The snow came today. It makes me feel sensitive, and gives me a false sense of profundity. So serene, isn’t it? Sunny and gleaming, not uplifting, not depressing, just the white guise of a familiar outline that makes you see it differently. This morning as I jogged round the park, I felt and liked its eye-aching brilliance, its crunch, the warm sun it threw onto my face, its cool progressive melt through the toes of my plimsolls.
There’s something, too, about the virgin, fictional whiteness of snow that makes me like to imagine it marred, trampled by a recalcitrant Barbour-clad man, splattered with pheasant’s blood, littered with cartridges. There’s something about the way it covers the earth that makes me want the earthiest things. Something about its otherworldliness that makes me want to see something die. So I want game and I want the tubers and rhizomes from latent soil – vegetables densely coloured, woodsy, mineral, and all the sweeter for the first exquisite bite of winter.
After my run, I went to town to sit in Savino’s to have a coffee, perhaps read for a bit. (I’m currently in love with MFK Fisher.) I ate a pain au raisin and smoked a cigarette and thought about what I’d cook. An old lady asked me if I could fix her mobile phone. We got talking, somehow quite naturally, about depression and how she found cigarettes such a boost. I said I found so too, but, I’m lucky, only sometimes, and almost always after coffee and sweet pastries, or when I’ve had a glass of the right kind of rough wine. She was a jolly and affirming sort of person, easy to talk to in a way that I never find strangers truly to be, but only stable, she told me, because of cigarettes, the bright sun and amitriptyline. She also said she’d been confirmed at Ely last week.
I went to the market, picked out some good-looking gnarly jerusalem artichokes and a beautiful swede, dirty, blushing orb. I bought some walnuts and, because I couldn’t resist, some clementines festooned with leaves. Last year I got so fat on walnuts and clementines I resolved not to buy them together. But the trouble is that I love them too much, both their natural festivity and the way the fragrances and textures go so well, one nutty, oily and brown, the other so citric, bright and sweet.
On the way back I bought a partridge from the butcher on Mill Road, as well as a couple of chicken livers.
Supper would be soup. The jerusalem artichokes would be scraped, softened in butter with a chopped onion, seasoned heavily, blitzed, dashed with cream and funked with truffle oil, too much of a good thing. I drank a glass of oloroso and ate a few walnuts and I got going on my soup. It was marvellous to eat: silky, sexy – snowy of hue! – and tasting very much of the ground.
I put the swede on to boil in well salted water, in even chunks. The partridge I seasoned, stuck a sprig of bay in its cavity, and browned it in some lard. I turned a slice of sourdough bread in the fat and balanced the bird breast-down on top. I put the raw livers and a handful of sage leaves in the pan and slid the lot into a scorching oven for 10 minutes.
I took the pan out, turned the bird breast-up, removed the livers to a warm plate, and gave the bread, partridge and sage two or three minutes longer in the hot oven. Then I removed the lot to the warm plate and made a gravy by rinsing the pan with some oloroso, a bit of the water from cooking the swede, and a spoonful of the medlar cheese I made last week. (I’m looking for excuses to use it, as I made too much. But it’s just right here: sweet, sour and bosky.)
I mashed the swede with a slab of butter, a good amount of pepper and a generous grating of nutmeg. I squashed the livers and bloody juices into the bread, like a sort of trencher-cum-crouton, and put the bird on top on a nice white plate. I slathered a good deal of the rich, fragrant, peppery swede on the plate, trickled over the treacly gravy and stuck a few crisp sage leaves on the side for robust and well-flavoured prettiness.