Saturday, 29 September 2012

The Debt to Pleasure

Still Life with dead birds, fruit and vegetables by Juan Sanchez Cotan
A welcome arrival in the post yesterday: The Debt to Pleasure, a novel by John Lanchester (the cover of the paperback is a detail from the painting illustrated above). I started to read it quite late in the evening after a long, difficult day and am pleased to report that it made me laugh until the tears were streaming down my face. Suffice to say (the author's style is catching) that the book defies genre. It is ostensibly an account of a short journey from England to France, structured around a series of seasonal menus, interspersed with anecdotes and personal observations by a fictional character - the 'I' of the novel - Tarquin Winot. I experimented in my own small way with food this week: I made my first gumbo. I cheated slightly by using a pack from Harvest Time. Gumbo originated in the southern states of the USA. I had only eaten it once before in my life, on my only excursion into Harlem in New York. The taste of my homemade version brought back immediately memories of that visit which was truthfully pretty dire. Gumbo is a thick, spicy rice-based soup containing typically okra, and certain herbs which impart its unforgettable flavour -  alongside shrimp and/or smoked sausage . I added spinach and squash which I had roasted in the oven

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