Here we are, deep in the cold, sleepy heart of winter. My mom sent me this photo of her lawn furniture in Michigan, taken this morning.
The storm that shut down Chicago yesterday hit them last night. Winter can start to feel really loooooong this time of year. Just looking at that photo it seems impossible to imagine that she will ever be out there watering her hanging flower baskets. But she will.
The temperature here in Montana today is higher than expected, at minus 2 degrees F. But you won’t catch me complaining. The sky has been a clear, glacier blue during this cold snap, and I am mighty glad to see the sun for what feels like the first time in months. Even though I get out nearly every day to walk or cross-country ski with our hound, I am not immune to the doldrums of winter. Lately, I’ve caught myself fantasizing about the return of birdsong, hot and lazy afternoons in the hammock, the bold beauty of fast-growing sunflowers, the smell of warm earth in the garden. They will come. But if there’s one thing I’ve learned from a lifetime in this quarterly climate, it’s this: Don’t fight it.
A wise friend once told me to follow the example of the early Native Americans, as a way to guide my own rythm from season to season. For them winter was a time to do indoor tasks. To a Lakota Sioux Winter may have meant time to do bead-work or drum making. To me, it means getting through my too-tall stack of filing, catching up on all the books I neglected during summer, and yes, watching lots of cable TV from under a warm blanket.
Thinking about it this way helps, when it’s been grey and cold for way too long, and the ski hill needs a fresh foot of snow, and all your dog walks are a sheet of ice, and you’re sick and tired of root vegetables, and you’d give up your Snuggie to be just a little bit tan. I think of the bears, deep in hibernation, dreaming the dreams of months-long sleep, and then, I take a nap. I notice the phone ringing less, and not as much traffic coming through my inbox, and I know that others are doing their own version of the same thing. Sometimes, like now, it can sart to get old, as the peace and quiet grows deafiningly dull. Truth be told, I have been fighting with winter. Another wise friend (read: sister) once told me that when you fight with reality, you always lose.
One thing is certain. Spring will come, and then summer. Soon you’ll spend entire days outdoors and fall into bed dog tired from the fullness of work and play that fill those long, light-filled days. There will be afternoons so hot that you would give up a digit for a snowball to rub on the back of your sweaty, sunburned neck, but the snow will be long gone, even from the mountain tops. I know. It’s hard to believe, but it’s true! So I wish you luck in not just enduring the cold, but also in not taking it for granted. It’s time to chill out and it won’t last forever, so go put on your Snuggie and enjoy it!
Here’s something that helps. Chili and Cornbread. Spice is an enlivening thing this time of year, so I made a big pot of chili this week. Most of us have a chili recipe we love. Someday I’ll share mine, but what I want to give you today is what I’m super excited about, my newly formulated signature Cornbread.
Recipe : Sweet Skillet Cornbread
This experiment in Cornbread turned out to be everything I wanted it to be: a little bit sweet, tender and moist, with bits of golden corn and a crisp, crackly edge. I like to use my grandmother’s deep 10″ cast iron skillet (aka dutch oven), but a pre-heated baking pan will work just fine.
- 1 cup all purpose flour
- 1 cup fine cornmeal, preferably white
- 1/3 cup sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 egg, lightly beaten
- 1 – 8.5 oz. can cream-style corn
- 1/2 cup buttermilk
- 1/4 cup melted butter, salted
- 1 tablespoon butter, for skillet (alternately, you may use 1 tablespoon bacon grease)
1. Place a deep 10″ oven-proof skillet, cake pan, or an 8-inch square metal baking pan* (see note) on center rack of oven, and preheat to 400 degrees F.
2. In a large bowl combine dry ingredients and stir with a whisk to combine. In a medium bowl combine egg, creamed corn, buttermilk, and melted butter. Whisk to combine. Pour wet ingredients into dry ingredients and stir just until moistened.
3. Remove hot skillet or baking dish from oven and add 1 tablespoon of butter. Once the butter has melted, swirl to evenly coat bottom and 1 inch up the sides of pan. Immediately pour in batter. Spread evenly with a rubber spatula and bake 20 to 25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cut into wedges or squares and serve warm.
*Glass or ceramic baking dishes may crack when cool batter is added to a hot dish.