Name: margalit
Location: Massachusetts, United States Professional writer, educational advocate, opinionated ultra liberal mother of 18 year old twins, living life in the slow lane due to hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, congestive heart failure, and diabetes.

email: margalitc at yahoo dot com

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Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Reading is entertaining

I've read a couple of books in the past week I wanted to tell you about. The first, the biography of Gordon Ramsey by Neil Simpson, I've already mentioned briefly. Gordon Ramsey, the "host" of Hell's Kitchen, a reality TV show on Fox, is a famous British chef. He's famous for a couple of reason, his TV shows, and his many excellent restaurants. But what he's most famous for is his temprament, which is volitile when he's working in the kitchen. On television, you see glimpses of Ramsey's other side, the side discussed throughout this biography. Mostly you see him screaming expletives at the poor hapless fools who volunteer to be harassed in his kitchen.

Ramsey has another side beyond the screaming, angry chef. He's the father of 4 children, including a set of twins. He's a dedicated husband to his wife of many years. He's a marathon runner, a former professional football (soccer) player, an attentive son to his elderly mother, and a concerned sibling to his recovering drug addict brother. He employs his father-in-law, supports his wife's business as an importer and shopkeeper of Indian decor, and he's a mentor to many younger chefs throughout England.

Ramsey's kitchen persona is one of demanding perfectionism. In fact, he is such a perfectionist that he's created some of the best restaurants in England and was one of the first chefs to turn the English food scene from boiled meats to gourmet meals. He did so from an unlikely background as the son of a depressed and demanding father who never had a kind word for Gorden. As an abused child, Gordon constantly seeked approval from his father, approval that never came before his father's untimely death at the age of 53. Because Gordon looked for approval that didn't come, he worked harder and demanded only perfection of himself. Which is exactly what he also demands of those working in his kitchens.

When you see him screaming on television, you only see a part of who he is. This is a man that is extremely supportive of the people working for him, seen in their loyalty to him. Many of his employees have worked for him for 10 or more years, which is highly unusual within the restaurant trade.

This biography has less to do with food, and more to do with the man behind the food. After reading it, I have a whole new respect for Gordon Ramsey, and an understanding of why he acts as he does on television.

Changing from fact to fiction, I also read Sophie Kinsella's latest entry into her Shopaholic series. If you've never read any of Kinsella's books, she's the master of English chick lit, and a very funny and astute commenter on culture and society wrapped up in fiction. Shopaholic and Baby is a riot. I laughed almost all the way through the book. Becky Brandon, shopaholic and new wife, is pregnant with her honeymoon baby. Becky is a professional shopper in a new large and unsuccessful department store in London. With her wealthy husband Luke, she's shopping for a new house containing her secret wish, a shoe room. I didn't even know such rooms existed, but evidentally, they do. The new house must have the most decorated, exclusive nursery containing all the expensive celebrity-endorsed baby equipment including many different types of prams. Becky hears about a celebrity obstetrician while shopping for baby, and is determined to get into her practice. Turns out that the OB is Luke's college girlfriend. And fun ensues as Becky imagines a romance between the OB and her husband. As her imagination grows wilder, Luke gets in touch with his other college friends and provides even more fodder for Becky's illusions.

Meanwhile, her best friend Suze has gotten involved with a Sanctimommy of the worst order, who is writing a cookbook on all natural, organic, whole foods to feed baby. Becky and the Sanctimommy don't like each other, but Suze is caught in the middle until, quite by accident, the incompetant private detective Becky hired to trail her husband, shoots the Santimommy on the street:

I handed Suze the long-lens photograph--the only thing I saved from the original folder. It's of Lulu in the street with her children. She looks pretty frazzled--in fact, she seems to be yelling at one of them. In her hands are four Mars Bars, which she's doling out. She's holding a couple of cans of Coke too, and under her arm is a jumbo packet of chips.

"No." Suze appears almost too staggered to speak. "No. Are those--"
"Mars Bars" I nod. "And Cheesy Wotsits."
"And Coke!" Suze gives a gurgle of laughter and claps a hand oer her mouth. "Bex, that has made my day. How on earth..."
"Don't ask." I can't help giggling too.
"What a hypocritical....cow!" Suze is still peering at the picture in disbelief. "You know she really got to me. I used to fee so inferior."

Perfect dialog that captures the Mommy Wars. The description of Becky and her husband shopping for prams (strollers) is so funny it will have you peeing your pants. I love all of Kinsella's Shopaholic books, but this one is pure gold. Honestly, don't miss it. It is the perfect summer beach read.

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Blogger JaniceNW said...

Thanks for the book reviews. I'm always on the lookout for funny books.

13/6/07 6:28 PM  
Blogger Major Bedhead said...

I'm going to have to get the Ramsay book. I have a thing for chef books and Ramsay is up there on my list of chefs I like (even if he does look like a Shar Pei).

The Sophie Kinsella books sound like just the palate cleanser I'm looking for.

14/6/07 12:31 AM  
Blogger Melody said...

I've seen those shopaholic books in the stores. Sounds like it is right up my alley. And isn't Gordon Ramsey great. I must hunt this book down too...

14/6/07 9:41 PM  

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