Thursday, April 19, 2012

Book Club Eats

Bookclub means great reading, good company, fun, wine and eats. When you are hosting you don't want too spend too much time away from the books or the company so look for easy recipes that look and taste good. This quiche is a winner - economical and easy to serve.

Tuna Quiche
2 eggs                                                 pinch of cayenne pepper
90g grated cheese                              5ml Fondor
1 small onion fried in 15 ml butter    1 Tin of tuna (200g)
5ml powdered mustard
150 ml milk

Spray/grease pie dish. Mix tuna, cheese and pepper. Mix eggs, milk, mustard and fondor. Pour over fish (tuna) mixture in pie plate. Bake in a pre-heated oven 180C for 30 to 40 mins. Freezes well....but you wont have any left overs!

An easy peasy bran loaf bake.
1 cup of bran flakes
1 cup of sugar
1 cup of dried fruit or raisins
....................soak the above in a cup of milk for at least 2 hours or overnight.
Add 1 cup of self-raising flour and stir in well.
Bake in loaf tin at 160/180C for around 40 mins or until firm to touch.
Allow to cool.
It's delicious sliced and served buttered!

Friday, April 13, 2012

Holiday Reads

Holidays conjure up a picture of sunshine, beaches, relaxation and fun for most people, but if you are an avid reader then holidays mean books - and an opportunity to catch up with your reading. I am off on my travels on Sunday and have a day and half of flights ahead of me. I am so happy that my Kindle is fully loaded and there will be no chance of running out of reading material on the way or the hassle of carrying two heavy books with me.
When I travel I like to read books that are set in the country or area that I am travelling in. I thought I was alone in this but there is even a book that is full of recommendations of this sort. When we visited Egypt I buried myself in Wilbur Smith's River God and Seventh Scroll and followed the trail around Luxor and the Valley of Kings that the slave Taitus describes. To be in the setting where the story is set just adds so much atmosphere to the journey. I felt that the characters were there with me.
I was drawn again to The Da Vinci Code when in Paris and admiring the Michaelangelo's paintings in the Louvre and recently when in the UK I enjoyed Ann Granger's Mud, Muck and Dead things - a murder mystery set in the Cotswolds. I will leave you to guess where I read Death in Venice and the Venetian Mask!
So what's on my Kindle for Australia? The Thorn Birds? There wasn't much Australian fiction available on Amazon UK but I found a novel called "Eucalyptus" by Murray Bail. It is set in New South Wales,where a man named Holland lives with his daughter Ellen. As years pass and Ellen grows into a beautiful young woman, her father announces his decision: she will marry the first man who can name all the species of the eucalyptus, down to the last tree. Ellen observes the challengers come to the estate, one after another, drawn by tales of her legendary beauty. She gradually sinks into despair. But one afternoon a mysterious young man appears among the gum trees and tells her stories of faraway lands. It sounds intriguing and a movie is in the making with Nicole Kidman in the role of Ellen.

I also have Still Alice to take with me - not set in Australia but telling a story of a women who has early onset Alzheimer's and We all Ran into The Sunlight by Natalie Young.  I am hoping to browse some bookshops in Melbourne - Is there anything more absorbing and indulgent on holiday than time spent in an unfamiliar bookshop! Looking forward to three weeks of good reading!

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Our Choices for Book Club

Still Alice by Lisa Genova
This book is  being enjoyed by many of the bookclubs and I am sure its going to be popular with ours - thats why I have the Kindle edition too!
When Alice finds herself in the rapidly downward spiral of Alzheimer's Disease she is just fifty years old. A university professor, wife, and mother of three, she still has so much more to do - books to write, places to see, grandchildren to meet. But when she can't remember how to make her famous Christmas pudding, when she gets lost in her own back yard, when she fails to recognise her actress daughter after a superb performance, she comes up with a desperate plan. But can she see it through? Should she see it through? Losing her yesterdays, living for each day, her short-term memory is hanging on by a couple of frayed threads. But she is still Alice.
I read her second book last month - Left Neglected - and loved it. I have since learned that she has a degree in Biopsychology and holds a Ph.D. in Neuroscience from Harvard University. She is a member of the Dementia Advocacy and Support Network International and Dementia, USA and is an online columnist for the National Alzheimer's Association. No wonder she writes with such empathy and experience!

The Hare with Amber Eyes by Edmund de Waal.
Edmund de Waal is a renowned ceramic artist who's work has been exhibited in Tate Britain and the Victoria and Albert Museum. He can trace his ancestry back to a wealthy Ukrainian family who made their fortune from grain exporting and later banking, and who had spacious and luxurious homes in Vienna, Tokyo and Paris. When Edmund inherited a collection of 264 tiny Japanese netsuke carvings from his Uncle Ignace, he felt prompted to investigate their place in the family history. The Hare With Amber Eyes is the result.

The book opens with De Waal studying in Tokyo in 1991 while on a two year scholarship, visiting his Uncle Iggie (Ignace) in his home in Tokyo, which he shares with Jiro, his partner of 41 years. Ignace has a wonderful collection of netsuke which has been in the family since the late 19th century. Three years later, Uncle Iggie dies, and Jiro writes and signs a document bequeathing the netsuke to Edmund once Jiro himself has gone.
When Edmund eventually owns the netsuke he finds himself greatly intrigued by the history of this remarkable collection, and realises that all he really knows are a few anecdotes, which become thinner in the telling. The only answer is to carry out a proper investigation into their story - and off he sets to visit the locations the netsuke have resided in and to investigate those who owned them before.
The Hare with Amber Eyes is a lovely book. I have read similar accounts of family history where too much is assumed, where scenes are guessed at, conversations created where none could possible be recalled, and personalities are elaborated until they are far too larger than life. Edmund de Waal seems to be a very careful writer. He has only written about what he knows and what he can prove from primary sources. This gives the book a far greater sense of authenticity than many others. In addition, as an artist himself and a creator of fine porcelain objects, he is well suited to trace the course through of these netsuke over the last 150 years - he is wholly equipped to understand the meaning of such things and is adept at communicating his love for them with his readers.
When God Was a Rabbit by Sarah Winman
Young Elly's world is shaped by those who inhabit it: her loving but maddeningly distractible parents; a best friend who smells of chips and knows exotic words like 'slag'; an ageing fop who tapdances his way into her home, a Shirley Bassey impersonator who trails close behind; lastly, of course, a rabbit called God. In a childhood peppered with moments both ordinary and extraordinary, Elly's one constant is her brother Joe. Twenty years on, Elly and Joe are fully grown and as close as they ever were. Until, that is, one bright morning and a single, earth-shattering event that threatens to destroy their bond for ever. Spanning four decades and moving between suburban Essex, the wild coast of Cornwall and the streets of New York, this is a story about childhood, eccentricity, the darker side of love and sex, the pull and power of family ties, loss life. More than anything, it's a story about love in all its forms. I think that this is a book that you will either love or hate! Either way it will create an emotional response from the reader. I enjoyed the first half better than the second  - but still a good read!
The Kashmir Shawl by Rosy Thomas
We had a few of Rosie Thomas's books and they are enjoyable in a gentle and endearing way. We loved Iris and Ruby. The Kashmir Shawl is an epic set in the time of war, family secrets and forbidden love, set against the stunning exotic backdrop of 1940s Kashmir. Amazon says "Within one exotic land lie the secrets of a lifetime…Newlywed Nerys Watkins leaves rural Wales for the first time to accompany her husband on a missionary posting to India. Deep in the exquisite heart of Kashmir lies the lakeside city of Srinagar, where the British live on carved wooden houseboats and dance, flirt and gossip as if there is no war.But the battles draw closer, and life in Srinagar becomes less frivolous when the men are sent away to fight. Nerys is caught up in a dangerous friendship, and by the time she is reunited with her husband, the innocent Welsh bride has become a different woman.
Years later, when Mair Ellis clears out her father’s house, she finds an exquisite antique shawl, a lock of child’s hair wrapped within its folds. Tracing her grandparents’ roots back to Kashmir, Mair embarks on a quest that will change her life forever.
Garlic and Sapphires by Ruth Reichl
Nigella write `If this was just an account of life as a restaurant critic, it would be interesting enough. But Ruth Reichl somehow makes this an investigation into personality. In order not to be recognized when on the job as The New York Times' restaurant review, she adopts a number of disguises and notes the effect this has on her own character and behavior. Oh, and the food she writes about what she's eating, I just salivate' --Nigella Lawson, I stumbled across this book and thought it sounded entertaining and combines our book club love of food and fiction. I hope I wont have to eat my words!

Lets hope the books are well received and read. Will let you know next month!