Monthly Archives: August 2006

Book heaven

I’m currently in Book Heaven; I have so many amazing new books, I don’t know where to start, am in total literary overload, with the result I dive for old favourites to calm me down until the shakes have passed and I can face the glory of new books that have been on my MUST HAVE !!!! list for months, years even.

The following cookbooks, non fiction and classic old favourites from childhood were purchased within the past few weeks; some over my birthday weekend and some the day that Tuxedo was undergoing his IPL, and some in between.

Ahhhhhh.

Gordon Ramsay.  Gordon Ramsay’s Kitchen Heaven.  This has been one of the cookbooks marked with 5 black stars in my Books – Wish List, along with only three others (of about twenty cookbooks overall).  Ramsay has been painted one of the enfant terribles of celeb cooking since he first rose to fame; a claim which I find without substance or merit despite reports of temper tantrums in the kitchens, abusive language and outraged bollockings (metaphorically speaking) of staff.  To me he seems a basically nice guy, with high standards and the guts to uphold those standards.  As Tony Bourdain wrote in his book A Cook’s Tour, when Ramsay left his first restaurant, all forty-odd staff, including floor staff, left with him.  You don’t find that loyalty anywhere, let alone London.  That speaks louder than words about the guy’s talent, integrity, abilities and willingness to pass on his knowledge.  And unlike many other “cleleb chefs” (Jamie, little fat boy, I’m looking at you) he actually cooks.

Gordon Ramsay’s Kitchen Heaven is a tie in/spin off of his TV show Kitchen Nightmares, wherein Ramsay blasted into a few failing restaurant kitchens and turned them around, changing and rationalising menus, using local ingredients, toning down the high falutin’ shite, and of course upbraiding staff (cos that made for good TV).  The cookbook features a great collection of delicious, so-able yet impressive recipes, with anecdotes about his experience on the show and his rationale for decisions made.  Even if you’re not interested in the recipes, it makes great reading.  I’m pleased to have added this to my collection as it not only includes great food photography, but yummy food and excellent, inspiring food writing.

Penelope Casas.  Delicioso!  Regional Cooking of Spain.  Ever since a year spent in Spain as a kid I’ve been in love with Spanish food; paellas, the seafood, stews and tapas.  This gorgeous, photo-spare (my favourite!) book on, d’oh, the regional cooking of Spain.  Beginning with a collection to tapas recipes – which, to my mind, make redundant Casas’ previous book Tapas: The Little Dishes of Spain and then on to chapter-by-chapter analysis and recipes of the main regions of Spain via their main features and ingredients.  Thus we have the region of sauces (Galicia, the Basque Country), the region of peppers (Navarra, Aragon) and the region of rices (Valencia, Alicante).  From a travel/geographical perspective this is absolutely fascinating; even more so from the culinary point of view.

Unlike most books on Spanish cooking, every dish is NOT greasy and overladen with fried stuff and tomatoes; dishes range from the simple to restaurant-ready, with the focus on ingredients and simplicity and integrity of cooking processes to highlight those ingredients.  One flick-through left me salivating; follow-up reading has given me a real insight to Spain and its cuisine and left me hungering to try out some of the recipes (not baby eels though, sorry).

Richard Dawkins.  The Ancestor’s Tale: A Pilgrimage to the Dawn of Life.  I’ve written about this book and how much I love Dawkins before; now I have my own copy *bliss – siiiiiigh*.  The best book of the last year or three.

Jared Diamond.  Collapse:  How Societies Choose to Fail or Survive.  I was totally blown away by Jared Diamond’s previous book, Guns, Germs and Steel – how on earth could he follow that up? (not to mention previous offerings The Rise and Fall of the Third Chimpanzee and Why Is Sex Fun?)  Collapse looks at previous civilisations in history and how and why they failed- or survived; and the ramifications for the current Western and Third World’s future. 

While I have not yet dived headlong into this book I have flicked through and read reviews and it seems to be exactly my cup of tea; Diamond is a sensational scholar and has a riveting writing style – what you’d expect from a writer of thrillers – plus the subject matter, resources and resource politics, and the limits and restrictions of mankind.  I can’t wait; but what do I read first?  Time for the heads or tails test, I guess …

Bill Bryson.  A Short History of Nearly Everything is precisely that.  Winner of the 2004 Aventis Science Book of the Year, Bryson (known mostly for his hilarious travel and linguistics books) investigates everything, from the origin of the universe to the evolution of Homo sapiens, passing the beginnings of life on earth, extinctions and biodiversity.   I love Bryson’s writing and can’t wait to get into this.  (Although I have to admit, shame-faced, I did pooh-pooh it for a long time, thinking it was “just pop. science at it’s most populist and simplistic.  I was horribly wrong.)

Mary O’Hara.  My Friend Flicka; Thunderhead; Green Grass of Wyoming.  The three books of the My Friend Flicka series were favourites of mine as a horse-crazed kid;  I loved the descriptions of the horses and other animals, the characters and the life and scenery of the Goose Bar ranch.  As an adult I could not pass these by whilst browsing the kids’ stacks at Borders; and I wondered if I was dumb to think they’d hold the same appeal.  They have, they do.  In fact, I’ve got more out of them as an older reader than I did at age eight, or whatever – they may be too old for an eight year old, although being “horsey” that’s the age group they’re marketed for these days.  The lives of the McLaughlin family, dreamy Ken and his superior brother Howard, their parents Rob and Nell and the complicated relationships between them all are not for the Saddle Club set.  In fact, much of the content – sex, death, lust, failure, estrangement – is frankly adult; the relationship between Nell and Rob is not that of Laura Ingalls’ ma and Pa – it is strong and frankly passionate.  No wonder I missed the sense of that story at eight years old!  The horse stuff Is gorgeous and heart-warming and –breaking, the anecdotes of the animals and life on the ranch, of another time, are clear, and the entire trilogy has as much hold over me now as Flicka did when I was a dumb innocent kid.

What have YOU been reading lately? Any suggestions for my MUST HAVE !!! list?  Anything that grabbed you when you were a kid that you’d like to revisit now?

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Birthday

Birthdays and the commemoration of same have always been an oozing necrotic sore spot of my year. Birthdays have been things to dread and treat with fear and wariness; times when existential angst is at a high and depression descends in snarling rabid Rottweiler proportions. Even more so than Christmas, that particular day of note when the pressures of feeling I’ve not made the grade or where society decrees I’m “supposed” to be in life became too much and was generally passed in a haze of deep depression, denial and/or drugs and alcohol.

The past years (read: years avec Tuxedo) have featured fantastic birthdays; not merely his gifts, which have always been amazing and special, AND a complete surprise (a white gold/yellow gold articulated torc necklet one year; a mint green silk/gold lace Collette Dinnigan shift dress another). The presence (ugh, what a horrid pun) of Tuxedo, my constant best friend, companion, demon lover, faithful husband all in one has changed so many facets of my life.

Life is now so special; wondrous, fun, deeply interesting, colourful, full of sometimes overwhelmingly daily joys … Kaleidoscopic, in fact. (and yes, even with the ongoing health shite, constant physical agony and stresses; I wouldn’t swap my life as is, with Tuxedo, for a cure and no Tuxedo for anything).

2006 was always going to be a bastard; not ending in either a 5 or a 0, but the famous (infamous?) Lucy Jordan Year … In the words of Marianne Faithfull;

At the age of thirty-seven/she realised

she’d never drive/through Paris in a sports car

with the warm wind in her hair

… and dear old Lucy ends up swan diving off the top of a tall building. Thirty-seven being, by deduction, the year when those personal and societal pressures I spoke of above become all too much and one takes the fast route out. Very uplifting, no? Not for me; not ever and certainly not on my thirty-seventh birthday. THIS one, my friends, had to be the best ever.

To summarise the celebration of Jules’ thirty-seventh birthday (08 August 2006), therefore:

Item:

Hotel stay

Tuxedo booked a weekend in a posh hotel, from Friday lunch-time to Sunday lunch-time. Rydges Hotel on Hay Street, Perth is “our” hotel; we got engaged there and have celebrated a couple of other birthdays there besides.

We had the most luxurious, romantic and exceptional time.

Item:

Divine dinners; beautiful breakfasts; movies and other entertainment (*cough cough*); French champagne; and shopping all featured on the weekend’s agenda.

On Friday night we had dinner at Rydges’ in-house restaurant and bar, CBD – a terrific place for drinks and food as evidenced by the huge crowds any time of the week. The food was gorgeous; Tuxedo started with a Thai Pumpkin Soup and I had a Classic Caesar Salad – both were delish and while not complex menu items were perfectly cooked, balanced and presented – the so-called “easy” stuff is where many restaurants fail. With starters we had a glass each of Rosemount Sparkling – yum. At this point Tuxedo gave me my pressie – more on that later. For mains Tux had braised venison which was tender and not at all fibrous or gamey, and I had an excellent Bouillabaise – again deceptively simple, not dressed up, exactly as it should be and with very intense flavours. We drank a bottle of Coldstream Hills Pinot Noir and were far too stuffed for dessert.

Saturday morning we had breakfast with my family and it was one of the nicest family gatherings I’ve been to in ages – I don’t talk much about my family here and there are many reasons for that, but interactions tend to be rife with tension and negativity. So it was lovely to have such a pleasant, relaxed and fun time with my husband, my parents, eldest bro and his wife, their toddler and bump (SIL is pregnant with their second bub – Auntie Jules has another juvie to corrupt, whee).

Saturday afternoon was spent much as Friday afternoon; alternately wandering around town shopping, and engaged in most pure and virtuous pursuits back in our hotel room. Saturday evening we took in Pirates of the Caribbean and had room service, with a bottle of Moet Champagne, mmm mmm. Again, fantastic fun and very very special.

Sunday we checked out, after breakfasting at a lovely café on Kings Street (not the eponymous Kings Street Café, which I loathe, sorry) and a little more browsing and window-shopping.

Tuesday was my birth day proper, and we had dinner at our favourite – and very best in town – Italian restaurant, Osteria Dei Sapori in Nedlands. Tuxedo had: Vitello Tonnato; Char-Grilled Sirloin; and Chocolate Marscapone cake. I had: Prosciutto and Bocconcini Salad; Char Grilled Snapper; and Crème Brulee. All absolutely sublime and worthy of the oohs and aahs and orgasmic groans we made. Then just before dessert, the waiters brought out my crème brulee to the accompaniment of “Happy Birthday” on the sound system, with all the staff singing and clapping, and then the waiters gave me flowers! Now I must tell you, the song is standard for such occasions but NOT the presence of all the staff, and certainly not floral tributes and smooches from the waiters! So I was excessively spoiled.

And speaking of being excessively spoiled …

Item:

THE PRESENT (caps required)

Tuxedo had been teasing me for months about my present and considering he’d been planning and organising it since April I can quite understand! I really had no idea apart from the fact that it was in a jewellery-sized box. Hence it was all his own work and thoughtfulness when he surprised me with –

– a seriously spectacular yellow- and white-gold bezel set three-diamond ring!

BLOODY HELL.

I’ve drooled over this style of ring for about twenty-five years; the design and size and use of different golds is precisely what I would have bought for myself. Which as any female knows, is the ultimate definition of a successful gift. I was – and will continue to be – totally overcome, speechless in fact – and am constantly sneaking peaks at my right hand ring finger to admire the sparklies. DIVINE. And do I not have the best, most incredibly beautiful and thoughtful and generous husband in the known universe? And he’s magnificent in bed too (well, we make a pretty spectacular team, to be truthful). He’s all mine … and I have such a crush on him.

Best. Birthday. Ever. Thank you, my darling boy, for making the day/weekend so much blissful fun, and for sharing the rest of our days and your life with me. I love you.

(and a very very Happy Birthday to my dear matey Dave (over at LeSinge.org) – and congrats on the successful marriage, move back to Eire, new job and new house, all in a matter of weeks! Did you learn from my mistakes, or are you just a bloody lucky gey [sic] bastard? Mwahs.)

For the love of spandex (Lycra)

Cyclists get a lot of flack for the weird outfits they wear; even I have commented herein on my beloved’s penchant for wearing more Lycra than I do, in neon shades to boot.  In recent days, one of my guilty online pleasures, Pink Is The New Blog has drooled (as well they should!) over Jake Gyllenhall and his friendship with new cycling-buddy Lance Armstrong; they have however been less than complimentary about the amount of spandex (American for Lycra) worn.

I have news for Pink Is The New Blog, and anybody who is interested in/partnered with a male cyclist; be very, very grateful for all that Lycra.  Embrace it.  Learn to love it!  For not only does that stretchy fabric look rather nice stretched over tight muscled cyclists’ legs, arms and chests (siiiiiigh) it also protects and ensures one’s relationship with said cyclist.

Have you ever looked at those berloody SEATS on those whizzbang carbon-fibre tri- or road bikes?  A turkey’s wishbone is more comfortable, and less wince-worthy, no matter how ergonomic or gel-covered aforementioned seat may be.  Now imagine a poor male human’s tender dangly bits in contact with such a contraption. Yes, ow.

Cycling gear takes care of all that.  Cycle shorts have ingeniously engineered padding around and amidships the area in question. The tightness and stretchiness of the Lycra fabric helps keep the padding and the wearer’s tender bits in place, so there’s less rubbing and shifting. Which saves not only pain, chafing, oozing saddle-sores and other delights; it saves ….

… well. 

Put it this way.  Cycling without adequate and engineered padding causes gradual desensitisation of those precious bits and eventually, the ability to get it up altogether.  Let’s not even talk about the health of the poor little wriggly spermies. 

Now who’s laughing at that weird gear?  You wanna lose your manliness and disappoint your partner? Go ahead, wear boxers and cargo pants, see if I care. Me, I’m off to visit Assos and buy my energetic, enthusiastic demon lover some more bib shorts, three-quarter knicks and maybe some booties (cos his toesies get cold too). It’s in my interest, after all.