Tracy Chevalier's Remarkable Creatures is an enjoyable, if not particularly exciting, book about two women fossil hunters in England in the 1800's. The women, of different classes, form an unlikely friendship, their love of fossil hunting drawing them together. I found this book less inspiring than Chevalier's other books (The Girl with the Pearl Earring, The Lady and the Unicorn) which gave a behind the scenes look at some of the greatest works of art. This was intended to give a behind the scenes look at the beginning of the discovery of dinosaurs and the concept of evolution, and I found this subject matter drier. To go with the theme of fossils, I made two kind of homemade crackers with herbs - the herbs - rosemary and sage - mounted on the crackers with egg white, look like fossils. These crackers are easy and delicious bites for a cocktail party.
When Keith Richards' autobiography Life was released, I was instantly intrigued. I am a fiction reader usually, but if I am going to read a biography, it will usually be a rock biography. And how can you not be dying to get a behind the scenes look at Keith? He is the quintessential rock star and a model for every aspiring rock star (or Disney pirate) - wasted, rebellious, gypsy looks with scarves, earrings, skull rings and kohl. But more than anything, Keith is a survivor - he has been through the fire (and looks like it) - he has survived addiction, falls from trees, hotel room fires, multiple arrests and dangerous relationships - how did he make it through all this alive? His book, written with James Fox, was surprisingly wonderful. The book reads as though you are sitting with Keith in a bar and listening to his stories - it is definitely written in his voice and seems a bit stream of conscious. What comes across most in the book is that although he is a rock star, with a rock star life (drugs, sex, groupies, booze and mansions) Keith really is a regular guy with an overwhelming passion (and amazing talent) for music. It is his love for music I think that has sustained him through the drugs, broken relationships, arrests and other adversities through the years. As an example of what a regular guy he is, the book also includes Keith's own recipe for bangers and mash. It is a little vague (excerpts below), so I improvised a bit.
What kind of recipe can you make for a book about the holocaust? I was tempted to skip the food this week and just go with the review, but then I realized Madeleines would be appropriate for Sarah's Key. The book, by Tatiana de Rosnay, is about the Vel D'Hiv roundup in Paris in the summer of 1942, where French police arrested over 13,000 Jews living in Paris and held them at the Vel D'Hiv, a cycling stadium. Eventually, the French police loaded them on trains which eventually took them to Auschwitz and the gas chambers. Sarah's Key tells the story of Sarah, both a ten year old girl whose family is arrested in the Vel D'Hiv roundup and Julia, an American journalist living in present day Paris and writing an article on the Vel D'Hiv roundup on its 60th Anniversary. The book switches between chapters from Sarah's perspective in 1942 and Julia's perspective today (detailing both Julia's own personal life as well as her investigation of Vel D'Hiv). Madeleines seemed the appropriate recipe for Sarah's Key because (a) they are French and (b) of what they symbolize - remembrance. Madeleines, as you can see, are fairly simply little tea cakes. They were made into a literary icon by Proust in his book, Remembrance of Things Past - a massive novel I have never attempted to read. In the book, the little Madeleine cookie Proust dips into his tea serves as an instant trigger for him to remember his childhood, and hence became a symbol for memory and our unbreakable link to the past. Here, let them serve to remind us to never forget the victims of Vel D'Hiv.