Five Ways to Forget the Cold
To say it's cold outside is inadequate. Cold is when you open your fridge. Today is more like walking into a meat locker. But even as I complain and walk around the house wearing a hat, the air is even frostier in the Midwest. I just hung up with my friend Nan, who reports that the forecast for Chicago is a high of 3 degrees. (Is that a meat locker or an igloo?)
Unfortunately, it's a safe bet that the frigid air will stick around for several days, which means pulling out the secret bag of tricks to help deal with the Siberian conditions.
Before he left this morning, Mister Groom asked, "Can you fix the weather, please, and make the cold go away?" (Sorry, but my wand is in the shop.)
Short of witchcraft, what can we do to make the cold a little less so? Below, five culinary ways to loosen your grip on the frosty reality.
1. Take a trip in your armchair.
While we shiver, the southern Hemisphere is having a summer ball. I spoke with a good pal last week who recently moved to Auckland, New Zealand, where he was enjoying the nearby beach. With the other side of the world on my brain, I flipped through a recent issue of Delicious, an Aussie food magazine, which is sold stateside at Barnes and Noble. I swooned over the photos of berries and other summery notions, and for a few minutes I did forget I was wearing a parka.
Other vicarious pleasures of late include "Climbing the Mango Trees," Madhur Jaffrey's memoir of growing up in India, and "Cradle of Flavor: Home Cooking from the Spice Islands of Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore" by James Oseland. Just a few minutes with the imagery of tropical fruit restores my equilibrium, and I learn a few new things in the process.
2) Eat and drink ginger, and other warming spices.
Celebritologist Liz Kelly says that "anything with ginger in it is warming to the soul. Last night, we had ginger orange carrots. So good." She reports that she cooked the carrots "in a syrup of water, fresh OJ, a tablespoon of sugar and fresh grated ginger. "
Liz is onto something with the warming powers of ginger; in fact, ginger is considered one of the most significant foods in an ayurvedic diet, an ancient Indian practice of holistic medicine, which views food as key instruments of health and vitality. Pungent ginger not only warms the mouth and the belly; it stimulates circulation and digestion and works as a detoxifier, which is helpful during this sluggish indoorsy season.
A little ginger goes a long way, and you can include it in carrots, as Liz has done, or make a tea, add it to baked goods, use it in marinades, add it to stir fries.
Similarly, spices such as cinnamon, clove and turmeric stoke the internal fires and are great natural warmer uppers. Some research indicates that cinnamon helps to lower cholesterol, which I try to remember whenever I have a bowl of morning oatmeal. For more of these warming spices in one pot, try your hand at this spiced hot chocolate. It beats the instant stuff any day. And while we're on the subject of spice, let's have a little heat with our spice and Eat Indian.
For me the mere mention of spices has me thinking (and craving) Indian food. In fact, the colder it gets, the spicier I want my plate. Saturday night, we drove out to Fairfax for the juicy morsels at Minerva, an Indian restaurant that's been a personal favorite for years. My mouth was on fire, and I loved every minute of my channa masala and chicken 65, a highly spiced take on chicken tikka.
3. Eat citrus.
Even though it seems counter intuitive to slurp on something as cooling as an orange wedge, citrus provides the very hydration our indoor heating-parched selves desperately need. With the heat blowing at nearly a nonstop pace, our sinuses dry up, our skin starts to flake and our mouth gets cottony. Peel some rind and you'll feel better instantly.
4. Eat fat.
There's something to the whale blubber diet in harsh climates such as the Faroe Islands and far northern Canada, where Inuit tribes live. Fat, in its purest form, plays a vital role in keeping us warm and keeping the body machinery well oiled.
This is the time of year to fry. Now, that doesn't mean breaking out tubs of the trans fat-laden Crisco, but there's nothing wrong with adding tempura to your diet right now, or a frequent avocado, a handful of unsalted nuts, an omelet for dinner. These are hearty, not hefty meal ideas, and your body will love you in return for the extra insulation.
5. Boil up soba noodles.
The brown noodle commonly found on menus in Japanese restaurants is made from buckwheat flour -- and as it turns out, buckwheat is incredibly warming. With all eight essential amino acids, buckwheat is a complete protein all by itself and very high in fiber, (1 cup of cooked kernels fulfills 20 percent of daily requirement) making it a complex carb, which translates into a highly energizing food source. Please note: There are 20 aminos, but having the "8" is significant threshold.
Buckwheat, by the way, is not a kind of wheat, but rather the seeds of a fruit that is related to rhubarb and sorrel. It is free of gluten, which makes it a great alternative for those with wheat and gluten intolerance.
I'm looking for a killer recipe for buckwheat pancakes, by the way. Send them over! And while you're at it, chime in with your tried and true ways of fending off the frost, either through food or drink. Now, where did I put those footies...
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