Winter Be Damned
I'm up today at 6 a.m., and early rising is not me. I love the night and fit easily into the rhythms of the restaurant business. Working until midnight, falling into bed at two or three in the morning and sleeping until after eleven is heaven.
I recall a time not so long ago when I slept like a babe in arms. Sleep's a new frontier for this woman at mid-life. I've decided it's futile to rail against this current state and try to accept it.
So I'm up and writing at daybreak, an hour some writers proclaim the most creative. Do my nocturnal leanings disqualify me from this profession? There's a magnet on my fridge that reads: "Only dull people are brilliant at breakfast." God bless Oscar Wilde.
The restlessness I'm feeling is more pervasive than just this one night. It's an energy shot through late winter when all northern dwellers grow weary of the snow and cold. My landlord switched from salt to sand for roughing the surface of the slick ice outside my door. The grey-brown on my walkway seems to sum it all up. Dirty pools of sand and snow melt to a muddy slurry on the white tiles in my foyer—how I long to wash it all away.
I rushed outside into brilliant sunshine two days ago, walking directly into its warming rays. The light buoyed my flagging spirit and, for a moment, made an early end to this season seem within reach. The temperature rise softened the snow and ice underfoot making it crumble like shortbread as I walked. Out on the street in Bloor West Village, people unzipped their jackets and were soon carrying woollen hats and gloves in hand.
I've been thinking about my bike and warm night rides in the streets between my house and the Humber River. I've put my name on a waiting list for a garden allotment in High Park but won't know until April if I'll plunge my hands into the earth. I push down the desire to purchase dahlia tubers with wild abandon, imagining myself sitting in the shadow of their tall, stocky, multi-coloured flower heads in late summer.
I'm stuck between the oppression of this endless winter and the too-far-off promise of spring. This cold season can't pass quickly enough for me. March surely must bring relief. The sun will hang high in the sky long enough to trigger epic melts. Snowbanks will begin to recede, exposing a dirty and dormant terrain.
My restlessness finds temporary relief in marmalade making. I've pulled from my shelf a book whose title, Saving the Season, makes me chuckle. I like marmalade, and it was the appearance in my local store of Seville oranges—with their distinct skin like cellulite on ageing dames—that reminded me of this kitchen pleasure. I have a great recipe from Sally Clarke, one of Britain's best cooks, using this prized citrus fruit from Spain.
But the truth is, orange marmalade is not my favourite. I prefer lemon and, when marmalade of my own making is in short supply, I buy Robertson's Silver Shred. There's something less bitter, more acidic and fresh in preserves made with lemon. I have a recipe for a quick marmalade using Meyer lemons. I love their sweet-tart flavour and their skin is thin and tender and suited to a quick-cooking preserve. I can imagine the marmalade's orange translucence with bits of soft, saturated citrus fruit suspended in it.
I've also settled on making something new: Fine-Shred Lime and Ginger Marmalade from Kevin West's extraordinary book. It's a three-day process, just the kind of project that will chip a few more grey flannel days off the season. I learn from West the spongy white pectin-rich pith that cushions the delicate inner fruit is called the albedo. There's something in the tumble of language he uses to describe the results that rally my enthusiasm, making my mouth water in anticipation. This marmalade, he writes, is "a translucent mass suspending a tumult of finely shredded green peels—and the powerful flavours of raw lime and ginger become elegant through dilution." It's a preserve tinged the delicate green of spring hope. There's a Marmalade Cake I want to try, imagining spectacular results using lime preserves instead of orange.
I know marmalade making is the right task for today. It will ease my weariness and leave me with the impression of productivity. I'm going to set out in search of the ingredients after another cup of coffee. The city has issued an extreme cold weather alert (too many of those this year to track). There's a storm bearing down on Toronto that's promising to wreak havoc on our already frazzled systems.
Today I'll gather fruit from far-off sunny places and shake my wooden spoon at this fierce season. Winter be damned! On the horizon, there's the promise of sweeter, brighter, fresher things in my kitchen.
 Kevin West, Saving the Season (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2013) 477.
 Ibid. 477
 Ibid. 477
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