When I moved to Michigan, I was frequently warned about the “Michigan Winter.” I shrugged it off as I had lived in Ithaca, NY on top of hill between two lakes that was known to get a regular ice-rain-snow concoction we called “Ithacating.” But alas, Michigan folk, now I understand. All my snow boots are thoroughly broken in, I haven’t seen the ground for over a month, and it seems nearly every day I wake up, look out the window, and wonder if the school two doors down is having a snow day.
In addition to shoveling, car windshield scraping, and fleece-lined-flannel-shirt wearing, this weather necessitates comfort food.
It’s a lot less expensive to warm up with a bowl of soup than to keep the thermostat set at 72 degrees. In my world, nothing is better than the combination of a hot cup of tea, a big bowl of pork belly hash, a fuzzy blanket, a cat, and a couch. A pot of chili bubbling away on the stove also hits the spot. Or ribbons of pasta freshly made from scratch being tossed in a smoky tomato sauce and topped with grated cheese and a bit of spice. You get the picture, right?
I’m constantly on a crusade to transition the hesitant home cook from thinking of cooking as chore to enjoying the way it frames our lives. What we eat defines us and reflects how we feel, what the weather is like, and often, the region in which we live. Cooking can be a true comfort and joy, a calming habit and a repertoire we build on our whole lives.
Wander down to Fulton Street Farmers Market (open Saturdays during the winter) and pick up a chicken, cheese, root vegetables, and maybe some lamb sausage. Warm up with coffee and doughnuts at Van’s Pastry Shop afterwards. Then pick one of Martha’s recipes for roast chicken, pop it in your oven, and enjoy the sensory experience and sense of place that results from preparing a simple, locally sourced, comforting, traditional roast chicken. It will probably be snowing which will add to the ambiance. And to get the most of this comforting food experience, I hope you have a snuggly cat nearby (if not, visit the Humane Society) and a fleece lined flannel shirt (if not, visit LL Bean).
Local craft beer also pairs well with many comfort foods. It’s GR Beer Week so head on out and enjoy a terrific pint with foods like macaroni and cheese, sausage pizza, chicken and dumplings, beef stew… you get it!
Molly Clauhs, Contributing Writer