pringing forward is what we did in some weeks ago, in March. And there are so many articles on why we should or shouldn’t plunge ahead an hour and I am so tired of reading the pros and cons that I retreated into my spring dossier of what’s good to eat — an hour back or an hour ahead doesn’t matter.
My vegetable lady who sells the produce from her father’s farm near our little village informed me during the first week of March that she has strawberries, artichokes, and five kinds of cabbage. Cabbage? Does she mean cabbage that is simmered with sweet onions, crispy bacon bits, and caraway seed or does she intend to surprise me with red cabbage for the first coleslaw of the year — fine shreds of cabbage with minced fresh dill, sweet onion, cider, or white wine vinegar, Dijon mustard, minced celery leaves or seeds, and mayonnaise.
Does this mean barbeque? Weather has been less than welcoming here, the mornings fresh but freezing, the moon gazing at us from a chilly Prussian blue night sky, but the idea of cooking outside around dinner time in scarves and down jackets doesn’t pull at me, and the food is cold before it hits the dining room table.
Perhaps this third winter after covid is just too long and strange. There were two days of snowflakes and many nights of frost but at least the beach was not deep in white slush the way it was a few years ago. And there are tiny jonquils poking up their little yellow heads through the mulch in my garden, not to mention the gangs of sparrows around the feeder, depending on their seed balls to take them into April.
As for winter dishes, I’m curried out.
I’ve never made so many curries during a winter; butter chicken, vegetable curry from every imaginable leftover in the fridge, raita with garlic and mint, chapati and naan and lemon chutney from the magic tree that produces, without fail, 300 lemons each February. It was so cold here that even fresh limoncello took a back seat to single malt.
Maybe it is this in-between-season that leaves me wondering which way to turn for dinner when there have actually been a couple of sunny days on which our lovely sardines and anchovies from our Spanish neighbor, along with eggs, mayonnaise, and hothouse tomatoes gave us the semblance of summer.
Here I am, longing for the soft south wind in my hair that blows from the Sahara, clam-digger pants, and bare sandals, painted toes, and San Marzano tomatoes gracing my vines in all their juicy red glory. My garden gaze right now is a bleak, mulch-covered stretch of zilch, with an occasional straggling lavender bush in desperate need of pruning, its little dried flower heads nodding off on their stalks.
The aforementioned grill sits cold and pathetic on the patio awaiting those lovely slices of homemade country bread to toast for bruschetta. What patience our little barbeque has, knowing full well that my tomato seedlings are only two-inches high and struggling to find sun. Would that I had the same tolerance for these last weeks of weird weather.
But, enough of this wallowing in wishes. I shall do what I always do around this wishy-washy time of year and make a favorite for quick comfort, the simplest soup on earth with sliced leeks and potatoes simmered in homemade chicken broth, whizzed up with abundant ground pepper.
Uh, oh. I forgot to get potatoes from my local grocer and it’s after hours!
With a heavy heart, I took scraps to my compost pile for solace, dreaming of May or June riches from that black soil that helps my tomatoes produce until December, and as I dug down deep to make a nice hole for the carrot peels and apple cores, my spading fork hit something solid. Oh, no, more underground rocks that I thought we had eliminated years ago when the garden was made. At least whatever it was didn’t bend the tines of my precious 30-year-old tool.
As I went deeper, two enormous Mona Lisa potatoes surfaced, a little dirty but pristine, without the spade marks that sometimes happen when my crop is being dug, and my simmering potion for winter’s woes will now keep a few more windy days at bay. There is a garden Guru after all and my barren garden beds suddenly have redeemed themselves. I think it’s time to dig up the whole shebang and see what other treasures might be hiding there.
There are, after all, only about two or three weeks to go before chocolate bunnies and pastel eggs will lift our sagging spirits.
Last year’s potatoes in the winter soup will have done their work, thanks to the bounty of a compost pile, and the next soup on the list will, I pray, be gazpacho.