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What’s bubbling in your kitchen when winter arrives at its thickest?

Predawn greets me this cold day, a new year fresh on its heels. I swish my coffee around, feeling the caffeine dripping slowly, and contemplate. Aside from October in all its splendor, this is my favorite time of year. The mornings are dark and full of winter mystery, and the air is chill in the quiet house.

I slip a pair of socks on my feet, the only time Iíll wear them, and take perch on my chair to begin the day. If the day is drear with no sign of the sun, Iíll hit my stride early as billows of dark clouds and fluffy flurries serve me well. Iím sure thereís a scientific name for me. I just havenít looked it up; I donít need to know it to know myself.

Winter is not at its thickest, yet my mind turns to what I can throw into my slow cooker and simmer all day as I work. I lean toward dense soups filled with barley and rough-cut vegetables and tender cubes of meat bubbling in a delicious broth. Most times when I head into the local supermarket, I pick up a loaf of Italian bread baked in their bakery. Solid and nourishing, we tear hunks of it off when the soup is served. Dip, dip, dip into the flavorful bowl it goes and drips onto our chins as we savor the well-put-together concoction. Nary a drop is left.

I find as well that thick slabs of hand-held breads, like banana and pumpkin, taste best when the nip of frost finds the end of your nose. When I open my pantry and see a can of pumpkin or notice that the last three bananas have gone softly black in spots, I set out my bumpy, dented bread pans. These pans were picked up by me at some long-forgotten thrift store or garage sale, now dinged and marked but smooth and able to bake the most delicious breads. I donít have a fancy baking rack to cool them on, so after settling in the pans for a bit, I flop them out and wrap them up in saran wrap so theyíll stay moist. They donít last very long.

One-pot dinners, they are your friend, and when I think of them, I think of my cast iron skillet. Well-seasoned and blackened, my skillet is nearly my best friend. To the untrained eye and cook they are a daunting and heavy thing to be feared, yet Iím sure when my kids marry, they will all receive one as a gift from me. There is no item more serviceable than a good cast iron skillet. Mine has held cheesy baked corn bread, countless juicy cube steaks with mushroom gravy, baked biscuit casseroles and melty appetizers with Monterey Jack cheese holding pillowy piles of spicy salsa and grilled shrimp. Though I use its services year round, the colder minutes and hours are when I pull out my skillet the most.

Iíve heard tell of the newest kitchen gadget called an Instant Pot. Did you get one for Christmas? Iíll be honest. All my cooking travails and trials rail against the very notion that a gadget can cook something hard and fast when all my instincts say low and slow is the best way. Maybe someday soon Iíll have one, but for now Iím content to play around with the new red Kitchen Aid I received for Christmas. My breads, cookies and mashed potatoes will be the fluffiest ones around.

Iím holding my second cup of coffee this morning, a strong brew as I must have it, and outside my window the air is foggy with winterís breath. The trees are devoid of all life, and the sky is a metal gray, but the beauty ó the stark beauty ó takes my breath away. I donít forget that I am warm inside and can enjoy winter when it spreads softly over the land, up my porch steps and to my windows. I greet it with sock-covered toes and a soft sigh from my lips, receiving the beauty of one of my favorite seasons.

Published: January 5, 2017
New Article ID: 2017701059993