Tuesday, 23 February 2016

Just Kids, by Patti Smith


I knew Patti Smith as a performer but nothing more, and that's why I thought reading Just Kids would shed some light into her public and personal life and I would get to appreciate her.  I was not aware of Robert Mapplethorpe, but I regarded that as an added bonus.

Smith narrates her days as a young woman, and her struggles when she couldn't even afford to eat - unfortunately, all this in manner that shows no emotion at all.  When she becomes pregnant and she gives her baby up for adoption, I was astonished to read how calm she was throughout her pregnancy.  Everything organised, everything taken care of -- I may belong to a different era, but her attitude made me think of cold-heartedness.  As she barely earns enough money to eat and have a place to sleep, she is lucky enough to always have people around her to help out.  But still, she is reluctant to return to an otherwise respectable job because 

being on my own in Paris had given me a taste of mobility and I had a difficult time readjusting

Smith goes on to describe her relationship with Mapplethorpe, how he becomes homosexual, how she reacts to this (here I have to admit her reaction made me think she was utterly naive, in an era when people were not...).  She starts her art, she meets all the celebrities of the time (again, her narration is pretty much detached - as if these were happening to someone else, not herself).  She cannot come to terms with Mapplethorpe's homosexuality, and yet accepts everything about him... There is not much material on their couple, even though this book is supposed to be about them.

And then there is Rimbaud.  An obsession I still cannot understand, Smith wakes up at some point with a revelation to go to Ethiopia and find the secret papers of Rimbaud (like everyone does?).  When this does not materialise (because she cannot find a sponsor), she is content to go to Charleville, France, where Rimbaud was born and buried.  I admire and respect plenty of public figures, and I would have the financial capacity to do such travels, yet I cannot see myself doing any of this - people are just people...

I was not impressed with the book: for my taste, it was too repetitive, boring and fairly detached.  If this is supposed to be an autobiography, it really did not warm me up to Patti Smith - on the contrary, I believe I lost some of the admiration I might have had for her.

For the die-hard fans of Patti Smith, this book may bring back memories of a long lost carefree era.  I'm not sure what it brings to the general public...

Saturday, 20 February 2016

Cooking: carrot cake cookies

Carrot cake must be one of the best inventions humans can ever think of.  So luscious, so nutty, so... healthy with all those carrots ... ;-) I really consider this as my go-to dessert and I'm always on the lookout for new variations.  When my friend Jessi invited me to a Pub Quiz night, I knew this was the opportunity (plus it had been Carrot Cake day some days before...).  Given that such nights ask for finger food, I couldn't make a proper cake.  But I could turn the cake into cookies - the perfect finger food...

Tuesday, 16 February 2016

Dietland, by Sarai Walker


Dietland was given to me by a friend with the tag "a funny read".  Something between a chick-lit and an airport paperback.  Which was what I needed at that point in time.  I was also intrigued by the subject, being overweight myself.  Sorry, scratch that:  being FAT myself.  One of the first revelations in this book is how fat people perceive themselves:  even when we are aware of who / what we are, we tend to shy away from accurately describing our size and retort to "euphemisms".  No more....


Friday, 12 February 2016

Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania, by Erik Larson

I first came across Erik Larson when I read "Garden of the Beasts" for my book-club. I was immediately drawn to his style of writing, that included so much detail but still managed to keep my interest up and make me devour each page...

When we decided to read "Lusitania", I was taken aback.  I had no idea what we were talking about (I am a southern European - when speaking to northern compatriots, they were indeed aware of the whole story...)

The book continues in the same pattern:  lots of details that shed light into the minute particles of the cosmos that is warfare and more specifically submarines.  However, this was its downfall as well - however interesting the information was (and indeed I was surprised to learn some of these things) it is still submarines - I just couldn't warm up to them and I really could do without all the technical specifications ...

Wednesday, 10 February 2016

Headscarves and Hymens: Why the Middle East needs a sexual revolution, by Mona Eltahawy

A book picked up for my book club, I actually had high expectations when I first got it.  The subject is (still) relevant, it's an issue that interests me personally, I have actually followed several women's studies classes at university and have also written a paper on the suffragettes.  So, all in all, I was ready to be dazzled...

I'm very disappointed to say that I was far from dazzled. Let me start with the caveats:  I'm European, Caucasian, Christian, middle-class and fairly well educated.  I may not be part of the target audience of this book, but after some thinking, I came to the conclusion that this was not the reason I didn't like the book.

Sunday, 27 December 2015

Cooking: baked mac and cheese

I admit it:  I think mac and cheese, and almost all its variations, is one of the best comfort foods there are in this world... So versatile, so inviting, so soothing - I can go on and on and on as to its qualities.  Still, I'm not content with just my regular mac and cheese:  I'm always on the lookout for something new that will surprise and excite me... This is the latest in my mac and cheese adventures:

Baked mac and cheese
(inspired by Verbatim)


1 tablespoon butter
 
600g grated cheese (I used a gratin mix)
400g pasta, cooked al dente (I used penne)
1 tsp smoked paprika
salt/pepper to taste
 
1 cup milk
4 tbsp panko 
100g grated mozzarella

Preheat oven at 180 degrees C fan.  Grease a baking sheet (I used a swiss-roll baking sheet - it turned out so well, with no spills) with butter.  In a pot, combine pasta with cheese and condiments.  Spread in baking sheet and start sprinkling:  milk, mozzarella, panko.  Cook until bubbly and crispy, about 15 minutes.

(btw, in this post, Karen also deals with the issue of language in the comments section, and how words and tenses evolve over time - fascinating!)

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