We went camping over the long Labor Day weekend. The boys started school two weeks earlier, and were, as I learned to say during my stint in England, “knackered.” Actually so were we parents. Still we had big ambitions and packed accordingly: hiking boots, mountain bikes (and all the helmets, gloves and shoes that go with them), even an inflatable raft and paddles.
The forecast was spectacular, clear, warm and sunny, with just a chance of afternoon rain. We figured we would get up, eat a hearty breakfast and hit the trails, whether on foot or on wheel. By the time the rain came, we would be back in camp, relaxing and replenishing all the calories we’d burned. That was the plan.
Thankfully, nothing went according to plan. The first night, we slept ten hours and woke up late. We ate a hearty breakfast, thanks to my husband and this great recipe from Nature for Kids. And then…
Well, we told ourselves we were going to “do something,” but we didn’t. At least not the somethings for which we packed and planned. Instead, one by one, we found ourselves sitting or lying in the sun and reading. It was heaven on earth.
Morning drifted by. Since our younger son had taken to reading afloat, I tried for a peaceful 20 minutes to catch a fish, while keeping an eye on him. The fish were apparently reading, too, so I abandoned my pole in favor of my book. By lunchtime, we were feeling more motivated. Our older son had interspersed reading with napping and felt invigorated. My husband turned the last page on his read and was ready to move his legs. We quickly ate some sandwiches and began planning a bike ride. And then it rained. Guess what? We started reading again.
Death By Tartar Sauce
Now, I know that sounds a bit alarming, but actually it is the title of the book I was reading. A collection of short travel writings by Jules Older, a snowsports journalist and former editor of Ski Press, Death By Tartar Sauce seemed a perfect camping read. I could read it ’round the campfire and in between adventures. I started reading it our first night out. Barely able to stay awake, I couldn’t focus on the writing and kept thinking, “When did he write this? Aren’t his daughters grown? I need some context.” I went to sleep.
With a new day came a new attitude. I began again and with each passing page, my appreciation grew. It didn’t really matter when each story was written, and I didn’t really need context. What I did need to do, was exactly what I did. Sit in the sun and read. Soon, I was sitting in the sun and laughing aloud.
At first, the smiles were small. A little internal chuckle, here. Recognition of a well-wrought turn of phrase, there. I was enjoying the read. Then I hit the section titled “Snowblind.” Only about twenty pages into the book, Snowblind is a collection of six vignettes, documenting Older’s misadventures dog sledding, snowboarding, alpine and cross-country skiing. Although one essay is titled “It’s Not Easy Being Dude”, the DUUUUDE level is actually quite low, with nothing epic or steezy. When I got to the last piece in this section, “Heather Hopping, Hurricane Hamish – Ah, the Joys of Skiing Scotland”, my chuckles were breaking forth and interrupting the morning’s peace. I wish I’d been there with him.
Wild, Funny Memories (His, Mine and Yours)
Death By Tartar Sauce is divided into 12 sections, comprised of what Older calls his “wildest, funniest travel tales.” I enjoyed most of them. Some of them, I didn’t like at all. One story left me totally cold because a cultural reference I didn’t understand. This mixed reaction is to be expected with any collection of writing.
For me, the best of Death By Tartar Sauce were the vignettes to which I could relate, the stories that prompted memories of my travel adventures and mishaps. Older’s story of discovering naked competitors in the famous Bay to Breakers Race in San Francisco? My story of encountering 1,000 naked cyclists protesting in London. His story of French immersion class? My story as a high-school exchange student in francophone Belgium. We all have stories and remembering a forgotten day or time in our own lives is a benefit of sharing these tales.
Most of the essays in Death By Tartar Sauce are about two pages long, easily digestible (despite the ominous title) and quickly readable. You could read just one at a time. But I don’t recommend that. In addition to writing about skiing and travel, Jules and his wife, Effin Older, are food critics. The section on food was actually my favorite. And while Older does not recommend gluttony, I do. At least when reading his book. Don’t stop with a little. Don’t use moderation. If a little is good, a lot is much better. Let the pages build on one another, and the laughs, too.
Death By Tartar Sauce is available in all eBook formats, for a list price of $3.99.
If Older’s name sounds familiar, you may remember these posts and these books:
To facilitate this review, I read Death By Tartar Sauce as a PDF. As always, all opinions are my own and are exactly what I would tell my family and friends.
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