Thursday, 9 July 2015

Eating and Reading: A Literary Feast

I got a nice surprise this morning when, just as I was making bread, an email came through saying a new book with my name on it got reviewed in ‘Waitrose Weekend’. What book is this, you ask? Ta-dah!
Life is not ALL swimming and ouzo here with me and the blonde beach-hound (no, she is telling me now, we must also play with the rope...). One of the things I do sometimes to scrabble together a living is work as a ‘writer for hire’. Although I never see a royalty after the fee is paid, there’s something satisfying about the work: the publisher has already decided on a good book concept, they give me the brief, and away I go to research and write it. Usually under a pseudonym, I’ve put together gift books like The Walker’s Friend and The Traveller’s Friend and others on such varied topics as retirement, sex (OK, maybe not so varied) and extreme manpower races*
When they asked if I wanted to write A Literary Feast, well – books, food, what’s not to love?! I have to say, I was fascinated by this project. I researched some of the most interesting quotations about food in world literature from across the centuries, and developed them into recipes, interspersing it all with trivia. I was delighted when they wanted to put my real name on the cover.
What’s more, there are several pieces for Greece-lovers… There’s a pea soup mentioned in an Aristophanes play, a dolmades recipe (actually a Persian version), quinces and figs, a quotation from Zorba the Greek and Cretan cheese and honey pies inspired by Homer…
‘While Odysseus (like James Bond) could easily resist the food and drink that were the downfall of other men, he was helpless when a beautiful woman was on the menu.’
Some of my other favourite finds were Bridget Jones’s disastrous shepherd’s pie, roast pork sandwiches for Hamlet, a trivia piece on Virginia Woolf’s food references and one on who ate all the pies in literature; too many cooks spoiling the vegetables in Anne of Green Gables and too many ingredients in the Irish stew in Three Men in a Boat… Cornflakes clusters inspired by Harold Pinter’s The Birthday Party, and the surreptitious nibbling of macaroons in Henrik Ibsen.
The Waitrose review said there were many famous and unusual dishes in this 'neat little book', that it was not everyday cooking but a curious read and 'might come in handy if you're hosting a book club meeting'.
I hope it’s whetted your appetite and you’ll enjoy grazing through these culinary bon mots…
For eating and reading are two pleasures that combine admirably…  - C.S. Lewis
 

* Also out soon: The World’s Toughest Races!