Come the dark, cold days of January that seem to number far more than 31, I have to play tricks with myself to pull my mind through. It's not that I don't enjoy winter. Here in the high desert, the white snow stretches from our front porch up to the top of the mountains that surround our little valley. The ice, the sharpness, the muted sounds and tones delight my soul in a way, if only to whet my appetite for the warmer and productive days ahead.
This far in, I've learned to always walk slowly (as the ice layer underneath impedes fast movements), accept the snowfall and cold days as an opportunity to sit by the fire more than normal, and stretch out like a furry cat in any rays of sunshine that do find their way in through the windows.
What I primarily miss this time of year is venturing out to the garden, basket in hand, to figure out what's for dinner.
“Perhaps tonight it's eggplant lasagna. Or fresh tomato spaghetti. Or roasted beets and chicken.”
The winter doesn't allow for such spontaneity.
(This is where the mind trick comes in.)
Though we do eat most of our own produce, this time of year, I'm very grateful to bring in fruits and vegetables from outside sources. Even if some do taste a bit disappointing in comparison to our own (store bought peppers never please my palette), the color and crispness do have a way of lifting the spirits. I like the the options of varying beauty and I like having a little display of opportunity to tend to.
So, I created a bounty table. That is, a table that highlights the produce we're currently using and cooking with.
The bounty table is a living and breathing organism in my kitchen – it changes slightly each day and must be tended to each day, much like a garden. Now that's a beautiful distraction.
Here's a wonderful example of my bounty table, which displays some store bought produce and some of our own:
- Shallots and onions
- Dried fruit
- Raw almonds
- Sweet potatoes
The idea is to take your produce, whatever it is and wherever it's from, and display it in a beautiful way that inspires one to gather ingredients from the bowls and dishes and create. I've actually begun a ritual of putting the kitchen to bed at night and then taking a few moments to fresh up the bounty table bowls: changing out the water in the herb jars, adding a few more onions, topping off the bowl of dried fruit, vacuuming up an crumbs from the day's events. The bounty table is closed down for the evening feeling like a little gift to my tomorrow-self who will venture out, eager for coffee, and find a colorful, fresh, beautiful table of food stuff awaiting her efforts to bring it to life.
I've even gone so far as to put long, dried pasta noodles (such as linguine) in bowls and display them as well. A home cook only has to venture over to the bounty table, see the available shallots, pasta, and almonds, and dream up the possibilities.
I'm also much more inclined to add some parsley on top of an omelette, or sauté sweet potato up for the morning frittata, if it's within arms reach and looks beautiful. I suppose in a way, it's the opportunity for the home cook to eat with her eyes before she gives that pleasure to others.
Revolutionary? Maybe not.
But as a home cook, especially one in winter, I will take the opportunities for joy and pleasure in the kitchen whenever possible.
That's all. Just fillin' bowls with fruit, putting herbs in small glasses of water, and wanting to share in the fun.
Carry on with a few photos from brighter days: