Friday, May 02, 2008

...AND SO, LADIES & GENTLEMEN, AS THE FLORIST OF TIME TAKES A DAFFODIL OUT OF HER VASE, AND THE GREENGROCER OF FATE TAKES A LEEK OUT OF HIS WINDOW... we say farewell to Humphrey Lyttelton who died a few days ago, he will be greatly missed.


Today I thought I should write about a couple of blooks I’ve read recently. What is a blook I hear you ask – well, a blook is a book that has come from a blog, and there seem to be a lot of them about. As a blogger myself I was intrigued as to why/how some blogs were turned into books and did some snuffling about on the web to find out. There is a whole new industry it seems with publishers approaching popular bloggers to get them into print. One fascinating blog I have read for several years is Random Acts of Reality by Tom Reynolds who works in the London Ambulance Service; his blog has been turned into a book called Blood Sweat &Tea, and it has sold very well – as I read his blog I haven’t bought the book. There is also Wife in the North, and the blogs that seem to feature the sex industry which have become blooks, such as Belle de Jour,or the sex life/fantasies of the blogger, Girl with a One Track Mind.
All very steamy I’m sure, but not for me.

The first blook I read was Julie & Julia: my year of cooking dangerously, by Julie Powell. This book came to my notice ages ago, and loving both reading and cooking I made a mental note to get a copy. At that point I had no idea that it had developed from a blog. Julie Powell, a young Texan living with her husband in New York, felt trapped in a job she did not enjoy, and challenged herself to cook all the recipes in Julia Child’s legendary cookbook Mastering the Art of French Cooking. So The Project was born, 524 recipes to be cooked in 365 days with Julie documenting her progress in a blog. The book which has sprung from this blog is sometimes very funny, sometimes very irritating, sometimes endearing, but it will not teach anyone how to cook that’s for sure. I enjoyed the book far less than I had expected – I suspect I am the wrong age for it; I wanted to tell Julie to stop being so disorganised and to clear up properly in her kitchen! (doesn’t say much about my character does it?). Never the less it is a light, amusing read, and it gave me my favourite saying of the moment “Man up, dude”!

The second blook I read was Anonymous Lawyer by Jeremy Blachman. This one was different in that it is a novel, but a novel that began (and continues) as a blog. Anonymous Lawyer is hiring partner at a large global law firm based in Los Angeles and he has just started a blog. On it he vents his spleen about his colleagues ‘The Jerk’. ‘The Tax Nut’, ‘The Fat Guy’ et al, and dreams up ways of torturing paralegals, junior associates, and the crop of legal students who join the firm each summer for work experience.
He moans about Anonymous Wife and her spending habits, and worries about Anonymous Son and Daughter. As far as he is concerned the whole blog is just a secret bit of fun, but one day
he gets an email from someone in his firm who knows he is the writer of the blog, and his job is suddenly in jeopardy.
This book is written as a series of blog posts interspersed with email exchanges, and although it is interesting in the way it shows the ruthless work practices within big corporate law firms in the USA, it is quite hard work reading it as it never seems to go anywhere, there is no inherent structure to the story. In fact it would be better if read intermittently as a blog, rather than all strung together. The whole thing is a fiction as Jeremy Blachman is not a partner –nor anything else- at any big law firm, he went to Harvard Law School, and started the blog almost as soon as he graduated. Read the blog by all means, borrow the book from a library if you must, but don’t spend money buying it.


I am getting fed up to the back teeth with every single-issue group using Global Warming as an excuse to try to force us to live life the way they think best. The latest group to do this is the vegetarian/vegan posse who now say that eating meat, eggs and dairy produce is worse than driving a 4x4 on unleaded petrol 24 hrs a day, and all the industrial emissions in the world rolled into one.

Oh yeah, says who? Two scientists in Chicago apparently – both of whom are vegetarians, surprise, surprise. TWO scientists in the whole international science world.

Paul McCartney has become the celebrity spokesperson for this group (not too surprising as his late wife established a successful factory-produced line of chilled and frozen veggie foods). He gave an interview to PeTA, (which stands for People for Ethical Treatment of Animals), saying that we must all go vegetarian to save the world.

Well he and PeTA can fuck off, I am NOT going to start eating Quorn; hands off my Osso Bucco, my roast leg of lamb, my steak and chips, pork chops with caramelised apples, Brie, Stilton, scrambled eggs, liver and bacon, and Cheddar, not to mention the Christmas Turkey. I take great care over the food I buy, cook and eat, meat is only a small part of my family’s diet, but it is a vital part, and much enjoyed. I don’t think some of these people have ever thought about the taste of food, or why we have evolved over thousands of years with our dental structure specifically designed to eat meat, and I am very, very dubious about the links with global warming.

This could force me to the barricades to defend my right to remain an occasional carnivore.


It is a Bank Holiday weekend here in Britain (and in South Africa), and I want do some gardening over the next three days, so meals must be minimum effort. This is an all-in-one dish, it can be prepped in advance, adapts easily for larger numbers and is ridiculously good given how simple it is. I cut the recipe from a magazine over twenty years ago and still make it regularly. Over the years many friends have asked for the recipe, so it has spread far and wide across the globe. Now you can make it too. Start it the day before, or in the morning ready for the evening meal.


Serves 6

5 Tablespoons lemon juice ( juice from approx 2 lemons)
3 cloves garlic, crushed
1 teaspoon dried mixed herbs or Herbes de Proven├že (if you like you can use a mixture of Basil, Oreganum and Thyme)
Salt + Freshly ground black pepper
12 Chicken thighs, bone in, skin on; or 6 chicken breasts with bone and skin.
1 medium/large onion, roughly chopped – not too fine
150g sliced mushrooms
1 red or yellow pepper, de-seeded and chopped (or half red, half yellow for more colour!)
50g of sun-dried tomatoes in oil, drained and chopped
18 small black pitted olives
250g Basmati rice
850 ml of boiling chicken stock

In a large bowl combine the lemon juice with the garlic, dried herbs, pepper and salt. Add the chicken pieces and toss well to coat.

Cover the bowl with cling-film and marinate for 2 hours at room temp or 24 hours in the fridge, tossing the meat occasionally. (You can put the chicken, garlic, lemon juice and herbs in a large plastic bag to marinate, gives more room in the fridge, but make sure it is tightly sealed.)

Grease a large, shallow, oven-proof dish and scatter the chopped onion over the bottom. Cover this with the sliced mushrooms, chopped pepper, tomatoes and olives, and then the rice. (You can do all this hours in advance)

Pre-heat the oven to 200°C.

Remove the chicken from the marinade.

Arrange the chicken pieces, skin side up, in a single layer over the rice. Pour over any remaining marinade and then the boiling chicken stock.

Place, uncovered, in the oven and leave undisturbed for about 1 hour or until the chicken is cooked and all the stock has been absorbed by the rice.

Serve with a mixed salad.


Teuchter said...

I certainly won't be giving up meat, eggs and dairy produce.
The one thing I do look for is that the animal has been decently treated throughout its life and death.
Smaller quantities but better quality and ethically produced is the way to go in the developed world.

As for the non-animal stuff, it makes a lot of sense to grow some of your own and to eschew produce which has been shipped half way round the world. I try to do this as much as possible but there have been occasions when South American asparagus has just been toooo tempting in the middle of winter. Me culpa.

As for Quorn? It has its place, mainly on the menu for teenage girls who are going through the vegetarian stage, and works okay as a carrier for stronger flavours - eg chilli.

MaryContrary said...

Amen!! I would reserve a very low circle in hell for health and food Nazis of every variety. I don't care if the argument is global warming or obesity. My mantra is moderation. Also I look for locally produced and organic as much as possible. I would much rather have a serving of locally grown chicken than imported vegetables from thousands of miles away grown on a field contaminated by the local animal feed lot. Let's have some moderation and common sense please

Nick said...

Mixed reaction here! I've been a vegetarian for 33 years so I naturally support the argument that it's much more economical with the world's resources. On the other hand, I don't try to force people to give up foods they enjoy eating, and I'm also sceptical of the global warming theory despite the alleged scientific consensus. In fact some German scientists have just said global temperatures will stay the same for ten years as the earth is now in a natural cooling cycle. WTF??

Teuchter's got a point too about veggie food being shipped around the world - not so ethical. As for Quorn, I can't eat it, it makes me nauseous. What's in that stuff?

Jeanne said...

Oh I do like the sound of that chicken! Sounds like the ideal weekend meal - we gardened all weekend and my way of dealing with that was keeping supper *very* simple - pan fried trout fillets with toasted almoinds, and the last of the jar of Maille hollandaise on steamed asparagus. Yum!

Interesting what you say about blooks. There are also a fair number of people in the food blogging world who are getting book deals, but I simply don't see the attraction. Why would I buy a book by Clotilde if I can see her Chocolate and Zucchini recipes every day for free on the net? And the immediacy and feeling of being involved in somebody's day to day life (the charm of most blogs) is largely lost in book format. I never really got into the Julie/Julia project on the net and I doubt I'll be buying the book. You do know that it's set to become the first blog-to-film (blolm??) projectm, with Meryl Streep playing Julia Child. Ya heard it here first ;-)

Bybee said...

I've never heard of Quorn before. Your blog is educational *and* tastes great!

The first blook I ever read was The Broke Diaries by Angela Nissel. Written by a student perenially short on money. Really funny.

paddy said...

As a recovering vegetarian, I agree that fundamentalists of any stripe are really f*****g irritating, and veggies can be the worse of all. Processed veggie food, like quorn and soya meat, are industrial products, and very damaging in their own way.

However, and as much as I agree with you and as much as I like my (re-discovered) meat, it can't really be denied that eating as much meat as the world does today is environmentally damaging, at least in the way it is produced at the moment. However, a wholly vegetarian world would be much, much more damaging. If we don't have any animals to make natural fertilizer, then how do we get our fields of soya beans to grow? With artificial fertilisers, which are made from oil. NOT a good solution.

Long live the meatball!

Teuchter said...

Quorn is made from mycoprotein. In other words, it's a fungus - but then, so is thrush.

I'd like to think that Humph has managed to bump into Linda Smith and that they're sitting on a cloud somewhere drinking gin and swopping bon mots.

Around My Kitchen Table said...

Chicken simmering in garlic and tomatoes; frying bacon; a lovely joint of topside beef, pink in the middle; lamb chops with rosemary; stilton with water biscuits; a home-made coarse liver pate .... or quorn. Mmmmmm, let me think......!

Around My Kitchen Table said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
herschelian said...

teuchter - couldn't agree more about treating animals decently.

marycontrary - I like the idea of a low circle of Hell for food Nazis!

nick - I've nothing against vegetarians - some of my best friends etc etc - and our meals are about 75% veggie, but I do like a bit of bacon in my butty!

jeanne - Meryl Streep playing Julia Child?! you are SO plugged in to what is going on!

bybee - Quorn is AWFUL because it pretends to be meat, if you want to eat microfungus whats wrong with a mushroom I say.

paddy - hear, hear, long live the meatball!

AMKT - your comment has got me salivating...

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