Read this: Travels by Michael Crichton

 Travels
by Michael Crichton

I actually can’t remember where I first came across this book, but its been on my to-read list for a while, along with a few of his other books. But I managed to get my paws on this cheap, old copy via eBay, and tore through it a lot faster than I expected to! I personally loved it from page 1, but it definitely won’t be everyone’s cup of tea.

Michael Crichton goes right back to the start, when he was studying medicine, before he “made it” as a writer, which may seem a little pointless, but is completely necessary to show you why he turned to travel. This was where I realised this was the perfect book for me to be reading…

“I conceived these trips as vacations – as respites from my ongoing life – but that wasn’t how they turned out. Eventually, I realized that many of the most important changes in my life had come about because of my travel experiences. For, however tame when compared to the excursions of real adventurers, these trips were genuine adventures for me: I struggled with my fears and limitations, and I learned whatever I was able to learn.”

He wrote that he travelled because he felt lost. He felt the pressures of society and expectations. He had a lot going on in his head that he was trying to make sense of. Me too. He actually summed it up pretty well in this passage…

“Often I feel I go to some distant region of the world to be reminded of who I really am… Stripped of your ordinary surroundings, your friends, your daily routine, your refrigerator full of food, your closet full of clothes – with all this taken away, you are forced into direct experience. That’s not always comfortable, but it is always invigorating.”

He writes about some truly fascinating experiences that he’s had around the world, and writes wonderfully frankly about the impact those experiences have had on him. He also writes about more spiritual experiences and the conflict that caused in his scientific, logical brain. But at the end of the day, he’s open to so many experiences, and as someone who is terrified of the unknown, I really have to admire that – the outcomes were always brilliant learning experiences, and always took him that little bit closer to learning what he felt he needed to know about himself.

“I couldn’t stop trying to control everything… I had been taught countless times that you were supposed to make things happen, that anything less implied shameful passivity. I lived all my life in cities, struggling shoulder to shoulder with other struggling people… when I finally began to crack, when I tried to control everything about my life and my work and the people around me, I somehow ended up in a Malaysian jungle and experiences a solid week of events over which I had absolutely no control. And never would. Events that reminded me that I had my limits and I had no business trying to control as much as I did, even if I could.”

This is not a travel memoir in the typical sense, but a book that seriously challenges what you believe in terms of your own limits, and that’s a book worth reading. Grab a copy here 🙂

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Read this: The Museum of Innocence by Orhan Pamuk

The Museum of Innocence
by Orhan Pamuk

I came across this book a few months ago while reading a travel magazine that mentioned a few books worth reading that were set in certain cities. Considering we’re planning to visit Turkey next year, and it was described as being a beautiful look at Istanbul over the past few decades, I thought I’d add it to my reading list without looking too much more into it.

How to describe this book… I really have no idea. There are a few aspects to it, for me…

1. I guess on the surface it’s a bit of a demented love story. Kemal, the gentleman telling his story back in this book (beginning in the 1970s), is from a very well-off family in Istanbul society. He’s engaged to another society darling, Sibel, but manages to fall in love with a not so well-off, younger, distant relative (before anyone starts thinking this is more incestual than it sounds, it’s a relation by marriage, not by blood), Füsun.

The book starts when they first meet, and follows an incredibly tumultuous number of years; not to ruin the story for those also wanting to read it, but basically, he’s madly in love with Füsun which costs him his engagement to Sibel, and it seems, ultimately, his happiness. Star-crossed lovers, heart break, romance, etc, etc.

 

2. At several points while reading this (very long) book, I was ready to throw in the towel, because I am not a fan of romance novels. I don’t care for love lost or “The Notebook” or star-crossed lovers or any other crap like that. At those points, it just felt like a sad romance novel. But then I’d read parts like this and I realised that it actually wasn’t just a love story after all; it was a story of melancholy, of loss, of confusion, of someone trying to find meaning in their life. That, I could relate to.

“‘Don’t worry, it will pass,’ he said softly. ‘You’re still young. It’s still very early for you to be losing sleep over this kind of pain, so don’t fret. But when you’re my age, if you have some regrets in life, you’ll have to lie here counting the stars until dawn. Beware of doing things that you might regret later.'”

 

 

3. It was also a really interesting study of Istanbul as a city, with Pamuk noting how the city evolved as the characters did over the years. As someone who was already looking forward to seeing the city, I was really fascinated to read about how it had changed. And, as a woman, I  really enjoyed reading about the changing roles women played in society, and how families and groups of friends interacted. The book was written in such an effortlessly descriptive way that you almost felt you were right there when they were dining in a noisy restaurant or eating at the family dinner table.

 

4. I’ve never had an unrequited impossible love story of my own, yet parts of this novel were so scarily relatable in other ways, and just so, so beautiful…

“In fact no one recognizes the happiest moment of their lives as they are living it. It may well be that, in a moment of joy, one might sincerely believe that they are living that golden instant ‘now,’ even having lived such a moment before, but whatever they say, in one part of their hearts they still believe in the certainty of a happier moment to come. Because how could anyone, and particularly anyone who is still young, carry on with the belief that everything could only get worse: If a person is happy enough to think he has reached the happiest moment of his life, he will be hopeful enough to believe his future will be just as beautiful, more so.

But when we reach the point when our lives take on their final shape, as in a novel, we can identify our happiest moment, selecting it in retrospect, as I am doing now. To explain why we have chosen this moment over all others, it is also natural, and necessary, to retell our stories from the beginning, just as in a novel. But to designate this as my happiest moment is to acknowledge that it is far in the past, that it will never return, and that awareness, therefore, of that very moment is painful. We can bear the pain only by possessing something that belongs to that instant. These mementos preserve the colors, textures, images and delights as they were more faithfully, in fact, than can those who accompanied us through those moments.”

Reading this hit home and made sense to me. I’m a journaller, a recorder of details, a hoarder of memories. I am prone to melancholy, nostalgia, quiet sentimentality. I spend a lot of time analysing life and it’s meaning, trying to understand who and what and why I am. So does Kemal, in this book.

 

5. Following on from that sentiment that mementos have the power to preserve memories, Kemal’s character collects bits and pieces throughout the story that remind him of his love, Füsun. Cigarette butts, hair pins, pencils, a shoe, restaurant menus… He collects these things to bring him back to moments that remind him. At the end of the book, he decides to open a museum to display these memories of his life and love, and the author of the book actually opened a real life Museum of Innocence in Istanbul a few years ago.

“Sometimes, thus consoled, I would imagine it possible for me to frame my collection with a story, and I would dream happily of a museum where I could display my life… Where I could tell my story through the things that Füsun had left behind, as a lesson to us all.”

 

It was such a strange book, and it seems that people either love it or hate it. I can understand why; I kept thinking I’d hate it when I got to the end, but actually, I absolutely loved it. It was beautiful, and so worth the read. You can grab a copy here – really looking forward to visiting the museum in Istanbul now!

Read these: Hungry Planet: What The World Eats & What I Eat: Around The World in 80 Diets + What I Ate 21.October.2015

Food is (obviously) a big part of my life – it always has been, for various reasons, both good and bad, but probably more so now than almost any other point in my life; I’m currently dancing along the delicate tightrope of enthusiastic world foodie/food blogger/home cook & baker and disordered eater.

Part of my love for all things food is a great interest in what people eat; cultures and traditions centering around food really fascinate me, as do the different ways people look at their food – what it means to them (fuel or enjoyment or anything between), where it comes from, how they prepare it, the costs (ethically, financially) of their food, other people’s levels of disordered eating (because a lot of people are, to some extent), all that jazz. Which brings me to finally posting about two of my absolute favourite books, and I cannot believe I haven’t told you guys about them sooner – the incredible work of freelance photojournalist Peter Menzel and TV news producer/editor/writer Faith D’Aluisio, Hungry Planet: What The World Eats (the 2006 James Beard Book of the Year), and follow up What I Eat: Around The World in 80 Diets, are completely fascinating accounts of exactly what is eaten around the world.

Hungry Planet: What The World Eats is a stunning photographic and written representation of what families around the world eat in a week – photos of their week’s intake, along with grocery lists including the costs of that food and beautifully written interviews with the people who offered up a glimpse into their pantries, cultures and lives.  You can grab a copy here, and I really recommend you add this book to your shopping basket before you keep reading!


They followed that book up a few years later with What I Eat: Around The World in 80 Diets, which followed a similar format, but instead of the weekly intake of a family, they looked at the daily intake of individuals. Again, a completely fascinating and eye-opening account of not only the diets, but the lives and cultures of people around the world, a lot of whom told of their own struggles which always intertwined with their food; from restricting models to the desperately poor, the overweight, the rich and the very health conscious. I hope you kept your shopping basket open; add this one in there, check out, and then carry on reading 😉



So, with that inspiration in mind, I thought share what I ate today! an can be just as useful!

What I Ate: 21st October 2015

07:00 breakfast: Wednesday Morning Breakfast Club (his turn) – sourdough toast + hummus + mortadella + eggs

11:00 morning snack (my food doesn’t look this pretty every day, I’m just working from home today!) – yoghurt + kiwi + bits

12:50 lunch – left overs from last night – flour & polenta coated grilled fish + wild rice + stir fried carrot and bok choy with ginger, sesame seeds and oyster sauce
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14:00 tea time – T2’s Lamington

15:10 afternoon snack – carrot and cucumber sticks with hummus (I don’t usually have hummus but there was a bit left over from breakfast club this morning!). And yes, I’m one of those weirdos who actually like raw carrot and cucumber sticks.

18:30 dinner – taco salad bowl – wild rice + chicken + lettuce + tomato + cucumber + charred corn off the cob + spring onion + coriander + mayo

22:00 tea time – T2’s Melbourne Breakfast
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