Monthly Archives: December 2016

‘I did that!’ list 2016

Greetings on the last day of 2016 everyone! I hope you are planning many festivities to rid ourselves of this awful year and ring in a new one. We are having dinner with family and friends at our house. There is talk of going out afterwards but I’ve been in bed all week with flu and so I may not risk it. I would like to be rid of the coughing fits before going back to work on Tuesday.


You may (or may not) remember that last year I posted an ‘I did that!’ list, inspired by Karen Milford’s article. I liked the way it made me reflect on the year in a positive way. It was different to think about the coming year by looking back on the one just past, and rather than beating myself up about all that was left unaccomplished and continuing, I celebrated the sometimes-small, sometimes-big things that had made up the year, and had made me proud. So I decided to do it again this year. (I also have a list of resolutions, but I’m saving those until at least tomorrow, possibly Monday).

Here is my ‘I did that’! list for 2016.

1. I started a Cookbook Club, tentatively titled The Sunday Cookbook Club. I have many cookbooks. Some might say too many (my mother, for example, who, when she unpacked all the books we’d put into storage whilst she was moving house exclaimed, ‘you have 16 cookbooks on chocolate! How? Why?’) but I love them all. I don’t think I use them enough though and so I wanted to start a club that would encourage their more frequent use and would also provide an opportunity for entertaining without too much hassle. We have 5 members and have had several successful meetings. It has also meant I’ve increased my dinner-party hosting this year, which is something I wanted to do, and I’ve made frequent use of my local library. I intend to keep it going into 2017.

2. I submitted an article to a journal. Big academic step. Deep breaths. I also signed a book contract. More deep breaths. So in 2017 I will be writing a book.

3. I read more for pleasure. I cannot explain fully how happy this makes me. I have always loved reading, falling into magical worlds, being taken on journeys. Over my years as an academic, I read less and less for pleasure, concentrating instead on reading for work. This year, working outside of academia (and no longer being under PhD-related reading pressure) I rediscovered my love of reading. Related to this, I started a regular Tuesday Reading List on the blog, and posted every single Tuesday for the whole year. I’m very proud of the discipline that took to accomplish. (Reading Lists will continue in 2017!)

4. I re-learnt to knit. When I was small, my grandmother Ngonu taught me how to knit using two small red knitting needles. All through high school I knitted squares for blankets and then somewhere in the last 16-odd years, I stopped. When I got home from South Africa in September, I decided I needed some more creative pastimes and so I signed up for a knitting class at KnitNottingham. The muscle memory came back easily and I learnt how to purl and knit on the round. I’ve made several hats and am busy with a scarf. I even bought my first pattern. Now I just need to find a stitch and bitch so I can knit socially.

5. Andrés and I celebrated two years together and one year of living together. I took him to South Africa to meet all my family and friends. He survived and he is still around (so we obviously didn’t scare him too much). He also decided he loves it there and would be willing to move to Cape Town, if the opportunity ever occured. It has been a really rough year for us, but we made it through in one piece.

6. My sister and I went holidaying together in Barcelona. I was nervous of going to Spain without Andrés (my personal translator and guide) but we managed and had the best time. It was the first time in a long while we had traveled together, and I am pleased to say that it was just the same, only more grown-up and with slightly more spending money. My sister made the lists and I made the food decisions (including a totally extravagant and awesome food tour). She also provided all the commentary on the art that we saw. It was brilliant and I hope we do it again in 2017.

So that is my list for the year. What is yours?


Reading List (27/12)

Hope you all had a happy weekend! I am now as sick as a dog and so am holed up in bed with a Tana French (thanks Jen for the recommendation, am starting with In the Woods), some knitting projects, and watching the new Agatha Christie on BBC. I’m hoping to be better by this weekend…


I made Nigella’s Italian Christmas Pudding Cake (which in my head I refer to as Italian Christmas Trifle) for dessert on the 24th. It was amazing, as ever.

Taxes are hurting London restaurant chains.

On not being from here, on eating in Melbourne, and on the importance of community, immigration and sharedness in food culture. This is a great read.

For Mom: the garden at Downing St.

A photo-series of the Mari people of Russia.

Some interesting reading on the hygge-craze.

A round-up of The Guardian Long Reads. I particularly love this story on Syrian food culture.

Words from Rachel Roddy.

If the holidays have stressed you out, try some easy yoga poses.

On creativity.

The season of Advent.

I’ve not done as much baking as normal for this time of year but this collection makes me want to be well again so I can get busy! Specifically, I want to make this chocolate gingerbread and these chocolate chip cookies.

The Spanish eat grapes at the beginning of the new year, for luck.

Lucky Peach has a series of articles on the state of fine dining.

A day in the life of Auschwitz today. This is a compelling short video of the often unseen side of memorials.

A collection of maps.

I read The Innocents this weekend. It was an easy, enjoyable read about community and love, and the sacrifices we sometimes make in order to have one, the other, or both.

Hope you have a rest-filled week! x

Reading List (20/12)


An analysis of the Gilmore Girls revival. (Much of what I thought of the show. Emily Gilmore is totally my favourite.)

Quince cheese.

Food52 has a fascinating collection of cookbooks from different places. And Food & Wine has chefs’ greatest cookbooks.

I’ll be making some of these recipes from Rachel Roddy over the next week sometime. (I’ve also borrowed her book again from the library so I can read it over the next few weeks.)

My friend Jess writes cool stuff about teaching English in schools!

Brain Pickings’ favourite books of 2016.

On pavlova and Christmas tradition.

An Eater round-up of their long reads.

Secret government supper clubs!

Creating community for hardship. A really thought-provoking read on wondering why we celebrate the good stuff together but keep the bad stuff to ourselves.

Laurie Colwin’s gingerbread.

Guidelines for surviving making a bajillion cookies over the holidays.

This tart looks just divine. As does this cake. I might make one during the holidays.

If you’re a fan of Serial, watch this Christmas spoof.

Chefs and herbs.

Cooking like Ina Garten.

Catch you next week for the last Reading List of 2016, and an’I did that!’ list.

Have a happy holiday season! x

Reading List (13/12)

This is mostly a Christmas list. Turn away now if you suffer from grinch-ness.

But first, a note of sadness on the passing of AA Gill. He was one of the first food writers I read, whilst at university as an undergrad, and I loved his prose, descriptions of place, stories of food. I recently read his review of Dominique Ansel Bakery in London and it was wonderfully scathing and witty. (I don’t have a link to it because I don’t have an online subscription to The Times.) This is his last piece for Australian Gourmet Traveller.


Christmas cookie ideas. Ottolenghi’s Christmas sweets. Homemade Christmas gift ideas (I want to try make these). Brown butter gingerbread madeleines. Chocolate cherry pistachio panettoneMeringue wreaths for your tree and/or Christmas gifts.

Vertical farms.

Best science books of 2016. Best books of 2016 from NPR.And a video on the 10 learnings of 10 years of Brain Pickings.

Why Elf is the best Christmas film. (No. 22 for anyone who has ever traveled with me.)

Best Christmas windows around the world.

Jay Rayner on comfort eating. Speaking of which, saffron and almond buns.

Favourite read of the week: Gabrielle Hamilton on a weekend feast. I loved everything about this article. Total and utter food writing magic.

‘I want us all to keep our day jobs and our silly blogs and keep cooking dinner and keep fighting’. Second best thing I read this week.

I discovered this great website by accident, I think via Orangette. It’s a collection of poems and poets. You can search by theme, by poet, by occasion. Fantastic if you need some more poetry in your life. I’ve linked to one of my Christmas favourites.

An interview with Zadie Smith. I listened to the podcast version of this interview and Zadie is just so fantastic and eloquent. She talks about ‘historical nostalgia’ and how this is different for everyone – different groups of people hark back to better times but these are specific to their circumstance/class/race etc. For example, black people in the USA probably do not have historical nostalgia for the 1960s (the civil rights era)… Very interesting food for thought.

Foraged foods, grown in a community garden in Cape Town.

Picky eating in adulthood.

Gentrification or access?

New Sherlock trailer!

People making a lot of money off of Twinkies.

Dan Barber of Stone Barns. I think this story needs to be read with a healthy bout of skepticism. I am always inclined to be cautious of people who are revered as philosophers of x, with a cult-like following. Dan Barber is one of those. I am fascinated by what he has done at Stone Barns and Blue Hill but the reverence with which people write about him makes me both cautious and curious. Call it my Foucauldian training.

There is nothing food-related or book/culture related in this, but my it makes for fascinating reading.

‘Novels demand many things of readers, but the most obvious is attention. […] To read a book is to devote oneself to the book. Novels always traffic in empathy, always bring “the other” closer, always ask us to transcend our perspectives, but isn’t that attention, itself, a generous act? Generous toward ourselves?’ This is a fantastic article by Jonathan Safran Foer, on the danger of being constantly distracted.

Postdocalypse‘. So true.

And if you’re having a bad week, just have a nosy through these mashups of Donald Trump and The Queen.


Reading List (6/12)

Teaching in Finland and teaching in America.

This interactive tool from Google Lab and Truth & Beauty is amazing. Total internet wormhole.

A description of a chef and an omelette, a girl and a theatre – those early experiences of trying to discover the work you’d like to do.

Literally the most gag-worthy attempts at 70s dinner party food. (Thanks for this Leslie!)

This is hysterically funny and worth watching.

I made mince pies on the weekend. Have you started Christmas baking yet?


Cookies that are too pretty to eat.

If, like me, you love a Christmas hamper, these are rather to-die-for (with a price tag to match).

Best cookbooks of 2016 (The Guardian).

16 1/2 desserts.

Christmas as an amalgamation of cultural heritage.

Ottolenghi at The Met.

Chefs and mental health.

Chocolate cake in Italy.

Opening in a bookstore.

Have a good week! x