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There's more to life than books, you know, but not much more - shadows of echoes of memories of songs
j4
j4
There's more to life than books, you know, but not much more
I said ages ago that if I hadn't got round to updating this soon people should poke me with sticks. I haven't updated it yet (perhaps the webmaster's homepages are the cobbler's children for the 21st century) but I have been reading.

I am currently reading this, or rather I have been reading it off and on for weeks. Its style is eclectic -- or erratic; lurching from erudite bitching to expletive-laden ranting by way of self-referential musing, interspersed with amusing footnotes, even managing to incorporate some serious intellectual argument (if tinged with irony) somewhere between the polemic and the pantomime. Go and read it. It will probably make you think.

Last week I finally read Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Bourdain, which hoiho lent me back when he was still living in Cambridge. There are already enough reviews out there which begin "If you've ever eaten in a restaurant, this book is for you", so I won't add to the pile; it is, however, a compelling account of one man's relationship with food, and his addiction to the drug of being a professional chef.

Apropos of which, I seem to have been thinking about food a lot recently. I enjoy food. Despite the terrified mutterings about how eggs cause salmonella, and beef causes CJD, and orange juice causes cancer, and cream buns give you heart attacks, and you just don't know what they put in these things these days, and despite the persistent whine of the proponents of the Beauty Myth telling me that I'll just have a salad, thanks if I want to stay a "perfect 10", I enjoy food. It's not so much about eating qua eating, as about sensual pleasure. I enjoy not only the tastes but the smells, the textures, the colours.

This evening for dinner I had a whole rainbow trout stuffed with ginger, dried apricot, lime and fresh coriander. Raw fish is beautiful: the skin shining like petrol in a puddle in the sun, the body heavy and oily, its side split open to reveal delicate pink skin. There are no entrails, only rows of bones like transparent needles; but the size of the slit and the weight of the fish's body give the impression that the flesh itself is spilling out, that the body is so full and abundant that it cannot contain itself. This gaping wound becomes a cornucopia when it is filled with the bright green of fresh coriander, and the veiled juiciness of dried apricots, whose shrivelled-looking exterior cannot hide their plumpness. The slices of lime make the whole kitchen smell of citrus and flowers; it's a sweet, bright, sharp smell, but there's an edge to it that smells somehow dangerous, like the lurking hints of poison in gin or pear drops.

I was going to write about reading, not eating.

This evening I was going to read one of the books I bought on the way home (I finally got round to buying Weaving the Web by Tim Berners-Lee, and I also bought a random book just because it sounded interesting in a kooky kind of way) but I seem to have spent the evening on the computer instead. Perhaps I'll read in the bath now instead -- another sensual pleasure, lying submerged in hot foamy water with a good book in my hand and a drink within reach. Depending on my mood, maybe the drink will be something solid like beer; or something bright and thirst-quenching like Coke; or something comforting like a big mug of Bovril.

Back from books to food again in just one paragraph.

It's occurred to me off and on lately, though, that I don't seem to fantasise about sexual pleasures any more, only sensual ones: I lie in bed daydreaming about lying in bed, warm and relaxed. I dream about eating prawns (king prawns or tiger prawns, raw or cooked, either way they should still have a slightly-yielding crunchiness to them), or fresh strawberries (dark and full of flavour, not the watery things that are sold in supermarkets), or steak mince (which I can never quite resist eating as I'm preparing to cook it, when it's all soft and sweet and marbled and meaty), or perhaps avocado with dark muscovado sugar (where the rough, burnt, crystalline taste of the sugar makes a blinding contrast with the smooth, opaque creaminess of the fruit). I dream about blankets, and fur coats, and sheepskin rugs, and roaring open fires.

And somewhere in all that delicious warmth there's time to curl up and read without interruption for hours on end. See, this was about books after all.
Read 8 | Write
Comments
From: bibliogirl Date: February 14th, 2004 01:34 am (UTC) (Link)
.... and now I'm absolutely bloody starving...

I'll be interested to know what you think of Weaving the Web. I have a lot of respect for what Tim B-L has achieved over the years, but I couldn't finish the book (most unusual for me)
lnr From: lnr Date: February 14th, 2004 04:24 am (UTC) (Link)

Re:

It's *awfully* dry, isn't it? But only short, so I did read it all, even if I can barely remember it.
From: bibliogirl Date: February 14th, 2004 05:35 am (UTC) (Link)

Re:

I can live with 'dry' -- well, mostly ;) -- but I think what stopped me in my tracks were some of his comments about online security, which I disagreed with quite comprehensively. About the same reaction I had to Cliff Stoll's comments about online communities in Silicon Snake Oil, though I'm pretty sure I finished that.
nou From: nou Date: February 14th, 2004 06:05 pm (UTC) (Link)
More writing about food, please. I mean, books are almost as important as food, but lots of people write very well about books and hardly anyone can write about food as well as you just did. The Sunday supplement people are all pretentious and boring.

I am going to taste the steak mince the next time I make chilli for Richard and Mark. I ate steak tartare at Mon Plaisir with Marna. It was about the best meat I've ever tasted. I don't generally like the stuff, but when I eat it raw I understand why we're never all going to be vegan. My perception of cooked meat is pretty much that it's a tofu substitute.

Creamy, firm, smooth avocado. Creamy, firm, smooth Janet.
j4 From: j4 Date: February 15th, 2004 03:36 am (UTC) (Link)

Re:

Okay, will try to write more food-pr0n. :-)

Books are better than food in some ways, though. I mean, you can re-read books, but you can't re-eat food (notwithstanding the assertion in Pembroke's alternative prospectus that the kebabs from McCoy's taste better on the way back up).

Creamy, firm, smooth avocado. Creamy, firm, smooth Janet.

Gosh! *blush*

[thinks: "Cover me in balsamic vinegar and throw me to the lesbians"]
rysmiel From: rysmiel Date: February 16th, 2004 06:52 am (UTC) (Link)
mm... this is a really lovely sensual piece of writing. Thank you.

Come to Montreal, and I can gurantee you ten world-class examples of different cuisines in a fortnight, some of which I', sure you'll not have met before. Given what you've said about fish, really good sushi will be one of them.
k425 From: k425 Date: February 16th, 2004 10:55 am (UTC) (Link)
If you ever find yourself in need of another job, might I suggest food critic? That was wonderful!
nou From: nou Date: February 17th, 2004 03:54 pm (UTC) (Link)
> king prawns or tiger prawns, raw or cooked

I was just drinking a pint of cider, with a teeny bit of tequila popped in on top for the slightly woody taste, when I found a worm in my mouth.

It's too pretty to eat. It's got two lines of dots on opposite sides, going like

   . . o o O o o . .

(except filled in with black) and it squidges lengthways like an accordion, very slightly. Each segment of its body looks like a small pale rehydrated sultana.

Read 8 | Write