We went to sleep last week after yet another day of miserable rain and cold, and woke to summer — hot, sunny, humid. Maine has such gorgeous springs, but this year we kind of missed the boat. It rained almost the entire month of May, creating a cool, soggy mess. The poor lilacs — my favorite scent of the season — barely made it inside, with their wet, drooping purple flowers. I finally put away my heavy sweaters and got out the shorts and tank tops and I’m ready to take on this heat.
The mailman takes his lunch by the small graveyard at the side of a nearby dead-end road. He’s been doing this for well over a year, during snow storms, summer heat waves, as the autumn leaves fall gracefully from the trees, and now, as spring shouts out its glorious green song. I have seen him there, quietly eating his sandwich in the white truck with the red and blue stripes, and wondered what it is that draws him to this particular cemetery.
Here’s the thing about breakfast. It’s a wonderful meal and all, but I’m just not the type of person who wakes up with an appetite. I open my eyes and start thinking about coffee. Strong, hot, espresso with lots of foamed milk piled on top. That’s what gets me out of bed — not visions of fluffy pancakes or fried eggs and bacon. I can see the nutritionists out there shaking their heads in disapproval. Yes, I’m aware that it’s very important to eat first thing in the morning, but sorry, it just doesn’t work for me.
Things were starting to feel a lot like the film Groundhog Day around here. Wake up. It’s cold, there’s piles of snow, a little sun, a few clouds. Wake up. It’s cold, piles of snow, a little sun, a few clouds….
This afternoon, a bitterly cold mid-February day, the sun was so bright reflecting off the snow through my south-facing windows that my kitchen looked like a movie set. The light was surreal, the kind of intense brightness that lets you know that spring, while not necessarily close, might not be all that far away either.
I’m not sure what it was about that light that made me feel like baking. My first thought was to take a walk, but when I looked at the thermometer and it registered 15 degrees above zero, I decided baking was a very good second option.
It’s only February, and it sure feels like winter has been around for a while. For a few weeks we couldn't get the back kitchen door open to let the dog out because the snow was piled so high it just wouldn't budge no matter how much we shoveled. There are mountains of snow out there, making this a winter that feels like the one’s I remember from childhood. When the sun shines the scene outside my window looks pretty spectacular, but there are other times I wonder about this season.
It was my friend Hope’s idea. A way to brighten the long winter nights and make them just a bit more delicious. She called it: “Seasonal Second Sunday Soup Swap Supper at Six.” Aside from the clever alliteration, she proposed getting together a small group of people who love to cook. The idea was that everyone would simmer up a huge pot of their favorite soup, we’d have a little party, enjoy the soups, and then everyone goes home with the leftovers to fill their refrigerator (or freezer).
Photo copyright Russell French 2009
It’s that time of year again. Shopping, wrapping, making lists, and then making more lists. When it comes to gift-giving my philosophy is simple: stay close to home and choose something that will teach someone something new.
The phone rings and it’s my neighbor, calling at two in the afternoon to tell me a deer has been shot on my land. Just out of the shower, hair dripping, I throw on some jeans and a sweatshirt, and run over to the field across the street and down the hill. I see a big red truck, smack in the middle of the field, its wide over-sized tires stuck deep into muddy ruts it has created, after days of intense rain. And there it is. A huge, white-tailed deer, with bone-white antlers nestled on the ground, right by the rear of the red truck.
Tall, green leeks stand like soldiers in my otherwise barren garden. Next to them are just a few cabbages (their outer leaves dotted with frost), Brussels sprouts, onions, and carrots holding on through the newly frosted nights and cold, white-dusted mornings.