I wanted to share this piece that Sophie Dahl read a bit from one of her episodes of The Delicious Miss Dahl, a piece by Sydney Smith to Lady Georgiana (Duchess of Devonshire) in 1820. I find it particularly useful this time of year especially as the clouds and cold take over for a bit.
Sydney Smith to Lady Georgiana Morpeth. 1820.
Dear Lady Georgiana, …nobody has suffered more from low spirits than I have done – so I feel for you.
1st. Live as well as you dare.
2nd. Go into the showerbath with a small quantity of water at a temperature low enough to give you a slight sensation of cold, 75º or 80º.
3rd. Amusing books.
4th. Short views of human life – not further than dinner or tea.
5th. Be as busy as you can.
6th. See as much as you can of those friends who like and respect you.
7th. And of those acquaintances who amuse you.
8th. Make no secret of low spirits to your friends, but talk of them freely – they are always worse for dignified concealment.
9th. Attend to the effects tea and coffee produce upon you.
10th. Don’t expect too much from human life – a sorry business at the best.
11th. Compare your lot with that of other people.
12th. Avoid poetry, dramatic representations (except comedy), music, serious novels, melancholy, sentimental people, everything likely to excite feeling or emotion, not ending in active benevolence.
13th. DO GOOD, and endeavour to please everybody of every degree.
14th. Be as much as you can in the open air without fatigue.
15th. Make the room where you commonly sit gay and pleasant.
16th. Struggle little by little against idleness.
17th. Don’t be too severe upon yourself, or underrate yourself, but do yourself justice.
18th. Keep good blazing fires.
19th. Be firm and constant in the exercise of rational religion.
20th. Believe me, dear Lady Georgiana, Very truly yours, – SYDNEY SMITH.”
from: Hesketh Pearson, The Smith of Smiths, Hogarth Press, London, 1984. p.164.
Oh and those bubble and squeak cakes on this episode look so enticing, no?
Bubble and Squeak cakes with a Fried Egg and Red Onion Gravy
For the bubble and squeak cakes * 1 carrot, peeled and chopped * 1 parsnip, peeled and chopped * 1 potato, peeled, chopped * ¼ celeriac, peeled and chopped * ¼ Savoy cabbage, sliced * Handful kale, sliced * 30g/1oz butter * ¼ leek, sliced * Salt and freshly ground black pepper
For the gravy * 1 tbsp olive oil * 1 tbsp plain flour * 1 red onion, peeled and sliced * Large splash red wine * 2 sprigs fresh thyme * 500ml/17fl oz vegetable stock * 1 tsp aged balsamic vinegar * Salt and freshly ground black pepper
To serve * Knob of butter * 2 large free-range eggs * Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1. For the bubble and squeak cakes, place the carrot, parsnip, potato, celeriac, cabbage and kale in a large pan of salted boiling water, and cook until very soft, about 20-25 minutes. Drain, and return to the pan.
2. Roughly mash the vegetables together.
3. Heat half the butter in a frying pan and soften the leek for 4-5 minutes. Mix into the mashed vegetables and season, to taste, with salt and freshly ground black pepper.
4. Divide the mixture into 4, and shape into patties with your hands. Refrigerate for 30-45 minutes while you make the gravy.
5. For the gravy, heat the oil in a frying pan over a medium heat and fry the onion for 6-8 minutes, or until softened and caramelised.
6. Stir in the flour, and cook for a minute.
7. Pour in the red wine and add the thyme. Stir well over a high heat until boiling, then lower the heat and continue to simmer for 2-3 minutes to reduce.
8. Add the stock and balsamic vinegar, and continue to simmer over a low heat while you fry the bubble and squeak cakes.
9. Remove the bubble and squeak cakes from the fridge. Melt the remaining butter in a frying pan and gently fry the cakes until golden-brown and crisp on both sides, about 3-4 minutes per side.
10. Meanwhile, check the gravy, and season, to taste, with salt and freshly ground black pepper.
11. Melt the remaining butter in another frying pan and fry the eggs for 2-3 minutes, then season, to taste, with salt and freshly ground black pepper.
12. To serve, place 2 bubble and squeak patties on 2 serving plates and top each with an egg. Drizzle the gravy round the edge to garnish.