Tentatively I put my name forward, expecting to be rejected like a first novel doing the publishers' rounds.
But they agreed to send me a copy, so it is my privilege to be able to share my thoughts on Lavender and Lovage; a culinary notebook of memories and recipes from home and abroad.
Read on, I did!
As you can see it is already full of bookmarks, like signposts on a journey, a journey in Karen's well travelled footsteps. Each chapter reads like a carelessly put together travel itinerary, taking you where the fancy leads you rather than a meticulously planned voyage. The "snippets" are like snacks, to be eaten between meals and inevitably sharpening the appetite for more.
I have been dipping in and out of the book since it arrived, as Karen dips in and out of the phases of her life. I can imagine her moving from destination to destination with a suitcase full, not of belongings, but bulging with recollections and recipes, memories and menus.
Turning each page is like rounding the bend to a new vista, each chapter feels like you are stepping on a plane or a train, either heading or somewhere new and exciting or the bittersweet journey, bringing you back to home comforts and familiarity.. Familiarity may be the essence of what you remember, but the reality has been updated, is fresher, as though every room in the house has been redecorated in brighter, more vibrant colours.
Her "recipe" for a bacon sandwich is a case in point; the addition of Worcester sauce consigning the humdrum debate between tomato ketchup and brown sauce to the recycling bin.
For what it's worth, my father always has a smear of bramble jelly on his bacon sandwiches - don't knock it til you've tried it, it's no weirder than having apple sauce with your roast pork.
The recipes themselves are evocative of time and place, the Gregg's inspired cheese savoury sandwich filling instantly takes me back to Durham in the 1980s, the Auberge marinaded goat's cheese has me muttering to myself in French and longing for a trip to France and the recipes from South Africa bring rays of sunshine into the kitchen on a dull and grey day.
This is not only a cook book, it combines history, geography, science and literature. It is the ultimate text book!
Sentence openers like "Once upon a time.......I ran a restaurant in Cyprus" not openly makes me wonder what I have been doing with my life, but draws you in to pensive penning about conflict and reconciliation.
This book is an education, a revelation and an unadulterated joy.
Published on 13th November 2018 by Passageway Press
Netherton Foundry Shropshire 2018 ©