Tuesday, October 5, 2021
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Five things in iso

Books and baking to help me flatten (or is that fatten?) the curve … 

Step away from the fridge
With people’s focus on the refrigerator and what they can and can’t buy in the supermarket, it made sense to avert my eyes momentarily from the Covid-19 pandemic and fix them on the obesity pandemic sweeping the world. Eat Like the Animals, by biologists David Raubenheimer and Stephen J. Simpson offers groundbreaking research and vivid storytelling to highlight how animals in the wild instinctively mix a nutritionally balanced diet. The authors expose how our modern food environment overrides the hunger-control system in humans and is driven by big business. They also offer sound steps to leverage the power of protein to ensure we live long and healthy lives.

The best medicine

They say “laughter” is the best medicine but I’m addicted to reading sobering books about medical matters including surgery, treatments, pain management and how swayed we can be by pharmaceutical marketing and news of pandemics. My obsession is topical this month, with the coronavirus lurking in public places and causing pandemonium. The Medicine by Karen Hitchcock is both wise and illuminating. Here’s a quote to get you thinking. “Globally we have the capacity to produce a few hundred million influenza vaccines each year and a population of 7.5 billion. If there’s a need for a pandemic-preventing vaccine, who gets the protection?”

The Grammarians

On the Easter weekend I hunkered down with The Grammarians by Cathleen Schine – an exhilarating tale of nerdy, wordy, red-haired twins, Laurel and Daphne, who confound their family, their partners and (sometimes) each other. We get involved in their lives from babyhood (when they commune in their secret language) and go on to delight in their deepening love for words (both arcane and more widely used). There’s a host of characters that provide humour and tug the heartstrings. When the twins fall out badly, Gravit, a shabby but considerate and articulate school principal, says, “My divorce was much more civil than this.”

Here We Are

It’s a stellar summer season for the theatre at the end of the pier in Brighton in 1959. Ronnie is a magician, and he and his assistant Evie have been drawing the crowds along with the show’s glittering compère Jack Robinson. From the feathers, the diamontes, the down-at-heel rehearsal rooms and the pre-show nerves, to the inner life of a 70-year-old woman looking back on a successful marriage and career, Graham Swift tells his tale of this theatrical trio with humour and heart. Swift won the Booker Prize in 1996 for Last Orders – and it was marvellous. Here We Are is different but also beautiful in its simplicity.

Scrolling along

I flouted the Easter baking trend and instead of making my own hot cross buns, I cooked cinnamon scrolls from scratch. I couldn’t find the “bread flour” the recipe specified, my yeast was beyond best-by date, and I had to rescue the scrolls from the oven after three minutes to ensure they had the all-important second rising. Despite all that, they didn’t turn out too badly. I will experiment again when Covid-19 restrictions are lifted and sanity returns to our supermarkets. Kneading the dough for ten minutes was a great stress buster! My uncle used to make the airiest Victoria sponge. And Autumn calls for frangipane tart. I’ll try this next.

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