The posts will be short these days, as this is family time. And perhaps my creative energy, like the sun, makes itself available on a shorter schedule during these dark, northern winters. These are times for digging down, burrowing, reading the neglected book (mine is Jane Austen’s Mansfield Park).
These are also times for bucking that hunkering instinct and venturing out into the winter world only to realize it offers just as much as the summer one, but with more secrecy and reserve.You have to really look. And then you see the jewels of the season hovering under the obscuring fog: hoarfrost, abandoned seed pods, mistletoe in full force, and at least here in France, the glorious green of winter grass blanketing fields that lie still, gathering energy for what’s to come in the new year: oat, rapeseed, and wheat. Which is all to say that underground things are happening. Things are making ready. Things are alive. And some of these things, we eat.
Browsing the grocery store produce department the other day, I ran into some of them—winter vegetables that are hard to come by in Italy at all. It takes cold and a “cold culture” to know and love these knobbly edibles: parsnips, rutabagas, and turnips. I’ll be chopping these up together with onion, leek, garlic, carrot and Charlotte potatoes, then roasting them for 50 minutes or more in a hot oven, with a drizzle of olive oil, a sprinkling of sea salt and a sage leaf or two. (The rosemary died. Otherwise, I’d use that.) I’ll toss once or twice during the roasting so that all the edges begin to take on the color of caramelization. Then I’ll tuck into that root-y, underground world of earthy tastes: surprising sweetness, a small nip of bitterness, and that something wonderful in rutabaga, garlic and parsnip that bites back.
P.S. I’d gladly add yellow or red beets, but all that’s available in the store is pre-cooked beets. And that won’t do.