Sunday, 30 January 2011

To Kindle or not to Kindle?

I freely admit I am an obsessive reader.  You know, the sort that reads the label on a marmalade jar over breakfast, the sort that has to scan the back of other peoples newspapers on a bus.  Oh yes, and I simply cannot sleep till I have read for at least half an hour and I never leave the house without a book in my bag - and can I say - jolly useful that has been, too - delayed trains, gruesome waits in the dental surgery or just a boring journey.  So you can but imagine the weight of my bags when I go on holiday.
Last year I went to Argentina (lovely place - hideous plane journey) and I was going for three weeks.  I had a separate suitcase just for the books.  Then I had a bit of a panic attack and spread them over the two bags in case one got lost en route.  Then I had another panic attack in case three books weren't enough for the flight (how right I was.) So.... I can quite see the use of a Kindle. Have I got one? No.  And I don't really know why....A friend of mine (Damian Barr) wrote an article not so long ago claiming 'No-one will ever fall in love with you in a coffee shop whilst you're reading a kindle'  Or words to that effect.  He's very good with words.  And I think he's right.  I love BOOKS. I love the jacket design, the fonts, the turning of the pages, the fact that if you have a favourite book that you re-read, it falls, quite by its own accord to the favourite chapter.  I like second hand books that people scribble on (I once bought a Molly Keane book from a market and it had scribbled in the front - Do not forget eggs, gin and watercress and for God's sake call Maggie) Or that when you buy an ex-library book page 42 has been circled by someone to let themselves know that they've read it.  I enjoy the rustle of paper and the smell of new ink.  I quite like the gluey smell, too. I can live with the odd crumb or two that find their way into it, but I draw the line at a hair.  Eeow.
But.... I heard someone rather high up on Amazon on Radio 4 the other day saying that for every 100 paperbacks that are sold in America, 150 e-books are sold.  Crikey.  But that's America, right?  Enormous place America.  Fewer bookshops per capita and all that.  But still...... Maybe we should look at it this way.  A Kindle for journeys would be useful, no doubt about it, but no-one's gonna fall in love with you whilst reading from it.  Am I going to get one?  Probably.

Thursday, 20 January 2011

One Chicken. Three meals.

There's something very appealing about making something from nothing.  Well, not nothing of course, but very little.  I expect one chicken to make at least three meals for two.  Roast chicken, chicken and leek pie enlivened with some chestnuts perhaps and maybe a risotto.  Then soup. Or at the very least some gorgeously golden home made stock. Or you might want to go the Asian route - chicken with ginger and garlic, or a five spice and pomegranate chicken salad with some fresh mint, the possibilities are pretty endless.  Though a keen cook I have remarkably few cookery books in my kitchen.  I don't know why really - well I do, I suppose.  Sheer laziness on  my part.  I never have all the ingredients for a recipe , I never measure anything, and frankly, I can't be bothered.  But what I do like doing is taking the suggestion of something and making it my own.  A book that has been described as 'The Bible' and  'The best friend you can have in the kitchen' (Nigel Slater) is Leiths Meat Bible by Max Clark & Susan Spaull. It's published by Bloomsbury and is a hefty £40, but goodness me, it's worth it. Unless you're a vegetarian, of course.   Not only does it have everything in it, but the best bit is that after every recipe it tells you what might have gone a bit Pete Tong and how to remedy it. Oh, and also what wine to drink with it. Boned leg of pork with sour cherry and lime stuffing? Roast suckling pig with coriander? Smoked woodcock with broad bean salad? Navarin of lamb? Osso Bucco? Glazed lamb tongues with creamed puy lentils? Pas de problem....  It also tells you how to buy, store, bone, carve and nosh away till your buttons burst.... Beautifully laid out, great photos (but not too many) and top tips.  An all round winner.  Now, where's my carving knife?

Sunday, 9 January 2011


Sometimes it's better to just give up on a book.  Though it pains me to do so.  I can usually finish anything right to the end (skipping if I have to) But not this one.  Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami.  It's not him, it's me, I'm sure. He's been described as 'one of the world's greatest living novelists' By the Guardian, no less. He's written oodles and noodles of books, and has legions of fans, so it really doesn't matter, but, oh crikey... Doomed love, suicide, an expensive clinic set in the mountains of Japan and endless music. What can I say? Just not my cup of tea. And...and I missed the details.  It's painted with a broad stroke and if you are not Japanese, surely half the pleasure in a foreign book is in the detail.  I want to know what the trains are like, what the noodles are, what the mountains are like, but that's all glossed over.... though the concentration of a certain butterfly hair slide that re-occurs with monotonous regularity made me want to scream. 'Foreign' means foreign to ME.  So I want to be swept up in the very foreignness of it, if you see what I mean.  I've never been to Japan, or got lost in Tokyo, or been to a bath house, but I want a book that takes me there (without being a guide book) I want a sense of the place and the people, the smells, the customs, the style and the sheer differences of being there rather than here.
So, I gave up and made a cake instead.  Banana bread with rum soaked fruit and walnuts.  And very delicious it was too. No pictures as my camera is on the blink, but take my word for it.  Every crumb was savoured.