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.