Friday, September 18, 2009

Margaret Thatcher


After I finished reading Baking Cakes in Kigali by Gaile Parkin, I found myself telling friends that they MUST read it. It is a really delightful book, warm, charming, moving and funny.

It is set in Kigali, the capital of Rwanda, a few years after the terrible genocide. Mrs Angel Tungaraza and her husband Pius have moved there from their native Tanzania together with their five orphaned grandchildren. Pius,a man of retirement age, has been appointed as Special Consultant to KIST a new university which has been established in the city. They are living in a compound of flats where the other residents are also ex-pats employed by aid agencies and non-governmental organizations. As Angel says “You know how it is when a war is over, dollars begin to fall like rain from the sky and everyone from outside rushes in to collect them.”

Angel loves cooking and baking, and decides to set up a cake baking business. She turns out cakes to celebrate anniversaries, weddings, christenings, a homecoming, an engagement, an escape, an inspiration, and a rising up. With each cake, the reader learns more about life in Rwanda, about the life of the person who has ordered the cake, and at the same time about the diversity of Africa and its people.

Priding herself on her professionalism as a businesswoman, Angel copes with raising her grandchildren, ethical dilemmas with her clients, and the indignities of the menopause. Slowly Angel’s own family life is revealed, and how the scourge of AIDs has devastated African society.

At first glance this book might seem to be of the same genre as Alexander McCall Smith’s books about Mma Ramotswe and her 1st Ladies Detective Agency, but Gaile Parkin has created an endearing heroine and yet doesn’t shy away from depicting the problems besetting the continent, poverty, female circumcision, HIV/Aids and corruption, but these are all handled with delicacy and woven into the lives of real people in a way that makes it possible for the reader to enjoy the book as an entertainment whilst at the same time being made to think.

If you like eating cake, feisty women and anything about Africa this is a book for you, and it has just become available in paperback (the cover differs from my one).

Rated 5*


Do we know what propaganda this Government is disseminating in our schools? I think not. This week it has come to light that a fairly new Government department - the Equalities Office established in 2007 under the leadership of Harriet Harman - has produced a "fact" sheet for schools ( which we taxpayers have funded) entitled 'Women In Power: Milestones'. It also features on their website. It has got me absolutely outraged, and wondering what else is being twisted to fit a Labour-view of history.

Whatever your view of her may be, you must agree that Margaret Thatcher (Maggie to those who love to hate her) has been a seminal figure in British Politics....the first woman to lead a political party, the first woman Prime Minister, winner of no less than three general elections and the longest serving prime minister of the 20th Century. So it is really appalling that she is not named in this government fact sheet; on the other hand Shreela Flather (who she??) gets two entries. In 300 years time which of these women will be featured in history books? no prizes for the correct answer.

The other glaring omission from the Women in Power list is Shirley Williams, a highly respected politician who was one of the four founders (and only woman) of the SDP - the first new political party in the UK for nearly 100 years. The media cover stories about the airbrushing of cellulite off Kate Winslet's thighs or the enhancing of Keira Knightley's mosquito-bite boobs, but this is the sort of airbrushing and distortion they should really be going for as it is far more damaging, and WE are paying for it.

I never thought I'd be doing this, but find myself chanting
Maggie, Maggie, Maggie - In, In, In.
and I urge you all to join me.


Last night two girlfriends and I went to see the movie 'Julie & Julia' starring Meryl Streep as Julia Childs, and we thoroughly enjoyed it. Mind you with food featuring so much on screen we all came out of the cinema ravenously hungry and promptly dived into a nearby restaurant where we wolfed down risotto! Tomorrow I have 10 for dinner, and thinking of the rich French cooking that Julia Childs promoted I have decided to make some pre-dinner canapes which are in that style as a little homage to the great lady. A friend gave me the recipe a year or so ago after I had them at a dinner she gave, they are utterly delicious , have a certain Wow' factor. and they always go down a bomb. The secret to this recipe is that the whole thing is really a cheat (which the fabled Julia Childs would thoroughly disapprove of), as it is merely a question of assembling the ingredients rather than spending hours slaving away beating and stirring.

First of all you have to go shopping and buy the following items which will all keep for ages in your store cupboard
A packet of Rahms Mini Croustades - stocked at Waitrose, Sainsburys and most good food shops.
A jar of good quality ready-made Hollandaise Sauce - I tend to buy Maille but you can use any brand.A jar of red or black Swedish lumpfish roe available in supermarkets, fishmongers and at IKEA! You also need 1-2 dozen Quail's eggs, depending on how many canapes you wish to make. Allow for two per person.

Ten minutes before your guests arrive pre-heat the oven to 180 C.
Set the mini croustades out on a baking tray and break one quail's egg into each one. Top each with a tiny blob of Hollandaise and bake in the oven for approximately 4 minutes (check that the egg white has cooked).
Put another small blob of Hollandaise on each canape and then a blob of lumpfish roe to garnish.
Serve whilst still warm. Yum.