At yesterday’s BSFA London meeting, Jo Fletcher used as her example of the difficulties of timing in buying books published in America the example of Jo Walton and Australia. Jo Walton, author of Farthing, our Future Classic of the month, isn’t published in the UK because her agent waited a little too long before offering the rights; by which points, there was no chance at all that the UK edition would be available in time to sell in Australia, and Australia, although a tiny market by American standards, is really quite large by British ones. Without any hope of being able to sell the prospective UK edition in Australia, the plans was scuppered, and those of us now reading Farthing in the UK are reading imported copies.
In contrast (in so many ways), The Conflux Cookbook will almost entirely be sold to Australians, in Australia, at the Conflux convention this weekend. The edition is only 200 copies and is likely to sell out quickly. It’s the last book from the going-out-of-business Eneit Press, done in by the collapse of Borders in the US.
The cookbook commemorates the last five years’ worth of historical recreation banquets held at the country’s national sf convention. (It includes the menu development for this year’s banquet, for which it’s too late to buy tickets, a recreation of a meal in August 1929, aboard the LZ-127 Graf Zeppelin) It features illustrations by Kathleen Jennings and an introduction by Garth Nix.
But it’s not just a cookbook. It’s a history of a series of much-loved meals. It’s a study in how to do meticulous recipe testing, and in valuable sources for researching the history of food, menus, and eating habits, it’s an examination of what Australian tastebuds are habituated to, the availability (or lack therefore) of all sorts of ingredients, and it’s a portrait of part of Australian fandom. It made me grateful that my local (Sainsbury) supermarket stocks walnut ketchup.
One aspect which I appreciated was the passing consideration of what kinds of historical periods are likely to appeal to sf convention-goers, the periods which cross both available recipes with something likely to spark the interest of a costume-maker. Costumes, I think, double as good physical reminders of expected behaviour, and many of these feasts came with etiquette guides, encouraging the attendees to behave as closely as possible as did those for whom the recipes were originally written. Give or take language, of course. And lower fat content. And with vegetarian and gluten-free options.
Inspired by the convention’s imminence, I finally made time to start looking at the ARC that Gillian Polack sent me the other week. Her labour of love may lack all the wonderful illustrations promised for the finished version, but I still was sucked right in. It helps that I know her (as, I’m sure, many of you do), and her voice was vivid in its pages. I was up to the third banquet, set in the fictional Hotel Gernsback on the eve of the coining of “scientifiction”, when I remembered that really, I was in the middle of the finishing touches on the overdue issue of Vector and should get back to that. (And I did, and the files are all sent off for layout now!)
I haven’t finished reading the cookbook yet as a result, and I haven’t tried out any of its recipes yet, but I have every intention of doing so.
If for some reason, you are a reader of this blog who was somehow unaware of The Conflux Cookbook and will be attending the Australian national convention this weekend – buy your copy while you’re able to. They’re going to sell out fairly quickly from all accounts. And the only copies in the UK will be, as with Farthing, imports.