Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Goshawks, Fish Cakes and Pleasing Yourself

Some days are beset with worries of various kinds, this being one of them.  I don't usually use my blogs as crying towels, horas non numero nisi serenas, as the sundial puts it. I figure  it's not very interesting to readers, but now and then I do get anxious about my nearest and dearest, as now.  Then, when I've realized there's little I can do about that, and what I can do I have done, it's time to give myself a little present.

Today it was one to share with you in our monthlong celebration: a cookbook recommended to me by K, on not just cooking for one, but "The Pleasure of Cooking for One" by Judith Jones, quite a different thing.  

When I was teaching myself flute, using a high end silver instrument that was in my custody for a couple of years, I found a great book called How to Love Your Flute, an inspired title. Not how to get the better of your flute, or how to master your flute, or any of that warlike approach, just how to enjoy and love your time with it.  I already do all this, in art and music and cooking, but it's so good to find a book that validates the whole thing with great energy.

This cookbook is very much like that, how to enjoy and celebrate cooking for yourself, and remember you are worth it.  Streets better than those ghastly books that show how to cook at warp speed, or as simply possible because the writer thinks it's boring, or as cheaply as possible and nemmind the taste.

 Barbara Pym, herself a good cook in real life, often has her characters speak contemptuously of people cooking for one and setting the table for themselves.  An in joke, I think, perhaps a plot a clef, with real life friends in mind.  And she's very sharply funny at the expense of men who see a meal alone as "an opportunity to cook a small plover" when her lone heroine plans on a bit of cheese and maybe a sliced tomato!  Some very good lines, though.

Anyway, I also feel free to laugh at my own efforts, too, and the irony of talking about a book with a souffle for one on the cover, with a glass of good white wine, then proceeding to make fish cakes, does not escape me. But they were fun to make and pretty good, too.  Aside from being very meat heavy, something I rarely if ever have any interest in, it's a very happily written text, and worth the time to study it.

And while I'm foofing around in the kitchen, I like to have an audio book going, this week being a fine work by Helen Macdonald, H is for Hawk. 

Aside from the gormless title, which nearly put me off completely, I decided that, since I love hawks and know nothing of falconry, this would be a good adventure. Which it is.  

It's about grief after the sudden death of a parent, mixed with the life of T.E.White, the writer, goshawk lover, and tortured soul, her life with her father, and the history of falconry, along with the writer's own adventure in taking on the taming and flying of a goshawk, and the emotional journey back to psychological balance in the process.  She's a professional falconer as well as historian, and knows what she's doing, don't try this at home folks.  

I have huge reservations about taking a wild creature and working with it or taming it, or using it for sport, so that was part of my reluctance.  But she's also a poet, and the recording was done by her, which means there is great understanding of the meaning, and of the ambivalence both of bird and falconer throughout the process. She has great powers of weaving all the strands of her narrative without getting us lost in them, and showing us eventually how they all work to illuminate one another.

Which puts it right up there in the ranks of good reading, despite some weird mispronunciations I decided were her own quirks, falconers not being your everyday run of the field or fen folks. And it reads like a long prose poem, full of exactly the right wording and imagery, but not in a self conscious way.

Anyway, take a look or a listen. My gift to you.  I am not recommending any other audio books at the moment, having been driven bonkers by people who can't pronounce the simplest words, even the name of the author, and haven't checked the way to say the slang words, or foreign phrases and so on.  Shoddy work, a lot of it.

But this one is good, melodious voice, very well phrased and cadenced, musical prose.  So there's a two-part birthday celebration: enjoy cooking for you, if, like many of my blogistas, you cook regularly for one, and treat yourself to this reading, too.  Both at once if you can.  Then you'll have an experiential diptych.
 High falutin' way of saying enjoying two things at once!

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