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Lately my Google Reader has been full of posts about food – is it the season? I’m not a very interested cook, but I’m a committed foodie. Fortunately I found a fellow-foodie partner and a not insignificant amount of our family budget goes into trying new restaurants and bringing home local specialties (olive oil, honey, tea, wine) from our travels.

To follow the food blogging trend, I’d like to introduce The Brussels Food Club to the world. It’s the brain-child of my friend Inês, a talented amateur cook and professional graphic designer (check out her site at The Avenger Butterfly).

The idea was to challenge our group of friends to try new things and share established favorites with others. Each month we choose a theme, bring one or more dishes to that month’s host’s home, present them to the others, and then… we eat!

So far we’ve had four meetings:

The “Food From My Childhood” Edition

There were probably about 10 different nationalities in a group of about 15 people. So interesting to see the cultural differences. I made my mom’s chocolate salami.

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The “Cookies, Cupcakes and Muffins” Edition

This was a special gathering because we all cooked together, divided into three groups (go Cookie Team!).

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The “Out of Africa” Edition

My favorite Club so far for the sheer deliciousness of the food. The theme was dishes from Africa, any country. I brought two experiments and mint tea from Tunisia.

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The “Exotic” Edition

Last weekend we got together to present our experiments with unusual ingredients. I used persimmons to make a tarte tatin.

Next month it’s the Christmas Edition and I might go to Nigella for some ideas. I’ll let you know how it goes!

A few weeks ago I signed up for the All Hallow’s Read Swap and yesterday (hurrah!) I received my Secret Hallow’s gift. It was The Ivy Tree by Mary Steward (has anyone out there read it?) – which looks suitable spooky and Gothic, a usually winning combination with me.

Thanks again Tasha, it was the perfect choice and extra nice to receive it from an already blogging friend 🙂 Only hope my package will make its Atlantic crossing safely and arrive in Georgia soon.

TrishKailana and Lisa have come up with an interesting monthly meme – Where in the World Are You Reading – to get bloggers to share a piece of home. Each month will have a different theme.

This month: Waiting
October: Coffee Shop, etc.

 

Unlike previous times, I had no idea what to do for this month’s theme – “Waiting” – of Where in the World Are You Reading. So yesterday, with the deadline looming closer, I had to think fast and the first thing that came to mind was waiting for this baby to be born in mid-March.

While I wait, I read What to Expect When You’re Expecting.

TrishKailana and Lisa have come up with an interesting monthly meme – Where in the World Are You Reading – to get bloggers to share a piece of home. Each month will have a different theme.

This month: Library
September: Used Bookstore/Thrift Store

 

I’ve already posted about my local library and the Royal Library of Belgium, so it was good timing that I heard about an urban art project in the near-by city of Ghent that suited this month’s topic perfectly.

Created by Italian artist Massimo Bartolini, it’s called Bookyard and it temporary changed a famous space in the city: the vineyard of St. Peter’s Abbey. Several rows of bookcases align with the grapevines and seem to grow from the grass. The surrounding fields, covered with apple trees, invite us to turn off anything digital and just pick up a book from the stacks.

Visitors are welcome to take books with them, but are encouraged to donate to a local literacy NGO.

TrishKailana and Lisa have come up with an interesting monthly meme – Where in the World Are You Reading – to get bloggers to share a piece of home. Each month will have a different theme.

This month: Local Bookstore
August: Library 

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Let me introduce you to a fantastic place: Cook & Book. It’s a bookstore/restaurant concept, but they’re also a publishing house and a place to have concerts and other cultural events. What makes them unique is the way they organize the space with impeccable taste and into nine completely different atmospheres (comics, travel, children’s, arts, music, lifestyle, literature, English books and cook books).

It’s without a doubt my favorite bookstore in Belgium and probably anywhere else as well (see more awesome photos). Flavorwire also recognized it and included Cook & Book in their list of The 20 Most Beautiful Bookstores in the World.
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Comics section

Cooking Books section – trattoria style, complete with a classic Cinquecento

English Books section – lush carpet and dark wood, reading tables like an old English library or University.

Literature section

Literature section – books hanging from the ceiling and a game of mirrors

Here’s a video that’ll give a better idea of the space(s) (in French):

After completing her internship in an independent publisher, Jodie from Book Gazing created the Small Press Fortnight. The idea is to talk about and promote the small and independent fish in the big pond of publishing.

When Jodie invited me to be a part of the project – see full schedule – I went through my to-be-read list (about 200 titles-long) and to my surprise I came up with only one (!!) book published by independents, and this includes books from five different countries. Shame on me, but I never really paid much attention to where a book comes from.

So for the Fortnight I’ve decided to write one post about each of the those publishers, with a bit about their history, profile and a set of recommendations. Today is all about Tindal Street Press from Birmingham, UK.

First of all, a big thank you to them (especially Luke and Melissa) for their quick and enthusiastic response.

Alan Mahar (Publishing Director) and
Luke Brown (Senior Editor and Publicist)

I really like Tindal Street Press’ story because it starts with a group of writers that hanged out in a bar on a no-through-road (called Tidal Street – see what they did with the logo?). The Tindal Street Fiction Group was founded in 1983 but the publishing business was only established in 1998 as a not-for-profit arts organisation.

Since then they’ve been focusing on literary fiction with a regional flavor but a “national reputation”. They’re proud to be off the publishing beaten track – London and the South East, “where nearly all of the English publishing industry is based” – and yet still have an impressive track-record when it comes to literary prizes.

The graphic design of their books immediately caught my eye for their variety and creativity. Love the artzy feel of many of them:

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So here are some Tidal Street Press recommendations (chosen by them for my categories):

A perfect summer read

That Summer in Ischia by Penny Feeny (mystery)

“In the long hot summer of 1979, best friends Helena and Liddy travel to the beautiful island of Ischia to be au pairs to the children of two wealthy Italian families: the Verduccis and the Baldinis. From the opulent hillside villas and the sun-drenched beaches the girls plan their great adventure to find romance and excitement, whatever the cost, on the sleepy island.

But when a little boy in their care goes missing the spell is broken and the girls find themselves under suspicion from the police.”

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A book with food for thought / good bookclub-material

The Game is Altered by Mez Packer

“In the near future, Lionel’s sister Lilith disappears again, leaving him alone with his sick cat in the flat above Milk Street. Down below, CCTV cameras keep watch as the hustlers scheme and glassy-eyed girls disappear into the ‘adult heath centre’. Waiting for Lilith to return, Lionel works, chew qat and slips deeper into an alternate reality, where his alter-ego Ludi begins a heroic quest. The imaginery world he enters in CoreQuest is clearer to him than his own past, where a significant part of his childhood has been wiped clean.

When Lilith reappears, as abrasive and beautiful as ever, Lionel’s memory begins to return: the cruelty of his brothers, the religious fervour of his adoptive parents. At the same time he becomes a real life hero to a vulnerable Chinese immigrant, and the favours he has done his boss drag him into the orbit of people-trafficking gangsters, freedom fighters and the police. As Lionel is pursued across the real world and the virtual, can he save himself and the people he loves before the game is altered for ever.”

A first novel with promise

Disappearing Home by Deborah Morgan

“The second floor of a Liverpool tenement block, past nosey Mrs Naylor’s and the grotty rubbish chute, is where ten-year-old Robyn calls home. From her bedroom window she watches families where love matters, as she dreams of dolls and make-up – and parents who don’t force her to steal.

But when the random cruelty at home escalates into heart-stopping violence she knows it’s time to disappear.”

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A book set in Birmingham/West Midlands

What Was Lost by Catherine O’Flynn

“The 1980s. Kate Meaney – with her ‘Top Secret’ notebook and Mickey her toy monkey – is busy being a junior detective. She observes goings-on and follows ‘suspects’ at the newly opened Green Oaks shopping centre and in her street, where she is friends with the newsagent’s son, Adrian. But when this curious, independent-spirited young girl disappears, Adrian falls under suspicion and is hounded out of his home by the press.

Then, in 2004, Adrian’s sister Lisa – stuck in a going-nowhere relationship – is working as a deputy manager at Your Music, a cut-price record store. Every day she tears her hair out at the horribly bizarre behaviour of her customers and colleagues. But together with security guard Kurt, she becomes entranced by the little girl they keep glimpsing on the centre’s CCTV. As their after-hours friendship intensifies, they investigate how these sightings might be connected to the unsettling history of Green Oaks itself.”

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An upcoming book

After Such Kindness by Gaynor Arnold (published tomorrow!)

Inspired by the tender and troubling friendship between Lewis Carroll and Alice Liddell: “When the writer, Oxford scholar and photographer, John Jameson, visits the home of his vicar friend, Daniel Baxter, he is entranced by his youngest daughter, Daisy. Jameson charms her with his wit and child-like imagination, teasing her with riddles and inventing humorous stories as they enjoy afternoons alone by the river and in his rooms.

The shocking impact of this unusual friendship is only brought to light when, years later, Daisy, unsettled in her marriage, rediscovers her childhood diaries hidden in an old toy chest. Will reading the secrets held in those gilt-edged pages help fill the gaps in her memory and explain why the touch of her kind, considerate husband fills her with such revulsion?”

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