Since Covid, what small, previously not-much-considered thing has grown into something much larger for you?
For me, it’s cooking. I’ve always enjoyed it, but in the pandemic I have clung to it like a life raft. Assembling a recipe offers structure, a roadmap from point A to point B. There is a rhythm to the chopping and frying and boiling on a low heat for 15 minutes that soothes me. There’s the health thing, too – another desperate bid for control on my part, but I take a certain amount of satisfaction in the feeling of nourishment.
I’ve been trying new things, too, buying the ingredients I would always skip because they are too expensive. They are still too expensive, really, but I justify it to myself that I’m spending the money I might have used eating out were it a normal year. When you grow up without much money you get into the habit of thinking there are certain things in life that just aren’t for you – somehow in eating the foods from the fancy bit of the supermarket I feel like I am reclaiming a space I didn’t even realise I wanted. This year I bought a mango for the first time. I had to Google how you cut it. I tried cacao powder. I have oyster mushrooms in my fridge right now, something I’ve never tried before – the non-regular, non-cheap mushrooms have always been strictly off limits in my mind. I’m excited.
I never thought cookery books would become such a central part of my library, but when I’m tired but can’t take the scroll any longer, I find myself reaching for them and leafing through the pages, poring over the pictures I’ve pored over countless times before. A cookery book is a luxury item. All of mine were gifts – like the oyster mushrooms, until recently it hadn’t occurred to me they are something I might buy for myself.
This month on the blog
I continue my obsession with Holly Black’s Folk of Air series
Some pandemic ruminations with Zadie Smith
I reviewed The Liars Dictionary, a book about language and all of the ways it lets us down
Quote of the month
“I am sometimes unduly terrified by my shortcomings, and I do not trust God. But at my worst, for now, I remember that one thing I still control is whether or not I give in. And then I go on.”
– Alexander Chee, How to Write an Autobiographical Novel
The best thing that happened to me, hands down, this month was How to Write an Autobiographical Novel. At some point I will write about it, and hate myself for how little justice I did to explaining what this book meant to me.
Tell me about your February. How are you getting on?