Ethos' 2021 Favourites (Vol. 2)

Dear Reader,

We start December by continuing with the Ethos team's 2021 favourites! This round, we find joy in bookstores, cooking, and things that continue to excite us long after childhood: dinosaurs, puzzles, and Pokémon.

We hope they bring you some warmth too!

Love,
Wen-yi

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Toy model of a stegosaurus

Ben's Pick
Rediscover: Dinosaurs

I’ve liked dinosaurs ever since I was young. We joke in my family that this was because my parents, specifically my mother, watched Jurassic Park back in 1993 with young and impressionable me still lying warm and cosy in her womb. Of course, this is (probably) not how these things work, but it didn’t stop me from coaxing my preschool tongue into pronouncing “Pachycephalosaurus” and explaining to aunts and uncles that these were in fact entirely different from Parasaurolophuses.
 
Inevitably, though, childhood interests wane, and the years went by with my dinosaur toys going into cold storage in a box under my desk. This year, however, this love was fanned back into flame by the discovery of dinosaur models—there were companies that were avidly invested in not just producing dinosaur models/toys, but producing them as scientifically accurate as possible, as well as collectors who reviewed them and made it a point to educate their audience on developments in the world of paleontology while assessing the paleontological accuracy of the models themselves. It was such a delight for me to dive into a whole new (old) world, re-discovering the many species I’d spent my childhood years in awe and wonder of, and to augment my learning and understanding of these prehistoric creatures at the same time.
 
There’s something wonderful in rediscovering something once loved but was mostly forgotten, and realising that it meant more to you than you ever thought it would. Here’s to the joy of discovery, and of rediscovery.

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A cat lying on an unifinished circular puzzle

Wei Lin's Pick
To do: Puzzling

I never understood the pleasure of puzzling. It seemed a lot of time to spend on something that was infuriatingly slow and short in gratification (it gets dismantled all too quickly after you’ve spent days poring over it). A secondary school friend of mine was a passionate puzzler, and she would spend endless afternoons bent over her 3,000-piece, mostly-blue nightmare of a landscape. She gifted me a framed puzzle of the constellations in the sky, and every time I look at it, I marvel at her patience fitting piece after piece of black, blue and more black next to each other.

A few months ago, another friend started documenting her puzzling journey on Instagram, and I was intrigued. It looked so... doable. More than that it looked enjoyable. So I tried my hands on one, and have since emerged a convert.

Puzzling reduces the world to details. Of an exact tone, shape and contour. It is an absorbing exercise on focus and mindfulness, as you’re forced to examine pieces one at a time. There’s a rhythm to puzzling. And when you’re in the zone, snapping a region into place, the momentum is exhilarating and the joy palpable. I am a slow puzzler, but I enjoy every moment of it, sometimes allowing myself to just gaze absently over the sea of pieces whilst feeling the rounded edges of a piece on my thumb, or graze my fingers over the thrilling ridges of completed parts. I still don’t have the patience of other dedicated puzzlers—I get restless after 5 or 6 hours and my brain demands variety—but it is a huge step for someone who once thought puzzles were a complete waste of time.

Another surprising thing I relished was the pleasure I took in dismantling it. I love seeing the pieces swell up as I scrunch them up, and I love how they fall. I rub them apart like clumps of soil­. It reminds me of sandcastles, and why people build them.

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A man standing in the opening of a bookshop

Wai Han's Pick
Visit: Dakota Dreams

My greatest joy in 2021 is to see the setting up of a little bookstore at the Old Airport Road hawker centre. DAKOTA DREAMS, put together by five friends, showcases children’s titles for a start, many of which bear the Ethos label. It is a community project, where grandmas have dropped by to get books for their young and where our older Ethos writers have gathered for a good chat. Just over 120 sq ft, but its dreams are as big as the sky!

Drop by for the famous hawker fare at Dakota and come up for coffee thereafter!

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The book Cook As You Are on a sheet

Varsha’s Pick
Cook/Read: Ruby Tandoh’s Cook As You Are

When Ruby Tandoh cried after curdling a custard during her very first appearance on The Great British Bake Off, I immediately felt a connection to her that I didn’t expect. I’d never made a custard in my life, but her palpable anxiety, and watching her bake her way through it until the season’s finale, was a relatable and familiar journey nonetheless.

Since then, I’ve kept an eye out for Ruby’s work, both in writing and cooking. Her recipes in The Guardian—a column that she has since discontinued, justifiably, due to toxicity and elitism—led me towards my first use of blueberries in a cake. Her newsletter musings about sitting with failure and feeling the pressures of time have guided me through many rough patches. And now, the thoroughly enjoyable and refreshingly accessible Cook As You Are, which a dear friend gifted me for my birthday, will hopefully shepherd me through this year and the next.

Ruby’s work has always prompted me to think more deeply about my own relationship to food and cooking, and continues to inspire myriad questions: What does it mean to provide for ourselves, especially when factors like socio-economic class and ability are in the mix? How much shame do we continue to internalise for simply wanting to enjoy what we eat? How can we resist fatphobia and stigmatisation, and learn to indulge gleefully with each other?

To bring it back to Cook As You Are, it is unlike any other cookbook I’ve encountered. Provisions for accessibility and easier cooking, from genuine substitution suggestions that meet the reader where they are, to comprehensive indexing and clear instructions, have made my engagement with these recipes almost seamless. (They are also, thus far, verifiably delicious.)

I’m still in the early stages of exploring the book, but I’m excited to keep going—if you’ve ever felt like cooking and sustaining yourself in general can be a drag, I highly recommend checking out any of Ruby’s work.

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A video game screenshot with an avatar and the pokemon Venusaur

Suning's Pick
Play: Pokémon Unite (and it's free!)

Ayam unabashedly addicted to this game, which hits the sweet spot of phone games for me where there's intensity and progression based on skill (instead of Coins), and decent turnaround times: just 10-minutes of wild adrenaline for a standard match with players online. PLUS, you can invite friends and make a fOrMiDaBle team, squashing opponents while screaming real-time strategy with ya mates (vigorous nods to ma sis and nephew)—whew look at all that bonding time.

Lastly, this game Gets Me because for sucha long time I have waited for Nintendo to release the original Pokémon game my smol 7-year-old self loved so hard (#ByeByeButterfree 😭) (they did release something else though that rhymes with Pokemon No), and in 2021 my adult self finally does reunite with my bebe Bulbasaur and all. is. well.

P.S. Yas that's my username pls add me; yas I'm mostly playing when I'm not being an employee; and yas that's Venusaur rockin' Hawaiian beachwear & I'm sportin' a Bulbasaur-themed backpack, just in case you can't catch 'em all. lmao.

(From December 4, 2021)