Tuesday, December 7, 2010

toast & tender at the bone

I love food, I love books and I love books about food. The public library is a frequent hangout of mine. The good thing about the WA public library is that you can borrow books from all over the state, so it doesn't matter when my suburb's public library doesn't have a copy of a book I want, they'll get it from another public library in the state.

I have always been an average writer, which is why I'm always envious of people who can write beautifully. I wanted to share with you two of the books from these talented authors and hopefully they can inspire you as they have inspired me.

Toast by Nigel Slater is a book about the author's childhood food memories in 1960's Britain. There are a lot of references there that I didn't quite understand, but that's when google came in handy. The book is not all about food, bits of it are actually a bit risqué. Here are two separate paragraphs taken from the book.

Joan's lemon meringue pie was one of the most glorious things I had ever put in my mouth: warm, painfully sharp lemon filling, the most airy pastry imaginable (she used cold lard in place of some of the butter) and a billowing hat of thick, teeth-judderingly sweet meringue. She squeezed the juice of five lemons into the filling, enough to make you close one eye and shudder. The pie was always served warm, so the filling oozed out like a ripe Vacherin.
Thornbury Castle was surrounded by softly striped lawns and rows of Müller-Thurgau vines. As we drove through the arched gateway, we saw a woman approaching the back door with a wicker basket piled high with field mushrooms, and a young girl in jeans and a striped butcher's apron springing back from the walled garden with a handful of dill fronds. Walking towards the front door, me in a rather dodgy sage-green jacket, Andy in blue pinstripe and a tie with a knot as big as my fish, we caught the faintest scent of garlic coming from the open kitchen window. The summer air was still and warm and dense, heavy with garlic, mown grass, lavender, tarragon, framboise and sudden wafts of aniseed.

I enjoyed reading Ruth Reichl's book more than Nigel's. Tender at the Bone captured me right from the very first paragraph. Both Ruth and Nigel are food writers and both are great storytellers. But I relate to the food that Ruth had as a child, more than I do Nigel's. It's also because her memoir is more feel-good, not as dark, definitely funnier and more vivid. Even a passing comment intrigued me, like the guava-and-cream cheese pastry she had in a Puerto Rican coffee shop in New York, or the fried oysters from her Aunt Birdie's wedding. Here are another two separate paragraphs to give you a little taste of the book.

This is a true story.
Imagine a New York City apartment at six in the morning. It is a modest apartment in Greenwich Village. Coffee is bubbling in an electric percolator. On the table is a basket of rye bread, an entire coffee cake, a few cheeses, a platter of cold cuts. My mother has been making breakfast - a major meal in our house, one where we sit down to fresh orange juice every morning, clink our glasses as if they held wine and toast each other with "Cheerio. Have a nice day."
But on Sunday the table was once again set for four, and Monsieur du Croix was smiling with anticipatory glee. The first dish was a clear consommé that tasted as if a million chickens had died to make it. Eating it I suddenly laughed and Monsieur looked quizzically in my direction. I didn't know what to say; I had been thinking of one of my mother's prize dishes, canned consommé chilled until it jelled, topped with sour cream and supermarket salmon caviar. I had to say something, so I blurted out, "I was wondering what happens when you chill this soup." Monsieur looked to the heavens and exclaimed, "She even thinks like a gourmet!"

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