Monday, 17 May 2010

The Birthday Books

I love my Boyfriend. He bought me books. Well not just because he bought me books but we all know I'm rather obsessed with books so... No, really I do love him for many other reasons. Like how he manages to look prettiest first thing in the morning when I'm at my grumpiest and other things you will no doubt find nauseating. However this post is about the books he (lovingly) bought me for my Birthday and which I've spent all weekend practising with.

First up is the one that's actually about cooking. This was my surprise book. I mentioned that I'd like a bread making book that was a little more advanced, a little more artisan breads and a little less 'see how quick and easy it is to make your own bread at home'. Frankly I wanted beyond quick and easy. I wanted more kinds of bread. I wanted something that saw bread as serious.

I didn't quite want as much detail as there is in Bread: A Baker's Book of Techniques and Recipes at least I wouldn't have chosen it for myself (Stephens belief in my intelligence is reassuring, if misguided) but reading it (much in the same way as Joyce, ploughing through with the faith that I could go back on my confusion later, although with Joyce I never did, see the last lot of parenthesis) and working with it I've come too a truce with it's depth. Or perhaps it's more Stockholm syndrome; I love it for it.

Well not all of it. Granted it's a bit Western-centric - there is an Aloo Paratha as a nod to bread culture elsewhere - but then books like this generally will be. And as an American book all the home baking measurements are given in imperial. Which confuses me only in that they have points of ounces and we have fractions (and if you have point something why not have metric? Metric is nice, metric is easy. Honest!) and confuses Stephen because the scales are being left on imperial.

For my fist experiment I went for Baguettes with Poolish. They aren't anywhere near perfect. The scoring looks like the diagram of 'improper scoring techniques', the crust is cracked and the crumb is a bit too uniform. But I love them. Almost as much as Stephen.

On to the gardening books then! No surprises here, he bought me The Edible Garden. We kind of adore Alys Fowler. There is the red hair, the quirky dress sense, the enthusiasm and that is without coming to the bits where she is interested in skip diving, foraging and other things we find super exciting. In fact it's kind of a running joke in this flat that if Alys says so, we have to do it.

With The Edible Garden she is after our own hearts mixing attractive edibles and the purely decorative to get a productive garden that looks good. Also foraging, skip diving, preserving, baking and having a quirky dress sense and red hair. It adds up to a book that you can simultaneously open up and loose yourself in and get fantastic practical information from. No easy feat looking at the rest of my bookshelf.

As a nice bonus it has an (all too short!) recipe section. So I had Chard, Garlic and Hot Pepper with Instant Noodles with my own home grown chard for that extra smug taste. It was delicious.

Finally Grow Your Own Drugs: A Year With James Wong, also not terribly surprising. We love Grow Your Own Drugs, okay me quite a bit more than Stephen, for the sheer ingenuity and horticultural geekery. And how cool is it to have a book that discusses natural remedies and skin care stuff by bragging about the chemical contents in plants rather than knocking modern medicine and claiming to be chemical free. Very cool, that's how.

For a test drive I went for the Oats and Chamomile Bath Bag. Both precious emollients that hopefully would let me have a bath that benefits my eczema rather than irritating it (if you're wondering 'why have a bath at all then?' my eczema gets irritated then too. My skin is in a constant state of loose-loose.)

I suffer from eczema on my lower legs and occasionally -though rarely - higher up. It's manly a problem in summer (heat) and winter (dry) letting me be in spring and autumn. Although the prolonged winter weather gave me no respite this year. I manly let it be, treating with emollient cream and avoiding anything likely to cause agony, like scratching.

I only seek medical attention if it's particularly bad. Although a dose of topical steroids can clear it up rather quickly applying it is irritating and uncomfortable. I know. It sucks. So I only show my legs off to the doctor when they are over run or infected, and yes they are rather hairy. I'd rather be a laughing stock than in constant pain.

Anyway, that's my medical history. Back to the bath bag. It was luscious. It felt lovely in the bath and not only didn't it irritate my legs any further but it reduced the existing irritation, the itchiness and the pain. Cool.

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