I write this sitting in the kitchen sink…. well, no, not really. That’s the famous opening line of Dodie Smith’s much-loved I Capture the Castle, exactly the sort of book that would be featured in The Little Library Year by Kate Young, a different approach to cookbooks and reading, and my choice for book of the month for February.
I actually write this watching an old Miss Marple on TV… The Body in the Library and that, also, is exactly the sort of book that would feature in The Little Library Year. Let me check in the book index….
… Alas, no. Not this cookbook.
This month’s book choice combines two of my favourite obsessions: food, and books. Written by Australian Kate Young, it’s a wonderful melange of books, recipes, snippets of Kate’s life and photographs taken by Lean Timms. It was the photos that first caught my attention in the shop, with endpapers to lust after forever.
Do you visit a friend’s house or a new acquaintance’s home, only to spend hours craning the neck to read the titles on the bookshelves? I do: I like seeing which volumes we have in common, what kind of books they like and, more often than not, which undiscovered gems I come away lusting after. These are the endpapers at the start: the endpapers at the back are different again. I’ve spotted several I own or have read, and a few I’m considering looking out for.
The Little Library Year is based on the blog, The Little Library Cafe which Kate started after mastering a treacle tart mentioned in a Harry Potter book (Harry Potter is such a brilliant source of food porn and inspiration: Hogwarts is foodie heaven, and how they don’t all end up as fat as pigs I have no idea! It must be magic) and is basically just as it sounds: a blog dedicated to mastering the food delights mentioned in favourite books. It’s not her first book, but the structure of it as a walk through the year appealed to me. I also agree with Kate totally that there are some books that can only be read at certain times of the year.
It was a particularly balmy June day when I first picked up a copy of Anna Karenina in a charity shop…. I was only a hundred pages in when I abandoned it. Six months later, in the depth of winter in my freezing-cold flat, I pulled it back down from the shelf…. This time I devoured it.
I love how the book is organised, in six chapters each covering two months. The food isn’t necessarily seasonal (as Kate puts it “I wanted to share recipes that are as much about a seasonal mood as they are ingredients”) but there’s an emphasis on seasonally suitable food. Picnic food in summer, for example, alongside an extract from Brideshead Revisited, or advice on a Hallowe’en party foreworded by a bite from Dracula. Each chapter has an introductory essay, Kate’s history in brief, tales from her first days in Australia, or her experiences in London, and then several recipes grouped into themes: The Joy of Toast, Cocktail Parties and Seasonal Gifts in the November/December section.
The recipes are quite extensive: there’s a lot of cakes and desserts in the book, but then they are absolutely perfect for eating with a fork in one hand, book held just out of the custard in the other. There’s also comfortable food like macaroni cheese, several low and slow-cooked stews and a jewel-coloured selection of jams and preserves.
I love that there’s also a selection of unpretentious fish dishes: a fish pie, recipes for sardines and a grilled fish roll that, at the right time, I will be trying out.
The recipe instructions are nice and clear, while so far ingredients and equipment has been easy to acquire.
Please excuse me this joke with The Hygge Nook, but there’s even a recipe for coddled eggs!!!
Every recipe is linked to, and often prefaced with, a book suitable for that time of year. Some of them are old favourites, there are classics, modern and old, and several science fiction/dystopian novels. There’s biography, romance and fantasy alongside children’s classics. Every chapter ends with a list of recommendations for further seasonal reading and somewhere on the internet there needs to be a list of all the books mentioned according to season… perhaps I need to get on with that this weekend?
It’s been an ideal book to leave by the bed and read as I drift off to sleep. Ultimately I’ll work my way through the recipes, as I do with most of my cookbooks, and mark off the recipes I definitely want to try, but for now I’m happy reading the pages in between and enjoying time travel with Kate, to childhood in Australia and March-breeze-blown London. Or, on nights when even that much reading defies me, look at the pictures and enjoy the feeling that, as a reader, I am never alone.
If you’d like to support me….
My new book, Cosy Happy Hygge is available as an ebook or a paperback on Amazon now. As you know, I do the whole kit and caboodle myself, from writing to proofreading to designing and I’m very proud of this one. It’s about using rhythm and ritual to make your life a gentler, kinder place. Writing it has been an important part of my mental health recovery.
I don’t monetise my blog. I don’t run adverts, take sponsorship for writing posts or use affiliate links. I want everything I do on this blog and in my hygge life outside to be truthful. If I promote a book it’s because I’ve read it and like it, if I point out an item it’s because it’s impressed me on its own merits and not because the publicist has talked me into it. It does mean I don’t run giveaways and I’m not chasing followers, but the drawback is that I need to find a way to support myself.
That’s why I write books. My thoughts are that if I ask you to buy a book not only does it support me, and let me keep writing as an independent writer, but you get something back for your bucks. I’ve written several books, some on hygge, some on Christmas. If you like what you read here, or in the Hygge Nook, and you’d like to support a struggling writer, would you please consider buying a book? Ebooks give you the best value, since for 2 or 3 pounds you get the whole content of the book without paying the extra for paper production, but I’d be a pretty poor writer if I didn’t appreciate the beauty of a real book in the hand. If you buy just one book, it all adds up in the end to support me, and I’d be so grateful.
If you already have my books, or just want to support me as an independent writer, you can always just send me the price of a cup of coffee as a friend, to paypal.me/HyggeJem . I tend to use a lot of my spare cash on books that I review for the website, so every penny donated goes towards building my happy hygge life.
My first three books are hygge related, 50 Ways to Hygge the British Way was my first book, and is available in Paperback and Kindle version. It’s a simple look at ways to feel more hyggely in life and at home even though we’re not Danish and don’t have it in our DNA.
How to Hygge Your Summer, in Paperback and Kindle form, has lots of good ideas for the summer months. I strongly believe that hygge is so much more than throws and warm drinks.
Happier is my fourth book. It’s about how I boost my own happiness levels. It’s full of hints, tips and ideas for you to use and adapt to suit your own situation. It is available in ebook and paperback version from Amazon.co.uk and Amazon.com.
I have three Christmas books,
Have Yourself a Happy Hygge Christmas was released in September 2017 and is available again in paperback and ebook version. It looks at keeping the Christmas season warm and cosy, with ideas for activities and routines to keep Christmas happy.
A (Hygge) Christmas Carol is my look at Dickens’ immortal classic and the many lessons we still learn from it today. It contains the full text of the book as well as hyggely thoughts on the story.
Enjoying a Self Care Christmas is only available in ebook version. It’s about keeping Christmas simple enough and healthy enough to keep you sane in the process.
If you buy any of the books or some of the items through the links on this page, I get a couple of extra pence per copy, as an Amazon Affiliate, in Amazon vouchers which go towards buying more books to review for the blog. I’d really love it if you’d support me monetarily, but I quite understand that cash is tight for many people, and I just love having your support via reading and commenting as well.
Truthfully, I’ll probably never make a living as a writer, but I do make a little extra income that gets ploughed back into books and magazines. One obsession feeds the other…