Weekend Cooking

Weekend Cooking is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book (novel, nonfiction) reviews, cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, fabulous quotations, photographs.

My food thoughts this weekend have been coloured by a passage I read in 100 Days on Holy Island: A Writer’s Exile by Peter Mortimer. He spent some time out at sea in a lobster boat catching not just lobsters but velvet crabs and large brown crabs. They’re brought to shore alive, because as Peter writes;

For some reason, humans consider it the height of culinary sophistication to boil a lobster alive in front of restaurant diners’ eyes. (page 89)

I’m not a vegetarian, although I’m edging that way. And this highlighted, yet again, for me the problem I have with being a carnivore – we have to kill a living being in order to eat it.To be confronted with it in person would be beyond me. I know the arguments for and against but having watched Jamie Oliver on one of his TV series (in Italy I think) kill a sheep I’ve only rarely bought lamb – also remembering my granddaughter’s disbelief that anyone could actually eat lamb!

I like crab but Peter Mortimer’s description of how he dealt with cooking the two crabs he was given at the end of his fishing trip also made me think hard about what I eat:

Millions of creatures and animals were slaughtered every day – humans, too. Here I was, anguishing over a brace of crabs. Except you could read of endless deaths. But needed to see only one.

Something of that morning’s experience, something of fishing’s inevitable brutality, had stayed with me, as if here I was about to square the circle, as if I were destined to perform this act of murder to resolve the day.

The two crabs interlocked their claws, as if seking safety in numbers. Their live presence filled the kitchen and though I turned my back on them it made little difference. (page 91)

He did the inevitable and cooked them, dropping them into cold water and brought them slowly to the boil as he’d read that was the most ‘humane’ way. And then he found that the smell of their boiling was nauseous and

… their clattering noise was intolerable. (page 91)

If I had to catch and kill my meal myself I’d soon become a vegetarian!

The Sunday Salon – Reading to a Deadline

tssbadge1I’m in the middle of a few books, as always, but one book is having to take preference over the others because it’s a library book, due back next Tuesday and I won’t be able to renew it. Well, I could take it back late and pay an overdue fine, but I hate to do that.

The book is The Gargoyle by Andrew Davidson. I wrote a bit about this book in yesterday’s post on Library Loot, where I said that after a few pages I nearly gave up on it because of the graphic descriptions of burning skin and flesh, but that it had got better when the unnamed narrator met Marianne Engel, a wild and compelling sculptress of gargoyles and she starts to tell him tales of the time when they were once lovers in medieval Germany.

The book alternates between recounting their present day life and Marianne Engel’s stories of their past life. The good things I do like about this book are the many references to Dante’s Inferno, which I still haven’t read, the religious references and what life was like in medieval Germany.

gargoyleBut there are annoying things about the book that maybe wouldn’t be so annoying if I could read it more slowly. This is a book with stories within stories – the stories Marianne Engel tells are good, but there are too many of them. When she says “Would you like to hear a story?” I think no, not another one. If I was able to take more time I’d put the book down after reading one of these before going on with the book. As I don’t have that time I find myself reading impatiently, wanting to get on with the main story. For another thing I don’t like reading lots of lists of things – the list of food Marianne brings him to eat for example made me slide my eyes over the page – in the middle of this list the narrator even inserts this in brackets “(just checking to see if you’re still reading)”.  I was  – just.

The pages are suitably black-edged. It looks charred as though it had been burned and because I’m the first person to read the book they’re still stuck together and I have to gently prise them open. They make a crackling noise and slow down my reading – not good for reading to a deadline.

I think the main problems though are that I normally read several books at a time moving from one to the other – it’s a bit like watching different programmes on TV – in several installments. I’m not used to reading only one book. And of course, that terrible feeling of time running out is reminding me of revising for  exams, or of having to finish a report for work. It does really take the enjoyment element away from reading until it starts to feel like a chore.

Me and My Blog (Or Who’s a Silly Blogger Then?)

I’™d been thinking about writing a blog for some time and when my husband set one up for me last year I felt I really should use it. So, feeling extremely nervous and self-conscious I wrote my very first post on 22 July 2006. I was still working full time then and didn’™t write anymore until April this year after I’™d retired.

Basically I am a shy person and at first I found it really difficult to write about what I thought. Who on earth would want to know what I think anyway and why should they? I go to a book group and another member usually asks when we’™re deciding which book to read next ‘œwho is this person and why should we read what they’™ve written?’ Thoughts like these were going through my mind and then I thought well no-one will know what I’™m writing unless I tell them about the blog and I’™ll just write for my own satisfaction and so I began.

Soon I thought this was a bit self-centred and as I got a bit more confident I very, very occasionally dared to add a comment on someone else’™s blog, using my blog name as the contact. I was amazed when someone actually added a comment to my blog and that person was an author ‘“ Linda Gillard, whose book Emotional Geology I’™d mentioned in the post! Brilliant. I didn’™t feel I was writing in isolation anymore and I realised I actually like people to read what I’™m writing and to add their comments.

Stuck In a Book asked in one of his posts what do you call people you only know through blogging? He suggested ‘œe-friends’. Like him I feel a bit embarrassed talking about FRIENDS when I’ve never met them, but what else can you call them? I feel I do know a bit about some of the people whose blogs I visit, well I know what books you like, what food some of you like to eat and to cook, which places you like to go on holiday, and what your other hobbies are apart from reading and writing. I do think of you as ‘œfriends’ and I am so pleased you visit my blog.

Through Site Meter or Google Analytics I have some idea of where you live and how you found me. It’™s broadened my horizons. I now have a much better idea of where countries are and where for example Connecticut is in America and that there is a town called Cheshire in Connecticut (of interest to me because I was born in Cheshire, a county in the north west of England). I am amazed when I see that people from Cyprus, Scandinavia, India, Italy, Australia, Iran, Singapore, Peru and so on have visited me. I feel so much more cosmopolitan.

Most visitors to my blog are from the US and the UK, but surprisingly after that comes Romania. How did they find me? I noticed that the number of visitors rose quite steeply after I wrote about Lewis Carroll and his interest in photography and all the people from Romania had arrived at my blog to read this post, directed from a site called Fototarget, but how did Fototarget find it? Anyway if you’™re reading this in Romania, welcome and I hope you weren’™t too disappointed. I knew very little about photography before but now I’™ve realised that I am very interested in it and its history. If you can get BBC Four a new series started last night called The Genius of Photography. It’™s brilliant and well worth watching.

Another intriguing question is related to some of my posts that have been translated into German and posted on other blogs ‘“ why on earth do they want to do that? My post on Astrid and Veronika is in German on ‘œTravel’ blog, I can’™t imagine why, the book has nothing to do with travel. My last post on the Verneys of Claydon has been translated and put on ‘œHugh Health’ blog. It’™s called ‘œDas Verneys von Claydon’ and this has such a nice ring to it that the book may become called that in my mind from now on. But I think people reading it hoping to find out about health will be surprised to read about the medical practices in seventeenth century England that are described in the post.

So to all my e-friends thank you for visiting and I do hope you’™ll come again and I really like to read your comments.

Red Queen-itis

I feel I’m suffering from Red Queen-itis: “Now, here, you see, it takes all the running you can do, to keep in the same place. If you want to get somewhere else, you must run at least twice as fast as that!” (Through the Looking Glass – Lewis Carroll).

It’s all my own fault, I know, but I’m struggling to read all the blogs I like to visit, read all the books I want to read and write about them, enter all my books into LibraryThing (still not finished) and do all the other things I want to do. When I was working full-time I thought that when I left work I ‘d have lots of time for everything, but it just isn’t like that at all. I can’t think why but I popped into my local library this morning and borrowed two more books. I’d only intended to return some, but at least I returned four and came away with only two.

I’ve spent most of this afternoon just trying to catch up with reading blogs and I’ve so many books I want to read and posts to write and I still haven’t written about Astrid and Veronika. That will have to wait until another day, now.

I didn’t really believe other people when they said that after they left work they didn’t know where the time went or how they ever had time to go to work. I do now!

Me thinks she doth yammer too much!

I’ve just been reading about the letter on the Persephone website that describes blogging as “yammering”.

It seems to me that it’s Persephone that’s doing the yammering – what a silly thing to write. They obviously are oblivious to how pompous and condescending their attitude is. But then, I’ve found this is so in many areas of life. There are always “us” and “them”, whether it’s in a professional situation at work, or socially. That’s just human nature, sadly.

As for me I thought a long time before stating my blog. I’d read others’ and enjoyed them, but hesitated to join in as I thought that I can’t write as well as, say, Litlove at Tales from the Reading Room or Dovegreyreader. But then I love books, libraries, book shops and am always reading and having written factual reports for work for several years that had to be in a certain style and format I wanted to experiment and have a go myself. So BooksPlease it is, because they do please and if you’d asked me when I was a child what I’d like for Christmas or my birthday I’d reply “Books, please”. Still do.