It was a great book talk which took me to Melbourne: last month:Diane Holuigue and I were both on our way to Morocco. As I packed my bags, I saw a copy of my latest book “Dining with Dragons” on my desk ,on an impulse I dropped a copy into my suitcase, hoping that Di could have time in between the long hours of air travel to read some of it. I had long been in awe of Di’s writing: prose that she employs when writing her pieces in the media and in her cookbooks.
On the plane, with some trepidation I tossed the book across the aisle, as we settled in and forgot about it after that.In Dubai, while resting before another long haul ahead, I was surprised to find Di tucked away in her bed, reading my book with serious intent.
“Carol” she looked up, “I cannot seem to put this book down” and continued reading without a pause. That went on throughout the journey, and at each stop.
We had known each other for 20 odd years, but DI felt that there was so little she knew about me. I explained my reticence to speak about my past, as it hurt too much.I told her how difficult it had been to be honest, to tell all, especially, my personal life, including the difficult war years. We decided then that her students and her book club companions may also enjoy the book if copies could be sent to Melbourne before the next book club meeting. By the end of our Moroccan trip, interest had extended to a request for classes based on recipes in the book. Di had booked me into a whole weekend in Melbourne which turned out to be challenging and interesting.
The book talk would start off as a party with tastings from recipes they were going to cook: with menus planned I began to prepare tastings, using fried tofu skins to create the exotic Nonya pork dish called Lobak, a Thai limed beef salad stuffed into hollowed out cucumber boats, baked curry puffs and a Vietnamese chao tom, fish paste wrapper around sugar cane sticks.
I had taken on too much for a single person to create for 25 people but I managed to get them all out by the time the readers came in to party.
The talk was fabulous: I was asked the most intricate questions which showed that they had all read the book beforehand. I fielded questions on the war years, mainly because this generation of Australians had very little knowledge of what had happened although many of their soldiers had been in the war but many had never spoken about it. I understood the pain that deterred them from speaking about that time. The book talk was a wonderful shared experience for a first group of Australians who are all strangers. It was heartening to know that the book had captured their interest. I felt that it would do well in Australia.
Cooking classes were another adventure. Watch out for the Assam Laksa when the cooking class experience is told.