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Miss Dahl’s Voluptuous Delights

I’ll tell you a little secret: I’ve always been a rabid Roald Dahl fan.  You must be familiar with all his children’s books, such as Fantastic Mr. Fox or Danny the Champion of the World or The Twits or James and the Giant Peach or the one we all know and love–Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, all of which I gobbled down, one after the other, in giddy delight, when I was a child.  He has marvelous “adult” books, too, such as Skin and Other Stories or Switch Bitch, which sound bawdy and outrageous, which they are, but not in the way you think.  They all have a twist.  They all are surprising.  That’s what I like about them.

So, when I saw this book–Sophie Dahl’s Miss Dahl’s Voluptuous Delights: Recipes for Every Season, Mood, and Appetite, I was instantly intrigued, for you see, she’s Roald Dahl’s granddaughter.

I had heard once, from an editor who will not be named, that Roald Dahl had been a difficult author to work with, and when they had been working on a certain book for months, at the last minute, he pulled it from her and began working with another editor.  Not something you do if you want to be know as Mr. Nice Guy. Now, there are always two sides to a story, but this made me perk up.  I had always assumed that if I liked the author’s work, then the author must be simply fabulous.  Don’t tell me they’re cantankerous and mean and wrathful; I want to imagine them industrious and pleasant and very, very cool.  That’s ridiculous, I know, but I’m still astonished when I hear these stories.  Don’t these people want to work with skilled editors who will make their stories better, or is it a matter of author-knows-best?

Back to Ms. Dahl’s book.  Aside from the fact that I, too, like to sprinkle my writing with very British words such as lovely and horrid and delightful and churly (actually, she is British; I have no excuse), I wanted to know more about her family (hint: Roald Dahl).

Her writing makes me envision a warm, crackling fire…a soft wool afghan over my feet.  I’m sitting in an absolutely huge upholstered chair, and I’m reading.  Outside it’s London-dreary.  The rain spatters against the old windowpanes, and just that sound makes everything seem perfect.

Dahl starts with her love of food, even as a child, up through her modeling days, and ends up in the kitchen where she feels she belongs.

“And guess what?  I’m now right back where I was at seven, minus the penchant for coral lipstick and bad hats.  I just couldn’t get away from the siren call of the kitchen that is an inherent part of me.  The kitchen of which I speak is both literal and metaphoric.  It’s the sum of what I’ve learned so far, and am still learning.

“This kitchen is a gentle relaxed one, where a punishing, guilt-inducing attitude towards food will not be tolerated.  In this kitchen we appreciate the restorative powers of chocolate.  The kitchen would have a fireplace, and possibly a few dogs from Battersea Dogs’ Home curled up next to it.  There might be a small upright piano by the window, with an orchid that doesn’t wither as soon as I look at it.  On long summer days, the doors to this kitchen are thrown open, while a few lazy, nonstinging bees mosey by.  Children stir.  When it rains, there is room in this kitchen for reading and a spoon finding its way into the cake mix.  Serious cups of tea are drunk here; idle gossip occurs, balance and humor prevail.  It’s the kitchen of my grandparents, but with some Bowie thrown in.  It is lingering breakfasts, it is friends with babies on their knees, it is good-bye on a Sunday with the promise of more.  This kitchen is where life occurs; jumbled, messy and delicious.

“It is lovely.”

You can watch a video of Sophie Dahl making Asparagus Soup with Parmesan, or for a few days, you can watch previous episodes of BBC’s The Delicious Miss Dahl.

Such a fun book.  I think you’ll enjoy.

[Post image: Detail of Miss Dahl’s Voluptuous Delights cover]

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The quote I live by

Have patience with everything that remains unsolved in your heart. Try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books written in a foreign language. Do not now look for the answers. They cannot now be given to you because you could not live them. It is a question of experiencing everything. At present you need to live the question. Perhaps you will gradually, without even noticing it, find yourself experiencing the answer, some distant day.
--Rainer Maria Rilke in Letters to a Young Poet

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