Saraban: A Chef’s Journey through Persia – Book Review

Saraban: A Chef’s Journey through Persia

        I’m a fan of Greg and Lucy Malouf’s food books.  They have written five, two of which are favourites I turn to whenever I need inspiration: Turquoise, about food and travel in Turkey; and this latest, Saraban- A Chef’s Journey through Persia. All of their books have great visual appeal, great recipes and great writing.

        Opening Saraban I feel like a child at Christmas, except, unlike a child’s fleeting devotion to any gift, no matter how wonderful, my devotion to this book will be long-lasting. It is a feast for the eyes. Coppery pages, traditional designs, and cut-outs at the beginning of sections that tease with the magic to follow, magic often bathed in turquoise, sea green or warmed by earth tones of brown and tan. Smiling faces.  Luscious food.  Windows framing paths ahead.

        The recipes Greg Malouf – the chef – offers send me out to purchase ingredients not in my kitchen, anticipating the aromas and tastes to come.

        For the writer in me, the words in Saraban weave the strongest spell, such as here, at the beginning:

“We arrive in the early afternoon, when the sun is at its hottest. After the long, dusty drive we are beginning to understand a little of how it must have felt in the old caravan days, to be part of a camel train moving slowly across the burning desert, with only the low silhouette of distant mountains to hold the eye and the shimmering promise of a far-off oasis to rekindle hope in the heart.”

        Hope is rekindled every morning with breakfast and, fittingly, recipes begin with bread. Barberi is “huge oval flaps … enjoyed for breakfast around Iran with clotted cream and honey …” Those “oval flaps” are delicious and easy to make.  Further on is a recipe now a dinner treat, Tahcheen-e morgh – Baked Yoghurt Rice with Chicken. Dense like a cake, it’s filled with chicken, yoghurt, rice, and moistened with saffron liquid and orange-flower water.

        When I read the section on “small dishes” I remember an Iranian man and smile. I once taught English as a Second Language to immigrant students, including this young man, at an Ontario college.  In my memory he is always smiling when I see him, despite having had to flee his country for another life.  Like so many of my students he had little yet always brought a gift of food to share after our English lesson, a thank you for helping him with this new and difficult language.

        “A small dish”, he would say.

        One small dish that he and I shared – offered in this book – is Borani badenjan – Eggplant and Crushed Walnut Dip.  His mother made it for him as a child. We scooped it up as they once did, with pieces of golden bread.

        Sometimes he brought soup, one similar in taste to Eshkeneh – Persepolis Onion Soup with Soft-poached Eggs. There were no eggs in his soup but the onions and the rich broth filled the cubicle in which we worked with the flavours of both our homes.

        The Maloufs are eloquent about food and its connections: “Wherever we have gone, food has been a key to unlocking doors into people’s lives, and we hoped that it would work a similar magic in Iran … Middle Easterners are famous for their hospitality, and Iran proved to be even more welcoming than other countries we had visited … We left Iran having made good friends and feeling more aware of what we all have in common rather than of our differences.  And this surely is what the future must feel like.”

        I hope so.

Saraban – A Chef’s Journey through Persia, by Greg and Lucy Malouf.  Hardie Grant Books – 2010, ISBN 978 174066 8 620. Photography by Ebrahim Khadem Bayat and Mark Roper.

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Pie it Forward – Book Review


        I love pie.  Whether it’s lemon meringue (in earlier posts Digging Clams and Eating Lemon Meringue Pie) or rhubarb (these links to my rhubarb pie article also show the great illustrations “Edible Vancouver” did for the piece –,, apple, berry or pumpkin – well, I love pie. Now I have a new pie cookbook to love, as well.  It has already taken on the buttery-finger patina of other well-loved cookbooks (did I mention I wake up wondering if the kitchen floor should be reinforced because of cookbook weight?).

        Pie it Forward: Pies, Tarts, Tortes, Galettes and other Pastries Reinvented is by Gesine Bullock-Prado, who has also written a baking memoir – My Life from Scratch – and another cookbook – Sugar Baby.  Witty titles, all.

        In this book of pie, she also offers a witty introduction in the form of a question and answer session between Reader (asking the questions) and Pie (answering them). Here I learned that Pharaoh Ramses II “was so besotted with the crusty stuff that his tomb bears images of galettes”. (An early fan of Ancient Egypt and of pie, I always appreciate learning something new that involves both.)

        Chapter One: “the Basics” – Here she writes about two of the most important pie crust ingredients, fat and flour, discussing the pros and cons of various types. Her “Easy”, “Simple” and “Hard” pie dough recipes all have easy to follow instructions, and there are helpful step by step photos for making pie dough.

        In this chapter, and throughout the book, are helpful notes – she calls each, “A Note from the Sweetie Pie” – where she explains particular things, such as blind baking.

        Chapter Two: “the Sweets” – Here she offers up recipes for sweet pies, such as:

“New England Berry Galette” (galette is a free-form pie) – with rhubarb, cranberries, black raspberries and strawberries, it’s a wonderful summer recipe, as is “Wild Blueberry Pie”.

“Gooseberry Fool Tartlets” – I love ‘fools’ and these were delicious, the gooseberry tang reminding me of my grandmother (read about her here:

“Schwarzwald Tart” – as the author explains, “Black Forest Cake isn’t named for the lovely Schwarzwald range in Germany, but rather because it includes the area’s traditional cherry brandy … So why not play with the lineup – the chocolate, the sour cherries, the whipped cream, and the Kirschwasser – and make a tart instead of a cake?” Why not?  No reason that I can think of. It was wonderful and I much preferred it to the cake.

“Brûléed Maple Custard Tart” was another winner. I used local, Ontario maple syrup. Along with cream, vanilla and nutmeg, among other ingredients, who could complain?

        I haven’t yet made any of her apple pie recipes because, although apple pie may be as American as … my Newfoundland-born father made the best version I’ve yet tasted. For years I asked him to make it for me, instead of chocolate cake, on my birthday (and if you knew my addiction to chocolate you would understand the implications of that request).

        Her recipe introductions, such as this for “Gâteau St. Honoré” were a pleasure to read:

“Saint Honoré is the Patron Saint of Bakers. To celebrate him, the French broke out their big guns and shoved all their specialties into one tart … So get ready for puff pastry, choux rings and puffs, pastry cream, heavy cream, and caramel all in one place.”  I’m getting ready!

“Velvet Elvis Pie” – You know that peanut butter and bananas factor into this pie, right? Of course you do.

        Chapter 3: “the Savories” – Here we’re reminded that pies are not just sweet; they can also be savory and just as delicious. I loved the top crust for her chicken potpie recipe. The biscuit texture was just right for this comfort food. I also found the recipe for “Vermonter’s Pizza Pie” intriguing.  With ingredients such as maple syrup (the Vermont variety, here), dried cranberries, and apple-smoked bacon, among others – yes, this is on my ‘to make’ list.

        Chapter 4: “Pie it Forward” is prefaced with “Let’s make masterpieces out of the tastiest components on earth.” She does, particularly with her “Strawberry Love Pie” – strawberries in puff pastry and then the whole thing wrapped in joconde sponge cake – and with her “Lemon Blues” – lemon curd, blueberries, white chocolate and cream, and a stenciled design that makes you feel anything but blue. The beautiful photographs in the book are by Tina Rupp.

        Pie has had to play second best to cake for far too long and that’s a shame.  When it’s great – as it is throughout this book – its flakey crust and luscious filling makes it second to none.

Pie it Forward: Pies, Tarts, Tortes, Galettes and other Pastries Reinvented – By Gesine Bullock-Prado. Stewart, Tabori & Chang (an imprint of ABRAMS – ) – 2012. ISBN 978-1-58479-963-4 – – for extras, such as video demonstrations of techniques.

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Digging Clams and Eating Lemon Meringue Pie – Part II

        Our days on Prince Edward Island quickly fell into a familiar, easy-going pattern.  Dad got up first and was having his coffee and cigarette by the time I crawled over my sister, slid my feet into flip-flops and joined him for a secret cup of tea, stronger than the milky brew Mom insisted we drink.

        Breakfast was bacon and eggs, with bread fried golden and crisp in bacon fat. The four of us had fierce appetites from being outside so much. We were always thinking or talking about the next meal or snack.

        When we weren’t going to nearby church suppers for lobster, ham or chicken plates and salads of every description, Dad and I dug up our evening meal on the beach.  Mid-morning, he, my sister and I walked to the diner and general store up the road for milk, bread, and occasional bricks of strawberry ice cream that was cotton candy pink and studded with whole berries.

        After lunch would be time for swimming, reading or exploring the woods.  Some adults at the camp ground would set up Cribbage games, or unfold Monopoly boards and all were invited.  A portable record player appeared and soon someone was rocking the place – usually Elvis or The Beatles.  Plates of cheese and crackers, cold cuts and pickles, and bread and butter fought for space with icy Root Beer and Labatt’s Blue Lager as an afternoon snack.

        Before the afternoon, though, the three of us sat in the diner, talking to a woman old enough to be Dad’s grandmother, who wore a gingham apron that billowed around her like a crinoline and fell almost to her ankles.  She cooked breakfasts on an olive-green stove, made three kinds of sandwiches “on white, with mayo” – ham and cheese, roast beef and lettuce, and chicken salad – and offered one dessert, lemon meringue pie, but what a lemon meringue pie. 

        Even Dad, whose pies were the highlight of potlucks at home, marveled at it.  The pastry exploded into flaky slivers under your fork, while the lemon curd made your mouth pucker, but happily so, and the meringue … well, it was at least three inches high with golden curlicues on top. 

        We went to the diner for the pie, despite the fact that we weren’t long finished breakfast.  Still, we couldn’t resist.  While Dad and my sister ate theirs in the normal way – with meringue, lemon and pastry on each forkful – I ate the meringue first, letting it dissolve in my mouth, before finishing the lemon and pastry together.  I loved meringue; when he made it at home I scooped up spoonfuls  from the mixing bowl and slurped them into my mouth. 

        One morning Mom – who had been content to sit and read until lunchtime – insisted on coming with us to the diner.  After that, whenever the woman saw the four of us coming up the road, she cut slices of pie, put on fresh coffee, and had glasses of milk waiting on the counter. 

        The day we were leaving for home she packed up a pie and gave it to my mother.

        “For the drive home,” she said, and wouldn’t take any money.

        It sat in a cooler in the trunk, along with a last meal of clams; two final tastes we would later enjoy of a vacation we didn’t want to end.

[For more information about PEI as a vacation spot, check out Tourism Prince Edward Island’s site –]

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Digging Clam and Eating Lemon Meringue Pie – Part I

       The best summer vacation my family took when I was growing up was to Prince Edward Island, Canada. That summer, my father bought a second-hand tent trailer so we could go camping with our friends.  After spending a few weekends with them, at campsites close to home, he decided we needed a longer camping trip.

       He loved the ocean and wanted to be close to it again for a couple of weeks.  Although the city we lived in had a lake, it was not the same.  Growing up on a small Newfoundland island, he had practically lived on the Atlantic, sneaking away from school and his mother’s wrath to help his neighbors catch cod or lobster or whatever was in season.  Still, he didn’t want to go back to Newfoundland because that would mean visiting instead of vacationing.  He and my mother wanted something more relaxing for the four of us, so they decided on Prince Edward Island because of its sandy beaches and mild summer climate, and because it was just an 18 hour drive from our Ontario home; Newfoundland would take at least 2 days’ driving, as well as a 14 hour ferry ride that would be a nightmare for me.

       I was not a traveler, then.  I got plane, boat, and car sick, like my mother had when she was younger, but the lure of a vacation, a luxury because money was tight, trumped my distress.  I swallowed a Gravol, relegated my younger sister to Mom’s lap, and opened the first of many bottles of Gingerale as we headed across three provinces to our destination.

       I didn’t sit up again – except for restroom stops – until Dad announced, “We’re here.” 

       We found a camp ground by the ocean and set up the trailer to catch the morning sun.  After that, Dad built a fire pit, laying a grate over the burning wood, and also plugged a two-burner cook top into a nearby electrical hookup.  Mom, who never loved cooking, always loved summer because it meant meals eaten outside and Dad cooking them, something he’d loved to do since he was 10 years old.

       The sun was setting that first evening as we cut into tender rib eye steaks, scooped up fluffy baked potatoes, and ran our teeth across corn kernels that burst, sweet and hot in our mouths.  Few meals had tasted as good, but the best was yet to come.

       On our second day Dad decided to dig for clams.  He handed me a bucket, he carried a spade, and we headed down to the beach.  He rolled up his trouser legs, matching my stylish pedal-pushers and we walked along until he spotted holes in the sand.

       “Clams give themselves away,” Dad said, pointing to the holes.

       There were several kinds of clams in Prince Edward Island: soft-shelled, also known as squirt clams because they squirted water when you tried to dig them up; Quahaugs, bigger than their soft-shelled cousins; and bar clams, the biggest of the three.

        Digging required a gentle touch to avoid crushing the shells with the shovel.  If you did damage a shell, it was best to leave the clam in the sand because it would go bad before you could eat it. 

        “Only take as many as you need.  Clams have other purposes on this earth, too, than just feeding us” Dad said as we dug.

        After fifteen minutes we had a bucket full.  Back at the trailer, he filled a cooking pot with fresh water.

        “Make sure to scrub all the dirt and barnacles off the shells, and then put the clams in the pot,” he instructed, handing me a brush.

        We boiled the clams and ate them with drawn butter, pan-fried potatoes and fresh bread.  Even my sister, who swore that seafood made her throw up, had to admit that the clams weren’t disgusting, although “they look weird.” 

        Weird or not, they were delicious, tender and sweet and tasting of the tide.

[For more information about PEI as a vacation spot, check out Tourism Prince Edward Island’s site –]

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White Beans and Vegetables

I love beans and particularly like combining them with vegetables and a few spices. This White Beans and Vegetables dish is great for warm summer days because it is quick and simple and fast cooking, meaning that I don’t add more heat than absolutely necessary to my already heated kitchen.  It is also a great option at other times of the year because you can substitute canned beans and canned tomatoes if you don’t have fresh on hand.

As a one-bowl dinner, all this needs is some good bread and perhaps a glass of white wine? It also makes a lovely side dish, particularly for roast chicken.  Cooked chicken also makes a terrific addition to the dish.

White Beans


White Beans and Vegetables

1 cup of dried white beans (canned beans can be substituted)

3 tbsp. olive oil

2 carrots (peeled and sliced into thin disks)

1 medium onion, chopped

2 garlic cloves (peeled and chopped)

1 cup of chopped red, yellow, green peppers

2 tomatoes, chopped

1 tsp. tomato paste

½ tsp. each of: chili powder, ground coriander, ground cumin, ground turmeric

¼ tsp each of: cinnamon, salt, pepper


Soak the beans overnight; next morning, drain, rinse, and cook in lightly salted water until tender. Drain and set beans aside.

Heat the olive oil in a medium-sized pot over medium heat.

Add the carrots and cook, stirring occasionally (for 3 minutes).

Add the onion, garlic and peppers to the pot and cook, stirring occasionally (for an additional 3 minutes).

Add tomatoes, tomato paste, spices and beans, stirring to combine all ingredients. Cook for an additional 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Serve.

Note: You may need to add a little water while cooking (1/4 cup), if the dish becomes too dry.  Also, this dish can be made in the morning, refrigerated and reheated for dinner.

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The Picnic Maker


Most people grow up believing that their mother’s cooking was the best. I didn’t. I don’t mean to imply that my mother couldn’t cook.  She could and did, but she hated it and only cooked when she absolutely had to.  She would rather clean the house from top to bottom with a toothbrush than prepare another meal.  Luckily, she had my father, who loved to cook and was great at it. I grew up believing that my father’s cooking was the best and haven’t yet been dissuaded from my belief. 

One thing my mother did brilliantly though was picnics. She had her usual offerings – devilled eggs, potato salad with cubes of beet and apple, Cole slaw with pineapple, and Dad’s wonderful butter tarts. There were also dishes of pickled onions, mustard pickles and beautiful, rosy radishes, as well as crisp red peppers and cucumbers from Dad’s garden just waiting for a cool creamy dressing.




Devilled Eggs

Dad’s Butter Tarts

Summer Vegetables & Cool Creamy Dressing

Still, her favorite picnic food was party sandwiches, those crust-less little white and whole wheat sandwiches with various fillings, cut into triangles and rectangles, and sometimes diamonds, spades, and hearts. She made wonderful egg salad that everyone loved, and tuna salad that only I did. She made cucumber sandwiches with slices so thin they were like paper, tiny roast beef sandwiches with horseradish for my father, and peanut butter and jam sandwiches for my sister.

These were one or two bite affairs and it took a lot of them to fill us up, especially Dad, after a long day’s work. She always piled the sandwiches into a pyramid on a large serving plate.  I marveled at how she assembled it, impressed – since I was an ancient Egypt fanatic – by her precise placement of each sandwich.  In the pharaohs’ days she could have been a master builder.

Starting with the rectangular sandwiches with ‘solid’ fillings for a firm base, the pyramid rose to the tiniest triangles at the top. Then she covered the pyramid with plastic wrap and somehow it was transported to the picnic area in one piece.

Mom brought one of her many linen tablecloths, rarely out of their tissue-paper wrappers, to spread over the appointed ground, often a shady spot at the beach owned by DuPont, where Dad worked as a machinist. He would meet us after his shift was over, strolling down the road from the plant with his lolling gait, evidence not only of his easy-going nature but also of his always problematic feet. Matching linen napkins – buttery-white, pale pink or green – were set out, as were proper plates and cutlery, and plastic glasses for the jugs of lemonade and ice-tea. 

Those breezy summer afternoon picnics were always fun. When the pyramid and most of the rest of the food had disappeared, my sister and I would play on the teeter-totter, climb the monkey bars or swing so high that we threatened to swing over the top rail.

When our food had settled, we changed into bathing suits and pulled on those awful rubber bathing caps with the flowers like targets on the top of them and went swimming.  The water was warm and the sand soft beneath our feet. I loved floating on my back, eyes closed, or, for some strange reason, doing the ‘dead man’s float’, which my swimming instructor said I did with eerie naturalness. My sister loved to hold her nose and submerge herself, seeing how long she could sit on the bottom before one or the other of our parents would wade in and pull her back up to the air.  She’d laugh and when they’d turned their backs, hold her nose, again.

When it was time to leave the water, the bathing caps were pulled from our heads with a sucking sound, leaving hair plastered to skull or full of electricity and standing on end.

Back home, we headed to our bedrooms, knowing that in the morning, Mom would make a left-over picnic for breakfast, and our standard cereal and toast would be forgotten for a day.

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Two Reds for Summer

        Sandwiches are a quick and simple meal, and have come a long way from the peanut-butter-and-jelly variety we inevitably found in our lunch boxes.  Well, actually, I never found sandwiches in my lunch box because I never took a lunch to school. In elementary school, I lived close enough to walk home for lunch, and in high school it wasn’t ‘cool’ to bring a lunch so we ate at the diner across the street, where sandwiches came in three varieties: Toasted Western, Chicken Salad, and Bacon, Lettuce and Tomato.

        I have always liked sandwiches and appreciate their seemingly endless configurations, and their portability. I also love that they have been with us for a long time. Hillel the Elder, a Jewish sage was said to have wrapped lamb and herbs in a matzo. In the Middle Ages, slabs of bread – trenchers – were used as plates and became the precursors of open-faced sandwiches. The meat-between-bread version that we often refer to as a ‘sandwich’ was named after the 4th Earl of Sandwich, in the 18th century. He liked eating this way because it didn’t interfere with his cribbage playing and didn’t get the cards greasy, either. The sandwich increased in popularity during the Industrial Revolution when workers needed quick and cheap meals.

        I particularly like vegetarian sandwiches because the flavours and colours and textures of vegetables, cheese and sauces offer such great possibilities. In the summer, when it’s too hot to put on the oven the sandwich below is a staple for me; along with a nice glass of wine and a chair on my tiny balcony, well, I can’t complain.  This sandwich gets its burst of flavour from a red pepper spread that I keep on hand because it is so versatile (great on pasta and lovely as an extra layer in vegetarian lasagna). If you try it, I would love to hear what you think.

Red Pepper Spread with Avocado and Goat Cheese on Sourdough

Red Pepper Spread (recipe below)

2 slices of good sourdough (multi-grain bread works well, too)

1 tbsp. of finely chopped parsley

Goat Cheese (crumbled, about 2 tbsps.)

½ avocado (peeled and sliced)

Salt and pepper to taste

Red Pepper Spread (makes about 2 cups)

Pinch of salt

1 garlic clove, peeled

2 tbsp. of tomato paste

1 12-oz jar of roasted red peppers (drained and patted dry)

1/4 cup good quality olive oil

Place all the ingredients in a food processor, and blend until smooth. This spread will keep, in an air-tight container in the refrigerator for 3 days. (It can also be frozen.)

Note: Consider roasting your own red peppers when they are plentiful from the market.

To Assemble the Sandwich

Spread the red pepper spread on each slice of bread (as thinly or thickly as you wish). Sprinkle chopped parsley on one slice of bread; top with crumbled goat cheese and sliced avocado. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Cover with other slice of bread.

Note: A flat bread or pita can also be used.  For meat lovers, add slices of roasted chicken to the sandwich.

Peppers at the market

        I love dessert and subscribe to the idea that because life is short and unpredictable, you should eat dessert first.  Well, I usually don’t do that, but sometimes, with this dessert, I relent.

        My maternal grandmother loved ‘fools’ – and taught me to make them when I was about five.  She preferred her fools a bit more tart, often making them with gooseberries from her garden.  When it was time to pick the berries, she spread out a blanket in front of them – she also had blueberries, strawberries and raspberries in her garden – and I helped her sit down because her legs were ‘bad’ all of her life.  We gently plucked the ripe gooseberries, dividing them by colour, whether pale green, pink or red.

        She was from the old school and didn’t believe in a lot of kitchen ‘gadgets’, so she whipped the cream in a copper bowl with a hand whisk. I can still see her arm practically vibrating as she worked the cream into stiff peaks.  (Now, in my own kitchen, I swear by my stand mixer, although a chef friend of mine whips cream the same way that my grandmother did.)

        ‘Fools’ are rich – all that whipped cream.  When I make them throughout the summer, I serve small portions.  Everyone likes them, they’re easy to make and they look beautiful.

Strawberry Fool

Makes 6 servings

2 ½ cups fresh strawberries (washed, hulled, sliced)

1/2 cup granulated sugar

1 cup chilled whipping cream

1/4 cup granulated sugar

Wash, hull, slice and pat dry the strawberries. Cook them and ½ cup of granulated sugar in a saucepan, over medium heat, stirring occasionally until the sugar has dissolved and the mixture has thickened, about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and mash the berries with a fork. Pour the mixture into a bowl, cover and chill in the refrigerator for an hour.

When strawberries have cooled – In a large bowl, beat the whipping cream with an electric mixer until soft peaks form.  Gradually add ¼ cup of granulated sugar and beat until stiff peaks form. 

Fold the chilled berry mixture into the cream until well combined.  Spoon into serving dishes and chill, covered, for up to 4 hours.

Note: Substitute any fruit in season that you wish.  Gooseberries, blueberries and raspberries work well; for a tropical flavour, try mangoes and kiwis.

Strawberry Fool

If you’d like to read more about my grandmother and ‘fools’, here’s a link to my article in Edible Toronto:

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Happy Father’s Day

Dad on his 1st Father’s Day

        Although I always acknowledge this day, I’ve not been a fan of Father’s Day since my own father died almost 5 years ago.  Although people assured me that the deep, slicing pain I felt on that day would fade to something akin to a dull ache, it never has and I’m glad of that.  Maybe, if you’re blessed to have wonderful people in your life the pain of their leaving you behind shouldn’t dull; maybe, if it does, your memories of them will, too.

        I was always my father’s daughter, hanging on to his coat tails – or, in my case, his apron strings – and following him everywhere, especially to the kitchen. He’d been at home in the kitchen since he was ten and began cooking for his family, after his mother fell ill and was confined to bed for a year. Cooking comforted him, like it now does me.  It also made him proud to see the joy his cooking gave to others.

        There was nothing Dad enjoyed more than having people around the kitchen table, eating and laughing and talking.  He relaxed the moment he sat down to join them.  His shoulders dropped with a quiet sigh, and his right leg would cross over his left so that his right foot could begin swinging gently under the table.  Throughout the meal, he kept an eye on the food levels on plates and if any got low he would encourage refilling until people protested that they would soon explode, if they didn’t stop eating.  Later, he sent those same people home with plates of left-overs.

Pop Skanes

Dad Hunt

        This had been his father’s and his father-in-law’s way, too.  Although Dad Hunt (my paternal grandfather) and Pop Skanes (my maternal one) didn’t cook much themselves they always made sure that there was plenty on the table and that family members or strangers – it didn’t matter – could eat their fill.

        Kind, generous, and humble, these three men. None would understand ‘the fuss’ I was making in writing about them today, but I hope they would be shyly pleased.  Happy Father’s Day.

Dad on his last Father’s Day

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Something in Pink

Lantern Festival

Lantern Festival





I thought the pink in these photographs suited this bright May day. Hope you like this selection.

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        I’m fortunate to sometimes be sent cookbooks to review.  Although occasionally I get books that I don’t love as much as others, it’s rare that I can’t find something fascinating or just enjoyable about a cookbook.

        I don’t get this ‘tendency to love’ for cookbooks from my mother who loathed cooking – although she could do it very well – and only opened a cookbook when she absolutely had to check an ingredient amount (which was very rarely). She – like her mother, her mother-in-law, three sisters, sisters-in-law, aunts, and cousins – cooked with recipe ingredients, amounts and methods imprinted on her brain.

       Mom’s mother, Mom Skanes, thought it foolish beyond words that people consulted cookbooks.


        “Weren’t they given recipes from their mothers and grandmothers? Don’t they know how to put things together?” she railed, tut-tutting as she often did about yet another human failing that confounded her.

Mom Skanes

She was a ‘hard’ woman we all agreed although, with age and greater perspective I have gained much more admiration and respect for the enormous challenges in her life and for many of her beliefs and opinions – surprisingly, I find myself agreeing with her and them more and more, something that shocks me and would have stunned her.

Still, I know Mom Skanes would have tut-tutted herself silly over my obsession with owning, reading and using cookbooks.  After all, I was her eldest granddaughter.  Hadn’t she done all she could to teach me to cook and bake and hadn’t my father – in his too lovely and too gentle way – continued my learning? What could I possibly need with cookbooks and so many of them that I often joke – somewhat nervously – that I should get my kitchen floor reinforced?

She did have a cookbook though, of her own making, where family recipes, handed down through generations, were written in clear and precise handwriting.  Sadly, after she started her terrible battle with dementia or Alzheimer’s (it was never clearly defined which she suffered from), and she had to go into a nursing home, her green-covered cookbook got lost in the shuffle of sorting and dispersing her belongings. I regret this more than I can say feeling that, as the one obsessed with cookbooks I should have grabbed hold of it the last time I saw the book and refused to give it up.

 Anyway, right now I have three terrific cookbooks (on first glance, anyway) that I am working happily through; reviews are soon to follow.

First up will be Saraban: A Chef’s Journey Through Persia, by Greg and Lucy Malouf, which, if nothing else, is one of the most beautiful cookbooks (books, for that matter) I have ever seen. And there is much more besides its beauty to delight in.  Stay tuned.

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