Tuesday, March 22, 2005


I am just at the end of yet another week in the Midwest, helping my mother pack up her house so she can move to Vermont to live by us. Between this past week, a previous week-and-a-half here in February, and two weeks with the kids in a different Midwestern city, accompanying H on a work assignment, I've done a good half of this winter's cooking in other people's kitchens.

In one's own kitchen, there is not only the familiarity of knowing where everything is, there is also the familiarity of your own range of staples. I always have olive oil, flour, onions and garlic, canned beans, white wine, tortillas on hand. Other people's kitchens throw up both obstructions and opportunities, especially because as a short-term guest, you often can't justify laying in the staples you might need to cook like you're at home — one onion is easy enough, but if your host doesn't use flour, it's hardly worth buying a pound of it just to dust your chicken breasts with it.

My kids will not touch anything leafy and green, so we rarely have anything to make green salads around the house, especially in the winter, as I've grown more seasonal in my produce cravings in recent years. But at my mom's this past week, with no small food critics underfoot and being a full two "gardening zones" south of Vermont, we've been indulging in the modern convenience of lettuce and salad greens at the end of winter.

Around this time of year, Vermonters tend to have only one conversation, the "I'm ready for winter to be over" conversation. I don't know if it's just the fact that we had an especially cold January, with the temperature rarely breaking into the single digits, or because I knew that I'd be spending the first day of spring out here, but I was hardly complaining at all, even as more and more snow fell in the first few weeks of March. The days in the upper 20s seemed warm enough for now; perhaps I felt spring coming in a way I haven't before, perhaps as I get older I'm more confident that the seasons will turn and things will be OK and we can be patient and calm.

Spring comes late in Vermont, and is full of dirt and mud and it's still pretty cold. It is a little exposed shoot of new life in a forest of still-barren trees, you see it there and do a double-take because it seems like everything should still be bundled up and hidden away. But it's spring now, and here it comes.

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