Every so often one of our wonderful volunteers and placement students will assemble a new display to greet you as you enter the library. Antonietta, a Strathclyde University student on placement with us, did so recently, and tell us about the latest display
The taste of my mum’s chicken soup is something embedded within me. Simmered slowly for hours, its scent would perfume our home for days afterwards. A bouquet of parsley and carrot and celery, permeating chicken poached lovingly until it just slipped off the bones. It is the ultimate comfort food.
When I require some comfort or a pick-me-up – and my mum’s chicken soup is out of reach on the other side of the world – I invariably find myself in a bookshop or library. Picking random books off shelves, flicking through pages, happening upon lines that spark something. And suddenly that slump is surmounted.
This month, craving the hug the of my mum’s chicken soup, I inevitably selected volumes about food. Some are by individual authors, others are anthologies. But whether poem, or essay or children’s rhyme, all speak to way food acts as a bridge between people and cultures, the way it can either soothe or divide, be an anchor or present something new, like the “sudden understanding” Eileen Chong describes when one experiences the pleasure of eating a dumpling correctly for the first time.
Feast together, or snack yourself
Food also exposes us to different cultures, fostering awareness and appreciation for the traditions of others. I was astounded to read about the five or six different food-stalls serving lunch to school children in Singapore – how different to the standard ham sandwich or meat pie I grew up with in Australia. Some of these writers see food as therapeutic, others as link to the past. Bruce Weigal claims minestrone “may as well mean meditation” while Joanna Grigg finds a “memory is there” as she licks a continental chocolate. I also laughed out loud at the description of stockpiled sticks of butter “like Instagram models” with “leathery pouts”, and Ian Mc Millan’s “Yorkshire Pudding Rules”, dictating the lard must catch fire in the oven” for them to “rise to the heavens.”
But all books in the display are invitations to tickle your taste buds – venture in, try something new to spur you out of your stalemate. As Eileen Chong says: “We are one, and we are many. Let us feast together.” There’s no need to read any of the books cover-to-cover either – simply open up at a random page to get a taste. Maybe Jillian Tamaki sums up this month’s display best: “The best sound in the world is sllurrrp.”
Antonietta, our work placement student
Originally from Australia, Antonietta grew up in a traditional Italian family. She first arrived in Glasgow back in 2002 as an exchange student before returning to Melbourne to finish her undergraduate degree. After graduating with honours in English Literature from the University of Melbourne, Antonietta worked as an editorial assistant. She went on to complete the Cambridge CELTA certificate and initially taught English as a Second Language in Melbourne before moving to Milan to work.
Glasgow’s climate did not deter Antonietta though. After a period in London, she returned to Glasgow in 2021 to commence an Msc in Information and Library Studies at the University of Strathclyde and hopes to continue living and working in Scotland after she graduates