7 min read

Sale, Labaneh, Coffee Talk

Digest 12.08.2023 - Stone Soup
Sale, Labaneh, Coffee Talk

Welcome to the Stone Soup Digest! This is where I share what I'm up to and some of my favorite things from around the internet. Subscribe to Stone Soup to get this in your inbox every week.

You’ve probably seen me mention the Supper Club! If you’re not already a member, now is a great time to join. The Supper Club keeps the lights on here at Stone Soup, allowing me to pay a fair rate to those who contribute to essay series as well as the intrepid team that makes sure everything happens on time and correctly in your inbox. This year, all Stone Soup Supper Club members & Boosters will get the 200+ page Personal Canons Cookbook ebook, which collects all this year's essays and recipes, plus a dozen original essays and recipes from me! There’s never been a better time to sign up. I really hope you’ll consider it.

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Personal Canons Cookbook Highlight: Amal El-Mohtar’s Sour Milk and Bitter Herbs

Amal El-Mohtar is an award-winning writer of fiction, poetry, and criticism. She is co-author, with Max Gladstone, of the multiple award-winning This is How You Lose the Time War. Her articles and reviews have appeared in the New York Times, NPR Books and on Tor.com. She has been the New York Times's science fiction and fantasy columnist since February 2018.

Go read her essay about memory, atrocity, and feeding the brave child within oneself. It is accompanied by a recipe for labaneh and zaatar on pita.

Read it here.

If you’re looking for ways to take care of those who deeply need it right now, here’s where you can start:

Supporting Palestine 

Food Donation Resources

  • Organizations like Food Forward fight hunger by collecting surplus produce and redistributing it to the people who need it most. Donate, get involved, and learn more here.
  • Your local food bank keeps the people in your community fed. Donate or volunteer here.

New Comics Reviews from Scott Redmond

Friend of the newsletter Scott Redmond is a phenomenal comics reviewer, providing an in-depth look at current comics over at ComicCon.com. We’ve got a giant-sized list of his latest reviews this week:

Alasdair Stuart Review: Coffee Talk 1 and 2 

The Coffee Talk franchise are a pair of visual novels set in a coffee shop in Seattle. This version of Seattle is home to an array of non-human fantasy races too, including orcs, dwarves, mermaids, ghosts and so on. If you play Shadowrun, one of the two definitive Cyberpunk TTRPGs, you'll find that loosely familiar. If you've ever ordered coffee from a coffee shop, you'll find the premise very familiar.

Developed by Toge Studios and created by much missed developer Mohammad Fahmi (immortalized in the sweetest way in a Coffee Talk 2 bonus ending) the games place you behind the counter at Coffee Talk, your coffee shop. Your job is to listen to your regulars, learn what they like and slowly bring them out of themselves. You are every bartender in every film noir, the player's universality combined with the barista's anonymity to create a window into lives that have pointier ears than most but are still refreshingly grounded. Because, make no mistake: These folks are a mess, just like the rest of us. They're also as gloriously unique as we all are and the cast is full of memorable characters. Freya, the resident shop writer and black belt in single synapse decision making, is deeply relatable to anyone who's ever needed to write words for cash. Gala, a softly spoken werewolf who works at the local hospital and struggles with balancing his physical stature with his emotional state, is a favourite of mine, surprising no one. Hyde, his oldest friend and a vampire fashion model, is the Astarion of the franchise, his remarks cutting deeper than his fangs and all concealing a heart of pure marshmallow. In the second game, amiable Satyrfluencer Lucas, struggling to make something that helps people, is instantly a favourite. And even the game's least well served character gets a major plot. Jorji is a beat cop whose laissez-faire attitude towards his job gets dissected in the second game in some surprisingly poignant ways. Jorji becomes the human face of a not-entirely-human plot, and the way he gets drawn into a case that requires radical empathy from him is really very touching. Plus it leads to a cameo from the subjects of the next one of these columns, but we'll get to them.

The characters are the heart of the game, but there is a game here too. You have to fill requests from the customers to create a drink they want and that helps them open up more. For the most part, the coffee-making mechanic is a combination interactive recipe book and fun, low-impact puzzle that splits up the dialogue, but there are consequences to it, albeit subtle ones.

Both games work hard to make players all over the world feel included, so the drinks are far more diverse than you'd expect. The second game, Hibiscus & Butterfly, really dives into this as the shop diversifies further into teas, but this variety is a major part of the game on both sides of the counter. It's also a subtly powerful reminder of the kindness at its core; everyone's welcome and very few of us don't feel better after a hot drink.

The Coffee Talk duology are the video game equivalent of a warm-hearted indie movie. This is more vibes than stakes, and if you're looking for something high-impact, you aren't looking for this. But if you want something new, then you want these games. They're kind, sweet-natured, low-impact, and have some surprising twists hiding inside the gentle gameplay. The soundtracks are great too.

Coffee Talk 1 and 2 are available on Windows, Mac, Switch, Xbox One and PS4

Alasdair Stuart is a professional enthusiast, pop culture analyst, award-winning voice actor, and writer behind the award-nominated weekly newsletter The Full Lid. He co-owns the Escape Artists podcasts. 

Currently Reading: Iris Kelly Doesn’t Date by Ashley Herring Blake

Everyone around Iris Kelly is in love. Her best friends are all coupled up, her siblings have partners that are perfect for them, and her parents are still blissfully married. And she’s happy for all of them, truly. Iris doesn’t want any of that—dating, love, romance. She’ll stick to her commitment-free hookups, thanks very much, except no one in her life will just let her be. Everyone wants to see her settled down, but she holds firmly to her no dating rule. There’s only one problem—Iris is a romance author facing an imminent deadline for her second book, and she’s completely out of ideas.

Perfectly happy to ignore her problems as per usual, Iris goes to a bar in Portland and meets a sexy stranger, Stefania, and a night of dancing and making out turns into the worst one-night stand Iris has had in her life. To get her mind off everything, Iris tries out for the lead role in a local play, a queer retelling of Much Ado About Nothing, but comes face-to-face with Stefania, whose real name turns out to be Stevie. Desperate to save face in front of her friends, Stevie asks Iris to play along as her girlfriend. Iris is shocked, but when she realizes the arrangement might provide her with some much-needed romantic content for her book, she agrees. As the two women play the part of a happy couple, lines start to blur, and they’re left wondering who will make the real first move....

Barnes & Noble | Bad River Website | Local Library | Find an Indie Bookstore

Year 2160: It's been ten years since the cataclysmic events of Eventide, Water City, where 99.97 percent of the human population was possessed or obliterated by Akira Kimura, Water City’s renowned scientist and Earth’s former savior. 

Our nameless antihero, a synesthete and former detective, and his daughter, Ascalon, navigate through a post-apocalyptic landscape populated by barbaric Zeroes—the permanent residents of the continent’s biggest landfill, The Great Leachate—who cling to the ways of the old world. They live in opposition to Akira’s godlike domination of the planet—she has taken control of the population that viewed her as a god and converted them into her Gardeners, zombie-like humans who plod along to build her vision of a new world.

What that world exactly entails, Ascalon is not entirely sure, but intends to find out. Now nineteen, she, a synesthete herself, takes over this story while her father succumbs to grief and decades of Akira’s manipulation. Tasked with the impossible, Ascalon must find a way to free what’s left of the human race.

Barnes & Noble | Bad River Website | Local Library | Find an Indie Bookstore

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