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10 december 2019

People abroad are fairly clear what Americans mean when they say "cookie." But visitors can be perplexed at the American "biscuit." American biscuits are lardy, scone-like things eaten with butter or slathered with peppery bechamel sauce called "gravy." Worse yet, an American biscuit is not "cooked twice," as its etymology implies. Really good American biscuits should be handled lightly and barely baked at all.     read more

9 december 2019

You can't really call a mystery with war, resistance, and Holocaust themes a "cozy," but Cocco & Magella's Shadows on the Lake gets as near to cozy as such fraught themes can venture.     read more

5 december 2019

Every time you turn around, someone makes the point that tomatoes are fruit, not vegetables. Well, so what. Eggplants and peppers are also fruit, and people don't usually identify eggplants so pedantically. In botanical terms, every "vegetable" that we eat is a mere part of a vegetable. We eat leaves, flowers, seeds, stems, roots, tubers, even the bark of vegetables, and, indeed, we eat their fruit sometimes as well. "Vegetable" and "fruit" are culinary, not botanical terms. Clarissa Hyman wisely sidesteps the issue in Tomato. For her, the tomato is fruit and vegetable, the most sensible way to classify it.     read more

4 december 2019

The Girls of Slender Means is a savagely bitchy little novel that turns lyrical – in fact, Muriel Spark, in spite of herself, allows the lyricism to filter through the bitchiness all along, till you realize that neither mode would work quite as well in the story, without the other to temper it.     read more