Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Good things come in envelopes from publishers

My job is changing – wine selling activities are moving across town into a big new shiny shop which doesn’t leak and smells of paint. It’s a great thing from my point of view – the number of wines, beers, and spirits I get to play with has tripled and I have a team to lead again (time to dust off my intimidating manner and practice looking like I know all the answers) but it has meant that the last few weeks have been hectic, dirty, and depressing in almost equal measure as operations in the old shop have been wound down. Fortunately there are books which see me through this sort of thing and two have turned up in the last few days which have made me particularly happy. (One expected and one not.)

Some things just look to good to sit on until I’ve read them properly so here’s a quick preview. The unexpected one came from Prospect books (who I thought were a brilliant publisher before – but now I’m totally enamoured) and is called ‘The Book of Marmalade’. Anyone who knows me will be able to imagine my joy over a book with a name like this. I was a late convert to marmalade but it was a damascene affair in the middle of Sainsbury’s one day when I found myself wishing someone would make a bitter orange jam (yes I’m aware of how ridiculous this makes me sound) and what do you know there was the marmalade right in front of me. That was actually the only jar I ever bought – since then I’ve been making my own. (Mostly Seville orange but there has been a foray into Lemon with a hint of lavender.)

‘The Book of Marmalade’ by C. Anne Wilson looks to be an in-depth history (the chapter titles are enticing in themselves ‘Marmalade as an aphrodisiac’, ‘Marmalade in the new world: The early centuries’) followed by a collection of recipes. I honestly can’t wait to get started on this one and am considering making it my bus book next week. Can I also suggest that if you have an interest in cookbooks and/or food history that you have a look at Prospect's list – I’ve got a few on my Christmas wish list already and suspect there might be a few more before December.

Book number two is Mark Diacono’s ‘a taste of the unexpected’. Mark Diacono heads the gardening team at River Cottage. I have, and have given as presents a few times, his ‘Veg Patch’ (one of the River Cottage handbooks) and am quite excited by another River Cottage title coming from him next year (‘Fruit’). ‘A taste of the unexpected’ (published by Quadrille) is if anything even more exciting... Mark’s philosophy is that life is too short to grow the everyday when it’s easily and cheaply available everywhere. Why not grow the odd and wonderful instead? He started off with ‘Jane Grigson’s Fruit Book’ and made a list of the things he wanted to grow (at this point I was hooked, and then came the icing for this particular cake) Mulberries and Quinces featured heavily. I got mulberries last year but only by flirting outrageously with a park keeper and I didn’t get a chance this season. Quinces which I’m also keen to experiment with have proved really difficult to get my hands on as well. I clearly need to annexe the Scottish one’s garden and establish an orchard immediately.

I will be spending a lot more time with this book – it’s a brilliant combination of gardening advice, cook book, and inspiration. I saw a mention of comfrey tea for plants as well which makes me think there may be some talk of bio dynamics which also really excite me...

Basically despite the weather, despite the prospect of losing my life to work until January, and despite having no money for fruit trees I feel pretty damn good about the world today. Books are great aren’t they!


  1. I find books can be very comforting. Diving into the right one can provide a very nice little escape from whatever isn't so wonderful in real life.

  2. Hello, those books sound good. I am a passionate maker of marmalade ( with a lot still to learn), and a 'history' on this subject appeals hugely to both my bookish and marmalade obsessions. Will email Prospect and try to twist their arm to post it o/s... It is seville season here in Australia, so I am about to embark on a yearly ritual.

  3. How cheering! I have never made marmalade; I'm not a huge fan but I did buy a jar last week as I want to make the marmalade loaf that featured on the Great british Bake off and which was in the book of the series which I (ahem) somehow acquired...

  4. Hayley, there have been many times when I wished you lived round the corner, and now is another! We have a quince tree in the garden and had such an epic crop this year that I gave kilos away to the local Abundance Day at church last week.
    You'll often find them in Turkish or Greek shops, so it is worth finding out where your nearest one is, and asking if, and when, they stock them. These re likely to be in suburbs rather then town centres, but try asking at Greek or Turkish restaurants, since they are bound to know where their nearest one is.

  5. Sherry, you're so right - books are a lifeline some days, and so much better for me than chocolate...

    Merenia, have you had a look at Prospect's list? I love it, so many fascinating titles - I'm becoming quite evengelical about them.

    Verity - a perfectly understandable lapse from the book buying ban... Hope the loaf is good. I like marmalade a lot, and particularly like this book because it's more history than anything else - what could be more comforting than reading about Marmalade. Paddington would approve!

    Curzon, thanks for the advice, there's an international supermarket around the corner so I'll try them. I have sometimes seen them on the market but none this year. Lucky you having a tree - you are clearly the neighbour to have:)