These are words I never thought I'd say, but Valentine's day has cheered me up. Maybe because this year there's been a bit more emphasis on celebrating friendship, and less tat to be seen even in the shops that are open, and definitely because Covid separation is making the small things more important, the annual card from my mum meant more than ever, and the knock and run Lindt bunny from my partner really did feel like the height of romance.
Until today I've been struggling with February a bit, stuck in the same general slump that so many of us seem to be in, where everything seems to be to much effort, and my concentration is so utterly shot I'm not even reading much. In an effort to deal with the reading, because at least time with a book doesn't feel like time wasted, I've been catching up almanac's and other seasonal books this weekend and have a little round up of them.
The first is Lia Leendertz's Almanac, which is making me wish I'd started buying these years ago (whenever she first started bringing them out basically). I like everything about this, the bits about the sky perhaps most of all, closely followed by the list of significant dates for the month. My intention was to read each relevant chapter at the beginning of it's month, so it's not really surprising that it's been halfway through both times. Never mind. Something else I like about this almanac is that I'll be able to keep them like old diaries to occasionally refer back to in the future, but unlike my old diaries (appointments and the occasional note in them) they'll actually be interesting to look back over.
Miranda York's Food Almanac (which definitely needs to be an ongoing series) is not year specific, and is just a great mix of things. Pancake day is something I'll miss marking this year - it's never been a crowd of people thing, normally just me and a friend making relative pigs of ourselves eating a few too many, and then wondering why we don't make crepes all the time, but it's become a tradition that I'll miss, and there'll be no fancy quire of paper pancake recipes tried this time. Fortunately February offers plenty of other exciting food prospects - it's still citrus season, the valentines essay here is very much about dinner for one, and there's Chinese new year which is a decent inspiration for the sort of food that's really mood lifting in winter (lots of greens and rich, just hot enough, flavours).
Another food book, and seasonal rather than monthly (as the rest of these books are) is Gill Meller's 'Root, Stem, Leaf, Flower', but this is such a good cookbook and I've been using it a lot recently which makes me want to give it a shout out. I've wanted to reduce the amount of meat I eat for years with mixed success. I've personally struggled to find recipes that don't leave me missing meat, but this book does the trick.
For example I've always looked at swedes as very much a supporting act, but cubed and roasted with onions sage and chestnuts they are definitely a main feature (though these ones would also be great with a lamb chop). Broccoli roasted with honey and seeds and marinated in soy sauce (amongst other things) is the most enthusiastic I've ever been about broccoli (not previously a favourite). If this sounds good to you, the book is full of more like it. It's also really coming into it's own at a time when the supermarket shelves are distinctly gappy, and a couple of killer recipes for swedes are a godsend.
Finally it's Stella Martin Currey's 'One Woman's Year' from Persephone books. I bought this on my last trip to London which I think was January last year. I meant to read it month by month, obviously didn't - and actually forgot all about it until I saw somebody mention it elsewhere a few days ago. It sort of sums up the mixed feelings I've come to have about Persephone books. I've only read the first two months (it's back to plan A for this, albeit a year late) and didn't much take to Stella in January. I liked her more in February where we found common ground over daffodils and a country walk.
It's a book with a charm to it, the recipes are fun as are the most and least liked jobs, I like the excerpts from other books too, and the way it's dated is quite interesting. On the other hand it's so very middle class, and would be better for some sort of introduction or afterword. I wanted to love this book, there's a lot in it that I feel I should relate too, but so far I've found even when I'm essentially in agreement with Stella about the value of reading to children, or visiting Libraries with them there's a sort of smug bossiness, and general snobbishness about her tone that keeps me at arms length. Maybe by the end of the year I'll know her better and like her more.