Things I have been reading lately…

January 14, 2008 at 4:09 pm Leave a comment

Got some interesting books for Christmas, bought some with Christmas money and have swiped things off all and sundry lately. Thought I might share some with you, as have been very much enjoying curling up with a book on these wintry evenings.


‘Taste’ by Kate Colquhoun inspired last Friday’s dinner. In an uncharacteristic nod to tradition, we had fish on Friday – we defrosted some salmon steaks. I had read in this book that the Romans used to make sauces for salmon using ground almonds and white wine, so I thought, ‘Well, I have some ground almonds… I have some white wine…’ and armed with the knowledge gained from 10 minutes googling ‘salmon’ and ‘almonds’ I proceeded to create a sauce entirely as an experiment, using ground almonds, white wine, an onion, the juice of a lemon and a teensy bit of sugar. If I’d had some cream, I’d have added that too.

Britain’s food history seems to start fairly uninspiringly, dwelling on the Roman obsession with eating roasted cow’s vulva’s and things (eurgh!), but otherwise I have found it extremely interesting thus far, with lots of exciting snippets of information about Saxon peasant farmers, medieval banquets and the introduction of the fork.

‘Cod’ by Mark Kurlansky is also really interesting. I never realised how much of history depended on cod! Cod was vital to the slave trade and American Independence, among other things. I mocked my dad resoundingly when he asked for this for his birthday about 10 years ago (I was young and foolish) but it’s actually really interesting and really well-written – which in itself can sometimes make something that may not seem that interesting captivating. It has this great little poem in it too:

The codfish lays a thousand eggs
The homely hen lays one
The codfish never cackles
To tell you what she’s done.
And so we scorn the codfish
While the humble hen we prize
Which only goes to show you
That it pays to advertise.

I was going to use this as the basis for a long post about all the chicken programmes last week, overfishing, and the influence of ‘advertising’ (or creating publicity for a cause), but even I am slightly fed up with all the talk about animal welfare, supermarkets and the socioeconomics of food. Yes, even I. I never thought I would say that.*

These last three (‘The Illustrated Wise Words and Country Ways’ by Ruth Binney, and ‘Eating for Victory’ and ‘Make Do and Mend’, which are collections of public service leaflets distributed in WW2) are basically pretty books that are interesting to leaf through and have on your shelf! ‘Wise Words etc’ has lots of old sayings and superstitions and examines them to see if they are true, and finds out that a lot of them were. ‘Eating for Victory’ has lots of thrifty recipes – I thought it was going to be full of vegetable gardening tips for beginners, which was why I bought it – which is interesting, but I think I prefer ‘Make Do and Mend’, which showed me how to mend my pyjama sleeve – you can’t see where I’ve done it or anything. =)

Anyway, if, like me, you have been watching far more telly than usual, thanks to C4’s food season, Sense and Sensibility and Lark Rise to Candleford, then I hope some of these will provide a pleasant antidote! I’m also reading the latest Jasper Fforde and picked up ‘The Dice Man’ in a charity shop the other day, but these have nothing to do with the blog….

*Though I was encouraged to notice in Waitrose this morning that there was a huge dent in the free range and organic poultry sections and many of the ‘standard’ birds, even the ones on special offer, were still on the shelves. But then, I noticed the same thing back in September. Wanted a chicken and was annoyed there weren’t any free range birds left. Then had to remind myself this was a good thing.

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Entry filed under: books.

Soup Dammit…

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The Heritage Crafts Network

Rob Hopkins, Transition Handbook

“Environmentalists have often been guilty of presenting people with a mental image of the world’s least desirable holiday destination – some seedy bed and breakfast near Torquay, with nylon sheets, cold tea and soggy toast – and expecting them to get excited about the prospect of NOT going there. The logic and the psychology are all wrong.”

Barbara Kingsolver, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle

"Food is that rare moral arena in which the ethical choice is generally the one more likely to make you groan with pleasure."

Carlo Petrini

"A gastronome who is not also an environmentalist is an idiot. An environmentalist who is not also a gastronome is, well, sad."

Sharon Astyk

"I am, of course, firmly opposed to consumerism and corporatism in all its forms, and I believe that we are deeply confused about material needs and wants. Now let me explain how books and yarn are totally different than the material things that other people want ;-)…."

Raj Patel, at Slow Food Nation

"Biofuels, which is the preposterous policy that we should grow food not to eat it but to set it on fire."

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