Friday, December 8, 2023

Book Club: If You Could Go Back to Your 16th Birthday, What Would You Change? This Time Tomorrow by Emma Straub

This month, we’re all about celebrating the community of food – and how being able to share a meal with your friends and family, especially a winter feast, is something to treasure (after all, it was only a year ago that all of us were once again unable to do so!)

For this month’s Capsule book club, we’re cooking Caribbean Lentil and Veggie Pie and we’re reading a book that absolutely nails the joy and privilege it is to break bread (or a plate of lentil and veggie pie, to be specific) with your loved ones.

This Time Tomorrow by Emma Straub is all about food and family, so you’re going to want to go in well-fed. Maybe you want to add a couple of sides to that pie, like the Dukkah Roasted Potatoes and the Caramelised Pear And Radish Salad with Almonds and Parmesan?

An absolute delight of a book, This Time Tomorrow walks the delicate line of being both utterly entertaining and punch-in-the-guts poignant, while also being a celebration of being a teenager in the 1990s.

The story follows New Yorker Alice Stern on the day she turns 40, when she’s happy-ish with her life – okay career, fine boyfriend and a meh apartment means she’s not exactly living her dream adult life, but that’s not the biggest focus of her life. No, the biggest battle is that her beloved dad is dying of a mysterious illness in hospital and she’s very aware that their time together is running out.

The morning after her 40th birthday, she wakes up back in 1996 – on the day of her Sweet 16 birthday but – and this is the best bit – she has her 40-year-old brain and all that life experience. What follows is snakes and ladders game of life choices as Alice works out she can travel between the two birthdays – and make changes to her life trajectory as she does.

This Time Tomorrow

A different job here, a different relationship here – all of it adds up to a different life, but is it a better life? For fans of time travelling/options exploring stories like Matt Haig’s The Midnight Library and the movie About Time, they will enjoy seeing similar paths explored in This Time Tomorrow. But for Alice, the greatest gift isn’t that she gets to live her life over – this time with options – it’s that she gets to spend time with her dad when he is well again. Because in 1996, she’s 16 and he’s in his early 40s – young, fit, healthy – and the pair get to be young together all over again, in vastly different circumstances to their present day selves.

If you were a 1990s teenager, you will adore the references here but the book is also a very thoughtful and at times emotional look at the adults we become, and how we never quite forget the teenagers we once were. There is a strong ‘ill parent’ theme to this book, which makes it poignant to read (but if this is close to your current reality, just be aware!), because when given the chance to try again, it’s the simple joys of eating her favourite meals with her favourite person that makes up Alice’s top priorities. There is a LOT of food talk in this book, so make sure you don’t go in hungry (luckily you’ve got that Caribbean Lentil and Veggie Pie (plus sides!) to go with it!)

Your HelloFresh bonus recipes for the month:

Caribbean Lentil & Veggie Pie

with Coconut Kumara Mash Topping | Serves 2


1 capsicum

2 clove garlic

1 tin lentils (400 g)

50 g tomato paste

1 tin coconut cream (200 ml)

5 g vegetable stock powder

1 bag baby spinach leaves

1 bag coriander

1 carrot

1/2 tablespoon onion powder

1/2 tablespoon garlic powder

1 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1 teaspoon smoked paprika (regular paprika is fine)

1/2 teaspoon allspice ground

1 teaspoon salt

2 kumara

1 olive oil

2 tbs plant-based milk

¼ tsp salt

40 g plant-based butter (for the mash)

20 g plant-based butter (for the sauce)

⅓ cup water


  1. Bring a medium saucepan of salted water to the boil. Peel the kumara and cut into bite-sized chunks. Cut the capsicum into small chunks. Finely chop the garlic. Grate the carrot. Drain and rinse the lentils.

TIP: Get more fibre and texture by leaving the kumara unpeeled if you prefer.

  1. Cook the kumara in the boiling water until easily pierced with a knife, 10-15 minutes. Drain and return to the saucepan. Add the plant-based butter (for the mash), plant-based milk and the salt, then mash until smooth. Stir through 1/2 the coconut cream. Cover to keep warm.
  2. In a large frying pan, heat a drizzle of olive oil over a medium-high heat. Cook the capsicum and carrot until softened, 4-5 minutes. Add the plant-based butter (for the sauce), garlic, mild Caribbean jerk seasoning and tomato paste and cook until fragrant, 2 minutes. Add the lentils, the water, vegetable stock powder and remaining coconut cream. Simmer until thickened, 2-3 minutes. Season to taste. Stir through the baby spinach leaves until wilted, 1-2 minutes.
  3. Preheat the grill to high. Transfer the lentil filling to a baking dish, then top with the kumara mash. Run a fork over the mash to create an uneven surface.
  4. Grill the pie until lightly browned, 10-15 minutes.
  5. Roughly chop the coriander. Divide the Caribbean lentil pie between plates. Garnish with the coriander to serve.

Dukkah Roasted Potatoes

with Feta & Herbs | Serves 2


1 lemon

4 potato

25 g dukkah

50 g cow’s milk feta

10 g parsley

  1.  Preheat oven to 240°C/220°C fan-forced. • Zest lemon to get a pinch, then slice into wedges.
  2. Cut potatoes into bite-sized chunks. • Place potatoes, dukkah and a good squeeze of lemon juice on a lined oven tray. Drizzle with olive oil, then season with salt. Toss to coat, spread out evenly and roast for 20 minutes.
  3. After the potato has been roasting for 20 minutes, remove from oven and sprinkle with lemon zest. Roast until potato is tender, a further 5 minutes.
  4. Transfer dukkah roasted potatoes to a serving dish. Crumble with feta (see ingredients). Tear over herbs. Serve with remaining lemon wedges. Enjoy!

Caramelised Pear & Radish Salad

with Almonds & Parmesan | Serves 2


1 pear

2 radish

10 g parsley

30 g roasted almonds

1 bag salad leaves

30 g grated Parmesan cheese

Drizzle of balsamic glaze

Drizzle of olive oil

10 g butter

¼ tsp salt


  1. Slice pear into thin wedges. Trim and thinly slice radish. Roughly chop herbs and roasted almonds.
  2. In a medium frying pan, heat a drizzle of olive oil and the butter over medium heat. Cook pear in a single layer, turning occasionally, until softened, 8-10 minutes. Transfer to a bowl and set aside to cool slightly. TIP: Save on washing up and combine everything in your serving bowl!
  3. Add radish and salad leaves to caramelised pear and toss to combine. Season with salt and pepper.
  4. Transfer salad to a serving dish. Top with herbs, roasted almonds and grated Parmesan cheese.
  5. Drizzle with some balsamic glaze to serve. Enjoy!

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