Christmas is all but over, belts are strained and straining and thoughts stray to the new year, resolutions and plans. I feel like I'm in a permanent post-Christmas hangover state, even though I don't have a hangover. I'm physically knackered and yet itching to take all the Christmas stuff down and go for a kind of Amish simplicity instead. Long frosty walks help with the post-Christmas blues, with the dog swimming in the ice cold waters and the children falling flat on their faces in the mud three days in a row.
Food was a success, although like most people the sheer quantities were on the over-generous side. I think the whole of January might consist of eating up the leftovers. That I knew that things were waning were the two comments I overheard yesterday. The first, 'not quiche again for lunch' (-spoilt brat, methinks), and the second, 'save some bread for me'. Too much rich food and we're all craving simple stuff once more.
Back in the kitchen, you are busy playing again. Your new toys put to one side, you are busy with the comforting and the familiar, making your friend Jeremy Pang's curry again tonight - 'a stock with tamarind paste, toasting cumin and coriander seeds, and frying fish.' I can almost smell the warm steamy air heady with the scent of toasted spices and the fish spitting and sizzling in a pan. 'Tamarind fish curry' (page 516). This is a recipe 'to play with...a bit more of this, a little less of that. I follow the recipe, but it is about more than that, it's about cooking or the thrill and joy of it all, about having a good time in the kitchen. I can ask for no more.'
It's New Year's Eve and the older ones are all rushing off to parties with their friends. Not being much of a party person myself (in fact I hate the things), I've opted for joining a motley group of friends playing fiddle in the pub. It sounds as if you too are cooking for a quiet night in with friends rather than preparing to go to some glitzy party somewhere.
Every year, at some point in the evening, I stand outside in the sheer blackness of the night and look for the brightest star in the sky. I remember the people and the places that have formed the half-completed jigsaw that is my life and raise a toast to them. I think about the past year and the new and about the wisdom and the lessons that I want to carry over from one to the other. The sound of the running stream behind me reminds me that life is constantly changing and moving on, and though I want to stop it and hold this moment in my hand, it too will be gone in an instant. A cloud moving silently over the face of the moon draws a temporary veil and a breath of cold air sends icy fingers brushing the side of my face.
If there are answers to the questions we seek to ask, then they are here. At the end. At the beginning.
Happy New Year,