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A nifty writer's block idea

"When, after all attempts, there is no recipe to make, I’ll write about what I find on the relevant page or pages. Heck, it may be too good not to share." Peggy Bright

I suppose it's a bit ironic that I'm using one of my writer's block techniques (a look at a foodie blog that caught my eye), to talk about a food blogger whose entire approach is a writer's block breaker - sort of. I suppose it can't really be a writer's block work around in this case. I mean it's the whole reason for the blog.

The title - What's Cooking on Page 32 tells you everything really. The lady has a lot of cookbooks. Well the subtitle of the site is Sharing recipes from a huge collection of cookbooks. She says around 500 which is rather more than I have, although maybe if you include all those old delicious. magazines perched up high above the kitchen, and the supermarket magazines that get thrown away after use, then maybe I could be getting close. At least 100 anyway.

The lady is called Peggy Bright and she is Australian. She lives in Canberra - well that's my guess because of her companion blog, which I shall come to. Why page 32? Well apparently she ran a competition - who with one wonders - asking for a number and the winner came up with 32 - which was something to do with the birthday of Peggy's grandmother.

As I said it's a nifty idea, to pick a page number and she has a number of workarounds if there is no recipe on page 32 - try 132, 232 ... or double it to 64 or halve it to 16. Nevertheless there are problems:

"I might also try other pages because I’ve already made too many recipes of the same type, such as appetizers (a common dish in the front of cookbooks)." Peggy Bright

In some ways it's very similar to two of my writer's block tricks - the lucky dip and the first recipe. I suppose it's closest to the first recipe in that it's kind of a specific page, and there tends to be a bit of similarity in the recipes that turn up - often it's soup or a sauce, or an appetiser. Occasionally I confess I have skipped to the second recipe, but not often. I have tried to be true to the trick, but I have not made enough of looking at the importance - or insignificance of the first recipe. I should give that more thought.

The lucky dip idea has been more successful perhaps, although for possibly the first time I have found myself cheating, with the one the one that's sitting on my desk at the moment - Stephanie Alexander's A Shared Table. I have now made three or four lucky dips into this book and discarded them all - either I had done them before or they just didn't appeal. And I feel very, very guilty about that, because if you are true to the notion of a lucky dip then you have to stick with it whatever it is. I'll excuse myself by saying that most of those picks were made last week when I was suffering from COVID. I even asked David to pick a page today and rejected that - Open fruit tart. I mean what more is there to say about that! Eventually a page was chosen and will be written about some time soon - though I confess I'm not that happy about the chosen page either.

But back to the website of the day. And page 32. It was begun way back in March 14 2012 and is still going - the latest post is dated September 6. And what about her companion website Where to next?

This is a travel website of similar age, and recounts her travels, near and far, from sites in Canberra - the latest post is on a trip to the National Gallery - and others include faraway spots like Kazakhstan and Taiwan. I believe her husband was in the diplomatic corps.

The final reason she offers for embarking on this enterprise was the fact that it has made her actually cook things from her cookbook collection. Something that I also try to do with my one new, or guru recipe per week. Something on my weekly 'to do' lists written in my diary. Sometimes I write about these. Sometimes not.

This week was a 'new' week and so I chose this dish from Nigel Slater - Chicken with vermouth, tarragon and cream which comes from his Real Food cookbook. The link is to the Little Bean website and I have used their photograph because I forgot to take a photograph and there is no official recipe plus photo on the net. Suffice to say that it was absolutely delicious but pretty rich. I used a very old bottle of Martini Bianco as the vermouth, and chicken breasts, although thighs are suggested. And I think you really need the lemon juice at the end - or more vinegar, to cut through the richness, almost sweetness of the butter and cream. It was extremely simple and confirmed what a divine connection there is between tarragon and chicken. I served it with bread too - and asparagus. I chose the recipe because I wanted to do something with chicken breasts and I know that Nigel has several good recipes for them.

But I digress again from the topic of the day - What's Cooking on Page 32. Now here's a thought. Maybe for my current lucky dip I should choose page 32 from Stephanie's book - well it's Wood-fired oven bread and actually only a couple of pages away from the page I have ended up with. I think I've done this before though - New Norcia too - which is what it's really about. And again I digress to me.

Back to Peggy Bright and her collection. Her current recipe is Albanian walnut cake with lemon glaze from Sunday at Moosewood Restaurant - an almost cult restaurant - owned by the Moosewood Collective - in America. The book was published in 1990 and this particular recipe has been tried out by several different websites. Below is the finished result from our Page 32 lady - but from page 232 and also one from a website called Ribbons to Pasta. Ironically the author of the other website was also using a writer's block kind of trick - a theme - in this case Baking Around the World - from A-Z - this is obviously A - for Albania.

And here's one of life's little coincidences. The other night we watch Bettany Hughes do her thing on Albania - a country about which we knew very little. She of course was looking at archaeology, but it is obviously a very beautiful country, emerging into the modern world somewhat after years closed shut behind a communist wall.

And what is the verdict on the cake?

"I started making more cakes during the pandemic. It seemed a thoughtful and nourishing thing to do. I’ve made this one three times ... I guess we liked it because Poor John asked for it a second time. The family thought it was one of the best recipes of the pandemic ‘season’"

Interesting, since this post is dated September 2023. Why has she waited until now to publish it?

An interesting, fun concept, although she doesn't make a lot of it. The recipe is posted in full with a photograph, and there is a verdict, but not a very long one. She also doesn't say much about the books. But then maybe this is better than me rambling on about all kinds of mindless waffle. And at least she remembers to take a photograph. I just want to eat and only remember about the photograph when it's too late!

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