‘Rice Pudding in a Duvet’, a journey home with snacks by Heather Gartside, is a book that brings on an occasional snigger and sometimes leaves you feeling downright disturbed.
Throw in a good handful of what Gartside describes as ‘Danbashing’ as a refreshing sorbet from all the nauseating over-exposure of Danish hygge by the foreign press, and you have a well-balanced yet peculiar novel/cook book/travel book to brighten up the winter months.
From her warmly-insulated kitchen in Denmark, Alice Bonneville-Beck prepares her favourite recipes and invites the reader to pull up a chair and listen to the stories that accompany each dish, which incidentally account for the bizarre title of the book and chapters.
The novel travels around the world and is perhaps a little too gleaned from the personal experiences of the author, but that’s forgivable as it’s an entertaining romp into territory that many of us wouldn’t touch with a bargepole.
Danes need not feel uncomfortable either, as several countries’ eccentricities, including the author’s UK homeland, get a good culinary and cultural battering, and the wry observation that we’re all the same really – apart from the French.
Sound travel advice
The intention of the book in the prologue is to act as a vehicle to inform a teenage daughter on how NOT to do things as she travels through life, and of course no self-respecting young adult would listen anyway.
It’s as realistic as well-meant advice gets, and as you read the book you learn two main things: how to cook some great recipes and how to turn pages quickly to pick up tips on how the mother ‘went too far’.
‘Rice Pudding in a Duvet’ takes you on an extensive romp around the world. And all from your comfortable chair as Alice recounts her charming, observant, sexy, mystical and downright stupid adventures from campsite to kitchen via the finest hotels, Parisian slums, Australian outback, and (yes) Danish swamps.
Nourishment for the soul
The book offers nourishment for the soul. It’s a light and entertaining read and a welcome change from other more cynical visions of the world in which we live. There were moments when the content was a touch too loosely woven into the plot to make it credible.
But Alice is clearly writing from the heart, inspired in the kitchen by the memories of her own path to womanhood and her quest to find the way home.
It’s in many ways a perplexing book because of its individual flavour and tempo, but once you submit you’ll realise that you’ve been well-entertained and might be looking forward to a second helping of rice pudding in the future.