Thursday, September 23, 2021

Music A to Z: Q

Welcome to this week's edition of my Music A to Z feature. Each week on Thursday, I am going to share a song where either the song or the artist name begins with the letter for that week. This week, the letter is....


I Want to Break Free by Queen - The hardest part of this weeks post is choosing song to use by Queen. I've been to see Queen and Adam Lambert live in concert a couple of times now! So good. They were the last concert that we saw before all this COVID 19 craziness began. 

Queen of Hearts by Juice Newton - Love this song!

Do you have any Q songs or artists? Share them in  the comments.

Tuesday, September 21, 2021

Top Ten Tuesday: Books on my Spring TBR list







Welcome to this week's edition of Top Ten Tuesday which is hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl. This week's theme is Books on my Spring TBR List. 

The Last of the Apple Blossoms by Mary-Lou Stephens - This is going to be my book club book for this time. We are doing a read on the theme bookclub as opposed to having a specific book to read. The theme this time is Spring.

The Fossil Hunter by Tea Cooper - I loved The Cartographer's Secret when I read it earlier this year so I am looking forward to this one a lot.

Outback Secrets by Rachael Johns - Even when I wasn't reading at all, I would still read Rachael John's books so I am very much looking forward to this book.

Act Like It by Lucy Parker - Having loved Battle Royale when I read it a few weeks ago, I am definitely intending to go back and read the London Celebrities series.

The Sundial by Shirley Jackson - This is going to be the group read for RIP XVI and will also will be my first book by this author.

The Vanished Days by Susanna Kearlsey - Susanna Kearsley is one of my all time favourite authors so when there is a new book coming out which is then connected to my favourites of all her books of course I am going to read this one!

Cinnamon and Gunpowder by Eli Brown - This is going to be the next Cook the Books selection. I have had this on my TBR list for many years so I am looking forward to finally reading it.

A Granite Springs Christmas by Maggie Christensen - Its not too early for Christmas books yet is it? I have read the first five books in this series and this is the next one!

Flora's Travelling Christmas Shop by Rebecca Raisin - Two Christmas books in a row!! I love the way that Rebecca Raisin writes about books, food and places so I am looking forward to this one.

Go Tell the Bees I am Gone by Diana Gabaldon  - How long have we been waiting for this book? My expectations aren't huge, unlike the size of the book, I have been invested in this series for so long there is no way I wouldn't read it.

Do you have any of these books on your list?

Monday, September 20, 2021

This Week..

I'm reading....

I mentioned last week that I was reading The Black Swan of Paris which I finished during the week. I did like it. Whilst I read a lot of historical fiction set in WWII and Paris, this did have more of a thriller feel so more fast-paced. I liked it, and if Karen Robards writes another historical set thriller I will give it a go!

Now my dilemna is what to read next - there are so many options. I could read my bookclub book, which I think is The Last of Apple Blossoms by Mary-Lou Stephens. I could start the RIP XVI readalong book which is The Sundial by Shirley Jackson. I could read a Netgalley book (several options but lets go with with The Vanished Days by Susanna Kearsley as one of many options) or I could just read something fun. 

What would you choose?

I'm watching...

The main thing that I wanted to do during our week off was to get all caught up on watching the available episodes from season 2 of Ted Lasso which we did. It is such a fun show! If you haven't watched it yet, I highly recommend it. In effect we have watched the whole thing as we did rewatch season 1 last weekend from beginning to end.

My big binge watch this week was Midnight Kitchen. It is was mentioned in a Discord group that I am part of and I thought it sounded like fun and I ended up watching a season and a bit. You can see more about it in my Weekend Cooking post.

We also finished watching Jack Whitehall's Travels with my Father. It's a little bit sad that there aren't going to be any more travels as we have really enjoyed settling in and watching this series on Friday nights over the last couple of months. We even had a pub meal and a beer while watching these last couple of episodes. Not a meal at the pub but rather a meal from the pub at home.

I forgot to mention last week that we have started watching Great Kenyan Bake Off. I found it when I was flicking through the channels last week, and if you need a Bake Off fix you need a Bake Off fix right?

We also started watching See starring Jason Momoa last night. We are two episodes in so far. Not sure if we will watch thefull two seasons or not because it is a bit unusual and dark but we will see.


We had this week off work so we have had nothing but time. What do you do when you have nothing but time when there is also a hard lockdown? Well, you start culling your books and packing up books ready for you move house. No, we don't have a build start date yet, which means we don't have a move date but we can start packing anyway? You also bake some delicious things, sleep a lot, watch some quiz shows. 

We did leave the house a couple of times. We went for a couple of walks, including to the local weir which is somewhere I had never been despite having lived her for many years!

The other reason I left the house this week was to return some books to the library and pick up some more This could provide my next read to! Please note the avocado plant in the background. This is my husband's baby which he has lovingly tended from seed. It took a lot of attempts before this one. He tells me that it is another ten years before we can expect an actual avocado so I guess we are playing a long term game here.

It does feel like I should have done more during this week but the whole point was to have down time. I do feel like I am not mentally drained like I have been. Anyone want to place a bet how long it will take before I am super stressed and not sleeping through the night again? Luckily this week is only a four day week as it is a public holiday on Friday and I am taking a couple of days next week so hopefully that will help manage my stress and sleep issues for a bit longer.

Top Ten Tuesday: By the Numbers

Music A-Z: P

Weekend Cooking: Midnight Diner

The Riviera House by Natasha Lester

I've linked this post to It's Monday, what are you reading? as hosted by Book Date

Sunday, September 19, 2021

The Riviera House by Natasha Lester

Sometimes, if I think about things too much, it surprises me where the gaps in my reading are. For example, take Natasha Lester. This book is her ninth book (I think), she's a bestselling author, she is Australian, she writes historical fiction, and several of her books are set during WWII. Oh, and Paris!! This should make her an autobuy for me. And yet, this is the first book I have read by her.

"Art reminds us that there's a world opposite to the one we live in."

Eliane and her brother Luc both love art. He spends time fraternising with other artists whereas Eliane attends art school in the morning, works in the Louvre in the afternoon and then works in the family restaurant at night. As rumours of an imminent invasion of Paris by the approaching German army intensify, they both assist with the removal of many of the treasures of the Louvre. Many pieces were evacuated to secret locations to keep them from falling into the hands of the Germans.

Once the Germans do arrive in Paris, they may not be able to confiscate art owned by the State, but the art that is owned by influential and wealthy German families is fair game, with the most famous pieces being sent to Hitler, as long as they met his standards of decency, and other powerful leaders.

Thanks to Eliane's art knowledge, she is perfect to assist with the cataloguing the art. What the German officers in charge don't realise is that she understands German, and together with others performing similar work she is able to record the information about where these masterpieces have ended up. This was vital work which helps reunite owners and their art after the war. It is dangerous work. She has to maintain her detached manner so as to not draw attention to the dangerous work that she is involved in. One person who can betray her is her former love Xavier Laurent who is closely working with the Germans, much to Eliane's disgust.

In the modern storyline we meet Remy. She has retreated to the house that she inherited after suffering a terrible tragedy in her life. She just wants to be left alone in the glamourous house and to work on her lookbook for her successful vintage fashion business. Unfortunately, the family next door intrudes on her solitude. Luckily, Adam Henry-Jones is a fashion photographer, albeit one that Remy has no interest in working with, but fate has other plans.

When she finds a mysterious catalogue of art she is shocked to find that the painting that has always hung on her wall at home in Australia is included. Remy and Adam therefore need to find out who the artist is and what the connection is to the Riviera house and to Remy herself.

Whilst I enjoyed both parts of the book, it won't be that much of a shock to know that it is the WWII section of the book which I enjoyed more. Part of the reason for that is that I am not really that interested in fashion, unlike the author who has a background in fashion, and so if you describe a Pucci or a whoever dress or a 1940s bikini I am not that great at picturing it in my mind. 

There are so many great passages in this book about art and fashion, love and betrayal, sacrifice and more. I thought I would share one. I have left a little bit out so that there are no spoilers

"Do you remember, " Eliane said quietly, "when we stood at the bottom of the staircase at the Louvre and watched the Winged Victory of Samothrace carried downstairs?"

She pressed on, seizing the small advantage. "Do you remember that everyone held their breath in case she fell? Why did we do that? What does it matter if we lose a hunk of stone, or chip a piece of marble? What would Paris be without her Winged Victory, xxx? Think what Paris is now with only the grey of the Nazi uniforms, the brown of their boots, the never-ending shout of their Heil Hitlers. When Victory descended the staircase, we were scared but we were hopeful too - hopefuly that she would make it unscathed. If she'd broken, every one of us there would have cried."
And then

"Didn't Schiller say that Art is the daughter of freedom? When we stood together watching the Winged Victory we were all connnected by something beyond ourselves. Art is all we have when words fail us, when mankind fails us and when we each fail each other. If we don't save these works, we can't save ourselves."

At the beginning of this review I suggested that Natasha Lester should be an autobuy author for me, so I thought I would finish by asking the question that no one else is really asking....yes, I will be reading more from Natasha Lester. Maybe I can learn a bit about fashion from reading her books. Who knows.

Rating 4/5

The New York Times bestselling author of The Paris Secret weaves a lush and engrossing novel of World War II inspired by a true story and perfect for fans of Kate Quinn and Pam Jenoff.

Paris, 1939: The Nazis think Éliane can't understand German. They’re wrong. They think she’s merely cataloging art in a Louvre museum and unaware they’re stealing national treasures for their private collections. They have no idea she’s carefully decoding their notes and smuggling information to the Resistance. But Éliane is playing a dangerous game. Does she dare trust the man she once loved with her secrets, or will he only betray her once again? She has no way to know for certain . . . until a trip to a stunning home on the French Riviera brings a whole new level of peril.

Present Day: Wanting to forget the tragedy that has left her life in shambles, Remy Lang heads to a home she’s mysteriously inherited on the Riviera. While working on her vintage fashion business, she discovers a catalog of the artworks stolen during World War II and is shocked to see a painting that hung on her childhood bedroom wall. Who is her family, really? And does the Riviera house hold more secrets than Remy is ready to face?

Natasha Lester brilliantly explores the impossible choices ordinary people faced every day during extraordinary circumstances, weaving fact with fiction and celebrating women who push the boundaries of their time.

Saturday, September 18, 2021

Weekend Cooking: Midnight Diner

Every now and again I stumble across a TV series on Netflix which I haven't heard much about or, in this case, have a series recommended to me. If I'm lucky once I start watching it, I can't help but continue. This week was one of those fortuitous occasions and it also coincided with me having a week off work so I could indulge to my heart's content.

Midnight Diner is a Japanese series predominantly set in a small diner down a small laneway in Tokyo. It opens at midnight each night and seats no more than 10 people around the counter. Each episode features the stories of the regular patrons who come to eat. In theory, there is only one item on the menu (Pork Miso Soup Combo) but Master, the owner and cook, will make you anything else you want as long as he has the ingredients.

As much as it is about the people and culture, it is also about Japanese comfort food, how food reminds us of people and places from our past, as well as how it helps us to make new connections and memories. Interestingly, it is based on an anime series called Shin'ya Shokudō. There are actually 5 series of Midnight Diner but be careful because there are three series called Midnight Diner and then another two that are called Midnight Diner: Tokyo Stories. They are linked and feature many of the same characters. I did originally confuse myself by watching the first three episodes of Tokyo Stories and the remaining episodes from the first series of Midnight Diner. I couldn't quite figure out why what I was watching didn't match the descriptions I could find but I figured it out eventually.

The Master is an enigmatic character, ever present, but never revealing much about himself or his past, but he offers a friendly ear and a word of advice where required. Most of the time though, he cooks and observes, and sits in his tiny kitchen puffing away on cigarette (there is a lot of smoking in this show). There is also some adult themes. 

At the end of most episodes there are handy little tips about the dishes that were featured during the episode. Plenty of food porn as well!

In the first series of Midnight Diner, the episodes were:

Akai wiener to tamagoyaki - A yakuza gang member and a gay man bond over weiner octupuses and sweet omelets. I have never heard of weiner octopuses. Basically you take cocktail sausages and slit them through without cutting all the way through and then fry them up so that they curl up and have tentacles.

Neko Mamma - An enza singer visits the diner early in the morning to have Cat Rice -  rice with bonito flakes and soy sauce. The Master invites her to perform with the hope that he can help connect her to a lyricist.

Ochazuke - Three women regularly visit the diner and always have Ochazuke and therefore are called the Ochazuke Girls. One always has salmon ochazuke (rice with green tea topped with other ingredients), another with cod roe and the third pickled plum ochazuke. In the description they are described as middle aged but honestly they look about 30. 35 tops. They are always looking for true love, talking about men, but their friendship suffers when one of them goes to see a marriage broker. They continue to appear throughout the series. 

Butter Rice - A famous food critic comes to the diner and eats the simplest of dishes, butter rice, which is steamed rice topped with butter. When it is melted, add just a touch of soy sauce. At the same time, a travelling singer visits. The food critic keeps returning with the hope of meeting the singer again. 

Potato Salad - A famous porn star meets a young man at the diner. The Master's potato salad reminds him of home, a place he hasn't visited for many years..

Katsudon - A boxer celebrates every win with a pork katsudon (pork cutlet and eggs served with rice and broth) at the diner. He meets a young widow and her daughter in the diner. 

Tamago sando (egg sandwich) - A young actress meets a poor but hard working man and they strike up a relationship after they share egg sandwiches. 

Sauce yakisoba - A former pop idol is trying to become an actress but her current role seems to be very reminiscent of her own life.

Aji no hiraki-(horse mackerel) - One of the regular customers that we have met in the series previously is Marilyn who is a stripper. She meets a mysterious older woman at the diner who tells Marilyn the story of her life.

Ramen -  Gen is a member of the yakuza who takes revenge on a rival gang member and then goes into hiding.

And now I want to eat some Japanese food!

Weekly Meals

Saturday - Fancy dinner
Sunday - 
Monday - Steak, mushrooms and broccoline
Tuesday - Soup
Wednesday - Beggars Chicken
Thursday - Pork Nachos
Friday - Dinner from the pub

Weekend Cooking is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book reviews (novel, nonfiction), cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, quotations, photographs, restaurant reviews, travel information, or fun food facts. If your post is even vaguely foodie, feel free to grab the button and link up anytime over the weekend. You do not have to post on the weekend. Please link to your specific post, not your blog's home page

Thursday, September 16, 2021

Music A to Z: P

Welcome to this week's edition of my Music A to Z feature. Each week on Thursday, I am going to share a song where either the song or the artist name begins with the letter for that week. This week, the letter is....


Today all of these artists that I have seen live, and they were all great!

My Happiness by Powderfinger - I was lucky enough to get a last minute ticket to Powderfinger's final tour, and it is one of the most amazing shows I have ever seen!

I Missed Again by Phil Collins -
We saw Phil Collins a couple of years ago and really loved the show, especially when the brass band came out. It was a bit sad though. Due to his health issues, Phil Collins had to sit down for the whole concert, but it was still great. He has so many great songs, but I chose this one because of the horn section.

Funhouse - Pink  - I've seen Pink live three times now and she is always awesome live. It is a full show with costumes, dancing, acrobats and great songs! This song is also a former ringtone! 

Do you have any P songs? Feel free to share in the comments

Tuesday, September 14, 2021

Top Ten Tuesday: By the numbers






Welcome to this week's edition of Top Ten Tuesday which is hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl. This week's theme is Books with Numbers in the Title. 

I haven't done a TTT for a few months as I have been too busy at work to do the thinking and composing that is required for one of these posts, but this week I have time off so it seems like a good time to make the effort. When I started thinking about this topic, I was sure that I had already done a post with this theme but it turns out I might have only done this in my head. Recently I nearly did a Six Degrees of Separation post using numbers but decided against it for the same reason.

I am still going to go with my original idea which is a play on numbers rather than specifically in the title. Let's see how this go

Battle Royale by Lucy Parker - my first book by this author, but not the last. Also the first book in the Palace Insiders series.

Second Place by Rachel Cusk - I listened to Rachel Cusk's session at Melbourne Writers Festival. I am not sure that she is an author that I would read but it was interesting listening to her talk.

The Cartographer's Secret by Tea Cooper - the third book that I gave a rating of 5/5 this year.

The Fourth Bear by Jasper Fforde - For obvious reasons.

The Life She Imagines by Maggie Christensen - The fifth book in the Granite Springs series.

The Time of Singing by Elizabeth Chadwick - the sixth book I read by Elizabeth Chadwich. She has a new book out which is why I had her on my mind. I also need to get back and read her as I am now a few books behind.

The Seven Sisters by Lucida Riley - Another obvious choice.

84 Charing Cross Road by Helene Hanff -  I know....cheating! but it starts with an 8 right?

Snowy Mountains Daughter by Alissa Callen - The ninth book I read this year. The next book in this series has recently been announced and I can't wait to read it!

The Sundial by Shirley Jackson - the tenth book on my kindle to read right now. This is the upcoming group read for RIP XVI. 

Monday, September 13, 2021

This Week ...


I'm reading....

Do you ever get a sense of satisfaction when you read a book that has been out for a while now, lots of people have recommended it and you finally get around to reading it? And you enjoy it! That is me this week having just finished The Kiss Quotient by Helen Hoang. I know, I know, I can't believe I hadn't read it yet either. I will say I was quite surprised by how  steamy it was. I am not sure why, but I wasn't really expecting that. Now to read the next two books.

I think that my next book is going to be The Black Swan of Paris by Karen Robards. I currently have it out from the library and I have just discovered that the return chutes are open, so I will read this one so that I can return it and maybe pick up something new. The return chutes weren't open at all during the last lockdown. Maybe I should try and reborrow a couple of the books I didn't get around to reading last time even though I had them here for months! That's a good  idea!

I'm watching....

The last few weeks on a Friday night we have watched Jack Whitehall's Travels with my Father. Last week we watched the two episodes set in Australia which was fun. Now we wait for the new season to come out, which might be this week I think, and then we will need to find a new Friday night show!

Over the weekend, the movie Birds of Prey: Harley Quinn came on so we sat and watched that. I am not sure why but we watch everything Marvel as it comes out but not nearly as much in the DC Comics world. I really liked the first Wonder Woman movie but haven't yet managed to watch the follow up. This movie definitely counts for RIP XVI

My big plan for this week is to watch all of the available episodes of season 2 of Ted Lasso. In preparation we spent our cold and rainy Sunday rewatching all of season 1. It's such a great show, full of heart, nuance and truths. It's funny....I did a training session a week or so ago on performance management and terminations and the presenter included a Ted Lasso quote as part of his presentation. That must be a sure sign of show making it right?


We were supposed to be going away this week but unfortunately the government says no. Originally I was taking two weeks off but instead we are taking one week and just spending it at home. There are a few things on my to do list. Might start packing up my books and doing a cull along the way. Might do my nails. Have some TV to watch, some blogging to do, some books to read. And I have a few ideas of things to bake although I don't think that we should just eat the whole time we are at home. We'll see!

Music A-Z: O

Vintage Weekend Cooking: The Kitchen Child by Angela Carter

Weekend Cooking: Midnight at the Blackbird Cafe

I've linked this post to It's Monday, what are you reading? as hosted by Book Date

Saturday, September 11, 2021

Weekend Cooking: Midnight at the Blackbird Cafe by Heather Webb

About 18 months ago I heard of a online bookclub called Cook the Books and it was something that sounded right up my alley. The idea is that you read a nominated group food related book and then you cook something that comes to mind while you are reading the book. I read one book and I intended to read more, but then that idea slipped between the cracks. Recently, someone posted that the next book selection was Midnight at the Blackbird Cafe and, based purely on the cover, I was sold!

I thoroughly enjoyed this book! I hadn't really looked too much into what the book was about but it was my kind of book, and I knew it from page 2!

Anna Kate Callow returns to the small Alabama town of Wicklow following the death of her beloved grandmother Zee. She has inherited Zee's cafe, The Midnight Cafe, but there is a catch. She must spend at least 60 days running the cafe before it can be sold. This is the longest that Anna Kate has spent in the town. Her mother Eden left home when she was pregnant with Anna Kate after a tragic car accident which killed Anna Kate's father and never looked back, thanks mainly to the hatred that was directed her way by his family. The last thing that her late mother wanted was for Anna Kate to be stuck in Wicklow with all that means.

Zee's specialty was Blackbird Pie, not actually bird pie, but rather fruit pie which has mysterious ingredient. Local legend says that if you eat a piece of the famous pie you will dream of a lost loved one, and when you get the pie right, the blackbirds will sing in the trees behind the cafe at midnight. Getting it right means more than just baking the pie. It requires the assistance of several of the quirky characters from the town, it requires the nurturing of the garden and it requires love.

Also recently returned to Wicklow is Natalie Linden Walker. She has moved into the small house on her parents property with her daughter Ollie following the tragic death of her husband (yes, there are quite a few untimely deaths in this book). For Natalie, she knows that she had to return to Wicklow, but her relationship with her mother has always been difficult. She is dignified, very rigid and has high expectations - think of the stereotypical Southern mother and you might have a fair idea.

Natalie wants nothing more than to eat a piece of the pie to see if she can get some answers as to what actually happened to cause her husband's death, but if there is one thing she has always known it is that Lindens do not step foot in the Blackbird Cafe...ever.

Wicklow is a town which is struggling to say alive, despite the best efforts of the town folk. As the cafe is reopened, and the blackbirds begin to sing, and soon there are birdwatchers galore descending on the town. With the town needing to come together, old wounds will be exposed, truths will be revealed and relationships will be healed.

In many ways this book reminds me of those written by Sarah Addison Allen. There is the genteel Southern town, with a touch of magical realism, quirky characters and a lot of charm. I hadn't read Heather Webb before, but I will be reading more. There are two more that seem to be written in this style, but she also writes mysteries.

As I mentioned in my opening paragraph, the idea is that when you read the chosen for Cook the Books you then make something inspired by the book that you read. There is so much delicious sounding food in this book, there were so many things that I thought of to make.  When Anna Kate arrives in Wicklow, she is welcomed by the townspeople, many of whom welcome her with zucchini loaves, and at one point it  mentions zucchini and cheddar biscuits. I made the classic mistake of thinking that this meant biscuits in the Aussie sense of the word, so I was thinking it was a kind of cracker. It was only when I was searching for a recipe I realised that what it meant was the savoury scone type of biscuit from America.

The other option that I thought of was to try making a proper fruit pie. I've made lemon meringue pies and tarts, but I haven't really made what I imagine an American style pie to be.

In the end though, I have decided to make Hummingbird Cake, because it is a Southern classic, and because I really wanted to make something with cream cheese frosting. I used this recipe from Taste.

I ended up using vegetable oil instead of olive oil. The toasted flaked coconut was a revelation to me, and I will be making that again to throw on my cereal in the mornings or something else.

Hummingbird cake


Olive oil, to grease
20g (1/3 cup) flaked coconut
265g (13/4 cups) self-raising flour
200g (1 cup, firmly packed) brown sugar
45g (1/2 cup) desiccated coconut
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 x 440g can crushed pineapple in natural syrup
3 small ripe bananas, peeled, mashed
185ml (3/4 cup) extra light olive oil
2 eggs, lightly whisked

Cream cheese frosting

1 x 250g pkt cream cheese, at room temperature
100g unsalted butter, at room temperature
450g (3 cups) icing sugar mixture
3 tsp milk

Preheat oven to 160C. Brush a round 22cm (base measurement) cake pan with olive oil to grease. Line the base and side with non-stick baking paper. Spread the flaked coconut over a baking tray. Bake for 5-8 minutes or until toasted.

Combine the flour, sugar, desiccated coconut, bicarbonate of soda and cinnamon in a large bowl. Add the pineapple, banana, extra light olive oil and egg and stir until well combined. Pour into the prepared pan. Bake in oven, covering the cake with foil if it browns too quickly, for 1 hour 25 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean. Set aside in the pan for 10 minutes to cool before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.

Meanwhile, to make the cream cheese frosting, use an electric beater to beat the cream cheese and butter in a bowl. Add the icing sugar and beat until well combined. Add milk and beat to combine.

Place the cake on a plate. Spread the cream cheese frosting over the top and side of the cake. Sprinkle with toasted flaked coconut and serve.

I am also linking this post up with Foodies Read hosted at

Weekly Meals

Saturday - Fried Chicken, mash and beans
Sunday - Roast Pork with veggies
Monday - Beef Stir Fry
Tuesday - Butter Chicken
Wednesday - Spag Bol
Thursday - Chicken Kebabs, baked potato and coleslaw
Friday - Take Away

Weekend Cooking is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book reviews (novel, nonfiction), cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, quotations, photographs, restaurant reviews, travel information, or fun food facts. If your post is even vaguely foodie, feel free to grab the button and link up anytime over the weekend. You do not have to post on the weekend. Please link to your specific post, not your blog's home page

Friday, September 10, 2021

Vintage Weekend Cooking: The Kitchen Child by Angela Carter

Every now and again I come across a post in my archives that I think it would be fun to share again and when that happens I post them as Vintage posts!

When I was doing my Six Degrees of Separation post last weekend, I came across this post from 10 years ago, and I decided that this would be a great post to share again, especially seeing as I relistened to this short story again and still enjoyed it!

This was part of a series of short stories that were released with authors reading short stories. A lot of these authors were people I was unfamiliar with, both the authors and the readers.

The podcasts were, in order:

Philip Pullman reading The Beauties by Anton Chekhov
Julian Barnes reading Homage to Switzerland by Ernest Hemingway
William Boyd reading My Dream of Flying to Wake Island by J G Ballard
Anne Enright reading Fat by Raymond Carver
Colm Toibin reading Music at Annahullian by Eugene McCabe
Margaret Drabble reading The Doll's House by Katherine Mansfield
Jeanette Winterson reading The Night Driver by Italo Calvino
Rose Tremain reading Extra by Yiyun Li
Tessa Hadley reading The Jungle by Elizabeth Bowen
Helen Dunmore reading My Oedipus Complex by Frank O'Connor
Ali Smith reading A Conversation with my Father by Grace Paley
Helen Simpson reading The Kitchen Child by Angela Carter

It is the final story in this list, and my favourite of the 12,  that I want to concentrate on for my Weekend Cooking post this week.

When I mentioned that I hadn't heard of all of the authors, both Helen Simpson and Angela Carter were in this category. From what I can tell by what I have read online Helen Simpson is a short story writer herself, and Angela Carter was known for her fairytale retelling. From what is said it seemed that Carter's fairytale retellings can be somewhat dark and gothic, featuring werewolves and other magical creatures and wikipedia mentions that her works include feminism, magical realism and science fiction.

From the little I knew this short story was not anything like I expected. It is light and frothy, but still with substance, sunny, charming and funny, and well worth spending a few minutes to listen to.

The story is about a young boy whose mother is a cook in a large house. He doesn't know who his father was. All he knows is that he was conceived whilst the lobster souffle his mother was cooking rose ("25 minutes in a medium oven") but the identity of his father remains a mystery. Each year at the time of the grouse shoot, his mother once again cooks the souffle although she doens't overseason it with cayenne as she did that first time due to the shock of being accosted in her kitchen. The boy ("conceived upon the kitchen table, born upon the kitchen floor") is desperate to know who his father was. In this short story we shares his childhood in the kitchen from his birth, his first crib (the copper salmon kettle), the baths in the soup tureen that normally carries turtle soup. The child is precocious, learning the skills of the cook with ease at the foot of his mother. He learns his letters (A for Asparagus through to Z is for Zabligione), makes shortcrust at the age of three, and so on.

Also alluded to in the course of the story are the different levels of the household servants within the big house and the masters who don't seem to have terribly good taste when it comes to food. There is the housekeeper who seems to take her rum with a splash of tea, and who would love to replace the Yorkshire woman who is the cook with a continental chef, with the birth of the cook's baby appearing to be the perfect opportunity, but it doesn't work out that way at all.

I have now listened to this particular short story a number of times now, it doesn't lose it's charm with familiarity. If you have a few minutes spare, I would encourage you to click on link above and lose yourself for just a few minutes in the kitchen of the great house.

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