As Joseph Wood Krutch said, “The most serious charge which can be brought against New England is not Puritanism but February.” And so it is. February is a month of truly depressing qualities. Without the tinsel of December or the clear, sparkling promise of January—without even blustery winds of March, which at least have the loamy smell of coming thaw—February is simply a bundle of grey, wet unpleasantness, the temporal equivalent of a wet sock. And so getting through it requires a little extra preparation; here are some things I’ll be doing to get by.
Sipping some Laphroaig. This scotch has the restorative powers of a slap in the face. Peaty and smoky and incredibly warming, it’s the perfect thing to drink after a long walk through the city sludge or the even more delightful task of determining where on earth to deposit the snow while shoveling out ones car on a narrow Boston side street.
Tucking into my new (to me) cookbooks. Ah, the thrill of finding used Paula Wolfert and Madeiline Kamman cookbooks—I just cannot describe. Add to that a couple of fabulous French volumes (quail with grapes anyone?) and a terrific looking Spanish gem titled Catalan Cuisine (warm monkfish terrine with garlic mousseline), and basically you have me in a full tilt swoon with a serious backlog of fiction that I just can’t seem to get to.
Using my new stack of bookmarks. I understand this may not be super exciting to everyone, but while curating this blog I spend a good deal of time marking pages: for recipes, for poems, for food scenes, and so bookmarks are a must. So I’m pretty thrilled that my wonderful mother has taken to making me these bookmark books, filled with beautiful handmade bookmarks. They’re pretty enough to leave on every surface of every room in the apartment, and so are always nearby when inspiration strikes.
Celebrating Valentine’s Day with a new tradition. I’m not big on Valentine’s Day, I have to admit. I think it’s a Hallmark holiday and generally react to it as I do when I’m told I should do anything—with violent revolt. That said, I can get behind the idea of good food and drink, and have typically celebrated the holiday as many do, with a nice dinner and/or bottle of wine. While in Baltimore, M and I would use the occasion to visit the beautiful town of Annapolis and have dinner at Café Normandy, a wonderful little French spot. It was during last year’s visit, understanding that it would be indeed our last, that we picked up this nice little bottle of port, with the promise that we’d drink it (or well, some of it) this year for Valentine’s Day. And thus the tradition began. We’ll wander out on the 14th to find something for next year, maybe a nice Sauternes? Heck, maybe a whiskey!
Listening to Edith Piaf. So we’ve determined that February is a fairly depressing month, and we’re told it is the month of love. I can’t think of anyone who more perfectly embodies these two attributes than Edith Piaf, the tiny French songbird with the tragic life and the clarion voice. I love listening to her throughout the year, but especially now, when they light is low and the air is biting.
Reading Henrik Ibsen. There’s nobody that harnesses the harsh chill of February like Henrik Ibsen. His work – always a bit wild, always a bit severe—gives one the steely backbone to wade through this brooding month. Whether it’s the suffocated panic of Hedda Gabler, the cloistered suffering of The Doll’s House, or the frantic desperation of The Master Builder, there’s always something a bit crazed panting just under the surface of Ibsen’s strict, Scandinavian exterior. Basically, his plays feel much like being arrested by February cabin-fever, and work as a (slightly) healthy way to silently scream through it (plus, we share an affinity for top hats).