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Cooking Up: Review by Stephanie Smith.

AT Focus: 
Alexander Technique
Article, essay
Article, citation and copright
Article Text: 
Well here's a surprise. A story of, to quote the cover, 'cake, soup and inhibition containing humour, Alexander Technique wisdom and great recipes'. Written and self-published by the students of Carolyn Nicholls' training course, The Brighton Alexander Technique College, the book was originally started as a project for the experience of writing publicity and to explore and expand the students' computer skills for modern means of publicity and communication. Packed full of Alexander Technique humour, the whole book is an exercise in inhibiting toe curling from puns such as 'semi soup-time' and 'beans whereby'. This book not only gives us delicious recipes it explores ideas of linking them to a practical purpose, that of cooking and eating.Due to the hilariously outrageous Alexander puns this book is best aimed at those who have had a few lessons and are familiar with some Alexander Technique ideas. Not an introduction, this book is more of a light-hearted exploration of Alexander principles through cooking although I think that people who haven't heard of The Alexander Technique (friends of students for example) will be intrigued when they read it, be drawn in, ask questions, look up things in the glossary and like it.

We all know how to eat on a training course; all that change makes us hungry. We develop an affinity with food and like FM, we all enjoy good food. The book is full of practical advice - how to chop carrots, a description of semi-supine, a terrific section on how to whisk eggs without pulling down called Whisking and Widening. The excellent directions are all written by Carolyn's trainees. Monkey, described and demonstrated, includes the quote by AR, 'Be patient; stick to principle; and it will all open up like a great cauliflower' follows a delicious recipe 'The Consciously Constructed cauliflower cheese' made with two types of cheese. The distinction is drawn between inhibition and repression by considering inhibition and the means-whereby you can get as much chocolate into yourself as possible. We are also invited to ponder upon 'The things that don't exist, they are the most difficult to eat'.

There are international recipes too, Polish salads and a Libyan soup that reflect the international mix of students on the course. The recipes are not all savoury, there is plenty for those who are sweet-toothed too, for example an easy scrumptious recipe for ginger love bites that is vegan, sugar free and gluten free - so healthy you will be doing yourself positive good by eating it.

The book not only contains recipes but there are two pages about and growing food, gardening with good use and how to survive allotment gardening. There are explanations and stories such as 'Recipe for Change: A cautionary tale of inhibited cupcakes'. A chapter on 'Whispered Ah's and opening jars' is followed by excruciating puns on pirates, rum and 'Arr' plus a recipe for Caribbean cake. This is the type of humour that comes from a closely-knit group sharing a common purpose. The opening paragraph to 'The Universal Constant in Sieving' contains the sentence, 'Often we fall into familiar patterns of tensing or gripping, but free and open hands connected to a free and open back can help reduce strain or lessen potential aches and pains.' The text runs alongside a beautifully reproduced photograph of released and lengthened hands holding a sieve.

The glossary written by the students is a delight to read as the students demonstrate a knowledge and understanding of Alexander terms. An example of the quality of understanding includes 'Directing: A skill of co-ordinating mind and muscle. Applying a specific and practised sequence of asking mental requests in order to facilitate muscular release and improved co-ordination'. The description for Hands on the Back of a Chair is approximately a third of a page. The future of the Alexander Technique is safe in these knowledgeable hands.

This hard-back book is of high quality. The photographs throughout are superb. Wonderful photographs of food, Polish pottery, chickens and jams, jellies and syrups in sparkling jars that comes under the chapter heading 'Use of the Shelf'. Oh groan, groan! Taken just with ordinary digital cameras and smart phones the photographs are reproduced superbly using the Blurb self-publishing platform and make an inspiring feast for the eye. Continuing the example set by the first training course who used to spend time together doing all sorts of things domestic and playful, this is a lovely colourful, joyful celebration of The Alexander Technique and a terrific, creative learning process for the students.

This book is a success on several levels. The students of The Brighton Alexander Technique College have successfully completed a project that has given them the skills for creatively communicating about The Alexander Technique and for publishing their own promotional materials. The students have refined their computer skills and in doing so they have self-published a uniquely creative book. Not ponderous in any way, 'Cooking Up!' Is a tour de force that shows us how a book on Alexander Technique can be written with verve and humour. Thank you all those who contributed to 'Cooking Up!'. A triumph.

'Cooking up!' is available from

Copyright © 2015 Stephanie Smith. Reproduced with permission.

This edition © Mouritz 2015. All rights reserved.