Food Memoirs Inspire Travel

My blog posts have slowed in the last month or so because much of my spare time is dedicated to eating an elimination diet and acupuncture appointments. I soak my feet in an herbal tea and I drink gallons of alkaline water. I haven’t felt well for about 2 years but when I broke out in hives in mid-February and they were still with me 6 weeks later, I knew I had to take the time to address my health.

IMG-4434

Pour kettle full of hot water on one foot bath tea bag and let steep for 6 minutes. Then add another kettle full of hot water and 3 pitchers of roughly equivalent size to soak for feet for 30 minutes. Keep water as hot as you can stand. This is intended to help draw toxics out of your body. 

I still don’t know what is  at the root of my health issues. I am in the club of women and men who live with chronic pain that western medicine isn’t good at diagnosing let alone providing relief. If I had to guess I’d say that our western lifestyle is toxic. I know I’d feel better if I could travel. But I had to cancel my Michigan adventure due to my most extreme sciatica episode to date.

My pets are glad to have me home. Yet I need to do something to satisfy my wanderlust.

I have been listening to a lot of podcasts as I cook and soak. Two of my favorites are about reading: What Should I Read Next? and Reading Women. They are both delightful and now the top of my dresser is heaving with books to read. When Reading Women podcast hosts interviewed author Chibundu Onuzo, she recommended several books I wrote down for future reading, including Longthroat Memoirs by Yemisi Aribisala. I already had on my list My Berlin Kitchen by Luisa Weiss as a recommendation from WSIRN? I took the plunge and purchased them both.

I read My Berlin Kitchen first because I heard it favorably compared to Ruth Reichl’s memoirs and because I’m curious about Germany — Berlin has been rising on my places to go list. Never fear, if you think it is a book full of German recipes, it is much more varied. The author is American/Italian with deep ties to Berlin. The book is really the story of growing up on two continents and with people she loves in 3 or more countries before and after the Wall fell. She tells her story in short chapters ending with a recipe. I marked 9 different recipes I’d like to try. I already tried her Uncle’s ragu sauce and it was a B+ (of course I did not cook it for 3-5 hours as suggested). This book made me want to go to Berlin, and return to Italy, and for others it might make you want to go to Paris. Not me. She also sends a lot of love to New York City and even Los Angeles. It is a fun read and I managed it in a weekend.

Longthroat Memoirs is much less accessible to me. I have been to South Africa and Capetown is near the top of my wish list because of the penguins, but Nigeria is not on my list yet. This is an ambitious book as it is introducing a complex culture (Nigeria is very large and has many ethnic cultures within), and a cooking style with whom few people have any familiarity. I also found her writing more convoluted to follow with many references I don’t get. To be fair, so does Weiss, but I know Laura Ingalls Wilder and why someone would pine to go to Prince Edward Island.

Also, I cannot envision making groundnut soup, also known as Nigerian River Province Soup or Bayelsa. Aribisala seems determined more to use food as an entry point to so many other subjects that it is probably miscast as a food memoir. And where would I get the ingredients! “There is the green leaf vegetable that cannot, and most definitely should not, be frozen spinach. There is afang leaf unwound from its symbiotic partner in the bush. There is afang leaf grown in town and snubbed by the bush afang. There is the pumpkin leaf that, in one unique language ‘ibok iyep’ (red blood corpuscle) for its nutritional powerhouse status.” (p 23)

So while the book doesn’t satisfy as a food memoir, it is essential reading if you want to spend more time in the diverse countries of Africa. I will give it to Grace Julie who has already traveled extensively in Western Africa.

Food is such an essential part of the travel experience. I will explore this in more detail in future blog posts.

Best Public Library in the USA

IMG_2484I am very keen about public libraries and I make an effort to check out libraries when visiting a new place. There are many fine libraries in the USA but this library in Camden, Maine is unsurpassed in my experience.

IMG_2486

In addition to the entrance at the main street level, there is this Hobbit-hole entrance nearer sea level and just across from a lovely park with a sea view.

IMG_2488

Any public library worth its salt has an excellent children’s library.

IMG_2489

There are many places to meet or study. I love how librarians are less likely to “shush” patrons than when I was a child. Look how cheerful this library is. It invites you to read and explore.

Seating is also important. Staffing and hours are also critical. Clearly the citizens of Camden value their library.

Bonus: Tevis’ dog Dozer is as handsome as this library.

IMG_2492

Dozer just outside the Camden public library.

Following the Essex Serpent

IMG_1802While I was on my own in Winchester I did some book shopping and I found a book I had read about in the New York Times Book Review, Sarah Perry’s The Essex Serpent. It seemed like the perfect book to read while I was fossicking around the county with UK Sarah. When we caught up with each other, Sarah pulled a book from her bag that a friend had given her, “I can read it and then you can read it!” I laughed and pulled out my copy. So we both began reading the book on our journey from Winchester to Tollesbury.

We planned our activities and saved searching out the landmarks in the book for our last full day in Essex. We’d begin at Colchester and then because her main village was imaginary, we’d visit Wivenhoe (Wiven-HOE!) on the River Colne. Then for a bonus, we drove out to see Mersea Island because I kept it seeing it in the distance and I was curious.

Colchester is a fascinating city. It is fast growing now, but its modern development is built on an old Roman wall and around Colchester Castle.

We really had a lot of fun interacting with the book, the history, and the current people and place. We got caught in a lot of traffic on our way to WivenHOE! because University of Essex was hosting their open campus day for prospective students. Once we were out of town we had the roads much more to ourselves. It is always a bit amazing that so many people can live in England and yet there is still so much seemingly uninhabited countryside. Recommend the book and the day’s adventure!

IMG_1685

Wivenhoe on the River Colne

Here is a sample of the book to entice you to read it:

She arrives home with her arms full of dog-roses in creamy bloom and three new freckles on her cheek. She puts her arms round Martha’s waist, thinking how well they fit ther in the groove above her broad hips, and says, “They’re on their way–everyone who’s ever loved me and everyone I’ve ever loved.” (p. 231)

 

 

SWATCH: Crafts and Wool in Winchester

I was looking for a pub for lunch when I discovered Creative Crafts kitty corner from the Winchester City Museum and the Cathedral grounds. I wasn’t looking for wool since my suitcase was already bulging. My imagination was caught by the crocheted shark toy and the book of crazy sea creatures that featured the pattern. I purchased two pattern books and added them to the box I’d ship home from the post office.

IMG_1446The women who offered assistance in the shop were friendly and interested in what I was working on. I showed them the pineapple baby hat I was knitting for my grandson Calvin.

If you need any type of needle craft supplies while you are traveling or want to purchase a project, stop by Creative Crafts at 11 The Square in Winchester.

Jane Austen Anniversary Today

IMG_1436The author of five sublime novels,  Jane Austen moved to Winchester seeking medical treatment at the end of her life. Her beloved sister Cassandra joined her at No. 8 College Street. Although Winchester was a renowned medical center, her doctor Giles King Lyford did not hold out hope. Indeed, Jane crossed over on July 18, 1817, 200 years ago today.

After reading about the many special anniversary activities planned this Anniversary year, I added Winchester to my itinerary. I lodged at the centrally located Royal Winchester Hotel and took an easy train ride from Southampton.

IMG_1430 Her temporary home makes a good first stop. Further down the road on College Street is the elite boys prep school Winchester College. Across the street from No 8 is a small park with several Jane tributes. Stop in the awesome independent bookstore P&G Wells and buy a new copy of Persuasion, the international Austen book for 2017. Then go round the corner to the Wykeham Arms for a fantastic cup of coffee or better than pub lunch or dinner.

The Winchester Cathedral offers a “Jane Austen Events Programme 2017” and includes a funeral procession reenactment on Monday 24 July at 8:30 a.m. (5 pounds for ticket). This is the same time, 200 years earlier, that her brothers and nephews escorted her body to the Cathedral. “Her sister Cassandra wrote that she watched from the window as her dear sister left her forever as the procession turned the corner to enter the Close.” (Winchester Cathedral programme)

The Winchester Cathedral is the final resting place for Jane Austen. Her grave and a special memorial are in the north nave aisle. The Cathedral published a booklet by Michael Wheeler, “Jane Austen and the Winchester Cathedral,” where he explains how Jane Austen came to be buried inside the Cathedral,

“The fact that Jane Austen died in the paris of St Swithun entitled her to burial in the Cathedral precinct, and there were no compelling reasons for her to be buried in Chawton, Steventon or Bath. But to be buried inside the Cathedral, she and her family must have had strong connection in the Close. If the Revd Henry Austen made the request to the Dean and Chapter, he may well have been supported by Mrs. Elizabeth Heathcote, nee Bigg, his sisters’ lifelong friend and the widow of the Revd William Heathcote, sometime Prebendary of Winchester.”

IMG_1421My last stop on my Jane Austen adventure was to the special exhibits at the Discovery Centre and library. If you are not already familiar with Jane’s life story, then this is the place to start. I also picked up a helpful brochure at the City Museum “Jane Austen’s Winchester” that provided a helpful overview of her time in Winchester 24 May – 18 July 1817.

These exhibits will be open through 24 July (and the last one until 20 August):

  • The Mysterious Miss Austen
  • Jane’s Winchester: Malady and Medicine
  • Jane and her Alton Apothecary

If you have the extra time, Chawton is about 30 minutes by car and 1 hour by bus. Jane’s home and a special study center await you there.

Penguin Love

penguin 1I just read the book The Penguin Lessons by Tom Michell in one day. I was enthralled from page one.

I bought the book in Winchester, England and mailed it home with some other books. My cover was blue with a photo. I already love penguins so this book was a joy from beginning to end. It also makes me want to visit Tierra del Fuego, Peninsula Valdes and Punto Tombo even more.

The story of Juan Salvador, a Magellan penguin rescued from a Uruguay beach by the author, is also the story of mankind’s negative impact on the oceans. Penguin species have been decimated by pollution, especially oil pollution, and overfishing. penguin 2

The book makes these points without bludgeoning the reader. It also shares life lessons he learned from the people he met through a mutual admiration of Juan Salvador.

My favorite story was about Diego, a shy student who was having trouble fitting in at the prep college where the author worked as a teacher. He loved Juan Salvador and was one of the small group of students who helped care for him. When the pinguino finally had a chance to swim in the pool, they were all stunned by his aquabatics. But the real surprise was Diego’s reaction.

Read to find out more.

 

 

Father Denmark Defines Danishness

IMG_1121 (2)

One of the early stops on Bike Mike’s tour of Copenhagen was at the statue of NFS Grundtvig, often called Father Denmark. Mike took the opportunity to share with us a little history and how Denmark developed the socialist democracy and earned their title of world’s happiest people.

Grundtvig wrote histories reintroducing the Norse gods to the Danes. He also studied English society and appreciated the contrasting freedom of thought and pragmatism. He was also a Lutheran pastor who spoke out for separation of church and state. All of this combined to the philosophy Grundtvigianism. He also participated in writing the new constitution and articulated the sense of community that is now a hallmark of the Danish life.

Mike said, “We don’t mind paying high taxes because we get free education, elder care, health care and day care.” He laughed and pointed out that since women ruled Denmark there have been no wars, they work less and earn more, and they enjoy the smallest gap between the poorest and the wealthiest citizens.

Denmark is not perfect, but one of the things I love about travel is learning about other cultures and seeing how things can be.

If you want to read more about Grundtvig you can in Knud JV Jespersen A History of Denmark. (in English)