Recently I read a newspaper article about the ‘silver linings’ families found during the COVID-19 pandemic – less time commuting allowed for more time spent at home for hobbies, creativity, and family conversations – and about how they were trying to keep these positive habits alive. I added a new habit early in the pandemic and it’s still going strong!
Instead of using our PressReader service to look at news from KW I began reading newspapers from other countries as a tiny distraction. Their daily news was comparable to my local news, but seeing it in a different font was a change, and their ‘local’ stories helped to make the world seem a bit smaller. It was truly comforting. My favourite part of the whole exercise was always to read the The Guardian, especially its supplements Review, Weekend and Feast! They are filled with weekly content designed to entertain and delight, all written by a list of authors that will amaze you.
Of course, Weekend is a magazine that you will read once and wish you hadn’t begun because it takes at least an hour to enjoy the contents every week – one weekend they featured the team that created the Oxford/Astra Zeneca vaccine and it was fascinating; their daily workload, the stress, the milestones, how they worked together, what they are feeling now and what they expect will happen next.
Feast includes recipes with different themes, such as a celebratory picnic. They did an incredible spread one weekend about picnics in horrible weather because pandemic restrictions were lifting so they knew people would want to be outdoors despite cold temperatures. Some recipes are suitable for couples or for a family, some suggest experimenting with new ingredients, and all come with colourful images and instructions. There are weekly columns from chefs like Yotam Ottolenghi, Thomasina Miers, Meera Sodha, and Great British Bake Off competitors. Yotam Ottolenghi has a new cookbook arriving on our WPL shelves soon. Well, it will end up on the holds shelf first as it is going to be a very popular book but you can enjoy one of his previous cookbooks right now – we have so many. The new book features the test kitchen and I really can’t wait to sit with it and enjoy a long read before I give some of the recipes a try.
If you would like some screen time with Ottolenghi and a behind-the-scenes look at how their team works you will love the 2020 documentary “Ottolenghi and the cakes of Versailles.” Their narrative centres around his team’s preparation for an event at the Metropolitan Museum of Art where he has been asked to create an opening night celebration suitable for the court of the Sun King. He assembles a group of incredible pastry chefs (he shares his method for choosing each of them during the documentary – watch for it) with diverse skills to build a tableau of delicacies that will make your mouth water. It’s like watching a master class in patisserie, architecture, and logistics all taking place in world-class restaurants and one of the biggest museums in the world. Not to mention, the fly-on-the wall moments are what entertaining documentaries are made of. From museum electricians working to problem-solve a malfunctioning circuit, to a pastry chef having a polite stare down with the Met chef who tries to give her the line, “I’ve been doing this job for 30+ years and I know what I’m doing,” and then quietly solves it her own way, these moments are all shown with the careful, welcoming, and enthusiastic presence of Yotam Ottolenghi. We’ve watched it twice and I know that I will watch it again just to watch him engage in conversation with the people at the museum, in the kitchens and at Versailles. He is a ball of light, tailor-made for Versailles and its royal atmosphere.
Our library’s databases and shelves are filled with stories about cakes, castles, entrepreneurs, and pastry chefs. Even if I give up on my newfound post-pandemic ‘good habits’ I know that the enduring silver lining is that the library will be here to entertain, educate, and comfort. Phew.
– Penny M.