The Booksnob’s Blog

Books… the best, worst, & weirdest…

Preserving the Italian Way

Preserving the Italian W

A delightful book, written and self-published by Melbourne GP Pietro Demaio, whose love of the food traditions of his native land is very obvious.  His humorous anecdotes about his many culinary adventures in Australia and especially on his visits back to Italy made me laugh, and sometimes even made me cry. 

I loved the story about how he finally managed to foil his patients who regularly used to sneak in and steal the entire olive harvest at his Melbourne surgery just before he was due to harvest them. And wherever that island restaurant is, the one you have to swim to get to, I want to eat there. Although Dr Demaio, a non-swimmer, was thrown overboard attached to a rope and towed ashore. 

In this book, Dr Demaio covers everything you could possibly want to know about Italian home preserving, with not one, but about a dozen different ways of preserving eggplants for starters. There are also sections on every other conceivable method of preserving Italian foodstuffs, including making sausages and the curing of pork products, and there are even detailed instructions on how to build a wood-fired oven.  The only problem with the book is that it has suffered in the editing, and there are too many typos, but this glitch aside, it is a thoroughly enjoyable and very useful cookbook for slow foodies.

Preserving the Italian Way website



March 31, 2008 Posted by | Cookbooks, Non fiction | | 1 Comment

Melissa King’s Garden Feast

Garden Feast A great book for Australian gardening enthusiasts, from horticulturalist Melissa King and the team at Heronswood on the Mornington Peninsula, home of the famous Digger’s Club.

Packed with great information and photos of unusual and heirloom fruit and vegetable varieties, with each section including simple but beautiful recipes from the Heronswood Café. Definitely one to leave on the coffee table and dip into periodically while fantasising about the drought ending so we can grow stuff again.

March 4, 2008 Posted by | Gardening, Non fiction | | Leave a comment

All Cats Have Asperger Syndrome

all cats have asperger syndrome

 A very cute book which uses examples of cat behaviour (with accompanying colour photos on each page) to explain Asperger Syndrome, which it does succinctly and in a sensitive manner. The book uses humour to explain a potentially difficult subject and gets the tone just right, avoiding being preachy or maudlin.  Would be useful for explaining the condition to children or relatives who just don’t get it, and of course you can also enjoy it purely for the pictures of the gorgeous kitties.

February 27, 2008 Posted by | Junior, Non fiction | | 1 Comment

Maggie’s Harvest

Maggie’s Harvest

This is a seriously gorgeous cookbook, by well known South Australian cookery writer and TV presenter Maggie Beer. It collects together recipes from two of Maggie’s previous books, Maggie’s Orchard (1997) and Maggie’s Farm  (1993), together with a great deal of new material.

The recipes are arranged seasonally and are based around Maggie’s own favourite ingredients. They are predominantly inspired by Mediterranean cuisine, to match the Mediterranean climate of the Barossa Valley where Maggie lives and works. The recipes are generally easy to prepare, and let the ingredients speak for themselves.

She also includes lots of useful snippets of information for serious foodies, such as where to source the growers and suppliers of the best ingredients, and adds interesting sections on such arcane kitchen arts as preserving, smoking and making one’s own vinegar.  Just fabulous, and one of the most beautiful cookbook covers I have ever seen (although keep it well away from any kitchen mess).

Maggie Beer’s home page

February 26, 2008 Posted by | Cookbooks, Non fiction | | 1 Comment

Provence Cookery School

Provence Cookery SchoolProvence Cookery School: Shop, cook and eat like a local
by Gui Gedda & Marie-Pierre Moine

A version of this review was published previously on my old blog, but this cookbook is so gorgeous that I’m going to review it again. I’ve already borrowed it from the library twice, and each time I can hardly bear to take it back again.

This is genuine Provençal cookery by a master of the genre, presented as it would be during a week in a French cookery school.  It starts off simply with authentic Provençal ingredients, methods and easy recipes, and progresses gradually to more complex dishes.

What I love about Provençal cookery is its uncomplicated approach. Thank the culinary gods, there is nothing remotely resembling molecular gastronomy or any other avant-garde conceits in Monsieur Gedda’s kitchen. Nor any fussing about with sauces that take eight hours and use every pot in your kitchen, just lovely, traditional fare relying on fresh, top-quality ingredients and simplicity of presentation. 

The recipes are accompanied by beautiful photographs, and the Provençal classics are all in there  – soupe au pistou, fish cookery, herb and wine infusions for pot roasts, Provençal breads, pissaladière (Provençal pizza) Socca (the street food of Nice), vegetable tarts, pine nut and lavender biscuits, gorgeous fruit gâteaux, French goat cheeses. Definitely one to swoon over, and even better, every one of the recipes is achievable.

January 9, 2008 Posted by | Cookbooks, Non fiction | Leave a comment

Legacy of Ashes: A History of the CIA

Legacy of Ashes This book, by Pulitzer prize winning journalist Tim Weiner is a devastating critique of six decades of the CIA’s operations, from the agency’s beginnings in the 1940s as a follow-on from the wartime Office of Strategic Services, through the eras of the Cold War, Korea and Vietnam, right to the present era.

Legacy of Ashes is a relentless catalogue of decades of crippling intelligence failures due to the infiltration of virtually every unit from its inception, of inter-departmental turf wars, of an agency addicted to covert action at the expense of intelligence gathering, whose main agenda seems to have been the buying or toppling of foreign governments (Italy, Japan, Egypt, Iran, the Congo, Guatemala, Vietnam, Chile, who knows how many others).  

 It is a story of rampant alcoholism and ruthless personal ambition amongst agents, of execrable planning and hideous bungles costing thousands of lives, including hundreds of the CIA’s own agents. It is the story of out-of-control section heads and gung-ho cowboys operating virtually as laws unto themselves, answerable to no-one, dreaming up insane schemes like throwing live bats out of airplanes with incendiary devices strapped to their backs, to rain down on Tokyo (this one didn’t work).

This priceless little gem appears on pages 4 and 5, courtesy of David Bruce, former CIA operative and later U.S. ambassador, whose unenviable task it was to test the bats-as-bombs hypothesis. It tends to set the tone for the whole, sorry saga, which could almost be a Keystone Cops comedy if the effects on the history of so many other nations had not been so devastating and long-lasting.

All in all, Legacy of Ashes is an utterly gripping narrative, one that I have been quite unable to put down – a 700-page catalogue of “swashbuckling of the worst kind”, to quote the words of one former agent.  The book’s great strength is that everything is on the record, sourced from first-hand reporting and primary documents, with numerous direct quotes from former operatives. There is an addendum of over 150 pages of notes documenting the author’s sources.

Frightening stuff.

December 27, 2007 Posted by | Non fiction | , , | 1 Comment

The Darwin Awards

Darwin AwardsThe Darwin Awards
Wendy Northcutt
Orion Books, London 2000

The things one sees when toiling away at library check-in. This one definitely qualifies for the Weirdest category. Apparently, since 1994 there has been a thriving online community of passive eugenicists who love to gloat over other peoples’ foolish escapades that lead to their deaths in bizarre and spectacular circumstances, thereby removing their defective DNA from the gene pool.

It all started on a Stanford University webserver back in 1994, and the Darwin Awards eventually acquired such a cult following that the Stanford sysadmin politely suggested that they might like to relocate to another server, hence the birth of the Darwin Awards website

Winners of Darwin Awards are evaluated by the following simple criteria:

The candidate must remove himself from the gene pool
The candidate must exhibit an astounding misapplication of judgement
The candidate must be the cause of his own demise
The candidate must be capable of sound judgement
The event must be verified

Candidates who fulfill all criteria except the third (i.e. those who survive to tell their sorry tale) rate an Honorable Mention.

Northcutt, the culprit who started the whole thing, studied molecular biology at Berkeley and later worked in neuroscience, before chucking it all in to become the Darwin Awards webmistress, although she lays the blame for the initial concept at the feet of her cousin Ian.

December 6, 2007 Posted by | Non fiction | , | Leave a comment