Archive for the ‘Books and Reading’ Category

Who else in the UK watched episode 1 of  The Miniaturist on BBC1 last night? I thought it was a great adaptation of Jessie Burton’s first novel. I won’t see episode 2 for a few days, so please don’t spoil it for me!

My favourite thing about the programme is its colour palette. It looks like a Dutch painting in its own right, perhaps by Vermeer.

Family prayers in “The Miniaturist”

The dollhouse at the centre of the plot is particularly beautiful, and it was the reason why I read the book in the first place. I really would love to see the original house owned by Petronella Oortman, in the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam.

But with one eye always on a possible subject for the next blog post in the Christmas Feasts series, I remembered Nella’s love of marzipan (a sweet taste we both love). The book goes into more detail about the importance of marzipan in her memories of her home:

‘My mother used to roll it into shapes’. There was always marzipan in the pantry, the only predilection for indulgence in which Mrs Oortman echoed her husband. Mermaids, ships and necklaces of sugared jewels, that almond doughiness melting in their mouths. I no longer belong to my mother, Nella thinks. One day I will roll sugar shapes for otber little clammy hands, voices baying for treats. (p.15)

This takes me back to one of my earlier posts in this series, about marchpane sculptures, inspired by E. T. A. Hoffman’s The Nutcracker and the Mouse King. I wonder if Petronella’s mother ever created such works of art, and if Petronella herself has the talent and patience to do so.  

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When the snows are lying deep,
When the field has gone to sleep,
When the blackthorn turns to white,
And frosty stars bejewel the night,
When summer streams are turned to ice,
A Snow Ball warms the heart of mice


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I have really struggled to find a subject for today’s feast. It’s entirely possible that the final afternoon of Christmas shopping may have stunned my imagination and ability to write into shock. All I wanted by the time I returned home was a cup hot chocolate, as thick and rich and chocolatey as possible; the perfect hot chocolate is a feast in itself, with cream and lots of spices.

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Wassail, by Leah Palmer Preiss

Today is the shortest day and the longest night of the year. You might already know that. It seems appropriate that I spent the daylight hours stocking up on food and drink for the feasts to come next week. As I said in my Yule-themed blogpost in 2014, I have never really celebrated today on its own, because there is always so much else going on.

Were I able to celebrate today’s Winter Solstice properly, I would currently be sitting with a flagon of wassail.

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Hetty Feather

Hetty Feather, by Nick Sharratt. Source: Jacqueline Wilson Wiki.

This is the blog post that I would have written yesterday had I not been out seeing The Last Jedi until rather late. Do not fear, you can keep reading; there are no spoilers here. I really ought to write another post about said film, but probably won’t be able to get to it until after Christmas, as tomorrow is our last day at school, and then there’s a lot to do before Monday. 6 more sleeps! Eeep. For now, I will say that the film is great, and you should all go and see it. Right now. I will definitely be going to see it again, both because it’s great and because I want to take a closer look at some scenes and characters in particular.

Yesterday was children’s author Jacqueline Wilson‘s 72nd birthday.  Until I began working as a school librarian, I had never read any of her books, but made a particular effort to do so following a campaign by two first years, who couldn’t stop recommending her books, in particular those following the life and times of one Hetty Feather. (more…)

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Jane Austen

Jane Austen, by Cassandra Austen
pencil and watercolour, circa 1810. 4 1/2 in. x 3 1/8 in. (114 mm x 80 mm). Purchased with help from the Friends of the National Libraries, Primary Collection NPG 3630

My lunch today consisted of the decadent Full Elvis French Toast Stack – thank you, McPhabbs! – which truly was a feast in itself. I may, just possibly, be a little bit disgruntled that I couldn’t manage to have the Sticky Toffee, Orange and Cinnamon Cake, Brandysnap Crumble, and Christmas Pudding Ice Cream as well. But there will certainly be a next time, so it can keep.

My lunch, washed down with lashings of hot cider (ok, a glass of hot cider), was sublime, but I’m not sure how it would have fared on a Regency dining table. This is not a post about the time-travelling adventures of a plate of French Toast, although … that could be quite wonderful! Today is Jane Austen’s 242nd birthday, which begs the question: how would Georgian and Regency birthdays be celebrated?

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When thinking about what to write about today, I decided to have a look at Wikipedia’s “Born on this day” feature to see if there was anybody food-related on the list. Happy 49th Birthday, Yotam Ottolenghi! And thank you for being born on this day; this blog post wouldn’t exist without you. I’d never heard of him before – I’ve had quite a few years away from doing any real cooking, so haven’t been adding to my recipe book collection.  His food looks gorgeous, really rich and magical, perfect for a feast. (more…)

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