I am writing to you from 30,000 feet, give or take a mile. Soaring high above the rugged western United States with its snow covered peaks and mesas and roads that, at dawn, resemble rivers of molten lava which would not be out of place on Mount Doom, is nothing short of inspirational. Unfortunately, unless I lug it myself, there isn’t much food up here. Well, I suppose there is no better place to day-dream about delicious eats.
Even airports feel festive this time of year. Everyone is traveling to see family, so while there is the same sense of panic and dread that’s always associated with potential delays, weather problems, and terminal camping “adventures,” there’s also a sense of excitement and eagerness for family, friends, food, and vacation. All of this put me in the mood to think about the biggest fall/winter holiday staples; basically, the food you want to have in your kitchen from November until January.
- Chocolate powder or cocoa. Cold, long nights are the perfect backdrop for some hot chocolate (cinnamon and marshmellows totally optional, but I really enjoy a dash of cinnamon). Having some cocoa powder on hand means that hot chocolate is always within your grasp. As a bonus, cocoa powder is a great addition to coffee and any matter of amorphous blobby desserts, like puddings or, well, OK, probably not jello.
- Potatoes. It isn’t winter without potatoes. These hardy tubers are the kings and queens of the table, showing up in every form from mashed potatoes to potato pancakes/latkes to just plain boiled but then doused in butter, salt, and garlic. Potatoes are the perfect side – they’re starchy, delicious, easy to work with, and store really, really well.
- Onion, celery, and carrot. These are good to have year round, but especially good in the fall and winter. They keep well, can be used in stock, and are just so cheerfully colorful. Perhaps not the onion so much, but the celery is the same vibrant and lovely color as peridot and carrots are a nice shocking orange.
- Speaking of oranges – citrus. This is the most wonderful time of the year for most citrus. If you take some medications, including birth control, be wary of indulging in too much of that grapefruity goodness, but everything else, as far I as I know, from blood oranges to mandarins to tangerines is fair game. The best part? The rinds pop out delicious smelling oils, making even the air around you thick with the most vitamin C-packed part of winter.
- A good drink. If you go for booze, you can’t make it through the winter without a nice red wine. Or a heady, dark beer. Or some liquor that can be drunk plain or mixed with delicious juices or soda waters. If you don’t go for booze, this is the best time of year to explore everything from sparkling juices to wine-soda (non-alcoholic and totally weird and yet tasty) to nice root beers. With the long nights, there’s nothing better than curling up on the couch with a nice drink and a good book.
What is in your must-have-for-winter list?