Tag: Handmaid’s Tale

The Handmaid’s Tale Adaptations

Join us for a discussion on the differences between the book and the show! Is season 2 a believable continuation? Were the roles casted correctly? Hear our thoughts on the prolific novel’s newest adaptation, with a shoutout to our friends at Unassigned Reading Pod.






Joe Bae:



Episode 3.2-Handmaid’s Tale Background

Now that you are all caught up on our thoughts on Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale, check out some of the information we found relevant to the series. Victoria discusses puritanism and witch hunts, Anya discusses Atwood herself and Phyllis McAlpin Schlafly nee Stewart, the inspiration for Serena Joy, and Hale discusses the history of forced adoptions. This episode showcases some of our podcasting friends, Frankenpod! Check it out and come join the conversation.






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“Half-Hanged Mary” by Margaret Atwood

Let me first say, it was real hard to find the full text online. It is a longer poem, so many versions online have cut whole verses. Originally, I was going to just post a link to the poem, but the only copy of the full text I found was annotated with questions to prompt middle and high school aged kids to think about the poem in a certain way. Not that it isn’t helpful, but I’m a believer that everyone should approach literature with a clean slate, before being influenced in a certain direction. Therefore, I’m posting a clean copy of the poem before I give you my thoughts. And yes I know the formatting is a bit off. Technology failed me today.

“Half-Hanged Mary” by Margaret Atwood


Rumour was loose in the air
hunting for some neck to land on.
I was milking the cow,
the barn door open to the sunset.

I didn’t feel the aimed word hit
and go in like a soft bullet.
I didn’t feel the smashed flesh
closing over it like water
over a thrown stone.

I was hanged for living alone
for having blue eyes and a sunburned skin,
tattered skirts, few buttons,
a weedy farm in my own name,
and a surefire cure for warts;
Oh yes, and breasts,
and a sweet pear hidden in my body.
Whenever there’s talk of demons
these come in handy.

The rope was an improvisation.
With time they’d have thought of axes.

Up I go like a windfall in reverse,
a blackened apple stuck back onto the tree.
Trussed hands, rag in my mouth,
a flag raised to salute the moon,
old bone‐faced goddess, old original,
who once took blood in return for food.
The men of the town stalk homeward,
excited by their show of hate,
their own evil turned inside out like a glove,
and me wearing it.


The bonnets come to stare,
the dark skirts also,
the upturned faces in between,
mouths closed so tight they’re lipless.
I can see down into their eyeholes
and nostrils. I can see their fear.
You were my friend, you too.
I cured your baby, Mrs.,
and flushed yours out of you,
Non‐wife, to save your life.
Help me down? You don’t dare.
I might rub off on you,
like soot or gossip. Birds
of a feather burn together,
though as a rule ravens are singular.

In a gathering like this one
the safe place is the background,
pretending you can’t dance,
the safe stance pointing a finger.

I understand. You can’t spare
anything, a hand, a piece of bread, a shawl
against the cold,
a good word. Lord
knows there isn’t much
to go around. You need it all.


Well God, now that I’m up here
with maybe some time to kill
away from the daily
fingerwork, legwork, work
at the hen level,
we can continue our quarrel,
the one about free will.
Is it my choice that I’m dangling
like a turkey’s wattles from this
more than indifferent tree?
If Nature is Your alphabet,
what letter is this rope?
Does my twisting body spell out Grace?
I hurt, therefore I am.
Faith, Charity, and Hope
are three dead angels
falling like meteors or
burning owls across
the profound blank sky of Your face.

12 midnight
My throat is taut against the rope
choking off words and air;
I’m reduced to knotted muscle.
Blood bulges in my skull,
my clenched teeth hold it in;
I bite down on despair
Death sits on my shoulder like a crow
waiting for my squeezed beet
of a heart to burst
so he can eat my eyes
or like a judge
muttering about sluts and punishment
and licking his lips
or like a dark angel
insidious in his glossy feathers
whispering to me to be easy
on myself. To breathe out finally.
Trust me, he says, caressing
me. Why suffer?
A temptation, to sink down
into these definitions.
To become a martyr in reverse,
or food, or trash.
To give up my own words for myself,
my own refusals.
To give up knowing.
To give up pain.
To let go.

Out of my mouth is coming, at some
distance from me, a thin gnawing sound
which you could confuse with prayer except that
praying is not constrained.
Or is it, Lord?
Maybe it’s more like being strangled
than I once thought. Maybe it’s
a gasp for air, prayer.
Did those men at Pentecost
want flames to shoot out of their heads?
Did they ask to be tossed
on the ground, gabbling like holy poultry,
eyeballs bulging?
As mine are, as mine are.
There is only one prayer; it is not
the knees in the clean nightgown
on the hooked rug
I want this, I want that.
Oh far beyond.
Call it Please. Call it Mercy.
Call it Not yet, not yet,
as Heaven threatens to explode
inwards in fire and shredded flesh, and the angels caw.

Wind seethes in the leaves around
me the tree exude night
birds night birds yell inside
my ears like stabbed hearts my heart
stutters in my fluttering cloth
body I dangle with strength
going out of me the wind seethes

in my body tattering
the words I clench
my fists hold No
talisman or silver disc my lungs
flail as if drowning I call
on you as witness I did
no crime I was born I have borne I
bear I will be born this is
a crime I will not
acknowledge leaves and wind
hold onto me
I will not give in

Sun comes up, huge and blaring,
no longer a simile for God.
Wrong address. I’ve been out there.
Time is relative, let me tell you
I have lived a millennium.
I would like to say my hair turned white
overnight, but it didn’t.
Instead it was my heart:
bleached out like meat in water.
Also, I’m about three inches taller.
This is what happens when you drift in space
listening to the gospel
of the red‐hot stars.
Pinpoints of infinity riddle my brain,
a revelation of deafness.
At the end of my rope
I testify to silence.
Don’t say I’m not grateful.

Most will have only one death.
I will have two.


When they came to harvest my corpse
(open your mouth, close your eyes)
cut my body from the rope,
surprise, surprise:
I was still alive.
Tough luck, folks,
I know the law:
you can’t execute me twice
for the same thing. How nice.
I fell to the clover, breathed it in,
and bared my teeth at them
in a filthy grin.
You can imagine how that went over.
Now I only need to look
out at them through my sky‐blue eyes.
They see their own ill will
staring them in the forehead
and turn tail
Before, I was not a witch.
But now I am one.
My body of skin waxes and wanes
around my true body,
a tender nimbus.
I skitter over the paths and fields

mumbling to myself like crazy,
mouth full of juicy adjectives
and purple berries.
The townsfolk dive headfirst into the bushes
to get out of my way.
My first death orbits my head,
an ambiguous nimbus,
medallion of my ordeal.
No one crosses that circle.
Having been hanged for something
I never said,
I can now say anything I can say.
Holiness gleams on my dirty fingers,
I eat flowers and dung,
two forms of the same thing, I eat mice
and give thanks, blasphemies
gleam and burst in my wake
like lovely bubbles.
I speak in tongues,
my audience is owls.
My audience is God,
because who the hell else could understand me?
Who else has been dead twice?
The words boil out of me,
coil after coil of sinuous possibility.
The cosmos unravels from my mouth,
all fullness, all vacancy.

“Half-Hanged Mary” PDF


Alright, so… This poem has it all. So it seems to be in freeverse, because there isn’t exactly a rhyme scheme (that doesn’t mean it is completely free from rhyme, just no glaring pattern). There isn’t really a set meter, though parts of it seem to have a bit of a rhythm. Atwood tends to stick to certain sound patterns for parts of the poem, specifically in the 3am section. I’ll talk more about that in a bit.

First I wanted to go through some of the themes that stuck out to me. First and most obviously, and most relevant to The Handmaid’s Tale, is the feminism. Mary, the narrator, tells us that she was arrested for the way she looks, for having a feminine figure and boobs. This is probably less a suggestion that colonists were just rounding up any woman they see, and instead is a nod to the rhetoric used against women accused of witchcraft. Often these women were labeled succubi, or female demon seducers.

I love the shade she throws at the men who are tying her up. She implies they weren’t smart enough to just execute her immediately, and instead left her to die. People came to look at her hanging there, but also are we surprised? These are the same people that went and watched the revolutionaries on the battlefield with their picnic baskets. The women who came to look are all indebted to her in one way or another. She says, “I cured your baby, Mrs./ and flushed yours out of you,/ non-wife, to save your life” (9pm). I think this is a clear allusion to abortion, specifically termination of the fetus to save the life of the unwed mother. This could mean something was wrong with the baby and was hurting the mother, OR it could be a suggestion that if anyone were to find out, the men who hung Mary could try to hang her too. Regardless, this behavior, curing babies and aborting others would have been grounds for execution anyway–further proof Mary’s a witch.

The section 10pm is beautiful and tragic. She begins to question her faith. In the following section, temptation to give into death is everywhere. She feels it around her as her body begins to give out on her.

The 3 am section… I noticed several things about this section. First, some of the sound patterns (seethes and leaves) sounds a bit like wind, and hanging there alone all night would definitely make you notice things like the way the wind sounds around you. The repetition of birds and hearts reminds me a bit of birds chirping, perhaps other sounds Mary is noticing during the night. She is repetitive here, talking in circles, a bit like a person swinging from a rope. She’s fighting temptation.

As the sun rises with the 6am and 8am sections, the poem begins to get a bit more hopeful. She is starting to sound like a survive, rather than a victim. The snark we saw at the beginning of the poem, with her criticism of the men who hung her returns. She notes that few people get to experience death twice, and she will. As we stated in our background episode, she doesn’t experience this second death for many more years.

At the end of this poem, she seems to be gloating a bit. She’s happy this happened, because now she is safe. There is a bit of double jeopardy here… She knows she can’t be hung for the same crime twice. She is free. She feels

Overall, I really loved this poem. It took a few read throughs before I picked up on the complexity of this poem. At surface level, it seems child-like, an easy poem to understand. However, as with any poem, the details are in the layers.

Macaron vs Macaroon; or Forever Smelling of Oranges

Recipes to follow at the bottom.

  1. Roasted Chicken with Oranges, Brussels Sprouts, and Green Olives
  2. Stuffed Artichokes
  3. Butternut Squash Soup
  4. Fruit Salad
  5. Macaron Tree
  6. Can-died Pears
  7. Crimson Thread and Menage Trois wines

Reading The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood, I was a bit daunted by how to create a menu in theme with the book. In a dystopian society, what do they eat? How do they eat? How do they cook? Thankfully, Miss Anya Spector came to my rescue. “Why don’t we do a Birth Day Party?” Duh. A Birth Day Party. Though this is an oppressive society, they seem to splurge when it comes to the day their Handmaid’s gave birth. This fact opened up options for me. Here, I want to explain my research, as well as my choices for the menu for this week. The three stages in this process are as follows: research, prep, and cooking.

1. Research

The background of the book is a bit vague. We don’t really learn what happened to the US until page 174 of the Anchor Books edition. I tried to mark down any mention of food, but I also found a list on the website Bookmenus.com. There were many foods mentioned, but the most mentioned were oranges and coffee. Because Anya Spector and I live on coffee, this would automatically make the menu. It is now tradition to begin a recording session with a strong cup. Oranges, however, stumped me. I knew we should do a luncheon, but what savory options would be included?

That’s when I found an interview with the production crew of the new Hulu TV adaptation. A lot of research went into making decisions of what to include in grocery stores like Loves and Fishes in the show. Production designer Julie Berghoff said to a Marie Clare writer visiting set, “Every piece of fruit had a thought process behind it—when she gets oranges, the implication is, ‘Okay, they conquered Florida.’ If they had artichokes, it meant they conquered California. The evolution of Gilead was always in mind.” So that was it. Oranges and artichokes were enough inspiration to start a menu.

In Gilead, there seems to be a black market where rich wives can find luxury gifts, from cosmetics and lotions, to exotic cheeses and canned goods. Following the logic of Berghoff, assuming Florida and California had been conquered, and the Marthas had access to their agriculture, as well as some black market items, they could create a bountiful Birth Day banquet, fit for a Gilead luncheon.

One thing that stood out to me in the books was that cooking had become a bit more pure. No longer are there processed, pre-made foods in Gilead. Everything is homemade, so that was something that we wanted to emphasize in our own work… Not that we’ve actually served anything store bought other than the Harry Potter Candy. However, the homemade bread from P&P, and homemade macarons are very different. Everything to follow is made by us.

2. Preperation

Because I agreed to make quite a big spread for this book, my preparation began days before our actual recording. Quick tip: most soups can be made in advance and frozen! Almost all soups have a base that can be separated and frozen, while garnish can be made the day-of.

So I made the soup first. Butternut squash is hard, so make sure you have a sharp knife, sharp peeler, and strong grip. When roasting, make sure you dice vegetables as uniform as possible for even cooking. Metal spoons work wonders at scraping out squash. Save the pulp for a squash bread, especially pumpkins. The seeds can be roasted and salted for a healthy snack! When roasting the squash (see recipe below) toss roasting vegetables in the combination canola oil and EVOO. This mixture lowers the smoke point and help avoid over caramelizing the vegetables. Then I place a small piece of butter at each end of the roasting sheet for the nutty browned butter flavor. Finally, just barely cover the roasted vegetables with vegetable broth. You can always add more, you can’t take it out. However, if your soup becomes more like a puree, thin with more broth. Remember the more you thin, the less seasoning it will have so be sure to continue to taste. Separate into servings and freeze for freshest taste. Thaw the morning-of.

Next I prepped the artichokes. Artichokes have a low yield, so we try our best to avoid cutting the yield down further by wasting much of the plant. Cut the stems off to make the artichokes sit flat on a cutting board. Next cut tips off, at least an inch and a half down the artichoke. Trim the other untrimmed leaves with kitchen sears. Soak in water with fresh squeezed lemons, and be sure to rub the leaves and stem in lemon to prevent discoloration. I’m soaking mine for half a day. When they are done,  I will steam them until the are tender, around half an hour. The day of the book club meeting, I will stuff them and roast them.

For the chicken, the oranges can be sliced the day before. Beware! You will smell like oranges all damn day. The Brussels Sprouts can also be cleaned. I tear the outside leaves off the sprouts, cut the stems off, and slice them in half. Store in water and lemon to prevent discoloration. The chicken can also be cleaned and trussed the night before. Run under cold water, and pat dry. Stuff with garlic cloves, onion halves, lemon and orange halves. Truss chicken to prevent the stuffing falling out.  Rub in butter. Salt and pepper the chicken just before it is cooked. Pan sear for a beautiful golden brown color. For the gravy, make sure you pre-make the veloute base (blonde roux with stock, reduce until thickened. Skim the scum it creates to reduce floury flavor!). Mix veloute base with drippings and reduce.

Finally the fruit. For your fruit salad, make sure you have a good arrangement of fruit. Too many tart fruits together will make your mouth turn inside out (i.e. pineapple, oranges, grapes, green apples, raspberries…). Instead, mix with softer flavors like strawberries, red apples, melons, etc. For the “can”-died pears, we’re using canned fruit so it is already soft. Don’t overcook these, or they will turn to mush. You only want to heat these up. Immediately mix in the butter with spices. Finish with the whiskey. Be careful! Any time you are cooking with a high-alcohol content liquor, there is a chance it will go up in flames! This is called flambe. Don’t panic if it happens. Enjoy the pretty colors! Alcohol burns off very quickly. As long as it stays in the pan, you are safe. If you try to fling it into the sink, you risk spilling it on something that will actually catch fire. Instead, tend it carefully and it will go out.

**Macaron vs Macaroon

Okay let us get one thing straight. There is a difference between these two cookies, so let me educate y’all. For this podcast, Hale graciously cooked us macarons and we put them on a painted foam tree for pictures. However, many people will think they are macaroons, which would be untrue. Many of you may know the double-O Macaroon. This meringue cookie is popular in the US during Passover, and to understand that you need to understand the history of the cookie and how the French macaron became the coconut macaroon you find in cookie tins.

So the “French” Macaron actually came from Sicily (shout out to my fellow Sicilian co-host Hale).  Macaron is actually related to the Italian word ammaccare, meaning “to crush.” This relationship probably refers to the act of crushing almonds into powder, the process necessary for your perfect French Macaron. However, until the 18th century, the cooks in the United States could not get their hands on many nuts or nut powders. Instead they substituted potato starch for a bit of texture, and substituted coconuts for almonds or other nuts, which were more perishable. Because the cookie has no leavening agent, they are considered acceptable for Passover! Thus, we have tins of chocolate dipped coconut macaroons for Passover in the US! However similar in history these cookies are, in the 18th century with the rise of French cuisine, these cookies deviated from each other. Though both are egg white meringue based cookies, the “flour” used is quite different. The French style is said to be more tedious and particular. Below you will see the difference between the coconut macaroon and the French macaron, respectively.

3. Cooking and Final Product

Roasted Chicken with Oranges, Olives, and Brussels Sprouts:



  • Whole chicken (for 3-4 people)
  • 3 Oranges
  • 2 Cans Olives
  • 1 lb Bussels Sprouts halved
  • 1 Small Onion
  • Butter/Oil
  • Salt and Pepper to Taste


  • Preheat oven to 400
  • Clean, stuff, and truss chicken, salt and pepper to taste with a bit of butter rubbed over it
  • Line greased pan with oranges, halved Brussels sprouts, and green olives
  • Place chicken on top
  • Mix orange juice and honey and pour over chicken and everything on roasting tray
  • Roast in oven until done; start checking around the hour point.
  • When the chicken comes out of the oven, save drippings.
  • Mix drippings with veloute sauce. Reduce to desired thickness. Season with salt and pepper, orange juice if needed.
  • If the sauce isn’t thick enough, add a corn starch slurry

Fruit Salad


  • Banana, Papaya, Oranges, Grapes, Watermelon, Honeydew, Cantaloupe, Mango
    • Cut uniformly and serve

Butternut Squash Soup:


  • Cubed squash oiled on a roasting tray with salt and pepper, nutmeg, cinnamon, allspice, rubbed sage, rosemary, and thyme
  • Roast at 400 until tender, about 30 mins
  • Puree with warm vegetable stock to desired thickness
  • Season to taste
  • Garnish with bacon lardons

“Can”-died Pears:


  • Canned pears quartered sautéed with butter and cinnamon/nutmeg
  • Saute in butter until they turn golden, mix in brown sugar
  • Finish with honey whiskey–flambe
  • Top with ice cream

Stuffed Artichoke:



  • 3 large Artichokes (for 4-6 people)
  • Lemons
  • 1 cup Italian Style Bread Crumbs
  • 8-10 Garlic Cloves, chopped
  • 1/2 cup Parsley, Basil chopped
  • 1/2 cup Grated Parmesan Cheese
  • 1/2 cup Grated Romano Cheese
  • Butter/Oil


  • Clean artichoke, soak, steam until tender (see tips above)
  • Mix together breadcrumbs, garlic, herbs, cheese, and melted butter or oil
  • Spoon mixture between leaves of artichoke
  • Roast until brown at about 375 degrees

Macarons (not Macaroons. See note)


For the macaron shells:

  • 300g ground almonds
  • 300g powdered sugar
  • 110g liquefied egg whites (see below)
  • + 300g caster sugar
  • 75g water
  • 110g liquefied egg whites
  • Liquid food dye to splatter: pink, blue and yellow


  • 1 batch fluffy vanilla buttercream frosting
  • 1 drop each of yellow, green, blue, purple, red and orange food gel


For the process, use the directions the creator of this recipe uses. Follow the link below.


For a butter cream recipe, look to our Harry Potter themed birthday cake from last months’ recipes: https://loadedliteraturepodcast.com/2018/07/04/unicorn-blood-and-candy/


Nolite Te Bastardes Carborundorum

It is a phrase that means rebellion. It is a phrase that means resistance. It means dissidence, and upheaval. It means friendship, and solidarity. It means “Don’t let the bastards grind you down!” Most of all, it means hope.


It also doesn’t mean what you think it means.

What started off as a schoolroom Latin joke, has now become a rallying cry of feminism and rebellion. People have tattooed the phrase on their bodies. Think about that! People have permanently tattooed a fake Latin phrase onto their body, because it means so much to so many people. It serves as a reminder that someone out there will always be there to be your friend. It means you aren’t alone.

Of course, like many others, the phrase served as an interest for me as I read the book. Waterford tells us that someone was messing with our narrator, and the phrase is nothing more than that. Even if it is fake, it doesn’t take away from the meaning projected onto it by Handmaid’s Tale fans. So I wanted to give this iconic quote a closer look.

According to both Vanity Fair and Refinery29, the phrase is actually a joke from Atwood’s school days. It is grammatically incorrect, and uses two words that are not Latin at all: ‘bastardes’ and ‘carborundorum’. According to both articles, neither of these words exist in true, ancient Latin. The correct translation would read something similar to “Illegitimi non carborundum” or don’t let the illegitimate grind you down. It just doesn’t pack the same punch.

‘Carborundorum’ is actually a word, it is just an English word given a Latin ending. According to the OED it was first used around the 19th or 20th centuries, with some suggestion it could have been used as advertising language made up to mean “to grind” as in like grains into flour.

The correct version of the phrase, Illegitimi non carborundum, is actually recorded in history. It is attributed to American slang in the early 1900s, and was used as a rallying cry in WWII. Oddly enough, the phrase most recently has appeared on a plaque on former Speaker John Boehner’s desk.

Illegitimi Non Carborundum

Regardless of how bad the Latin is, or how many words are made up, the phrase has meaning to some people. Language changes based on usage, and meanings of words change all the time, i.e. literally. As humans, we have a need to communicate effectively and efficiently, and we tend to make up new words all the time. Imagine asking your great great grandmother to google something for you, or to search the web!

Nolite Te Bastardes Carborundorum means something to us. It means hope.




Handmaid’s Tale Analysis

Novelist. Poet. Critic. Essayist. Inventor. Instructor. Activist. Feminist.

That is who wrote this amazing dystopian novel. Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale has changed people’s lives. It has inspired resistance. Feminists everywhere have adopted the story to serve as a warning. We hear often that dystopian novels give us a glimpse of the extremes of which our society can resort. In 2018, the surveillance of 1984, technology of Brave New World, and censorship of Fahrenheit 451 have never been more prevalent. However, Atwood’s dystopian novel gives us insight into fears of limited women’s rights, and reproductive rights. This book, however unsettling it may be, is worth the read.






Joe Bae: