A few hours ago, a collective cheer from youngsters sounded throughout the town — snow day! Buses aren’t running, people are being warned not to drive… and it’s apparently only going to get worse (and colder!) as the day wears on.
As parents worry about what to do with their children today — especially after two weeks of vacation — most children know exactly what they’ll be up to for a part of this (somewhat) unexpected day off: playing outside. Simply put, there’s no demographic that enjoys winter as much as children.
Cabin fever seems to strike young ones especially hard. Even with all of the gadgets kids have at their fingertips, there’s nothing quite like the real attraction of a fresh snowfall. I fondly recall days when my brother and I thought nothing of spending hours outside, building complex forts and having snowball fights in the drifts that accumulated in the tree lines of our farm.
But something happens as we get older. I didn’t own snow pants past the age of 10; they stopped being cool to own, plus, we just didn’t seem to get as much snow as we used to. It even became difficult to justify owning winter boots. Four years in frigid Ottawa made my warm memories of winter that much more distant, though being unprepared probably had a lot to do with it.
Now we’re smack in the middle of the Snowbelt and I’m actually kind of glad about it. I’ve never been much for winter sports; hockey is a pretty foreign concept to watch or play, and I’m not great on skates.
But sledding, tobogganing and skiing are all extremely attractive to me, perhaps because I grew up in a Prairie-flat area (my brother and I tried sledding down a mildly steep culvert, but the route ended in a slushy ditch… even kids have their limits!).
Due to the closure of Cobble Hills’ ski club, learning how to downhill on two blades will have to wait. But we’ve taken advantage of River Valley’s awesome tube slide, where the only skill involved is walking back up the hill (a good way to combat those extra Christmas calories). It’s always easy to round up a crew to spend a few hours waging the war on winter by utterly immersing one’s self into it (and possibly testing the operators’ patience with our bravado).
Charlotte will be able to hit the tubes next winter, but we’re teaching her the fundamentals now. We’ve started taking her sledding on the James Street hill, and it appears that the need for speed is genetic. Andrew’s childhood toboggan is unsteerable and awkward, so we upgraded to saucers from Home Hardware. She and I tried them out Saturday morning while Andrew helped with the tree pick-up.
Many layers of clothing and pleas to use the potty later, we were ready. Before her first solo run, I sternly instructed her how to hang on or bail out, if need be. She did the requisite scream on her descent, she knew to drag her feet to stop, and she almost upended a cross-country skier. We laughed at the speed, we looked at the clouds, and God bless her, she trudged back up that hill every time save the last run.
She didn’t complain of the cold, either. And as soon as I got her undressed and settled at home, I ordered snow pants online. Forecasters are calling for a long winter, and a part of me couldn’t be any happier… though parts of me could definitely be warmer!
I don’t buy many cookbooks, but The Flavour Principle, by noted food and drink writers Lucy Waverman and Beppi Crosariol, appealed to me thanks to its authority and variety. Mulligatawny is a British variation on an Indian soup which evolved during the British Empire’s rule of the Indian Subcontinent, and perfect for a snow day.
Sweet Potato Mulligatawny Soup
(From “The Flavour Principle”)
2 tbsp. vegetable oil
1 cup chopped onions
3 cups chopped sweet potatoes
1 cup chopped carrots
1 tsp. chopped fresh ginger
1 tsp. ground cumin
1 tsp. ground coriander
1 tsp. mild Indian curry paste or powder
¼ cup red lentils
4 cups chicken stock
½ cup coconut milk
Salt and pepper
2 tbsp. chopped fresh cilantro
2 tsp. lemon juice
Heat oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add onions and sauté for two minutes or until they begin to soften. Add potatoes and carrots and sauté for five minutes.
Add spices and sauté for one minute or until fragrant. Add lentils and stir to coat with spices.
Add stock and coconut milk and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer for 15-20 minutes or until vegetables are very soft and lentils have exploded. Purée soup and season with salt and pepper. Stir in cilantro and lemon juice just before serving.