Soem time ago (December 2008 and February 2009) I wrote about trying to decide which of my mother’s books to keep after she had died. It wasn’t until this summer that I finally took the last ones to the charity shop. I have kept a fair number, integrating them into my own collection, but accepted at last that I wasn’t going to read – or re-read Sara Woods, Anthony Gilbert, and a few others, much as I had enjoyed them in the past. And then earlier this year my lovely mother-in-law died and so there was another house to clear. My husband went down to Devon to take some last things a week or two ago and I wasn’t able to go with him, so asked him to bring home some things to remind me of her. We shared a love of crime fiction,but that wasn’t really what I wanted (apart from a little World’s Classic edition of Sherlock Holmes short stories). No, what I wanted was DELIA SMITH’S COMPLETE COOKERY COURSE. Nothing special about it, just a paperback copy of dating back to 1992, with slightly old-fashioned recipes that use more butter and cream that we would now. But it reminds me of her and the times I used it myself when I was cooking for her and the family. Avis herself used to make a mean shepherd’s pie and I’ve also got the dish she used to cook in it. These things have a poignant homeliness about them that make them as precious as any heirloom. A book of her’s that I used to covet was Peg Bracken’s I HATE TO HOUSEKEEP and she passed that on to me a few years ago. I’ve written elsewhere about Peg Bracken’s I HATE TO COOK BOOK and this is hugely enjoyable too, with chapter titles like ‘Don’t Just Do Something, Sit There’ and ‘The Hostest with the Leastest.’ As well as being a pioneering woman GP Avis did cook and run a household – very successfully – but she was firmly of the view that those activities should be kept in their place and I agree with her.
For the first time ever in the fourteen years we are completely snowed in. Yesterday we woke to 16 inches of snow and it has gone on falling ever since off and on. In the past there has always the train to fall back on (that was how we got to our son’s wedding four years ago, when snow and a fallen tree blocked the way out of the village). But yesterday the trains stopped running. The school’s closed today for the third day running, but even if wasn’t, we couldn’t get there. There isn’t a village shop (it closed in the summer). Walking to the next, larger village is a last resort as the snow is over our wellies and anyway deliveries haven’t been getting through there either.
The milkman and postman are not getting through and the organic fruit and veg delivery people have rung to say they can’t make it tomorrow. However we are in no danger for running out of food for a while. True, we have no milk now, or eggs or cheese (except for Parmesan) and not much fruit and veg. However we have loads and loads of rice, pasta, olive oil, coffee and tea, because I buy them in bulk. Quite a lot of Parmesan, lentils, tins of red kidney beans and other pulses and enough flour for several loaves. Also a tin of sardines and one of corned beef. A joint of pork in the freezer. No cake, biscuits or chocolate. Yesterday we got a craving for something sweet so we broken into the Xmas cake that we made a fortnight ago. Might have been better if left to mature, but it’s very good all the same and there’s always too much at Xmas anyway. We’ve got plenty of wine and there is wood in the woodshed.
Thanks to my book-buying habit there is no shortage of things to read either. To be honest I probably have enough books to last for the rest of my life, what with ones I haven’t read and ones I’d be happy to re-read. It’s comfort reading at the moment. I am well into THE NINE TAILORS and am thoroughly enjoying it. And I’ve found a recipe in Peg Bracken’s THE I HATE TO COOK BOOK for a chocolate cake that uses cocoa and cooking oil instead of butter or margarine. So I might get my chocolate fix after all.