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E is for...Extreme self-careShe told me I should practise ‘extreme self-care’. When you have been through so much, she said, it is the only thing to do.So I have started pushing myself to my limits. I sit for five minutes longer each day in my daily meditation, watching extreme thoughts pass like extreme clouds across my mind’s vista, as I slowly lose sensation in my legs. I have downloaded an app to monitor my progress and I post my times on Facebook. The app reminds me at intervals to just say no, records my salutations to the sun, demands to be submerged daily in a bath of Epsom salts.Where once I woke to Chris Evans, now I wake to recordings of extreme affirmations: I accept you in all of your extreme distress. I love you from the extremityof your fungal toenails to the extremely split ends of your hair.I take extreme self-care when boiling the kettle, pay extreme attention as I sip my nurturing tea. I try extreme combinations: organic chocolate with turmeric tonic, Rescue Remedy infused in peppermint tea. I dunk gluten- free biscuits just long enough for them to not quite disintegrate. I am living on the edge.I am pushing the self-care envelope to its limits. I keepto a strict timetable of rest and relaxation. I force myself to lie supine at regular intervals, booka punishing schedule of extreme massage, employ someone to stick needles in my extreme meridians, walk barefoot to feel the extremes of hot and cold on the soles of my feet.If I practise hard enough I may become a champion of extreme self-care. I could train a future generation in self-love. But not yet. I mustn’t extend myself too far. I must be extremely careful.BEVERLEY WARD used to run Writing Yorkshire but now works as a freelance writer leading workshops and retreats. She has published poetry, won a Northern Writers’ Award and in 2015 publisheda children’s book, Archie Nolan: Family Detective. She blogs about her grief at the death of her partner at and is turning it into a memoir.To submit to 'F is for...' see p80Acouple of years agoI vented my despair on social media after reading the work of a celebrity cook who, dispensing mixing instructions, directed readersto ‘totally do it with a spoon’. Jamie Oliver deserves his status as a food hero, but I can’t help thinking his writing style has been a terribly poor influence. ‘Quite frankly these broths really get me going. You can really pigSome of the best current food writing is laced with anecdotes, particularly when the writers take their culinary inspirations from their upbringing. Meera Sodha, of Gujarati heritage, grew up in England, the daughterof refugees from Idi Amin’s Uganda. In my turmeric-stained copy of Made in India she pays tribute to her mother. ‘All [her] dishes were cooked with love, instinct and her trusty wooden spoon – the same spoon that she bought just days after arriving in the UK withbarely a pennyto her name.’I love cookingSodha’s ‘dailydal’, knowing it’sthe same recipeher newly-wedmother cookedin the 1970s,in their WestLondon bedsit with a shared kitchen and a single cupboard.And here’s Lindsey Bareham in her indispensable A Celebration of Soup: ‘One of the legacies of my family’s first French camping holidays is a disproportionate affection for the aperitif Pineau des Charentes, a brandy-laced wine. For my parents, coping with four children aged between eight and 18, the discovery of this local speciality proved an essential aide de vacances’.Which reminds me not to neglect drinks. Victoria Moore’s How to Drink, a guide to choosing the right tipple at the righttime, is a source of drinking inspiration and reading pleasure, including lots for the teetotaller. ‘Often it’s the simple ritualsof drinking that give the most pleasure: the rhythm of the morning cup of tea, whether a mug of builder’s or a calming lemon-balm infusion, thathelps you out of bed to start the day; the whirr of the blender pulverising fruit... reinvented into a nutritious smoothie; or the pfft of relief as you pull open a can of tonic at 6pm.’ ❐CAROLINE SANDERSON is Associateand Non-Fiction Editor of The Bookseller magazine, and Royal Literary Fund Fellow at the University of Worcester. The author of five non-fiction titles, she also interviews writers, chairs literary events and reviews books for the Sunday Express.some of thebest current food writing is laced with anecdotesWHAT'S NEWFOOD WRITINGout on them’, being a sample of prose from his first cookbook.Good food writing is as suitable for the bedside tableas it is for the kitchen worktop. Turn to Elizabeth David’s French Country Cooking, first publishedin 1950, and you will rediscover both the nutritious beauty of stuffed cabbage (an ‘acceptable main course dish, abounding in the rich aromas of slow cooking and careful preparation’), and the essence of simple and elegant food writing, about even the most humble of ingredients. I don’t cook much Elizabeth David, but I always want to read her. Which is why these books are out now and will always be in print. Here she is again: ‘IfI question the tyranny of the recipe, that isn’t to say I take a cavalier attitude. A recipe hasto work. Even the great abstract painters have first to learn figure drawing.’Before her publishersdecided her books should lookas seductive as their author (and slashed their prose content), Nigella Lawson displayed her credentials as a food writerin her début, How to Eat: The Pleasures and Principles of GoodFood. I devoured it cover to cover when given it for Christmas, despite being in no mood to cook anything else.Made in India by Meera Sodha (Fig Tree)How to Drink by Victoria Moore (Granta Books)A Celebration of Soup by Lindsey Bareham (Penguin)TOP TIPS► If eating rivals writing as one of your great life pleasures, then why not trying writing about it? Food writing can be as appetising, sensory and satisfying as any other kind.► Know what is unique about your approach to food and eating. Do you captivate small children with cake creations? Can you work wonders with a piece of scrag-end?► Food writing combineswell with memoir: few things bring the past alive as vividly as an evocative description of what it smelled and tasted like. What are your own personal madeleines?► Individual recipes can reveal fascinating stories as they are handed down through a family, much annotated and spilled upon. There could be an entire social history in a single recipe.mslexia Mar/Apr/May 2017 71

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