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,
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
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,
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.