at home with ann

Stuck-in ~ Cook-in

Posted on: 6 January 2010

Brrrrrrr…  need I say more????

I’m having a Nigella moment – so what’s on the menu to combat the freeze —

I’ve got a shissel of heart and soul warming barley soup on the simmer (takes about three/four hours and it’s so worth the wait eaten with great chunks of bread) and one of my favourite veg dishes, courgettes in a tomato and herb sauce.   I’m gonna make a a massive potato kugel too – one that sticks like glue to your ribs.  I’m not in the frame of mind to bake, but I may knock up a few biscuits – there’s nothing quite like the satisfying feeling of kneading pastry.   All I can say is I’m glad, for once, I had a little foresight and did the supermarket and the garage after work last night – even at 6.00 the shelves were almost empty – hardly any fresh fruit and veg – actually now I wish I’d bought some frozen  – ironic eh! LOL

mmmm... yummy

Since everyone seems to be in the same boat, this is a great day to play catch up with calling friends and watching films I’ve recorded but not yet had the time or opportunity to watch.   Just put on Twilight, but my sky is so unpredictable it didn’t record, in fact most of them didn’t record – now trying Sherlock Holmes… no, vixens not our ab fab fav man steamily playing the dastardly Moriarty, but one with the drop dead gorgeous, but unfortunate and sorry waste to womanhood, Rupert Everett.      


I haven’t recommended any books here  lately; my latest three good reads were:  

The Joy Luck Club was Amy Tan’s debut novel – unlike many writers this was not a one-book/one-hit wonder and she has gone on to prove herself over and over again.    It was turned into an excellent film which, coincidentally, was being aired on tv at the time I was reading the book.   I watched it once I’d finished and on the whole it was well done and almost, not quite, true to the story.

It’s about four immigrant Chinese/American women living in Chinatown, San Francisco (thanks jojo) who set up a club called ‘The Joy Luck Club’ where they meet in each other’s homes; they talk, worry, cook, eat together and play  Mahjong.  Just as the game is structured with four parts divided into another four parts, so is the book.   Three of the mothers and their daughters share stories about their lives (one of the mothers has already passed).   The stories are moving and mystical.  The mothers worry about their daughters lives in America, and the daughters cannot understand their mothers and know little of their history.   As the book unfolds and their stories unravel, the daughters begin to understand the mystery of their mother’s dramatic and traumatic lives.   The fragile bonds between mother and daughter tighten and they learn what it is to change and to hope.  The discovery of family legacy and individual identity, clashes and reconciliation, love and loss is no stranger to most of us, particularly for those of us whose ancestors were immigrants.


The Help is Kathryn Stockett’s debut novel and in many ways reflects her own life.   It took her years and determination to get this novel published and I hope it won’t be a one hit wonder.   The story is set in early sixties Jackson Mississippi at the onset of the civil rights movement.   The narrator is Aibileen, a black maid whose remit was not only chief cook and bottlewasher, but also to raise the white woman’s children.  The other main protagonist is Miss Skeeter, a young white woman with ambitions to be a writer and Minnie, Aibileen’s neighbour and a maid with a loud mouth that lands her in all sorts of trouble.   I found it a true page turner, stomach churning and emotionally gripping.  Here’s the synopsis from Kathryn Stockett’s website:

“Three ordinary women are about to take one extraordinary step.

Twenty-two-year-old Skeeter has just returned home after graduating from Ole Miss. She may have a degree, but it is 1962, Mississippi, and her mother will not be happy till Skeeter has a ring on her finger. Skeeter would normally find solace with her beloved maid Constantine, the woman who raised her, but Constantine has disappeared and no one will tell Skeeter where she has gone.

Aibileen is a black maid, a wise, regal woman raising her seventeenth white child. Something has shifted inside her after the loss of her own son, who died while his bosses looked the other way. She is devoted to the little girl she looks after, though she knows both their hearts may be broken.

Minny, Aibileen’s best friend, is short, fat, and perhaps the sassiest woman in Mississippi. She can cook like nobody’s business, but she can’t mind her tongue, so she’s lost yet another job. Minny finally finds a position working for someone too new to town to know her reputation. But her new boss has secrets of her own.

Seemingly as different from one another as can be, these women will nonetheless come together for a clandestine project that will put them all at risk. And why? Because they are suffocating within the lines that define their town and their times. And sometimes lines are made to be crossed.

In pitch-perfect voices, Kathryn Stockett creates three extraordinary women whose determination to start a movement of their own forever changes a town, and the way women–mothers, daughters, caregivers, friends–view one another. A deeply moving novel filled with poignancy, humor, and hope, The Help is a timeless and universal story about the lines we abide by, and the ones we don’t.”


It was over sixty years from its original conception before  Irene Nemirovsky’s Suite Française came to be published.   The story cannot be read in isolation – the appendices have to be read to give the book full meaning and emotion for it’s the facts that surround the discovery of this book that make it all the more remarkable.   For all that it’s a bestseller, the finished writing of the book is not polished or edited.  

The book is in two parts, although her intention was to write five modelled on the rhythm and tone of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony.  She wrote meticulous notes on the work in progress and on every character.  Storm in June, the first part, were her observations of the Parisians as they fled their city and the second section, Dolce, is about the residents of a rural community during the occupation.  Her writing concentrated on the raw nature of the French people; she denounced them for fear, cowardice, acceptance of humiliation, persecution and massacre.  If anyone has romantic notions of France and the French people, this book would surely make you think twice. 

Ironically she didn’t focus on the fate of the Jews.  She was  a Ukrainian Jew who had fled the Bolshevik Revolution and settled in France and, despite positively disliking the Jews and converting herself and her two young daughters to Catholicism, was murdered in Auschwitz  for being Jewish. 


Not sure what to read next — I have a pile of unread books by my bedside and on my bookshelves; a couple of Michael Chabon, more Amy Tan, some from the Kellerman family,  but not sure what I’m in the mood for – does anyone here have any recommendations?

It has stopped snowing  for a while – my road is like an ice rink, but I shall be getting to work tomorrow.  I am actually more concerned about getting home at the end of the day!   Wish me luck and good luck to everyone else who has to brave these Siberian weather conditions – we are just so not geared up to it – oy vay!


21 Responses to "Stuck-in ~ Cook-in"

I’ll be right over for dinner. I’ll bring the bread. lol

One small clarification that this Northern Californian must point out. “Joy Luck” is actually set in Chinatown, San Francisco, not LA. (Amy’s brother was a client of one of the attorneys for whom I worked back, in SF). I can’t remember if I read the book AND saw the movie or just saw the movie, b/c it was soooo long ago. But I did like it. My landlords in SF were from China. Oh the marathon Maj Jong games they used to have!!! They’d be up 48 hours straight most weekends. We could hear the laughter and the sound of the tiles drifting down from the top floor. We still exchange holiday cards w/ them.

nothing would give me greater pleasure than to have you grace my table and share my food

thanks for the correction; i knew it was somewhere on the west coast – i mean what does this londoner know 😆

Our weather forecast for tomorrow is like this: 8:00a.m. – snow; Noon – snow; 5:00p.m. – snow. So, I guess it’s gonna snow tomorrow. I was going to stop at the grocery store on my way home this evening, but the parking lot was FULL, so I settled on a convenience store for bread, milk, cheese, etc. It’s not like I’m going to be snowed in for a week or anything. LOL I was Jonsin’ for a big pot of vegetable/beef soup, but I need a few things for that, so I’ll have to make-do. Now, I like to bake when I’m snowed-in, so I have all the fixins’ on hand to make a pan of homemade brownies. Thanks for the tips on the books. I do believe I may have to take myself over to and order “The Help.” They all sound good, but that one especially appeals to me. Stay warm and be careful when you’re out and about in the snow and ice.

bobbyg – you stay safe and warm too –
mmmm… the brownies sound yummy especially with a nice hot cup of chocolate

Ooohh, the food (and the cold) sounds delectable!!! 🙂
I’d gladly come and work as your housekeeper, Ann, then I can practice becoming a good ice hockey player too…LOL!!!!

axe – you are experiencing a particularly hot summer, but this isn’t nice either
my aunt and uncle are in simonstown and they opened every window and a baboon got in — eeeeek

The food sounds superb Ann, just the ticket for this weather. 🙂

akelamalu — i just can’t get myself warm — i’m pretty cold much of the time anywayn— how’s it where you are now?

I chose the ‘right’ week to be ‘out of work’ didn’t I? It’s lovely being able to appreciate the snow without actually having to negotiate a journey in it (unless I want to)

I’m reading ‘Get Happy’, a Judy Garland Bio at the moment. Needless to say, there doesn’t seem to be much ‘happiness’ in it.

diane – good luck for tuesday – hope the weather’s cleared by then

enjoy your book

I’m currently reading the latest Terry Pratchett, “Unseen Academicals”. As usual with this guy, it’s something from this world taken at right angles to our reality.

AS for Rupert Everett – I have to say, Yuck. I think he’s hideous. Did you see the programme he did about Byron’s journeys? He was so up himself.

val – never got in mr pratchett

omg that programme was something else – i was expecting more poetry, and the scenery was beautiful, but even i was shocked – i mean he was fixated on byron’s ‘you know what’ — so rude 😆

Homemade soup sounds great, yum! Thanks for sharing your reviews. Hope the weather breaks for you and that you are safe and sound today. Take care.

mark – not so snowed in now, but i am sooooooo cold – the house is lovely and warm, it’s just me, brrrrr….

I want some soup!
Mind you it is quite warm over here so I don’t really need it.

cathy – lovely to hear from you – it’s been too long.
i’d gladly join you in a plate of taramasalata and tzakiki

hope all’s well with you and yours

Stay warm and safe! ((((hugs))))


u 2 🙂

you make me hungry, ummm, wish I was eating kugel!
Hope you are having a big and happy New year full of joy and peace and love! May it be the best yet!
Here in Florida it has been freezing literally, last night in 20’s tonight low 20’s again, the days hardly making it to mid 40’s, Ann, it is horrible, I am convinced I am part reptillian, can’t warm without the heat.
Stay in touch and let me know how things are going, always enjoy the blog!
Peace and love, Abbe

hi abbe – oh i am very aware of your weather conditions – not nice, not nice

sorry i’ve not been around – haven’t read anyone’s poetry in a while – haven’t written any either but i started a new term today so maybe that will give me the kickstart i need

hope all’s good in abbeworld

lotsa luv ann x0x0x0x

Hello dear one,

Your wishes were spot on: came on Gem’s and my anniversary! Thank you for thinking of me. Now if you were in my area, I think I’d have to find a way to bring over some food and hope to be able to taste some of your maaahvelous cooking!

I haven’t seen the Sherlock Holmes movie yet. There are several new movies that come out in the states in late Dec. We saw “It’s Complicated” and enjoyed it very much!

As for those novels, I read the first a long time ago and recommend it. Currently, I’m reading an adventure bestseller written by someone who went to school with me! I will be posting about that since I stumbled upon the fact that he has written a few novels that went to the New York Times bestseller list!

Across, the ocean I think of you and smile. Thank you for your warmth and kindness. Much nachus to you and your family.

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the loves of my life

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January 2010
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