Deep sigh. Settled down a couple of nights ago to talk about my new books but router strength insufficient to reach my iPad in the sitting room. Gave up with frustration, hence the title but the empty page! What I was going to say was……………..
I find myself wanting to start each new page with ‘Its a lovely day’ or ‘When I was walking I was thinking………..’ or ‘The woodburner is blazing and I’m lovely and cosy’. It must sound so self-satisfied. So I just want to de-bunk any notion that we live in some sort of idyll here! Having said that, my work-life balance is much improved since becoming totally self-employed, and I do have more time to think and play around, and experiment with ideas. Monday was a case in point. Having lost my glasses somewhere – (still not found: appeal goes out to daughter with second-sight, who always had a knack of spotting things out of place when she was young) – I was wearing an old pair of varifocals. Got up from the desk and tripped over a small fan heater, and propelled myself at great velocity into the bookshelves on the other side of the room. My cheekbone hit first. I staggered into the kitchen and had a very dramatic howling fit, bent over the work surface, but no-one else was in the house so it was pointless.
But on Tuesday I felt rough so I gave myself the day off. There. Now we are back on track with the story. I spent all day watching the snow fall, drawing and reading my latest collection of Christmas cooking related books. Here’s a few of them.
First there’sThe Grammar of Cooking by Carol Braider. Published in 1974 it is a quirky translation of the shorthand of recipes. I picked it up in the delightful Chapel Books in Westleton. If ever you are in Suffolk, you should make a beeline for it – here’s a review of Chapel Books
2011: from Martin Newell’s “For whom the bells toll”, in the April issue of Suffolk magazine.
“Westleton’s best-kept secret, however, is its extraordinary second-hand bookshop, located in an old chapel on the main road, near the Green. For 30-odd years I’ve popped in there only sporadically. It never changes.
When you walk into the Chapel Bookshop, the first thing you’ll notice is the sweet, dusty smell of old books. There are more books here than you can shake a stick at and yet no one seems to be in attendance.
That’s when you’ll see an old tin with a stick next to it. There’s a hand-written notice which requests that you bang the tin with the stick if you require attention. Now Bob will materialise from a back room, silently – like Mr Tumnus from behind a snow-laded fir tree – and he will ask you if you’d like tea or coffee.
Robert Jackson, the Chapel Bookshop’s softly-spoken eccentric owner, originally wanted to run an art gallery. He fell into running a bookshop, almost by default, he claims. There are old sofas for you to sit upon. The shop seems unguarded, although, there used to be a sign which warned that if you nicked a book, an alarm would go off in your head.
The book stock can be pleasingly esoteric. There are volumes of the Victorian mystic, Madam Blavatsky’s work here, for instance. There’s also a small stock of vintage vinyl records wherein I found, among other things, a first pressing of The BeatlesA Hard Day’s Night. The Westleton bookshop, Dunwich beach and The White Horse pub; no tour operator is ever likely to sell you this package. I would.”
Then there’s Faviken (Magnus Nillson), and a present from Anna. It is a long time since I have been so absorbed by food writing. Faviken http://www.theworlds50best.com/awards/1-50-winners/faviken-magasinet/ is Swedish restaurant set in the middle of nowhere, producing amazing food and with a seasonal philosophy, ageing its own meat well beyond the ‘normal’ and challenging conceptions of food production. It is utterly beautiful and is now on my list of 50 places to go before I shuffle off this mortal coil.
Goat made me laugh outloud. Made more humorous because at the time David and I were sitting in Namaste (a south indian vegetarian eatery in Norwich) having a Masala Dhosa for lunch listening to Hari Krishna piped music. That added to the irony. However the writing is very good. And funny. Goat is the title of the book by the way. Written by Bruce Weinstein and Mark Scarbrough it tells of everything goat. Those familiar with these pages will know I am rather keen on it. Did you know that goat meat is the most widely eaten meat across the globe? 70% of all red meat consumed is goat. I don’t quite know how they know that but it sounds good. OK, enough about goat, but I will definitely test out some of the recipes. Those I liked the look of were The Seven Hour Leg (a long slow spiced roast), baked spinach and goat’s cheese dumplings and Dukka cheesecake.
I own a number of books on Jewish cooking but for some reason have never owned a copy of Claudia Rosen’s The Book of Jewish Cooking. Now I do. I spent about 3 hours last night just leafing through it. First published in 1996 it has become the best of them. One critic said of this book “you can’t better Claudia Roden, last of the scholar/cooks int he tradition of Elizabeth David and Jane Grigson: her books are learned, loving, delicious. The Book of Jewish food is definitive”
That’s all for now. More to come… Raymond Blanc, Denis Cotter, Roast Figs Sugar Snow, Chez Panisse.