The Incompetent Cook Road Tests… Tex-Mex from Scratch by Jonas Cramby

Every week Booktopia’s Andrew Cattanach reviews a cookbook.

He is an incompetent cook.

He is The Incompetent Cook.


Tex-Mex from Scratch

by Jonas Cramby

It’s time for another instalment of The Incompetent Cook. This week he road tests Tex-Mex from Scratch by Jonas Cramby. Scroll down to see how you could win a Weber Smokey Mountain Cooker valued at $699!

tex-mex-from-scratch-order-now-for-your-chance-to-win-

It’s been a busy few months for The Incompetent Cook. But now it’s time to do what I do best.

Burn things and tell you about it.

From the first moment I saw Tex-Mex from Scratch I was enthralled. And then I saw its accompanying piece Texas BBQ and I fell in love. What can I say, they had me at smoked meat.

In my travels I have been to Texas. I enjoyed it immensely and was particularly taken by how many animals they found went with hot sauce. And while I haven’t been to Mexico, I am a longtime admirer of Doritos. I decided to give Tex-Mex’s Shrimp Taquitos a try.
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Great Opening Lines in Literature

“They say you can tell a lot about a book by its first line.”
- Andrew Cattanach, This Blog Post


“Mother died today. Or maybe yesterday; I can’t be sure.”
– Albert Camus, The Stranger


“Far out in the uncharted backwaters of the unfashionable end of the Western Spiral arm of the Galaxy lies a small unregarded yellow sun.”
– Douglas Adams, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy


“Emma Woodhouse, handsome, clever, and rich, with a comfortable home and happy disposition, seemed to unite some of the best blessings of existence; and had lived nearly twenty-one years in the world with very little to distress or vex her.”
– Jane Austen, Emma


“It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife. However little known the feelings or views of such a man may be on his first entering a neighbourhood, this truth is so well fixed in the minds of the surrounding families, that he is considered as the rightful property of some one or other of their daughters.”
– Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice


“Dr Iannis had enjoyed a satisfactory day in which none of his patients had died or got any worse.”
– Louis de Bernieres, Captain Corelli’s Mandolin


“It was a pleasure to burn.”
– Ray Bradbury, Fahrenheit 451


“Who’s there?”
– William Shakespeare, Hamlet


“I have just returned from a visit to my landlord–the solitary neighbour that I shall be troubled with. This is certainly a beautiful country! In all England, I do not believe that I could have fixed on a situation so completely removed from the stir of society.”
– Emily Bronte, Wuthering Heights


“Alice was beginning to get very tired of sitting by her sister on the bank, and of having nothing to do: once or twice she had peeped into the book her sister was reading, but it had no pictures or conversations in it, `and what is the use of a book,’ thought Alice `without pictures or conversation?'”
– Lewis Carroll, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland


“The drought had lasted now for ten million years, and the reign of the terrible lizards had long since ended. Here on the Equator, in the continent which would one day be known as Africa, the battle for existence had reached a new climax of ferocity, and the victor was not yet in sight.”
– Arthur C. Clarke, 2001: A Space Odyssey


“Midway in our life’s journey, I went astray from the straight road and woke to find myself alone in a dark wood.”
– Dante Alighieri, The Divine Comedy, Inferno


“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way – in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.”
– Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities


“James Bond, with two double bourbons inside him, sat in the final departure lounge of Miami Airport and thought about life and death.”
– Ian Fleming, Goldfinger


“When Farmer Oak smiled, the corners of his mouth spread till they were within an unimportant distance of his ears, his eyes were reduced to chinks, and diverging wrinkles appeared round them, extending upon his countenance like the rays in a rudimentary sketch of the rising sun.”
– Thomas Hardy, Far from the Madding Crowd


“It was love at first sight. The first time Yossarian saw the chaplain he fell madly in love with him.”
– Joseph Heller, Catch-22


“A squat grey building of only thirty-four stories. Over the main entrance the words, CENTRAL LONDON HATCHERY AND CONDITIONING CENTRE, and in a shield, the World State’s motto, COMMUNITY, IDENTITY, STABILITY.”
– Aldous Huxley, Brave New World


“As Gregor Samsa awoke one morning from uneasy dreams he found himself transformed in his bed into a gigantic insect.”
– Franz Kafka, The Metamorphosis


“It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen. Winston Smith, his chin nuzzled into his breast in an effort to escape the vile wind, slipped quickly through the glass doors of Victory Mansions, though not quickly enough to prevent a swirl of gritty dust from entering along with him.”
– George Orwell, 1984


“On they went, singing ‘Eternal Memory’, and whenever they stopped, the sound of their feet, the horses and the gusts of wind seemed to carry on their singing.”
– Boris Pasternak, Doctor Zhivago


“It was a queer, sultry summer, the summer they electrocuted the Rosenbergs, and I didn’t know what I was doing in New York.”
– Sylvia Plath, The Bell Jar


“I began this disorderly and almost endless collection of scattered thoughts and observations in order to gratify a good mother who knows how to think.”
– Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Emile


“Two households, both alike in dignity,
In fair Verona, where we lay our scene,
From ancient grudge break to new mutiny,
Where civil blood makes civil hands unclean.”
– William Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet


“The year 1866 was signalized by a remarkable incident, a mysterious and inexplicable phenomenon, which doubtless no one has yet forgotten.”
– Jules Verne, Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea


“The Time Traveller (for so it will be convenient to speak of him) was expounding a recondite matter to us.”
– H.G. Wells, The Time Machine


Know a great opening line we’ve missed? Share it in the comments below!

BOOK REVIEW: Golden Boys by Sonya Hartnett (Review by Andrew Cattanach)

And as the boys crowd at the door catching their breath in amazement, Colt sees it all, suddenly, for what it is. His father spends money not merely on making his sons envied, but on making them – and the word seems to tip the floor – enticing.

golden-boysWith Golden Boys, Sonya Hartnett has surely established herself as one of the finest Australian novelists of her generation, nearly twenty years after making her name as one of our most celebrated children’s authors.

It is her skills as a children’s writer that makes her latest novel so penetrating. Her understanding of a child’s psyche, their motivations and how they interact with one another.

Golden Boys is told through several children’s eyes with an adult tongue, a small group of children whose lives are shaken when a wealthy new family moves into their working class suburb. The family’s two young boys, Colt and Bastian, have spent their lives inexplicably moving from place to place, school to school. As Colt grows older, he begins to realise why.

This is an Australia we all know, from the searing asphalt to the prickly nature strips. The only thing more unsettling than the things that lurk behind closed doors are the things that are out in the open we can see, yet choose to do nothing about. Perhaps out of politeness or because we have problems we feel are more pressing, the ramifications of these decisions are often widespread and can be felt for years.

Sonya HartnettHartnett explores a central theme that has run throughout children’s literature for centuries – freedom. From Huckleberry Finn to Jasper Jones, a child’s development and growth is usually the result of freedom. But as Hartnett argues, often this freedom is a result of neglect, not savvy parenting. Freedom from neglect has become a prominent phrase in society, but since the publication of Golden Boys, the danger of the freedom of neglect might now become an important topic when tackling problems children are forced to face.

Without a doubt, Golden Boys is one of the finest novels I’ve read in 2014, and perhaps the best Australian novel of the year so far. Don’t be put off by the heavy territory Hartnett explores. This is an Australian classic in the making, full of rich, diverse characters, strong central themes and masterful prose. Get in early before the awards season rolls around and everyone is talking about this extraordinary work.

Grab a copy of Sonia Hartnett’s Golden Boys here

Andrew Cattanach is a regular contributor to The Booktopia Blog and was shortlisted for The Age Short Story Prize. He enjoys reading, writing and sleeping, though finds it difficult to do them all at once.

You can follow his ramblings on twitter at @andrew__cat

BOOK REVIEW: Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage by Haruki Murakami (Review by Andrew Cattanach)

Haruki Murakami’s quest to honour his literary hero Franz Kafka has resulted in Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage, one of his most moving and accessible novels in years.

While Franz Kafka remains best known for his genre-bending novella The Metamorphosis, most will point to his 1925 novel The Trial as his opus, a deeply personal meditation on sex, society and isolation.

Murakami’s latest offering navigates similar waters. A young male protagonist slowly driven to breaking point by, what he perceives to be, an unjust judgement handed down upon him by the people he most cares about.

Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage is as down to earth as Murakami has been for a long time. Talking cats, and vanishing elephants give way to musings on Arnold Wesker, The Pet Shop Boys and Barry Manilow.

When Tsukuru Tazaki is cut off without reason by his circle of high school friends during his sophomore year in college, his world spirals out of control, craving no human interaction and little appetite for food or life, pure hopelessness.

Fast forward twenty years and, despite halting his downward spiral, he is still haunted by those inexplicable events. At his girlfriend’s urging, he tracks down his former friends to get the answer for himself. The journeys he takes turn out to be as much inward as out of town. And as is often the case in Murakami’s fiction, his characters are all about introspection.

murakamiMurakami’s prose has always enthralled me, and Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki is no exception. His overall tone remains one of the most difficult to pin down in literature, with gorgeous flourishes routinely intercepted by the sort of stark language that belongs in an IKEA catalogue. That, however, is his gift. His words pull you this way and that, tenderising you to feel the full weight of a knockout blow.

One passage in particular took my eye, “The branches of a nearby willow tree were laden with lush foliage and drooping heavily, almost to the ground, though they were still, as if lost in deep thought. Occasionally a small bird landed unsteadily on a branch, but soon gave up and fluttered away. Like a distraught mind, the branch quivered slightly, then returned to stillness.”

Is it beautiful, concise simplicity, or simple, concise beauty? That question is itself an allegory for much of Murakami’s body of work.

Taking his devotion for Kafka further in the final pages, Murakami prefers to leave some of the novel’s biggest questions unanswered, a rarity for a writer who so often neglects characters and prose in preference for themes and plot. Perhaps these are questions he can’t answer, or maybe these are questions that should stay with us, lingering, until we journey towards discovery as Tsukuru does.

Many of the questions in The Trial were never answered as Kafka died before the final edits of the book. It still remains a masterpiece, one which Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage will constantly be compared to, in itself the highest of praise.

It has become tradition that, on the eve of the announcement of the Nobel Prize for Literature, Japanese bookstores burst at the seams, champagne on ice, fans hoping that Murakami finally gets the nod. The big question is will Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage, having already sold millions of copies worldwide, be enough to tip him over the edge?

Another question that, for the moment anyway, remains unanswered.

Grab a copy of Haruki Murakami’s Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage here

Andrew Cattanach is a regular contributor to The Booktopia Blog and was recently shortlisted for The Age Short Story Prize. He enjoys reading, writing and sleeping, though finds it difficult to do them all at once.

You can follow his ramblings on twitter at @andrew__cat

REVIEW: Your Fathers, Where are They? And the Prophets, Do They Live Forever? by Dave Eggers (Review by Andrew Cattanach)

your-fathers-where-are-they-and-the-prophets-do-they-live-forever-The irony of Dave Eggers’ somewhat pretentiously named new novel Your Fathers, Where are They? And the Prophets, Do They Live Forever? is that it is a decidedly unpretentious work. But Dave Eggers knows that. He has more fun with his titles than most, from his breakout memoir A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius to his 2004 novel The Unforbidden is Compulsory; or, Optimism.

Your Fathers is a compelling meditation on the world we now live in. I say now because things are changing too fast for many of us, particularly for Eggers and his scatterbrained protagonist Thomas. His world is spinning out of control and the only way to halt it is to bunker down and ask the big questions. Not just of himself, but of the people who have ‘helped’ shape his life. His college hero, his mother, an old teacher, a politician, his soulmate. But he can’t just walk up to them in the street and grill them. He has a better idea.

It’s better if he has some time with them. Time to ask questions.

While they’re tied up in an abandoned military base.

While Your Fathers shines a light in uncomfortable corners, it’s raucously funny in many places, typical of all of Eggers’ work. It goes without saying that a man who, as legend has in, enlists friends to streak and heckle him during book readings would it difficult to hide that subversive humour from his writing. His acid wit works perfectly in tandem with some of the heavy territory Your Fathers explores.

Your Fathers is not a long book, but a dense one. It needs only 224 pages to engulf you. It’s a novel made up of frenzied brushstrokes that, only when you stand back, do you get to see the true genius of.

The brilliant thing about Your Fathers is that, despite his mania, I’m envious of Thomas. I feel like following his lead, although perhaps with less chains. A few days devoted entirely to questions.

But will Thomas get the answers he’s looking for before it’s too late?

Grab a copy of Dave Eggers’ Your Fathers, Where are They? And the Prophets, Do They Live Forever? here

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Andrew Cattanach is a regular contributor to The Booktopia Blog and was shortlisted for The Age Short Story Prize. He enjoys reading, writing and sleeping, though finds it difficult to do them all at once.

You can follow his ramblings on twitter at @andrew__cat

 

Karl Stefanovic meets The Incompetent Cook

Grab a copy of Karl Cooks here

Karl Cooks

by Karl Stefanovic

From the co-host of Australia’s popular Today show comes this easy to use cookbook full of delicious recipes for any Aussie home chef that wants to be able to eat like Karl.

Whether you’re planning a weekend with mates, looking to spoil your lady friend or need a no-fuss breakfast to ease your hangover – Karl Cooks has a recipe for every occasion. Let Karl show you how to create a mouth-watering roast or stack a juicy burger, with illustrated steps and handy hints to make the cooking process as painless as possible. Become a hero in your kitchen and impress the missus with this collection of delicious, easy-to-use recipes.

This is the how-to manual you can’t do without. Royalties from the sale of this book will be donated to police legacy charities.

About the Author

Karl Stefanovic is co-host of Channel 9’s Today show, a contributor to current affairs program 60 Minutes and a former 5-year-old BMX champion. He lives in Sydney with his wife and kids.

Grab a copy of Karl Cooks here

EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: Michael Robotham, award-winning author of Life or Death, chats to Andrew Cattanach

There seems to be two types of people in this world. Those who love Michael Robotham, and those who haven’t heard of him yet.

Life or Death is for the crime fan who likes a story, not just an account. Brilliantly written, intelligent, funny, sad and meticulously mapped out, it’s easy to understand why there has already been so much interest in a big screen adaptation of the novel.

There is nothing more exciting than an author operating at the peak of their powers. With Life or Death, Robotham is doing just that, further strengthening his hold as one of Australia’s finest crime writers. Find out why Audie is on the run, before it’s too late.

Grab a copy of Life or Death here

Grab a copy of Life or Death here

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