“Whatever — the soup is getting cold." [Last sentence of a mathematical theorem in Leonardo da Vinci’s notebook, 1518]” Leonardo da Vinci
I have been struggling today with what I suppose, if I'm honest, is just boredom and a complete lack of inspiration. I just couldn't make myself go for a walk, and flirted with various ideas that came to nothing. I'm an ordinary person and it's a very ordinary day, so what can you expect? I mean I couldn't even whip up any enthusiasm as to what to eat for lunch. (In the end I had a crumpet with a slice of cheese on top - ordinary cooking cheese at that - but you know what? - it was quite tasty). So let me possibly bore you with how I got to the point of actually sitting down to write something - anything.
My post morning shower day begins with turning on the computer and turning over the page on my desk calendar. (Breakfast is pre-shower.) Today's picture is a lithograph entitled Interior with Pink Wallpaper by the lesser-known Impressionist artist Edouard Vuillard. I rather liked the colours, the fact that the wallpaper, although not clearly delineated was the dominant feature, and the slight air of mystery that pervaded it. The maid? at the door and is that a mirror or a painting on the wall? I did as I always do with these paintings and checked it out on the Met sight because the version I get is a chopped off one - see below - and seeing the whole picture sometimes completely alters the whole idea, the emotional impact of what you thought you saw. And in this case this is exactly what happened. With art, of course, you also really need to see the original because the colouring of the different reproductions you will find is often radically different. And don't forget the original colour also changes over time. This particular work is not on view, for example, most likely because it's a lithograph and light will damage it.
And then I turned to my current desktop picture - the one at the top of the page. I pondered on turning the idea of mystery into something, although who knows what. I mean food is not that mysterious is it? The idea of mystery remained when I looked at that photograph - the one at the top of the page.
It's a photo I took on a rainy day at the shops in Eltham to illustrate that week's photographic theme of rain. I was of course trying to get a picture of the little girl splashing in puddles, but she was moving too fast and I had no time to get her in the picture. But maybe that was all to the good as the two photographs show in their different ways. The one at the top of the page was, like the Met lithograph, slightly mysterious, almost symbolic with the leaves or bits of paper in the bottom right-hand corner and the winter sun weakly reflected in the puddle, not to mention the reflection of the little girl that fades into the concrete. But much as I like it, and the Impressionist lithograph and the idea of mystery I could see nowhere to go as far as this blog is concerned.
So I turned to one of my writer's block strategies - other foodie blogs. The next one on my list was I Married an Irish Farmer which I had listed because of its title - but it is no more. Absolutely no more - it has disappeared from the world wide web. I did look into it, and she does now have a Facebook page called Farmette, but she also, most probably because of the defunct blog, now has a career doing all manner of other foodie things, so I gave up on that idea too.
Over my scratch lunch I started to flick through Jill Dupleix's book Old Food that I had found in the op shop the other day and bought for a mere $4.00 and indeed each section was introduced with a range of pithy one, sometimes two, liners which could have been the basis of a post and maybe will be one day - like ...
"Use this book as if it were your grandmother"
"Cooking is the sport of the future"
Parsley is a herb, not a garnish"
Something will always go wrong when you cook. It's not your fault."
Too many bons mots to choose from there and I'm sure your'e bored with my cookbooks at the moment. So I'll save that for another day. Besides I haven't finished reading it yet.
I couldn't give up on rain though and so I started to Google food and rain. Which is a bit of a cheat because it's still not actually raining, but I do have the photograph. Well the first thing I found was lots of scientific stuff about the smell of fresh rain and why we love it. Did you know?:
"What we’re smelling is the bacteria and minerals within the soil that are awakened after a period of drought by the rain. That particular aroma even has its own name; petrichor - from the ancient Greek “petros” meaning stone, and “ichor” meaning the fluid that flows in the veins of the gods. And humans are extremely sensitive to petrichor." The Proustian Table
"The fluid that flows in the veins of the gods". What a lovely phrase. Perhaps it made its connection with me because I have just finished the first two books in what will be a trilogy by Pat Barker on the women of the Trojan War. When I was a child I loved reading all those Greek and Roman myths and legends, and these books brought some of them to life but in a 21st century way with its different perspectives - on women, on machismo and the futility of war - something the men of this world still seem not to have got. Not all men of course - just many.
But back to rain and food. Initially all I found were lists of things to eat on rainy days, which was basically just comfort food - you know - soup, and stews and sticky date pudding - and then I found a new foodie blog called The Proustian Table and subtitled Connection through food. Well I'm a sucker for anything Proust - and yes I really should read the whole thing. I've read four of the twelve volumes - in French no less - but every time I vow to read the whole thing I have to start at the beginning again, and so, of course, falter. It is long, and philosophical and his style is - shall I say - languorous? Beautiful but yes - languorous - even convoluted.
But I digress. The post that I found on this website had this glorious photograph and a heading Roasted beetroot and orange salad/The smell of rain.
It began with that explanation about the smell of rain and how:
"when the promise of spring is just beginning to whisper to us if we’re paying attention – the first little whiff of that familiar scent makes most of us close our eyes and take a deep breath."
Why beetroot? Well:
"So what makes up that amazing smell? One ingredient is geosmin. This word is also derived from Greek words meaning “earth” and “smell”. It’s an organic compound that is produced by certain bacteria that is found in soil. Geosmin produces the “earthy” smell that you get from a forest floor, a freshly picked mushroom, and, not surprisingly – beets."
However, "Even though we may love the scent of geosmin, it turns out not all of us like the flavor.", hence the Beetroot and orange salad which is an attempt to make us change our minds. And I guess it might.
I'm not sure this website is still happening. The last post seems to have been in July 2021 whereas before that they seem to have occurred roughly every month. Another victim of COVID I wonder? COVID has changed lives in so many different ways has it not? From tragic deaths, to a complete change of direction in life born out of more time to reflect on what is important, what is not, and more sadly, out of a need to find a new job. Anyway all the blog tells you is that the author is Dorina - no surname - and I can find nothing more. A pity as it's one of the more interesting sites around I think.
And it's discovery was the thing that tipped me into writing these rambling thoughts on a very ordinary day and its demoralising effect on me. Initially it was going to be about ordinary, although I have done that before, and so I started looking for quotes about ordinary days and just ordinary in general and found this:
"Past studies have shown women are more susceptible to mood disorders due to fluctuations in hormones like oestrogen. This affects neurotransmitters like dopamine, adrenaline and serotonin, which influences emotional state and a need for a mood boost. Because weather conditions such as sunlight also increase dopamine and serotonin, women tend to react differently – and more significantly – to weather than men." Eativity on UNSW study
Well that explains everything! David never seems to be as affected by the weather as me. Of course he has his ups and downs, but they don't seem to be affected by the rain, sun, wind or anything like that. In women it apparently leads to us eating all the things that are not good for us, such as chocolate, or chips - and indeed I did treat myself to a cup of coffee and a piece of fruit-cake, which I rarely do. Advertisers have cottoned on to this and may well deluge you via social media for ads for such things.
And it's still not raining - and so I could have gone for a walk - a long one - and I would probably have found lots of interesting and beautiful things along the way. There is always something. Moreover it would have been good for me. Nevertheless in spite of the lack of rain I'll leave you with a couple more of my 'rain' week pictures - one just sort of romantic in the poetic sense - well that's what I was trying for anyway, and the other one, inspired today by the beetroot, of the earthy, wetness of dead and dying leaves.
Interesting that the Leonardo quote at the top of the page should begin with 'Whatever'. How very modern or is it a case of what's old is new again? And by the way Renoir thought Leonardo's art was boring - which just goes to prove that beauty is in the eye of the beholder.