Sunday, July 28, 2013

Firing up the Kindle - New books available on e-book format

Like everyone, when Kindle format came our I was sceptical.  I couldn't believe that this new tablet format could replace the wonderful tactile nature of a book.  However, having 20-odd titles on my current device, carrying around a couple of magazines and several cookbooks, I could be swayed - a little.  One of the criteria I used for critiquing the titles below was how they translate to the new format from their original paper book layout.  Some do well, some do not.

The Vogue Factor

From Front Desk to Editor

Kirstie Clements
In May 2012 Kirstie Clements was unceremoniously sacked after thirteen years in the editor’s chair at Vogue Australia. Here she tells the story behind the headlines, and takes us behind the scenes of a fast-changing industry.

During a career at Vogue that spanned twenty-five years, Clements rubbed shoulders with Karl Lagerfeld, Kylie Minogue, Ian Thorpe, Crown Princess Mary, Cate Blanchett, and many more shining stars. From her humble beginnings growing up in the Sutherland Shire in Sydney to her brilliant career as a passionate and fierce custodian of the world’s most famous luxury magazine brand, Clements warmly invites us into her Vogue world, a universe that brims with dazzling celebrities, fabulous lunches, exotic locales and of course, outrageous fashion.

Amidst the exhilaration and chaos of modern magazine publishing and the frenzied demands of her job, Clements is always steadfast in her dedication to quality. Above all, she is always Vogue.

Clements' style is an easy read. I'd expect this from a fashion editor.  Her early days could have been the template for the movie "The Devil wears Prada", the flirty chick flick starring Meryl Streep and Anne Hathaway. With that in mind, I'd expect at least a little dirt on the Gaultier.  Yet his light touch steers clear of the really serious issues.  Clements talks about how she runs interference across a variety of issues such as anorexia, exploited models, outrageous photographers and blatantly commercially minded sponsors.  None of this was new,  What I really missed was how she could have transformed the industry, or convinced designers to ditch their ridiculous notion that women with the waists of five year olds are sexy, desirable or even possible.  I really wanted an honest expose - alas I got a nice, reminiscent and slightly gushy romp through the annals of Aussie fashion industry. 

Another point that missed was Clements' laudable but incredibly isolated rise in fashion publishing.  She seems to have remained only with one journal through her entire career, and that must simply be the main reason why her views are so coloured.  Even now, Clements, who's been recently treading around the traps, promoting the her book, seems reluctant to really get stuck into the meat and bones of her topics.  She clearly doesn't want to upset her former employers.  Perhaps they might withdraw their references.  and this after a very public and un-ceremonial dismissal for a reason that still seems a bit unclear, and certainly undefended in employment law, anyway.

As I read this on my Kindle the irony of reading in electronic format was not lost on me.   “The day is fast approaching when a magazine and its website will only be full of lifts," she wrote,"promotional shots handed out by clients, and staff Instagrams. And there will be a whole tier of upper management scratching their heads, wondering why circulation is tumbling and blaming the editor.” A bleak message, that shows no optimism for any creative for publishing in the new world.  This rejects the efforts of other Aussie mags such as the free music press (Drum mag in particular) which tie in web links, audio and interactive content.  It may be true that the days are numbered for the 10 page fashion spread - but then who really believed that you could wear a $3000 ball gown and Jimmy Choos on a Tahitian surf beach anyway?

The Artisan Market (US edition)

Cure Your Own Bacon, Make the Perfect Chutney, and Other Delicious Secrets

Emma Macdonald
Titles such as Charcuterie, Artisan Cheesemaking at Home, and Whole Beast Butchery have blazed a trail in bringing gourmet deli techniques into the home.
Having grown up on the family's delicious, homemade Cucumber Relish, Emma Macdonald had the simple idea that full-flavored, quality chutneys and preserves needed to be brought to the specialty sector.
Since 1994, Emma and her colleagues at The Bay Tree, have been a key supplier of well over 150 chutneys, pickles, jellies, sauces, dressings and preserves to Britian's network of gourmet delicatessens.
Bay Tree products are carried in leading UK gourmet delis such as Fortnum & Mason and Harvey Nichols.
Home pickling, smoking, curing is a major trend in food.
Two types of recipes are featured in this book - recipes for deli ingredients you can make yourself, and recipes for 'semi-home made' items that make use of deli-bought ingredients.
These are things you wish you learned from your grandmother, but didn't.
Contains 'before and after' photos.

I hope this comes out in paperback format in New Zealand because this American-centric take on mostly European recipes is sorely missing from the Kiwi cook's repertoire.  In recent years American food has taken a bad rap for being over-sugared-over-processed and just plain evil.  But if you think back to the Deli food promised in the TV shows of the 70's - Pastrami on Rye, Kosher food, Chipped Beef and the like then that sends you down a better path.  The Artisan Market sort of approaches that theme, although there is a distinctively new flavour.  This is the work of a commercial caterer, Emma Macdonald, who owns her own establishment, The Bay Tree which specializes in cured meets and pickles.  Yum!  The recipes here are tricks of the trade for the home cook, focussing, in the main on traditional methods with a modern twist.  Like curing your own bacon - I was impressed with how easy this was.  Rubbing smoked salt on Pork Belly is a no brained.  and it's delicious, though not cheap.  Pork Belly is one of the priciest cuts now-a-days.  As is duck.  I won't be confiting anything in the short term on this family budget. 

Mediterranean cheese, made by mixing yogurt and salt was much easier, and affordable.  And a remarkable edition to the home kitchen.  One thing that our Grannies all did was make the most of the cheap cuts and the discarded bits, like peel and egg whites, meat bones, etc.  An artisan kitchen it seems is the upgraded model.  in a world where hunting down a real butcher, taking out a mortgage to pay for the family roast and then trying to perfect a culinary masterpiece in an apartment kitchen the size of a microwave I was a little bemused at the blatant frivolousness of the recipes.  I liked the idea of undergoing a technique and then providing the recipes to use the new ingredient.  But what I didn't like was the outrageous Masterchef quality, out of season, out of store supplies required.  Once, in a simpler time, these things were a dime a dozen.  But thanks to costly, greedy, organic specialist growers, the mass blandness and exclusion of supermarket butcheries and the over bloated demand of high end Gordon Ramsay inspired eateries many of the items in this book are simply unavailable.  Where, for instance can I just pop down to my local fish mongers for a few sardines to cure in salt brine?  Really, even in the US they aren't immediately available.  Are they fresh, native?  In Arkansas? 

Reading a cookbook that was never formatted for the genre is virtually impossible on my kindle, but a little easier on the iPad and Tablet versions, which use full colour photos, at least enhancing the ttext.  Page sizing and placement goes out the window.  Recipes are cut in half or spread out between multiple screens and interspersed with large chunks of black, indecipherable squares.  I presume this was a blackboard concept, with the original text in white font over the top.  But somehow the device has misinterpreted the idea and everything is all deconstructed, like a discarded BLT at the bottom of your lunchbox.  

The book is sound, and apart from the high costs involved with some it on the whole.  Just get the Kindle formatting right, provide alternatives for the cheaper cuts and there could be a winner here! recipes, I enjoyed

1 comment:

  1. One good thing about reading in a Kindle is that you can have as many books as you want without the hassle of carrying a physical book. But if the formatting of the ebook is distracting, that is a feedback for the publisher or the author.