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Hibernation 101

I donít know how they do it in Maine or Minnesota or Wisconsin. I donít know how the people who live in Chicago do it. Deal with winter, that is.

I made an ill-timed visit to Quebec City in the dead of winter many years ago. My room at the splendid Chateau Frontenac was standard-issue, not at all up to par with the rest of the building. But the way I saw it was that we wouldnít be spending much time there.

I was wrong. I donít think I made more than a couple forays into the brutal cold. If there are good restaurants in Quebec, I wouldnít know. If there is culture, if it wasnít on TV, I didnít see it. Shopping? Forget it.

I know: Weíre just in the middle of a cold snap. A cold snap with a hell of a lot of snow. This, too, shall pass. Or rather, melt.

But in the meantime, we need a game plan to get through the days. We need supplies, diversions and comfort food. This is not the time to diet.

For starters you need to stake out a spot where you wonít notice the winter too much. This means itís best not to face any windows. My spot is in a room with a lot of windows, but I keep my back to them. This does mean I get some glare on my computer screen, but Iíve learned to deal with that.

Personally, I donít think your spot should be in your bedroom because that will make you feel that youíre really sick rather than just a hapless victim of Seasonal Affective Disorder.

Once youíve got your spot picked out, you know you can return to it whenever you come indoors, whether youíve been out at work, out shoveling, out buying groceries. Your spot will not disappoint you.

While there, youíll need something to snuggle under. Actually, layers of things to snuggle under are nice. A down comforter and a wool blanket. A chenille bathrobe and an old quilt. A Snuggie and an afghan. The combinations are limitless. I used a horsehair buggy blanket I bought last summer at a house sale (thinking Iíd never use anything that heavy) and a shawl. Just like grandma.

Youíll need comfort foods, of course. This means, unless you have a personal chef, that you will have to leave your spot and enter the kitchen. Thatís not so bad, though, because you can crank up the oven and in no time flat the room will be warm.

Chili is, of course, the all-time favorite cold weather food. Chili and hot chocolate, though not together. Macaroni and cheese. Chicken soup. But donít be too boring. Expand your repertoire of comfort foodsóthereís still a lot of winter ahead of us. Cook up a pot of kale and linguica soup. Make a blanquette de veau (you can make it with chicken) and serve it over buttermilk-mashed potatoes. Or make something that reminds you of summer. Pesto, for example. Last night I made a salsa of pineapple, avocado, sweet onion and parsley and served it with spice-rubbed pork tenderloin. I could almost smell the citronella candles.

Once youíve got your plate or bowl and a glass of wine or a big mug of chai, settle back into your spot and prepare for your diversions. Yes, you were diverted last week by President Obamaís speech at GE. And yes, watching the Steelers pull a Lance Armstrong over the Jets was diverting. And President Obamaís State of the Union address kept your mind occupied, too.

But the best diversions are ones that donít require too much thinking, nail-biting, cheering or groaning. The best diversions are ones that donít necessarily enrich your mind all that muchóexcept that reading The Dictionary of Cultural Literacy is both educational and easy because the entries are so short. Forgot who Hephaestus was? How many theses did Martin Luther nail to the church door at Wittenberg? And whatís Mendelian inheritance again? In no time, youíll have a basic grasp of the facts of the matter.

But letís face it: thereís no substitute for the mind-numbing comfort of television re-runs. If youíre like me and rarely watch TV at all, now is the time to catch up on all the dramas and the comedies that everybody talks about at cocktail parties and family gatherings. Just thinkóby the time winter ends, you, too, will be able to dish about the Kardashians and trade plot lines from Glee.

So good luck. And stay warm.

óJo Page

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