Heavy snowfall buries me, psychologically and physically. The deeper it gets around my home, the more closed in I feel in my head. My usual drive and ambition are stopped in their tracks just like the trains in Boston. The stacks of laundry and dishes get higher and deeper. The lists of groceries and errands get longer and more formidable. My brain gets snowed in; any creative sparks I might have are quickly frozen, and I am stuck in a cold, dormant, dark place where I don’t want to be, and I can’t find my way out.
This winter’s relentless weather pattern has everyone struggling to keep up. Most winters, the heavy snowstorms are the exception rather than the rule, and everyone has a couple of weeks or more to clean up, clear out, get back on schedule, get things moving again, before hunkering down for the next big storm. That’s what big storms encourage you to do; hunker down. There’s something basic, and real, and natural about that feeling; it’s genuinely safer to stay in and wait it out than try to pretend it’s not happening, that the snow isn’t coming down 2 inches per hour, and the roads aren’t dangerously slippery and narrowed between the growing snowbanks. But human nature starts to push against this the longer it goes on; some call it “cabin fever”, others say they feel “cooped up” or “snowbound”. Safety and comfort become shackles to the spirit.
The snow has briefly let up this week, and I have tunneled out of my emotional snowbank to catch up on laundry, including some blankets and bedding that have long needed attention. I finally emptied my kitchen counters of all dirty dishes, although in this house that never lasts for long. Digging out of my own head, I have plowed through piles of food magazines, consigning most of them to the recycling bin after pulling out a recipe or two that I found irresistible. I have haunted all my usual cooking websites, soaking up the inspiration of others, like sunshine for my brain, melting the mental ice dams away.
The powerful thing about digging out is this: once you get started, it feels fantastic. The blood starts pumping, the heart beats faster, space opens up around you, and all of a sudden, you have room. Room to move, room to think, room to plan, room to dream. Room to create.
I noticed this week was Mardi Gras and Chinese New Year. We don’t celebrate either one, as a rule, but this year’s serendipitous meeting of the two gave me an idea. With some long leftover chocoate sauces (who knew they kept so long?) and brightly-colored sanding sugars, I could dispatch our ubiquitous collection of take-out fortune cookies. Every time we order Chinese take-out, the restaurant throws in enough fortune cookies for a family of much larger size than ours, perhaps an indication of how many people they think we are feeding. Hey, leftover Chinese take-out is golden. But for some reason, nobody is interested in the leftover fortune cookies. They get stashed in a large ziptop bag in the pantry, where they sit for a looooong time. Why don’t I just throw them away? I can’t do it. I always think there’s got to be some way to have fun with them. Inspired by the lunar calendar and the colors of Mardi Gras, I dipped the fortune cookies in chocolate sauce (some milk, some white), sprinkled purple, green and yellow sugar over them, let them set up on racks, and then popped them in the fridge to harden. They were indeed fun to make, and tasty, too.
Hey, I know fortune cookies are not actually Chinese, but I’ll take any little bit of fun I can get right now. We’re getting more bad weather this weekend. There will be more digging out to do.