Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Winter Solstice Part Two

I decided I needed to spend the few hours of light left on the shortest day of the year outside wandering about the seawall. I needed to properly welcome winter, as unwinterly as it may be. The rain that pelted the Rusty Coast this morning had quieted down. It was so warm that by the time I got to the seawall I had already unwrapped my scarf, taken off my jacket and gloves. I hadn't even bothered putting on a toque. It was dreary and grey. I cursed the lack of snow and the balmy weather. It's going to be hard to find any ice-climbing next week without a huge drive. I know it's supposed to be mild out here but if this weather were a 8-year old, it would get picked on every recess. Winter looked like something the cat dragged in.

I looked across the channel and on a post, perched like the King of England, was a blue heron. I thought about my friend Karin who has a strong connection to these regal birds. She had recently sent sad news of her dear feline's passing. It all made me realize that I had much to be grateful for. The grey that was so dreary was now not so. I looked over to the small island in the channel and smiled. It's trees were crowned in winter mist. With an impossibly slow sweep of its wings, the heron took flight. The sky's greying was now a myriad of silvers and pewter. The air was crisp and alive. I smiled and thought. 'It's a grand day to welcome in winter!'

When one welcomes winter, one needs the right nourishment. So I walked down to McLean's Fine Food store, a dangerous place for a belly like mine. My mission was to find cheese and olives. But instead of going straight to the cheese counters, I tortured myself by going up and down all the aisle. So many wonderful food delights and so little time and money. The cheese counter was a slow tango of decision making. Do I want something mild and tender? Or do I want a ripe, pungent kiss of blue-veined opera? In the end I chose the Pecorino Pepato Isola Siciliano, but I did flirt a bit with the Gorgonzola. With cheese and a container of assorted olives, I headed back home.

The universe had another plan for me.

Did you know that Christmas is coming soon? Really. It's within days. With a few hours of daylight that I had left in the shortest day of the year, I decided that had to find some gifts for our neice and nephews. Now, not to say that I haven't been thinking about them, I just kinda thought that the right gifts would just find me eventually. But that doesn't seem to be happening so I wandered about through used book stores and small local shops looking for something that would say, 'Tah dah! The perfect gift!' I really, really thought that I could find a barely used copy of 'The Little Prince' in perfect condition just sitting there on the shelves. Or a fair-trade Peruvian hand puppet that any little girl would immediately fall in love with.

No such luck. But I did run into my dear friend Tim, a brilliant poet and ancient, warm soul, who was busking with his pennywhistle in front of the library. He had an umbrella of candy cane red and white opened and tucked into his belt and a huge smile and hug for me. Life is good.

Then DH calls and tells me he has the rest of the day off and I can take the car to find gifts at the mall. Typing this now, I don't know how got to thinking it was perfectly fine that I spend the few hours of light on the shortest day of the year in a MALL!?!? I chalk it up to my missing my afternoon tea and therefore suffering from a lack of civilizing caffeine.

Going to the mall only reminded me why I don't go into malls, especially during this time of year. I'm no Scrooge. I love giving gifts, almost as much as I love receiving them. But mall gifts? I wanted to give them something that would reflect some facet of DH and me. I reminded myself the first rule of giving: Give a person something that they want, not what you want them to want.

(But doesn't every little girl want a fair-trade Peruvian hand puppet?)

So I braved through the crowds and the processed music and found gifts for the kidlets. I attempted to leave the parking lot but someone must have rearranged all the entrances and I ended up getting lost. I eventually found an exit and as I was waiting at the stop sign, a big, white van pulled in and a pair wonderful, smiling familiar faces popped out of the window. The universe had granted me the gift of another chance meeting with friends!

After an impromptu coffee visit with my friends, I headed home with my belly grumbling. Poor belly.

There wasn't much in the fridge but it was all that I needed. A bunch of brocolli, half an onion, a few carrots, a German smokie and, of course, the cheese and olives from this afternoon. I made a simple soup for our winter solstice dinner. I cut up the smokie and pan-fried them until they were crusty and brown, added chopped onions and carrots and let that all saute. Deglazed it all with a bit of white wine leftover from last night. Then I added the brocolli, florets and stalks cut into bite-sized pieces. I pitted and coarsely chopped a handful of moroccan salted olives and threw those in. Then I covered it all with boiling water, along with a can of chickpeas. I let it come to boil then let it simmer for a bit. The olives, smokies and veggies did a good job making a quick broth. A few sprigs of thyme and oregano from the kitchen garden, a few grinds of pepper and dinner was ready.

Unfortunately, DH had work tonight so I dined alone. I ate in my newly curtained dining room. The curtains do help to keep the chill out of that corner. The soup complimented the pecorino cheese so very well. I paired the cheese up with the walnut bread. The earthy, nuttiness of the bread held it's own against the strong peppery sheep milk cheese.

It's been a grand day. A day of unplanned gifts in so many ways.

Welcome Winter! I hope you enjoy your stay!


lyssrose said...

What a fabulous post! Your description of the winter day tugs at my heart; you see, I now live in Texas, after growing up in wintery Michigan.

Darmer said...

You know it's cruel and unusual punishment to be posting about making and eating brittle and bread and not include pics &/or recipes.
It's bad enough that you ran off to that island and left the rest of us peasants with nothing but stale wonder bread and KD to gnaw on. Just kidding.
When are you coming back for a visit? Bring brittle. Better yet, bring cookies.
I'm serious about the recipes. I could use a good brittle recipe.