Saturday, March 21, 2020

Beyond The North Wind - Darra Goldstein

Yesterday became somewhat overwhelming, so much has changed in a week and I definitely had a wobble. This morning feels more positive. My plan for the weekend is to spend a lot less time on Facebook and Twitter - both have been really good for chatting to people and on Twitter seeing a lot of great book recommendations, but there’s also a lot of conspiracy theories, panic spreading, and lashing out which I’m finding much less helpful.

Whilst I’m in a positive mood the sensible thing to do is to make good use of the mute option. I’ve also been considering how I use Twitter (more likes, less retweets), and the next thing to do is to write some actual letters or postcards to the people in my life who I think might be worst hit by the reality of self isolation (those who don’t routinely use the internet for a start).

I can also do some armchair and kitchen travelling. Cookbooks that blur the lines between travel writing, history, and memoir are not new - it’s more or less what Elizabeth David was doing, it’s a big part of Jane Grigson's charm, and of Claudia Roden’s amongst others. I particularly love Patience Gray’s ‘Honey From a Weed’ too which I’ve pulled off the shelf to dip in and out of again.

Looking at my own shelves though the cookbooks which best mix travel and food have a definite theme. I’m not sure if this particularly reflects my interests, or if it’s irresistible writing sparking an interest but I’m happily following the travels of Caroline Eden and Eleanor Ford along the Silk Route in ‘Samerkand’, ‘Black Sea’ which is Eden’s brilliant book that travels and eats its way between Odessa, Istanbul, and Trabzon. Olia Hercules ‘Kaukasis’ is full of love for the places she goes and the people she meets.

I can’t remember if it was via Olia Hercules Instagram or Caroline Eden’s that I saw Irina Georgescu’s ‘Carpathia’, but it’s been a reason to be cheerful this week. It was definitely Caroline Eden who recommended Darra Goldstein’s ‘Beyond The North Wind’ which I’m really enjoying.

‘Beyond The North Wind’ is Russia in Recipes and Lore, and at the moment it’s the lore bit that I’m really enjoying. It’s a book that aims to unearth the most deeply Russian flavours. It goes beyond the Soviet era, and perhaps the best way to sum it up is this from the introduction, “I sought to discover the benefits of austerity rather than its limitations”. That’s an austerity imposed by climate, and soil as much as anything else.

There are things I want to cook in here, things I want to taste whilst I read, but right now I can open a window, sit on the sill with the sun on my back so that I don’t see the car park outside, and lose myself in altogether different places. The wind is even in the east today.


  1. You write so well about these books Hayley. I'm not much of a baker but have jotted down a few of your recommendations, and who know, maybe at the end of all this ,I'll have learned!! Keep well

    1. Thank you, and you too. If nothing else it’s a good time to try new things in the kitchen. These are books that I have and find comforting/inspiring/useful in various measures - all good things right now.

  2. When you next have a wobble, remember that this blog is reaching other people who may be having a wobble when it pops up in the inbox. Your posts are always interesting and very much appreciated; in the current climate they are invaluable.

    1. Thank you. The sun coming out today made Every thing feel more positive, and so has taking a bit of a step back from the news cycle.