The darkness is gathering around us.
I mean that literally. The sun seems more reluctant to rise each morning. Dusk settles in along the lines of the trees about 4:30. It’s pitch black by 6.
Yesterday, toward the end of the afternoon, we stopped our conversations when Johnny came running in. On his short, sturdy legs, he ran hard, on a mission. Once he crossed the threshold of the front door, he began shouting, “Storm’s coming, Mama! Storm’s coming!” And then he turned and ran back outside to investigate more.
We all burst into laughter.
But really, he’s right. Winter’s coming, folks. And it’s a big storm.
It’s easy to hibernate during the winter around here. By this time next month, the darkness around us will be deep at 4:30 pm. It’s going to rain. (Hey people of Seattle? This is Seattle. Let’s see if we can refrain from complaining this year.) There will be days of slate-grey skies, interrupted by angry clutches of even darker grey clouds. If we were bears, we’d be eating as many blueberries as we could to store up reserves for the winter. Two months of sleep ahead.
However, we’re not bears. We have to walk whether or not it’s raining; we need the vitamin D. And weeks in the house, never kicking off our slippers, leave us all a little moldy and quite a bit grumpy.
This year, I’m determined to drag myself out of the house in the cold and bring my friends with me. Cups of tea at Minglement, walks on KVI beach in the snow, time on the playground bundled up in hats and gloves — life is going to take me away from the computer.
At the very least, we would all do well with gatherings and potlucks, the house warm with conversations and laughter, the children bouncing on the bed and the afternoon stretching out before us.
Yesterday, that’s what we did. Friends gathered together, excited about a shared cooking project. We all cooked a recipe from Lisa Fain’s cookbook, The Homesick Texan Cookbook.
I should say that Lisa is a blogger friend of mine. I’m awfully fond of her dry wit, her kindness, her astute writer mind. If she lived here on Vashon, I think she would have been at this potluck. One of us. I’m damned proud of her for creating this book. It’s filled with enticing recipes and her quiet strength of a voice.
However, I also know that if I had never shared coffee with Lisa, or a meal in New York City, I would still buy this book. I want to make every dish. Honestly, I’m kind of a fool for good Mexican food. And since both Mexican places here on the island are mediocre to pretty crappy, I’m determined to become better at making this stuff for myself. We can make a mean carnitas now. Danny figured out the right notes for the pickled carrots and jalapenos for our cookbook. I can make homemade corn tortillas in my sleep now. But I want to learn more.
Lisa’s book is going to teach me more.
Here’s the list of possible dishes I sent out to the girls, when we decided to each make a dish from this book:
pork chops with salsa verde rice
tex mex meatloaf with a chipotle-tomato glaze
tacos al carbon (small-apartment style)
spinach and mushroom enchiladas with tomatillo salsa
cheese enchiladas with chile con carne
Mexican shredded beef salad
pico de gallo
black bean dip
fried green tomatoes
roquefort and pecan cheese log
squash and pork stew
One-Hour Texas Chili (which can become Frito pie)
And if anyone wants to bake:
pecan coffee cake
arroz con leche
Texas sheet cake
OH MY GOD I AM SO HUNGRY.
This was a good party.
The food was good but the company was better. I love these women in my life.
I’ve written about this group before, when I showed you the kids cutting strawberries for shortcake. Since then, we have gathered nearly every Sunday afternoon. Sometimes there are only a couple of us, with the kids quietly playing on the floor. Sometimes everyone shows up — there are ten of us women now, and I’m the only one with one child — and there is hilarious mayhem for hours on end. Sometimes we bake. Sometimes we make big pots of soup and divvy it up amongst ourselves for dinners during the week. We have worked on stuffed grape leaves, little pastries for Rosh Hashanah, and pie crusts. A few weeks ago, when I was having a tough time, two of these women showed up with a well-loved teapot, thin cups, and blood-orange tea so we could sip and talk it out. We started off as a baking club, but we have branched into any kind of food that makes sense for the moment. (And during the week, some of us will see each other one-on-one for cups of coffee or connected conversations or long walks.)
Long ago, when I first began this site, I wrote about my teenage love of Laurel’s Kitchen, and how I longed to find that belonging. For years I found that community in the far-flung world of food bloggers, people goofy enough to take photographs of their CSA haul and talk about their meals. Some of my closest friends happen to have food blogs too. But now, in this past year, I find I’m more connected to the women in my kitchen (or their kitchens), the women whom I know more every week through their laughter and kind questions.
Not one of them has a blog or is on the internet besides Facebook.
Sunday afternoons are my favorite time of the week.
Especially when there is arroz con leche with cracked hazelnuts.
There were so many hands reaching for chips and guacamole at one point yesterday afternoon that I could barely see the table. We dipped them into tomatillo salsa or black bean dip, as a little snack first, then reached for plates to pile with pork and squash stew or spinach enchiladas. It all tasted good.
There were moments all afternoon, as I filled plates or stepped over little kids sprawled on the floor drawing or sat close on the couch with two friends having an important conversation, that I just couldn’t believe my luck.
I read this little piece a few days ago about a man named Fauja Singh, who ran his first marathon recently. He’s 100 years old. Asked what his secret is to a long life, he replied:
“The secret to a long and healthy life is to be stress-free. Be grateful for everything you have, stay away from people who are negative, stay smiling and keep running.”
I’m not running anymore; I like walking instead. But this secret? Sounds good to me. I think I’m only going to add “…gather your friends around you with food.”
This is a great way to stay awake in the darkness.