Reed and I went back and forth naming the things we miss about spring. Helen would chime in, too, mostly to hear her own voice. Reed misses grass and planting and the park, and I miss those things, too.
Meanwhile, we have been listening to The Long Winter in the car. Reading about cold in the cold is oddly comforting. But I guess that isn’t odd at all. We always want to know that there have been colder days.
I first read Middlemarch a year ago or maybe it was two. The back of the library book said it was about two unhappy marriages, so I got it in my head that Lydgate and Dorothea would wind up in love with one another in some swoony, tragic ending. I was a good 800 pages in before I realized the climax I was waiting for was never coming.
And maybe that is what made me love it. But no, it was so much more. And then last month I heard this interview with Rebecca Mead about her new memoir, and I took out Middlemarch that night and have been reading it since.
And this is all I want to say, really: that Middlemarch is perfect. It is painful and kind. And it is my favorite.
I love favorite books. I never want to read anything new. Some people aren’t like this, or so I hear. But I am, and I don’t want to be anything else.
Last week, I brought out the record player, the one Adam bought me in the early days. Nothing has been the same since.
And I don’t know why. But I showed the kids how to take the record from its sleeve, turn he switch place the needle. We didn’t hook it up to proper speakers; the sound was quiet. And it was very good.
When I think of February, I think of my Elementary school playground.
The huge snowdrifts by the blacktop were shrunken and sooty, and a saline slush soaked winter coats, boots, hats, snow-pants. I liked to suck on my mittens and taste that slush. It tasted dirty and salty and good.
This February is nothing like that. It is all sun and bitter-cold, glass-like snow. But I have come around to February. I like anticipation, and I like quiet. February has plenty of both.
I have been collecting picnic blankets and planning seed purchases. Lengthening days do me good; spring is on my mind and in my heart.
And it takes a bitter winter to really enjoy spring. I really believe that. At least this year.
I think we are all in for something good.
I set out to write about life and I find myself writing about food. I set out to live, and I find myself at the table. An orange is peeled. Something brews. Something stews. I can’t tear myself away.
In his book Cooked (which is not perfect*, but is useful), Michael Pollan suggests that- in a very literal, evolutionary way- cooking is what makes us human. I know nothing about that. But I know that I can’t seem to untangle myself from eating, from feeding. I don’t think any of us can.
I grew up in a time and a place where everyone seemed half-bent on starving themselves. Not least of all me. I can’t think of many surer ways to say no to this world and to life. I can’t think of any ways to be less generous with yourself. Or less affectionate.
We sit at the table with music, Margot and Helen filtering in as they wake from their naps. Reed gets up to build something on the floor, and I take another apple from the bowl. And for a while there is peace in the world and affection and good-will.
We sit at the table, feeding ourselves, feeding each other. I am glad to be a cook and an eater and human.
*How many times do you need to use the word “Dionysian” in a cookbook?
A week away, a good week. I did not expect to be missed. But Reed has been at my side every day since coming home. He has been affectionate and sweet, and that is how I feel, too. I love going away. I love coming back.
Today I went shopping (full-cart shopping, bulk bins and all) with all three children. And it was wonderful.
Balance the day, not the meal, MFK Fisher says, and the words have been stuck in my head for weeks.
…for breakfast you have fruit or fruit juice, hot or cold cereal, eggs and cured pork in any of about four ways, bread or toast and coffee (or tea, or milk). For the noon meal you eat soup, potato, meat, two vegetables or one and a ‘salad,’ a pudding or cake of some sort, and tea or coffee or milk. And for supper, to continue the dreary familiar song, you probably eat soup again, eggs again, a vegetable again, and stewed fruit…and tea, coffee, or milk.
She was writing in 1942. To me this sounds neither familiar nor dreary. But the alternative she offers has been creeping into my mind. One meal for starches, one for fruits and vegetables, one for meat.
Breakfast, then, can be toast. It can be piles of toast, generously buttered, and a bowl of honey or jam, and milk for Mortimer, and coffee for you.
For lunch, she suggests a giant salad or a pot of soup. For dinner cheese souffle and salad. Or steak and sliced tomatoes (with wine or ale and “a loaf of honest bread”).
I can’t speak to the nutrition of this plan, but it’s simplicity is appealing. Almost as appealing as a breakfast with fruit and cereal and eggs and pork in any of about four ways.