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Scribble, cut out, clip – the art of handcrafting recipe books

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Some more delicious home-made recipe books

Taking a look at how people other than my best friend (see here) keep their recipes

 

KARIN:

“At some point I made the decision not to keep my recipes in a book or a folder, but to keep a box with reference cards. I’ve been using the system since the early nineties and it still works for me. These are a few of the most used recipes. From the selection you can probably deduce that I cook because I must, but I bake because I like to. And that I have a sweet tooth. I have recipes in English, Afrikaans and German.”

 

 

CATHERINE: “When I graduated university in Sweden, I had just finished two years studying in Spain, and started this book when I moved back home, while looking for my first job. I knew I would eventually move out and wanted to be able to cook something other than pasta or toast! Also, I really started enjoying food late, in my early 20s, especially after my years in Spain.My mother also has a cookbook with cut-out recipes that she got from magazines and from my father’s mother.

“When I lived in France and Swizerland after university, I cooked some easy recipes, mainly pasta-dishes, but most stores sold the baked goods I liked, and I would go out to eat the other more elaborate foods I liked, so I never had to make it from scratch. When I moved to South Africa, the food here was so different to what I use to eat back home that I started cooking and baking myself. Also, those familiar recipes reminded me of home. The recipes are in Swedish, French, English and Spanish. Most of the ones that were handwritten are those I wrote down from my mother’s recipe book and are in Swedish.”

 

ISABELLA:

“I have my mom’s recipe book from her home economics class from the 1950s. Love it and use it to bake. I also have my late dad’s favourite recipe book, in which he ticked off recipes every time he used them. To see his handwriting always pulls at my heart. Both are very, very dear to me.”

LARA:

larascraps“My recipes are written on scraps of paper stored in my well-used Annabel Karmel cookery book. I only learnt to cook after I had childen and AK has brilliant kids’ recipes. These are recipes I use almost daily, borrowed and adapted from friends/family/the internet/magazines/books/wherever and made my own because they passed the all-important family taste test. If I make something and everyone likes it I write it down and add it to the collection. The book I store them in is quite literally busting at the seams.

 

The best recipe books are home-baked

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DSC01258My best friend S has a lot of cookbooks in her home. Huge, intimidating tomes with food so fancy and obscure the sheer volume, range and possibilities for nourishment make me want to lie down and have a little rest.

But in amongst her voluminous collection I discovered on a recent visit there (she lives in a different city) a hardcover A4 notebook with yellowing pages: her home-made, pieced-together, patchwork of favoured recipes.

She started it just before she left home, neatly cutting out edges for tabs under which to organise found recipes and carefully transcribed instructions from her mother. The outside is a montage of pictures of food cut from recipe books, dating – simply by virtue of stylising and fashion – the book to the late eighties.

DSC01260The book contains more than twenty years’ worth of kitchen experience. But it holds more than that. The crinkle of the dusky pages are a small history of this woman I have loved and respected since the very first day we spoke, hunkered down behind the school gym bunking PT: her neat straight-up handwriting and logical thinking; the choices she made for inclusion and, by extension, for exclusion; the book’s bilingualism, which reminded me that when she moved to South Africa she could only speak English; the little flame of ancestral feeding that’s kept alive here; the testimony to family, friends and food, and to times spent around various tables in various homes – from suburban parental home, to shared digs and rented flats to her first own home, bought carefully and bravely as she started to establish herself in her career.

S’s handmade cookbook – her home-baked, artisanal, lovingly accrued recipe book – is one of the most beautiful things I’ve laid eyes on in ages.

DSC01252I pulled the book from the shelf and paged through it on the new kitchen island in a freshly renovated house structured, appropriately, around a large, airy kitchen in that same house, which she now shares with a man who cooks, undaunted and lovingly, the kind of food for which you have to pay a small fortune in high-end restaurant.

After all the changes, relationships, renovations, after all the years of being an adult, my childhood friend’s handmade book feels like an artefact, a carefully curated collection – a paper umbilicus to that first kitchen where, under her mother’s eye, she topped-and-tailed beans, made stuffings and mixed batters.

I can take or leave large, glossy recipe books, but the tenderness I felt towards S’s home-cooked version leaned towards a most satisfying sentimentality.

Umberto Eco’s list of lists

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How interesting can a list be? In Eco’s hands, quite thrilling, and if you’re a fan of his writing you’ll know that he likes using lists in his novels.
Here he brings his fascination with catalogues together in a thick, glossy treasure that combs literature from Homer to Pablo Neruda, and James Joyce to Patrick Süskind to present the reader with an astounding number of “practical and poetic lists”. There are lists of angels and demons, the type of people who drink, the smells of Paris in the 18th century, ingredients for witches’ brew, the names of alchemical prima materia, and, well, etcetera – a word that here comes into its full meaning.
There are also “visual lists” – a great number of paintings which give form to the sense of infinities of things. Who can tire of such a catalogue? – Karin Schimke

The Inifinity of Lists

Umberto Eco

Maclehose Press

REVIEW: Karin Schimke

REVIEW: The Midwife’s Daughter

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midwifePatricia Ferguson
The Midwife’s Daughter
Penguin Books

REVIEW: Ruth Browne

In Patricia Ferguson’s latest novel, one of the first and most pervasive images evoked is that of the mirror.

Each of her complex, sensitive characters is made to see herself through the mirrors of other people, revealing the hidden concerns and judgements of the private mind. Ferguson is a searching writer. She wants to know her cast better than they know themselves, to follow and understand them even in their moments of deepest distress and unreason.

Setting her story near the start of the twentieth century, in a seaside village in Cornwall, the writer studies a close-knit, conservative community confronted with change. With WWI only a few years into the future, Silkhampton clings to its old ways – and no one remembers those ways like Mrs Violet Dimond, the village midwife. Waiting at home by the fire with her special bag ready, Mrs Dimond’s services are essential. She is respected and valued in the village as a good churchgoing woman with standards. Then, in the course of a morning, her excellent reputation is demolished when she brings home the first child of colour Silkhampton has ever seen.

If a comparison must be made, Patricia Ferguson’s writing shares many parallels with stories by Toni Morrison: intense familial relationships, vivid characterisations, and themes of trauma and renewal. Violet Dimond and her identical twin sister, Bea, look so alike that as children they could effortlessly impersonate each other, but they’ve led very different lives: Violet the traditional, respectable daughter and Bea the wanderer and self-made woman. But it’s at Bea’s Children’s Home that Violet finds the nameless child, strange to her eyes and yet very like her own lost daughter, who will change the course of her life. Adoption is another key chord in Ferguson’s composition. Of course, the colour of the child’s skin at this point in history makes Violet’s task as mother and defender that much harder.

Despite Violet’s attempts to shield her, little Gracie Dimond grows up with a clear sense of her own difference. Ferguson tells Grace’s side of the story with tenderness and great empathy, reshaping the experience of exclusion without the over-familiarity inspired by many similar narratives already written. Thus her terrible anxiety, her prayers to be “turned white” overnight, the exhaustion of being constantly looked at: all of the pressures of being seen as different in a small community are made fresh again, and all of Grace’s accomplishments and humiliations are felt sharply.

What brings this story to life are the author’s clever and incisive insights into the emotions and intents of the citizens of Silkhampton. When Violet takes Grace out to the market for the first time, some of the passers-by “petted her in a sort of luxurious sorrow, as if saddened by the thought that there was nothing to be done about so much unwonted darkness”. One morning, out in the garden with Grace, Violet is paid a visit by the Reverend Mr Goldolphin of St George’s, whose parishioners have pressured him into trying to keep “the negro child” out of church. Understanding his purpose, Violet’s heart gives “a zestful thump of anticipatory anger” as she recognises her opportunity to rebuke him. Then there’s Grace’s uncomfortably acute awareness of how she is perceived wherever she goes. Sitting in a tearoom with two working-class white friends, almost as unwelcome as herself, Grace pities the proprietress. Though her discomfort in Grace’s presence is unwarranted and ugly, the pain is “still real, the dismay still genuine, and if hardly intended still all down to Grace: her fault.” So the author tallies up the layers of Grace’s exclusion, refreshingly contradicted in some cases, as at Mrs Ticknell’s wool and embroidery shop, and harrowingly reinforced in others.

Violet Dimond’s adopted daughter becomes a mirror for the people of Silkhampton, reflecting their fear and hatred back at them. Grace is a symbol of change. When she steps into Violet’s life, Mrs Dimond the fearsome midwife learns what it means to lose respect and peace of mind, even to the point of losing her profession when a new class of medical professionals deems her work backward, even dangerous. Then, before long, the war invades peace and privacy, and Violet must watch as all the boys she delivered into the world are enlisted and shipped off to leave it forever.

In this new world, birthed as bloodily as any newborn child, it is fitting that Grace begins to write. Calling herself “the Silkhampton Darkie”, she tries to reflect her pain back at the society that exiled her. And this, finally, is what we are left with: with the power of writing as a method of personal exorcism.

With a convincing eye for dialect, era and the broken glass of hidden pain, the author lovingly brings these characters and their stories to life.

  • This review first appeared in the Cape Times in March 2013

COLUMN: If all the world’s shelves were empty

By Karin Schimke

In Berlin, in a public square in Mitte called Bebelplatz, you can walk right over a memorial, one of the most haunting ones I have ever seen. Sunk into the ground is a chamber lined floor-to-ceiling with empty bookcases, which you view through a glass “paving stone”.Denkmal_der_Buecherverbrennung
Alongside it are words from a Heinrich Heine play he wrote a century before the infamous book burnings that took place here in May 1933. The words are: “Dort wo man Bücher verbrennt, vebrennt man am Ende auch Menschen”. They mean: “Where they burn books, they will also in the end burn people.”
Around 20 000 books were burnt here by Nazi students and Hitler youth groups.
History teaches us much, but we learn little, I fear.

Last week I spoke to pupils at my old school in Pretoria about poetry, freedom of expression and popular protest. In the class with us was the history teacher Izak Kruger, who started teaching the year I was in matric. Although I knew that I was speaking to young people, the past has a tendency, in middle age, to feel close, and I forgot to imagine that the pupils with us have no sense of what it means to not be able to say what you wish to say, to protest against that which feels inhuman. They were truly shocked to imagine that in a time not long before their births – when Izak and I were around their age – South Africans had severe restrictions on what they were allowed to utter in public.
harewithambereyes-paperbackThis month I read The Hare With Amber Eyes by Edmund de Waal, a book published in 2010 and which I have been straining to get to. It’s hard to classify the book: part biography, part history, part – almost – memoir. De Waal sets about uncovering the history of his family – entrepreneurial Jews who moved from Odessa in the 19th century to Paris and Vienna and who became assimilated there.

His story revolves around an inheritance of “netsuke” – small Japanese carvings of ivory and boxwood. De Waal is a potter – he makes things, he touches things – and his inheritance sparks in him some sense of the line of ancestry of things, and he sets about researching his family’s past. The research is distilled into a narrative that is both rich and pared down, loving, yet unsentimental.

The book is a wonder. I am not averse to reading pure history, but have to admit that I have gleaned most of my knowledge of the past from novels. Here history is presented as a story but the characters were real. Through De Waal’s eyes, I was able to imagine the sharpest edges of anti-Semitism and the scope of uncertainty and chaos that preceded and followed Hitler’s Anschluss in Austria. I felt the loss of things, ways, people and connections personally. I felt, most viscerally, the loss of libraries and art works collected by the family as it rose from merchants to rich bankers.

In the final chapter, De Waal writes: “I think of a library carefully sorted into netsuke1boxes. I think of all those careful burnings by others, the systematic erasing of stories, the separations between people and their possessions, and of people from their families and families from their neighbourhoods. And then from their country.” He meditates on things – trinkets, bibelots, books and clothes – and their meaning: “Objects have always been carried, sold, bartered, stolen, retrieved and lost. People have always given gifts. It is how you tell their stories that matter.”

Is there a telling more stark than a chamber of shelves empty of books? –

  • This column first in the Cape Times in March 2013.
  • Schimke is an independent writer, a poet and the editor of the Cape Times books pages.

Joburg Jumble

DSC01265I spent last week in Joburg – and the weekend in Pretoria – for work. I grew up in the latter, and worked for two years in the former, just after democracy came to South Africa. Oddly, I haven’t been back to Joburg – except to pass through Oliver Tambo International Airport – for…well, actually, I can’t work it out, but I think maybe not since 1998. Can that be?

Joburg is big, loud, green, mad, garish, gorgeous and exciting. And Joburgers are fabulous. I am always wary of generalisations – especially those that seem to repeat a received wisdom – but I only had warm, funny, strong, intelligent interactions with the people I met.

Joburgers rock. They mix. They know. They do. They go.

Every night I dreamt the day’s happenings in mix of languages, in day-glo, in slow-mo, in detail. My brain was hyper-sponge, sucking in by day, squeezing out images in a steady stream by night.

Soon as I get time I’m going to post about some of my bookie experiences Jozi.

 

QUICK REVIEW: Mr Phillips

Mr Phillips

Mr PhillipsDistinctly odd, sometimes boring, but punctuated by moments of what can only be described as naïve profundity, Mr Phillips did not make me laugh as much as puzzle, in spite of the enthusiastic cover shouts by important literary types.

Mr Phillips is a very dreary man, underlined – or perhaps parodied – by the fact that he is an accountant. Or was. He’s been retrenched and he doesn’t know how to tell his wife. So he goes “to work” spending the day walking through London with a kind of mental erection leading him around. Truly, this man thinks of sex incessantly, stopping sometimes only to make vast, complicated mental computations – as befits, one supposes, boring accountants. These two rambling weeds of inner conversation are interchangably boring and weird.

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There is great cinematic appeal in his progress through London’s streets, but there is no climax or resolution. It’s a very strange story. – Karin Schimke

Mr Phillips

John Lanchester

Faber & Faber

REVIEW: Karin Schimke

REVIEW: The Art Book

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The Art Book

Phaidon

REVIEW: Karin Schimke

If you’d like to skip the yadi-yada to get to what the book’s about, I have kept the editorialising in black and have highlighted the useful bits in purple. DSC01411

“Art”, like “poetry”, can be such a forbidding concept.

Those of us who do not practise it – apart, perhaps from part-time aesthetic experiments in lino-cutting, cake-decorating, wood turning or sock knitting, which, however tangentially, might be related to “making art” in the sense that they are creative endeavours – feel that a certain academic ignorance bars our entry into such elevated and hallowed ground as discursions into art and its meaning.

A passage from John Lanchester’s latest novel Mr Phillips plumbs this insecurity blithely when the protagonist wonders into The Tate Gallery.

“As always when he goes to a museum his impetus runs out very quickly once he has got inside. He has a feeling that he is looking for something that is not there, and what is worse, that everyone else is too. Or that they know something which he doesn’t. Or that there are a set of feelings he is supposed to have in the presence of art but which in his case are simply absent.”

I have felt that. And a sudden, inexplicable fatigue which seems to be related to some rising feeling that I simply don’t know enough to “get it”.

This stands in stark contrast to my private experience of art. I have, over years, managed to collect quite a substantial little art library and a small collection of paintings by local artists. I can say little about technique or context or meaning and I seldom know much more about the artist than the shape of their scribble on the painting. But – and this is where the art *fundis will throw down the newspaper in disgust – I like looking at pictures.

Yes. It’s that simplistic. Some pictures mean something to me for reasons I don’t fully grasp. And since I can’t afford that many, I like having books on art. Some pictures make no impression at all and I sometimes “see” them for the first time years later, as though a page had been surreptitiously inserted. Others I linger on. Others make me laugh. Or I shake my head at them.

In the novel I mentioned above, Mr Phillips goes on to name three paintings he sees at the Tate, and his thoughts and feelings about them are reflected in the narrative. His reactions are perhaps naïve – yet sometimes oddly profound – but he has them. And that is why people make art and other people look at it. It is, in essence, a reflective endeavour.

That art is also academic and can be analysed and written about – particularly in that highfalutin gobbledygook you come across in gallery pamphlets – is almost beside the point. Art is about seeing and about response. When I am told what I should be feeling about a work of art – something the high, grand walls and ceilings of museums seem to be doing too, albeit in a tacit way – then I become anxious and lose whatever connection exists between me and a work of art.

The Art BookThe Art Book, weighing in at four hefty kilograms, completely cuts me off from “expected responses” and the concomitant anxiety it causes. It’s just me, my cup of tea and pages upon pages of art. Five hundred and seventy six representations of works of art, and absolutely none of the usual organisational methods usually brought to bear in art books. There’s no section on Expressionism, Dadaism, Gothic or Rococo. No focus on landscape, or portrait or still life. The lens takes in almost every medium and every era – in the oddest way: by organising the representations using the surname of the artist. That means that on one left hand page you have four photographs of a man pushing an enormous melting block of ice across Mexico City (the work is called “Paradox of Praxis 1 – Sometimes Doing Something Leads to Nothing” by Francis Alÿs), while on the other you have a representation of an enormous oil on canvas by Jacopo Amigoni called “Juno Receives the Head of Argus”. This idiosyncratic arrangement means that every page is a surprise. Each picture of works by painters, photographers and sculptors is accompanied by a short text about the piece and about the artist. All of this is cross-referenced and there’s a really useful, no-nonsense glossary of technical terms and artistic movements included at the back of the book. I imagine that if your approach to art is deeper, more analytical and more organised than mine, you will find this disturbing. But I can’t quite imagine a person who would find no joy at all in this book, and I particularly recommend it for households with children. It’s like having a museum in your house.

In an essay entitled “Embodied Visions: What does it mean to look at a work of art?” the New York writer Siri Hustvedt notes that art exists because humans have been endowed with “reflective self-consciousness”. In other words, “we are able to represent ourselves to ourselves and muse about our own beings”. Art has no purpose other than to be looked at and thought about. She says that it is not a tool; that we can’t eat with it; that art is useless. But when we look at a picture or a representation of a thing or at an abstraction, we reflect on something in ourselves because “we are witnessing what remains of another person’s creative act, and through the artistic object we find ourselves embroiled in the drama of self and other”. No art book I own quite so fully represents this human drama as The Art Book does. – Schimke is a journalist, a poet and the editor of the Cape Times books pages.

*fundi is a South African word meaning “an expert in a particular field” or “an enthusiast for an activity or pastime”. (South African Concise Oxford Dictionary).

 

REVIEW: The Horologicon

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The Horologicon
Mark Forsyth
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REVIEW: Karen Jeynes

The Horologicon is, I can confidently say, a…oh, what’s the word? Yes, that’s it, a multivagant celebration of language. Multivagant, as you will learn on page 220, means “wandering hither and thither”, and is related to “extravagant” – “wandering beyond the bounds” and, as Mark Forsyth thinks you might want to know at 11pm, “solivagant”  – “wandering alone towards your far-off felicity”.
In my case, that felicity would be time spent devouring this masterpiece. From the moment it arrived in my hands I was in love. From the classic cover to the list of obscure dictionaries from which Forsyth gleaned some of his gems, I was hooked. This is word-nerd heaven, and I instantly bought the book and gave it to two people, and recommended it to several more.

Forsythe first gave us The Etymologicon and followed up quickly with The Horologicon.

Forsythe first gave us The Etymologicon and followed up quickly with The Horologicon.

Following on the extraordinary success of The Etymologicon, Mark Forsyth brings us “a day’s jaunt through the lost words of the English language”. The Horologicon, or book of hours, is a collection of beautiful, funny, odd and interesting words, divided into the hours when you might most need them. After lunch you might be wamblecroft – afflicted with an uneasiness of the stomach. At 6am you might be in a zwodder, a half-stupefied state. This division has been made so that words about similar things can be woven together. The theory is that you can dip into the book at a suitable hour, and read something appropriate to your state of mind. The reality is you will be hooked, and read for several hours at once.
The genius of Forsyth. who blogs as The Inky Fool, lies in his ability to draw you in to the enticing world of words. His enthusiasm for them oozes off the page. He is evidently vastly knowledgeable, but unlike many purveyors of knowledge his style is inclusive and accessible. It is impossible not to be lured in, and become addicted to, the words, the meanings, and the very celebration of our human ability and desire to express just about every emotion and occurrence. The decision to arrange the words by hours and weave them together with a narrative makes this book as readable as a novel, while remaining as useful as a dictionary. And the application of words to everyday situations means that they are far more likely to linger in your mind than if they were presented in a dry and academic style.
How could you not be enchanted by gymnologising (debating naked), poon (to prop up a table by wedging something under the leg) or scamander (to wander without a settled purpose)? I could continue, as on every page something is found to delight and resonate, but I won’t, as you need to buy this book. In fact, it’s hard not to introduce you to a plethora of words, as eagerly as I would introduce you to new friends. But credit must be given to the author, as without him there’s no doubt that these words would have remained undusted on the back shelf of language. Forsyth’s chatty style will make you feel that these are words that everyone could and should use.
Forsyth is a self-proclaimed pedant, a historian, and a man on a mission to spread a healthy addiction to words. His first book, The Etymologicon (which you should also buy) was described as “a circular stroll through the hidden connections of the English language”, and became a bestseller. He blogs on language and grammar, and is seemingly ever-keen to engage on issues of language. He also takes a practical approach to things. “Reality changes words far more than words can ever change reality,” says Forsyth. This is not the dogmatic pedant, ready to strike with a red pen. This is rather a benevolent confectioner, ready to hand you a delightful treat when you least expect it.
Another reviewer described The Horologicon as an excellent way to “upgrade” your English. I think this is a superb analogy, as reading The Horologicon, even if you don’t recall a single word of it afterwards, will undoubtedly make you prick up your ears a little more to the words that you do use, encourage you to start thinking about language, the basic tool which we use to survive every day.  Whether you are already intrigued by words and want to expand your treasure trove, or simply in search of an excellent and intriguing read, The Horologicon will help you while away the hours. And somewhere between the front cover and the back, you will realise that you are learning things without even realising it, that knowledge is seeping into your brain and that you feel so much the better for it.
This is not a reference book to put on your desk to impress people with. This is a delightful new companion to keep to hand at all times, and shall never be used as a poon. – Jeynes is an award-winning playwright who lectures in digital culture. She is also the editor of ThatWordSite.

This review appeared in the Cape Times in February 2013.

Find out some delicious words for “morning” here.

So many books, so few surfaces

The other day a friend walked into the kitchen and said: “It looks as though a huge family of readers was abducted by aliens in the middle of reading.” Every surface had a book splayed open it. I blinked a little disbelievingly.

too many books 002Just now, I walked into the living room to tidy up. This is what I found:

  • NW by Zadie Smith (Hamish Hamilton) – my novel
  • Katalekte by Breyten Breytenbach (Human & Rousseau) – the poetry (there’s usually one on the go)
  • Flowers by Andrew Zuckerman (Quercus) – just arrived from publisher for review
  • JM Coetzee: ‘n Geskryfde Lewe by John Kannemeyer (Jonathan Ball) – really interesting, but super-heavy, can only be read on arm of armchair for support
  • Zuma Exposed by Adriaan Basson (Jonathan Ball) – just picked it idly off the to-be-read pile and got a bit hooked in
  • Life in Five Seconds – Matteo Civaschi and Gianmarco Milesi (Quercus) – very unusual “stories in simple drawings” book. Kids and I have picked it up intermittently since the weekend to puzzle together
  • The Viewer – Shaun Tan and Gary Crew (Lothian Children’s Books) – because I am an admirer of Tan and a collector of his books. Bought this one at the weekend with a gift voucher
  • Ideas Gifts (Human & Rousseau) – not sure why: I spotted the spine and paged through it. Ideas is currently my favourite South African magazine and these craft ideas always make me feel hopeful and happy like Pollyanna
  • What’s for dinner, Mr Gum? By Andy Stanton (Egmont) – my children love me reading this to them (even though they’re past the age of being read to) because I “do voices”. Mr Gum is so funny. Not just lift-one-side-of-your-mouth funny. The kind of funny where you have to put the book down sometimes to wait for someone to recover from laughing fit.
  • The History of the World by Frank Welsh (Quercus) – because my son started on The French Revolution at school today and, well, you know…these big books are so much nicer – and the information is so much more contained – than what you see the net.

I walked out of the living room. There was no tidying to be done after all. Just some more disbelieving blinking.