Thursday, March 24, 2016
Nothing at all Parisian about it: A spring snow day is pure Michigan! Yard and fields and orchards and woods white again, driveway drifted over, landmarks obliterated, winds battering farmhouse and outbuildings. It took us only about ten seconds to decide to stay home for the day.
All the best meals start with an onion – or in today’s case, three onions, since two of them were already exhibiting plant life’s “force that through the green fuse” ever strives to reach again for the sun. I cooked up the onions before fixing on their ultimate destiny. Maybe onion soup, but then again maybe not....
A session of bookkeeping brought on a virtuous glow, and I wanted a reward. I wanted cookies! The trouble was, I didn’t really feel like making cookies -- but they don’t make themselves. At last I found a recipe that would do, with modifications, for a non-shopping winter-spring day. It is very seldom I have sour milk on hand, and having it that day is what turned the tide. I knew it would come in handy for something.
The cookbook called them “rocks,” the recipe calling for a cup of chopped nuts. My modification was golden raisins and a handful of mixed dried fruit (cherries, cranberries, and blueberries), with whole wheat flour substituted for one cup of the white. Cinnamon and ground cloves deepened the color of dough already featuring brown sugar, and the sour milk made the cookies puff adorably in the oven, with slightly crispy bottom edges.
The snow day was not a gourmet day in my Paris kitchen or our old farmhouse. It was a comfort food day. As it happened, the freezer yielded up a previously cooked chicken breast, the pantry shelves a can of stewed tomatoes, and fresh ginger, garlic, and spices from the Middle and Near East gave character to the developing dish that had begun, so modestly, with three onions.
At last, served on brown rice with chopped cilantro, our mixed-up blizzard day dinner came to the table.
We had had primarily an indoor day, spent with long books (one for each of us) and only occasional sorties out into the wild storm. Soon enough, the rushing spring and summer seasons will be upon us! And so, in northern Michigan a spring snow day is a special gift from Fate, and rather than culinary challenge, I took the storm as an opportunity for comfort and indulgence – one last retreat from strenuous activity before the nonstop season of work begins.