Thursday, 14 December 2017 07:06

Coming in from the cold is a very good thing

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It began as any holiday road trip through the mountains. Along the way, we drove into freezing rain, compact snow, slush.

Avalanche control, white-out conditions, long miles spent drafting in the wake of ploughs as they thew arcs of snow over guard rails and sparks into the air.
For a time, we drove in the utter silence of a white-felted highway, passing one plough and several trucks that had slid into ditches.
Most everyone who’d started out that morning had already given up and taken up the last rooms at inns, planning on turkey dinners in truck stop restaurants if the weather continued to go ill the next day.
The snow continued to fall, few other cars coming eerily into view only as we caught up with them, their taillights covered to the depth of two knuckles -- as were ours -- and invisible.
I don’t make headlines very often. But as we wound around precarious turns, and hugged close to sheer walls of frozen stone, I could imagine this one. Something quippy-yet-macabre about being discovered at the bottom of a ravine in the spring, having gone missing on the way to Christmas.
This year we’re sticking close to home. But back then, family was waiting for us at the end of 861 kilometers. Children stuffing wrapped macaroni crafts under the tree, learning that Jell-O won’t set if you embellish it with pineapple.
With Christmas morning only another sleep away, they weren’t waiting for Santa. They were waiting for us.
Thankfully, both my mother and sister know what it’s like to come in from the cold.
 Finally arriving only hours before three anxious kids would wake to the excitement of family having shown up in the night, most of the house was asleep. Mom, though, waited with a light on.
The way mothers do.
 And in the kitchen, kept hot in an inherited Crock Pot, was a soul-warming batch of my sister’s chili.
The chili, which began as my recipe some years ago, has since become hers by making it ten times for my every one.
With a sauce influenced by notes of dark chocolate, it’s hearty and savoury, and, if a little weird, only in the best of ways. It’s also been published in this column before, and available on the blog.
Some years have passed since that Christmas trip. Some of us have moved nearer, then farther again.
Those who know me know that I find Christmas a divided time of year. It’s always meant being far away from someone or the other.
 But it’s also the most meaningful time, with family traditions and recipes. Slipping into a candlelit sanctuary to hear the story of Christmas and listen to carols rising heavenward, before returning home to a fireplace and mugs of steamed eggnog.
I think this year, though, while travel isn’t in our plans, there’s one thing we’ll repeat from that trip through the snow.
Since Daphne has claimed that first chili recipe, I’m borrowing another favourite.
Mild enough for the whole family, hearty with chopped steak and Farmer’s sausage, this dish is just the kind of warmth to offer family who may be coming in from the cold this Christmas.

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