The Limits of the Recipe

A version of this piece originally appeared in German in the Slow Food Magazin 04-2017.

IMG_20170618_144755_594As a college student, I ate a lot of green-brown stew. I may have had different plans, but for a while, everything I started cooking ended up as the same sort of undistinguishable concoction. I did not yet have the understanding of how different ingredients behave in the pot, and how I could maintain their distinct textures and flavours. Recipes were of no great help when the stove was lit and all types of things were gurgling here and hissing there, distracting from the instructions in small print in the recipe book – if it wasn’t too late for those already. It was frustrating, because I would have liked to eat something other than greenish mush, something that more closely resembled the appetizing pictures in the cookbooks. If I did indeed cook from a book, because I rarely could actually afford to buy a whole set of ingredients as required by the recipe at the time.

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A thought by Laura Ward Branca

sunday-quote_170212Laura Ward Branca is an African-Armenian American cookbook author and civil rights activist. She is on the board of the Moosewood vegetarian restaurant in Ithaca, NY, named by Bon Appetit magazine as ” one of the thirteen most influential restaurants of the 20th Century”, and she works with the Dorothy Cotton Institute, an institute offering popular education and training to inspire and support people who want to foster and protect human rights and to advance civic participation for social transformation. Founder Dorothy Cotton worked with Dr. Martin Luther King.

A thought by Aldous Huxley

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Aldous Huxley (1894-1963) was an English writer and philosopher. He is best known for his dystopian novel Brave New World and his mescaline-fuelled philosophical essay The Doors of Perception, which among other things inspired the equally drug-fuelled band The Doors.

Other novels of his have such fabulous names as Those Barren LeavesEyeless in Gaza and Antic Hay. I have read a few of them, and they generally seem to feature young British expats around the Mediterranean afflicted with boredom and malaise… capturing the spirit of the interwar years in Europe. Good to read by the pool or on the sun-soaked terrace of a Tuscan country villa.

Book Fix Lisbon – Bookshop Bivar

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Where to find books in English in Lisbon?

No. 1 – Bookshop Bivar in Estefânia. All-English secondhand books. Browsing recommended!

Tucked away on a hill in a residential neighbourhood with winding narrow streets, I only found it because I was lost, but it’s worth the hike. A few bookshelves, a table, a counter and a big, inviting couch – it doesn’t take a lot of fancy trimmings to open a bookstore. The books themselves lend a merry atmosphere with their colourful spines on the white shelves. A few potted plants and someone friendly to help the customers with their queries about books for school, for beach-reading or to satisfy their book cravings, and you’re away.

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Book Fix Dublin – Chapters

img_20161121_153249Where to find good books in Dublin?

No.3 – Chapters on Parnell Street. A goldmine for hardcover books, and Ireland’s largest independent bookstore.

I used to think of Chapters as a sort of bargain bookstore. The prices are shown on the front of the books with large, red-and-white stickers, and often they are “special prices” and actual bargains. This makes a big difference on  hardcover books. I have no great ambition to own my fiction in hardcover, in fact, I prefer paperbacks, as they are lightweight and fit better into my handbags. But food and cookery books often come only in hardcover, and Chapters was instrumental in helping me build up my collection of recipe and reference books on food and wine. For the same reason, anybody interested in coffee table books on Art and Architecture should not miss visiting this store.  Continue reading

Book Fix Dublin – Hodges Figgis

img_20161120_152432 Where to find good books in Dublin?

No.2 – Hodges Figgis. The name sounds like a Dickens character, the shopfront looks exactly how you would picture Dublin’s oldest bookstore. Huge windows full of books curve towards the door like a bell jar. Their frames and the door are dark green, like the leather inserts on a library table.

But the shop is not resting on its long and illustrious pedigree (which includes being mentioned in Ulysses, no less).  From humanities, business and sciences on the top floor to the sweeping selection of classic and modern literature, Hodges Figgis is eminently knowledgeable without being snobbish.  Continue reading