Sunday, February 03, 2008
When Graham is away, I find it difficult to eat balanced, proper meals, existing instead on bran muffins and cheese. There are many varieties of bran muffins and of course, the cheese variety is spellbounding.
I can go a long while before I get tired of this combination.
But it's been very cold for a very long time, it seems. The Arctic Front that has the province in its grasp won't let go and my bones take on the damp chill, becoming wooden and leaden.
It feels to me like it's time for some Chowder, and Turnips come to mind...the big Swede Turnip...the one with the strong, unmistakable Turnip taste.
My mother made a dish similar to this, and that is from where the inspiration for this Chowder comes. Her recipe was a side dish; however, I love Turnips so much I turned it into a Chowder. It's a terrific dish on a cold Winter's Day, both a seasonal and local vegetable.
Turnips are great for your system...my friend Jackie writes about this vegetable here. The golden chunks of this vegetable in its broth is a picture of warmth and comfort. And it's time for both.
I begin by sauteing smoked turkey drumsticks or wings or hocks in a little olive oil, just for a couple of minutes. I add large chunks of smoked bacon, and render it all down. Then I add all the aromatics...onions and parsley and carrots and bay leaves...to the meat in the stock pot. I usually use chicken broth to cover, adding pepper.
I let it simmer, uncovered, for a couple of hours. I tend the base of the Chowder, by adding liquids, either broth or Water, as it simmers down, tasting as I go.
It tastes as if it needs Horseradish, this stock I'm making. I add some, along with Apple Cider Vinegar...ahh, there it is, that pleasant sharp taste sensation at the back of the throat...the finish. I remove whatever meat and bones I've used, and the Bay leaves.
I add the Turnips, cut into large bite-sized chunks, lest they fall apart, to the broth. The pale yellow chunks soon turn golden, sending their unmistakable scent on the steam that rises from the bubbling liquid. More onions, carrots and Horseradish are added.
Any meat, which by now is completely falling off the bones, is diced and added to the Chowder. And then, chunks of whatever sausage I happen to have on hand are stirred into the golden brew, whose colour reminds me of Sun's golden, warm Rays...
I turn the heat to low. I dice a couple of Potatoes, ready to be added to the Chowder after the Turnip is almost done. And then I let the Turnips gently cook, melding the flavours together.
This recipe is always a midwinter one for me. Swedes don't have much flavour until they have had a bit of Frost, which intensifies and sweetens them.
I open the back door; Sun is high in the Sky. It is still cold out, but the rays of Sun remind me of the coming Spring, as they flood the interior of the mud room. The Dogs sprawl out in the Sunlight, loving the fleeting warmth of the Winter Sun. And the Turnip Chowder sends its aroma throughout the neighbourhood.
I go to the front garden. I have largely ignored it this Winter, having prepared it well in the Autumn. It does not take long for me to immerse myself in it, becoming oblivious to the World around me. The Hydrangeas need a bit of pruning; the Magnolia is budding and will soon bloom, by the looks of the fat buds. The Daffodils are showing green, strappy leaves...and yes, there is a bud or two braving the cold.
As I look at the Elder Tree, the one who came out of nowhere to grow against the house, I become aware of a couple of neighbours standing on the street, discussing neighbourly things. I wander over, as greetings are exchanged.
We discuss housing, a subject that has been mulled over since the For Sale sign appeared on my front Lawn. Both neighbours feel badly for me, they say, having to stay behind to sell the house...and who knew when it was going to sell? Houses don't sell quickly, especially in the middle of a Cold Snap.
I tell them the house sold, for all intents and purposes, last week. There are a few conditions to be met, which is why there is no Sold sign across the For Sale sign as yet.
There is silence. Each glance at the other. I laugh and say...It's true!
One of the elderly neighbours quickly remembers his manners and congratulates me; the other mulls over the conditions yet to be met in a negative manner and then grudgingly gives me his well-wishes.
I smile at him, understanding he would rather live in a world populated with Worries and Fear, than in one where he would be required to Open his Heart to Joy.
As we stand discussing the Sale, the smell of Turnip Chowder wafts and circles around our noses; one fellow's eyes light up and he says...Turnips! with awe. He lives alone, you see...
The other said...I hate Turnips! but his nose followed the seductive, homey, warm scent sent by the Chowder. He lives with his daughter.
I explained I had a craving for this particular Chowder this morning. I laughed as I told them how my Chowders, no matter what kind, always make enough to feed an army...and I offered them some, explaining potatoes had yet to be added, but it was done pretty much.
One fellow accepted eagerly; the other shrugged his shoulders and said...only a little, mind.
I went in and filled two earthenware soup plates, placed a dab of Horseradish in the centre, and added a spoon.
I gave it to them, hot and comforting, with golden steam, right there in the Sunlight.
This is very good, said one. It's not bad, said the other.
They wandered off to their homes, tasting as they went, taking the aroma of the Chowder further through the neighbourhood, for other taste buds to salivate at the scent of...Turnips!
I went in, to add the Potatoes and more Parsley and adjust the seasoning.
And as I prepared my Dinner, I wondered...would I think this Chowder was very good...or not bad...
I think it all depends on my point of view.