Trying to finish reading all my library books before I fly…
So grateful for NLB’s free renewal service!

Eating for England, by Nigel Slater

First, a picture from a delightful book about food, perfect for Anglophiles.
I happily munched on the writer’s musings on familiar foods like Marmite, the Polo Mint, Quality Street and bread and butter pudding… and new findings like Jaffa Cake and Eating Soldiers, all served with a crisp dose of dry British wit. I like!

Was amazed by how some foods I see as local apparently are British in origin? Like iced gems (麺包花) and lemon puff biscuits (think Khong Guan!). British foodstuffs like Marmite and Polo mints are also part of my childhood memory…

Some parts I enjoyed:
“The French cook with their senses, the Italians with their hearts,
the Spanish with their energy, and the Germans with their appetite.
The British, bless them, cook with their wallets.”

“I have always found a bar of Toblerone almost as difficult to conquer as the mountain peaks its design so clearly represents…
Whatever way you try to tackle it, a Toblerone is an obstacle course.
It can take a few attempts to break a triangle from the nougat-speckled bar without actually hurting your knuckles, and then, when you finally do, you have a piece of pointy chocolate slightly too big for your mouth.”

“While the rest of Europe breathes hot summer colours of ripe, red peppers, garlic and thyme, deep purple aubergines and grilled lamb over each other, we paint an altogether more delicate picture.
One of gentle flavours and pale hues,
of poached salmon and watercress,
cucumber and mint,
strawberries and cherries,
gooseberries and broad beans.
Our summer cooking has none of the rough edges of that of the rest of Europe or Australia,
whose flavours are loud and proud and edged with enough salt to make your lips smart.”

—–

Two other food books I read: Wrestling with Gravy by former New York Times food columnist Jonathan Reynolds and Michael Ruhlman’s The Making of a Chef.  The former is a memoir of “food-worthy anecdotes… seasoned with the zest of cooking, family, eating, and lounging around various tables in tryptophanic stupors.” The latter tells of how Ruhlman enrolled in the Culinary Institute of America with the intention to write the book, offering a good look at what it means to be in cooking school. It was a little weird going in reverse, since I’d read his second book earlier, but still interesting nonetheless.

Wandering further away from the cookery shelves…

Mall Maker by M. Jeffrey Hardwick,, is a biography of architect Victor Gruen, the father of the modern shopping mall. “Throughout Hardwick illuminates the dramatic shifts in American culture during the mid-twentieth century, notably the rise of suburbia and automobiles, the death of downtown, and the effect these changes had on American life. Gruen championed the redesign of suburbs and cities through giant shopping malls, earnestly believing that he was promoting an American ideal, the ability to build a community. Yet, as malls began covering the landscape and downtowns became more depressed, Gruen became painfully aware that his dream of overcoming social problems through architecture and commerce was slipping away. By the tumultuous year of 1968, it had disappeared.”

A Dedicated Follower of Fashion by Holly Brubach. “This collection of 28 fashion essays previously published in “The New York Times Magazine”, “The New Yorker” and “The Atlantic” examines clothing and fashion as part of a larger cultural debate and as a barometer of social and aesthetic change. In essays published during the 1980s and 1990s, the author reflects on a broad range of fashion subjects, from famous designers to designer eyeglasses, from the elegance of a Chanel suit to the decline of elegance itself in the 1990s, from Gianni Versace’s legitimisation of vulgarity to the advent of athletic clothing as a fashion uniform.” Some articles were a little more lengthy than I preferred…

Another book for Anglophiles:  Queuing for Beginners by Joe Moran. “Joe Moran takes a simple but wonderfully imaginative idea, following an ordinary working day from breakfast to bedtime, and uncovers the twentieth-century history of the mundane rituals through which we structure our lives. Nothing escapes his gaze, from cereal packets to chain pubs, and the result is a deft, clever and endlessly fascinating example of social history at its best.” Truly, simple things show so much.

For dessert! I Love my Cloth, a children’s book by Amber Stewart and illustrated by Layn Marlow. A sweet and thoughtful story about Bean, a little rabbit, and her favourite piece of cloth.
(Took some pictures of the book but I can’t find them!)

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