Friday, June 10, 2011

Pavlovian Responses

Change: we crave it and we resist it, often at the same time. My dad was a great believer in change. Choose change he told me as I nervously headed off to university, and if you don't like it, choose again. Of course there is that other species of change that is inescapable, mandated by time and life. Antigua is a memory and my mum is back in hospital.
Change can be slow. My walk home from the hospital takes me up a steady incline of what 13,000 years ago was the bottom of the glacial Lake Iroquois. June used to take forever to end so that summer holidays could begin. Change can be fast. The summer holidays, when they finally arrived, I was sure, like love, must last forever.

I asked my friend Lynda what she’d like for her birthday lunch. A devoted anglophile, I was sure she would say roast beef, Yorkshire puddings, and possibly a cheesecake. She surprised me by choosing pasta and “anything with raspberries.” My instinctive response was a chocolate pavlova with the requisite berry. I used Nigella Lawson’s recipe. She often has great ideas – like a salad with watermelon, olives, feta and mint – but she isn’t always reliable, so it’s a good idea to check her website for errata. The cookbook is called Forever Summer. I rest my case.

Podcasts re Food
I’ve suggested a number of book podcasts. Good podcasts on food are far rarer, at least where I’ve ventured in cyberspace. So let me direct you to a podcast so cool it wouldn’t break a sweat on your private island, so hip it hurts, but just smiles and orders another martini: American Public Media: The Dinner Party Download.

Each episode begins with an “ice breaker”, followed by a cocktail inspired by an historic event, then a variety of food news, interviews and music. Where else could you learn that Texas is considering legislation to legalize shooting feral pigs from helicopters, or hear comedian and author Demitri Martin riff on food-isms?

Strange Tastes Indeed
I just finished the weakest in a mystery series that I had enjoyed up until now for its locale. Since I don’t have anything nice to say, etc., I will have to mention instead what I am currently reading. Perhaps you will think my tastes strange or eclectic, if you are feeling kindly.

The Various Haunts of Men is by Susan Hill, who provides a skein of plot lines and pulls you along to see how they weave together. Ironically, this book is rather long, whereas the other book, Hadji Murad is a novella by Tolstoy. Many people, including Boris Akunin believe it is the best short story ever written. Based on Tolstoy’s military experiences in the Caucasus it is cinematic in its vivid detail and tragically timeless as recent history proves.