Posted by: billpurdue | September 23, 2010

Dame Edna and some new cookery titles

I have long been a fan of Dame Edna Everage. It all started when I bought an LP (which I still have) of a performance she gave  at a London theatre back in the 1970s. I haven’t enjoyed every TV show that she has starred in over the years, though there have been a few memorable ones, but I have been more interested to hear her on radio and to read her books. I refer particularly to two volumes, both from the 1980s which are on my shelves at home.

First there’s Dame Edna’s Bedside Companion (1982) which fills – and I quote from the blurb – “an important vacuum in the literature of the boudoir”. Dame Edna fills the book with all sorts of advice, hints and tips for getting a good night’s sleep (“Sarah Bernhardt’s bath”), choosing a bed (testing them with her friend Madge Allsop), eating healthily (“The All Cake Diet”) , and recipes for midnight snacks as well as taking a look at things like great Australian deathbed declarations and a few photos from her album. A good chuckle.

A few years later Dame Edna followed this with My Gorgeous Life (1989) “a woman’s book that men will love”. This is the definitive autobiography – her childhood, her schooldays how she came to meet Madge Allsop, her bridesmaid, and her marriage to Norm (Lord Everage of Moonee Ponds)  – not to mention Norm’s prostate problems.

Now, with much publicity on “The One Show”, BBC Radio 4’s Front Row and elsewhere, there’s the new book Handling Edna : the unauthorised biography by Barry Humphries, her manager, [Weidenfeld and Nicholson £18.99 978-0297860839] which is described as  a “behind-the-scenes, no-holds-barred look at an icon of our times”. Mr Humphreys describes his association with Dame Edna over more than half a century since the day when this Melbourne housewife (“a very irritating woman”) first approached him. He feels it is very important for him to correct the false impression that many people have that he and Dame Edna are the same person. He reveals the “shocking, frightening truth”.  I think this is a must for all Dame Edna fans, including me.

New cookery titles

When you talk about new books, you can’t avoid talking about new cookery books now and again and there are lots of new ones coming out at the moment. Marco Pierre White has Marco Made Easy: A Three-star Chef Makes it Simple [W&N £20 978-0297856511] which claims to help you make “beautiful and delicious food … without stress and without fuss”. He also shows you how to get “big flavours” from store cupboard ingredients. Note the product placement on the cover!

Another cookbook which aims to help you create something nice in a short time – we’re all so busy these days – is the new one by Jamie Oliver, due out at the end of the month. It’s Jamie’s Thirty Minute Meals [M Joseph £26 978- 0718154776]. This time Jamie shows you how to “get a complete meal on the table in the same amount of time you’d normally spend making one dish!” (Not my exclamation mark). I shall be interested to see if it is much different from Jamie’s Ministry of Food [M Joseph £25 978-0718148621] which is all about wholesome food that’s quick to prepare. I even considered buying that one myself.

Two Christmas cookery titles now – first The Hairy Bikers’ 12 Days of Christmas: Fabulous Festive Recipes to Feed Your Family and Friends by Dave Myers and Si King [W&N £20 978-0297860273]. The hirsute duo have put together the “definitive Christmas cookbook” – how many times have we heard that before? Still, their TV programmes are very entertaining and the food they cook isn’t normally exotic or with strange ingredients that are hard to find in your local supermarket, so I’m sure it will sell well.

So far all the titles I’ve been talking about are rather expensive, though you should be able to get quite a lot of them at big discounts. Here’s something a bit cheaper, and I’m sure it’s just as good especially as it comes from a reputable “stable”: WI Complete Christmas: Festive Food for a Perfect Christmas by Sian Cook, Anne Griffiths with contributions from Margaret Williams [Simon and Schuster £12.99 978-0857200280] due out on 1st October. It’s a paperback edition of the original “WI Complete Christmas”, now revised and updated and has 130 “failsafe” recipes.

With all these cookery books, how could you put a foot – or hand – wrong in the kitchen? I know I could!

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