Shadows and Light
Listened to the show Saturday and it was not bad. I spent those two hours as I most often do, in the kitchen with my apron on (the white one that looks like one a butcher might wear, my favorite) and cookbooks open and several bowls going with cookie dough in one and meat for meatballs in another and cinnamon and cayenne and flour spilled here and there on the counter. It’s my element, I think, or one of them. A place I feel most myself, most productive, most alive. It seems silly sometimes, to say that, but it’s true. The kitchen is where I center myself, bring myself together again. And let me say, with a song about being all alone playin’ on A Prairie Home Companion as I mix with my hands the flour and egg and butter for a batch of Spritz cookies — a candle lit on the windowsill and the sun sinking into forest just outside of town — I’m as content for a time as a woman might be.
Not an easy thing, this time of year. To inhabit one’s element is a big order in a world full up with chaos and ignorance and plain ol’ foolishness. It’s tempting to go off on all of it, get myself worked up out of fear and “what ifs,” get sucked into the commercial ways of the season here and there, get harried and lost. Not gonna do it. Nope. Gonna do My Thing instead, if only for a while, and continue preparing for the upcoming holiday, carry on with preparations for the kids to come home, and take a pan of meatballs and pasta to the neighbors a few doors down whose son, a few years younger than I, didn’t wake up on Saturday morning. He passed away in his sleep, and now they don’t have him, and what an unimaginable thing. About all I can do is show up with something good to eat, and candle for them to light, and a few words about how I’m thinking of them and wish them peace as they grieve.
In the dark of this December, there are both shadows and light. Without one, not the other. In an ordinary, authentic life, there is a whole lot of crap, and there’s a whole lot of beauty, and what a person chooses to dwell on makes all the difference in a life. So find your element and get in it, people. It brings balance back, and you can get lost awhile in doing something you love that may or may not do a thing for anyone but you. You get some perspective there, in your element, and you may laugh out loud and you might even find yourself doing a little dance, especially if there’s some bluegrass there in the background. And doesn’t that sound like a fine thing.
Here’s a recipe that will set you up with something spicy for a holiday luncheon, an evening gathering, or with gifts for friends for whom you wish to cook up a little something. Got it from a dear friend down south, a lovely woman who takes photographs of birds and trees and rivers and moons, a humdinger of a good cook, and the kind of friend who is real, for sure, and in her element more often than not.
Virginia Cranberry Chutney
1 cup water
½-¾ cup sugar (if you like sweet add ¾; less sweet, ½ cup)
1 12oz bag fresh cranberries
I medium granny smith apple, peeled, cored and diced
½ cup apple cider vinegar (or Fire Cider vinegar or something similar if you wish)
½ cup raisins
½ tsp ground cinnamon
¼ tsp ground ginger
¼ tsp ground allspice
⅛ tsp ground cloves
¾ cup chopped walnuts, toasted
In medium saucepan, combine water and sugar. Bring to a boil over medium heat.
Add the rest of the ingredients, bring back to a boil, and simmer gently for 10 minutes, stirring often.
Remove from heat and stir in walnuts.
Pour into bowl and place plastic wrap directly on the surface of the sauce.
Cool to room temperature. Serve, or cover and refrigerate.
Bring to room temperature before serving.