I am having such a wonderful consumer experience flipping through my slowly reducing pile of House and Garden magazines prior to tossing them into the bin. Immersed in the evocative imagery on the page, I forget that I am living in Brisbane and am transported off to the avenues of beautiful shop fronts in Paris, London and New York. The pages with their entrancing pictures morph into creative window displays enticing me into the salons and ateliers displaying create and desirable objects. Resistance is impossible, their lure stronger than the sirens were to Odysseus. I am not sure this form of window shopping is any cheaper as I am finding lots of beautifully crafted pieces that I can now explore and purchase from their websites. Online purchasing is just too easy. Have magazine and credit card; will post.
It comes as no surprise that the best designs endure and are valued as much today as they were when they were created and sometimes we are lucky enough to share vicariously in that envelope of design. I loved every moment I sat in the comfortable Eames chairs in my London home and they were a silent spectator to some pretty momentous times, including when my son and I toasted his impending fatherhood and my grand-motherhood.
I envy my daughter who visited the British Design 1948-2012: Innovation in the Modern Age exhibition at the V & A in London. She emailed me saying it was like being transported back to her childhood, as she was familiar with so many of the pieces. It is difficult to pin down exactly why some designs endure, capturing our imagination. The beauty of practicality and purpose is just as absorbing as beauty of shape and form. The attributes go beyond what is just funky, quirky or of the moment to become almost visceral.
I found one such delight while reading an Elle Decoration magazine from January this year. British designer Neil Conley’s snow domes are beautiful,imaginative and clever with a wicked message. Each snow dome contains a hand carved pelican, turtle or dolphin in bronze, sitting atop a man-made stone. When shaken, black ‘oily’ snow settles over the threatened wildlife species in a reminder of the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010. Although the price tag of £2,000 is way beyond my pocket, I can still enjoy looking at them on his website at neilconley.co.uk. I am pleased I haven’t won Lotto as I would be sorely tempted to purchase one for my desk to replace their image.
I have resolved not to buy another printed book until I remove one from the nearly 2000 volumes that currently take up shelf space in our house; and that doesn’t include at least 500 cooking magazines.
Despite moving overseas and living in small apartments, we still travelled with our favourite authors. Of course during those five years we have collected other favourites and we now have not only the huge task of unpacking nearly 100 boxes but also the more arduous task of deciding where to put all these books. Even taking the opportunity to give away numerous titles that we won’t read again, we have run out of space.
The most difficult magazines to part with are my collection of Gourmets, Australian Gourmet Traveller, Cuisine and Bon Appetite that I have collected over 30 years. Andy was threatened with instant divorce if he even considered disposing of these treasured items. My children have decided that they will use them to make me a paper mache coffin, which I think would be sending me off in the appropriate style.
You would think I would have learnt not to buy more titles after the initial move from Brisbane to Los Angeles.However, I have vowed not to buy any more cooking magazines, well, at least not until I can find shelf space for them. So I have started to leaf through these old friends to select interesting articles or recipes and then I am tossing the skeleton out. This is more fun than looking at the family photo album as many of the recipes carry memories of fantastic meals with family and friends or of holidays inspired by articles.
And while I am going through these memories I am beginning to compile a volume of my favourite recipes. You know, the ones that you tend to make regularly because they are everyone’s favourite, or very easy and still look impressive. I am also culling my recipe books, sending most of these to a nearby charity, as my children don’t want my old books.
So here is my list of a dozen must keeps. There are some authors to whom I have been loyal for decades such as Elizabeth David, Julia Child, and Richard Olney. Then I would include more recent cooks who know and understand the Australian lifestyle including Stephanie Alexander and Bill Grainger. Then there are the cooks who have made the transition between Australia and the more traditional UK including Skye Gingell. I would have to add Peter Gordon into that list as his blend of western and eastern flavours is wonderfully imaginative and able to be adapted to home cooking. Then for the vegetarian in the family I would add Maria Elia plus Richard Bertinet for his wonderful sourdough bread and finally because they combine escapism and food, I would include Lucy and Greg Malouf. Naturally I would have to include many of the wonderful Women’s Weekly food magazines because they never fail to provide a dish when needed. There are so many other writers I could include and whose ideas and recipes I use regularly. This list doesn’t even begin to cover all my favourite cooks and I haven’t included web sites that also contain wonderful food ideas including the many food blogs that enthusiasts contribute to.
I would love feedback on other favourite food writers and why.