Friday, 24 May 2013

Leftovers by Stella Newman (review)

First, I'd like to say that I really do not like the chick lit with its fluffy self-centered heroines. I wasn't sure if I have made the right decision to read a book endorsed by the likes of Wendy Holden. I started to read and groaned to myself: not another single 30-something looking for love and drinking herself into oblivion at the weekends. But in case of Leftovers, I got hooked. What sold it to me, is the talk about food and recipes.
The main protagonist of the book, Susie, is a girl who feels lonely, stalking the Facebook for photos of her ex's new flame. She is unappreciated at work, and finds solace in cooking pasta.

This is mostly comfort food which makes you feel better. Heroine's Italian grandma used to say that there is a pasta dish suitable for every occasion. "My grandma always told me that a bowl of pasta is the answer to most of life's problems"

My only hesitation regarding the authenticity of the Italian grandma is the spaghetti bolognese dish. First of all, they don't call this dish like that in Italy. It is known as ragu. Second, the ragu is not served with spaghetti. Perhaps Susie's grandma spent too many years of her life in the UK and forgot about what the real ragu was supposed to be. Susie calls the dish Spag Bol (ugh, hate that name, it brings to mind all those awful canteen dishes or cheap eateries where they serve you the gloopy pasta drowning in the brown-red sauce, which honestly deserves to be called Spag Bol). I appreciate that there are more than one authentic recipe for Ragu alla Bolognese. If you want to find out the true ragu recipe as certified by the Bolognese chapter of the Accademia Italiana della Cucina in 1982, “after having carried out long and laborious investigations and conducted studies and research”, I suggest visiting the Culinaria Italia recipe page. Culinaria Italia wrote:
"There are however countless inauthentic ones (recipes). It bears little or no resemblance to the dish known as Bolognese or Bolognaise found outside of Italy. It is also never served with Spaghetti"

Some of the recipes sounded a bit over the top to me. The combination of cheesecake and brownies didn't appeal to me either. Funnily enough, I have just seen a tweet from Hummingbird bakery with the photo of the brownie cheesecake (and No, I'm still not quite convinced that I want to try it).

I share some of Susie's sentiments and ideas on food: a use by date is arbitrary, and the episode when Susie's friend came to help her clear the clutter in the kitchen made me smile and nod my head in agreement. I also have some very old jars with spices which I feel deserve a second chance.

I was less interested in the shenanigans of the office life: most of the characters were created as caricatures or one-dimensional personalities which seem to inhabit only the books and sitcoms. There were some witty amusing dialogues, but what actually redeems the book for me is the talk about food, blogging and recipes.

Despite all of the minor issues above, I enjoyed the book (and was surprised with myself). While I'm not suddenly converted into loving the chick lit, I would definitely read another book by Stella Newman.

And here is my favourite pasta: pasta with clams. Perfect to recreate the sunny day on the beach in Italy.

P.S. This book was one of my perks on Peer Index.


  1. Great!! I like to read that Pasta Bolognese is Ragù!! It's a funny name given by some restaurant to spaghetti with meat ragù! Thanx!!! :-)

  2. Thank you, Simona! :) I had some fab ragu in Italy.

  3. Thanks for the review, not heard of Stella Newman before, but it sounds like it would be a good book to pack on holiday.