Friday, January 15, 2021

The Cockroach Catcher: Reviews

Kindle comes in very handy, literally. Yes a 3rd generation gadget that allows you to store and read books and other printed material.   You can pack with you thousands of books on this device that weighs less than a paperback.

This has inspired me to launch a Kindle edition of The Cockroach Catcher (yes, the book).   More importantly, the Kindle edition costs a fraction of the physical copy.  If you do not yet own a Kindle, you can simply download the free Kindle software and read Kindle books on your iPhone, iPad , iPod touch & your Personal Computer. You can read the book within seconds from ordering.        US Verson

Here are some reviews:

I purchased Dr Am Ang Zhang's book last November and placed it at the bottom of my ‘to read’ pile – I should not have done so.

Holidaying earlier this year – I decided that ‘The Cockroach Catcher’ would be my holiday read (even though it was still only half way up the pile) – it was a good decision.

Am Ang takes you on a fine journey from his poor beginnings in China to his education in Hong Kong, his life and experience at medical school, his decision to enter psychiatry leading to a post as registrar at The Tavistock Clinic  and to his role as a consultant paediatric psychiatrist within the NHS (and many interesting places in between).

Dr Zhang had a common sense approach to the children in his care, intuitively finding the answer to their problems, cases ranging from sleep and toileting problems to those of anorexia, autism and psychosis - although towards the end of his career, red tape and ‘guidelines’ were to impact on his practice.

His book also gives insight as to how we as parents may influence the mental health of our children and how childhood is being medicalised when behaviours are due to lack of parental authority and/or guidance and are not psychiatric illness at all.

Although the back cover summary describes the book as a work of fiction, the contents are based on a good and a very real doctors’ journey through medicine.  It is a must read for all those either working in medicine or interested in child psychiatry and indeed childhood itself, and an invaluable read for parents who have concerns regarding their children’s mental health.

It is a fascinating well penned book with references documented in the footnotes and is available from  Amazon.  Visit the cockroach catcher here

Anna :o]

©2016 Am Ang Zhang

5.0 out of 5 stars
We all have stories to tell with regard to our experiences as physicians. Zhang is one of our medical school classmates who took it to a different level by writing and publishing a book. The book details how it all started, from the time his family moved to Hong Kong from China, to his years in medical school, to his experience as a child psychiatrist in the UK. The book is full of interesting case studies of actual patients he saw and the challenges he faced dealing with them.
I was captivated by many of the interesting stories in the book. It’s a must-read for all students of psychiatry. It also makes for good reading material for anyone during their leisure moments.

From another doctor friend:

The Cockroach Catcher has evoked many images, memories, emotions from my own family circumstances and clinical experience.

My 80 year old Mum has a long-standing habit of collecting old newspaper and gossip magazines. Stacks of paper garbage filled every room of her apartment, which became a fire hazard. My siblings tricked her into a prolonged holiday, emptied the flat and refurbished the whole place ten years ago. ……My eldest son was very pretty as a child and experienced severe OCD symptoms, necessitating consultations with a psychiatrist at an age of 7 years. The doctor shocked us by advising an abrupt change of school or we would "lose" him, so he opined. He was described as being aloft and detached as a child. He seldom smiled after arrival of a younger brother. He was good at numbers and got a First in Maths from a top college later on. My wife and I always have the diagnosis of autism in the back of our mind. Fortunately, he developed good social skills and did well at his college. He is a good leader and co-ordinator at the workplace. We feel relieved now and the years of sacrifice (including me giving up private practice and my wife giving up a promising administrative career ) paid off.

Your pragmatic approach to problem solving and treatment plans is commendable in the era of micro-managed NHS and education system. I must admit that I learn a great deal about the running of NHS psychiatric services and the school system.

Objectively, a reader outside of the UK would find some chapters in the book intriguing because a lot of space was devoted to explaining the jargons (statementing, section, grammar schools) and the NHS administrative systems. Of course, your need to clarify the peculiar UK background of your clinical practice is understandable.

Your sensitivity and constant reference to the feelings, background and learning curves of your sub-ordinates and other members of the team are rare attributes of psychiatric bosses, whom I usually found lacking in affect! If more medical students have access to your book, I'm sure many more will choose psychiatry as a career. The Cockroach Catcher promotes the human side of clinical psychiatric practice in simple language that an outsider can appreciate. An extremely outstanding piece of work indeed.

From Australia:

I have finished reading The Cockroach Catcher and thoroughly enjoyed it.

Zhang, I particularly liked the juxtaposition and paralleling of your travel stories and observations with your case studies, Of course, I could appreciate it even more, knowing the author and hearing your voice in the text. Because I’m dealing with anorexia, ADD and ADHD students I was very interested in your experiences with patients and parents and your treatment. Amazing how many parents are the underlying causes of their offspring’s angst. It was an eminently readable text for the medically uninitiated like me. Keep writing, Zhang
 Squid ©2010 Am Ang Zhang
From another doctor:

Absolutely riveting! Brings me back to working (in NHS psychiatry) when work was really interesting! The tone is quite conversational; it is like hearing you telling stories. I ordered more copies for my family and friends.

I knew it would be very special and it sure is. To us your trainees it is like going back on the rotation to have the joy of working with you again. The difference is that l can now learn at leisure from this book. Congratulations.
The book is very well written and makes very easy and interesting reading even for the laymen. You learn a lot about the Health System, a lot about child psychiatry and a lot about the growing up and development of the author.

Fascinating account of child psychiatry cases, including some creative yet effective treatments. Anyone who is a parent or around children or really anyone at all actually will find the book surprising, entertaining, thought-provoking, funny and moving.

The book makes me realize the difficult decisions with which a doctor is so often faced, the need for him to have faith in himself and, coupled with that, the need for continued idealism and enthusiasm. These don't, of course, apply only to doctors but are particularly important for them.

Great book. I have bought one to give to my son on his birthday.

And CC, your book is amazing! I am only on page 44 but so far, so wonderful. I think how you turned this anorexia patient around just goes to show what human interaction rather than tick box protocols can do in a short period of time and at low cost too. This is an exemplary illustration on perhaps one of the reasons why a good health system like the one in Singapore can not be fully implemented in Britain. it's the change of perceptions and methodology to suit that's difficult.

And, as a city girl, I found your early life in villages fascinating and very enriching for a bright child like yourself, I suppose, had I been your mother, I too would have not asked you any questions when you were told to leave that school ... but the school supplier of cockroaches! [shiver]Dearime! I run a mile when I see one, let alone catch them and dissect them! boys will be boys after all, now that I know that you weren't joking. you are a cockroach catcher, not only of the soul, but for real! @@

The book is a must read doc, I am really enjoying it :-)”

From the LUL website, where you can preview the chapter Seven Minute Cure and if you so wish, order a copy of the book (after creating your own account):

ing! What a great read. Just reading the one chapter made me want to read the whole book. Thank you!
A beautiful opening! A piece written with of all that wit, intelligence and sarcasm! The author has managed to illustrate a boring NHS subject in the most interesting of ways. He has convinced me to read on. The NHS should urgently seek help and advice from this doctor!
Thank goodness for doctors like these!! If the rest of the book is as good as the preview chapter then it will be a fantastic resource for practitioners and the public. 
Fascinating preview chapter. I can't wait to read more.
Horrah for the doctor. Chapter 1: The Seven Minute Cure. The doctor overcame the obstacles faced from the establishment and freed a young child from her prison. Great read.
Other reviews and feedback:
Absolutely riveting! Brings me back to working (in NHS psychiatry) when work was really interesting! The tone is quite conversational; it is like hearing you telling stories. I ordered more copies for my family and friends.
I knew it would be very special and it sure is. To us your trainees it is like going back on the rotation to have the joy of working with you again. The difference is that l can now learn at leisure from this book. Congratulations.
The book is very well written and makes very easy and interesting reading even for thelaymen. You learn a lot about the Health System, a lot about child psychiatry and a lot about the growing up and development of the author.
Fascinating account of child psychiatry cases, including some creative yet effective treatments.  Anyone who is a parent or around children or really anyone at all actually will find the book surprising, entertaining, thought-provoking, funny and moving.
The book makes me realize the difficult decisions with which a doctor is so often faced, theneed for him to have faith in himself and, coupled with that, the need for continued idealism and enthusiasm. These don't, of course, apply only to doctors but are particularly important for them.
Great book. I have bought one to give to my son on his birthday.
(Note: both father and son are doctors.)

I was in Special Education for many years. I just love the way you dealt with the girl who was bullied, and the boy with Behaviour Disorder. I am buying two more copies, one for my friend who is a psychologist and one for a colleague in Special Education.

I wish I had read your book when I was headmistress. I would have had so much more insight into why some of the pupils behaved the way they did.
I have been a school counsellor for 15 years and we have had regular recommendations on books to read. None of them taught us as much as your book, which would have been very useful for our weekly screening meeting discussions.
Reading the book and his blog, you cannot help admiring the author's width and depth of knowledge, the light-heartedness, the humility, the humane and the human side of people.
You learn a lot about the Health System, a lot about child psychiatry and a lot about the growing up and development of the author. 
What a book! I cried a little. I laughed a little. I know I should not. 
Your stories are amazing. I really enjoy reading it. 
My wife cannot put your book down and I shall not be able to get my hands on it until she has finished.
I was horrified by some of the gruesome cases and agonised at the suffering of some of your patients. But there are moments of laughter and smile at Dr Zhang's wit in handling the cases and patients.
Am Ang, thank you for a wonderful book. You know I could not put it down. My husband is now reading it and he said it is such an easy read as he thought it was all going to be heavy and clinical.
You have such a way with the little ones. What about the 12 year old pretending to be three and a half! My goodness.
Just the village life can fill a book. (Seriously an in-depth version will be much welcome!) Book two can be Life at HKU. And so on... Fascinating!
Having grown up in farming country, I love the Chapter on The Village. I know it is different but so much about village life just clicked with me. Makes me wants to go home to have a look. I would like you to write more about yourself. Just all the little details you are so good with.
I wish I had your book when I was bringing up my kids. I am giving each of my two children a copy. I decided to put down Pillars of The Earth for a while and start your book on a flight. I could not put it down to go to sleep. Wow: it makes so much sense.
I did expect the cover photo to be one of yours – after all, the creative mind needs full exposure, artistic and otherwise. I was just recommending it to some friends.
I never imagine I can have so much fun and gain so much knowledge by reading a book of this sort by, of course, an author with a sense of humour and a deep understanding of human nature. I really enjoyed reading it. Life could be so much easier if we had the chance to do what we like, to let our thoughts be shared by someone we trust, to make sugar pills of nasty encounters and so on and so forth for bearing more positive thinking. Just by a mere short conversation, which hit exactly at the 'dead pit' of the hiccup boy, the hiccup was over. Human nature is just like that. After reading the author's accounts of his cases, I wish I could also be endowed with such wit and wisdom, not so much for curing others, but to let my own body and soul remain healthy and sound always.
Love it. I read it in three days flat. Not only should parents read it; I think all those in the medical profession should read it. There is so much common sense. I am recommending it to my book club. Will you come and talk to them about it?

Anne of Green Gables 

Wednesday, January 13, 2021

Billingsgate & Crabs: Vanishing Act?

Looks like the Cockroach Catcher’s favourite food may be disappearing from his favourite market: Billingsgate!!!

The Telegraph:
Through spending time in the company of these engaging East End characters, the film simply but powerfully showed the sadness of the porters’ way of life disappearing. Although, as we watched Sri Lankan fish airfreighted in via Heathrow and Cornish crabs packed for export to China, it was clear that no ancient statutes could hold back the tide of change.

Billingsgate ©2010 Am Ang Zhang
Having the advantage of living near Billingsgate Fish Market in London,  the Cockroach Catcher always finds great pleasure in getting the freshest seafood and cooking it in the simplest possible way.

Last Saturday, we managed to get a dozen fresh scallops, three live crabs (brown crabs) and a two-pound Dover Sole.

At Billingsgate, one is allowed to pick one’s own scallops and crabs. The trick with scallop is you want those with tightly shut shells.  In cold weather, freshness is not a problem.

Brown crabs are one of the best value seafood in the world. The shells are hard and the flesh sweet and very firm.  Some like males (with their narrow underbelly flap) and others prefer females (with a much rounder flap). Right now the males are good, while the females are better just before Christmas.

The Dover Sole I got from my trusted fishmonger from Selsey, near where I used to live.  Dovers with their nice firm flesh are amongst the best tasting fish around - truly a winner amongst small flat fish.

All good cooks know that if you get the best ingredients, there is not much you need to do.

Scallops ©2010 Am Ang Zhang
Throughout the years, I have somehow picked up the know how of cleaning fish and shell fish and so it was not much of a problem.

Our favourite way of preparing scallops is to steam them in their open shells and serve them in their delicate natural juice.  First, you need to take out the guts and the protective lips. The lips you can fry separately with garlic and olive oil. With very fresh scallops, all the seasoning you need is a few grains of good sea salt crystal on serving. Steaming time is around two minutes and 45 seconds.

We had the scallops as starters and the Dover Sole as the main course.  As the fish was quite big, we decided not to have the crabs on the same day.   In true Teochiu style, we steamed the crabs and then left them untouched in the fridge for the next day.  Cold Teochiu crab is a delicacy from my home village.

The Dover Soles as sold in Billingsgate are already cleaned, so there is generally not much you need to do. You can try to scale it before cooking, but the scales are tiny and not easy to remove.  As the skin is not normally consumed, it can be peeled on serving.

The Chinese like their fresh fish steamed.  Steaming can be done in a fish kettle.  If you do not have one, wrap the fish in foil and put it in a pre-heated oven at 200 C for 25 minutes for a 2-pound fish. Steaming in a kettle takes about the same time.

Dover Soles can be steamed without any seasoning or with a few slivers of fresh ginger.  Some like to serve the steamed fish with a good quality soya sauce, mixed with a little bit of chicken fat.

The following day we had the cold crabs: delightfully fresh and sweet tasting.  Any seasoning? None was required.

There was a good bit of roe.  We often make crab roe cakes by beating a couple of eggs in with the roe and pan frying the mixture with olive oil and minced fresh garlic.  If you like, you can add some cooked rice as filler.

The paired wine: Puligny Montrachet 1er Les Referts (2004).  This has a delightful apricot and almond nose, and in taste a herbal fruitiness and subtle buttery character typical of Puligny Montrachet.  A good match for the freshest seafood simply prepared.

So ended two days of delicious Billingsgate fun!


Billingsgate: The Cockroach Catcher’s Guide

Billingsgate Market 1876/Illustrated London News/Honbicot at en.wikipedia

I remember the first time I went to Billingsgate Market was when it was still in the old location (now an event venue). A couple of friends came with us. We drove and parked outside there at around five in the morning when it officially opened. In those days, individual retail customers like us were seen as a nuisance and we had to follow certain rules so as not to be in the way of the wholesale business. We were not allowed to venture beyond lines clearly marked on the floor, and we had to watch out for fast moving trolley loads of fish that were hell bent on breaking your ankles. Once you were aware of these minor rules you were treated to the delight of being in somewhere special: arguably the best fish market in the world.

In those days, even as retail individuals you had to buy like wholesale. A box of anything was literally the minimum quantity one had to buy. We could end up with 14 crabs, 5 lbs of shrimps and a whole boxful of sea bass. And oysters by the basket too!  But in those days, fish were wild and you did not have to know how to distinguish between farmed salmon and wild ones. Nowadays even sea bass can be farmed, although it is not difficult to tell the difference: the price.

In the old days, a trip to Billingsgate was always followed by a big seafood party!

Now the new market is in Canary Wharf and the easiest way to get there is by No. 277 bus. It is so popular that parking can be a major problem. There must be a realisation that retail customers are important too.  By and large the first hour of trading was done by the big boys; so the best time to be there is just after six and before six thirty, before it begins to get too crowded.

The question is often asked as to how one can tell if a fish is fresh. At Billingsgate, the fish generally are, although some are better than others. The usual rules of good sheen, firmness and bright red gills apply.  If it looks good, it is generally good.  If in doubt smell it: fresh fish is not fishy!

In a wholesale market you expect the seafood to be fresh and normally they are.  Shell fish can go off pretty quickly in warm weather, but in the winter months they are usually fine. The Cockroach Catcher applies the rule of R for most shell fish and not just oysters. (Rule of R: Avoid the months without an R)
The best fish to watch out for in the summer is the wild sea trout: one of the most delightful fish to have but it has a rather short season.

The truth is that if you are prepared to get up early, you are going to be treated to the freshest seafood you can get on this island, and at a better price than you find at local fishmongers and supermarkets.

The alternative: you can get even fresher fish by the sea in Panama.

San Carlos Panama/ ©2010 Am Ang Zhang

About Billingsgate Market

Billingsgate is the United Kingdom's largest inland fish market. An average of 25,000 tonnes of fish and fish products are sold through its merchants each year. Approximately 40% of that tonnage comprises fish imported from abroad. The annual turnover of the Market is estimated to be in the region of £200m. The Market complex covers an area of 13 acres and is entirely self-contained. The ground floor of the building comprises a large trading hall with 98 stands and 30 shops, including two cafes; a shellfish boiling room; a number of individual cold rooms; an 800 tonne freezer store (maintained at a temperature of -26°C), an ice making plant and 14 lock-up shops used by processors, catering suppliers and merchants dealing primarily in trade sundries, non-perishables, poultry and potatoes.              Visit London

Food Posts:

Sunday, January 10, 2021

The Old World: High End Photography & Wine!


Revisiting the Old World!

It is no secret that I have many hobbies and two of them are photography and wine.

Salzburg in Cibachrome©2008 Am Ang Zhang/ Bauhinia Press

The photo of Salzburg was taken with a Hasselblad CF film camera with a 150mm lens at dusk.

This week in the run up to the New York Marathon I had the opportunity to be at one of the biggest photo show in the world: PDN PHOTO EXPO  and saw at first hand the new Hasselblad Camera: H4D, a mind boggling 60 Mpixel camera. What was perhaps a bit sad was that it was not a square 60 X 60 sensor but a 36 x 48 sensor and anyone with rudimentary mathematics will realise that it is the combination of two 36 x 24 sensor which is now used by NikonCanon and Leica in their high end products. Not that long ago we were even told that for digital cameras, there was no need for 36 x 24 sensors as 24 x 18 sensors were perfectly adequate.  When will they produce a Hasselblad sensor of 60 X 60?  I wonder.

Still, the Hasselblad H4D is staggering by any standard, and at very little change for $40,000, it should be.  Purists will feel sad that it may be a Hasselblad in name but it is Fuji with Imacon that developed the camera and the digital scanning technology.

I was also fortunate enough to be at Sherry-Lehmann for the book signing of The Heart of Bordeaux and their wine tasting. The book was more a beautiful coffee table book in time for Christmas, but the tasting was spectacular. It was a grand tasting of the wines of Graves Chateau, the subject matter of the book,  and those of Haut-Brion in particular.

After tasting around the hall starting with the “lesser” wines (for want of a better word as some of the wines were very drinkable), we all drifted to the “top” table. The whiteLaville-Haut-Brion 2006 was one of the best whites I have tasted in recent times.  It is just amazing what could be done with the right combination of Sauvignon and Semillon grapes.  They told me that this white could stay in the cellar for the next 10, 20 or even 30 years!  Then there were of course both La Mission-Haut-Brion 2006 and Haut-Brion 2006 in its distinctive bottle.

I whispered to myself: why did I like La Mission better?  Haut-Brion is first growth, and La Mission is not even classified.  Someone heard me and said, “ Just look at the price: Haut-Brion, $399.95, La Mission, $735.”

Afterwards I read on their website: 2006 is one of the greatest vintages of La Mission Haut-Brion.   It is difficult to say what Haut-Brion will be like in the years to come, but for now La Mission 2006 is much bigger and richer in every way imaginable.

La Mission Haut-Brion is just across the street from Haut-Brion and yet it is so different. That is why top French wines are so interesting.
It was a bonus to meet with Hugh Johnson who wrote the preface of the book.  Amongst other things, I just had to talk to him about Royal Tokaji. The story of this Hungarian wine is a legend in the modern history of wine and of individualism. The famous wines of the region were nearly destroyed during the communist era when mass production of poorer quality wines was the order of the day. George Orwell may well be wrong as the pigs did not recognise what was good. It took some smart footwork and of course a broad knowledge of different wines for Hugh Johnson to rescue this unique desert wine.

Hugh said that they were preparing for a 20th anniversary of the re-establishment of the wines. In his own words: “Tokaji is a wine that would make angels sing out loud in praise”.

Indeed! For now, a drop more of La Mission Haut-Brion.
Wine Posts:
-->Hairy Crabs & Wines 

Can it be that it was all so simple then
Or has time rewritten every line
If we had the chance to do it all again
Tell me - Would we? Could we?
                                                                      The Way We Were