Archive for October, 2008

What books are next to your bed?

October 30, 2008

I found this set of questions on Sheila’s blog.

What was the last book you bought?

One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich (Russian: Один день Ивана Денисовича Odin den’ Ivana Denisovicha) – Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn.  We are reading it in book club this month and I need to finish it by Tuesday night.  I am well known for not finishing book club books.  I get to choose the book we read next.  Any recommendations?

Name a book you have read MORE than once.

The Bible.  I generally don’t reread fiction (unlike MissN who rereads everything – which makes buying books for her a pleasure as I know she will have endless hours of pleasure and that my money has been well spent.  She is currently reading LOTR for the fourth sixth time.)

Has a book ever fundamentally changed the way you see life? If yes, what was it?

What’s so Amazing about Grace by Phillip Yancey.  I was a very new Christian.  Wow.

How do you choose a book? eg. by cover design and summary, recommendations or reviews

Generally from recommendations or reviews.

Do you prefer Fiction or Non-Fiction?

I read more fiction but enjoy non-fiction too.  I read travel books, memoirs, biography.

What’s more important in a novel – beautiful writing or a gripping plot?

That’s sort of an either/or question. I prefer both/and.

Most loved/memorable character

Commissario Guido Brunetti – the hero of Donna Leon’s Venice crime novels.  I could fall in love with Guido!

What was the last book you’ve read, and when was it?

I finished The Shack by William P. Young this morning.  It was profound,  Flawed but powerful and moving. Now I can read John Mark Hicks’ blogposts on it!  Readers in the USA can order a free copy of The Shack here. I know the 2 friends I ordered it for were blessed by it, and they in turn have blessed others with it.

Have you ever given up on a book half way in?

Many times. One book I tried to read so many times (it went on every holiday I went on for at least 5 years) was Peter Carey’s Oscar and Lucinda, which C gave me for Christmas the year it was published (1988 I think). I got halfway quite a few times but could NOT finish it. Now I have enjoyed the movie and won’t ever attempt to read it again. I was relieved when I met others who had the same problem with O&L!

Which book or books can be found on your bedside table at the moment?

ESV New Testament
Wilful Behaviour – Donna Leon (I have just 2 Brunetti novels to read after this – her 2 newest.)
Five Quarters of an Orange – Joanne Harris (borrowed from a friend at least 2 years ago)
A Bunch of EverlastingsF. W. Boreham (my Boreham collection is growing)
The Lord of the Rings Location Guidebook – Ian Brodie
A Gathered PeopleJohn Mark Hicks, Johnny Melton & Bobby Valentine (we started discussing it in a Yahoo group I am in)
TNIV Bible Experience
The Scandal of the Season – Sophie Gee (one of my Christmas presents – haven’t begun it yet)

On the floor, next to my bedside table are:

The Gathering – Anne Enright (book club several months ago – I got to page 142)
The Kite Runner – Khaled Hosseini (I gave it to C for Christmas because I knew I would enjoy it too – haven’t begun it yet. He enjoyed it.)
Cover to Cover – Through the Bible as it Happened (I need to pack this away – have tried using it twice but it’s too “bitty” – jumps around too much)
An Omelette and a Glass of Wine – Elizabeth David (now back in my cookbook bookcase – I did pack something away!) Elizabeth David is a favourite.  I have most of her books.
A Suitable Boy – Vikram Seth (a signed copy I bought in 1994 when I heard him speak at Writer’s Choice at Sydney Uni – I keep intending to read it.  I took it on holiday in December.  I think I need to pack it away! Or maybe just leave it out to take on holiday this December!)

There is also a (neat) pile of magazines but let’s not go there.
Or mention the books IN the bedside cabinet.

What books are next to YOUR bed?

One word and one song

October 29, 2008

One word…

John Dobbs posted this meme, in which the questions have to be answered in one word.

1. Where is your cell phone? handbag
2. Where is your significant other? work
3. Your hair color? reddish
4. Your mother? mourned
5. Your father? missed
6. Your favorite thing? coffeepot
7. Your dream last night? convoluted
8. Your dream/goal? example
9. The room you’re in? study
10. Your hobby? internet
11. Your fear? madness
12. Where do you want to be in 6 years? here
13. Where were you last night? home
14. What you’re not? American
15. One of your wish-list items? princessparrot (is that cheating?)
16. Where you grew up? Johannesburg
17. The last thing you did? chatted
18. What are you wearing? jeans
19. Your TV? silent
20. Your pet? Dolce
21. Your computer? humming
22. Your mood? thankful
23. Missing someone? sister
24. Your car? red
25. Something you’re not wearing? watch
26. Favorite store? Kinokuniya
27. Your summer? soon!
28. Love someone? indeed!
29. Your favorite color? green
30. When is the last time you laughed? earlier
31. Last time you cried? yesterday

Consider yourself tagged!

and one song…

Take a can of beans

October 21, 2008

open it, mix with some yummy fresh ingredients and you have a delicious, frugal, quick, easy, healthy, summery meal.  You can’t beat that!  And it meets my criteria of no preservatives or chemicals.  It’s Italian in inspiration (the cuisine I could live on if I had to choose one and one only for the rest of my life).  Add fresh bread and you have lunch or dinner.  And C and MissN love it!

I use cannellini beans but borlotti beans are good too.  You can use any beans you like.  Or have.  You can even cook your own. I do sometimes, when I am organised.

My basic (flexible) recipe is

Mix together:

chopped garlic

finely sliced red onion

green beans, cut into short pieces and briefly boiled, then refreshed in cold water and drained

1 tin drained cannellini beans

olive oil

white wine vinegar or lemon juice

season with salt and freshly ground black pepper

Spoon onto a bed of green salad leaves

Top with a quartered hard boiled egg, tomatoes and black olives

Italian bean salad

Italian bean salad

Potatoes make a good replacement for the beans.  Add whatever ingredients you have to the bean mixture.  Tonight I added finely sliced celery.  Capers and anchovies add a Nicoise touch but the salad is quite tasty enough without them.

Regular readers and friends know that I am a bit of a healthy food fanatic.  My first criteria though, before healthy food, is delicious food.  Life is too short to eat food that doesn’t taste good.  And my family is less likely to be keen on it if it doesn’t taste wonderful.  God has blessed us with such an abundance of variety that there is no reason not to eat delicious food that is actually good for you too. And we owe it to our bodies to feed them the very best ingredients we can.

So why do we short-change our bodies with processed junk that sabotages our health?

Gado gado and emigration

October 11, 2008

My first exposure to Indonesian cooking was in 1981 when my friend Shirley cooked me some Indonesian food.  She had done a Indonesian cooking class in Johannesburg, and I was entranced by nasi goreng and mie goreng and a dish she made with meatballs (this in the days when I ate meat).  I was also introduced to Conimex products and I bought ketjap manis and sambal oelek, galangal and lemongrass. 1981 was a significant year in my culinary education – it was also the year that Carrier’s Kitchen reached South Africa.  Carrier’s Kitchen changed the way we cooked and ate forever).

In 1985 C made a business trip to Australia.  We had been set on emigrating for a few years by then (and were awaiting his graduation so we could formally apply) and it was a good opportunity for him to get the feel of Sydney.  He came back convinced we were doing the right thing emigrating to Australia.  He brought back a gift for me from his friend Mike who had moved to Australia 8 years before and his Australian wife Carolyn (whom I hadn’t met yet).  The book is A Taste of Summer by Beverly Sutherland Smith.  I loved it then (how did Carolyn know I was into food?) and I love it now.

Gado Gado was one of the first recipes I made from the book and a dish I make regularly in the warmer months.  It’s basically a mixture of fresh and cooked vegetables, cold boiled eggs and peanut sauce served at room temperature (though you can have the sauce warm).  It’s a substantial salad meal, and you can use whatever vegies you have.  Tofu is a good addition too (cubed, either fresh or deep fried).  I love how the sauce, eggs and raw and cooked vegies taste together.  The vegetables in Beverly Sutherland Smith recipe are small potatoes, green beans, carrots, mung bean sprouts, cucumber, wombok (Chinese cabbage), onion and watercress.

Last night I used wombok, potatoes, green beans, sugar snap peas, broccoli, cucumber, mung bean sprouts, sliced mushrooms, halved grape tomatoes and radish.  Potatoes, cucumber and  green beans are the essentials for me.

Here is her sauce recipe:

2 TBS peanut oil

125g (4 oz) raw peanuts

1 whole small dried red chili

2 cloves garlic

1white onion, finely chopped

1 tsp shrimp paste (blachan)

1TBS brown sugar

2 TBS lemon juice

1 tsp salt

1 cup water

3/4 cup coconut milk

Heat the oil, and cook the peanuts until they are golden brown in colour.  Drain on kitchen paper and then grind them finely in a food processor. (I usually dry fry them)

Heat a little fresh oil in the pan, and add the chilli.  Cook, turning, until it is puffed and crisp.  Remove it from the pan.  When cooled, chop or crumble it finely, removing most of the seeds.  Cut the garlic into fine slices and add to the same pan, along with the onion.  Cook until golden and slightly crisp.

Mix in the nuts, brown sugar, lemon, salt, the pieces  of chilli and the water.

Place in a small saucepan, return it to the heat and cook gently until lightly thickened.

Add the coconut milk and simmer for a couple of minutes.  The sauce will keep for about 5 days in the fridge.  Serve the sauce cool or slightly warm, NOT chilled.

(There are simpler recipes for peanut sauce!)

Pour or dollop (it should be thick) the sauce over the vegetables and egg and you have gado gado!

gado gado

gado gado

Or you can use a can or jar of satay sauce like I did last night.  Yes, I do use packaged and processed foods, if there are no nasties (ie preservatives, flavourings, colourings) and the taste of the product is equal to that of home made.  This sauce was a little spicier than I liked but it was still good.

I have never been to Indonesia.  I don’t know if I will ever get there, even though it’s our closest Asian neighbour.  But eating gado gado, as well as being delicious and healthy, evokes memories of friends and conjures a world of islands called Kalimantan and Sulawesi, the Moluccas, the Sundas,  Komodo and Flores, a world I first read about in Marika Hanbury-Tenison’s A Slice of Spice, a world from where the spices of Cape Malay cuisine travelled to South Africa and infused Cape Malay cooking with a sweet and spicy combination of turmeric, chili, ginger and cloves, tamarind and garlic, galangal and lemongrass, cassia and cinnamon.

Another top 100 book list

October 8, 2008

I found this list on rooruu‘s blog, where I found my previous book list too.

Australian booksellers Angus and Robertson polled their customers again for their favourite books.

Here’s the 2008 list they’ve just released.  MissN is most disgusted that Tolkien has fallen off the list and almost complained in A & R yesterday.


Do you want to play along and list yours?

*** my top pick on this list
** read it, a favourite
* read it
~ read it, indifferent
^ would like to read it/plan to read it

1 Harry Potter series – J.K. Rowling* (I only read HP1)
2 Twilight – Stephenie Meyer (MissN had an intense Twilight phase which is thankfully now over)
3 Pride and Prejudice – Jane Austen**
4 The Obernewtyn Chronicles – Isobelle Carmody
5 My Sister’s Keeper – Jodi Picoult
6 To Kill A Mockingbird – Harper Lee**
7 The Book Thief – Markus Zusak^
8 Breath – Tim Winton^
9 The Kite Runner – Khaled Hosseini^
10 Break No Bones – Kathy Reichs
11 The Power Of One – Bryce Courtenay*
12 Fight Club – Chuck Palahniuk
13 Magician – Raymond E. Feist
14 The Bronze Horseman – Paullina Simons
15 Mao’s Last Dancer – Li Cunxin^
16 Memoirs Of A Geisha – Arthur Golden^
17 The Lovely Bones – Alice Sebold^
18 Cross – James Patterson
19 Persuasion – Jane Austen**
20 Jane Eyre – Charlotte Bronte**
21 The Time Traveler’s Wife – Audrey Niffenegger*
22 The Secret – Rhonda Byrne
23 Marley and Me – John Grogan
24 Antony and Cleopatra – Colleen McCullough
25 April Fools Day – Bryce Courtney
26 North & South – Elizabeth Gaskell^
27 In My Skin – Kate Holden
28 Wuthering Heights – Emily Bronte**
29 A Thousand Splendid Suns – Khaled Hosseini^
30 The Other Boleyn Girl – Phillipa Gregory^  (MissN loved it.  We both loved the movie)
31 Nineteen Minutes – Jodi Picoult
32 Atonement – Ian McEwan^
33 Shantaram Gregory – David Roberts^
34 Pillars Of The Earth – Ken Follett
35 The Pact – Jodi Picoult
36 Ice Station – Matthew Reilly
37 Cloudstreet – Tim Winton*
38 Jessica – Bryce Courtenay
39 A New Earth – Eckhart Tolle
40 The Princess Bride – William Goldman
41 Running With Scissors – Augusten Burroughs^
42 Anybody Out There? – Marian Keyes
43 Life Of Pi – Yann Martel^
44 Seven Ancient Wonders – Matthew Reilly
45 People Of The Book – Geraldine Brooks^
46 Six Sacred Stones – Matthew Reilly
47 Memory Keeper’s Daughter – Kim Edwards*
48 Brother Odd – Dean Koontz
49 Tully – Paullina Simons
50 Tuesdays with Morrie – Mitch Albom
51 The Catcher in the Rye – J.D Salinger*
52 Eragon – Christopher Paolini
53 Eat, Pray, Love – Elizabeth Gilbert^
54 It’s Not About The Bike – Lance Armstrong**
55 A Tale of Two Cities – Charles Dickens*
56 A Fine Balance – Rohinton Mistry^
57 The Alchemist – Paulo Coelho
58 Nineteen Eighty Four – George Orwell*
59 A Fortunate Life – A.B. Facey**
60 The Mists of Avalon – Marion Zimmer Bradley*
61 The Notebook -Nicholas Sparks (I was seriously underwhelmed by the movie)
62 Water For Elephants – Sara Gruen
63 The Five People You Meet In Heaven – Mitch Albom
64 The Host – Stephenie Meyer
65 Dirt Music – Tim Winton^
66 Eldest – Christopher Paolini
67 The Shadow of the Wind – Carlos Ruiz Zafon^
68 It – Stephen King
69 World Without End – Ken Follett
70 Emma – Jane Austen**
71 Temple – Matthew Reilly
72 Little Women – Alcott Louisa May*
73 Lean Mean Thirteen – Janet Evanovich
74 Scarecrow – Matthew Reilly
75 American Gods – Neil Gaiman
76 Love In The Time Of Cholera – Gabriel Garcia Marquez^
77 P.S, I Love You – Cecelia Ahern
78 All That Remains – Patricia Cornwell
79 The Last Lecture – Randy Pausch
80 Past Secrets – Cathy Kelly
81 The Persimmon Tree – Bryce Courtenay
82 Husband – Dean Koontz
83 Plain Truth – Jodi Picoult*
84 Wicked – Gregory Maguire
85 Spot Of Bother – Mark Haddon
86 Always And Forever – Cathy Kelly
87 The Road – Cormac McCarthy***
88 Cents & Sensibility – Maggie Alderson*
89 Me Talk Pretty One Day – David Sedaris
90 The Shifting Fog – Kate Morton^
91 We Need To Talk About Kevin – Lionel Shriver
92 Everyone Worth Knowing – Lauren Weisberger
93 Hour Game – David Baldacci
94 Darkly Dreaming Dexter – Jeff Lindsay
95 The Woods – Harlan Coben^
96 Half of a Yellow Sun – Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie^
97 Middlesex – Jeffrey Eugenides^
98 Scar Tissue – Anthony Kiedis
99 Infidel – Ayaan Hirsi Ali^
100 Birdsong – Sebastian Faulks*
The 2007 list is still their website here.
What’s your favourite from the list above?  I was blown away by The Road which was harrowing and redemptive, sparse and rich.  I am eagerly awaiting the movie.