Cook, Eat, Repeat: Ingredients, Recipes, and Stories
Read by the author
HarperAudio, April 20, 2021
$26.94 for Audible members, more for nonmembers
purchased with an Audible credit
I have long been familiar with Nigella Lawson. Her cooking shows from the BBC have been rebroadcast on American television for many years. Although there is no disputing her culinary skills, her credibility with me has been less than a hundred percent. One time she said that corn and flour tortillas were interchangeable. Um, really Nigella? No.
Then there was the time she introduced an episode on entertaining after a long day at work from the back seat of a town car. Yes, entertaining after work is much less stressful if your commute is via a chauffeured town car. Few of us had that luxury when we were commuting.
Nonetheless, I enjoy watching her various cooking series when they’re available, and so I paid attention when The New York Times Book Review New and Noteworthy column listed her new book. The writer specifically mentioned how enjoyable the audiobook version was, so I decided to make Cook, Eat, Repeat my next monthly Audible selection.
It was indeed a pleasure to listen to Nigella enthuse about food with her pleasing British accent. Unlike a traditional cookbook, she has an introductory section before each recipe in which she extolls the virtues of the dish and sometimes comments on how easy or difficult the recipe is. In the actual instructions, she elaborates on the process, rather than giving the pared-down steps. She will use phrases like, “as best you can,” or “if you like,” or “I must insist that you not substitute here.”
Many of the dishes are things I would never consider. She includes beef cheeks, oxtail, and rhubarb, none of which I would ever think of cooking. On the other hand, some of her chicken recipes look quite appealing, and she offers several desserts for the holidays.
While Nigella gives all the measurements in metric form in the audio, they are converted to cups and ounces in the accompanying PDF. (Oddly, she says things like “I use an American half cup measure for this.” Odd because cups and ounces are formally referred to as the English measurement system.)
As enjoyable as Cook, Eat, Repeat was to listen to, however, I wouldn’t recommend it as a definitive, must-have cookbook.
I have been very fond of our kitchen since we had a new sink and countertops installed last November. It’s a really nice place to cook and bake. It’s unsettling then when something isn’t working right.
That was the case recently when the garbage disposal started making a grating metal-on-metal clanging sound like a fork or spoon had fallen into it. But there was no fork or spoon down there. I put my hand down there several times hoping I could locate what was causing the problem, but I came up with nothing. (In retrospect I should have shown a flashlight down there, but I didn’t.)
One evening Terry said that I really needed to call our contractor about that, as it had only been seven months since the new garbage disposal had been installed as part of our upgrade. In fact, I had been debating whether to call him and ask about the length of any warranty, or to simply call our regular plumber. However, just a few minutes later I turned on the disposal and it tossed up a tiny nut. The metal kind that screws on to a bolt, not the kind you eat. How it got down there I have no idea.
So our garbage disposal is now working fine again, for which I am grateful.
Ravenna: Capital of Empire, Crucible of Europe
by Judith Herrin
Princeton University Press (October 27, 2020), 577 pages
Kindle edition $9.88, Amazon hardcover $25.62
This is an impressive volume. And given the price of the Kindle edition for a 577 page book, it is one great value for your reading pleasure. The author covers pretty much the entire period of late antiquity, a period she prefers to call early Christianity. Her narrative begins in the year 390 and ends in 813.
As a classics major in college I was in an environment where professors considered this period inferior to the classical era, so it wasn’t really covered. I believe the offering on Late Antiquity was the first course I took from the Great Courses that I listened to in audio format. (I had watched a DVD series previously.) That was a long time ago, however, and I remember little from it.
To provide some context, Constantine the Great died in 337, so this book covers a period well after the split of the Roman empire into east and west, when the eastern empire, ruled from Constantinople, held sway. The focus on Ravenna is because of its strategic location in northeast Italy and because it was for many years the seat of government for the western empire.
Herrin delivers a lot of interesting material. She explains that while some barbarians wanted to fight Rome, others actually wanted to be recognized as Roman citizens. She gives extensive attention to the many women who played a key role in governing. For example, Galla Placidia became empress when her half brother died without an heir. She discusses how most Goths were Arian Christians, not pagans, something glossed over in many accounts.
The author describes how the Goth ruler Odoacer sent the imperial insignias back to Constantinople, saying, in essence, the west no longer needed an emperor. She explains how the Goth Theoderic grew up at the court in Constantinople as a sort of well-treated royal hostage. When he came of age and returned to his own lands he sought approval from the emperor in Constantinople before invading the west.
The author is British, but Princeton University Press published the book. Interestingly, British spelling prevails. One annoyance is that in the Kindle edition many words that should be hyphenated are run together. I suspect that’s not the case in the print edition.
The book is well-written, and Herrin moves things along nicely. At certain points I thought I had read enough of the era, but the author kept me engaged and I stayed with it to the end. I’m glad I did.
Terry and I have long made use of plastic food containers. We put leftovers in the fridge or put them in the freezer so I can later seal them up in plastic with our FoodSaver vacuum sealer appliance. When we had our china cabinet built and installed six years ago, shortly after moving here, we allocated one of the lower drawers for our plastic containers. Our container collection has been growing ever since. We had a set of plastic containers that we bought at Costco ages ago. We’ve also been collecting takeout containers from our local restaurants since well before the start of the pandemic. So our plastic food container drawer became unruly and overgrown. We decided it was time to do something about it.
Recently Terry and I were watching Pioneer Woman (as we do each week), and Ree was packing up food in containers that looked sleek and practical. Terry commented on them, saying how much she liked the appearance. I agreed with her.
I went online thinking they must be part of Pioneer Woman’s merchandising empire at Walmart. But there was nothing like that there (which was fine from my perspective, since I hate Walmart). I then went to my go-to source, Amazon (of course) and quickly found containers that exactly matched the ones we saw Ree using. I ordered a seven-piece set (the listing said fourteen-piece, but they were counting the lids). When they arrived Terry was delighted and I very much liked what I saw. However, there were only two of the medium-sized container, the 3.2 cup size. I knew that wouldn’t be enough. We give that size container a lot of use. Not only do we use them frequently for leftovers, but when Terry fixes her make-ahead three-bean salad for her lunches she uses three containers that size. I went back to Amazon and discovered that they had a five pack of the 3.2 cup containers. Exactly what we needed. I ordered the set.
We now have a very neat and well-organized food container drawer with plenty of containers for our leftovers (and for Terry’s three-bean salad) that are freezer, dishwasher, and microwave safe.
I like that.
I had some reasonable freelance income for the first five months of the year, though things have quieted down considerably here in June. I was looking at income versus business expenses, and I realized I had booked very little on the expense side. Now, I don’t mind paying taxes with the current administration in Washington, but I still like to minimize how much I do pay in taxes. So I decided to indulge myself.
I bought a one-year subscription to the Adobe Creative Cloud suite. Now the consensus in the forum for writers and editors to which I belong is that the Adobe pricing is expensive (perhaps bordering on unreasonable). Still, I had a few reasons for making the purchase. One was access to the full-featured version of Acrobat, including the ability to edit PDFs and create fillable PDF forms. Another was Photoshop. I bought a new computer last September, and even if I could have located the CD of my ancient Photoshop version, I had no idea of where to find the license key. Then there’s the web-based portfolio development tool, which allows one to create a visually appealing web portfolio. Finally, there is InDesign, the direct lineal successor (as my classics professor in college would say) to PageMaker. Not sure I’ll do a lot with that, but it might be fun to dabble.
I no doubt will discover other cool things that I can do with Creative Cloud. For example, sometimes I find a recipe in a magazine that I want to add to my recipe software, but which is not on the magazine’s web site. I often scan such things with my Dropbox iPhone app and create a PDF, but the PDF is an image, not copyable text, so I would need to open it in Word or some such thing. I just discovered that the full Acrobat can run OCR on the PDF so I can copy and paste the recipe text into my software. Very useful.
There is nothing in Creative Cloud that directly supports my writing. But with all the tools available, and there are many more than I enumerate here, perhaps I will find some inspiration to give me a kick start and get me back on track with my own writing. Given that my contract writing work has slowed down considerably and I’m feeling somewhat at loose ends, that would be a Good Thing.
The Face of Water: A Translator on Beauty and Meaning in the Bible
Vintage (March 28, 2017), 232 pages
Kindle edition $12.99, Amazon paperback $17.00
I read a review of The Gospels: A New Translation and promptly bought the book. In it Sarah Ruden’s goal is to come as close to the original Greek as possible. In the process of buying the book I found her 2017 title, The Face of the Water. That looked interesting, so I bought the Kindle edition.
In The Face of Water Ruden discusses the problems in translating the Bible and analyzes a few passages in both the Old and New Testaments where she provides the King James version and then offers her own translation of the Hebrew or Greek.
Some of us at times get frustrated with Old Testament narratives because of the repetition. Ruden points out that Hebrew is an infected language (as is Greek). This means that verb and noun endings convey meaning that require additional words in English. So when translating a passage more words are required in English than in Hebrew, making the repetition more tedious.
Her own translations provide some insight. She points out that in the Lord’s Prayer, “daily bread” in the King James is a poor translation. There is no “daily” in the Greek and “bread” is better translated “loaf.” She states that the label “a Psalm of David” that appears on so many Psalms is misleading. She writes that the inscription is “To/for/regarding [here pretty much an impossible word to translate] David.” Ruden suggests that in the book of Ecclesiastes “vanity” is better translated as “evanescence.”
Ruden writes with a self-effacing humor that makes the book a pleasure to read. If you have an open-minded view about things Biblical you’ll find this book fascinating and enjoyable reading.