Archive | September 22, 2016

Taste of Persia, A Cook’s Travels Through Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Iran, and Kurdistan. Naomi Duguid

Taste of Persia, A Cook’s Travels Through Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Iran, and Kurdistan.  Naomi Duguid

Taste of Persia: A Cook's Travels Through Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Iran, and Kurdistan by [Duguid, Naomi]

Genre:  non-fiction

I adore cookery books, and when they’re combined with real stories about the food in its natural setting, grow locally and eaten how the natives of that country eat it – well, its a wonderful treat.

I loved the recipes, beautifully illustrated and described so as to make me drool….While I’m reading I’m mentally going through my cupboards thinking “do I have that spice? This herb? Shall I try that recipe next time the family are all here?”
The little anecdotes that accompany the recipes are great, made me feel there with Naomi, made me want to shut my eyes and dream, feel the heat and dust, smell the fragrance of a myriad of spices and herbs, hear the babble of voices selling food on the markets.

I love books like this that set food where it should be, don’t take a recipe and present it in isolation. A strawberry picked straight off the plant on a warm summer morning tastes very different to one presented in the sterility of a supermarket. They’re both strawberries but we taste with our eyes and ears, use our senses to feels what’s around us, and that creates something more than just “taste” to me.

I’m an artist and when I see a painting I like I love to try to see who it was constructed, know the story behind the inspiration – that adds to my enjoyment as much as seeing the work does.In the same way when its food I want to think of where a recipe originated and how, why that cheese was used, why this spice was chosen to add flavour. Its how a recipe is built up what is so fascinating to me, and when we know the stories of the locals, know what food grows best where, and can see how those recipes developed over time that makes me best appreciate them. Sometimes its a simple as the UK tradition of roasts, casseroles, long slow cooking which developed over centuries where we were a heavily wooded isle so fuel was plentiful, and food could be left simmering all day while other tasks completed, but in countries where fuel was scarce, cutting food into small pieces or shreds and then quickly stir frying became the norm.
Then of course there are the things that grow best in each place, and the lack of refrigeration that led to highly spiced foods and curries developing in some countries, possibly to help disguise some flavours and to add an element of preservation. Herbs and spices can do so much more than just add flavour.

Food isn’t just fuel, but a time for people to gather and share experiences, and that comes over so strongly here and makes this book not only a visual feast but a whole learning experience too.

Stars: Five, a fabulous read, a cook book that appeals to the brain as well as the taste-buds.

ARC supplied by Netgalley and publisher

Le Chateau, Sarah Ridout

Le Chateau,  Sarah Ridout

Le Chateau by [Ridout, Sarah]

Genre:  general fiction (adult), Women’s fiction

Well, seems I’ve hit lucky again with another debut read. Its always a gamble when you have to rely on just a brief description to make your choice, when you’ve no idea if you like the author’s writing style, if the plot will really work for you, and when it comes together as it did here I feel really satisfied.
Descriptions are so, so succinct its really hard to judge if its a book for you in a few short sentences.

I love romance and enjoy stories that blend it with an element of suspense as this one does, not too deep, just the right amount to add extra interest to the story. But romance with who – husband Henri, father of their child Ada, or Ryan, neighbour who Henri’s mother keeps suggesting Charlotte knows rather too well….
Poor Charlotte doesn’t know what to think, would she have an affair, is she really that sort of person and if she is, what went wrong, as it seems she and Henri were so in love. Sadly after an accident she remembers nothing of her life, who she is, where she’s come from and as for her husband and family that’s all a total blank.
Its a fabulous story slowly revealing Charlotte’s memories, and all the while we get her inner thoughts.

Henri seems so devoted, so in love with her but she doesn’t feel anything – and Ryan, he seems a somewhat slick Englishman but he too sort of indicates that maybe he was more than a neighbour to her.
Ada her daughter is wonderful, portrayed so well how a child would react in this situation, carefully groomed by everyone to try not to press but she’s a child and needs her mum, needs reassurance. Charlotte can’t give that yet, but soon comes to adore her anyway, and there are some really tender moments with the two – the rabbit, the bed bugs lines – they made things very real and made me think how it would be – and is for some people – in this very situation in real life.
Charlotte is a great character, it would be so easy to give up, go with the flow, accept what she’s being told but she wants to remember, wants to know if she really was cheating on Henri, needs the truth. It seems impossible, their life seems almost charmed so if she was what went wrong?
Her quest for answers brings back her long time best friend and business partner Suzanne, who is another terrific person. She’s come to the chateau to help Charlotte find answers, and like Charlotte she’s not convinced things are as they seem. The two go to some strong methods in their search for answers.
Ryan, the handsome Englishman who looks after her and Ad’s horses is a charmer, but is he telling the truth,, or just what he wants her to belive? Why would he lie, he’s got no obvoius motive but would she really have been cheating?

Of course one of the main characters is Madame, Henri’s mother. Outwardly charming to Charlotte she still feels somehow wrong to her. There’s nothing she can pinpoint, nothing obvious and she’s so thoughtful and kind, suggesting rests, arranging delicious meals, making suggestions to help her recall her memory but I just couldn’t take to her.
I adore characters like that and when Ines comes on the scene I was so happy. Another person to dislike – I adore those kind of characters!! If a story is filled with just good people for me its bland, I need some horrible, devious, complicated characters to keep things fun!

Its a great read, the suspense element is well done, cleverly revealed, with the reader being taken down roads along with Charlotte and wondering which is the right one, where is the truth and what will it reveal.

I loved the ending, loved the way things worked out – its a fabulous debut read and I look forward to more from Sarah.

Stars: Five, a great first novel

ARC supplied by Netgalley and publisher

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