Thursday, March 15, 2012

It's only because of the dill

I suppose that, as far as central Texas is concerned, winter is now officially over and that spring has already begun without my permission or participation.  I didn't get a memorandum notifying me that someone had requested an early spring, and it's not even the 21st yet.  Being a Yankee, I suppose that's where the trouble starts.  But we did change our clocks one hour forward this past Sunday.  So I guess that's the official first step.  The time change has been difficult so far; it gets harder each year as I get older, getting up when the mornings are still so dark.  This week, I am tentatively venturing onto my patio to listen to the waterfall during a time when it would formerly be getting dark.  It feels new and strange, this spring.

Even though I welcome the brilliant green shoots in my gardens and flower beds and my potted plants are venturing outside the greenhouse (I can imagine them squinting in the prolonged sunlight), I feel a certain sadness that the chill of winter has gone so fast.  I didn't have enough fires in the fireplace, crackling, glowing and warming me against the wind and icy rain outside.  I don't feel as though I got enough braising, stewing, roasting or baking done.  The smells of winter--the heady aroma of bread in the oven, simmering soups full of herbs, leeks and garlic, braising short ribs with that magical alchemy of red wine and aromatic vegetables (an aroma more powerful than the Pied Piper's flute)--all gone too quickly.

Already I am missing the cocoon of nightfall on a winter evening, the way the dusk would creep in, enveloping me and wrapping itself around me while I watched it deepen through the kitchen window.  Already I am missing preparing a warming and satisfying dinner of roasted vegetables and grains, a flavorful pan sauce studded with sauteed mushrooms, or something tender and succulent in the crockpot that smells insanely delicious as you step through the door.  Already I am missing sipping a glass of silky red wine, browsing through cookbooks under warm, incandescent lighting.  Or doing the dishes contentedly (from my new stainless steel sink) while I hear the tea kettle softly whistling behind me.  I miss sitting in the evening after dinner with my cup of tea, warming my hands, thinking about my next dinner party.  It's my little winter ritual.

You don't get to do those things in the spring or summer in Texas.  Well, I supposed you could, but it's just not the same.  Instead of being snuggled up on the couch, surrounded by recipes, food magazines and cookbooks, the glow of golden incandescence creating a halo of inspiration, you're on the patio, sipping rose (which is not a bad thing), fending off baby mosquitoes (who can really put a hurtin' on ya), wondering if that plant would look better there.  Or you're in the house, in front of a fan, because it's a tiny bit humid and the air is not moving much at all (in fact it's downright suffocating), and it's far too early to even think about putting the air conditioner on.  I do not associate creativity and motivation with warmer weather.

So I reluctantly acknowledge that spring is here and I cannot stop it from coming.  I cannot turn back the clock, so to speak, because that won't happen again until the fall.  I  must be pulled along (rather stubbornly) into the new season, the Carolina jessamine being that one immutable sign of spring that reminds me profusely, every day, that spring is here.  It fairly trumpets spring with its bright, cheery, yellow blossoms which can put on quite a show when there's been plenty of rain.

And so, resigned, I do what I can to allow spring to come.  I lay in several bottles of rose.  I trim back dead leaves and branches, visit the local nursery.  I make warmer-weather foods.  Having been gifted recently with a large bunch of fresh dill, I did what any self-respecting woman reluctant for spring to come would do: I made gravlax.  I posted another gravlax recipe last summer (also known as gravad lax), which was very good (I made it three times last summer--it was that good), but that recipe uses dried dill pollen, not fresh dill, so I am trying another technique.  And this is what it looks like on the first day of the curing process:

Can you say "blini"?

And then I made enough fresh dill salad dressing to share with the friend who gifted me with the dill.  Even enough to share with my friend's friend.  So that all of us can see that bright, vivid green and taste that sweet, herbal taste of dill and know that it is spring, however reluctantly we may know it.

So spring is here.  I reluctantly give way.  But it's only because of the dill.

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