The Essential School of Ingredients…

Oh how I love reading a book that just pours inspiration in to my body with it’s words. When something really touches you. That for me is what life is really all about. To be inspired and to learn; to constantly be reaching; to find out who you are minute by minute.

I read this book and felt at home. “The School of Essential Ingredients” by Erica Bauermeister is now an essential part of me, which is something that should happen when you’ve been graced by someone’s story. A small piece of you is changed because of that book. I feel a little lighter about life after reading it and it re-ignited my passion for food and for people.

It was one of those novels where I just wanted to whack a huge, woolly jumper on and curl up. Make a cup of tea, grab a digestive biscuit and have a big bay window magically appear in the house out of nowhere. Maybe even some rain lightly patter on the pane. However, being in Australia in Summer time, my clichéd bubble was a little burst. But I digress.

This story is about love. It’s about life and how we are sometimes a little caught up in it. Lilian, one of the main characters, is a a creator-of wonderful food. She holds cooking classes and brings these people back to themselves through food, through taste. Through the wonderful means of patience when you are really able to understand. It is something we do everyday, is it not? When you taste that certain taste and all your memories are suddenly upon you.

That’s life.

And it’s pretty damn beautiful.

Bagel Brain…

Our flights are booked to New York, meaning that from March 14th, we really will be living up to our name. Well, the “fat” half anyway. Being in the big apple will be a sensory celebration for us, where by anything remotely cliched will be consumed; fries, pizza’s…bagels.

To give you a more visual taste of how I feel about bagels, here you are:

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My Achilles heel is sweets. Ok so I’ve really sold myself quite short there, I definitely have about six Achilles heels, but the main proprietors are all things buttery, sugary and naughty.

The one thing I’m dreaming about is bagels and being all Sex and The City about it. I will wake, but Mr. Fat Umbrella shall still be snoring enabling me to throw on whatever is lying on the floor and my SJP heels. Then, I can saunter across the busy cosmopolitan roads of NYC and return with one of those brown paper bags brimming with blueberry bagels and in the other hand, a tray of coffee’s from Starbucks. Right?

To be prepared, I’ve been doing my research. I’ve been steered to the site which professes to tell me what the six best bagel shops in New York are. And obviously being the journalist that I am, I will have to go to all of them, get the stats and report.

It will be pure bagel brilliance.

P.s-anybody who’s got the gossip on where to go to get my sugar fix, do tell!

Hot Choc: Hot Weather…

I’m on the hunt for the best hot chocolate around. I know it’s forty degrees outside here in Australia, but my English genes are out in pure Christmas force. Nothing says Noel like a cup of creamy hot choccy.

I want it all to be, let’s say, cliched. I want old fashioned; I want to be surrounded by tinsel; the sound of children filling my ears.

Anybody know of such a place? Or am I the only one craving a boiling hot beverage in such boiling hot weather?

My Must Have Album…

Lorde: Pure Heroin

Being a fan of Lykke Li, Marina and the Diamonds and Grimes, I feel like my musical appetite has just been served a three course dinner in one fantastical serving. The album “Pure Heroin” by Lorde is what it says on the tin. Addictive, moreish and ruins you or repeat button.

A few tracks shine more than others, those that we have already been blessed to hear, but there isn’t a bad track. Once finished, you think, “oh no! Again, again, again!” I really love that light pop, quirky alternative sound. Like the daisies of music. It’s lovely and what is it all about? Making you feel good.

Praise for the youngster. I’d be quite excited to hear what she can do next.

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Book of the Year…

The Loveliest Chocolate Shop in Paris, by Jenny Colgan

So it’s nearing the 25th of December and Santa, all I want for Christmas is …a time machine.

I’m so insanely nostalgic about this book it hurts my heart to think I have no chance of being able to read it again and not know what beautiful story is going to unfold before me. It’s so sad. I mean don’t get me wrong, I completely could relive it over and over. It’s just that it dazzled me in such a way the first time, I don’t know if I want to try and re-capture that. It’s like the first time you fall in love with “that” person. No other person can make you feel such a way and Jenny, your book was “that” book for me.

It brought me to tears; like, hiccup tears! It brought me to eye crinkling laughter whilst creating this feeling of contempt within me. Plus, I adore it when I read something which makes me look to the sky saying, “that is totally me!”

The Loveliest Chocolate Shop in Paris is my loveliest book of the year. Thank you for writing it and making it part of my life.

xxx

My close runner up is “The Sweetness of Forgetting” by Kristin Harmel. It’s inspiring and written in such a lovingly, flowing way, whilst broaching a subject which should never be far from our memories. You can’t really want much more from a book. The story tells of a woman who thinks her life is on the way down, only to find who she is and what life is all about through the past of her Grandmother: a Jewish girl in a time where a persons religion meant certain death.

Just a quick tip: do not read the ending in a public place. Curl up somewhere alone, with only a box of tissues for company.

xxx

My let down book of the year sliced my soul like an annoying paper cut. When you expect but get the un-expected. Building yourself up for a few days of ignorance because your thinking, “I’m definitely not going to have time to talk, I’ll be reading!”, to close on the last page and furrow your brow in disappointment.

“The Winter Ghosts” by Kate Mosse. I love her writing; her style; her strong sense of story and character that carry you with ease and passion through the book. Somehow this one didn’t stir my insides, which  were yearning for butterflies. I felt as though I was just going through the motions whilst reading it. Instead of feeling full of adrenaline upon finishing the book, I just felt empty.

Birthday at The Voyager Estate “Don’t you know?”…

I had a count down calendar put on here to let everybody think about what Mr. Fat Umbrella might, (or might not), have been planning for my first Australian birthday. I quote, “I hope it involves food!”

By gum did it.

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The Voyager Estate. One of the top restaurants in Western Australia. I am one lucky girl…

The discovery menu is designed with interest concerning where the winery originated from; it’s growth and maturity over time. They know their stuff.  Ask them something and the answer is there in seconds. And that of course, is because such exquisite food demands knowledge; it commands respect. No “let me go and check if the praline mousse contains nuts” business. The genuine love for their product is eminent and catching.

I didn’t only eat: I learnt. I feel like my palette is becoming more open and actually identifying things, which is what I want. For example, I could never understand anybody who drank white wine. Too acidic, too sharp. Too cheap is obviously my problem. No longer shall I stroll in to the supermarket with only a mere few coins and purchase whatever is the “deal of the day”-I’m obviously a sommelier now people. Alas! I will however think. Close my eyes for a few minutes and really concentrate on what will enhance my cooking. Or maybe the answer to that is to not cook.

Having always been intrigued by the image of a low lit restaurant, draped with dark, red velvet curtains in the heart of Paris, where the elite go and are served caviar with the exact grape to accompany it, this was my first experience of how wine can make food, quite frankly, explode.

I, Mrs. Fat Umbrella, drank white wine and loved it. It’s a complete miracle. How every ingredient is brought to life when the liquid washes over your taste buds is one of the most fascinating journeys I have ever been on. I felt so important. It was as though I was on a high class mission to make sure I tasted every particle; savoured every crunch; soaked up every last drop of vino, just to come back and report to you little Fat Umbrella’s.

The food has been created to become a beautiful conveyer belt of taste. Dish after dish of flavour. Glass after glass of the perfect partnering wine. The most divine dessert your tongue will ever play host to, plus the ever important factor of passion. Passion for food, for wine and for the whole experience is what really brings this together. The waitress that was assigned to us had an obvious affinity with this menu and spoke with such enthusiasm about each course.  Tempting us with her words and stories. She was the hamstring stretch before the marathon.

Im not going to tell you about each dish because it’s the discovery menu: go and discover it for yourself.

Smelly Books…

If there is one thing I am scared about in this world, it’s the extinction of books. I refuse to own a kindle. I have an iPad, but do not have the iBook app or whatever it is. I cannot get enough of books, especially ones that are battered, crumpled and have a story as to where it came from, or who it belonged to. My favourite smell of all time? Books.

Open an old book and get your nostrils right in to the binding. Take a long, deep, sniff. Woody, papery and historic! It’s glorious and to me, that’s part of reading; turning each page; falling asleep with it on your face whilst dribble acts as super glue. When I am grown up, I wish to have one of those rooms where you need a ladder to get to the top shelf of your book case. A room where the walls are just lined with millions of pages, saturated in millions of stories.

I went to the charity shop today and purchased four new friends:

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Three dollars for what may come to be, the story that changes your life. Three dollars for the escape you may just need right now. What’s awaiting you in those mysterious bundle of words and lets face it, fall asleep and drop a kindle on your face…ouch.

Let’s do some things the good old fashioned way.