Wednesday, 11 January 2017 16:33

Relighting paradise

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I have a plan. I’m going to tap the thermostat up to “Caribbean,” suspend a dozen light therapy lamps like solar panels from my living room ceiling, change into a sun frock, pry open a beach chair, and lie upon it.

Once there, I’m going to read a novel, a memoir, then a summertime cookbook, and repeat the same each day until either my vitamin D level has replenished, or until it becomes spring —whichever happens first.
 (Plan B, by the way, involves eating raw brownie batter and wearing a housecoat until April, but let’s leave that one on the shelf a little longer.)
Meanwhile, it’s January.
January. When the reality of winter involves staring down up to three more months of low-hanging valley cloud that began to arrive back in November. Three more months in a doldrum like unto being trapped in a Ziplock bag along with a leftover onion bun.
To the chronically cheerful, of course, it’s enough to think sunny thoughts, unleash a glad torrent of endorphins, and climb out of the Ziplock, while counting down the days till next Christmas ... on Facebook.
Then there are those of us only willing to squint in the direction of next winter, while still in the throes of this one, because it promises a second of three Hobbit movies. That’s it and that’s all.
In the world of men, however, where the sun acts out its shallow arc across the southern sky for about 45 minutes each day (when it’s visible at all), it begins to seem personal when it glances off my windowsill and refuses to come in.
And so, I begin with one therapeutic lamp.
Until, that is, I discover it emits the exact wavelength that best triggers migraines, and spend the rest of the day using paper plates and plastic forks to avoid the noise clattered up by ceramic and steel being set down, no matter how gently, gently, on granite.
When Chefhusband comes home, he lines the kitchen with noise-dampening towels and sends me to bed, where there are blackout drapes and quiet.
A short while later, he brings me a bowl of soup.
“It’s going to be grey forever,” I say as I take the offered spoon and hand him a damp cloth from my forehead.
“Only as long as last year,” he says, meaning this as encouragement.
It’s not encouraging, but it’s kindly said, so I swallow a few sharp words with a spoonful of soup made from leftover beef roast, and say thank you. And I mean it.
It’s only January, I think to myself. And so far, it’s beginning to look a lot like February.
Three days later, when the migraine begins to drain away, when I’m once again well enough to sit by a reading lamp and take in a few pages at a time, I pick up a memoir by an Irish writer-friend who ditched her PhD, fleeing an Oxford scholarship in favour of “slaying the pow” as a snowboard/ski bum (also marathon runner and prolific baker) in the interior of B.C.
Once I’m done reading, I promise I’ll introduce you to Lisa, along with some of her baked goods. Already, though, I’m willing to bet she never spent three days in bed hiding from winter.
Beef Barley Soup
1 cup pot or pearl barley, cooked
1 large carrot, peeled, small diced
1 stalk celery, small diced
1/2 large onion, peeled, small diced
2 Tbs canola or vegetable oil
6 cups organic or homemade beef stock
2 pounds cooked beef roast, medium diced
flaked kosher salt/freshly ground pepper
In a large, heavy-bottomed pot over medium heat, heat oil. Add carrot, celery and onion and cook until onions are translucent. Add beef stock and bring to a simmer. Add barley and beef. Bring back up to barely simmering and allow flavours to develop. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

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