Thursday, 31 July 2008

Ramblings of a kitchen revolutionary

As I'm sure you know by now, the Man Booker longlist was announced earlier this week. As usual, it provoked quite a reaction, especially because of the inclusion a thriller (Tom Rob Smith's Child 44). For anyone who's interested, the full list is:

Aravind Adiga - The White Tiger
Gaynor Arnold - Girl in the Blue Dress
Sebastian Barry - The Secret Scripture
John Berger - From A to X
Michelle de Kretser - The Lost Dog
Amitav Ghosh - Sea of Poppies
Philip Hensher - The Northern Clemency
Joseph O'Neill - Netherland
Salman Rushdie - The Enchantress of Florence
Tom Rob Smith - Child 44
Steve Toltz - A Fraction of the Whole

I've not read any of them, yet, which is unusual for me. From these, The Secret Scripture is the only one I'm definitely planning to read. I'll probably add The Sea of Poppies (I've wanted to read Ghosh for a while and this is the opening book of a planned trilogy) and Netherland (which I've started to notice around the book blogs I read and is apparently already the bookies' favourite). I must admit that Rushdie leaves me cold - I overdosed on Rushdie about 10 years ago and have been unable to summon the energy to read any of his new books since then. The mixed reviews The Enchantress of Florence has received turns me off even more - there are too many books I want to read this year than feeling like I should read this one.

I'd be much more interested to read the list of books submitted and called in by the judges (103 submitted and 9 called in), as it would be interesting to know what didn't make it on. However, the longlist is a means of generating publicity, both for the prize itself and for the actual books in the running. A publicity tool like this can save a book from sinking without a trace. Check out this article in the Bookseller for some sales stats about the numbers of copies sold of the longlist so far. Unsurprisingly, Rushdie leads the pack but the 363 copies of de Kretser's The Lost Dog since its May publication shows the sorry state that hardback literary fiction in the UK. If publishing a long list helps that in some way, then I'm happy with that.

In other bookish news from chez Logophile, I have fallen head over heels for a new book. I can safely say that the wonderful The Kitchen Revolution by Rosie Sykes, Polly Russell and Zoe Heron is transforming my life (check out the excellent website here). I'm not generally a fan of cookbooks. I've had my fingers burned in the past (mostly metaphorically!) trying to cook from cookbooks I quickly realised were duds, so these days we tend to stick almost exclusively to an old 60s edition of The Joy of Cooking. But The Kitchen Revolution is something special, and since I've been recommending it to friends and colleagues in real life I thought I'd blog about it too!

I first noticed The Kitchen Revolution when the Guardian wrote it up a couple of months ago. The whole premise is to maximise the choice of meals in a given week while minimising time in the kitchen and reducing food miles. This is music to my ears - my new commute is a whisker short of 20 hours a week, so the less time shopping and cooking the better and I'm always interested in ways to cut our carbon footprint. Each week features a big meal from scratch (this week we had duck breast with cherry sauce, roast baby veg and a salad - it was delicious!); something for nothing (two easy and quick meals that transform the leftovers from the first night into yet more delicious food); a seasonal supper (last night we had chilled courgette & avocado soup that honestly tasted like it came from a restaurant despite taking only minutes to make); a larder feast (using only store cupboard ingredients, for when the fridge is bare - tonight it was braised lentils with herb cream cheese); and a 2 for 1 meal (something that freezes well, so half can be eaten straight away and half can be frozen for future enjoyment). The website also features the recipes and shopping lists, so it's easy to print out the shopping list in advance.

This book has totally changed our cooking and eating habits, as well as reducing the amount of money we spend on meals out or takeaways. The weekly meal plans make it possible to enjoy a variety of meals without any stress, as well as expanding the range of food we're eating. What amazes me about it is that I'm spending less time than ever actually cooking yet eating excellent home cooked food every night (my husband enjoys it even more, since he was the chief cook in our household but I love this book so much I'm doing most of the cooking at the moment!). Now I just wish somebody would do a vegetarian version, so that I could make an even smaller impact on the planet...


Gentle Reader said...

I love hearing the Booker list every year, but of course, as usual, I haven't read anything on it...yet! Every year it gets me to add new books to my list. Also, the cookbook sounds great--sounds like you've turned into a kitchen revolutionary! I can always use inspiration in the kitchen. I'm going to check out the website...

Anonymous said...

We had a lovely customer who used to frequent the book store that used to work at, who every year bought his wife of thirty years the six books that made the Booker shortlist.

They would then spend the next couple of months sharing and exploring those six books in their own private book club of two, before returning to their disparate TBR piles. Now whenever I hear the new Booker nominees I picture those two arguing, laughing, debating and in short enjoying each others company!

Gentle Reader said...

Okay, I'm revising what I said last time--I have read (and enjoyed) Netherland, which I reviewed just the other day. But nothing else!

verbivore said...

I am only familiar with Berger and Rushdie from the Booker list - which indicates I have some serious catch-up reading to do. But I have a love-hate relationship with the booker, I have found its selections to be both wonderful and sometimes baffling. Still - a list of new-to-me writers is a wonderful temptation.

And I've noted the name of this cookbook - sounds great!