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Expensive Habits (Windsor Selections) Hardcover – Large Print, 5 Jul 1993

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 233 pages
  • Publisher: Chivers Large print (Chivers, Windsor, Paragon & C; Large type edition edition (5 July 1993)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0745175422
  • ISBN-13: 978-0745175423
  • Average Customer Review: 2.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 4,216,424 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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1 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Golovanov Alexey on 30 Sept. 2010
Format: Paperback
Peter Mayle is a writer of outstanding talent - to ruin Provence almost single-handed through attracting hordes of invaders one must be THAT good (the same happened to Corfu because of Gerald Durrell). He has an easiness of style, a sense of humour and a happiness - it's a very pleasant reading (although when I am in a hateful mood I do prefer the depth of sarcastic & encyclopaedic Bill Brysson, but - excuse me - when we talk about wines, Simon Loftus comes first, now that's the true conoisseur - Anatomy of the Wine Trade).
Anyway, I really enjoyed and appreciated The Expensive Habits. Except one particular issue: CAVIAR. Please, forgive me, but you know next to nothing (and so do most of grands restaurateurs).
Caviar is salted & processed roe (or eggs) of sturgeon fishes: Beluga (Huso huso), Sturgeon (Acipenser); Sterlet (Acipenser ruthenus) and Sevriuga=Starred Surgeon (Acinpenser stellatus) - mainly.
For several years already the caviar coming from Caspian Sea and produced by Iran, Azerbaijan and Russia is available in the international market, and thus is considered a kind of "apellation controlee". Mostly it's sturgeon and beluga caviar, the fish of the Tsars - sterlet - almost disappeared.In the past the sturgeons of various species were dwelling in great rivers of Europe, but now all are classified as vanishing species.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 4 reviews
8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
A light-hearted stroll through the finer things 12 Mar. 2002
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
In Expensive Habits, Peter Mayle takes us along as he savors luxuries ranging from hand-rolled cigars to spending sprees in Manhattan. He appropriately relates some of these delicacies light-heartedly and accords others the respect they deserve, always amusing and charming us along the way.

This book is far from being a snob's record of his indulgences. Peter Mayle, while obviously fond of quality, is by his own admission a man of modest circumstances. Thus he shares such experiences as being fitted for custom shoes and taking a private jet across France for lunch with the tone of a friendly guide for those of us who have to ask. Not only do we get the vicarious experience of having custom shoes made, we also come to understand that there's a good reason why this luxury costs as much as it does.

Then there are expensive burdens thrust upon us that can hardly be considered among life's finer things. Mayle playfully offers Christmas, being sued, and having guests as examples of social strains that quickly lighten wallets and fray nerves. Perhaps my favorite line from the book, in the chapter about second homes: "And I have never liked imposing myself on friends for extended stays ('Fish and guests smell at three days old' is a Danish proverb that puts it succinctly)."

Whether you're looking to find a way to pamper yourself, or just to see how green the grass really is on the other side of the millionaire's security gate, you'll enjoy this book.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
My favorite Peter Mayle Book 9 July 2007
By reading mom - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
I loved this compilation of essays about how the other half lives. The description of handmade shoes alone was worth the price of this book. Mr. Mayle did an excellent job detailing the little luxuries available to the heavy of wallet.
Expensive Habits 17 Oct. 2008
By Denim & Diamonds - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
I have read this book 15 years ago and own all other books by Peter Mayle. I have been trying to get hold of a copy for the past 6 years. Like in all his books, a sketch of a life many of us can only dream of. But the vivid images the book inspires, bring these dreams to life.

Thanks for the mint condition product
2 of 6 people found the following review helpful
Brilliant, but ruined by ignorance 30 Sept. 2010
By Golovanov Alexey - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
Peter Mayle is one of my favourite writers, who resurrected the art of travel books - he is one of the few still able to write with an easiness, wit and refined taste of French courtesan of XVII century.
The only one who has more depth and knowledge (although less eager to please) is Bill Bryson. Anyway, Peter Mayle almost single-handed through his talent destoyed Provence (in a similar way years ago Corfu was devastated by the books of Gerald Durrell).
I really enjoyed the book, which is easy and pleasant to reed - as usual. There is no need to argue about some expensive habits which are not even mentioned there (how about Sotheby's and collecting).
But: I do really beg your pardon, but when it comes to caviar, Mr Mayle knows almost next to nothing - as well as the majority of "grands restaurateurs", chefs, authors of books on Russian cuisine, etc, etc. By the way, Wikipedia does slightly better.
In any case, caviar perhaps is the most expensive product (1 kg might fetch between $ 5.000- 10.000 approximately - depending on the greed of the seller, stupidity of the buyer, and, of course, quality). However, it is strongly recommended to try it - at least, you'll discover what the real haute cuisine is (was), and why it was so praised by the great gourmets of the past.
So, strictly speaking, caviar ("ikra" in Russian) comes from sturgeon ("osiotr" in Russian) fishes: beluga (Huso huso), sturgeon (Acipenser), sterlet (Acipenser ruthenus) and sevriuga=starlet sturgeon (Acipenser stellatus). Beluga is (was) the biggest sturgeon with the largest-size caviar, while sterlet - the smallest (with the smallest caviar). Sterlet in the past was served was the Tsars especially, and was famous for particular Tsar's fish soup ("ukha" or "oukha"). Smoked sevriuga has an oustanding taste also. All sturgeon fishes belong to vanishing species ( and caviar too) due to pollution, overpopulation, mass destruction of habitats, etc, etc.
The main suppliers of caviar are (were) Iran, Azerbaijan, Russia, and this black gold came mainly from the Caspian Sea. Let's say, that it is considered as "apellation controlee", and true caviar comes only from that area.
So, in brief, caviar is the roe (eggs) of sturgeons, processed and salted. The following grades (standards) exist(ed) since the end of XVII century:
(a) Depending on the species of the fish: beluga, osiotr ("osetrovaya"), sterlet and sevriuga;
(b) commercially, granular (or "zernistaya") - cleaned (sieved) through special sifter, and consising of separate eggs, is considered as the best(see below). The top grades (I am afraid, not existing=available anymore) were: "troishnaya" (fresh roe was not salted, but treated with the brine, then dried naturally, packed hermetically in wooden barrels and delivered on "troikas", thus the name); then "steamy fresh"; and, finally, famous "malossol" (means little salt);
(c) also less attractive (than granular) for the ignorant, and almost not available in the international market, "payus" (or "payusnaya") should come first - this is top-grade pressed (or crashed) caviar, which looks a bit like solid black butter (and top quality can be spread with the knife). The highest possible quality of payusnaya caviar was Kuchugur, or Achuyev - known for its slighly earthen flavour. It is agreed between true connoisseurs that payusnaya caviar is well above malossol;
(d) So-called "bags' caviar" ("meshochnaya") - granular caviar dried in the open and packed in linen bags - most probably, doesn't exist anymore
(e) Finally comes the lowest grade - "yastyk" or "yastychnaya" - pressed or crashed and uncleaned properly. That was caviar "for the poor" (in the past).

Caviar should never be served frozen. Only a totally ignorant idiot is mixing true caviar with onions etc - that's the way to treat herring's roe or pike's roe (another delicatessen, but not available ready-made). Caviar should be served on a toast (white bread) with a bit of butter (Breton will do, as Vologod is not available in the market) . Caviar might be served with bliny - as Russian bliny are made with yeast dough, the taste is completely different from European crepes. BUT: usually bliny are served not with black, but red (salmon) caviar *.
Caviar goes well not only with chilled vodka, but with dry Russian sparkling wine (or French champagne) - preferrably from "Noviy Svet" distillery, founded by Prince Lev Golitsin.

Because of the costs of caviar and general ignorance beware of fakes. Even in the top restaurant ask to see the jar - the safest is the traditional glass jar (at least you can see the roe). The safest way is to get it open in front of you, and finish it on the spot. When (and if) purchasing caviar, you might need: (a) some rudimental knowledge of the geography of the area; (b) rudimental knowledge of Cyrillic alphabet - or someone else should help you.
In the distant past the sturgeons could be found in many rivers of Europe (that was before WWI & WWII, and before EU, political correctness and multicultural societies), but not anymore. So, if my memory is still OK, the last Baltic sturgeon (a female kept in captivity for breeding) was eaten during the USSR time by the wardens who were supposed to protect it. Thus, if caviar is manufactured in the Baltic states, think twice (too often in the jar there was too much brine and not enough caviar). Nowadays sturgeons are also bred in captivity, and some brands of "caviar" manufactured outside of Russia are available as well - it might be fine, but "Siberian sturgeon caviar" from France to me looks like Perigord truffles from Siberia...

Too much caviar might finish you off (same with foie gras) - if not through bankrupcy, for sure through cholesterol. Still it is well advisable at least to try - before it'll disappear, extinct is forever...
*Red caviar (or "ikura" - from Russian "ikra" - is a component of sushi) is another haute cuisine dish.
And, by the way, toss any book on the Russian cuisine into the dustbin - basically, it's about what the author thought he knows about it...
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