Nourished Mind: On My Shelf in 2013

It’s been a while since my last bookshelf post so I thought now, with the early onslaught of wintery weather here in Brisbane, it might be an opportune time to share some of the best reads that have featured on my night stand or in my beach bag over the past couple of months.

My Berlin Kitchen: A Love Story with Recipes by Luisa Weiss (published by Viking Adult, 2012)

Luisa has the most beautiful blog at ‘The Wednesday Chef’ where she shares stories of her peripatetic early life and her family life now in Berlin. Reading ‘My Berlin Kitchen’ is like peaking into someone’s diary at different stages of their life, and watching a woman grow into her own soul. As the title states this is a love story, and Luisa’s has a wonderfully happy ending – filled with mouthwatering food of course. I savoured every page of this book. Now I’m just trying to figure out the right occasion to pull out her recipe for jam doughnuts – who am I kidding? Do you really need an occasion for doughnuts.

The Sprouted Kitchen: A Tastier Take on Whole Foods by Sara Forte. Photographed by Hugh Forte (published by Ten Speed Press, 2012).

I am a Sprouted Kitchen blog junkie. I will gladly admit to spending hours reading through posts that I have read before. Sara lures you to her kitchen table with tales of life and food and Hugh supplies delightful photos to accompany his wife’s words. I read this volume cover to cover when it arrived on my doorstep last year. One of my favourite recipes so far is toasted millet with arugula, quick pickled onions and goat cheese, and I can’t wait to make a winter supper featuring the braised white beans and leeks.

The Omnivore’s Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals by Michael Pollan (published by Penguin, 2007)

A classic that I am ashamed to admit that I hadn’t read yet. Michael Pollan’s ‘In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto‘ was the book that changed my shopping habits from supermarket to farmer’s market, which has become such an important and enriching weekly ritual. The Omnivore’s Dilemma is divided into three main sections where Pollan traces his meal from paddock (be that an industrial corn field, a large-scale organic production, a pasture where everything is connected, or a forest field) to plate and accounts for the costs, both moral and environmental, along the way. A must-read for those who are endlessly curious about our food systems, or just want to think a little more deeply about the eternal question: what’s for dinner?

A Game of Throne: Book One of ‘A Song of Ice and Fire by George R.R. Martin (published by Bantam Books, 1996)

I’m only two-hundred pages into this first tome in a series of seven, but I am already in love with Martin’s depth of description and the way he weaves the stories of multiple characters across a vast world into a tangled-yet-intimate epic. This is the book that I have been needing for a long time; a juicy epic fantasy that I can’t put down. Thank you for a perfect Valentine’s Day present Chris.

In other book related news, I have just started my internship with the Australian Writer’s Marketplace at The Queensland Writer’s Centre! I am so lucky to be spending the next six months dabbling in the real world of writing and authors. I can’t wait to see what I’ll learn.

Queensland State Library

Queensland State Library

So dear reader, what is sitting on your bedside table at the moment, or keeping you company on your commute?

Nourished Mind: On my shelf in November

One of my favourite things about summer holidays is the promise of a large stack of books and hours to fill lost within their pages. I have an ambitiously long reading list for this summer, too long in fact to really share, or even commit to paper. I have years worth of must-buy best-sellers to catch up on, classics to study to plumb gaps in my modern education, and non-fiction titles to stretch my science-minded brain in different directions.

Here are some of the titles that have filled my first month of summer:

The School of Essential Ingredients by Erica Bauermeister (published by HarperCollins, 2009)

The hard, round cake of chocolate was wrapped in yellow plastic with red stripes, shiny and dark when she opened it. The chocolate made a rough sound as it brushed across the fine section of the grater, falling in soft clouds onto the counter, releasing a scent of back rooms filled with bittersweet chocolate and old love letters, the bottom drawers of antique desks and the last leaves of autumn, almonds and cinnamon and sugar. (p.36)

Erica Bauermeister weaves this enchanting story of ordinary people with tales of their time in the kitchen, and what food represents in their lives. Each character’s journey surrounds an essential ingredients: chocolate, apples, ripe summer tomatoes; more importantly each character’s journey leads them to the most essential ingredient of all: love.

A Homemade Life: stories and recipes from my kitchen table by Molly Wizenberg (published by Simon & Schuster, 2009)

The first book by the wonderful Molly Wizenberg has been acclaimed in all corners for good reason: this memoir begins at the kitchen table and I truly felt like one of the family because Molly weaves each chapter’s tale as though she is regaling a friend over a cup of coffee and a slice of cake, or sustaining them with hope in the face of hurt through a winter dinner of butternut soup. I cried, I laughed, and I grew hungrier and hungrier with each page.

Year of Wonders: a novel of the plague by Geraldine Brooks (published by HarperCollins, 2001)

Cold, dark and lonely landscapes filled my mind when I read Geraldine Brooks’ novel of a small English countryside village during the plague. Isolating themselves by choice to avoid infecting the surrounding towns, the community must learn to live, and to die, with only each other for solace. Anna Frith is an unlikely heroine, but one you will soon grow to love as she grows, and survives through her ‘year of wonders’.

A Discovery of Witches (All Souls Trilogy, Book One) by Deborah Harkness (published by Headline, 2011)

I could tell you that my absence from the virtual world has been caused by the fact that I am in the midst of wedding celebration madness twice over (both my best friends are getting married in December!), and that I am up to my elbows in butter, flour, and sugar (I know, poor me…), and both of these excuses would be honest; however, a lot of the blame also falls on this book. I was immediately caught up in the story of Diana Bishop – academic, witch, rower, and tea drinker – and Matthew – scientist, vampire, and oenophile. Magic, science, history, and love course through their journey to save an ancient manuscript whose echoes threaten their future together. I dare you not to get lost in the pages of this one – and oh! it’s the first of a trilogy…

Tell me, dear reader, what books are you lost in at the moment? Are you a fiction devotee? Any particular genre? or are you a non-fiction junkie? Any specific topics?

All about books…

For some women it is diamonds; or expensive designer clothes; a tall, dark, and handsome stranger; or, chocolates and roses every other Friday. But the one thing guaranteed to make me weak in the knees every, single, time is a book. The merest mention of a visit to a bookshop is sure to excite in me such emotions as: sheer, unadulterated joy; a wistful, nostalgic look as I remember past visits as some women remember lovers; frantic list-making to ensure that I don’t miss any of the newly discovered books and authors that I just need to investigate; or, desperate attempts to retrieve missing change from between the cushions of the couch so that I can afford such beauties.

In fact there are only a few other things that bring me as much happiness as anything book-related: my family and friends (of course), running, chocolate, plane travel (oh yes, I am a weird one, I know), and my darling dog Molly.

So today I am starting a new monthly section where I will share a few of my recent book-related obsessions for those of you who share my bibliophilic tendencies.

The book-ish list:

  • I am an avid reader of The Guardian online, especially their book section, and I adore listening to the The Guardian Books podcast when I am out for a walk or a run.
  • In fact, I first stumbled across the enchanting The Bookshop Band while listening to one of The Guardian’s podcasts. This band of bibliophiles and musically-gifted people compose songs inspired by books that are chosen by the staff of Mr B’s Emporium of Reading Delights. The songs are played at events that take place at the bookshop. You can listen to their tracks online. Great music to inspire some writing, or book-devouring!
  • Another great website for keeping up with book-ly discussions is the ‘Books’ page of The Daily Beast. The ‘Women in the World’ section is also worth checking out.
  • For some visual stimulation check out bookporndaily, oh yeah…

Currently on my night stand?

And I’ve just finished reading ‘Past the shallows‘ by Favel Parrett. A wild, emotional tale from an emerging Australian author. Set in Tasmania, this is a haunting tale of family secrets, brotherhood, and the power of water.

My dear readers, what are your latest book-ish finds? What was the last thing you couldn’t put down (or made you hungry in the middle of the night…)?

Wednesday – On the Shelf

Mise en place.

Translated from French, and used most commonly as culinary terminology, means ‘putting in place’.

While I am an ‘everything in place girl’ when I am in the kitchen, mise en place applies to so many other areas in my life as well, especially when it comes to writing.

University grounds at sunset

When I try to enter the world of ether and mist that is words, I need to have everything else at rest. I need a centre when I enter the storm.

University grounds

Last night our lecturer spoke about allowing ourselves to enter the creative space and just write, worry about the editing later, just let the story tell itself, and come back to reality later. When I have succeeded in mise en place, that creative space opens like a door in front of me. I may have to fight a few dragons at the gate and shackle an anchor to myself in the rocky sea of writing, at least I can see the way there more easily.

When that door opens, and the world beyond finally allows me entrance, there is no other place I would rather be, I can be transported to a deserted road in the middle of Australia, a wooded trail in Victorian England, or a dark starry night where the waves crash in against the sound on a shore I have never seen.

Here is a sneak peek at a place I have found myself lately (from one of my assignments).

Prologue:

The letter arrived the day of the funeral, if you could call it that, Catherine mused, as there was no body to be interred that misty morning. A funeral usually had more than one mourner in attendance as well, but Catherine stood alone in the light rain listening to the priest’s deep voice intoning the Latin phrases of a final prayer over the small pit that contained only ashes. The priest finished and turned to the tall, pale, young woman who had yet to weep over her father’s final resting place. He regarded her solemnly with pale, watery blue eyes and a respectful nod before he turned away and made his way back to the rector’s cottage out of the cold, grey morning.

Catherine pulled her wool cloak closer about her. Though it had reached mid-morning, the sun had yet to make an appearance and the night fog still clung to the ground. She was alone. Alone in this small graveyard, and in the world. 


Tell me my dear reader, when do you most need everything in place?

Wednesday – On the Shelf

When I started thinking what I wanted this new blog to be I decided that I definitely wanted to have regular posting ‘themes’. Although I certainly enjoyed just posting whatever came to mind when I first started blogging, I really want Thoroughly Nourished Life to have a more regular presence. I want to be able to be a little more prepared, to have something to set myself to think about, or an already established avenue for writing about something that has come to mind.

With all that in my head I have decided that Wednesdays will be ‘On the Shelf’ day. Each week this post will share something book or word related. At the moment I am taking a class on issues in contemporary publishing (yes, on a Wednesday night) and I always leave feeling inspired to write something about the state of the bookly world.

Tonight, for the inaugural ‘On the Shelf’ post I offer a small essay on why in my world ‘words = love’.

Fully stacked bookshelves in a second hand bookstore

My heart's home.

I am a word addict.

Yes, hello my name is Amy and I am addicted to words.

I want to constantly consume them, be ever surrounded by them.
I want to be coated in words like that last peanut in the very corner of the packet that gathers with all the salt granules.

They feed me, my soul would wither without their healing, nourishing, sustaining power.

When the world seems bleak they bring their sunshine or an umbrella.

When disaster strikes I seek their solace and counsel.

I am never bored, for the merest hint of text and context can keep me entertained.

I fall asleep in the curve of a ‘C’.

And wake up falling down the slippery dip of an ‘S’.

I want to walk through my days holding the hands of a friendly ‘F’ and an entertaining ‘E’.

I am the girl who caresses covers and lovingly admires a book with every sense.

A touch for the cover, the pages.

The scent. New – where you can smell the printer’s ink still on the page. Old – catching a whiff of the lives this book has been part of.

Taste. What new recipes, what exotic treats, what form of sweetness will this book inspire in my mind.

Sight. Are you sharp with new edges, or crinkled at the spine. Is the text bold and new age, or so embellished that the book needs no other artwork.

Sound. Do you thud closed, or merely elicit a whisper as your pages open and shut.

I have a history with words. I was soothed with lullabies as a tiny baby, in English and in Danish.

My Dad would even make up songs to sing my sister and I to sleep, and let us crawl into his and Mum’s big bed so he could read and snuggle with us.

My Mum is the checker of assignments, the muse to a thousand stories and songs. The listener to many grand plans and myriad tiny plot changes.

She took my sister and I to countless children’s library days, reading groups, second hand bookstores and other places where words live and lurk.

My favourite way to spend time with my Mum is still going to the second hand bookstore. It is our Saturday morning tradition.

As we grew, my sister and I devoured books even more rapidly than we devoured m&ms and salted liquorice. We still do.

Yummy, indeed.

We give each other piles of books for Christmas, and birthdays, and every celebration in between.

Between the pages, in the midst of the lines, we find adventure though we never have to leave our armchairs.

We find knowledge and answers. And questions, always more questions, that lead to another book, another story, another place.

We understand the power that words wield.

The way my Mum and sister become so encapsulated in the world of the author that only a fog horn can get their attention.

The many, many sleepless nights my Dad has had because he can never put a book down once he starts.

The way my books are treated like precious children and I can never bear to part with any of them.

We are readers, listeners, talkers, texters, emailers, note leavers.

We are a family of many words. Some spoken, many written.

Nearly all of them out of love.

So yes, my name is Amy and I am a word addict.

Because words, in my mind, are synonymous with love.