The book of plenty

Late at night a few months back, I found myself unable to get to sleep. I decided to watch a few minutes of mindless TV in the hopes it would lull my mind into a state of relaxation. However in one of those funny little quirks of fate and fortuitous timing, I flicked over to the ABC and found myself a new soulmate. The program I found myself watching was a ‘Compass: A Good Life According to Gay Bilson‘ (which first aired back in 2009).

I was transfixed by Bilson’s writing and her beautifully simple, yet rich lifestyle. After hearing some excerpts from her book, ‘Plenty: Digressions on Food’, I just knew I had to find myself a copy. I instantly knew she would be a woman I would befriend through words. While the book proved a little harder than expected to find, I did eventually track down a gorgeous secondhand hardcover copy … the rest as they say, is history.

I hope you don’t mind me sharing some of her beautiful words with you, as they deserve to be given wide audience. She has used ‘The Pillow Book’ by Sei Shonagon as the inspiration for one of her chapters … it’s breathtaking … here’s a little taste:

Nothing annoys me so much: It annoys me to see people holding chopsticks too low. This is most often seen in American films. Using chopsticks is a great joy and seems the most delicate way to carry food to the mouth, polite and sensuous at the same time.

Things that give a pathetic impression: I have been at tables when others who know each other have not had the courtesy to forgo their talk of mutually known things, therefore leaving me lonely. This is not only discourteous but heartless.

Outstandingly splendid things: Arborio rice is splendid in its size and plumpness. When it is combined with the scent of shaved white truffles it seems to be a food made in heaven, except that nothing is made in heaven.

A woman who lives alone: A woman who lives alone will become unsettled by company in her house, but should use its unexpectedness to become hospitable again.

Aside from falling in love with her writing style and whole attitude to ‘the good life’, her beautiful book comes with an attached ribbon place-marker … I really love those.

Have you fallen in love with a book recently?


  1. Emma

    Those excerpts are very intriguing! (Too bad this book is not as easily available here…)

    Thanks for sharing!

    1. tracey (Post author)

      Hi Emma – Oh yes, those little snippets I provided from ‘Plenty’ are literally only a quick ‘taste’ … the book is wonderful, and just like a fantastic meal I find myself constantly going back for more. If you have a search about online you might get lucky in finding a copy – the secondhand copy I sourced was found that way! 😀

  2. Susan

    Have to agree with the chopsticks part. When I see it I want to tell people to use a fork. Then again I could just be becoming a grumpy old bat :-).
    I’m not reading much at the moment which is a shame. Care to recommend something? I’ll read practically anything.

    PS I don’t like the Beatles. Much prefer the other ones.

    1. tracey (Post author)

      Hi Susan – Chopsticks are wonderful, and have an elegance that just can’t be matched. Though I must admit that I’m not a highly skilled chopstick user … my right-handed husband struggles to show his left-handed wife the best method … haha, so I still have my chopstick ‘trainer’ wheels on.

      I’ve been a bit up and down with my reading of late too … as for a recommendation, hmmm … that’s a bit tricky because I’m not sure what you’re after … how about ‘The Heart is a Lonely Hunter’ by Carson McCullers (I loved that book), or perhaps ‘The Book Thief’ by Markus Zusak (if you haven’t already read it) it’s next on my list after everyone keeps tellings me how good it is. What sort of book are you after? 🙂

      It’s kind of nice to have a non-Beatles liker visit … I’m a big believer in musical diversity! 😀

  3. Susan

    Oops sorry, didn’t realise that I couldn’t use all HTML tags. That was meant to be small, like a furtive whisper. Not shouting it like an opinionated donkey.

    1. tracey (Post author)

      Hi Susan – Haha, don’t worry about the html … gosh you make me laugh! 🙂

  4. Piper (DailyDivaDish)

    What an eloquent writing style! Although I love books, I haven’t really fallen in love with any recently. However, this post makes me want to search one out. Thanks for sharing this beautiful author.
    XO Piper

    1. tracey (Post author)

      Hi Piper – I agree, Gay Bilson has a lovely elegant (and eloquent) writing style … it completely hooks me as a reader. It can sometimes be hard to find the time to read books, let alone find those that we fall in love with … I suppose that’s one of the challenges that makes finding a special book all the more wonderful.

  5. Kate

    Beautiful writing… although I now feel paranoid about my chopstick holding. I don’t think I hold them low but maybe too low to look like a pro?

  6. Gabrielle Bryden

    The last one is too funny ‘a woman who lives alone’. The last book to blow me away (many don’t have that affect on me) was the children’s classic Antoine de Saint-Exupéry ‘The Little Prince’. I hadn’t heard of it (doh!) and Squires put me on to it. It is so much more than a children’s book – more a book of universal truths about the nature of being human.

    1. tracey (Post author)

      Hi Gabrielle – Yes, I love Gay Bilson’s thoughts and ideas re: a woman who lives alone.
      Oh I’ve had ‘The Little Prince’ on my must read list for a while now … so many people have told me how wonderful it is. Trust Paul to be a fan – a man of excellent bookish taste.
      I must bring it to the top of my reading pile.

  7. Lisa

    Hello Tracey – Yes, thank you, I’m very well.

    Wasn’t darkened silk ribbon markers nestled within crisp literary pages from the composed olden days fine detailing?

    The beginning chapters of William F. Buckley’s “Miles Gone By” are long past now, as I quicken into the second half of the book. I’m surprisingly enjoying his literary autobiography with much pleasure and delight. I was particularly drawn to the chapter “Christmastime in the Caribbean.” It’s the kind of book that accompanies a champagne truffle here ‘n’ there, and a very good Bordeaux or Burgundy.

    I’d just previously finished an in-depth historical analysis of “The True History of Chocolate,” which was written by an ethno-historian and an anthropologist. It was a little bit like trying to swim through chocolate to reach the end! I thought I was going to need a semester at M.I.T. just to get through it!

    1. tracey (Post author)

      Hi Lisa – I adore the inclusion of silk ribbon markers and books … and I very much agree with you about that being such lovely detailing from yesteryear … I think it’s a thoughtful addition to any book – a ready made and discreet bookmark.

      It sounds like you’re making very quick progress through ‘Miles Gone By’ … I do enjoy a fascinating autobiography. I find them to be a lovely balance against fictional tales. Any book that accompanies a lovely wine, is extra special in my opinion! 🙂

      ‘The True History of Chocolate’ would be a particularly interesting read … I’m sure there is much to learn about this food that was once so exotic and is now almost commonplace. Gosh, but I can imagine how hard it would be to submerge yourself in the world of chocolate … there would be temptation on every page! 😉

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