On Below-Zero Weather and Soup
This morning when I got up, it was -12 F outside–so cold that the road running past the front of the house had gone entirely grey. So cold that the dogs, after doing their morning duty, curled up around one another on the ratty blanket they share and refused to move for man nor beast (read: for me or the cats). So cold that it hurt to breathe outside, so I opted to stay inside. All day. Wearing the fuzzy socks Rosalie gave me for Christmas (my daughter knows me very well), and layers upon layers of clothes. This is the coldest it’s been yet this winter: the brilliant brittle cold where the blue sky and the bright sun mock most painfully.
I hate the cold. By this I mean real cold, the kind I’ve felt all day today. It’s the kind that works its way into the bones and sets them to scraping and rattling when I try to move, even though I know perfectly well that moving is just about the only antidote. It’s the kind of cold that has me pouring tea down my gullet in an attempt to warm up from the inside, with very little result–and thanks to my lovely friend Trisha O and her thoughtful Christmas present, I have an enormous selection of tea here. Believe me, I’ve tried all of it.
The heathens have been gone all day up to their father’s family, where they were ostensibly going to celebrate some birthdays by ice fishing (I’m fairly certain that didn’t go as planned, but I’m sure I’ll hear about it when they reappear later). So, I’ve been drinking my tea, huddling in the comfy chair my lovely friend Becky donated to the cause of furnishing my living room, burrowing under a blanket while reading the fourth George R. R. Martin book my lovely friend Ian lent me. Every once in a while I have set the book aside, marking my place with the card Ian gave me when he delivered the book–the card announcing his wedding to his fiancée Kate, come summer–and stumbling into the kitchen to give the soup a stir.
Because this is the kind of day, and this is the kind of weather, that demands soup.
In all truth, this soup of which I speak has been in the works for several days now, which as any soup aficionado can tell you, is the way it’s supposed to be. This is a beef and vegetable soup, with a deep rich broth that can only come from simmering beef bones. And not just any beef bones, mind you: bones saved from the prime rib roast the heathens and I had to celebrate New Year’s. They’ve been simmering down for days. After I strained them out of the broth and skimmed off the fat, I threw a large, slice-up onion into the pot and boiled the living daylights out of the whole shebang until only half of it remained. Then I threw in some stew beef, cut small, and cooked that for most of this weekend. This morning I sliced up four carrots and added them, too. Just a couple of hours ago I threw in a bunch of orzo. There’s some pepper in there, too, and a bay leaf (my mother, as I recall, threw a bay leaf into everything involving beef, and I do the same out of force of habit more than anything else). The pot’s on the back burner, the heat set to ‘simmer,’ and when I last checked, it was looking–and smelling–pretty darned good, especially on this fearsome cold late afternoon.
I’ll be eating soon. I scared up the fixings for some cornbread, and that’s in the oven. Granted, it’s not the recipe of my lovely friend Brenda, nor is it the cornbread with a kick that her friend, the musician Jonathan Byrd, mixes up in a skillet from Cackalack…but it’s a treat, hot with melting butter, and a big ol’ bowl of that soup I’ve been waiting for throughout this whole long cold day.
Stay warm, all. I wish you good soup, good books, and lovely friends, like the ones I have in Trisha, Becky, Ian (and Kate), and Brenda. They all make this cold bearable for me.