Publisher Clink Street Publishing
About the author:
After retiring from her career as a music teacher, Naomi Powell returned to Somerset with her husband, Maurice. She is an active member of the Ricard III Society, the Nelson Society and the Royal OverSeas League, as well as an enthusiastic gardener. From her home garden, she began Somerset Garden at the Limes, a business growing, harvesting and making her own preserves, which she operated for five years with retail outlets across North and South Somerset. This is her first book.
Here’s what Naomi Powell had to say about her early experiences of eating out, navigating the menu, and her own attempts at recipes.
Having reached the exotic age of my sophisticated late teens, I became aware that my ardent cousin sought to commander as much of my free time as possible whilst I was at home during holidays from my student sanctuaries firstly from Dartington Hall and subsequently Leeds University. As an impoverished student, this was really my introduction to the ‘eating-out experience’, and I do recall with considerable gratitude, how privileged I felt at being taken to some very smart restaurants where door stewards took my coat, indicated where the necessary plumbing arrangements were situated, escorted me to the well-dressed table and then presented me with an extensive menu, large and expensively bound.
I obviously felt reasonably at ease with these unaccustomed luxuries in spite of my naivety, as I soon learned to navigate the menu, and enjoyed the sophistication of eating unfamiliar meals under subdued lighting and hushed ambiance. In those days of my wild youth, I understood what the menu indicated quite clearly, though I was not altogether familiar with various specific dishes. E.g. Empanadas and Charlotte Royale. However, on one spectacular occasion, I do remember ordering ‘Duck with oranges’ – pretty straight forward I thought, home and dry! When the meal arrived, beautifully presented, I exclaimed with pleasure at the neat little ‘oranges’ adorning the duck – only to be corrected, ever so politely “They are tomatoes, madam; the orange element is in the sauce!” This was possibly my first confusion about menu indications, since tomatoes were not mentioned, let alone as a main ingredient. Little did I know that many moons later, I would recall this anecdote and realise the minor confusion at that time would turn into constant frustration and much greater confusion as we progressed into a food obsessed society.
My first attempt at ‘nouveau cuisine,’ or experimental desserts, remains a long lasting embarrassment. I fussed about preparing banana fritters from a new recipe I had acquired – the source of which will remain anonymous – to present to my mother-in-law to be. Sauce made and dessert assembled in pretty dish, but adhering strictly to the menu, I failed to follow my own gut instinct (naivety again). I realised too late that one can be too preoccupied with detail and miss the glaringly obvious.
The pond of sauce looked inviting, golden and textured, but the bananas – albeit in halves, did look rather rude lying pale and exposed, even with the adornment of chocolate and mint leaves strategically placed. The sauce was excellent, but it did little to hide the main content of the dessert. Needless to say, my use of bananas ever since has been minimal and they have always been well disguised.
The memorable tip here is always to camouflage these and any similarly questionable fruit in some way in order to avoid embarrassment and surprise, even though the recipe may advocate the use of these fruits ‘au naturel.’
A handy, and easy to navigate, reference guide to the terms (foods, sauces, dishes, their origins, when served etc.) used in restaurants all over the world. Some of the terms you are probably familiar with (as they are so embedded into our culture, baguettes, macaroons etc. ) but others will clear up a bit of confusion, and make choosing your meal a bit easier. Maybe illustrations could have added some colour, and visual recognition. Taking the Mystery out of the Menu would be a good book for both those who go out frequently, or those only occasionally.