New look …

A quick admin post to my small group of readers … after a decade, I decided to stop procrastinating and update my theme. Many features of WordPress didn’t work with my old home-made theme, and it wasn’t friendly to mobile devices either, so it had to go. The new theme is a bit bare-bones at present, but I’ll continue tinkering with it (current project: get rid of the red buttons!).

In the meantime, the big news is you can finally subscribe to comments on individual posts. I’m well aware that not being able to do this made it unlikely that discussion was ever going to flow freely. So let’s hope this helps. I may add other new features now that I’m not blocked by my theme. The main thing is — everything appears to work!

L’Auberge du Vieux Puits, Fontjoncouse: restaurant review

La Montagne d'Alaric

Living in the back of beyond in rural France means that you have a Michelin 3-star restaurant within 30 minutes’ drive. But not along broad, straight roads. Nope, get ready to thread your way along narrow, winding roads through classic Corbières scenery: gorges with streaks of pale rock interspersed with the deep green of holm oak, Aleppo pines and broom. Lower down, the gnarled fingers of pruned vines grasp at empty air. Be ready to pull over at the narrow bridges if you see something coming the other way. As you get nearer the restaurant, the reassuring signs are more numerous: yes, it really is up this hill, round this bend, through this gorge. You imagine the Japanese tourists who have vowed to point-score every 3-star restaurant in France thinking, “But it can’t be up here!” Later I laughed at a Trip Advisor review claiming that you need to be a rally driver to get there. No, these are normal back-country roads that locals drive along every day to get to work.

View Larger Map

You arrive in the village and find the gates, decorated with giant metal fish skeletons and tongue-in-cheek sardine-can lids rolled back around their keys. Hmm, somehow the style of this metalwork looks familiar, and inside we recognise the work of Robert Cros, a sculptor from a neighbouring village: giant bent nails, catapults, light-switches with correspondingly giant price tags. The restaurant has got bigger since we were last there 10 years ago, gobbling up the eponymous well that used to stand in the courtyard, now under glass in the bar area. Another TripAdvisor laugh: a Parisian, after slagging off the food, appears to claim that “quelconque” villages in the Aude populated only by peasants and with inadequate car parks shouldn’t be allowed to have smart restaurants; they should be in a place that is more “historique et exceptionnel”. Paris, presumably.
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Book Review: A Late Dinner: Discovering the Food of Spain by Paul Richardson

This book is based on a deep knowledge of everyday life in Spain, which shines through most notably in the chapters on rural life (the author lives on a smallholding in Extremadura). He does a good job of explaining the differences between regions; and Spain is above all a country of very diverse regions. I liked the organisation too, starting on the coast, then going inland to rural Spain, and finally visiting cities. Some chapters were very evocative — the one about Asturias immediately made me want to visit — though it’s clear that the author knows some regions of Spain much better than others. I was a little disappointed in its thin coverage of the Basque country, basically dwelling on San Sebastian and haute cuisine.

In fact, there’s a little too much emphasis on haute cuisine and meticulous accounts of meals in Michelin-starred restaurants, where the chef just happens to be on hand to present him with his very own menú degustación and a friendly chat. Not that these aren’t important — you can hardly write a book about food culture in Spain and not mention Ferran Adria and Martin Beresategui – but they don’t reflect the food world of most Spaniards. His views are at times a little rosy — or else stretching the truth. On several occasions he arrives in a strange town, selects a restaurant apparently at random, and has a wonderful lunch. In real life, this Would Not Happen. At least, it would occasionally, but you would be bound to stumble into one of the majority of indifferent Spanish restaurants and have a terrible, if cheap, meal. It’s obvious he’d done research beforehand — he’s a food journalist for heaven’s sake — so why not say so?

Ferran Adria has it right: “People accuse me of lowering standards: ‘It’s your fault there are so many young kids trying to do modern food, and doing it badly.’ Maybe, but isn’t it much worse that there are millions of tortillas and paellas all over the country that are cooked so badly? Ordinary food in Spain is in a much worse state than haute cuisine, and that’s a fact.”

For me the key feature of Spanish food is that Spain was virtually a third-world country in terms of living standards until about the 1970s. So it’s hardly surprising that food was cheap and filling, the stuff of poverty. There was no Spanish tradition of haute cuisine as there was in France — which is why the Basque chefs looked to France for their inspiration:

More than anything, the cooking of rural Spain is a collective response to the realities of climate, weather, organised religion … and, above all, the need to provide the body with the calories needed for hard physical work. (p 97)

I was surprised that Richardson didn’t mention the culture of the menú del día in Spain. I’m sure I read somewhere that Franco instituted it to ensure that manual workers had a large, nutritious meal at lunchtime, and it must have played a large part in maintaining the dead hands of tradition and cheap stodge that still weigh heavily on Spanish restaurant food outside the rarefied temples of gastronomy. But it was interesting to read about the revolution that started in San Sebastian on the death of Franco, asserting Basque identity through modern riffs on traditional food, and then spread through the country. He makes it clear too that it’s no accident that the most creative and adventurous chefs are from the rich provinces of the Basque country and Catalonia, both with easy access to mountains and sea, and with richer culinary heritages because of their voyaging past.

Further interesting facts: I knew that the Reyes Católicos were responsible for the Spanish obsession with pork, promoting it because it was a good way of winkling out closet Jews and Moors. But I hadn’t heard that in the 1950s, as part of a deal with the Americans over military bases, the Spanish government imported millions of litres of American rapeseed oil. Spaniards weren’t going to let go of their aceite de oliva without a fight, so in order to shift the imported oil a publicity campaign was started to convince them that olive oil was thoroughly unhealthy. Consumption plummeted until the scandal of the contaminated vegetable oil in the early 1980s that killed over a thousand people and persuaded the Spanish to switch back to the home-produced stuff.

Anyway, I enjoyed this book and learned a lot from it — it’s a great read for foodies planning to travel to Spain and wanting to understand more about the country and its culture. He even has a list of recommended restaurants, if your wallet will stretch to them.

How to eat well on the Costa del Sol

Fish market, Malaga

Yes, it is possible. You have to try hard, but there are alternatives to English pubs selling fish and chips and Sunday roast with all the trimmings, and Spanish bars selling stodgy food swimming in olive oil and garlic (not that I have anything against olive oil and garlic when they are used well and don’t swamp every other flavour). Here are our tips from two months’ eating around Málaga.

We’d already decided that the rule that normally applies in France to find good-value restaurants (follow the local businessmen at lunchtime) doesn’t work in Spain. It’s better to follow the tourists. But that technique doesn’t seem to work either in the attractive resort of Nerja. The Balcon de Europa is a lovely, broad esplanade on a headland with beautiful sea views. It’s surrounded by bars and restaurants which are always crowded with tourists eating what looks like frankly indifferent and overpriced food. We found our absolute favourite restaurant in Nerja (and indeed in the whole of the province of Málaga) by the unorthodox method of spotting a classy modern business card among the sea of garish red and yellow restaurant flyers in the tourist office. Passing from the crowded Balcon through a deserted shopping arcade, we arrived at Oliva at the very reasonable Spanish hour of two o’ clock on a sunny Sunday in June to find it completely deserted. We even asked the waitress if it was actually open.

Despite the unpromising start, we thought we’d give it a try anyway because the menu looked interesting, and we were not disappointed. Everything was excellent, but the standouts were the small things. To start, the friendly Dutch waitress brought a basket of warm, fresh bread served with a dish of olive oil and a little pot of herb butter topped with finely chopped black olives. One taste of this butter, and we were hooked. I don’t think it was entirely because being in southern Spain we’d eaten virtually no butter for a month. There must have been 50 g of butter in that pot and we ate the lot between the two of us, using tiny pieces of bread purely as supports, and slathering them with large dollops of butter.

The “pre-starter” of Parmesan crisps with tomato jam was good too, and we loved the little palate-cleaning scoop of mint granita between courses. The tomato tart I had as a starter wasn’t exceptional, but it was attractively presented, and perked up with a good home-made tartare sauce. One of my pet annoyances in Spanish restaurants is having to make your own vinaigrette when the salad is already on the plate, but at least the waitress brought a small can of organic olive oil, and a spray bottle of balsamic vinegar for my main-course salad with fried feta cheese (yes, I was easily able to order a vegetarian meal in a Spanish restaurant!). And the panna cotta lived up to our exacting standards.

We liked the pacing too, more French style than Spanish, with time to relax and chat between courses. It’s not the cheapest (our meal cost 87 euros including a bottle of very nice Chardonnay), but the quality and style of cuisine made it worth every penny. We liked it enough to go back in our last week, on a Wednesday evening in July when there were all of five other diners. I was glad to note that we weren’t the only ones using bits of bread to scrape every last smear of butter out of the pot, and gazing at it regretfully when it was empty. Now I’m making it my mission to tell everyone about Oliva, because I want it to still be open if we are ever back in Nerja. It’s only been open six months, and it deserves to be more popular than it apparently is.

Here is a whole load of other restaurant suggestions for Nerja. I haven’t tried any of them, but several sound promising. Comment if you’ve tried one of them! The one other place we ate at in Nerja and liked isn’t mentioned there: the Casa Luque, just off the Balcon de Europa. We’d asked in the tourist office for somewhere that served local ingredients in a modern way, and this fitted the bill. We had a tapas-based lunch here twice; it’s pricier than the other tapas places around there, but more refined.

Our other outstanding restaurant experience was in Málaga. This one we found by chancing on a feature in that day’s paper as we drank coffee in a bar. “This sounds good,” said my husband. “Let’s have lunch there.” So on no more evidence than that, we walked there through the lovely botanical garden and found La Moraga, a trendy tapas lounge on the beach, but a far cry from the average chiringuito (beach bar) in all other respects.

courgette and scallop pinchitos

In Spanish style we ordered four separate dishes, specifying that we wanted to share all of them. So we started with two glasses of a delicious gazpacho featuring cherries (allegedly, they were hard to detect), pistachios, anchovies, and a scattering of cheese, and a little pot of very nice foie gras with toast and cubes of membrillo — it wouldn’t have occurred to me to pair membrillo with foie gras, but it went really well. Then we had a dish of grilled scallops with courgettes, Málaga raisins, and basil oil, and half a grilled lobster on a gorgeous, creamy potato purée — we fought over the last dregs of potato, wiping the dish out with our bread. Maybe it had butter in it.


Even the desserts were fab — biznaga, a globe of airy mousse filled with membrillo, and — yes! — torrija, my favourite Spanish dessert, made with coconut milk and white chocolate. The portions were tiny, and it was really expensive — 14 euros for three scallops and three slices of courgette is a bit over the top, and one dessert cost as much as an entire lunchtime menu at our local bar, with the total bill coming to 90 euros — less good value than Oliva since we ate less food. But as at Oliva, it was such a pleasure to eat modest quantities of imaginatively and perfectly cooked food, instead of big piles of greasy stodge; in addition it has a view of the beach and very pleasant staff.

Note, I’m not linking to their website in protest at it encapsulating almost everything that is wrong with restaurant websites: no address, opening hours, or phone number on the home page, everything in flash, navigation items that skitter away when you try to click on them, no sample menu, and despite their prices they haven’t been able to pay someone competent to translate their site into correct English. The only thing they’ve missed is cheesy music. Instead here’s a picture of the park.

Park, Málaga

I’ve already mentioned why I don’t like the more downmarket Spanish restaurants. But if your budget doesn’t run to Oliva or La Moraga prices, I have one tip for eating cheaply on the Costa del Sol: fried fish. Everywhere around Málaga that we ate deep-fried fish, it was superb. They really know how to do it to perfection: very fresh, hot and crispy. And, paradoxically, much less greasy than anything cooked a la plancha. After Oliva, my favourite place to eat was at our local bar, where a menu del dia with drinks and coffee costs just 7.50 euros. So here’s a shout-out for the Bar Lopez in Almáchar. Go on a Friday for Paco’s mum’s paella, cooked in her kitchen and carried down the street in its pan by two sturdy men. This is true Spanish paella, with lots of rice and just a few prawns, mussels, clams, and small pieces of diced chicken. You eat it as a starter, with a green salad that actually has vinaigrette on it.

Then have a big plate of crispy fried squid, bacalao, or rosada (a local white fish) with a squeeze of lemon and some garlic mayonnaise. To drink: tinto de verano, beer, or the house white, a fruity white verdejo from Rueda that goes perfectly with the fish. Don’t bother with dessert (this is a good rule to follow in all but the most expensive Spanish restaurants). You won’t do as well as this at every bar, but in a village setting it’s easy to identify the bar that serves the best-value lunch: just follow the crowds at 2 pm. And it’s likely to be better value than any traditional restaurant; steer clear of anything with Mesón in the name, as this seems to be code for “We’ll serve you overpriced, greasy stodge”.

Jurel, Fish market, Malaga

Spain versus France


Erica’s recent post on life in Italy versus life in France was charming, and made me think about my experience of Spain and France. I’d never been to Spain before I moved to the south-west corner of France in 1997, only an hour’s drive from the Spanish frontier at Le Perthus. For years it was just a destination for quick day trips to buy cheap olive oil and petrol, and eat copious lunches in some country restaurant in the hills behind the Costa Brava. But over the last few years I’ve learned some Spanish and spent more time there, culminating in a 3-month stay in the Pais Vasco.

The more time I spend in this vast and varied country, the more fascinating I find it, and I itch to find out more. I love the conviviality and spontaneity; Spaniards always seem to be ready to party. And I continue to be amazed by the rapidity of social change in Spain since the death of Franco. The French are generally very resistant to change (yes, despite the French Revolution and 1968!), whereas the Spanish seem very open to it. In fact I wish I could have two lives so that I could spend one of them in France and one in Spain.

Anyway, here are just a few differences and similarities I’ve noticed.

Cafe culture

Bar, Pamplona

It’s almost dead in France, at least outside large cities and major tourist attractions where there are enough tourists and other visitors to keep it going. It’s very difficult to make a living from a cafe; bars and bistros in villages and small towns are closing at an alarming rate as their owners retire.

In Spain, though, it’s alive and well. Every village with more than a hundred inhabitants has its bar, and in towns the streets are lined with small bars, usually packed. Spanish people love to talk, and rather than invite people into your home, there’s a tradition of meeting friends in bars to chat over a beer or a coffee. I particularly love the evening paseo; in every town, from about 7 pm, the streets fill with people unwinding after a day’s work and filling in the time before dinner: strolling, chatting, shopping, dandling children, sitting at cafe tables, meeting and greeting friends.

Terrassa: chatting

And anyway, the coffee in Spain is much better than the poor-quality coffee served in most French bars. Even if in both countries they’ll look at you askance if you order a café crème or a cafe con leche in the afternoon.


Spain is a noisy place. For one thing, there’s always construction of some sort going on. Every town worth its salt shows two or three giant cranes on the skyline as you approach, and the ghastly mess Spain has made of its Mediterranean coast testifies to the importance of the construction industry. When we were in Terrassa in the holiday month of August, the whole of the town’s ramblas had been dug up and sweating workmen were toiling in the 35-degree heat repaving it, shouting at each other over the noise of earth-moving machinery. People sat outside nearby cafes apparently unperturbed by the racket.

Terrassa: gaudeix del parc tot l'any

When there isn’t any background noise to shout over, it has to be created. The Spanish love piped music, or rather muzak. Everywhere. They drive their cars onto the beach so that they can open all the windows and listen to the radio. We were once staying in the isolated Parador at Cazorla, which is in a field surrounded by woodlands in the middle of a national park. On the terrace in the evening, guests watched the moon rise in a clear sky and listened to the twittering of birds settling down for the night. Or at least they did after I’d found the switch for the muzak dribbling out of speakers on the terrace and turned it off.

And then there are the all-night parties 🙂 The French like to party too, but they can’t hold a candle to the Spanish.


I could write an entire blog post about this. Oh, I already have! I’ve always found it easy to slip into the Spanish timetable, eating lunch at two and dinner at nine or ten; it suits my body clock perfectly. But, accustomed as I am to leisurely meals in French restaurants, I can still be disconcerted by the rapidity of service in Spanish ones. It may take quite a while for the staff to take your order, but once they have, courses arrive at the table with bewildering speed. You have barely laid your fork down when the hovering waiter snatches up the plate, ready to serve the next course. I still remember the occasion (in another Parador) when the waiter snatched my plate from in front of me while I was still sipping my shot glass of gazpacho, and smiled tolerantly at me when I protested. It’s also not unheard of for them to serve one person’s main course while the other is still eating her starter. This would be considered terribly bad manners in France.

From observation, though, we eventually learned a way of spinning restaurant meals out. Groups of Spanish people eating out often order a selection of first courses and have them delivered to the table either singly or all at once, with clean plates for each person, and then everyone shares them, tapas-style.

Colmado, Pamplona

Speaking of which, tapas are definitely the way to eat out in Spain, saving you from the stodgy, unimaginative menus del dia that proliferate in restaurants (unless you can afford to eat in one of Spain’s many Michelin-starred restaurants of course). Although eating tapas can work out rather pricy if you choose to do it somewhere like San Sebastian, where the pintxos are imaginative, delicious – but often expensive. We still treasure the memory of Andalucia, true tapas country, where you will be given (unasked) something to nibble with every drink you order; it could be anything from a plate of crisps or a few olives to a bacon sandwich. And by paying 2 or 3 euros, you can choose from a range of delicious hot and cold tapas. So a bar crawl can turn into dinner with little effort.

In France, of course, eating the menu of the day in a good brasserie or bistro is nearly always the best-value option: you’ll get fresh seasonal food chosen by the chef, cooked in the inimitable French style, and attractively presented. Plus time to linger over your meal as long as you like.

Local culture

France is very much a country of regions, each with its own local peculiarities, from accent to food to music and folklore, and people take pride in their origins. Spain is that in spades. The regions seem even more diverse and independent (though admittedly I’ve spent most time in the more “semi-detached” regions – the Pais Vasco and Catalonia). There are even four official languages, as opposed to only one in France.

The outsider’s stereotype of Spain as bullfights, flamenco, sun, sea, and sangria only really applies to Andalucia (and even then only to parts of that vast region). The Basque Country is absolutely nothing like that; you barely feel as if you are in Spain at all. And Catalonia doesn’t feel that foreign to me because it has a lot in common with the southern part of France where I live. One of the great pleasures of travelling in Spain is its amazing diversity; I’m longing to discover Asturias, Galicia, and Castilla y Leon, as well as the parts of Andalucia I haven’t visited yet.

Midsummer fire-jumping in Arizkun

Restaurants worth visiting: Navarra and San Sebastian

Posada, Oitz

As I was planning this post, I happened across Pueblo Girl’s recent post about Spanish food. After quite a few 9- or 10-euros menus del dia in local restaurants, I can really relate to a lot of what she says there. Until recently Spain was not a country that was renowned for its good food. If it is now, it’s for many-starred, bank account-busting “creative” restaurants like El Bulli (now closed down) or, closer to here, Arzak and Beresategui. But these are hardly representative. All too often, Spanish restaurant food is ensalata mixta, deep-fried everything, stodgy rice, or stringy, overcooked meat in a claggy sauce with a few mushy green beans.

However, as Pueblo Girl says, it’s not all bad. With persistence and much sampling, we have found a handful of reasonably priced restaurants in the area of Pamplona and San Sebastian that are well worth a visit, serving food that would be recognised as good in other countries, not just Spain. So here’s my list of recommendations: three country restaurants, and two city ones.
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The Cookbook Challenge

Delicious Days

The friendly group of foodies in the Open University’s food and drink online conference has been talking for some time about a “cookbook challenge”; each person chooses a cookbook and then cooks their way through it during 2009, trying every recipe and blogging about it. I have been on-again, off-again about this project; I like the idea, but time for cooking and blogging is short at present, and the constraint of having to choose a recipe from a specific book two or more times a week seemed an impossibility.

But then I looked at my beautiful Delicious Days cookbook, a coffee-table ornament from which to my shame I have not yet cooked a single recipe, despite being a fan of Nicky’s equally elegant and enticing blog (from which I have cooked some recipes!). Everyone who has visited and picked up this book has oohed and aahed over it, so I really have no excuse. The book is short and eclectic, and I really want to cook some of the recipes from it, so I did a quick count. Only 76 recipes, quite a few of them small and simple. That’s only one and a bit a week; this seems do-able with a bit of discipline.

So my plan is to cook everything by the end of 2009, at least everything I can get the ingredients for; as I do them, I’ll blog about them, including if possible a less-than-wonderful photo. I’ll tag all the individual entries as “delicious days”. Nicky’s blog doesn’t need any more publicity I’m sure — it’s already one of Time Magazine’s 50 coolest websites — but if even a few people discover her creativity via my blog then I shall feel I’ve repaid some of the pleasure I get from reading hers.

Of course I will not be publishing the recipes themselves here; if you are tempted by my descriptions, then hop over to Amazon and buy the book (available in English and German). I think virtually all of the recipes are exclusive to the book, i.e. they are not published on Nicky’s blog. So if you want them, and her beautiful photos, you have to buy the book!

Other bloggers taking up the challenge so far (with different books):

Maggie on Nigel Slater’s Kitchen Diaries — this is sure to be a winning combination!
Dilly on not one, but two Jamie Oliver books: Cook with Jamie, and Jamie’s Italy
Sunny, on Rosemary Conley’s Slim to Win.
Ellie, on Gill Holcombe’s How to Feed Your Whole Family a Healthy Balanced Diet, with Very Little Money and Hardly Any Time, Even If You Have a Tiny Kitchen, Only Three Saucepans … – Unless You Count the Garlic Crusher…Yes, really — that’s the title of the book!
Rachel on Sarah Bounds’ Seasonal Vegetarian (this is an out-of-print Marks and Spencer book).

Little things that make me happy

A couple of weeks ago, Joanna nominated me for a Tree of Happiness award. You simply have to list six things that make you happy. So here goes; I’ve tried to make at least one of them food-related!

1. Lazing in bed on a Sunday morning with a purring cat curled up against my shoulder, knowing I don’t need to get up for work.
2. Swimming in a tropical lagoon surrounded by multi-coloured fishes, or just sitting on the beach watching and listening to the waves.
3. Snuggling up by the log fire on a winter night with a glass of red wine and a new book to read.
4. The fact that we took a risk, sold our house, gave up our jobs, and moved to the south of France to start a business — and it worked! Eleven years on, I still sometimes pinch myself to see if it’s true. I would have spent my life regretting it if we hadn’t done it.
5. The moment when you sit down at the table in a special restaurant, feeling hungry, and open the menu.
6. Singing Bach, Handel, Mozart, or Cyrillus Kreek.

I’ve wimped out on choosing the other six bloggers to pass the award on to; I’m picking six recent commenters on my blog, plucked out at random. Don’t feel obliged to do this if you don’t want to, and thanks to Joanna for thinking of me.

Bellini Valli of More Than Burnt Toast
Sally of Blogging for London
Betty (again!) of La France Profonde, And So Forth, and Cuisine Quotidienne
Ivy (again!) of Little Ivy Cakes
Sarah of Quelques gouttes de nous
Talented artist Steffi of Miss Matzenbatzen

Six Things About … Me!

I am flattered to have been tagged by Fiona of The Cottage Smallholder — if I’d had to choose who to be tagged by for the first time ever, it would be her, because her blog is the first I read every morning. If you haven’t discovered it, you are missing out on a lot of things! Anyway, here are the rules:

1. Link to the person who tagged you.
2. Post the rules on your blog.
3. Write six random things about yourself.
4. Tag six people at the end of your post and link to them.
5. Let each person know they’ve been tagged and leave a comment on their blog
6. Let the tagger know when your entry is up.

So here we go; it took me ages to write this post, because I’m not used to writing posts that aren’t recipes.

The Aeneid, Book 4
1. My favourite subject at school was Latin. I was the only person in my year who wanted to take it at A-Level, so for two years I had a teacher all to myself and got an A in the exam, resulting in my being thought an insufferable swot. At that point I was learning four languages simultaneously (French, Latin, German, Russian) but nowadays I speak two fluently (English and French) and one haltingly (Spanish). Time and lack of practice have done away with the rest. But I still think Latin is an invaluable foundation for all sorts of things, including spelling, learning other languages, computer programming, crossword puzzles, and general all-round cleverness 🙂

Moggy in the garden
2. Taking a leaf from Fiona’s book, 99.9% of cats like me. Well, maybe not 99.9%, since cats are aloof and discerning creatures, but the vast majority do. When I was a moody teenager, my cat Margo was my best friend, and ever since cats have been very special to me — not just pets but intelligent, interesting, and sometimes baffling companions. I would hate to live without at least one, and I always stop to talk to cats I meet in the street. Dogs on the other hand: some people have a natural authority with dogs, but I’m not one of them.

3. When I was nine, I almost died of peritonitis, and still remember the family doctor telling my mother I was just malingering to get out of school. I was too ill to appreciate the glamour of being wrapped in a red blanket and carried downstairs by an ambulance man before nee-nahing to the hospital in an ambulance for emergency surgery, but my sisters thought it was exciting. And I did get about three months off school, plus an excuse not to join in games lessons.

Macadam and bicycle, Brackley 1981
4. I didn’t learn to ride a bike till I was 25, and I’m still not very good at it. Not to be trusted on public highways. Luckily I took to driving a car better, even if I didn’t pass my test till I was 28, at the third attempt.

5. Music is as essential to life as cats. I love singing, but only with other people, not on my own; I like the feeling of creating harmonies and resonances together, and especially the intertwining threads of baroque music. I’d love to be able to play the piano, but my lessons aged about seven were a miserable failure.

6. I’m addicted to books and have been ever since I learned to read. My mother claims I once walked into a lamp-post on my way home from the library, already absorbed in a book. Fed up of the overflowing bookshelves and piles of books around the house, my husband covered an entire wall from floor to ceiling with shelves, and is surprised I haven’t filled it yet. Another set of shelves is crammed with cookbooks, which I read for pleasure. Since I discovered BookMooch, my habit has found a nice equilibrium: give books away and receive more in the post!

And I’m tagging, in no particular order:

  1. Ivy of Little Ivy Cakes
  2. Loulou of Chez Loulou
  3. Betty of Cuisine Quotidienne, And So Forth, and La France Profonde
  4. Nicole of For the Love of Food
  5. Stephanie of Fun Foods on a Budget
  6. Patricia of Technicolor Kitchen

OK, so they have something obvious in common — their blogs have a lot to do with food 🙂 But they’re all bloggers that I’ve been reading and enjoying for a while and would like to know more about.