Apparently November is almost always the rainiest month of the year in England.
I read that in The Guardian a couple of days ago, and it would seem that the weather gods are right on schedule. Today the wind has blown, the rain has come down, and all sensible creatures have stayed indoors.
I've mostly stayed indoors -- and certainly would have been entirely sensible if I were a more organized person. Since I'm not very organized, though, I had to make the windswept trek to Sainsbury's to buy the Big Meat which is de rigueur for English Sunday lunch. Usually, I feed my family "girl" food -- pasta, salad, soup and cookies. It is not unknown for the girls and I to eat popcorn and apples for dinner. However, because it was Remembrance Day, and dark and wet to boot, I felt that red meat was somehow called for.
Our house is a converted barn, and the long, low roof means that the light is dim on dark days. The huge oak beams are mostly salvaged from the old timbers of ships. When the wind blows mightily, the timbers creak and one feels strange, swirling drafts. There are times when our house seems to rock ever so slightly, and I have a whimsical notion that this tempered wood holds memories of the wild, tossing sea. Inevitably, these same drafts remind Sigmund to nag me about getting in someone to plug the many cracks between wood and plaster.
An iron ring, for tying up cattle one assumes, still hangs off the beam above my kitchen sink. Like the dumb cow, I often feel tethered to the kitchen on bad weather weekends. On the positive side, when the oven is baking hot and I've got at least two of the burners aflame and crackling with gas, the kitchen is the warmest room in the house. It's also nice to have the Sunday papers handy when everything is simmering.
I'm certainly grateful that I didn't have to keep running outdoors for wood, because I kept my stove going for the better part of the day. I made biscuits, and wheat bread, and a slow-cooking casserole, and an apple and walnut cake. I also made red pepper soup for "starters," so my family had the most unusual experience of having a three course meal at home. It was a lot of up-front effort, but tomorrow the menu is all about left-overs.
I'm really more "reader" than chef, but elaborating on the coq au vin I made Friday night, I braised some lamb shanks with many of the same good things: mushrooms, shallots, bacon and lots of red wine. Served over mashed potatoes, it was warming, comforting and filling. This dish made me wish for a big dog, though, because there were such nice meaty bones left on the plates. (Can you give chickens lamb shanks?)
Speaking of chickens, one of the downsides of being a chicken owner is that they want to eat, too -- even on horrid days. Unfortunately, it was also change-the-straw day . . . and my youngest daughter drew the short stick. I wish that I had charged up my brand-new camera (!), because the sight of my daughter kitted out for her outdoors chores really deserved a visual. Believe me, none of Shackleton's men were better prepared -- although West Berkshire is hardly the South Pole, even on the most Novemberish day. In addition to the usual jean, jacket and wellies combo, she added a fake fur ski cap, a scarf, mittens and goggles! Even if I had had the camera at the ready, her anonymity would have been easily preserved.
The wind is still howling, but I've got clean sheets, a new book, and a human-sized water bottle to cuddle up with. I'm reading A London Child of the 1870s right now, and the cozy reminiscences suit my mood perfectly. I suppose it's because I associate the era with dark fog, but Victorian novels always seem right for Novemberish days.