Friday, 28 May 2010

Julie and Julia

Or is it Julia and Julie... regardless of which it is, I definitely recommend this film. I watched it last weekend and thoroughly enjoyed it. It has made me wish I had more energy to cook, but we can't have everything and I did discover that we owned a copy of Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking. Our copy is a slightly tatty Penguin copy from about 1963 that belonged originally to my dad and that has been sitting unobtrusively on our bookshelves for years without me taking any notice of it. I'm glad that I have because it does seem to contain some rather splendid recipes, though I regret to announce that I am not currently harbouring any plans to cook everything in it as in the film. Were I to try such a challenge with a French cookbook I think I would try Joanne Harris' The French Kitchen (would I be allowed off the fish section? I've tried to like fish and just can't). The pictures alone of this book are a delight and the recipes are clear and work well as many delicious dinners will attest. As she is married to a vegetarian there are an usual number of meat free recipes too; unusual in French cuisine.

Another book I would consider trying all the recipes from would be Elizabeth David's English Bread and Yeast Cookery, a book previously mentioned on this blog. For now my next culinary experiment could well be a foray into 'water ices', otherwise referred to as 'sorbet' or 'granita', probably using the recipe in Elizabeth David's Italian Food. She makes the whole process sound so easy as to inspire confidence and the weather has been delightfully warm this week, which is an added incentive. Modern freezers make water ices a far easier proposition than in the days of Mrs Rundell, Mrs Beeton or Hannah Glasse, when a barrel of ice with several handfuls of salt added was necessary, though I would be interested to try Mrs Rundell's recipe for brown bread ice cream.

I'm increasingly interested in old cook books, a love that started when I first found my parents facsimile edition of Mrs Beeton and now I own a small collection of old books of recipes and household management, including one from 1936 and a the Persephone books reprint of Mrs Rundell's cookbook (first published 1806). Although I am yet to get my hands on a copy of any of Eliza Acton's books or of those of Hannah Glasse's 18th Century cook books and I'm sure there are many others out there. Interestingly Hannah Glasse's 1747 work implores readers not to overcook vegetables - apparently the cry of cookery writers across the centuries.

Accordingly I read the extract of Bill Bryson's new book Home that appeared in the Guardian newspaper a couple of weeks ago with considerable interest. And thanks to my slightly odd interest in old cook books I did discover one discrepancy. He asserts that,

" 1845, a poet in Kent named Eliza Acton wrote Modern Cookery For Private Families. It was the first book to give exact measurements and cooking times..."

However, both Mrs Rundell's A New System of Domestic Cookery (1806) and Hannah Glasse's The Art of Cookery Made Plain and Easy (1747), predating Eliza Acton's work, use weights and measures and give times for cooking things. True they do not use them universally through their cook books; but where it matters, such as in baking bread or cakes, they give more exactly quantities, than in say making a soup or stew, where it matters less. Mrs Rundell's work is a little more practical for modern life than Hannah Glasse's, which stipulates such items as "new milk hot from the cow". However, I would not wish to make a cake from either, since the icing requires whisking for three hours - all I can say is that they must have had stronger arms than I do!

Friday, 21 May 2010

Pied Beauty

GLORY be to God for dappled things—
For skies of couple-colour as a brinded cow;
For rose-moles all in stipple upon trout that swim;
Fresh-firecoal chestnut-falls; finches’ wings;
Landscape plotted and pieced—fold, fallow, and plough; 5
And áll trádes, their gear and tackle and trim.
All things counter, original, spare, strange;
Whatever is fickle, freckled (who knows how?)
With swift, slow; sweet, sour; adazzle, dim;
He fathers-forth whose beauty is past change: 10
Praise him.

Gerald Manley Hopkins

Someone had posted it in the comments section of a blog I read and I thought it was an absolutely awesome poem, so visual and tangible and so true. I simply had to repost it.

Sunday, 16 May 2010

Ten years. ish

Around now it is my tenth anniversary, of having ME, not something I'm desperate to celebrate. But I wanted to mark it somehow.

Don't have a lot else to say, what is there to say? Without falling into self pity anyhow.

Tuesday, 11 May 2010

Watching from the side lines

Like most of the country and no doubt plenty of others around the world I've been watching the latest political developments with tremendous interest, although a twinge of sadness and regret. In a previous life I worked in politics, for more than two years, first part time then full time and I loved it, although I did decided by the end of it that being an MP wasn't for me.

However, since then I've become too ill to work full stop, let alone in a high pressure, fast moving environment like politics. Prior to the past few days I was largely ok with this, I didn't pay any particular attention to politics, just skimmed along the surface. Now I'm feeling it badly, the "if only"s have been taunting me so strongly today, especially the knowledge of where former colleagues are working and that it could have been me, I could have been there at the heart of it, rather than sitting at home watching, in between naps.

It has brought back that I still have a lot to mourn and that I need to stop living in the past. The past is far more attractive than the present and possibly the future. I am trying to remember that God is in control and that He knows our future and our lives, my life, is in His hands, that He knows His plans for me. I am trying to remember where to put my hopes and that there are more important things than politics. Still it is hard.

My only other observation is that hearing constant talk of a "referendum on AV" has been somewhat confusing at times, leaving me wondering why we would need a referendum on the KJV Bible...

Friday, 7 May 2010

Today I had a go at sewing thanks to my friend Fran, I simply had to show off the results, it's only a few straight lines, but it's a start. Next I'm hoping to try a Clothkits bag kit, once I've done some more practising. Here goes...

Tuesday, 4 May 2010

Grace and ungrace

Increasingly lately I've received the distinct impression that pretty much everybody I know is simply too busy to have any time for me. I'm honestly not saying that out of self-pity or to guilt-trip people into spending time with me, it's not attention seeking, it's just an observation. Everyone is very busy, with jobs, spouses, friends, boyfriends/girlfriends, hobbies, holidays, the daily stuff of living. Meanwhile I find that as a single sick person I'm low down on everyone's agendas, which is understandable in a way. I'm too tired most of the time to go to most of the big events where people meet up such as weddings, church meetings and services and parties, and it takes a lot of commitment to go and see a person, a lot of time and time is something everyone seems short of.

Having said that it does make me sad to be alone so much. I start to wonder if I really have anything to offer anybody, if I'm boring to be with, do I moan too much. Part of it is the illness, I can't see people too often anyway because it's too tiring, but just sometimes it would be nice to have something sociable and fun to write down in my diary, not just another medical appointment. Some social event I can manage, something on my terms, that meets my needs (selfish as I know that sounds) not having to fit in around other people's schedules and needs. I remember at Durham someone suggesting we meet for breakfast for half an hour at 8 am (due to the drugs I have to take I'm really not a morning person) because she couldn't fit me in at any other time, literally for weeks to come. Knowing that you are that unimportant to your "friends" doesn't exactly do a lot for the self esteem or for feeling valued.

When I mentioned some of this to my therapist, how my friends never seem to have time for me, she asked if these people really were friends, if they behave like this, which I will admit set me thinking. I'm certainly not about to flounce off in a huff and cut myself off from everyone who doesn't have time for me - I wouldn't have many friends or even acquaintances left if I did - and also because I do understand that life can be very busy and that I feel the gap more because I have so little happening in my life.

Instead I am trying to control the part of this situation that I can control - how I react to the situation, to my friends. Sometimes this involves setting aside how I feel and reaching out to friends with grace, sending a short message of support and love, rather than holding onto resentment and anger about not hearing from them. There's enough "ungrace" in this world; I don't want to add to it. Before I come across as some plaster saint I should say that this is often the utter opposite of what I want to do or say - it is only by the grace of God that I can do this, His Spirit in me.

I long for some fellowship and refreshment, someone (or some people) to share the journey with, in a way I can really join in with. I would love to be able to give as well as receive too, to encourage others, listen, be there for someone, feel of value in the body of Christ. But I'm too tired to go to the meetings or do much. I suppose I'll just keep praying and be glad that Jesus doesn't have such a busy schedule or require you to attend meetings in order to spend time with Him.

As I said earlier, I'm honestly not trying to guilt-trip anyone, just express how I feel, I've got to somehow or I'll go mad.