It looks like lock down might be extended in Leicester, but not Leicestershire, which is not happy news from my point of view. Most of my dearest are outside the city limits, and last night I was sorely tempted to pack a suitcase and flee. Calmer reflection convinced me that I'm probably better off at home albeit alone. Suggestions that English visitors might have to quarantine for two weeks if they go to Scotland was even less encouraging. At this point I'd rather hear some hard no's instead of all the vague maybes that keep getting my hopes up.
Lock down at home does have it's upsides though, and one of them has been a run of really good cookbooks, the latest of which for me is Olia Hercules' 'Summer Kitchens'. This is another book I've looked forward to for a while, and which like Gill Meller's 'Root Stem Leaf Flower' has immediately far surpassed my expectations.
It's a collection of 'recipes and reminiscences' from every corner of Ukraine. I could stand to learn a lot more about Ukraine (I've actually looked at a map this evening, something which always makes me feel old, it's changed a lot since I sat in a classroom with a map on the wall*). The recipes look great and there's probably actually more of them that I'll use from this book than from either 'Mamushka' or 'Kaukasis', the photography is wonderful too. It really celebrates the people, food, and places the book talks about and is perfect for a bit of arm chair travelling.
It's the reminiscences part of the book that makes it really special though. Every recipe comes with context, and there are essays on a number of subjects - a discussion of traditional Ukrainian ovens (pich) including some of the superstitions around them has been a particular favourite so far, but I've got more to read. There's even a section of recollections that people had sent to Hercules which caught me unawares. I ended up so over emotional that I had to go and make a cup of tea and then a honey cake to get a grip on myself again. It's not a sad section, but an equally beautiful and generous addition to a book that is already both those things in spades.
The cake was 'Lyuba's honey and berry teacake'. I made it because I was seeing my mother and sister so a big slab of cake felt justified and it is wonderful. It uses lard instead of butter which is something I'm not yet used to baking with, and tastes even better in the couple of days after baking. It's not a sweet cake but the honey makes it rich enough to be filling, and it is indeed very good with an aromatic or herbal tea. I might share the recipe here sometime, but for now I'd say instead to buy this book.
Whilst life is still carrying on at a slower pace it's full of things you might want to eat, and it's a joy to read too. That's a great combination at any time, but I particularly appreciate it right now. It's not every cookery writer who gets better from book to book (though there are plenty who do) but Hercules is doing just that. There's a confidence and style about this one which I'm find particularly beguiling and reminds me of everything I love about Claudia Roden's writing. It really is a wonderful book.
*Our primary school was old enough to have a map with a good quarter of the world still shaded in red still hanging around, also outside toilets when I first started - which were freezing in winter, and spidery all year round. The old map was a curiosity in a sort of store room behind where we had art lessons, not one we were taught from.
I am so excited for this. It's not out here for another couple of weeks but I've got it preordered with my local bookstore and can't wait!ReplyDelete
I'm really enjoying it. Hercules is a wonderful guide and this was really the perfect book for me to get lost in right now. Maybe because I'm feeling homesick for Scotland made her evident affection for Ukraine really strike a chord too!Delete
Love the cover, and this book sounds very enticing with its mixture of recipes and other text.ReplyDelete
It's the other text I'm finding particularly enjoyable - I'm finding it a really good way to learn about another culture. Doesn't hurt that the food is great too.Delete
All sympathy with Leicester lockdown. I'm glad cookbooks are providing solace, and this one sounds splendid. I'm cooking more than I ever have to n my life, and learning a lot: helps with stress, too. Thank you for your reviews, they're a real pleasure in strange times.ReplyDelete
Thank you too! I'm cooking a lot as well, making things always helps me feel better/useful and I'm finding food an easier thing to read about at the moment. It's interesting but I don't generally get emotionally invested in it. I have more than enough emotions to deal with right now so interesting is a much better way to go!Delete
You will get through the extra days or weeks, so stick with it.ReplyDelete
The book sounds very interesting and, as soon as I have finished Diarmaid MacCulloch's book on Cromwell (I am enjoying it so much I shall investigate more.
Your mention of the School Map took me right back to Primary school. Each intake of children stayed together in the same class and, therefore, in the same classroom. I can still see, in my mind's eye, that Map of the World where most of it was coloured pink. And we were taught to be so proud of that achievement! So shameful nowadays.
I'm okay, just a bit frustrated by it all. A lot of my friends have got much bigger things to worry about at the moment - my family are all well and safe and for now I have the luxury of being able to stay at home and keep busy, and I like my own company!Delete
That map seemed almost incomprehensible to me, a relic of history even in the late 1970's when I first saw it. Looking at old maps of the USSR seem almost as unlikely now, even though I remember those changes. And now look what's happening in this country - it seems there might be every chance the map will have to be re drawn again in our lifetime!