We are deep into the foggy, bare-trees season when bears and lizards seem to have the right idea: hibernate! Days are sleepy-gray and uninspiring. Fields are mushy with mud, akin to quicksand, except that our hardpan is not far down, stopping further descent — not before my boots are trapped by mud-suction. The 2018 seed catalog pictures radiate with luscious fruits and veggies, while my winter plants grow unenthusiastically, lacking sun and warmth, and feeling soggy. The cows in the neighbor’s field dawdle over the inch-high grass. Crows gather to beat the blahs. My hens detest the rain, but enjoy the bugs and worms that become accessible in wet soil, so they leave too much of their corn feed to the patient sparrows and doves. Indoors, the 3 dogs fit themselves into one bed like puzzle pieces, and the cats stake out their hushed, soft spots around the house wrapped in their tails. Looking at them, how is a person supposed to resist a good nap?
This time of year is full of missed appointments, postponed classes, broken resolutions and anti-diet outbursts, as we settle into the season’s groove. Tax paperwork waits. The tractor needs a key-assembly replaced. The fruit trees’ pruning requires a few dry days. It is tempting to get back under the covers and wait until daylight is longer and warmer.
In this slow quietude, it’s an opportune time, a wise time, to listen. Listen to the rain. Listen to some good stories over coffee. Listen to music you haven’t heard in a long time on decent speakers (not your laptop’s, okay?). Listen to some voices from outside your comfort zone, perhaps even from worldviews that challenge your perspective. Don’t listen to the news for a couple of days. And then try listening to your own insides. How are things going in there? Isn’t this slow-down nice? Admit it.
Perhaps, like Robert Frost’s pony in the famous winter poem, your conscience feels restless about a contemplative pause, “The woods are lovely, dark and deep / But I have promises to keep, / And miles to go before I sleep, / And miles to go before I sleep.” Don’t listen to that pony! The Danish have their “hygge”, a concept of coziness, and the Dutch appreciate “niksen”, doing nothing in purpose, so why do we fuss and resist the season? Perhaps you feel guilty, but dormant trees don’t feel lazy for their winter pace. They are dreaming their vision of spring and collecting the wherewithal to burst into bloom.
What is the wherewithal we humans need to collect now so we can burst into bloom later? Winter squashes, dried beans, root veggies, leafy greens, cabbages and broccoli, herbs, lemons, mushrooms and spices like cinnamon, ginger, cumin or curry that warm us from the inside out… Spring foods like strawberries, asparagus and artichokes will clear away our winter stuffiness, but ‘til then, winter foods have their own time. I made the mistake of eating a sugary cinnamon roll today, my food-tantrum after being stood up for a meeting. Pretty soon, I felt that overwhelming stupor, like the fence lizard I found half-buried in a planter, completely zombi-fied by the cold — in my case, by the sugar. I really needed some bright-colored, bold flavored dishes, something vibrant for my insides to contrast with the gray fuzziness outside. Try this bright and crunchy winter salad and this creamy borscht that will bring you back from that suspended animation state. They’ll liven you up enough to get a few things accomplished before your next nap.
Asian Pear and Cabbage Slaw
- 1 small head of cabbage, shredded
- 1 carrot shredded
- 1 large Asian pear, cut into bite size pieces (D’Anjou in a pinch)
- 3-4 spring onions, thinly sliced
- A handful of chopped cilantro, to taste
- 2 tbsp fresh lime juice
- 1 – 2 tbsp sesame oil
- 3 tbsp chopped peanuts (roasted almonds if youa re allergic to peanuts)
- Salt and pepper to taste
Toss cabbage, carrot, onions, cilantro and pear in a bowl.
Add sesame oil, lime juice and salt and pepper – adjust to taste.
Top with chopped peanuts.
1 Bunch of red beets
1 Red onion
1/2 head of Red (purple) cabbage
1 red potato
Non-dairy butter or a cooking oil without a strong taste
Water or broth (low-sodium veggie)
Yogurt, sour cream, or a non-dairy substitute
Chop potato, onion, beets and cabbage into dice-sized cubes
Sauté in oil/butter the onion and dill first, then add in the remaining veggies and continue to sauté until all look glassy and a bit softened.
Cover with water or broth and cook at a low boil until the veggies are soft enough to blend (10-15 minutes). Don’t cook too long as beets’ nutrients diminish with too much cooking.
Blend with a stick blender or pour into a blender, puree and then return to the pot.
Stir in the yogurt or sour cream. It also looks spectacular if you just swirl the white stuff in each dark pink bowlful as you serve. Sprinkle with a bit more dill for a garnish.
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