broth and veggies to thicken the soup, maybe we should have. I halved this recipe and it still made enough for dinner and lunches for the rest of the week for one of us.

Broccoli Salad (Ckng Lght Annual 2003, pg 157) 4.5
I FOUND IT! I FOUND IT! THIS is THE recipe! A while back I discovered a very tasty broccoli salad in the Cub deli. It was broccoli, golden raisins, and bacon (though one is hard pressed to find said bacon in their salad...) all in a very yummy creamy - but not to thick! - white sauce of some kind. Figuring I could make this simple salad at home if I only knew what the sauce was, I started searching through my cookbooks. I happened to have some left over broccoli and some toasted sunflower seeds - but no raisins, I was out - I quick made up a modified version of this.

Broccoli florets, sunflower seeds are tossed with a mayo, red wine vinegar, and sugar mixture. Let stand in fridge for one hour (I let stand for about 15 minutes - dinner was imminent and this was an afterthought). Serve. I will be making this again!

Applesauce (Ball Blue Book of Preserving) 4.0
Do you realize how many apples are in 10 1/2 lbs? A HECK of a lot! And this is after pre-making 3 apples pies. Still, pretty simple and incredibly tasty - apples are peeled, cored and sliced and put in a pot with some water to gently bake down. I added 1 1/2 cup sugar to sweeten it a tich and pureed it so it would be just a bit chunky. Delicious! Now to get the last 3 cans to seal...



Zesty Salsa (Ball Blue Book of Preserving)
10 cups of tomatoes peeled, seeded, and cored. 5 cups of green peppers. 1 lb of jalapeno peppers. 1 1/2 lb onion. Chop everything. Toss in large stock pot (hoping it all fits) with some apple cider. Bring to a boil and simmer for 10 minutes. Can. I have decided canning anything with tomatoes is a pain in the heiney! I/we got it done - by 8:30pm everything was in the jars and sealed. The Husband felt that it was a little on the bland side, but we can perk that up with some fresh cilantro and hot peppers when we serve it.

Total tally for Sunday "preserving":
3 pies
7 pints applesauce
9 pints salsa

Note to self: in the future, DON'T can so much on one day!!! I am exhausted....

Friday, October 10, 2008

Stranger in a Strange Land by R. Heinlein


I read this one for an on-line scifi book group through Goodreads.com and because it was on my Hugo Winner list as one of the last four I need to read. The remaining are now Snow Queen by Joan De Vinge; Johnathan Strange and Mr. Norell by Susanna Clarke; and The Moon is a Harsh Mistress by Heinlein.

Now, this is not my first time reading Stranger, but it's been over 25 years since I last picked it up. I'm fairly certain that I read this in JR High if not High School so I could have made the argument that yes, I already read this and don't need to read it again (same goes for The Moon is a Harsh Mistress). But, my attitudes, opinions and experiences are not the same as they were when I was a scrawny, knockkneed geek of a girl.

Valentine Michael Smith was found on Mars by a second expedition to the Red Planet and brought back to be with his "own kind". But Michael - aka Mike - is not entirely human even though he wears the skin of humankind. Jill and Ben realize that the government is keeping Mike hidden, and after Ben disappears, Jill sneaks Mike out of the hospital and makes her way to Jubal Hershaw's domain. It is here that Mike gets his education concerning humanity - covering everything from how humans think, act, religion, sexual morals, the whole kaboodle. Mike voraciously reads several everything in Jubal's house, including the law books and encyclopedias.

But Mike is also teaching Jubal and his merry band of Amazonian women (that's a whole 'nother aspect of Heinlein which I won't get into here) what it means to be a "water brother" and "grokking". And while Michael is very naive in many ways, he's far older than those around him.

I know there are two versions of Stranger floating around: one is the uncut version which Heinlein's widow had published after his passing. I'm not sure if mine is the uncut or first edition. It doesn't matter - the uncut version has more of Heinlein's pontificating about societies ills and where we went wrong and what he felt we should do about it.

There isn't enough space on this posting to really get into everything Heinlein espoused or slammed here. Or whether or not he made women into strong characters or smart Barbie's. Or whether he uses the same 5 characters (but with different names) over and over and over in his books. I think stranger is becoming dated to some degree, but I find that is part of the charm. Was it worth re-reading? Definitely. I'm looking forward to re-reading The Moon is a Harsh Mistress now.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Knitting Project #20/21: Sherbrooke Cowl

The parents gave me a gift certificate to The Fiber Works in Superior, WI, last Holiday season and before I left for Denver in August I decided to grab a few skeins of yarn for the trip. I bought this yarn for me with this pattern in mind: Sherbrooke Cowl by Lollyknitting Around.

For being such a simple pattern: Rnd 1 - K5 P5; Rnd 2 - K2 P2; I was certainly unknitting quite a bit! I frogged out the initial start probably about 4 times - the initial cast on created a rather small tube and I had grave concerns about it even fitting over my head. So I kept casting on, knitting, and ripping out. Final cast-on I think was 90sts.

And this was not a good pattern for socializing or listening to panels. I found if I wasn't keeping close track to my counting, I invariably would need to backtrack to the offending stitches and continue on. I did A LOT of backtracking.



I don't think this yarn wanted to be a cowl, or at least this particular cowl. I am not satisfied with the end results. It was way too long at the recommended 18" and I felt there were too many mistakes that show now that it is done. I will probably be frogging this one out and doing something else with the yarn.

However, I did make sister K4 this cowl with some leftover yarn from her mitten and scarf set from last spring. This one turned out perfect! It was a lovely length at about 12" or so and the pattern just clicked. I did keep the cast on at 90 stitches as the recommended cast on of 60 sts was still way to narrow. I look forward to giving this to her to add to her fashion accessories.



Pattern: Sherbrooke Cowl by LollyKnitting Around
Needles: #8 dps
Yarn: Araucania 100% Wool (www.araucaniayarns.com)

Monday, October 6, 2008

Superior Hiking Trail in the Fall 2008



On Saturday, I joined an acquaintance for a "guided" hike on the Superior Hiking Trail. I say "guided" in that it is optional if you want to stick with the naturalist/ecologist/birder/etc for the full duration of the hike or just stretch out the legs and go. There is a hike leader, who organized the hike and a "sweep" who is last person off the trail and makes sure everyone is accounted for back at the cars. It is considered uncouth to leave a person stranded at one end while their car is at the other end.



The segment hiked on Saturday was Crosby Manitou St. Park to Caribou River Wayside. I hiked this waaaayy back in May, 2001 with the folks and hounds. This time it was peak colors on the trail, with the leaves in brilliant display.



This is an 8 mile segment, with a bit of up and down as one moves through the river gorges. There are some dramatic climb into and out of the Manitou River valley and some spectacular overlooks along the ridges before traversing through a cedar forest and then along the Caribou River.

It was an absolutely spectacular day - clear, about 55*, and just a light breeze to keep a body cool as they huffed and puffed their way up and down. The ridge overlooks were stunning. It was so clear out that a person could see all the way to the Apostle Islands off of Wisconsin and at one point a ship was going by. It took about 4 hours total. I met several very nice people from the Twin Cities and had a lovely time chatting with everyone. I'm so glad I was able to go.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Soctoberfest 2008! (or Knitting Project #22)

Over on LollyKnitting Around, Lauren has posted about the 2008 Soctoberfest, which started Wednesday, October 1. It is linked to the Ravelry Site, which I'm not a member of. Still, the idea of a month dedicated to knitting socks just seemed like a fun, motivating project to participate in, AND, it just happens I do have a sock "On the Needles" right now!

My friend Gail is going to laugh at me: I've already frogged my sock out once. I didn't care for the knitting pattern with the self striping yarn pattern. I recast on Wednesday night - in honor of the start of Soctoberfest - while watching re-runs of Scrubs (season 4) and have about 2/3" of the cuff completed. I don't know what pattern I'm going to do yet. I'll worry about that later tonight.

If you are a member of Ravelry, they are also doing a mystery sock. The cuff pattern was posted yesterday and subsequent parts will be posted regularly.



Book: Sensational Knitted Socks
Pattern: TBD
Yarn: "Boston" by Wisdom Yarns (Wool-polymide blend)
Needles: #2 dps; 64 sts co.

Let the knitting begin!

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

1984 by George Orwell (audio book)


About 3 weeks ago I borrowed 1984 from the UMD library. I didn’t realize when I checked it out that it was abridged - I was busy talking to my friend and rushing off to the next thing. When I saw it was abridged, I was disappointed but figured, eh, how bad could it be? Well, it was...okay...but I could tell there were bits missing because the story just wasn’t right. I didn't review it at the time because I wanted to find a full length version.

So I went and checked it out from the Duluth library. Wow. What a difference. I don’t think I need to discuss the premise of the book as it’s so well known, so I’ll touch on other bits.

For starters, the abridged version was 2 hours, the complete version, 9 hours. The abridged version made it into a romance and only a romance. Everything that made it “1984" was completely chopped out. I’m so glad I took the time to hunt down a full version.

I also found myself comparing this to WE by Yevgany Zamatin. WE is more of a utopian story, whereas I found 1984 to be more of a rant against Communism. The similarities between the books were striking: One uniform. No sex. You are always being watched. Mandatory activities at appointed times. Don’t speak ill of the ruling class. One difference (there are more but I don’t want to blather on too much) was 1984 had a lower class - the proles (since it was an audio book I’m not sure how that was spelled). Winston felt that hope lay with them as the Party felt they were not worth their time or attention and they could do pretty much as they wanted. WE did not have a lower class of people, everyone was the same.

In hindsight, it was unfortunate my book group didn’t think to read 1984 and WE at the same time. That would have been a very interesting discussion.