Warning … the photos below can cause some squeamishness… but it is a long post and the photos are way way down at the bottom of it 🙂
I can’t remember when I learned to read but as long as I can remember, one of my favourite ways of spending an afternoon is curled up with a book and and a big mug of tea close by. I don’t think a day goes by without me reading at least a few pages and I usually have several books on the go, dipping in and out of them whenever I get the chance. Or sometimes (ok, quite often) I get so carried away by the story that I don’t want to put it away and I have been known to read through the night to finish it. As a child I used to keep one ear out for any parents coming up the stairs, and quickly put out my bedside light, or hide under the duvet with a torch…
I have also been known to fall asleep whilst still holding the book or worse, being woken painfully by the book (or since moving to kindle the Ipad) falling on my nose, ouch! My OH is used to gently trying to remove a book from my hands (not always easy), and a good friend still laughs when she recalls a holiday together where she found me deep asleep in bed but still with my glasses on and holding the book upright in front of my face and closed eyes.
My interests are quite varied, I like the classics, contemporary/historical fiction, chick-lit, detectives or biographies. I do struggle with some writers though, I have never managed to master Proust’ “In search of lost time”, and I struggle with the Russian classics but that is mainly because I find it so hard to remember (and keep apart!) the names of the characters. I also noticed that I tend to prefer British writers over American, unless translated. Not sure why, and I’m not saying I don’t read any American writers just not so many.
When I’m tired and just want to wind down with a book, I often grab a detective, one of the Queens of Crime, Christie, Sayers, Marsh, Allingham, usually I have at least one of them in the book pile next to my bed. I don’t mind rereading the story, given the quantity of books I read, I often have forgotten the clues or who the murderer is by the time I get around to reading the book again.
But I also think it’s good to try out new books/authors and to add some variety to my reading list. Luckily that’s where my book club comes in. The good thing about a book club is that one gets to read a book that you might never have picked up yourself. Some turn out to be good choices, some great and some are rubbish. For a book club the best books are actually those which divide opinions, this usually leads to a good discussion about why we liked or disliked the book or to insights/realisations you wouldn’t have noticed by reading the book just by yourself.
Not that we are a very serious book club, we all enjoy reading and we do enjoy a bit a chit chat about the book, but it’s also just a good occasion to have a chat, a drink and something to eat with friends. Usually, the hosting gets circulated and whoever hosts provides the food and drinks, and if possible the food will have some relation to the book. For example, with a novel taking place in Japan, we will eat sushi. A story in France, lots of French cheeses and so on and on.
Well…last week I was hosting and the book we read was about brain surgery! We read “Do no harm“, stories about life, death and brain surgery written by neurosurgeon Henry Marsh. Not really an obvious choice and definitely not something I would ever pick out myself. Having said that, it was actually quite an interesting read – although I admit skipping over some of the detailed bits …
As a host though, it was difficult to find any food that could relate to the book, There was not much mention of food in the book itself – I guess it doesn’t help that the patients all had to be nil by mouth prior their operation – only a brief mention of hot cross buns and slightly longer mention of Ukrainian smoked eel which never got eaten and neither of which was readily available to serve during book club night. I didn’t really fancy serving up black pudding and blood soup so instead I resorted to my other favourite hobby, baking, and made a brain cake!
Disclaimer: no human was harmed whilst making this cake
So what do you think? Looks pretty cool doesn’t it? I had great fun making it and it was a bit creepy actually how quickly it did start to look like a real brain. Not that I have ever seen one in real life, but I googled some photos and used that as a model. I actually googled some photos of brain models as I was a bit too squeemish to have a photo of an actual brain in front of me whilst yielding my cake carving knife!
How did I make it? It’s quite simple and hopefully the photos below will show the steps, although I forgot to make some of the bit where I turned the “brain” upside down to add the cerebellum-).
I first layered the cake (I used 2 x 8″ and 1 x 7″ vanilla sponge) with butter cream and raspberry jam and let this firm up a bit in the fridge. I then started carving the shape, making sure to carve a groove all over to separate the two hemispheres of the brain. Once I was happy with the shape, I covered the cake in more buttercream, firstly to crumb coat it and a second layer to make sure the sugar paste would stick.
I had precoloured some white sugar paste with red and green to make it flesh coloured and started rolling sausages that I stuck to the cake in curly, wonky shapes.
I first covered the bottom part and then turned the cake up side down to make sure the “brains” reached towards to bottom of the cake. I did this to make sure the cake would look nice rounded but unfortunately it doesn’t really show well in the photo. I also made the cerebellum out of some slightly darker coloured sugar paste and placed the cake the right side up again before covering the top half.
The biggest challenge was making sure the “brains sausages” covered the cake well, that the two hemispheres were kept separate and that they wouldn’t look symmetrical.
The back of the cake with the cerebellum.
After covering the whole cake, I finished it off by brushing some blood (aka as rapsberry coulis) all over the cake and adding some syringes!
What do you think? Yuk or yum?
I now also post more (food) photos on Instagram