Today was forecast to be warmer than yesterday, and I had thought I might finally get outside, but when I stuck my nose out first thing to do the chickens it felt as cold and raw as ever. Worse than yesterday, if anything, because it was very lightly drizzling. Looking again at the weather forecast I realised that while I'd checked whether rain was likely and how warm it was expected to be, I had ignored the forecast relative humidity, which was set to stay between 99% and 97% for the entire day. The resulting weather was like being stuck inside a cloud, cold, damp, and incredibly raw.
It's lucky I was given mostly books for Christmas. I have been reading PLANT published by Phaidon, a beautifully produced collection of botanical art covering the past fifteen hundred years (with a few prehistoric examples), and spanning both Western and Asian traditions. It includes a vast variety of techniques, including wood block prints, water colours, lithographs, the results of electron microscopy hand tinted in bright colours, dried and pressed flowers, weird and marvellous prints made using the actual leaf as the printing block, the effect of laying samples on light sensitive paper, and techniques I hadn't even heard or thought of. The pictures facing each other in each pair of pages have been chosen to complement each other in some way, perhaps two different treatments of the same subject made hundreds of years apart, or related subjects such as two different fruits, or similar visual approaches to different subjects, or pictures made for the same purpose. It is printed on lovely, thick, glossy paper and is a reminder of why for some subjects a physical book is infinitely nicer than reading or seeing the image on a screen. So far I have managed to guard it against Mr Fidget taking a bite out of the dust jacket or Mr Fluffy planting a large, hairy footprint on any of its pages.
It is impossible to absorb over two hundred pages of botanical images in one go and so I have been alternating with Rachel Roddy's Five Quarters: Recipes and Notes from a Kitchen in Rome. I put in a request for it after following her column online in the Guardian, since she writes the sort of edible sounding recipes involving half a dozen ingredients rather than fifteen or twenty including several I would have to buy specially, assuming I could find them in Colchester, and would probably never use up before they dried up, lost their flavour or went off. You can tell I am not a natural fan of Yotam Ottolenghi. But I have cooked one of Rachel Roddy's vegetable recipes out of the Guardian and it worked. She says that the ethos of Roman cooking is very close to that of her northern English grandmothers, and cites Jane Grigson's vegetable book as one of her seminal influences, which reinforces my instinct that I am going to enjoy cooking her kind of food.
Meanwhile, after stretching the lamb curry Systems Administrator made on Wednesday to two evenings, and discovering a pair of pizzas in the freezer that needed eating up, it really is my turn to cook. I have a pair of pork chops that have been sitting in the fridge looking at me each time I opened the door since I bought them on the morning of New Year's Day. I was supposed to do them earlier in the week and cried off, pleading lack of energy, but they are only good until today. I don't suppose they will actually go off at the stroke of midnight, but still it's time to rouse myself and do something with them. Probably simmer them with onions and a couple of sage leaves, and serve them with some of the forbidding parsnip mountain that's still lurking in the fridge.