The World According to Joan by Joan Collins

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Wow, is Joan Collins the most glamorous woman alive or does someone else own that title? For what it’s worth, I think she is. The role of Alexis Carrington in Dynasty probably sealed the deal.

The World According to Joan is, as the title suggests, the author’s opinions on a number of topics, from glamour, to men, aging, children, values and manners. She is so famous that her surname does not appear on the cover of this book.

Joan Collins is an entertaining writer, although there isn’t anything particularly ground breaking in this book. The insights into being famous, beautiful and successful weren’t as surprising as I had expected. There was a lot of name dropping of famous people, but since they are probably the people she actually knows, this wasn’t all that surprising either. None of the stories about famous people were either so unknown or so scurrilous that they would make a gossip page in a magazine these days either.

The chapter on travel was interesting, as the author had been able to travel Concorde, which to my generation sounds like a glamorous and fast way to get from here to there. There is a romance to the name Concorde too, which I don’t feel when I hear the word ‘Dreamliner,’ although ‘private jet,’ (as mentioned by Joan Collins), has more of a ring to it.

Not surprisingly, Joan gives her readers good fashion, or rather style advice, in a series of dos and don’ts. For example, she suggests investing in Spandex to smooth the bumps, advises that polo necks for those with bigger busts in any other colour than black will make you look like a sausage and recommends white jeans for St Tropez or wearing on a yacht (I’ll bear that in mind next time I go within Cooee of either).

I did appreciate the author’s beauty advice though, which can be summed up as KEEP YOUR FACE OUT OF THE SUN. (I can not stress this enough, having had sun spots removed from my own nose after spending my teenage years trying to get my pink, freckled face to tan). Her other tip is to wear wigs. I don’t have any wigs, but it sounds like good advice. No more bad hair days.

The advice about men was good too. If you’ve made a mistake in the man (or men) you have married, cut your losses. Move on. Joan’s advice regarding messing around with married men should be heeded also. Don’t do it. And if you are stupid enough to make this mistake, since the married man Joan Collins was messing around with did not leave his wife for her, what makes you think your married man will leave his wife for you? And if he does, would you really want him anyway? (Okay, that last sentence was my opinion, not Joan’s, but I couldn’t resist).

Joan Collins shows her age in a number of ways in this book, not by being dated, but because of her common sense. I enjoyed The World According to Joan, but after watching an interview with her on television when she visited Australia a few years ago, think she appears even more interesting in person.

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Love & Hunger by Charlotte Wood

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The sub-title of Love & Hunger by Charlotte Wood is Thoughts On the Gift of Food, and the words in this book are a gift to readers.

Love & Hunger is made up of chapters which tell stories about the author’s family and friends, and all sorts of funny, interesting and useful advice for living a gracious life. Each chapter is backed up by recipes.

The author is around about my age and Australian. Like Charlotte Wood, she grew up in a country town, so not surprisingly, I found a lot to identify with in her stories. There are stories about the most stylish woman in town, who gave the author’s father a plate of Hedgehog every year for his birthday, stories about communities rallying around families with food and love when needed, funny stories about old farmers who don’t eat fruit with their dinner (Hawaiian Chicken, Apricot Chicken and the like, all staples of the Australian family menu back in the day) and stories about wakes and dinner parties and holidays.

The useful advice is also good. I’ll be re-reading how to brine a chicken, followed by how to roast a chicken, two kitchen basics I have so far avoided. There is a lot of information dedicated to pulses and grains, which have become very fashionable in Australian kitchens over the past few years, and some excellent soup recipes.

There are recipes in this book which I am very unlikely to ever try. One example is the recipe for Pomegranate Honey. I love honey, to the point where I don’t believe it can be improved. I haven’t tasted pomegranate, but am very doubtful of whether its addition to my second favourite food can make it better or not (my favourite food is Granny Smith apples, in case anyone was wondering). I don’t think adding apples to honey (or vice versa) would improve either.

Another recipe I am unwilling to try is the one for Brussels Sprouts. Eww. I tried them once and they were bloody horrible. I agree with the author that the addition of bacon improves almost everything, but is the addition of the Brussels Sprouts going to improve the bacon? I doubt it.

Which makes me a hypocrite, according to the chapter about fussy eating. According to the author, we all have a moral obligation to our friends, families, workmates and everyone else we eat with not to be picky eaters, for the sake of good manners. Also, fussy eaters are apparently afraid of life. I like to think I have good manners and that I am brave enough to try different foods. I understand that my preference not to eat some foods, for example offal, is cultural rather than based on what the stuff actually tastes like. But if someone serves me Brussels Sprouts (or even worse, Broad Beans) I would probably prefer to offend them by saying, “No, thank you,” than by taking a mouthful of the disgusting things and then retching.

I enjoyed the chapter about surprises when eating. Heston Blumenthal’s Bacon and Egg Ice Cream doesn’t appeal to me, but I enjoyed reading the author’s experience of eating it (she loved it).

The chapter on essential ingredients was interesting, although completely different to my essential ingredients, which are obviously baking oriented.

That leads me to my only real complaint about this book, which is that the author doesn’t seem to have a sweet tooth. There are recipes for the afore-mentioned Hedgehog (which was in every Australian woman’s repertoire back in the 1970s) and for a Whole Orange Cake, but apart from a yoghurt-y thing, there were no more recipes using sugar.

Other than the lack of sweet recipes, I really enjoyed Love & Hunger by Charlotte Wood. This is a format which would work for family historians, as a way of passing down family stories and recipes to future generations. I’ve also had a look at the author’s blog, How to shuck an oyster, which is definitely worthy of a second look.