Handling Feedback

May 13, 2017

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I’m a big fan of cookery books, even though my level of expertise in that area is still rather low (although enthusiastic). There are a lot of things that are wrong with these books (I’m still rather vaguely thinking of writing one myself to correct these errors, if only for my own use). You can easily read about the common complaints (usually too many and/or difficult to find ingredients, loose practical instructions etc) in Amazon reviews (once you’ve excluded the gushing ones).

In one case (book given above), I was quite surprised to find that the author had taken the time to reply to these criticisms, which was quite unusual although delightful. It’s a pity this is not taken on board by more authors, it could be quite enlightening. In fact, whilst checking this post, it turns out that the author, Diana Henry, replies to quite a few comments, quite exceptional!

It’s illuminating comparing and contrasting the two viewpoints, with the answer (at least in my case) being to aim for somewhere in between (so the response of the author has certainly been worthwhile and helpful).

As an example, first a reader’s comment (an extract actually):

When the ingredients of a recipe go well into double figures – that’s not simple. When the ingredients include ‘nduja (that’s an actual ingredient and not a typo), sambal oelek, smoked almonds, black “venus” rice, fregola – that’s not simple. I’m not saying I won’t cook some of these dishes, but they won’t be for midweek meals for my family. And while I may consider around 40% of these recipes to be simple, there are probably less than ten that I would attempt to put on the table midweek.

There are dishes that I will cook, that I want to cook, but this is aspirational rather than inspirational cooking. Make sure you know what you’re buying, so it doesn’t end up another beautiful cookbook on your kitchen shelf that you never open.

and now the thoughtful reply (extracted, that follows the comment referenced above):

Dear Lesley,

I’m the author of Simple and I’m really sorry (especially as I am also the mother with plenty of fish fingers and ketchup on hand) that this book was a disappointment to you. I did write in the intro to the book that I think you need to have some unusual ingredients to make everyday food a bit more exciting…

You cite the sea bream with pomegranate and walnut stuffing. You just mix the ingredients for the fish, fill the cavity and put it in the oven. It’s one of the simplest dishes in the book…

There are no difficult techniques in this book at all – I am not a chef – but there are interesting ideas and combinations of flavours. You are clearly a cook – as you say there’s lots you want to make – but please try some dishes which seem more unusual. I think you’ll be surprised. Often they seem more complicated – because they’re unusual in some way – than they actually are…

Very best wishes,

Diana Henry


Santa’s On His Way

December 24, 2016

 

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Spotted in a neighbour’s garden…and usually there’s an imaginatively dressed scarecrow in the summer!


Unconventional Time Management

July 24, 2016

Spotted on the internet whilst browsing/procrastinating:

How to stop time – kiss
How to travel in time – read
How to escape in time – music
How to feel time – write
How to release time – breathe


The Benefits of Being Disorderly

July 20, 2016

“One of the advantages of being disorderly is that one is constantly making exciting discoveries.” – AA Milne


Exploring London Through Photowalks

June 19, 2016

Portobello April 2016

A Shop in Portobello Road Market

Now that I have more free time, I’ve been wondering what new interesting activities I could start. One was getting to know the many parts of London quite well. I live near London and have visited hundreds of times of course, sometimes for meetings and other times for social reasons.

Regarding meetings, one interesting aspect has been going to various Knowledge Cafes that are organised by my friend David Gurteen (see here for context). They are held in a wide variety of venues including universities, business schools, government bodies and commercial companies (BT, Arup etc).

Apart from having interesting and illuminating conversations with people from different disciplines, it’s also been fascinating to see inside the buildings themselves and get a feel for the different atmospheres they generate.

Japanese Garden April 2016

The Kyoto Garden in Holland Park

As part of this I realised how little I really knew of London, except for the obvious places. So with various friends I’ve started doing photowalks in different areas, partly as a form of exploration and partly to improve my photography skills. The photos above and below were taken whilst exploring the attractive area around Holland Park in London.

Commonwealth April 2016

The Commonwealth Institute along Kensington High Street

There are some general, introductory tips on doing photowalks here.

In addition, this week I came across a very well made video that gives 23 creative tips for making photowalks that bit more interesting and imaginative, it’s well wroth a look:

If you have the time and interest, why not do something similar?


The McDonald’s Curve

June 18, 2016

McDonalds Curve

A really brilliant graphic.

When I visit London by train, I’m always tempted by a quick burger meal at the station (I normally eat fairly healthily). However after I’ve finished I always swear, never again! The graphic above summarises the situation perfectly – very clever.

The picture link is here.


Gore Vidal and the People’s Airplane

March 27, 2016

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Vidal with President Kennedy and his wife Jacqueline, 1961 (credit Everett/Rex)

I recently skimmed through a biography of Gore Vidal after seeing it on display at the local library.

An intimate, authorized yet frank biography of Gore Vidal (1925-2012), one of the most accomplished, visible and controversial American novelists and cultural figures of the past century.

At a similar time, I also happened to see a good documentary on him on Sky Arts.

As is often the case, the childhood of these exceptional people is also quite exceptional (I’m always hoping they’ll be mundane, they rarely are).

Here’s a revealing example (see video above):

In November 1933, Gene Vidal announced the Bureau’s plan to make owning a personal aircraft as commonplace as owning a Model-T Ford. The Bureau invited aircraft manufacturers to design a simple, safe vehicle that would sell for a target price of $700. Unfortunately, the manufacturers never thought that was feasible, even though at least one of the innovations that came out of the contest—tricycle landing gear with a steerable nose wheel—did end up influencing future designs.

In 1936, Vidal and 10-year-old Gore were filmed at Washington D.C.’s Bolling Field, demonstrating how easy it was to control one of the competition winners, the two-seat Hammond Model Y (a later version of which is in the Smithsonian collection).

As they say, “supremely confident at an early age”.

Some memorable Vidal quotes:

“I never miss a chance to have sex or appear on television.”

“It is not enough to succeed. Others must fail.”

“A narcissist is someone better looking than you are.”

“Every time a friend succeeds, I die a little.”

“The United States was founded by the brightest people in the country — and we haven’t seen them since.”

“Andy Warhol is the only genius I’ve ever known with an IQ of 60.”

“A good deed never goes unpunished.”

“All children alarm their parents, if only because you are forever expecting to encounter yourself.”

“Fifty percent of people won’t vote, and fifty percent don’t read newspapers. I hope it’s the same fifty percent.”

“The four most beautiful words in our common language: I told you so.”