Small Pleasures // Autumn Edition
Saturday 19th October 2019
I love spring and summer best. Daylight from 5am to 9pm, everything is green, all the doors and windows are open, and even on an overcast day the world somehow feels full of life. Every autumn, without fail, the melancholy settles in around mid October. It’s not as bad as it used to be as I make sure I get out for a walk every day and have introduced hobbies that don’t require light in the same way photography does, but I struggle with the gloominess and lack of light, and I just don’t like the colour palette of late autumn as green, red and yellow fade to bare branches and slush. There are some things I like about autumn though, so here’s a little collection of them.
Reading in bed
I read a lot all year round, but I read the most in autumn and winter. Climbing into bed with a good book when it’s cold and grey is one of life’s little pleasures and one of my favourite ways to while away a murky weekend. I am having to be strategic about my reading at the moment as all of my reservations have come through at the library at the same time. I’m on a strict reading schedule of 100 pages a day (I read for two or three hours each night before going to sleep) in order to get through everything before my loans expire, as many of the books are newly released titles and there’s a queue of readers behind me. Happy days. I haven’t even started Philip Pullman’s ‘Secret Commonwealth’ yet, I’m saving that for a particularly miserable looking weekend.
My in-laws live in Gloucestershire and have a brilliant Saturday food and arts & crafts market full of lots of typically Gloucestershire products, including what I call my ‘Stroud socks’. My Stroud socks are multicoloured, mismatched and made of a really thick yarn. They’re really comfortable and I wear them instead of slippers around the flat.
The market is better in autumn than it is in summer. In summer the stalls are given over to soft fruit, which isn’t as good value as vegetables as it tends to go off too quickly. The market is basically an outlet for supermarket seconds, without the plastic, so soft fruit is past its peak when it arrives at the market whereas vegetables still have life in them. In autumn, sprouts return, as do squash, lots of different types of potato, cabbage, beetroot and other tasty things. For the past few weeks the Saturday market run has resulted in a good stash of food to see us through the week without needing to run out to Tesco at 8pm. Here are a few of my favourite autumn recipes. I love middle-eastern flavours and most of my meals contain copious amounts of tahini, olive oil and garlic.
Harlequin squash, cut into slices and roasted with olive oil and smoked paprika. Served with homemade houmous and pan-fried cabbage, greens or kale.
Chermoula from Sabrina Ghayour’s ‘Persiana’; cubed aubergine stewed with olive oil, red onion, red pepper, tinned tomatos, cayenne pepper and smoked paprika. It’s not in the recipe, but I tend to throw in an extra couple of tins of East End chickpeas for protein and bulk. Served with Ottilenghi’s magic sauce (soya yoghurt, tahini, olive oil, crushed garlic) this is my favourite type of comfort food. If I had to choose just one vegetable I could eat for the rest of my life, it would be the mighty aubergine.
Stewed pears with rose water and cardamom, served with soya yoghurt or coconut yoghurt. This is also a Persiana recipe, although I quarter the pears and remove the seeds first which helps them cook faster, and makes it easier to eat even if it does look less Observer Food Monthly in a bowl.
Apple and blackberry crumble, made with a stash of blackberries picked from the fields near my parents’ house in September and frozen to see us through the autumn. Served with soya yoghurt, and eaten whilst watching Tarantino films.
I love watching films, but it feels wrong to sit indoors watching a film on my computer (we don’t have a TV) when it’s light out, so this is something I save for autumn and winter. Autumn also brings with it a new season of South Park, so there’s that to look forward to as well, though I haven’t been able to find a stream of SE23 just yet. Halloween week heralds my annual rewatch of Over The Garden Wall too.
Playing music with Ed
We play year round, but there’s something extra cosy about settling in for an afternoon of covers together when it’s cold and raining. Half term is coming up, so I look forward to spending some time working on some new songs for violin and guitar.
Mornings with Minou
Minou sleeps on our bed on a pillow between our pillows, but she doesn’t like our habit of sleeping with the window open year round. In autumn she cuddles up close and either sleeps on my pillow, or tucked in a fold of duvet right next to me. One Saturday a couple of weeks back I woke up to find her fast sleep under Ed’s arm, happy as can be.
I gave up drinking coffee in January 2018 as it was making my anxiety worse (I’d feel my mind racing as soon as I’d finished my morning cup), and switched to loose leaf tea instead. I have a whole cupboard given over to tea. I drink Whittard’s English Breakfast which I can get plastic-free refills for by taking my caddy to the shop in Birmingham city centre, as well as sencha and loose leaf tisane from Belfast based Suki Tea. I love Suki Tea because as well as their loose leaf teas being really good, their packaging is environmentally friendly. Their teas come in cardboard boxes, packed with recycled paper to stop items rattling around rather than plastic bubble wrap, and even the liners of the loose leaf tea boxes are compostable. My favourites from them are Cherry Green Sencha, Rooibos Crème Brûlée and Ayurvedic Tea (I love liquorice). I almost always have a cup of tea or tisane on the go and appreciate the colder days of autumn for allowing me to drink my tea without overheating.