Posts Tagged ‘food’

In this fun little book (easily read in one sitting if you feel like it), New York journalist Rebecca Harrington tries out the diets of the rich and famous to see if they are really sustainable and if they actually work. The full list of celebrity diets she follows is:

Gwyneth Paltrow; Liz Taylor; Karl Lagerfeld; Marilyn Monroe; Cameron Diaz; Madonna; Greta Garbo; Victoria Beckham; Beyonce; Jackie Kennedy; Sophia Loren; Pippa Middleton; Carmelo Anthony; Dolly Parton; Miranda Kerr; Elizabeth Hurley.

Make no mistake – this is not intended to be a serious examination of how dieting works. Most diets are tried for only a few days (some of which I don’t know how anyone could actually do for more than a couple of days without passing out anyway). Each chapter focuses on a new celebrity diet, and they are choppy and short chapters, which make for a quick read.

I really enjoyed this book actually. Harrington is self-deprecating, witty and engaging. The book had me giggling to myself several times and I would certainly read more by this author.

However, it did make me think about celebrity diets and how they are sold to the gullible public – if I thought about it very deeply I would actually get quite angry. Most of the diets feature famous faces with no qualifications in nutrition whatsoever, peddling their wares to their fans and making money off people’s desire to be thinner. Miranda Kerr might be a lovely person but my goodness her lifestyle regime sounds utterly pretentious and completely unrealistic for those of us with actual jobs, budgets and time constraints. Victoria Beckham’s diet was inspired by the diet Tom Hanks followed to lose a ton of weight when filming Cast Away. In other words, she followed the diet that he used to make himself look starved! What kind of messed up is this?!

However, as mentioned above this book is not a commentary on the morality or otherwise of celebrities making money from their diets, but basically an undemanding fun read and a nice way to round off my reading for 2022.

Read Full Post »

This is an audiobook narrated by Karen Cass, and is actually a collection of four books gathered into one.

The story starts with best friends Cat Garcia and Sadie Smart moving into their new business premises, Smart Cookies, in Castle Court, Chester. Castle Court is a three storey food court, where frankly I would be all the time if it were real and I lived nearby!

Sadie is recovering from a messy marriage break up and is moving on with her life, with daughter Lisa in tow. Cat meanwhile, was a top chef in a Michelin starred restaurant in Paris, but for personal reasons has moved back to England to start Smart Cookies with Sadie.

They soon become part of the community at Castle Court, making friends – and a few enemies – amongst the other business owners, and maybe a hint of romance too. As you would expect. they have ups and downs, sometimes man related, other times not, but through it all their friendship remains solid as they navigate some choppy waters.

As far as chick-lit goes, this is an enjoyable book, although it definitely left me craving a plate of biscuits every time I listened to it, as there is quite a lot about the cookie making. I do sometimes find it annoying that smart, intelligent and independent women still have to have lives revolving around men, and that sometimes these women do stupid things which are clearly written in to move the plot forward. (No, chick-lit is not my favourite genre, but it’s easy listening while I’m out running, which is why I will choose it sometimes.)

Having said that, it’s got some lovely characters, and Castle Court itself sounds like a dream. Some parts were predictable – like who would end up with who for example, which was clear from the first few pages – but it was nicely written and one of the few books to feature a small child who was actually very lovable and not irritating.

Excellent narration by Karen Cass too.

Read Full Post »


Chef, written by, directed by and starring Jon Favreau, is the kind of movie you need to watch if either (a) you’re a foodie, (b) you need a feel-good funny movie, or (c) both.

Favreau is Carl Casper, chef at a prestigious restaurant, has a public meltdown after a restaurant critic writes a savage review of his food, and quits his job. Initially bereft, he buys a food truck and travels through (part of) America, providing the opportunity for  himself to get back to cooking creatively and to reconnect with his son.

It sometimes teeters on the edge of over-sentimentality, but never quite tips over. I loved the energy and colour. Carl is likeable even when he isn’t, thanks to Favreau’s geniality. A great supporting cast – Sofia Vergara as Carl’s ex-wife Inez, Emjay Anthony as his son Percy, and a brilliant turn from the fabulous John Leguizamo as Carl’s best friend Martin – add to the enjoyment. Also, watch out for a very funny turn from Robert Downey Jr.

My one slight criticism of Chef is that it may be slightly over-long. But it’s always enjoyable and good fun, and I highly recommend it.

Read Full Post »


This was an audiobook from Audible, which I listened to over a number of runs during one week. It is narrated by Juanita McMahon, who did a great job overall. There were seven main characters, and she did give voice to them all.

The story concerns three couples – Chris and Beth, Tony and Sarah, and Marie and Duncan. The women have been friends for years, and the men are therefore friends by default, and all six of them meet up once a month at each other’s houses, for a dinner party. Then one night, Chris invites his friend Simon along; Simon is gorgeous – and heartbroken because his wife has just left him for another man.

Having another person in the mix soon changes up the dynamic of the group, as the men feel their territory threatened (with the exception of Chris) and the women are intrigued by the new face.

Throughout the year and the various dinner parties, Simon’s role in their lives means new alliances and new animosities are forged and created and eventually everything culminates in one unforgettable dinner party at his house…

On paper, there is a lot going for this book, and I would say I enjoyed it – for the most part. For the first 45 minutes I had severe doubts though, and considered giving up on it. Repetition can be quite funny, but at times throughout the book, and especially in the first part, it seemed as though Bloom had had some kind of bet to see how many times she could shoehorn a particular word in. In the first part for example, we see just how obsessed with dips Chris is. He loves his dips, and we are hit over the head with this fact as the word dips is trotted out too many times to count. Later on the same thing happens when Beth laments that people find her cuddly. How many times do we need to hear the word cuddly to realise that it annoys her? (It annoyed me too!)

The characters are a mish-mash, and for the most part, not particularly likeable. Chris is so relentlessly cheerful, but yet completely oblivious to what is going on around him (and his failure to pick up on social cues is annoying) that he just comes across as shallow and stupid. I did love him for one scene though, which I won’t reveals here as it would be a potential spoiler.

Tony is pompous and chauvinistic and goodness knows why Sarah put up with him!

Marie is the worst of all. Vacuous, self-absorbed, vain and insensitive, I couldn’t stand her and was amazed that she had managed to find two friends and a nice man who wanted to marry her (I liked Duncan most of all).

What I would say is that the writing flowed well, and it was an undemanding listen/read. I’d give it a  middling score which is to say that I didn’t think it was brilliant, but it kept me entertained enough while I pounded the streets.

Read Full Post »


Registered dietician Laura Thomas has written this book to help anyone who has ever had issues surrounding food, body image, dieting etc. and to help them adopt intuitive eating (IE). IE is NOT another diet in disguise as a healthy eating plan, and not another way to restrict what we eat – Thomas makes it clear that that is the polar opposite of what she wants to achieve.

This book resonated strongly with me, as someone who has had a mixed up relationship with food and body image for something like 30 years. It actually made me cry at certain times as I recognised the symptoms of disordered eating which she writes about. Crucially though, for the first time, I felt like there is light at the end of the tunnel and that there IS a way to get out of this cycle, and to have a healthy relationship with food.

Written in an engaging, entertaining and accessible way (Thomas is quite sweary and so am I, so this didn’t bother me, but may be worth pointing out to some readers), there are exercises for the reader to complete and each chapter focuses on different aspects of the issues being discussed.

This is an important book, and one which I highly recommend to anyone who has ever felt bad for eating too much, gone on yet another restrictive diet to lose weight, judged foods as good as bad, and or let a number on the scales dictate how good a day they are going to have.

Read Full Post »


General Election Night, 1983. The staff and diners at the upscale Oyster House restaurant on Jermyn Street, London, are ready for an evening of hard work and hard celebration of the Tory victory, but everything changes when two masked gunmen burst in and take them hostage in the downstairs kitchen. On the outside, the Police mobilise themselves to try and end the siege in the most peaceful way, while on the inside, the hostages realise that they are trapped with a psychopath who is armed and very dangerous.

This book is an undemanding and quick read, which starts with the onset of the siege and then alternates between the current time with the gunmen and hostages in the kitchen, and the past, where one of the gunmen’s back story is revealed in stages until we find out how he came to part of the events. We also have several chapters from the point of view of the Police – in particular that of Sergeant Willy Cosgrove, an honest man with an unusual idea of how to end the siege, and his commanding Officer Petersen, who is perhaps less honest and less bothered about a peaceful ending.

As you might expect from an author who is better known as a food critic, the action is intercut with scenes of cooking some intricate and delicious meals (which seemed slightly implausible  under the circumstances, but just believable enough not to annoy me) – if nothing else, this book has definitely made me determined to try a Rum Baba!

The story moves on at a fast pace, even allowing for the chapters set in the past, which are necessary to understand Nathan, the main hostage taker, whose story is told bit by bit. However, apart from Nathan and his lifelong friend Kingston, most of the characters weren’t that roundly developed. I don’t feel that I knew any more about the two cooks Tony and Stevie for instance by the end of the book than I did at the beginning. That said however, it didn’t detract from the enjoyment of the book.

I’m not sure how I feel about the ending, but I won’t post any spoilers here; what I will say is that while I’m not sure I liked it, I definitely wasn’t expecting it, so that’s a good thing.

Overall, I think I probably would read more by Jay Rayner in future, and would probably recommend this novel to fans of thrillers and very dark humour.

Read Full Post »

A disclaimer: If you are hoping to find a positive review of this book, you may want to stop reading right now.  I really did not like this book at all, for many reasons, and I always blog with honesty about films and books.  Many many people have praised this book, and this review is entirely my own opinion!  Please understand that I have no criticism of France or French people – my problems are entirely with this book and the author.

The book is part memoir, part diet advice.  The writer, talks about how France does not have the obesity problem which the US – and increasingly the UK – has.  She attributes this to the French attitude to food and eating, and suggests how everyone can adopt the same attitude, and in so doing, maintain a healthy weight without depriving themselves of the food they love.  Sounds great?  Well yes, but I have a few problems with this book.

First, the author (correctly) starts off criticising crash diets, pointing out that they rarely work long term, and can lead to a cycle of bingeing/dieting.  While this is absolutely correct, she then goes on to suggest that the eating plan laid out in this book should start with a weekend of eating nothing but leek soup – made with leeks and water.  In other words – a crash diet!  Not only is this unhealthy, but it is also possibly the first step on a binge/diet cycle, which is the very thing that people should be avoiding!  (She also speaks with delight of how she lost weight after several days of eating just yoghurt and a peach for lunch – this is hardly a varied diet, and should not be advocated.)

Second, while the book contains many recipes, some of which admittedly do sound lovely, there is nothing here that you won’t find in other decent cookbooks.  At one point, the author suggests piling salad leaves on a plate, adding tomatoes and crumbly cheese.  In other words – make a salad.  This is hardly radical or new advice.  The author also constantly mentions alcohol, to the point where I actually wondered if she had a drink problem.  It seems that she does not consider a meal worth having if there’s not champagne or wine involved.  There is in fact a whole section dedicated to champagne, and the author seems to practically worship the drink.  (She is the CEO of a champagne producing company, which also made me think that she might have her own agenda in such blatant promotion of the fizzy stuff.)

Third, while the author is married to an American man and actually lives in America, I found her attitude to the USA (and to a lesser extent the UK), to be very condescending.  The message seems to be – America is backward and silly, and France is brilliant and better in every respect.  She described how she visited a friend who was in hospital in America, and took a bottle of champagne as a gift, only to be told by the nurse that she couldn’t take the champagne in.  The author seemed utterly aghast at this, and compares it unfavourably with what she calls the French attitude (and which I suspect is really just her own attitude).  She is absolutely correct that there is an obesity problem in America, and Britain looks to be heading the same way.  I have no issue with her pointing this out, and suggesting the possible cause of the problem.  But her constant criticism of American attitudes, American lifestyle -in fact anything American – did get wearing after a while. 

Additionally, the dietary advice provided is somewhat obvious – eat more good stuff, eat less junk, and exercise.  Hardly news for anyone hoping to lose weight.  What the book fails to do is address the psychological reasons that people gain weight.  She is correct that people should not expect to have to give up simple pleasures like good chocolate or the odd dessert, but the problem is not that people don’t know that such things should only be an occasional treat – the problem is how to get your head around the issue.

Finally – while it is obvious that the author had a very privileged upbringing, and still has plenty of money to spend on the very best quality fruit and vegetables – she seems to forget that most of the advice she gives is just not reasonable for people living on an average salary.  While she can hardly wait to tell the reader that she eats at restaurants 300 days or nights per year, she also regularly mentions how people should spend more to get the best quality.  This may well be true, but for many people, the things she suggets are just not realistic.  In the aforementioned section devoted to champagne, Guiliano recommends buying a particular brand (surely not coincidence that it’s made by the company she works for) and using it to cook with and drink with the meal – this is just not practical for most people, and not affordable either.

There was one part of the book I enjoyed – in the chapter about chocolate, the author discusses the history of chocolate, and how it became the food we all know it as today.  She also says that rather than eating the cheap chocolate which is so widely available today, people should have the best quality chocolate, but only in small amounts (which I tend to agree with).  This particular section was interesting, but sadly not nearly good enough to make up for the rest of the book.

I was very disappointed with this book, especially as I had been looking forward to reading it.  I did not and do not need or wish to lose weight, but I had a very uneasy love/hate relationship with food in my teens, some of which occasionally crops up to this day – and I had hoped to find at least some insight into the psychological causes of such relationships with food.  Unfortunately, I did not find this at all.  I’d love to be able to recommend this book, but unfortunately simply cannot do so.

Read Full Post »

On the day before her 9th birthday, while eating her mother’s lemon cake, Rose Edelstein realises that she has a unique ability – when she eats anything, she can taste the emotions of the person who made the food.  In this way she discovers that her apparently happy and contented mother is in fact hiding feelings of sadness and fear.

Soon, all food becomes a chore to Rose – she can’t eat her brother’s toast, and even cookies from the local bakery reveal secrets about people she doesn’t know.  Worst of all is realising the true feelings of her family, despite their attempts to hide them.  As she grows older, her ‘skill’ sharpens and she is able to tell where each individual ingredient in a meal was grown or produced.  If she never really accepts her ability, she somehow learns to live with it.  But there are some things that her ability can’t tell her, and eventually she discovers another secret – one which she never could have predicted.

This was such an unusual book.  I definitely enjoyed reading it – it was obviously necessary to suspend disbelief, and sometimes I find that hard to do, but in this instance it was not a problem at all (although a storyline involving Rose’s brother Joseph did have me scratching my head at one point).  The whole story seems infused with an air of melancholy and dreaminess.  It’s narrated by Rose herself, and I thought her character was very well drawn, as were the characters of Rose’s parents and brother.  I found it difficult to warm to the mother, but I really liked the father; however my favourite character was George, the best friend of Joseph and the object of Rose’s crush.  He was also the only person who Rose felt able to confide in about her secret.

The writing flows well, and this book is actually a very quick read; with more time on my hands I would probably have read it in one sitting.  I was eager to find out how it ended, and if it wasn’t the ending I might have hoped for, it was certainly the ending that seemed most appropriate.

One word of warning – there are no speech marks in this book!  It didn’t particularly bother me, but I know that some people find this off-putting, and very occasionally it did lead to slight confusion about where Rose’s narration to the reader ended and her dialogue with another character began.  However, this did not detract from my enjoyment of the book.

This story was unusual and held my attention throughout – I would definitely read something else by this author.

(Author’s website can be found here.)

Read Full Post »