While I cook for the new book, while I write recipes and headnotes, while I take pictures perched on a chair and try to remember to save them before erasing the memory card, I keep myself occupied. Among a recipe tested and my sourdough starter refreshed, I roll out puff pastry, I let the bread rise in the oven with the light on, a more interesting show than the average tv production, and I make jam. A lot of jam.
Kneading the bread and making jam are two primitive pleasures which root me to the ground. They clear up my mind. They help me to redefine my priorities and find a quiet corner in my busy day. They are also an ideal soundtrack to write: the jam gently simmering on the stove and the bread singing while cooling down are a natural symphony. When you open the door you are overwhelmed by the fragrant aroma of the just baked bread and the fruity smell of strawberry jam. A much more enjoyable welcome than the hearty smell of an oxtail stew. Salivating, yes, but slightly too persistent.
Fresh bread and strawberry jam are the essence of a reconciling afternoon break. I feel like I am instantly in my beloved England, enjoying a high tea in a comfortable tea house in the green humid countryside. I can feel heavy Wellington boots at my feet, my cheeks reddened by a walk along muddy country roads and the citrus smell of a steaming Earl Grey in front of me. I miss a generous serving of clotted cream but some mascarpone or a creamy ricotta can do the trick.