August is a contrary old thing, isn’t it? Never quite deciding whether to be part of Summer or Autumn, it annually sits on the fence, teasing us into thinking that, this time, it might be sunny for more than two days. Like Mary Berry, August is ostensibly placid and good-natured, inducing a cosy childhood nostalgia – but prone to unleashing venomous storms without warning and without mercy (OK, perhaps I’ve been a bit harsh on Mez-Bez there – but it’s only a metaphor, Bake Off fans). Anyway, despite the often tempestuous nature of August’s weather, there is plenty to be relied upon: music festivals, test cricket, the ever-earlier start of the Premier League, somebody spotting a shark/whale/Kraken off Cornwall and, of course, the annual street blowout that is Notting Hill Carnival.
In celebration of the carnival arriving this weekend, I’ve dug out some particularly Caribbean-flavoured books to feature in this edition of Back Catablog.
First up, if you’re hosting a pre-post-or during party to celebrate this carnival weekend, you’ll be needing some delicious and foolproof recipe ideas for Caribbean-style treats. Look no further than Caribbean Cooking & Menus (LMH Publishing, £6.99) for inspiration. And if you’re in the mood for something brightly coloured to drink (and let’s be honest, who isn’t?) then Jamaican Cocktails and Mixed Drinks (LMH Publishing, £11.99) should see you coasting through the weekend in a haze of pineapple chunks and paper umbrellas.
Along with rum, the Caribbean’s other best known export is its music: reggae in particular. Producer extraordinaire Bunny ‘Striker’ Lee was at the heart of some of the most seminal music ever to leave Jamaica, producing Delroy Wilson, John Holt and Eric Donaldson, before shifting his focus to the burgeoning dub scene with his friend and collaborator King Tubby. Reggae Going International (Jamaican Recordings, £17.99) is a candid account of Lee’s time on the scene, and features a CD of some of his key recordings – the perfect soundtrack to a carnival weekend, perhaps?
And if you’re after a more socially-minded outlook on Caribbean culture, Thomas Glave’s exploratory and revealing collection of essays Among The Bloodpeople (Akashic, £11.99) should fit the bill for a deeper look at the issues facing the area today.
Finally, if it’s good crime fiction you’re after, Akashic’s extraordinary Noir series is guaranteed to cover all corners of the globe – check out their exemplary collections on Kingston, Havana and Haiti (Akashic, all £9.99) for a great primer in the murky world of Caribbean noir.
If you’re headed to the carnival (or even if you’re not), have a splendid Bank Holiday – I’ll be the one with all the purple feathers on and paper umbrellas sticking out of my hair.