Ruminations and recipes from a small kitchen in a big city.


The bookshop.

I suppose it is not wrong that the cooking department is not so far from the self-help department. Cooking is self-help.

But the other day, I got bored with grinning celebrity chefs wearing stupid clothes, cherry tomatoes and lettuce leaves on oversized white plates and empty country lanes in Tuscany at sunset and I drifted over to the self-help shelves and picked up one of those books that has chapters that begin and end on the same page, puns for section headings, pearls of wisdom in every paragraph and a line on the cover that says #1 New York Times best seller.

It was an old book but still in print. I flipped through it. In chapter 26, the author exhorts his reader to set aside some quiet time every day and then adds, by way of example, that he is writing this at 4.30 in the morning, his favourite time of day; hours before he would be disturbed by interruptions from, I don't know, family, life, selfish kids wanting to be fed, the cat, that kind of thing. Then he goes on to say he stops his car a little way from home each night to ground himself before he arrives. Sounds like the guy is afraid of his family. Or the cat.

No wonder it was a best-seller, with advice like that. Get more peace and quiet - never go to bed! Sleep is ruining your life! Why waste time lying down? Park outside your neighbour's house - the attractive one - every night before you go right home! She might even invite you in! Then you won't HAVE to go home!

I put the book down. I've never liked self-help books. There are far more pressing problems to be solved than suggesting getting up in the middle of the night to save your sanity. Here are four:

If bees ate oranges instead of flowers, would they make marmalade? Where do all the pens go? Why can't you herd cats? And what do they think about when they sit in the window?

Probably new ways to scratch self-help authors.


Julie said...

You should look into the domestication of cats - and the fact that they aren't really domesticated, just humoring us. If you get an article by a good author, the subject can be quite amusing. Someone needs to write a book.

I think my cat is plotting world domination when she stares out the window. You know - allotment of Europe and catnip arms races, that kind of thing.

Anonymous said...

"Cooking is self-help."

That would be a good tagline for someone's blog.


MyKitchenInHalfCups said...

Cooking is sanity.
Although my mother always said Vanity is Sanity.

Yeah, what do cats think about?
I've been feeding a hive of bees nothing but oranges for years and all I've gotten is honey.

kitchen hand said...

Julie, I like Jerome K. Jerome on cats:
All the cats that I have had have been most firm comrades. I had a cat once that used to follow me about everywhere, until it even got quite embarrassing, and I had to beg her, as a personal favor, not to accompany me any further down the High Street. She used to sit up for me when I was late home and meet me in the passage. It made me feel quite like a married man, except that she never asked where I had been and then didn't believe me when I told her. (Idle Thoughts of an Idle Fellow, online at

Janis, it works for me. We fight to get into the kitchen.

HalfCups, I see the thinking cat from another perspective. Where we used to live, two doors down, a cat now sits in the window of what was my bedroom. He stares silently through the glass at me as if he knows it was once my territory. He occasionally enters our garden and no doubt considers it a privilege. To me.