play


I write like
James Joyce

I Write Like by Mémoires, Mac journal software. Analyze your writing!

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!)

I’ve been reading… but haven’t been motivated enough to write about it. (w)

Peter Hunt’s Illustrated Children’s Books took me ages to read, because I couldn’t stop snapping pictures of the lovely pictures. I love illustrations and children’s books! Even after outgrowing my primary school uniform, I continue to browse the children’s section in bookstores and libraries.

On a whim, I picked up Joseph’s Parisi’s 100 Essential Modern Poems. I miss Mr Whitby’s Poetry lessons so much! He was truly one of the most inspiring Literature teachers I’ve ever had. This was a good guide to various poets and their works, but a poem is so much more enjoyable when you do a proper critique.

Sadly, I didn’t enjoy Michael Perry’s Coop as much as I’d expected to. A memoir of his life in the country, it outlines “a year of poultry, pigs and parenting”… interesting, but would have been nice with a lighter touch.

As always, I make sure to pick up a few yummy books from the food shelves. This time, I read Michael Ruhlman’s The Soul of a Chef, Charles A. Baker-Clark’s Profiles from the Kitchen, and my favourite: I Loved, I Lost, I Made Spaghetti by Giulia Melucci.

The Soul of a Chef is Ruhlman’s second book. Divided into three parts, it first deals with the Certified Master Chef exam, “a brutal weeklong cooking marathon that measures the skill levels of professional chefs. The second and third parts of Ruhlman’s book are devoted to the careers of two different chefs, Michael Symon of Cleveland’s Lola Bistro and Thomas Keller of Napa Valley’s legendary French Laundry.” Ahh.. I would love to eat at French Laundry!

Profiles from the Kitchen profiles “15 individuals who have shaped our experiences with food and who have gone beyond popular trends to promote cooking as a craft worth learning and sustaining.” People like Paul and Julia Child, James Beard, M.F.K. Fisher , John T. Edge and Dennis Getto. Comprehensive read on their background, but it lacks the little details and anecdotes which I like. Individual memoirs will be a more satisfying read.

I Loved, I Lost, I Made Spaghetti is quirky, cute and wickedly funny. I like it when people, especially authors, don’t take themselves too seriously. “One by one, Giulia Melucci found boyfriends, fed them well, and established relationships. Thus, she recapitulates the hoary truth about the path to a man’s heart lying through his stomach.” The recipes are laced with lots of humour too. Plus they are weaved in so tightly with her flawless narration (you feel like you are listening to a friend). The recipes all sound workable too.

I couldn’t stop smiling as I read her “Bucatini Amatriciana with MP3 File-Sharing Technology”. She describes how she had to cook while trying to search for an album to play for her finicky then-boyfriend.

“LimeWire wouldn’t open, having died from neglect. I put up a pot of water to boil for pasta, then began to follow the steps to resuscitate it. This took longer than I remembered it taking for Kit, and soon enough the water was boiling. Amatriciana is a simple sauce that can be made while the sauce is cooking, but it gets a heck of a lot more complicated if you try to make it while downloading mp3 file-sharing technology onto your laptop.”

Her recipe:

“Bucatini Amatriciana with MP3 File-Sharing Technology

1 iBook G4
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 slices pancetta
1 small onion
1 Visa card
1 (16-ounce) can chopped tomatoes
Salt
1/2 pound bucatini
1/4 cup freshly grated pecorino

Fill a large pot with water and place over high heat.
Attempt to open LimeWire from the icon on your desktop. Fail.
The Scotsman in the apartment, who is useless with computers but, as we know, is capable of helping with pasta, will retreat to the bathroom for a shower.
Go to the LimeWire website and follow the steps to download the software onto iBook G4. This will take much longer than you think. Water is now boiling, and you haven’t done a thing for the sauce. Leave installation running, go to kitchen, and start sauce.
Heat olive oil in skillet over medium heat; chop pancetta, add it to oil and let it get a little crispy. Meanwhile, chop the onion and add it to the pancetta.
Return to desk to check on installation. Discover that installation of free software is not happening; you will have to upgrade to LimeWire Pro. Retrieve Visa card and type account number in appropriate box; learn what “security code” is.

……

By now, you have forgotten the boiling pasta. Run to the kitchen to taste it; it will be overcooked. You will be ashamed for having failed at everything. Drain immediately, add to sauce. Remove from heat, sprinkle with pecorino.

Serves 2, unsatisfyingly.”

Try it? 😛

1) The Sharper Your Knife, The Less You Cry, by Kathleen Flinn

I can’t remember how many books I’ve read about studying at Le Cordon Bleu, but so far all of them have been pretty engaging. This one too.

“In 2003, Kathleen Flinn, a 36 year-old American living in London, returned from holiday to find that her corporate job had been terminated. Flinn cleared out her savings and moved to Paris to pursue a dream–a diploma from the famed Le Cordon Bleu cooking school.”

This is “the touching and remarkably funny account of Flinn’s transformation as she moves through the school’s intense programme and falls deeply in love along the way. More than two dozen recipes are interwoven within this unique look inside Le Cordon Bleu, amid battles with demanding chefs, competitive classmates and her wretchedly inadequate French.”

One of my favourite paragraphs from the book:

“As in cooking, living requires that you taste, taste, taste as you go along–you can’t wait until the dish of life is done……In reality, there is no station, no place to arrive at once and for all. The joy of life is the trip, and the station is a dream that constantly outdistances us.

How many tears did I cry because I didn’t know what I wanted? ‘The sharper your knife,’ as Chef Savard had said, ‘the less you cry.’ For me, it also means to cut those things that get in the way of your passion and of living your life the way it’s meant to be lived.”

2) The Importance of Being Trivial–In Search of the Perfect Fact, by Mark Mason

I LOVE THIS BOOK. I love trivia (which, of course, is not at all trivial)!

As the author put it, “It seems the world is divided into two camps: the camp which loves the fact that a jiffy is the name given in computing to a hundredth of a second, and the camp which doesn’t.” Obviously, I belong to the first!

I practically devoured the analysis of trivia, and the numerous nuggets of information sprinkled generously along the way. (An HB pencil will draw a line 35 miles long! Countries at the United Nations are seated alphabetically. Dolphins have more teeth than any other mammals? Sting wrote ‘Every Breath You Take’ at the same desk where Ian Fleming sat to write the Bond novels! Heinz ketchup flows at 0.7 miles a day. Carlsberg Special Brew was invented for Winston Churchill, as a thank you from Denmark for Britain’s help in the war! I could go on and on and on.. but you see what I mean. 😛 )

Too excited to think, let me just copy what’s on the back of the book:

“Convinced that our love of trivia must reveal something truly important about us, Mark Mason sets out to discover what that something is. In the process, he asks the fundamental questions that keeps all trivialists awake at night. Why is it so difficult to forget that Keith Richards was a choirboy at the Queen’s Coronation when it’s so hard to remember what we did last Thursday? Are men more obsessed with trivia than women? Can it be proved that flies hum in the key of F? Can anything ever really be proved? And the biggest question of all: is there a perfect fact, and if so what is it?”

I happily followed the author on his quest for “the perfect fact”, relishing every single bit of trivia along the way. I LOVE THIS BOOK. XD (Yamamoto san, I think you will like it too!) Fact can truly be stranger than fiction (pardon the cliche).

Now let me go read it again!

3) The Widow’ Season, by Laura Brodie

Still excited by the thought of reading the trivia book all over again, I’ll settle for copying the introduction from Publishers’ Weekly:

“When Sarah McConnell’s husband of 17 years dies in a kayaking incident, she is left widowed and childless at the age of 39. But David’s body is never recovered, and after three months of seeing glimpses of her husband at the grocery store and her home, Sarah wonders whether she really is a widow. On Halloween night, David shows up at her front door and offers a plausible explanation for his absence, and Sarah is, understandably, relieved yet also distraught—since she’s the only person who has seen him, is he real? Or is she going crazy? Brodie expertly walks the line between reality and fantasy, life and death, heartache and love, leaving readers hoping for the best and prepared for the worst—without ever really knowing the truth—until the final five pages.”

A faintly disturbing story… interesting read, but not something I’ll like to read a second time.

4)  Made from Scratch–Discovering the Pleasures of a Handmade Life, by Jenna Woginrich

From Amazon.com:

“Starting off as a young, single woman with a desk job and a city apartment, Jenna Woginrich set out to build a more self-sufficient lifestyle by learning homesteading skills. She didn’t own land or have much practical experience beyond a few forays into knitting and soap making, but she did have a strong desire to opt out of what she saw as a consumer-driven culture. After moving across the country to a rented farmhouse in northern Idaho, she learned to raise chickens, keep bees, and grow her own food.”

“It’s almost two books in one: each chapter (for example, the one in which she tells us about her early misadventures in chicken raising) is accompanied by a brief guide to its subject (in this case, she talks about the importance of selecting a breed, choosing the right food, and providing a proper, poultry-friendly environment). The book, therefore, is simultaneously a lighthearted fish-out-of-water, city-girl-turns-homesteader memoir and a more serious primer on making a lifestyle change. Perfect for environmentally conscious, do-it-yourself readers. –David Pitt”

I’m not likely to be a homesteader anytime soon, but I really enjoyed this book, especially the chapters on growing vegetables, rearing chickens (and rabbits! no, not for meat, Tanaka-san!) and keeping bees. Apparently, vegetables, bees and chickens form a simple farm ecosystem that works wonderfully. Honeybees (pollinators) and hens (pest-removers) help the garden to thrive and chicken waste can be used for the garden. Along the way, you get honey and eggs and fruits and veges. 😀

Read more about the author’s homesteading life at her blog.

5) Little Pink Slips, by Sally Koslow

I’m strangely drawn to chick lit featuring media people. (Why do so many chick lit stories feature media people?) This one is about Magnolia, an editor whose beloved magazine turns into “the playtoy of an overblown celebrity talkshow host… a loudmouthed, opinionated woman (sound familiar?) with no magazine experience, and now Magnolia must kowtow to her so she can keep her job. On the heels of The Devil Wears Prada (2003), Koslow presents another dishy and delightful insider’s view of the elite in magazine publishing.”

Pleasant read… Great for plane rides.

This is really cool!
(Twitter is great for media junkies.)

I couldn’t upload the video but please check it out here!

Pixar: 20 Years of Animation

“John Lasseter says that it takes three things to make an animated film:
world, character and story.
In the simplest sense, that is the heart of this exhibit,
the handmade designs for the worlds, characters and stories of Pixar’s first twenty years of filmmaking.”

The Incredibles!

A series of shorts
(one of my favourite parts of watching a Pixar film)

“At Pixar, we realize we are associated, in many people’s experience, with computers.
We do use computers in the making of our films.
However, at the center of everything we do is the love of story and the wonderful pictures that help tell the story.
The computer lets us create worlds and characters that otherwise we could only dream of enjoying.
The computer lets us invite you into the dream to dream along with us.
The computer is where we finish our stories.”

From a video clip showing clearly how each and every single component is carefully crafted.

In love with the artwork.

“As with all storytelling, we begin in the imagination, with an idea.
Then we turn to traditionally trained artists and sculptors, who start with blank paper and lumps of clay.
Handmade art — made using the same ancient tools available before writing existed,
like drawing and painting and sculpture —
brings the vision of our stories to life.”

DeAnn, an instructor at Pixar University,
says doing the preliminary work by hand is an economical way of brainstorming.
If all the conceptualization and idea-tossing were done on the computer,
it would be much more expensive.


“Cars” in resin clay.


A model of Wall-E, produced by a 3D printer.
Sculptures like these are a great reference for the various departments,
all working simultaneously on different aspects of the film.


So many possibilities for Edna!


A “fish wall” showing all the different fishes in Nemo’s world.
(Note the file names when you visit.  Really cute!)

At the Zoetrope:
The spinning starts!


The miracle of animation!


Monsters!


Unbelievably cute.

Artscape,
a 3D world of 2D images giving you a peek into the mind of an animator…


I’m guessing this is a good time to visit since most students are still in school.
The Science Centre will probably be really crowded during the holidays!

Adult/child tickets at $21/$16.
Pay $3 more to watch a 3D movie
(Toy Story in April, Toy Story 2 in May, Up in June).

More details here!

1) Never Order Chicken on a Monday, by Matthew Evans

“Beginning with his childhood in Canberra and his growing love of food (not to mention his penchant for cooking imitation vomit to guarantee a sickie from school), Matthew charts his early ventures as a chef, his bold move to the review pages, and his editorship of The Sydney Morning Herald Good Food Guide=and finishes by explaining why he now loves to cook at home.”

Readable but not very appealing.. This rates somewhere in the middle of all the chef biographies I’ve read. Somehow it lacks the sparkle and wit of Ruth Reichl or Dalia Jurgensen.

2) 1Q84 Book 2, 村上春樹

I chanced upon this in the library and read it without realizing that there actually is a Book 1. (Somehow I thought Book 2 was part of the title? -_- ) I couldn’t really grasp the significance of the plot initially.. but it got better and I’m now looking forward to Book 3. I should probably read Book 1 first, though.

More about the book here.

My favourite line from the story: “不說明就不明白的事情,是說明了也不會明白的事情。。”

3) The Last Bachelor, by Jay McInerney

“An astonishingly funny and poignant collection of short stories from Jay McInerney-the master of modern American prose-which, in true McInerney style, examines post 9/11 America in all its dark and morally complex glory…

… From the streets of downtown New York during the 2003 anti-war march and the lavish hotel rooms of the wealthy social elite, to a husband and wife who share their marital bed with a pot-bellied pig, the characters in these stories-steeped in betrayal and infidelity-search for meaning while struggling against each other, colliding as the old world around them fractures and dissolves into a modern era full of new uncertainties, where ghosts of loss hang in the air.”

Great commute read. Every story is clever and concise, imaginative yet thoroughly believable. (Or like in the case of Pixar, unrealistic yet believable). I could read this two or three times without getting bored.

Next Page »