The Pedant in the Kitchen – Julian Barnes

Standard
The Pedant in the Kitchen – Julian Barnes

I love Julian Barnes! He is a classy author. This was hilarious and very well written. Even though, none of the cookbooks mentioned in the book is for me because I’m a vegetarian, I enjoyed it so much.

A friend of mine is waiting to borrow it from me. She’ll bring it back, no doubt about that but if Kindle version becomes available, I’d like to keep that version and she can keep the paperback then.

Here’s my favourite lines from the book:
“Artists should have their tongues cut out.” Matisse

Those who can, cook; those who can’t, wash up. And while we’re about it: pedantry and non-pedantry only of temperament, not of culinary skill. Non-pedants frequently misunderstand pedants and are inclined to adopt an air of superiority. ‘Oh, I don’t know recipes,’ they will say, as if cooking from a text were like making love with a sex-manual open at your elbow.

It starts with simple words. How big is a ‘lump’, how voluminous is a ‘slug’ or a ‘gout’, when does a ‘drizzle’ become rain?

So much for the oral tradition. Anyway, I had a go at this authorised version, and it made a bowl of beautifully pink semolina sludge with some indissoluble lumps in the bottom. It tasted like a vaguely nutritious wallpaper paste.

This is Davidism with a human face and a smile of complicity.

Perhaps, as well as cooking time and number of portions, recipes should also carry a Depression Probability rating. From one to five hangman’s noose.

…tasted wonderful, but it looked like something regurgitated.

Lesson Two: that the relationship between professional and domestic cook has similarities to a sexual encounter. One party is normally more experienced than the other; and either party should have the right, at any moment, to say, ‘No, I’m not going to do that.’

You never step into the same stream twice, and a cook never steps into the same recipe twice.

‘Typical bloody recipe,’ I sympathised, and urged the application of Pedant’s Rule 15b. this lays down that when quantities of an ingredient are left unspecified, you should add a lot of any item you like, a little of what you’re less keen on, and none at all of what you don’t fancy.

It’s practically a dictionary definition. Cooking is the transformation of uncertainty (the recipe) into certainty (the dish) via fuss.

Olney comes to the conclusion that ‘simplicity is a complicated thing’. The modern mantra goes, ‘If food is not simple, it is not good.’ Olney prefers its inversion: ‘If food is not good, it is not simple.’

‘A failure is no disgrace and may very often be more instructive than a success.’

Maybe it’s something to do with the words themselves. ‘Swede’ sounds more edible—sort of half mashed already—in English; whereas ‘le rutabaga’ is a chewily indigestible mouthful of phonemes. Ditto ‘le topinambour’, whose outsides happen to contain the word ‘tambour’ (‘drum’), thus seeming to hint at the timpani-bursts of colonic venting that a really forceful Jerusalem artichoke gives rise to. The ‘Jerusalem’ part—while we’re on the subject of misleading etymologies—doesn’t refer to any supposed place of origin, but is a mishearing of the French ‘girasol’, ‘sunflower’, which is generically related to the fartichoke.

All his life the funeral connotations simply overrode his taste buds.

In those days too we boiled beetroot in aluminium saucepans, having taken care to twist off the tops rather than cut them, as this would cause only mild bleeding rather than the full haemorrhage; now we roast them in a slow oven, no more than gas mark 1 or 2, and little blood escapes.

Everything has its fashion cycle; even simple, necessary things.

All too often, high anxiety destroys the pleasures of anticipation, drink half-obliterates the moment itself, and the sort of hangover that makes it seem as if the washing-up keeps reproducing itself behind your back diminishes the recollection.

…when my yeast fantasies were on the rise…

But you can’t really know what you want until you’ve got it wrong the first time. (Some apply that same principle to marriage.)

Gross errors typical of ‘so-called modern kitchens’ would be avoided. Amazingly many are designed with ‘refrigerators next to the cooking stove. This seems to me almost as mad as having a wine-rack above it.’ The perfect Elizabeth David kitchen would, in summary, ‘be more like a painter’s studio furnished with cooking equipment than anything conventionally accepted as a kitchen’.

Advertisements

Sula – Toni Morrison

Standard

5 sula

“It is sheer good fortune to miss somebody long before they leave you.” So says Toni Morrison in the beginning of her book…

He knew the smell of death and terrified of it, for he could not anticipate it. It was not death or dying that frightened him, but the unexpectedness of both.

All the old vulnerabilities, all the old fears of being somehow flawed gathered in her stomach and made her hands tremble.

The more he thought about marriage, the more attractive it became. Whatever his fortune, whatever the cut of his garment, there would always be the hem—the tuck and fold that hid his ravelling edges; a someone sweet, industrious and loyal to shore him up.

Her parents had succeeded in rubbing down to a dull glow any sparkle or splutter she had.

If milk could curdle, God knows robins could fall.

In whose view inadequacy was mere idiosyncrasy, a character trait rather than a deficiency?

Even Nel’s love for Jude, which over the years had spun a steady gray web around her heart, became a bright and easy affection, a playfulness that was reflected in their lovemaking.

…a rib-scraping laugh

“The real hell of Hell is that it is forever.”

So they laid broomsticks across their doors at night and sprinkled salt on porch steps.

In a way, her strangeness, her naiveté, her craving for the other half of her equation was the consequence of an idle imagination. Had she paints, or clay, or knew the discipline of the dance, or strings, had she anything to engage her tremendous curiosity and her gift for metaphor, she might have exchanged the restlessness and preoccupation with whim for an activity that provided her with all she yearned for. And like an artist with no art form, she became dangerous.

The narrower their lives, the wider their hips.

Their children were like distant but exposed wounds whose aches were no less intimate because separate from their flesh.

You own the world and the rest of us is renting.

It was as though he no longer needed to drink to forget whatever it was he could not remember. Now he could not remember that he had ever forgotten anything.

She had looked at her children and knew in her heart that that would be all. That they were all she would ever know of love. But it was a love that, like a pan of syrup kept too long on the stove, had cooked out, leaving only its odor and a hard, sweet sludge, impossible to scrape off. For the mouths of her children quickly forgotten the taste of her nipples, and years ago they had begun to look past her face into the nearest stretch of sky.

Lonely, ain’t it?
Yes, but my lonely is mine. Now your lonely is somebody else’s. Made by somebody else and handed to you. Ain’t that something? A secondhand lonely.”

It was a fine cry – loud and long – but it had no bottom and it had no top, just circles and circles of sorrow.

When you gone to get married? You need to have some babies. It’ll settle you.’
‘I don’t want to make somebody else. I want to make myself.’

She had been looking all along for a friend, and it took her a while to discover that a lover was not a comrade and could never be – for a woman. And that no one would ever be that version of herself which she sought to reach out to and touch with an ungloved hand. There was only her own mood and whim, and if that was all there was, she decided to turn the naked hand toward it, discover it and let others become as intimate with their own selves as she was.

There, in the center of that silence was not eternity but the death of time and a loneliness so profound the word itself had no meaning. For loneliness assumed the absence of other people, and the solitude she found in that desperate terrain had never admitted the possibility of other people. She wept then. Tears for the deaths of the littlest things: the castaway shoes of children; broken stems of marsh grass battered and drowned by the sea; prom photographs of dead women she never knew; wedding rings in pawnshop windows; the tiny bodies of Cornish hens in a nest of rice.”

“Being good to somebody is just like being mean to somebody. Risky. You don’t get nothing for it.”

Because each had discovered years before that they were neither white nor male, and that all freedom and triumph was forbidden to them, they had set about creating something else to be.

“… social conversation was impossible for her because she could not lie.”

Love, Chloe – Alessandra Torre

Standard

I am a woman. I don’t always act rationally, especially when it’s a week before my period, my brain was still strung out from orgasms, and I was looking at another woman’s lipstick on my man.

Life isn’t the bitch we should all fear. It’s love.

Not since last week, when the easy wealth I’d enjoyed my whole, pampered life ended faster than a Taylor Swift relationship.

Closure. Such an odd concept. Did relationships really need it? Or was it just an excuse for one last glimpse at what could have been?

In the world of fight or flight, I froze in place and got eaten.

This man who was not good for me. This man who had a thousand faithful and dedicated bones in his body, but four or five wildly promiscuous ones, bones that jump out of order occasionally and had their fun. Bones that shattered promises, ruined happily-ever-afters, and broke apart soul mates.

I wasn’t dipping into blue-collar territory, no matter how hot the man was. That just wasn’t my style, not in a city that had millionaires on every corner. But he was certainly nice window dressing. And I might dip my toe into that pool once or twice this summer, just to taste that poison. Just to have it on my skin.

I love you, Chloe. Everything else fades away from that.

First kisses were often last kisses also.

“… and noticed his eyes, they stayed on me whenever I spoke – almost intimidating in their focus. He was actually listening to me, not just waiting for a chance to speak, his focus one hundred percent on me. It felt odd, a man paying such rapt attention to me, and I tried to remember the last time I had such complete attention, without eyes darting to a phone, or a sentence interrupted, details lost.”

Sometimes we all need protection from ourselves.

I’d spent my whole life trying to impress people. Maybe that was the start of my fall, the last two decades one plush float into the depths of shallow, insecure, hell.

4 love, chloe

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks – Rebecca Skloot

Standard

the immortal life of henrietta lacks

Like the Bible said,’ Gary whispered, ‘man brought nothing into this world and he’ll carry nothing out. Sometimes we care about stuff too much. We worry when there’s nothing to worry about.

But I tell you one thing, I don’t want to be immortal if it mean living forever, cause then everybody else just die and get old in front of you while you stay the same, and that’s just sad.

She’s the most important person in the world and her family living in poverty. If our mother is so important to science, why can’t we get health insurance?

When he asked if she was okay, her eyes welled with tears and she said, “Like I’m always telling my brothers, if you gonna go into history, you can’t do it with a hate attitude. You got to remember, times was different.

Some things you got to release. Gary said. The more you hold them in, the worse you get. When you release them, they got to go somewhere else. The Bible says He can carry all that burden.

I keep with me all I know about you deep in my soul, because I am part of you, and you are me.

Trafficked: The Diary of a Sex Slave – Sibel Hodge

Standard

Trafficked: Diary of a Sex Slave is a novella purely written to raise awareness in human trafficking. Being an important subject, I just wish it were written better.

12337158

Book description from Goodreads:
My name is Elena and I used to be a human being. Now I am a sex slave.
If you are reading this diary then I am either dead or I have managed to escape…

****

Trafficked: The Diary of a Sex Slave is a gritty, gripping, and tear-jerking novella, inspired by real victims’ accounts and research into the sex trafficking underworld. It’s been listed as one of the Top 40 Books About Human Rights by Accredited Online Colleges.

It is estimated that 800,000 people are trafficked across international borders every year – 80% of these are women and girls. (Source: U.S. Department of State, Trafficking in Persons Report: 2007)