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Monday
Dec122011

Simply Divine - A Book Review

What an irony! The cook book (Simply Divine, by Lisa Vanderpump) arrived on the day I was food poisoned. Between the trips to the loo and a medicine cabinet, I got my first glimpses of the book (and for the record, I did not take the book to the toilet). Unable to hold down any food or water, I kept looking at the juicy food photos. It felt like I went window-shopping with an empty wallet in my pocket.

 

First Impressions

  1. Bublibicious: Definitely bublibicious. As soon as I opened the book, guess who was sticking out his bubli-tongue at me? The sexy little Giggy of course! Fluffy only wishes to marry this stud, in spite of him already being married to that wrinkly old pussy.
  2. Pink: It sure is pink.
  3. Approved by Fluffy: Fluffy basically turned this book into her brand new (and very firm) pillow. On an unrelated note -- She is turning sweet sixteen this Friday. Happy birthday my dear puppy! You changed my life!
  4. Underexposed: Being a perfectionist (a professional software engineer) and an artist (a part-time photographer), I do have a lot to say about some of the photography in the book. More on that later. 

 

 

Why did I get this pink book? I don’t even like pink (besides dusty rose and the like). People like to follow advice from people who are like them (or who they think are like them). Since the author (Lisa Vanderpump) and I have a lot in common (both European, not fans of PB&J, have a chocolate problem, obsessed with furry creatures), chances are that I’ll also like her recipes. And I think I do.

The book is divided into chapters by a type of occasion you would serve the food at. The last chapter is for the “pig out” days... which reminds me, I must take this book to Slovakia this Christmas and cook something from the last chapter. Holidays in Slovakia are like nothing you’ve ever seen. My American husband can testify. It’s no joke. You basically eat, drink, eat, drink, and repeat. For the whole week. And then you go home with tupperware full of cakes and cookies.

Ahhh, the photos. All of them were taken with only available light, some without the additional (and badly needed) fill light. How do you know you need an extra light or a fill light in the scene? Use the following trick that I use when putting lights on a Christmas tree: Step back about four meters. Look towards the tree and squint, just enough to blur what you see into a fuzz of light and dark. You will immediately notice larger dark unlit areas on a tree. Add some Christmas lights and repeat. I use the same technique to evaluate a scene I’m photographing or even a finished photo. Open a page 93 and squint. What do you see? I see a black silhouette surrounded by a lot of white. If the photo was properly lit, I would be able to see a brighter spot (Lisa’s face) at the top of the silhouette, if not along the whole length of her body. Some of the photos in this book make me feel helpless. Lisa spent an enormous amount of effort to make the food and set the table, but some of this beauty was not captured properly. Even a little on-camera flash or ceiling bounced flash would do miracles. Sigh. This ends my professional rant. Moving on...

Lisa will show you how to entertain your guests at various settings, from intimate dinners to large formal parties. She will show you how to add a class and a bling using things you already have in your household (fabrics, jewelry, books, picture frames, etc).

The recipes are well explained, and once you read them, you have a pretty good idea of what the finished product would look like. However, I would still prefer to see a photo (even a small one) next to every recipe in the book. Selecting a recipe is like picking a man. You have to see it to know if you want it. No-one pays attention to online dating profiles that don't have the profile photos. The Internet era we live in lets us view recipes interactively with videos and other visualizations. Paper cookbooks need to step up their game and start including more photos.

 

 

My next challenge will be applying Lisa’s tips and entertaining suggestions to a modernist San Francisco loft my husband and I live in. Ornate tableware used in Lisa's book would not match our Herman Miller Eames chairs. We have been struggling to give our place a character and not make it look like a scene from a CB2 catalog. Its all about finding a balance between the mass-produced and the rare. Brad and I love to discover unique items that bublibish us. Our most recent find is a metalwork lamp we brought from Cairo. We decorated the whole Morrocan room around this lamp.

Decorating your own home is a great journey that makes you spend a lot of quality time with your loved one. Lisa spent her whole life personalizing her homes and restaurants, which I give her kudos for. It's easy to open a page in a furniture catalog and buy everything you see in the photo. It's a lot harder to envision the final room and work hard towards fulfilling that vision.

 

Take-Aways

The book offers few things worth adopting:

  • write a menu by hand and display it in a nice picture frame
  • use edible flowers to decorate the plates (but avoid gnarly pesticides!)
  • cook with oil, bake with butter
  • buy an oversized silver tray (any kind of food will look better on a silver tray)
  • apparently, you need to give your home a name (we’ll call ours "Bubli-Château")

 

Final Thoughts

If you are ready to stop the addictive cycle of store-bought meals and those 9pm trips to Whole Foods deli section, this book is for you (and you can get it on Amazon). Even if you don't plan to cook anything... just looking at the amazing table settings and food is always a feast for the eye. I do, however, plan to cook. I can’t wait to get my ass in the kitchen and make some of the yummuses from Lisa's book.

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