HOLIDAY READING REPORT PART ONE
Among my holiday reading were the following titles:The Greatest Game Ever Played
- Mark Frost Time Warner NZ$32.00The Passion
- Jeanette Winterson Vintage NZ$23.00Big Sky – A collection of Canterbury Poems
– Ed. Bernadette Hall, James Norcliffe
Shoal Bay PressThe Boy in the Striped Pyjamas
- John Boyne David Fickling Books NZ$34.95Cook with Jamie
- Jamie Oliver – Michael JosephDaily Italian
- Tobie Puttock LanternKitchen Garden Cooking with Kids
– Stephanie Alexander Lantern
A brief comment on each follows:THE GREATEST GAME EVER PLAYED
This is an interesting one because I am not a golfer and this book is entirely about golf. However a friend said to me that this was a great book, one of the best he has ever read, and that even if you were not a golfer then you would enjoy it.
The other thing that intrigued me is that Mark Frost was the executive story writer on the celebrated television series “Hill Street Blues” and was the creator and executive director of “Twin Peaks”. Not a bad record. And as well he had three novels published in the 1990’s.
The book I am talking about here was first published in 2002 and was subsequently made into a movie with the same name in 2005 by the author for Disney Studios. So you golfers out there may care to hire the DVD.
The Greatest Game Ever Played is largely about the US Open championship of 1913 which was a defining moment in golf history. It was the first time an American golfer had defeated a British golfer, Harry Vardon, who at the time was rated the best player in the game.
Sounds boring? Well as I said I am not a golfer but I was totally drawn into this story, it reads like a thriller, it is brilliantly told by Frost, (he must have done a huge amount of research), and I would warmly recommend it to anyone who has even the slightest interest in golf. Almost 500 pages so a big read.THE PASSION
This slender volume, I guess you could call it a novella, was first published in 1987 but has more recently been published as a Vintage paperback.
This is how it starts:
It was Napoleon who had such a passion for chicken that he kept his chefs working around the clock. What a kitchen that was, with birds in every state of undress; some still cold and slung over hooks, some slowly turning on the spit, but most in wasted piles because the Emperor was busy.
It was my first commission. I started as a neck wringer and before long I was the one who carried the platter through inches of mud to his tent.
The Passion is the story of Henri, a young Frenchman who has gone to fight in the Napoleonic wars, and of Villanelle, a cross dressing Venetian woman born with webbed feet and of the intertwining of their lives.
In a brief introduction to the book the author says “The Passion is not history, except so much as all our lives are history. The Passion is not romance, except in so much as all our lives are marked by men and women with whom we fell in love………..”
An unusual but brilliantly imaginative piece of writing. Read it in a few hours.
Great pity about the appalling quality of the printing and production. Random House should be ashamed to treat one of the great modern authors in this way. And $23.00 seems to me to be a lot for such a small book.BIG SKY – a collection of Canterbury poems
A delightful anthology of Canterbury poems published in 2002 but has only just come my way. The poets included, almost 70 of them, range from the very well known to previously unpublished and collectively represent a celebration of the long slender province that is Canterbury.
Whenever I am in Christchurch I stay across at Governors Bay and the view of the city in the morning as one comes down from the hills is one of my favourites.
Here is Arnold Wall on the subject:The City from the Hills
There lies our city folded in the mist,THE BOY IN THE STRIPED PYJAMAS
Like a great meadow in the early morn
Flinging her spears of grass up through the white films,
Each with its thousand thousand-tinted globes.
Above us such an air as poets dream,
The clean and vast wing-winnowed clime of Heaven.
Each of her streets is closed with shining Alps.
Like Heaven at the end of long plain lives.
It is very difficult to describe this astonishing book without giving away the story so instead I am going to quote the quite brief inside cover blurb which I believe best sums it up:
“The story is very difficult to describe. Usually we give some clues about the book on the jacket, but in this case we think that would spoil the reading of the book. We think it important that you start to read without knowing what is about.
If you do start to read this book, you will go on a journey with a nine-year-old boy called Bruno. (Though this book isn’t a book for nine-year-olds.) Anmd sooner or later you will arrive with Bruno at a fence.
Fences like this exist all over the world. We hope that you will never have to encounter such a fence.”
I will just add a couple of things – the author was born in Ireland in 1971 and this is his 4th novel to be published. The publisher of the hard back edition of the book is David Fickling, a former colleague of mine, and one of Britain’s finest publishers of books for young adults.
The title is now available in paperback. I chose to buy the hardcover edition and I’m pleased I did so because this is a book I will keep and treasure. I do not exaggerate when I say that I was stunned by this piece of writing and it will be along time I suspect before I can get it out of my mind. Haunting.
Thanks to my barrister friend David for bringing it to my attention and then badgering me until I had read it. You were right David, it is a great piece of writing. And what a powerful message.COOK WITH JAMIE
He is everywhere! On TV, publishing one or two new books each year, travelling the world, opening new restaurants, being a parent, making TV commercials, writing magazine articles, appearing on TV chat shows – the ubiquitous Jamie Oliver.
And in spite of all this exposure, and the negative stuff flying around about him being a pseudo Cockney etc, I remain a huge admirer of his talent, his humanity, his concern for the less fortunate and for his sheer ability to teach cooking while still gaining much pleasure himself and at the same time bringing joy to would-be chefs like me.
Bring it on Jamie!
I suspect I own every book he has published to date and I’m pleased to say I have cooked out of them all too. His recipes have straightforward instructions and the results are always pleasing. I even cooked a dish for 12 people out of “jamies’ italy” while in Italy last year celebrating a friend’s 50th birthday – grilled and roasted pork - page 214-5. And it went down a treat. The only slight problem was a language one, explaining to the butcher the meat required – 2 kg pork loin, boned with the skin removed.
This new book, his largest and most expensive to date, (not sure on the price as it was a gift but it looks like $70-$80 worth),(later - just beeen informed it is NZ$79.95), is a large hardcover edition sub-titled My Guide To Making You a Better Cook. It’s a book for all layperson cooks but I reckon it makes the ideal gift for children or grandchildren when they leave home to seek their way in the wider world and have to start cooking and catering for themselves and others rather than relying on having it done for them by other family members.
He starts with the basics of food, shopping, and cooking with great ingredients, utensils required and then come all the fabulous recipes under chapter headings such as salads, pasta, meat, fish, vegetables, desserts.
For New Zealand blog readers I would describe it as being like a sumptuous, beautifully designed and illustrated Edmonds Cookbook but with a whole lot more besides.
Because family and friends know I am an avid collector of cookbooks I tend to be given quite a few at Christmas. Like the Jamie Oliver title above this was also a gift.
And this has a very strong Jamie Oliver collection because the author, Tobie Puttock, met Jamie Oliver while they were both working at London’s famed River Café .
In 2001 Tobie became head chef at Jamie’s acclaimed Fifteen, a restaurant venture established to help disadvantaged youngsters become industry professionals.
Then late in 2006 Tobie opened Fifteen in Melbourne thus returning to the city of his birth and where he first entered the restaurant business at one of my all time favourite Melbourne hang outs , Café e Cucina.
This book, as one has come to expect with titles published under the Lantern imprint, is beautifully designed and profusely illustrated. Puttock’s recipes are easy to follow with straightforward instructions.
If you are lucky enough to be near the coast and have been collecting cockles, pipis, tuatuas or clams then his “Spaghetti cooked in a bag with clams, chilli and chardonnay” on pages 72-73 provides an interesting variation on the way you have probably prepared this sort of dish previously.KITCHEN GARDEN COOKING
I promise this is the last cookbook I will mention today! Stephanie Alexander is of course one of the towering figures of the Australia gourmet scene and one of their most highly acclaimed food writers. For 21 years from 1976 she was the genius chef behind Stephanie’s Restaurant in Hawthorn. I once had the joy of eating at this landmark establishment which is credited with having revolutionized fine dining in Melbourne. From 1997 to 2005, along with several friends, she ran the Richmond Hill Café & Larder which was always a great place to have breakfast and to buy cheese. She has written 11 books but this one is very different from her previous books.
In 2001 she initiated the Kitchen Garden at Collingwood College, a large inner-city school. This is a garden and cooking programme whereby hundreds of children plant, grow, harvest, cook and eat the very best kind of food – freshly grown, organic, unprocessed and delicious.
The book contains 120 recipes all specially written for children, (this didn’t stop me making several of the dishes!), although the dishes are anything but standard children’s fare. Lovely gift for a special child in your life.
Part Two of my holiday reading will follow shortly.