Thursday, March 18, 2010

Books and a Meal

It's been some time since I've shown any cooking photos. The truth is, the cooking around here has been pretty boring lately. I've been cooking a lot of my house 'standards' over and over and let's face it, they aren't' very interesting. Last night I decided to celebrate St. Patrick's Day with an Irish themed meal.

Sort of.

Here is 'Irish' stew and colcannon.



The stew could have been more Irish had I used Guiness, instead I used an English nut brown ale. This was yummy! Now that I've found out how easy it is, I'm wondering why I never made stew before. I practically just threw everything into the pot, cooked it for 3 hours and voila! Dinner. Gotta love that. I used Jamie Oliver's super easy technique from his latest US release, Jamie's Food Revolution: Rediscover How to Cook Simple, Delicious, Affordable Meals. I think I've mentioned this book before, but I will again just because I think it is so good. I'm a pretty experienced cook and I like it, yet it's aim is people who are not used to cooking. Oh, and do you know what colcannon is? Cabbage combined with mashed potatoes. I sauteed the cabbage for a long time in butter, until it was soft and sweet. Want to guess what I'm having for lunch?

Here are a couple things I read recently:

Farewell to the East End by Jennifer Worth

The is the final book in Worth's trilogy about her experience as a midwife in the East End in the 1950s. I am sad there will not be any more installments. This book is very similar to the first in the series in that it focuses on specific experiences the midwives had. They are graphic birth stories, and the subject matter of many of them will surprise and shock you. There are also stories of Worth's life in the convent where she lived while working as a midwife. These stories I found not as compelling, but they do provide some comic relief from the intensity of the rest of the book. I recommend this series highly and while the first book is my favorite of the three, this is a close second.

The Spare Room: A Novelby Helen Garner

Unexpected.

That's the main word that keeps coming to mind whenever I think about this book. The Spare Room is the story of two women who have been friends during their adult lives. One of them, Nicola, is ill, she had cancer, and she asks her friend Helen if she can stay with her for a few weeks while she undergoes therapy. I think I was expecting lots of heartfelt conversations and tears. Perhaps thoughts of end-of-life regrets and tender moments. That was not the shape this story took. These characters aren't any cookie-cutter depictions of people dealing with cancer. Cancer doesn't suddenly make everyone a saint. The story of Nicola and Helen is authentic. How difficult is it to care for someone with cancer? How does it affect the caregiver and the relationship? Recommended.
This book was provided by Librarything's Early Reviewers Program.

12 comments:

bermudaonion said...

The Irish dinner looks fantastic! I'm glad to see you enjoyed The Spare Room - hopefully I can get to it soon.

jennysbooks said...

I didn't realize Worth had done a trilogy about her experiences. I think I wrote down the title of the first one after seeing it reviewed here, but I didn't know there were more! WANT. :)

Staci said...

My menu hasn't been one to write home about it either!! Maybe with the weather starting to turn we'll both feel more optimistic!!!

Nan said...

I was going to say I had read The Spare Room and give you the link, but I just went to my book report and found you had left the first comment! If you want to read what you wrote:

http://lettersfromahillfarm.blogspot.
com/2009/04/spare-room-by
-helen-garner.html

Andi said...

Yummy! I won't be having dinner until after 8:00 so this is really killing me!

Teresa said...

I read and reviewed The Spare Room a few weeks ago (also for LT ER) and totally agree that it wasn't at all what one would expect in a book like this. I was very impressed with the honesty and lack of cheap sentimentality and want to read more of Garner's work.

Ti said...

That stew looks so yummy.

I read the Spare Room sometime back and I really did not care for it. I can't remember the gal's name but she seemed so irritated by her friend. There were no warm and tender moments, just stress. As you said, this could be a realistic portrayal of sorts but it turned me off.

I did think the parts about traditional medicine versus alternative medicine were interesting though.

Tara said...

Kathy, thanks. It's a very quick read, I hope you like it.

Jennysbooks, I think Worth's memoirs are published as one big book, or at least they are going to be. Check out thebookdepository!

Staci, I sure hope so. I can't wait to eat lots of asparagus!

Nan, how funny to go back and read my comment. I'm struck by something. You revealed a lot more about the book than I did; those details didn't stay with with me though, just the fact that I remember that this book sounded good to me. In a way, I'm glad I forget about the details, and I was surprised when reading the book. On the other hand, I'm glad you included them, otherwise I might never had read the book. How odd. It's hard to know sometimes how much to say and this gives me a lot to think about in that vein.

Andi, 8?? Keep feeding that lovely baby of yours!

Teresa, couldn't agree with you more.

Ti, thanks. I read some amazon reviews of this that reflected what you've said here. I can see how you would feel that way. I wonder if it depends on the personality of the reader, and how we feel we would react in such a situation. I can imagine myself having the feelings Helen had, not that I feel that says anything good about me, just that I tend to be more of a pessimist in life and very matter-of-fact.

rhapsodyinbooks said...

I'm so glad you said what colcannon is. I was just about to click off and go to google! :--) It looks pretty good from your picture!

Bybee said...

Your food pic made my eyes cross with pleasure. I'm starting to do more cooking this week...I was gaining too much weight just going out and grabbing anything at night from hunger. So...lots of meat and I filled up the crisper with vegetables and have a salad marinating in the fridge.

overflowingbookshelf said...

That picture made my stomach growl!! I had a cabbage based soup for dinner tonight, and now I'm hungry for it again:)

Tara said...

rhapsody in books, I suppose it's not a familiar dish, is it!

Bybee, good for you! I find that when I eat out a lot I feel very sluggish.

overflowingbookshelf, your soup sounds good!