carbonara

Nora is staying outside in her driveway playground for a long time this slightly warmer morning. It is a mini condensed version of the open meadow that was her playground before all the snow. The banks created from repeated plowing form a barrier that is so high that even Nora doesn’t breach it to be able to have full run of the meadow, and so, she adapts and finds ways to discharge her considerable energy in simple ways. I watch her literally do laps from one edge to another, full speed, sometimes even running up the side of the bank along the top and back down. But always back into the arena of the driveway playground where tennis balls and empty plastic containers and rubber kongs strewn across the surface become the simple ingredients of her recipe for playing…

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From the warmth inside I watch her through the window while eating the first fresh apple I have eaten it seems since the beginning of this memorable winter, marveling at the cold crispness of the fruit, aware that I am actually wanting to eat something that hasn’t been cooked for hours in order to embody heat my body craves. For weeks now everything consumed has been warm comfort food of the densest magnitude. Like Nora’s condensed playground, my world has contracted to the center of the house around the wood stove, alternatively watching movies and quilting and reading in the silence that comes with so much snow. I even allow my inspiration for cooking food to come from this space. Settling in for the old classic ‘Heartburn’ on Netflix one night (Meryl Streep and Jack Nicholson), one of the first scenes was of her preparing a large bowl of pasta carbonara. Ten minutes later, movie paused, I’m in the playground of my kitchen making a kind of carbonara. Three cloves of minced garlic sautéed in some olive oil. Two thick slices of uncured smoked turkey bacon sliced into ribbons added to pan, covered and simmered very slowly with a splash of water while spaghetti (about 1/5 package for one person) is boiling to al dente. Remove spines and chop about a third of a bunch of kale into ribbons and add to boiling pot of pasta five minutes before finish. Whisk one large egg with some cream (2-3 tablespoons) and set aside. Consider grating some parmesan but know the cream will be enough. Add drained pasta and greens to pan with bacon & garlic with a tablespoon butter and stir over medium heat until heat is rising from pan. Add egg mixture and lots of black pepper and toss continuously until contents of pan are fragrant and creamy and hot. Heaven. Return to movie with full bowl…

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Another night it is a variation with frozen organic peas and equally sized pieces of diced smoked wild salmon added to the simmering garlic, butter and cream added to pan and simmered gently while waiting for pasta to cook. All tossed together in the hot pan at the end for another version of completely delicious heart of the winter fare….

And so on.  (of course I remember the first ‘real’ carbonara I had in Italy.  On a hot summer night.  Who could forget such a thing.  Somehow it felt completely natural then too, smile….)

The best part of honoring this call to satisfying rich warm food is knowing body, versus mind, is leading the way.   It is knowing that when the call is day after day after day that I can trust that body will be okay with, might even need, all this dense food. Remembering that I am discharging energy in the frigid cold during the frequent visits to the woodpile at the end of the driveway, filling the wheelbarrow, carrying it all in, several times a day, alternating with shoveling that remains after the plowing. Just being outside in this sub-zero weather makes me hungry…

It’s challenging to trust when body becomes fully satiated in the way it needs, that the flow to something lighter, like an apple, will happen naturally. So the apple feels like a sign, perhaps the first real sign that spring is coming! It is this apple, rather than the pair of pants that felt a little snug this morning, that gives me hope that both mind and body can begin to respond to the lighter days and lighter food that are coming….

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