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Juggernaut interruptus [29 Aug 2014|08:19am]
Yesterday I was being all mighty and doing everything, and I did mean to post a link to the page m'wife set up on Facebook, promoting a gig I have at Sunnyvale Library - only then I had to go and murder all our darlings, hers and mine together. So I neglected to be the mighty promo machine, and failed to score two actual book-related posts in the same day.

So: if you're within reach of the Bay Area on November 5th (when else? British literary fireworks! with a guy!), come to Sunnyvale Library at 7.00pm, and I will read to you from two books consecutively. It'll be fun.
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Happy Book Day to me... [28 Aug 2014|11:59am]
It's publication day!

being small

Being Small is out now, available from your friendly dealer of choice. M'fabulous webmistress shewhomust has a collection of links to online stores here on m'fabulous website.

Michael's shadow twin - Small - was his foetus in foetu before being removed and preserved in a specimen jar at the medical school.

Michael and his single mother keep the rest of the world at bay while they hold the spirit of Small close - she homeschools Michael, moves house every six months, and at restaurants she asks for a table for three, "but there'll only be the two of us eating."

When Michael turns sixteen, he meets a household of men caring for Quin, dying of AIDS. Michael is drawn ever more deeply out of his lifelong conversation with his mother and Small and into the far more tangible world he finds at the house down the street with Quin, Kit, Gerard, and the others...

I like to call this a mainstream novel with a genre sensibility, or else a ghost story without a ghost. You choose.
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A tale of two ducks: amble? what amble? [27 Aug 2014|05:32pm]
Note to self: remembering to set the timer is all very well; hearing the timer go off is all very well*; turning it off is a fine thing in and of itself.

It would however also help if you remembered also to turn off the gas beneath the pot, with all that that implies.

*gazes at overboiled rice, more in sorrow than in anger*


*decides it'll have to do*

I have cooked the legs of the duck to rags, with all the bits beside; I have degreased and strained the sauce, and decided it to be delicious; I still need to reduce it to the consistency of pouring cream, shred the leg-meat and roast the breasts. Right now, though, I need to decide on vegetables, and act on those decisions. We have more guests than I expected, and I am coming nicely to the panic.

*actually inescapable: it is a very loud rooster-crow, right here on my belt
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A tale of two ducks: ambling forth [27 Aug 2014|01:03pm]
I do love how a heap of chopped onions will instantly deglaze a pan, even after forty minutes of hot hard frying. (I struggle sometimes to remember that onions and carrots and so forth are juicy vegetables; in the same way that I struggle to understand how olives and avocados and the like will yield up oil rather than juice. I have no notion how vegetables make oil.)

Anyway: I have sizzled the onions in the duck fat until they were very dark indeed, then added spices in number and heaps of garlic and ginger, and bathed all in orange juice and stock. (Orange trees are like coin purses, I find: there's always more in there than you think. I was seriously anxious that I might have to go to the store and buy orange juice, but no. The last of last season's ripe crop on the tree yielded plenty - and I say "the last" with an element of doubt in my mind, that rummaging might well find a fruit or two more.)

Now the duck bits are back in the liquor, and it's all seething gently in a slow oven and will stay that way for a while. Time to think about lunch, I guess...
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A tale of two ducks: amble [27 Aug 2014|11:51am]
These ducks are largely my task for the day. They arrived last night on our doorstep, and have sat quietly together overnight. This morning I have shopped on their behalf, for onions and pasilla & New Mexican chillies; then I committed butchery of a new sort to me, removing legs and wings and half the backs but leaving the breasts on the ribcage. Now I'm browning all the bits in succession, in my lovely 6qt cast-iron pot; soon I will be browning onions in the gorgeous gorgeous duck fat, before we move on to braising-in-spices. It's complicated, but when you find yourself gifted two ducks, a day's labour is the least response.

In other news, I wish purveyors of oven-ready ducks would stop sticking useless pop-up thermometers into the breast thereof. My first act is to remove and discard, and I'd rather just not have to do it. If they feel obliged to supply the things, couldn't they just include 'em in the cavity with the (also eminently discardable) orange-sauce packet?

(Also, necks and livers alone do not constitute "giblets". Where are my gizzards, where my hearts? Can I sue, can I...?)
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A tale of two ducks (preamble) [27 Aug 2014|10:59am]
Never was a man so betrayed. "Set aside the necks, hearts and gizzards," says the recipe, "but discard the livers."

Recipe, I discard you. I shall find my own way into ducks curried with oranges. And munch on my favourite chef's perk the while. "Discard", forsooth...!
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Autoschadenfreude [26 Aug 2014|11:36am]
Ah, that sense of grim satisfaction you get from simply knowing that almost all the reading public is just so very wrong: that your books do have value, that they are entirely missing out on excellent fiction, the more fools them.

Why yes, I do have a new book coming out in a couple of days: why do you ask?

(Why yes, indeed I'd rather sell in millions than dozens; but if dozens just happens to be what I've got, then I might as well find some nose-chopping way to appreciate it. It's better than resenting all my better-selling friends. Besides, it allows me to create a word like autoschadenfreude. Which, yes, I find other people have created before me, but hey. I can get pleasure out of the fact that I'm not even allowed the pleasure of being first: that is what autoschadenfreude means.)

In other news, I just wrote a sentence that includes the words should, could and would, in order. I enjoyed that quite unreasonably.
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My idea of fun [25 Aug 2014|07:20pm]
So as noted hitherto, I'm putting together a classic Bangladeshi dish, a Moghul chicken korma. Which doesn't have many ingredients, but numerous spices in various preparations. I have been roasting and grinding and marinating for a while now - but like eating appetizers rather than the main course, these little fiddly details are where the real fun lies. I love grinding a roasted cinnamon stick; you start out with a hot bit of bark, and end with revelations. And this one I hadn't come across before: steeping saffron in warmed rosewater. Two self-intent perfumes - in another mood, I'd call them narcissistic - meeting and embracing. It's delightful.

And now I have to go out into the garden and pick chillies. A takeaway korma in the UK is a joke, so mild it effectively has no spice at all, curry for people who really don't like curry; this ... will not be like that. (But I'm putting the chillies in whole and at the last minute, so people who don't want a sudden rush of heat can just pass them on to me.)
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Chest freezer contents [25 Aug 2014|05:43pm]
In the figuring-out of what to do for dinner (I had cold cooked rice in the fridge, so of course I'm making a Moghul chicken korma with rather a lot of work attached, to go with), I have finally listed everything that's in the chest freezer. This is for my own instruction and reference, obviously, and I don't promise to keep it up-to-date (tho' it is on Evernote for exactly that purpose - like the fridge-freezer list of yestermonth, which, let's be honest, has hardly been updated at all though I've been swapping things in and out of there ever since I drew it up), but just in case anyone's interested, this is what we have as of today:

Chicken thighs x 2
Veal kidneys
Ground pork
Ground beef x 3
Ground veal
Corned beef
Pig's brains
Lamb's kidney
Lamb's trachea
Chorizo sossidges
Lamb's kidney fat
Chicken leg x 2
Lamb off-cuts
Pork back fat
Lamb's heart
Lamb's liver
Lamb's lungs
Beef steaks x 2
Chicken tenders 0.5
Pork steak x 2
Bacon x 2
Andouille sossidge
Lamb chops
Chicken breast
Hamburgers x 9
Blood sossidge
Beef liver
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Patchwork pastilla [24 Aug 2014|07:46pm]
I've probably roasted more chickens in the last couple of years than in my whole life hitherto. I like roasting chickens. And there's generally half a bird left over, which gives me a carcase and giblets for stock and the parson's nose and the oysters and nibbly bits of skin'n'stuff and of course the liver for chef's perks - and still the best part of half the meat, to do something else with.

Left to myself, I'd just fling it into a wok with lots of rice and veggies and chillies and soy, and sizzle till gorgeous. Top it with an egg, and that's dinner. But m'wife is not so fond of all-in-one fry-ups as I am; she likes to balance more veggies against less rice, and like that. So I look for other things to do with leftover chicken, and the pastilla (or bastilla, or b'stilla) looks like becoming a regular.

I have numerous recipes, all of which start with uncooked chicken of one sort or another; so I have been forced - forced, I tell you! - to improvise, to mix'n'match and invent my own process. Which, at the moment, goes something like this:

Shred the meat off the chicken. Heat the oven to 400F, and toast a handful of chopped almonds.

Chop an onion and a leek (or similar), and sizzle in a little oil with garlic and fresh ginger. Add half a teaspoon each of ground ginger, cinnamon, cumin, coriander, and a full teaspoon of sumac. Salt and pepper at will. Add a couple of cups of chicken stock, and simmer until thoroughly soft.

Drain off the liquor, and reduce to one cup. Whisk three eggs with a couple of tablespoons of honey, and whisk that into the liquor over a low heat until it thickens up. Add back the onion mixture, and all your shredded chicken meat.

Melt a lot of butter, and fetch out a pastry-brush.

Butter a nine-inch cake tin or similar, and build up three or four layers of filo pastry, buttering between each sheet. (Important note: if you forget to take the roll of filo pastry out of the freezer until round about now, and find that barely a third of it has defrosted in time, that's perfectly okay; tear off those third-sheets and overlap them as you lay them down, they'll be fine. I may have done that exact thing this exact day, so I know whereof I speak.)

Scatter half the chopped almonds across the buttered filo; pour in your chicken/onion/egg mixture; scatter the rest of the almonds; lay over more sheets of filo, buttering as you go, and fold in all the edges that overlapped the tin.

Slide it into the oven, give it twenty minutes at 400 and then another twenty at 350, and you're done. Tonight I'm serving this with buttered gingered honeyed carrots, green beans and mushrooms.
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Marginalia [24 Aug 2014|04:11pm]
In other news, I love this vehicle with an unholy love - especially when I see it pootle past a train. Or turn off the rails onto the road at a grade crossing. It's liminal, amphibious, intersticial, ambiguous. Neither fish nor fowl nor good red herring. *lovety-love-love*

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Today's reading is taken from "Genius" by James Gleick [24 Aug 2014|03:59pm]
Physicists made a nervous truce with their own inability to construct unambiguous mental models for events in the very small world. When they used such words as wave or particle - and they had to use both - there was a silent, disclaiming asterisk, as if to say: *not really.

I find myself curiously enchanted by the notion of the silent asterisk, a footnote without text.

On the other hand:

The atom of Niels Bohr, a miniature solar system, had become an embarrassingly false image. In 1923 ... already he and his colleagues could see the picture fading into anachronism.

I do understand the use of simplicity and metaphor in teaching, but even so: I find myself increasingly annoyed by the fact that this was still the image of the atom that I was being taught fifty years later, without a hint that thinking might have moved on from this model. I only took physics as far as O level: that they were lying to me might have been an influencing factor. Or be kind, say rather that they were holding back on the really interesting stuff that might have engaged me further. *shrugs*
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Kale salad [24 Aug 2014|02:44pm]
This is just a waymarker in the ongoing progression of my kale-salad-for-Karen, where the process is today:

Take a bunch of dino/dyno/lacinato kale (it goes by other names also, but, y'know: even I have too many pseudonyms to list effectively), strip out the stems and chop the leaves to postage-stamp size (bearing in mind that postage stamps come in many sizes, and so do my chopped leaves).

Mix up a dressing of olive oil, lemon juice, cumin, salt & pepper, dress the salad liberally and massage the dressing into the leaves, vigorously. Leave to stand. (I have tried overnight, and I have tried one hour, and I'm not sure there's a significant difference.)

When you're ready, halve a handful of cherry tomatoes, and toss those in. Matchstick a carrot, and toss that in. Peel and deseed half a cucumber, slice into half-moons and toss those in. Roast a handful of pine nuts (last time, peanuts; next time, almonds) and hold those back.

Toss together everything in the bowl, top with a ripe sliced avocado and the pine nuts. Then, if you're us, drape crisp bacon attractively over all.
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Who is Sunnyvale, what is she, that all her friends defend her? [24 Aug 2014|09:22am]
This may be the best dot sign dot ever, to appear on our street:

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If I kept a to-do list, I could tick things off as done, if I ever did anything [22 Aug 2014|01:50pm]
There. I have finished the proofread, and tumbled through the doorway thrust the manuscript at its anxious recipient with my final gasping breath, and fallen dead at her feet as is only appropriate, and they shall call this mad dash a Brenchley and I shall go down in memoriam, unless they call it a Sunnyvale and everybody forgets the man who ran it.

And now I am cooking a lunch of sossidges, with broccolini and mushrooms and onions on the side; and then we are going to Go Out. And Have Fun. At a matinee of Guardians of the Galaxy. Because We Can.
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Chaz gave names to all the letterpress [22 Aug 2014|09:14am]
This is just to let you know that - in Chazdreamspace, at least - there are fonts called beets, drakes and eyeslash. I know this, for I used them in a poster. I rather like it, that my dreams still have text that matters.

Also, I think it sounds like a question in Round Britain Quiz. "London team: what connects a source of sugar, the male component of skipping stones, and a dog from Andalusia, with an authorial fantasy about bookmaking?" (I used to love RBQ, in its original incarnation. Alas, they remodeled after Irene Thomas' death, and I stopped listening; it's no fun when you can actually answer half the questions. I always wondered actually how it was fun for her, given that she could actually answer all of them.)
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First this, then that: now what? [21 Aug 2014|06:20pm]
Time comes in blocks, apparently, today.

This morning I was solidly at the coffee shop, eight till noon, with Jeannie and later Karen, getting work done.

This afternoon I was solidly in the dentist's chair, one thirty till three thirty, getting work done in a wholly different sense.

Right now I'd rather be lying on the sofa - my fainting couch, Karen calls it - with a book and a glass of wine, but lo, I have discovered a dreg of virtue and am proofreading against a deadline. As the deadline's tomorrow, this is probably a good thing. *sighs*

Dinner will be leftovers, if anyone wants dinner. Mostly I intend to flump in front of the TV and murmur "Pity me, kind people?" at anyone who happens to pass by. The degree of pity this actually engenders may be measured by the angle of the sneer on a cat's lip.
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Chaz'z chicken stuffing [20 Aug 2014|05:09pm]
Dishes evolve for all sorts of reasons. This, f'rexample, used to be Madhur Jaffrey's duck stuffing, but I do at least three things differently - because Karen wouldn't reliably like the deeper tones of giblets, and because I'm not going to the store just for cilantro, and because dried fruits work well around here so I use more and other kinds - and then I stuff a chicken instead, so I reckon it's mine now. With all proper acknowledgements to the source, and so forth. (I was once in my first agent's Kensington flat when Madhur - another client - phoned from New York. Of course there would be a party for Madhur's new recipe book; it would be right there, in Carol's flat. "But don't worry, we won't need to cook; we'll have it catered..." If I'd been a little quicker off the mark, I could've ended up cooking for Madhur. Or with her.)

Anyway: heat a little oil in a pan, and toss in half a teaspoonful each of fenugreek, fennel and cumin seeds. It delights me that fennel and fenugreek work so well together, given that they hang out right next to each other in my alphabetical order of spices. As soon as the cumin starts to darken - about as long as it takes to think how delightful it is, that fennel and fenugreek work so well together - add one finely chopped onion, some grated ginger and a chopped chilli if you like that sort of thing, and stir until softened. Then add a handful of chopped dried tomatoes (I use home-dried, at least for as long as my supply lasts - *makes moon-eyes at Katherine, who has a dehydrator* - but sun-dried would be fine too; Madhur uses puree mixed with water, which is really not what I want here), and chopped cilantro if you can be bothered to go to the store for it. Then a couple of cups of cooked rice; then a handful each of golden raisins (sultanas, O my UK 'earers), chopped dried apricots, dried sour cherries and pine nuts. Or slivered almonds, if the price of pine nuts is just too ridiculous. Stir in some salt, black pepper and a squeeze of lemon juice, and you're done.

Remember to give the chicken a little longer than you would unstuffed; an hour and a half in a hot oven does it for me.
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In a state of ongoing confusion [19 Aug 2014|06:26pm]
I am just sayin', but if you go to and search the whole site for "being small brenchley", it offers you only a page for the hardcover edition, with no cover image nor other information. If you go to with the same request, it offers you only a page for the paperback, with cover blurb but again no cover image.

On the other hand, go to the Kindle section on either one and make the same request? Here's the .com version and here's the version, both with covers* and pre-order buttons and all sorts. I am just sayin'. They could usefully fix their search engine, but hey: why should they bother, when I'm here to do the work for them?

*corrected covers, that is, without egregious typo
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Two lovely things make a post [15 Aug 2014|06:24pm]
The first lovely thing is my job, which positively requires me to discover, eg, the history of tinned sardines; the second lovely thing is the internet, which makes it so easy to do. (I learn that there is a book from 1938, "The Golden Book of Portuguese Tinned Fish": speaking as someone who has in fact been to a Portuguese fish-tinning factory, I think I need a copy of this excellent volume.) And did you know that the international body responsible for food safety and regulation is called the Codex Alimentarius? And that any fish other than pilchards that are canned as sardines must have their actual species identified on the can, but that pilchards are not in fact an actual species?

I should probably get back to work, but fish! Tinned fish! It's a whole thing!*

*Actually it's more than one thing. We have not touched on tuna. Which - to me, at least, and to others in the discussion t'other day - is "tuna" when fresh, but "tuna fish" when canned. My mother used to make a splendid tuna fish pie - which was certainly not a pie, any more than pizza pie is a pie. See? A whole nother thing!
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