Wednesday, 27 August 2014

The Fictional Food Adventure - Introduction

I turned thirty yesterday. And one of the books I was given, by a very dear friend, has triggered this quest, or challenge, or goal of mine. 

I just finished the book today: 'Turkish Delight and Treasure Hunts' by Jane Brocket. The subtitle on the cover says "Delightful Treats and Games from Classic Children's Books", which, although accurate, doesn't quite convey the host of such magical, hilarious, wonderful and dear things inside. This enchanting book explores some of our most well-loved children's stories from the last century or so, celebrating the delicious snacks, drinks and meals, and wonderful, timeless activities that the characters enjoy within the pages. Jane Brocket has crafted recipes and suggestions to help the devoted reader to recreate some of these tasty treats and diversions.

The moment I unwrapped this book, I was captivated by the idea of the recipes. I have always loved reading, and still enjoy children's fiction, new and old. I don't know how many times I've read Heidi by Joanna Spyri, but every time I read it, I yearn for a chunk of golden toasted cheese, cooked over the fire, with thick bread and a mug of fresh goats' milk. When you are reading, whatever is being eaten or drunk inside that printed-paper world, whatever is being crunched or glugged, chewed or sipped, you want it too, however wacky or ordinary it may be. Anne Shirley's Raspberry Cordial always had me salivating long beyond the page on which it was first mentioned and Milly Molly Mandy's Lid Potatoes were something we actually ate as a family, many times, because they sound so comforting and delicious and because the method of creating them was described simply but clearly by the author, Joyce Lancaster Brisley. Everyone will have their own memory of something tantalisingly yummy from a favourite story. 

During the morning of my birthday, before we headed out for a beach picnic with my parents, I started reading 'Turkish Delight and Treasure Hunts' and found myself smiling and chortling away. I was heartened to hear about characters I know and love; to be reminded of their antics and food-doings, and was intrigued to be introduced to books and characters I have not yet met. Books I should have read, and for some silly, stubborn, lazy or ignorant reason have not. Or books I love dearly who are beckoning me to pick them up and turn their pages once more. 

It made me think that I would not only like to try some of these recipes but also read some of these classics that I've never tried. And, in keeping with the inevitable thoughtfulness that often accompanies a "milestone" birthday I decided to embark on a little bit of a mission. 

To make all the recipes in 'Turkish Delight and Treasure Hunts', and to read each book the recipes are inspired by. In one year. And to blog about it here. 

Now, I know 30 is not old. But nevertheless I think, for a while, I expected to stay forever in my twenties. And saying goodbye to that decade made me a little pensive, and at times a little regretful, wondering if I've made the best use of my time, given enough of myself to those I love, read enough books, engaged in fun enough, etc. And the honest answer is probably No. But, I want to dwell on the possibilities that each new day brings, looking forward and relishing the chances to do good things. As Anne of Green Gables says, "Tomorrow is a new day, with no mistakes in it. Yet." It's good to be reminded that each new day is an opportunity to be more kind, more generous, more open to others, have more fun, be more relaxed and more ready to wonder at the beauty around us. That's what I want for my thirty-first year and behond. To be fully present, more kind, more fun. 

So, thank you, to my dear birthday-gift-giving friend, for knowing and understanding me well enough to choose this book for me, and for sharing in many of the same delights this funny old world holds, and to Jane Brocket for bringing together such a rich treasury of excellence and reawakening my passion for these books. 

PS, I guess this echoes the challenge that a certain Julie Powell set herself in the lead-up to her 30th birthday - to cook every one of the 524 recipes contained in Julia Child's legendary recipe book - "Mastering the Art of French Cooking," and to blog each one as she goes. Based on the book, "My Year of Living Dangerously," this was a mammoth of a task, which I totally respect. I love the film in inspired, Julie and Julia, starring Amy Adams and Meryl Streep, but confess it was far from my thoughts when I thought about this Fictional Food Adventure.  One day into my thirties, I can tell you that I feel no different than the last day of being 29, except perhaps, relieved, hopeful, and determined. I am still me, and Andy is still here, lovely as always. And the cats are still mewing to be fed and knocking books off the shelves like they always do.  And the world is full of wonderful books, with new ones emerging all the time. 

I hope you'll follow the fun along the way and try some of the books and recipes yourself. 


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