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Longing for Winter

March 27, 2018

When Chekhov saw the long winter, he saw a winter bleak and dark and bereft of hope. Yet we know that winter is just another step in the cycle of life. But standing here among the people of Punxsutawney and basking in the warmth of their hearths and hearts, I couldn’t imagine a better fate than a long and lustrous winter.
~Phil Conners

All around me, people are itching for winter to end.

Complaining about the weather is indeed a regional pastime. And I get it. I probably get it more than most. I spent a significant chunk of my life in a mediterranean climate where it rarely got too hot or too cold. One year, when San Francisco saw an unseasonable rain in the summer, it made the front page of the newspaper. Living out there made me soft.

If it weren’t such a ludicrous claim, I’d suggest a decade a living in the Capital Region has made me hard. But that’s not the case at all. So how else could one explain why I have no strong desire for winter to depart?

I have a few ideas.

More than the cold, I mind the dark. Those short days are the worst, and now they are behind us. I wake up and it’s already light. We finish dinner and it’s still light. That’s amazing. And from here on out, the days are just going to get longer.

Go ahead and snow. Again. I’ll even shovel. Just so long as I have my light.

Perhaps I’m also lucky that my job doesn’t require me to trudge through snowy roads, require me to commute in a cold car every morning, or even leave the house every day. Surely that has to help. And when I do leave the house in the winter, it’s usually for something fun, like meeting people for coffee, going out to dinner, and attending an event. Seriously, I’ve got the best job ever.

There’s also that Kurt Vonnegut thing that I keep telling people about, and while technically it makes winter longer, it also helps to make a long winter more manageable. Psychologically, it makes a huge difference.

But winter is great. The long slow braises of these colder months, are some of my favorite things to cook. And I still somehow haven’t made a batch of split pea soup this year. Nor has there been chili, red beans and rice, or Marcella’s bolognese.

Winter produce is great too. Not only do we get that amazing citrus from further afield, but the winter storage crops, still available in dwindling numbers at our local farmers markets, are some of the best stuff we grow.

There’s nothing to eat in spring.

The winter storage crops are on their last legs. Sure, we may have seedlings. But little will be ready to harvest until June. It’s rainy. It’s muddy. Blech.

That said, transitions are important. It helps to have a season to bring you from winter to summer. I suppose there will be grilling. But there will also be bugs. My favorite part though is getting to say goodbye to shoes and hello to sandals. And there is the return of fresh, leafy salad greens that haven’t been damaged by transport through the tundra.

Soon enough we’ll be seeing the return of ramps, and fiddleheads will find their way onto chefs’ specials menus. But even Little Miss Fussy is hoping for one last snow. Maybe if I make an appointment to have our snow tires removed, that should encourage nature to punish me with an inch or two of powder.

At least there are plenty of festivals coming up to help us overcome the loss of winter. Right now Yelp is giving away a pair of tickets to the Albany Craft Beer Festival, and that’s going to be a blast. Plus, maybe as the weather heats up my little Instant Pot will finally see some more use. We’ll have to wait and see.

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