is impressively thorough. We wrap ourselves in space-age synthetics,
confident that we’ll move through the bluster in a cocoon
of warmth—and then, during the short sprint from front door
to car, a malicious wind finds its way past velcro and zippers
and stabs like an icy dagger.
trust walkways and streets, sheeted as they may be with invisible
ice; you can’t trust your car battery to yield enough cranking
power. But it’s the wind that’ll get you, blasting your chest
into such a frigid state that you’re aware of the size and
location of each internal organ.
the primal urge to warm them. They can only be thawed from
within, which is why this is the time of year for thick lentil
soup, spicy chili, creamy hot cocoa.
takes on a special urgency when the thermometer hovers at
the single- digits end. “I’m going to need some real
food when I get home tonight,” a friend offered earlier today.
“Something my mom used to make.”
is why the Comfort Food category heads the list. It’s what
warmed you in the morning before you trudged off to school,
imprisoned in layers of old- dog-redolent wool. Excluding
oatmeal, which shouldn’t be consumed in any form other than
cookies, those breakfast and dinner items still pack a warming
for instance. Although more properly enshrined in the carbohydrates
category (see below), they radiate their own breakfast mystique.
A sweet, delicious tower of puffy pan-bread, the purpose of
which is to offer maple syrup (real maple syrup, please) a
toothsome conveyance mouthwards.
over the years by such ghastly concepts as frozen pancakes,
that horrific blend of corn syrup and fake butter called Mrs.
Butterworth’s, and whatever it is that McDonald’s puts on
a plate, real, made-from-scratch pancakes survive, their only
competition coming from real, made-from-scratch waffles.
else did your mother plunk in front of you? Meatloaf would
be the archetype, though mine may be the last generation during
which moms actually made the stuff; still, meatloaf carries
a “comfort food” designation in its DNA. But it’s not the
meatloaf: It’s the gravy.
brings us to our next category: Thick Food. Which only makes
sense. Thick food coats the palate, prolonging the flavor.
Cold weather senses are dulled and can use the help. Thick
food that’s warm, like soup, changes viscosity, like good
10-40 oil, and begins its hot-from-the-pot journey with an
eager flow that slows as the foodstuff cools and congeals
en route to your gullet.
time that split-pea soup, or mushroom gravy, or chicken-and-biscuits
reaches your belly, it’s doing business, burnishing the space
with its remaining warmth, offering a satisfying sense of
no better end-of-the-day treat than a mug of hot cocoa, the
real thing, a 50/50 mix of chocolate and cocoa, sweetened
only to the near edge of bitterness, thickened with an egg
yolk, topped with whipped cream. A drink that’s versatile
enough even to serve as breakfast when necessary.
above, Big Carbohydrates are the third major category. Though
not necessarily as instantly warming as Thick Food, they promote
a sense of fullness. Toss some tagliatelle in garlic oil,
flake it with asiago cheese, and your stomach will thank you.
Make it a carbonara and I guarantee the warmth will wander
to the rest of your torso. For a sense of snowbound superfetation,
roast some potatoes to go with it.
on the list: Booze. This is the time of year when you crave
warm drinks, but certain alcoholic beverages do their temperature-raising
work at room temperature: cognac, for example. Better still,
aquavit or grappa, which even warm the extreme ends of your
fingers and toes.
wine seems to diminish the pleasure of the grape—maybe its
because I can practically see all that good alcohol burning
off—so I offer a cold-weather classic as substitute: hot buttered
rum. A character in Kenneth Roberts’ Northwest Passage
has a splendid description of the effect of the stuff, properly
a temporary drink, like most drinks. That’s on account of
the butter. No matter how much you drink of anything else,
it’ll wear off in a day or so; but you take enough hot buttered
rum and it’ll last you pretty near as long as a coonskin cap.”
the accompanying recipe was for rum by the bucketful, I’ve
worked it down to these by-the-glass proportions:
good dark rum
of a cinnamon stick
cider to boil. Throw everything else into a large, sturdy
mug. Pour the boiling cider on top. Drink quickly.
it quickly enough—and refill your mug—and suddenly you won’t
feel so compelled to deal with the frozen pipes or the drafts
whistling in beneath the doors. Pace yourself correctly and
you can make otherwise endless-seeming February go by in a
of the above seems to make sense, there’s another alternative.
Find yourself a table in restaurant with a fireplace and a
friendly menu, and settle in.