Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Taste Matters: Why We Like the Foods We Do by John Prescott.

Taste Matters: Why We Like the Foods We Do by John Prescott. Hardcover book published by Reaktion Books 2012, 208 pages with a few black and white photographs.

The human tongue has somewhere up to 8,000 taste buds to inform us when some thing is sweet, salty, sour or bitter — or, as we usually think of it, delicious or revolting. Tastes differ from one region to the next, and no two people’s seem to be the same. But what is it that makes certain people love Roquefort cheese and others think it smells disgusting? How do our experiences of food as infants and even in the womb affect our food preferences? Are cravings for particular foods really a sign that we’re lacking the nutrients that can be found in them? And why, even when we are completely full, do we always have room for dessert? In Taste Matters John Prescott tackles these conundrums and more as he explores why we like the foods we do.”

Over the last festive week, all of my (up to) 8,000 taste buds have been extremely busy enjoying the holiday season, which is why i've chosen to write about this book at this point in time. Fortunately there was no sausage or cheese on sticks at any of the four celebratory dinners that I attended and indeed, I don't think I saw any tinned pineapple plattered out anywhere. There was though, a similarity between all of the meals of which I partook. All four had turkey, ham, roast vegetables and salads, followed by overly sweet desserts including trifle on 3 occasions. (For some unknown reason I didn't see any fruit mince pies on offer this year... very strange.)

The reason I've written about all of this is that this similarity in food between four unconnected meals (completely different groups of people) is obviously due to not only culturally and geographically significant festive eating rituals, but also a matter of taste. I didn't hear anyone complaining about any of the foods on offer, so I think I can safely say that everyone found the plenteous spreads to be tasty... or maybe everyone was too polite. This generalisation of taste appreciation covering all four meals is based on the joy felt by my own 8,000 taste buds on all four occassions.

So why did we all like it? I guess the answer is in this book. 

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Monday, December 22, 2014

How Do You Get An Egg Into A Bottle?: And Other Puzzles by Edwin Brecher and Mike Gerrard.

How Do You Get An Egg Into A Bottle?: And Other Puzzles by Edwin Brecher and Mike Gerrard.  Hardcover book with pictorial boards (no dust jacket) published by SevenOaks 2011, 144 pages with black and white illustrations.

ASTOUND YOUR FRIENDS. IMPRESS PARTY GUESTS. ANNOY YOUR RELATIVES. This book is crammed with captivating scientific questions and answers - all of them based on real-world science. So you’ll learn why boomerangs come back, whether you can make a truck fly and of course how to get an egg into a bottle.”

I've got a sneaking suspicion that my friends wouldn't be astounded and my party guests wouldn't be impressed if I should happen to whip out this book and start annoying them all (not just my relatives) with these puzzles. This astute deduction on my behalf comes from the thought that if someone did this to me it would annoy me... a lot. I think this is due to my lack of understanding as to why you would want to get an egg into a bottle... that's an egg with the shell intact. Maybe i'm a party pooper. Maybe I'm a Luddite and prefer the old fashioned way of having eggs outside of bottles, not inside them. Why do we have to put eggs in bottles and what's wrong with the old fashioned egg carton?

In reality I am aware of what this book is about. It's about being a smarty pants in front of your friends... actually it's about learning interesting things about science in a fun way, and unlike the putting of eggs in bottles, I understand the overall concept of a book such as this. It's about getting the noggin ticking over... and putting eggs where they really shouldn't be.  

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Orwell: The Authorised Biography by Michael Sheldon.

Orwell: The Authorised Biography by Michael Sheldon. Hardcover book published by HarperCollins 1991, 497 pages with a few black and white photographs.

In his probing and revelatory biography of one of the great prose stylists of this century, Michael Shelden breaks new ground in the evocation of George Orwell’s personal life and in our understanding of his art. Based on original interviews, previously undiscovered letters and documents, and astute literary detective work by Shelden, Orwell is the major biography of one of the great yet elusive literary figures of our time. The Cold War helped make Orwell a successful author by turning him into an anti- Communist icon, but Michael Shelden’s biography renews our appreciation of his place in literary, as opposed to political, history. Few writers have had as exciting a life as Orwell’s. An Old Etonian and an officer in the Indian Imperial Police, he was also a dishwasher in a Paris hotel, a hop picker in Kent, an investigative journalist, a wounded veteran of the Spanish Civil War, a celebrated novelist, and—like Keats and D. H. Lawrence before him—a dreamer whose life was cut short by tuberculosis.

All literary biographies are equal, but some literary biographies are more equal than others.

A few years back I wrote about a biography of Eric's second wife Sonia.  I still stand by my comments regarding my experiences re the selling of second hand literary Biographies. They don't sell... not on line and not here in Clunes. So why have I picked up another one?

My relationship with Orwell goes back a long way. When I was in my teens my mother kindly and with great insight, bought me a book club edition of Animal Farm and 1984 in the one volume. It was a hardcover with the most boring book club dust jacket imaginable. Fortunately, the contents were of considerably more interest than the dust jacket and both stories were devoured with gusto. I'll be honest though, it was 1984 that really struck a chord with me. I enjoyed Animal Farm but 1984 with all it's bleak, oppressive, cabbage smelling darkness, was the true eye opener. Orwell's world is grim, so enticingly grim, that I have reread 1984 at least half a dozen times in the last 35 years. This may say more about me than it does about Orwell.

Unlike Will Self I find Orwell's work to be far from mediocre and I know i'm not alone. Simon Scharma's enthusiasm for Orwell's The Road to Wigan Pier, lead me to track down a copy which I promptly read ahead of all the other books in the pile waiting to be read... which is the same pile I ignored earlier this year when I decided it was time to read 1984 once again. I don't want to sound trivial but I found that all of the stuff Orwell wrote about tripe in Wigan Pier to be just as horrific as Winston's encounter with the rat. Whenever anyone mentions tripe, I think of Orwell... not that this happens all that often, but it does occasionally come up in conversation.

It's a long story which I wont go into any detail about (if you really want to know click here), but whilst sitting in a lung clinic waiting room in London many years ago, breathlessly waiting to see a doctor, I noticed a sign on the wall with a list of all the famous patients who had visited this particular clinic... and there on the list was Eric Blair (George Orwell). Yep, George and I have something in common in that we both have had lung issues* and have both visited this particular clinic. OK, it was a few years apart, but I do feel a certain tenuous, breathless, respiratory connection with him all the same.

So along comes a biography of someone I feel is not just another hack writer, but someone who has left an impression on me... and has done this more than once in my life and I figure that a biography of this bloke can't be a bad thing. This is why I now have another literary biography for sale...

*No. I dont have TB.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Cocktails and Snacks by Andre Launay.

Cocktails and Snacks by Andre Launay. Hardcover book published by Ward Lock 1970, 160 pages with some black and white photographs and illustrations as well as one colour photograph.

COCKTAIL mixing has become a sophisticated art since its birth in the twenties. AndrĂ© Launay presents it here in its most modern form (1970), and in all its variety. The drinks he suggests range from simple to subtle ‘mixes’ for both pre-dinner and after-dinner drinking. Whether conventional or exotic, they all have a tang for the palate to enjoy. So have the snacks which he has devised to go with them. They are just as varied, and cover every kind of snack one may need, from simple sandwiches to luxurious titbits.

Here we are once again hurtling towards the holiday season. Yes it's that time of year when frenzied last minute book buying is followed by the eating and drinking of way too much of each... and this year it's your turn to feed the throng. Before anyone panics let me just say that if this is a problem, it is an easy one to solve, particularly if you are fortunate enough to have a copy of this book in front of you.

So many ideas and so easy to prepare... as long as you have a good supply of toothpicks and sausage.

Please note the peanuts on the tray... yes, vegans are catered for.

You want people to remember this meal and what better way than serving things that you normally eat and know taste good. Toasted sandwiches are easy... you can't go wrong.

… but if you to go the extra few inches, try Mussels with cheese. I personally haven't tried it... but I have eaten mussels and I have eaten cheese and they both taste good to me... so I guess...?

But really, you want to serve something that people will never forgot, something exotic, something special, something pineapple... and I think the Beef Sausage (...yes more sausage...) Open Sandwich is something people will talk about for years to come... that is if they ever talk to you again.

Beef Sausage Open Sandwich

Monday, December 8, 2014

Terry Nation's Blakes 7: A Marvel Monthly.

Terry Nation's Blakes 7: A Marvel Monthly. Various Magazines published by Marvel Comics. (10 issues)

Those of you who have been reading this blog for a while may remember my scribblings re: Terry Nation's Blakes 7, novelization by Trevor HoyleIt seems just like yesterday that I wrote about my appreciation for all things Blakes 7 and my excitement regarding the finding of a rare and valued hardcover novelization. Sadly, and with both feet now firmly on terra firma, the reality is that here we are 3 years after my first journey into Blakes 7 territory and I still haven't managed to teleport the book to a new owner.

In spite of a lack of sales in the Blakes 7 department here at Huc & Gabet, I was very pleased to find this bundle of Blakes 7 magazines. These were not something that I ever expected to find, particularly as I didn't even know that they existed. I guess it's one of those learning curve sort of things where once I didn't know about such things and now I do... which is probably less of a curve and more of a very steep incline. Hardcore Blakes 7 fans must be itching to get there hands on original merchandise such as this and it was with this thought that I eagerly picked up this collection of retro intergalactic telly nostalgia.

Now for the sad news. Unfortunately all of these issues besides being very loved (worn and aged), have had the wall posters removed, so they are all incomplete. I didn't realise this at the time of purchase and it wasn't until I landed back at Huc & Gabet headquarters and began inspecting my treasure, that this imperfection became knowledge. I'm not really sure how much this matters in the bigger scheme of Blakes 7 paraphenalia. It is a cult phenomenon and these magazines are not something that one causally finds for sale 30 years after publication and a missing poster may not deter prospective buyers... or maybe it will. The magazines with the posters would have been better, but that's not what I found. There is now the probability that the Huc & Gabet Blakes 7 shelf is going to get a little more crowded, but I don't care. I think these magazines will be an excellent addition to the portfolio of rare and interesting items that I have for sale.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Bonegilla Where Waters Meet: The Dutch Migrant Experience by Dirk Eysbertse and Marijke Eysbertse.

Bonegilla Where Waters Meet: The Dutch Migrant Experience by Dirk Eysbertse and Marijke Eysbertse.  Paperback book published by Erasmus Foundation 1997, 104 pages with black and white photographs and illustrations as well as a few colour photographs and illustrations.

Bonegilla was Australia’s first and largest migrant reception centre in the post WW2 era. The camp was first home to 320,000 migrants from many nations. More than a million people can trace their origins to Bonegilla. The Dutch were one of the largest groups at the camp.”

Yes, I am one of the “More than a million people” that “can trace their origins to Bonegilla.” I wasn't with my family at the time as it was during my prehistory that they took the plunge and ventured away from the ancestral homelands to these welcoming shores. My mother doesn't speak very highly of her time in Bonegilla and I do know that my family left there as soon as they possibly could for elsewhere in Victoria, ending up close to a Ford factory and a job for my father.

The Dutch have a long history here in Oz and like many groups before and after them, have managed to mix, blend and finally disappear within the diaspora. It is for these people who can trace their origins to a devastated post war Holland and the upheaval of emigration, that a book such as this is written for. The migrant experience was very similar for all nationalities at the time and even though my family weren't Dutch this book seems to have the same themes and stories as my family and many others.

This book is pure nostalgia with history as it's base. I can't see that anyone who doesn't have a Bonegilla connection, including those of Dutch extraction, would have much interest in a book such as this. Fortunately there are plenty of us and them, who do have a connection, for whom this book should have some interest.