The housemate sick and grumpy. There are people for whom a day in bed is a grim punishment and they make bad patients.
It is wet and windy and the dogs are grumpy because they have to stay indoors. We’ll have blazing hot weather soon enough so I’m glad of the damp and coolness.
I’m making Claudia Roden’s chicken soup from The Book of Jewish Food (the trick is plenty of fresh flat-leaf parsley) for the grumpy invalid and perfecting my version of Jim Lahey’s No-Knead Bread, simple so long as you remember it takes 18–24 hours to rise. It has a golden chewy crust and tastes wonderful, has the ‘holey’ texture of good sourdough. This recipe was one of the first foodie recipes to go viral across the Internet after Mark Bittman posted a recipe by Jim Lahey in the NYT in 2006. I use my trusty orange Le Creuset pot for the final bake and the bread comes out round and glorious like a French bowling ball or boule, has a satisfying hollow knocking sound when tapped on the bottom.
The Chub is unhappy and lies at my feet obsessively licking her paw while glaring at me. We have played the ‘Take Your Mind off Your Silly Old Paw’ game three times, in vain. Every now and again she goes and barks her famous high-pitched head-splitting bark at the bedroom door of the sick housemate. Right now she is my Unfavourite Dog and I am am usually a person who has no favourites among dogs or friends. Later I’ll make more dog biscuits.
In between my domestic distractions and bouts of work, I’m rereading old cookbooks. Laurel’s Kitchen, the original 1976 one with coffee stains on the opening pages and recipes for wholewheat nutty bread so solid and worthy you could weigh down and anchor a dozen yachts with them. The Moosewood Cookbook (Molly Katzen, remember?), the Zuni Cafe Cookbook with Judy Rodgers recipes for her beyond-ultimate roasted chicken and bread salad. And I also discovered a paperback copy of recipes from London’s first vegetarian restaurant, Cranks. It has some very curious recipes full of teaspoons of margerine and chopped green peppers, which makes me glad we all survived the 1970s. What will future generations make of the 2012 penchant for fermented bean curd or quinoa? Oh, and there is my old secondhand copy of Linda McCartney’s Home Cooking with a yummy Beefless Pie full of vegetable suet and veggie burgers! (There was a time when most vegetarians pretended they were just like meat eaters and surprised their unwary guests with nut cutlets or Greek Moussaka Without Mince.) And my 1971 copy of Jean Hewitt’s New York Times Natural Foods Cookbook , crammed with soybean dips and hefty helpings of bran, unsulphured molasses, brewers yeast or unrefrigerated wheatgerm with anything frivolous or hedonistic.Food twinned with morality, no getting away from the good, bad and what;s good for you but tastes bad, what’s bad for you but tastes so good!
In my next life I might become a food historian and write books on The Puritan Legacy of Roughage or Who Moved My Hearty Sugar-free Eggless Wheatberry Muffins?