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So, now I have a few posts up, perhaps it’s time for an explanation.
The alphabet of alphabet soup represents, clearly, the A-Z, the things of which words are made out of. The soup represents the food, the nourishment, of which the meals that pass the days that make a life worth living are made out of. And here, that means recipe books. I don’t know when my obsession with recipe books began, but it shows no signs of abating. And being a Person Who Likes Order, I needed a way to feel like I was in control of the recipes, that they weren’t just sitting there multiplying and brooding over their neglected un-cookedness. Because it was a bit like what I imagine living in London would be like – whatever you’re doing, you suspect there might be something better and more exciting you could be doing somewhere else (you don’t have that problem in Oxford): whatever I was cooking, I suspected there was a more delicious, more sophisticated recipe I could have been cooking from something else. I needed method! I needed a system, goddamnit!
So, I alphabetised my recipe book collection. The system is thus: one week, one book, from Alexander to Worrall Thompson (the alphabetical limits as they stand). I know, what’s that I said about Oxford? That’s right, it’s just not big enough to cope with the hedonistic debauched lifestyle I lead.
There are a few books of recipe collections which refuse irritatingly to fit into the alphabetised system: a Leith’s Vegetarian Bible, a couple of Good Housekeeping volumes, the Covent Garden soup book (mmm, looking forward to that week) so they sit on the end and we’ll get to those when we come to them. I also do allow myself to cook ‘off-system’ occasionally if I have ingredients to use up and no recipes in the current book with said ingredients. Because if there’s one thing worse than deviating from a well-ordered system, it’s waste.
So far I’m on G, but the implementation of the Alphabet System seems to have done nothing to halt my craven book buying, so the end of the project becomes ever further away. Either that, or I buy things I won’t get to cook from for, potentially, years, because they are pre-G. Minor flaws though, merely.
Today, my mum and I went on our annual outing to Cheltenham Literary Festival. She had alerted me to a brilliant offer on a talk by Ruth Rogers and Rose Gray followed by a 3 course River Cafe themed menu at a local restaurant, but sadly it was fully booked before we got our tickets. I’ve never been to the River Cafe but I do have their first book, the blue one, and although I don’t cook from it much the recipes always seem so simple and pure and appealing that when I open it I want to rush out to the nearest Italian deli and invite my friends round. So, we booked for the talk, still hoping there might be a cancellation, but we weren’t so lucky. And then we arrived to a notice that Rose Gray would not be attending due to ill health. My spirits sunk a little at this point, but, as it turned out, Ruth Rogers did a good job of making up for her absent partner by seeming genuinely interested and engaged; her enthusiasm even in the face of questions she must have been made to consider many times before was quite compelling and her answers were thoroughly informative. She also managed to seem enviably both poised and relaxed, really the kind of person you wanted to imagine hanging out in the kitchen with. And I dug her outfit – red checked dress, thick grey tights, jewel-blue shoes.
Afterwards we had lunch at a completely bizarre ‘pacific-rim fusion’ restaurant owned by Norwegians. Pacific-rim fusion translated into Norwegian is apparently ‘mexican’. I had a burrito which tasted like Pringles Tex-Mex BBQ flavour: I’m not sure Ruth would have approved. Undeterred, a redeeming scone and cup of earl grey in a nearby cafe and we were ready for some poetry. And, I now have in my possession a signed copy of the new River Cafe recipe book, River Cafe Classic Italian – I just need to email that dinner invite…
So, September. And it really is autumn now, like a switch has been flicked: last week, we went out for dinner and it was dark. I’ve been wearing knitwear. I’m having to swipe the overnight dew from my bike saddle before I set off in the mornings. I know it’s kind of depressing to some people, but I like it. It makes me think of stew with dumplings, of baking while it rains outside, of roasting squashes and chickens and an utterly fragrant autumn nut pesto I made this time last year. It’s not quite fireplaces and thick socks and ‘what-happened-to-the-year?’ but it’s a cosy kind of settling in that I’m pretty comfortable with.
Anyway, since September is the traditional month of back-to-school and changes afoot, a tentative new project for me: a place where I can keep up my writing, which is mainly going to be about food since that’s what I spend so much of my time thinking and reading and wittering about to bemused friends and family. Why not write about it as well? No-one has to know I’m here…