On Your Mark, Get Set: Wading into Winter
by Sarah A. Maine
As I write this snowflakes are swirling outside my window. The window looks out onto a courtyard. The swirls are gentle and lazy – flakes seem to be bobbing up as much as they are drifting down. Before you start imagining anything too elegant I should correct myself – it’s less a courtyard than a rectangle separating two apartment buildings. An in between space of concrete and brick – a refuge for pigeons, echoing voices, and today – snow.
I knew that the Relay would really start to get interesting as winter deepened here in the Northeast, but I have to admit I didn’t really know what to expect. I can tell you I didn’t expect the persimmons, pomegranates and Asian pears in Brianna’s Fruits of Winter Salad. I was struck dumb when I saw Brianna’s pile of luscious fruit, it was as if I could hear the sunshine rustling as it uncoiled itself from the freshly picked skins, sunshine that I know only too well. I grew up in the tropics, five degrees north of the equator. Twelve hour days and twelve hour nights, an average temperature of 80 F, our seasons were wet and dry. I experienced my first real snow storm when I was seventeen years old, fifteen years later I’m still getting used to it. I’ve barely begun to learn how to navigate eating locally in winter.
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There is a shockingly big difference between what is available at New York City farmers’ markets in the third week of December and what is available in the first week of January. Understandably, the farmers gave it their all in the lead up to Christmas – but now many of them have called it a season and won’t be back in the city until spring. Those that are still coming are mostly selling root vegetables in all their many forms. Squash are still around, as are apples and a few scraggly greens All of a sudden meat and dairy vendors are outnumbering produce stands.
Last winter I signed up for the winter share of my CSA, this year I decided to forgo it, a decision I may come to regret. I’ll be cobbling together my own winter share from various farmers’ markets, local food artisans and supermarkets. This week at the Union Square farmers’ market I picked up rutabagas, parsley root, beets, apples, spaghetti squash, eggs, onions and kale. A pretty good haul, leaving me plenty of room to maneuver and bring winter flavors together to make something tasty. Like Brianna, I’ll be putting together a winter salad, albeit one with a slightly different personality. Warm kale will be my base, beets will bring sweetness and pomegranate purple hues, caramelized onions may make an appearance and I am on the hunt for a sharp and crumbly cheese. Join me back here on Thursday for the finished recipe and more news on the winter food landscape in New York City! See you then,