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Roald Dahl under the lamp


roalddahlIn advance of Roald Dahl Day on the 13 September, the iconic children’s author has been under a fair bit of scrutiny in the press.   Let’s start with:

The Bad News

Revolting Rhymes was banned from Aldi in Australia last week for being well…revolting (Aldi removes ‘slut’ from store)

Interestingly, it’s not only Australian housewives who have found the rhymes in questionable taste.   Back when Revolting Rhymes was first in production it was Dahl’s long term illustrator, Quentin Blake who had reservations. In an interview with the Telegraph back in 2012 he confessed that 
“the only time I said anything was when we did Revolting Rhymes. I thought it was a bit too rude and I wrote and said, please remember that parents read these to their children. I thought he might object – but it was fine.” 

The more recent objections, made on Facebook, are a good example of social media wielding its increasingly heavy sword of influence, but is it entirely constructive?  At Book and Kitchen we find it hard not to associate banning books with dark authoritarian regimes. Whilst there is little disagreement that the word ‘slut’ is contentious (it’s meaning having shifted somewhat over time) the role of censor is not one that sits comfortably on booksellers shoulders.  Perhaps better to preserve the right to be offended and leave the consumer with the freedom to make an educated decision to buy or not to buy.

The Good News

On a positive note, there’s alot of buzz around the publication in the Guardian Review of a previously unseen chapter of Roald Dahl’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (The Vanilla Fudge Room),  which sees the demise of Wilbur Rice, a naughty boy who didn’t make the cut for the final book which turns 50 this year.  

The illustration for the chapter was provided by… Quentin Blake (there he is again!).  There can’t be many children (or adults) who haven’t come under the spell of the very fruitful Dahl-Blake marriage – terrorised by The Witches, indignant with The Twits  and heart warmed in the BFG – and that’s just scratching the surface.


Roald Dahl sadly passed away in 1990, but Quentin Blake, aged 81 shows no signs of slowing down. His latest project is the recently opened House of Illustration tucked away in a corner of the newly revived Granary Square development behind Kings Cross.

Book and Kitchen paid a visit last week to check it out.  It currently houses the “Inside Stories” exhibition which gives a unique insight into  Quentin Blake’s creative process.  Featuring a reproduction of his desk complete with pens and rough sketches, life size illustrations bounding around the walls and a tear jerker room devoted to the emotive creation of Michael Rosen’s Sad Book.  

As an added bonus it’s right next door to the new St. Martins College of Art campus complete with gratifyingly big voyeur windows allowing you to sneak a peek at aspiring fashion designers and fine art students in full creative swing.  Definitely worth a trip at the weekend.

Michael Rosen

Rosen, M./Blake, Q., 2004. Michael Rosen’s Sad Book. 2008 ed. Walker Books

To end, in anticipation of Book and Kitchen’s “The Picture book Maker” course starting in a couple of weeks, we’ll round off with some words from the maestro on illustration. “It’s like directing a play, except that you also get to design the scenery and play all the parts.” (Quentin Blake) – which sounds pretty awesome.

The Need to Read v. The Need for Speed

AugustNewsflash for all our regulars. Book and Kitchen will be closed from tomorrow Friday 22 August to Friday 29 August for Carnival and its aftermath. We love Carnival as an expression of community spirit demonstrated perfectly by our front window book of the moment (see photo). However, books are not built for dancing in the streets so we are going to take a semi-enforced reading holiday because despite being surrounded by books, we get less opportunity to read than appearances suggest.carnival

Most of us know when to eat. At a basic level it’s a necessity of life. There are also the traditional meal times which help divide up our days. In case we’re still unsure, there are certain things that give us the urge – a rumbling stomach, the whiff of garlic cooking at Book and Kitchen or reading a mouth watering recipe.

Knowing when to read can be less obvious. In modern life, the space in our heads that is reserved for absorbing books has now become inundated by a flood of information (thanks goes out to the mighty Age of Technology). Short snappy sound bytes of info from emails and social media can sometimes feel like bursts of machine gun fire to our brain. Skim reading has become the norm. Speed is of the essence, speed makes us successful, speed…is (yawn) exhausting.

So let’s breathe, take some time out and reflect on reading.

Email-Overwhelm1The fact is our brains need to read (properly). Research is starting to show that well, while our ability to skim read is at an all time high, the reality is we’re in danger of getting more stupid.  Faced with a deluge of screens and distractions, our ability to concentrate is getting shorter and shorte and short… I would like to take this moment to give a virtual high five to anyone still reading this blog.  

In the face of an accelerated modern lifestyle, what are our options?

Option 1: Adapt

Read faster. The average reading speed of an adult is 300 wpm and that doesn’t factor in the distracting beeps from mobiles, computers, washing machines, babies.  With apps in the pipeline like Spritz, which claim to be able to up your speed to 1000 wpm, you could read War and Peace in a day (but really what’s the fun in that?).  

Read shorter. Authors have got in on the act. Check out these collection of 140 character long novels on twitter. Truly gripping. Or indulge in some TwiHaiku if you need a fix of poetry.

Option 2: Resist

Make appointments with reading. The concept of going to a restaurant for two hours to eat a meal is a complete pleasure. So how about blocking out Thursday lunch time for a 2 hour date with your current book interest?

Read anywhere. According to one researcher, out of a survey of 499, more than half of men (64%) and 41% of the women confessed to being regular toilet readers.  We’re not sure about that, but other popular reading venues include beds, sofas, gardens & parks, buses, tubes, beaches, jungles and coffee shops.  And the great thing is you don’t need to make a reservation. 

Read slow. There’s a lot to be said for letting each sentence sink in like a morsel of tasty food.   Savour the book and you’ll come away with that sense of having spent a few hours in a different world.  The added bonus is you might just remember something about it a month later.

and finally, read with imagination.

See you on the 30th to compare notes.

Book and Kitchen homework

photo 1No1: Read Aya De Yopougon

Hard to believe that September, the “Back to School” month, is coming round the corner.

In anticipation of the African Reading Group (ARG) starting up again, Book and Kitchen is swatting up. Hardly a strain as our reading material is the brilliant graphic novel Aya De Yopougon, written and illustrated by the wife/husband team of Marguerite Abouet and Clement Ourbrerie.

The story follows Aya (the sensible one) and her two fun loving friends Adjouya and Bintou as they dodge their elders’ watchful eyes to paint the city 

photoperspof Yop red.We won’t give too much away but suffice to say there is a fair dose of drama, unrequited love and teenage rebellion.

The similarities with another Book and Kitchen favourite Persepolis (by Marjane Satrapi) are hard to ignore. Both are coming of age stories set in the late 70s and early 80s. Both have an emphasis on gender roles and parental control. Both have also been translated into films (clip). But whereas Persepolis takes place in a world of stark black and white contrast, Aya is aflame with the heat, colour and bustle of the Ivory Coast. 

photo 4

We’d forgotten how much fun it is to read a graphic novel.  These two books with their evocative illustrations, gripping story lines and a generous dollop of humour are far from just being comics for adults.  

It’s been a pleasure to do our homework and for those of you who want to get involved come along to the ARG reading group event on Saturday 6 September (from 5:30 pm) to pick up a copy.  

Adoration of the bush – a.k.a A Brief History of Coffee



“The Powers of a Man’s mind are directly proportionate to the quantity of coffee that he drinks” (Sir James Mackintosh)

This is a story of goats and thieves. An odd start to a blog you may think but there’s logic to it, of sorts. Once upon a time in the land of Arabia Felix (current day Yemen) a goatherd by the name of Kaldi went out to find his AWOL goats and discovered them wide eyed and gambolling around a shiny, dark leafed bush covered in red berries.

Those lucky goats had discovered the joy of coffee beans. They were soon joined in the mad dance by Kaldi and a passing learned Iman. The Iman who discovered it alleviated the monotony of praying all day no end, pinched a bit and shared it with all his fellow monks.

From these auspicious beginnings the good news spread – though not entirely through choice. Rather, like all precious things it was coveted gollum style.

In AD1650, the second thief in our story, an enterprising pilgrim from India by the cool name of Baba Budan, managed to evade the Arabian sniffer dogs by strapping some fertile seeds to his stomach and promptly planted them in the front garden outside his cave in a place by the simply awesome name of Chikmagalgur*. They flourished (it was nice and high) and his hermit friends were delighted by the new arrival.

Though it might appear at this point that coffee was just for those of a religious disposition, the Dutch soon stole a bit and found that it didn’t taste half bad when grown in Java. Coffee became fashionable. By 1715, Louis XIV, stamped his foot in France and demanded he be let in on the game. Finally, the Dutch, to shut him up, handed over a well travelled bush from Mocha, via Java. Louis was delighted with his latest toy, so much so that he built it it’s very own greenhouse and spent a solid day communing with his bush.

And here comes the second to last thief in our story, a man by the dashing name of Chevalier Gabriel Mathiew De Clieu, who stole a bush from the French andsailed off to sea headed to the Caribbean (lucky man). The final chapter of this unbelievable tale takes place at sea where a disgruntled passenger (possibly a Dutch spy) wrestled with the dashing Chevalier and wrenched off a branch in the process. And from thence it spread to Caribbean, South America and on. And here are our story ends…or does it..

Fast forward to the present day and coffee fanaticism is still alive and well as evidenced by this bean worshipper who has created a strangely hypnotic website featuring 171 pages of recently drunk cups of coffee. .

At Book and Kitchen we do our bit to keep the magic of coffee alive with a selection of coffees from all the locations that feature in this wonderful story and to bring it full circle I think I’ll go off and brew myself a Yemeni Single Origin Mocha Sana’ani coffee…

Lovely Jubbly

imageIt has been HOT HOT HOT at Book and Kitchen today though not too hot for some visiting lizards (aka customers) who basked in the rays of the outside courtyard. Personally, our favourite spot is on the tables downstairs where a cool(ish) breeze winds its way through and up the stairs.

Despite having a selection of cold drinks on hand to keep them hydrated, all we could think of was ice lollies – frozen, head shrinking coolness.

A story came to mind of one of our resident customers who has been living in the area since her childhood. On visiting the shop, she mentioned that she had visited the street as a child to pick up her favourite treat from the grocers at the end of All Saints Road* – a frozen orange ice lolly known as a Jubbly.

It got us thinking, and after a bit of digging it appears that this could well be the origin of the phrase Lovely Jubbly and not, as we previously assumed, the inspired words of the ever wise Dell Boy (Only Fools and Horses).

In the 1950s, at the height of Jubbly’s fame, an advertising campaign was launched with the catchy slogan “Lubbly Jubbly”. Following a short period of chinese whispers and some celebrity endorsement from David Jason, Lovely Jubbly came to be.

So back to the heat. For all those of you tempted to start complaining about the heat, remember the wise bard’s words “Summer’s lease hath all too short a date.” (William Shakespeare), then pick up a cold drink (or lolly), find your patch of evening sunshine and have a lovely jubbly weekend.

*For more info on All Saints Road’s story through the ages go to the  Colville History Society website.


Say it with a plate, or tea cup or book…or…

Sunny dphoto-1ays at Book and Kitchen are putting us in mind of weddings. Discussing what a perfect wedding gift would be we all agreed it would have to be something original that would stand the test of time – towels or food processors are transient.

Looking round the shop, a few things caught our eye as potential gift fodder;

photo 3

Idea #1: Melody Rose ceramics

To keep your marriage brimming,
With love in the loving cup,
Whenever you’re wrong, admit it;Whenever you’re right, shut up.
Ogden Nash (1902 – 1971)

These naughty but nice ceramics, by local designer Melanie Rosevear, are looking gorgeous in our front window display and make great wedding gifts. The “Couple” range of fine bone china plates and tea cups are bang on theme and, despite appearances, not too beautiful to use.

For something unique, a piece from Melody Rose’s quirky range of one off upcycled vintage ceramics will ensure that your gift survives the test of time.
photo 2Idea #2: A Work of Art

“Love, my dear Gigi, is a thing of beauty like a work of art, and like a work of art it is created by artists. The greater the artist the greater the art.” – From the screenplay Gigi (1958)

A piece of art to feather the nest is not a bad way to go.   Rifle through our selection of prints to find something to suit the happy pair or pick up a limited edition from one of our resident artists. 

Idea #3: A Cookbook

There is no sincerer love than the love of food. – George Bernard Shaw (1856-1950)

The importance of food in a relationship shouldn’t be underestimated. Arguments are thwarted by full stomachs so what better contribution to a life of matrimonial bliss than a cookbook.


Saving the Storyline

1107There’s been lots of author chit chat this week following Tuesday’s House of Commons debate hosted by the ALCS (Authors’ Licensing and Collecting Society). It’s clear from the survey that preceded it that the author is an endangered species whose earnings have dropped more than a third since 2005.  The threats are numerous; Amazon’s egomania, the advent of cheap ebooks, illegal downloads etc.

Amongst the authors at Awfully Big Blog Adventure, there’s a real fear that if authors can’t afford to live, they will simply stop creating or end up re-hashing existing story lines in order to increase productivity (much like the fate of some recent scriptwriting and the impact of Blake Snyder’s “Save the Cat“). 

It’s a grim thought.

At Book and Kitchen we love authors. We want to inspire them, feed them and encourage new ones. That’s why we are thrilled to be playing host to Karenanne Knight’s Masterclass in September.


Author and illustrator of “The Picture Book Maker” (described by Read it Daddy as “The Bible” of children’s writing and illustration), Karenanne offers a unique 10 week course. Her previous students include Emma Yarlett, author of Orion and the Dark, and Gemma O’Neill, author of Oh Dear Geoffrey. 

If you have a children’s book that’s waiting to be created (be it in your head or scribbled on the back of a shopping list) this is the kickstart you need.  Sessions take place on Mondays from 6-9pm in a bookshop lock-in with guest visits from publishers and authors.

For more details on how to sign up visit our website.




Don’t Forget to Pack a Book

It’s work experience week here at Book and Kitchen and we have a new resident bookworm in the shape of Yasemin Gross (age 15). It turns out she’s the perfect person to do a check up on the state of our children’s section and to put together our “suitcase” of recommendations for the school holidays starting next week.

Over to her..

Books & Holidays
by Yasemin Gross

0807I am going to give a short introduction on why I read books in the holidays. It is relaxing to do when you get bored and you explore the scene, characters, theme in the story and what genre the book is. I think a book is the perfect thing to have beside you when you are travelling around the world to any country as an extra fun tool which you can take with you any where, when you have extra time and are very tired and need a good relaxing break …mmmm

You can decide if a book is right for you by reading the blurb at the back and the way in which they describe the story and the spelling, punctuation and grammar. This helps you find out what age the book is aimed at.

The books I most enjoy reading are books such as Tom Gates, Roahl Dahl, The Chronicles Of Narnia, The Hunger Games and other adventerous stories.

Here at Book and Kitchen there are a range of books you can read: childrens books, adult books, cook books, for making and creating lovely dishes especially a family get together in the summer. For the teens, like me, there is a great range of genres that are perfect such as war, adventure, funny books and comics etc.

Why not come along to Book and Kitchen before your next holiday to pick up a book or two?

Wise words Yasemine, wise words…

The Illustrious Biscuit (or cookie)



Next time you’re dunking your favourite biscuit into your tea, stop and take a moment to reflect on this humble bit of crumbly goodness.

It turns out, much to Book and Kitchen’s delight, that the very word biscuit has it’s roots in Ancient Rome where the term “bis coctus” (Latin for “twice baked”) was bandied around in army camps where the, possibly a tad dry, overcooked bits of bread formed part of official rations.

The biscuit never looked back. Over the ages it has taken on all sorts of shapes and sizes, from delicate and sophisticated french tulles to chunky wagon wheels.  It’s alter ego is the cookie (from the Dutch word “Koekje” meaning small cake). 

In the literary world, it plays a starring role in Marcel Proust’s ‘In Search of Lost Time’.  Referred to as the “episode of the madeleine’, this wistful passage is a wonderful description of the pleasures of biscuit eating.

No sooner had the warm liquid mixed with the crumbs touched my palate than a shudder ran through me and I stopped, intent upon the extraordinary thing that was happening to me. An exquisite pleasure had invaded my senses, something isolated, detached, with no suggestion of its origin. And at once the vicissitudes of life had become indifferent to me, its disasters innocuous, its brevity illusory – this new sensation having had on me the effect which love has of filling me with a precious essence; or rather this essence was not in me it was me. … Whence did it come? What did it mean? How could I seize and apprehend it? … And suddenly the memory revealed itself. The taste was that of the little piece of madeleine which on Sunday mornings at Combray (because on those mornings I did not go out before mass), when I went to say good morning to her in her bedroom, my aunt Léonie used to give me, dipping it first in her own cup of tea or tisane. The sight of the little madeleine had recalled nothing to my mind before I tasted it. And all from my cup of tea.

—Marcel Proust, In Search of Lost Time

At Book and Kitchen the latest creation to be enjoyed is a Cardamom, Vanilla and Dibis* Cookie (see photo).  A crumbly biscuit laced with trade wind spices and a hint of natural sweetness.  Enjoys being eaten on its own but equally is partial to a good dunk in a cup of tea.

*Dibis, the Arabic word for date syrup originates from Iraq. It is traditionally and still can be used as a dip for bread, mixed with yogurt and other cream based products and as an alternative natural sweetener. We love it on ice cream. It can be used in a variety of ways and has numerous nutritional benefits.

Pinch, punch, first day of the month

010714Ah, how some of us miss those childhood days when you could start each month with some therapeutic thumping and pinching, unless of course your opponent had magically protected themselves with an invisible White Rabbit by quickly repeating the mantra “Rabbit, rabbit, rabbit”.

But where does the superstition come from? It’s a contentious subject and appropriately for Book and Kitchen there’s food involved in the form of salt*.

The Americans, always keen to stake a claim, maintain that it came from George Washington’s tradition of meeting with the locals every first day of the month to give them some fruit punch laced with salt. From there we get to “pinch and punch on the first day of the month”.

Here in the UK, we like to go further back to Ye Olde England and a time when salt was considered a handy weapon against the wicked witch lurking in your neighbourhood. Presumably one waited patiently until the start of the month before flinging a pinch of salt in her eyes followed by a generous punch – enough to make anyone feel uncomfortable.

Quite where the rabbit fits in is still uncertain…

Here at Book and Kitchen we like to think we’re not that superstitious. Though we have decided to celebrate the start of this month by opening on a Tuesday.  So from now on, feel free to drop in for books, chats and delicious food anytime from Tuesday to Saturday (10am to 6pm), and on Sunday (from 12pm-4pm).

*Mark Kurlansky’s “Salt, a World History” provides a fascinating insight into the rich history of the white stuff and its role in shaping civilisations.   Available to buy at Book and Kitchen.