Monday, January 10, 2011
We are in the midst of “Winter Storm 2011” or whatever it will be named by the local news here in the Atlanta. I have to admit I’m just as caught up in the snow hysteria as everyone else. I’m Southern – I can’t help it! (Of course, this storm is the real deal so I don’t think anyone can make fun of us for this one). Nonetheless, here’s a step-by-step guide to what Southerners do in snow and icy weather:
1. Check the weather incessantly as soon as the “s” word is first mentioned in weather forecasts. Speculate with others about whether or not it will really snow, but start preparing for an apocalyptic meltdown just in case.
2. Head to the grocery store ASAP. You must purchase milk, bread and eggs even if you are already well stocked in these items. Clear the shelves if you must. Be prepared to engage in a physical altercation to secure that last loaf of flattened Sunbeam.
3. Watch for the white stuff. A dusting means no school, and if you’re lucky, no work! Watch the local news for hours on end to see the snow plows preparing for action, local news anchors donning Eskimo hats measuring snow with rulers, cars spinning out on the highway and kids playing in the snow. Oh, and you’ll need to keep a close watch on all of the closings scrolling across the bottom of the screen even though it’s obvious you’re off the hook.
4. Bundle up in an odd assemblage of winter weather attire. This means two pairs of jeans, plastic bags over your shoes, the hat your grandma crocheted when you were little, socks on the hands – whatever you must to keep warm. We don’t have fancy snow suits and boots around here!
5. Go outside and play as long as your Southern blood can handle the subarctic conditions. (For me, it’s about 30-45 minutes.) If you must, attempt sledding on a garbage pail cover, cookie sheet, laundry basket or cardboard box.
6. Come inside, watch the continuous local news coverage so you can see more cars spinning out and drink lots of warm beverages. Pray that the power doesn’t go out.
For me, there are a couple of food related traditions I must do the instant snow blankets the ground. First of all, I must put a bowl outside to catch snow for snow ice cream. We always did this as kids, and it was oh so delicious. Simply take a generous portion of fresh snow, add sugar, milk and chocolate syrup – if you like. Eat up (and try not to worry about acid rain).
Second, I must make something chocolate. Whenever it snowed, my mama would always make something decadent and fudgy. The smell of chocolate wafting through the air is something that just goes hand in hand with frigid, icy weather. Today I made chocolate boiled oatmeal cookies – one of my all time favorites. Part cookie, part confection, these super sweet cookies are quick and easy to make on the stovetop. You can find the recipe in pretty much any Southern church cookbook. Even acclaimed chef Scott Peacock (formerly of Watershed) has a recipe for them in his and Edna Lewis’s cookbook, The Gift of Southern Cooking. Here it is with my notes and adaptations:
Boiled Peanut Butter Cookies
½ cup crunchy peanut butter (I used creamy because that’s what we had)
3 cups quick-cooking oatmeal
1 tsp. of vanilla extract
½ cup (1 stick) butter
½ cup milk
2 cups sugar
½ tsp. salt
½ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
Heat the butter and milk in a heavy saucepan, over moderate heat, until the butter is melted. Whisk in the sugar, salt and cocoa until smooth. Bring to a boil, and cook for 1 ½ minutes, stirring often to prevent scorching. Stir in oatmeal, peanut butter and vanilla (he recommends pre-mixing these before you start cooking, but I just add them in separately at this point). Cook for 1 minute longer, stirring constantly. Drop by tablespoonfuls onto wax paper or aluminum foil. Allow to cool and become firm.
Eating cookies, playing in the snow, watching the news, cuddling with my boys – it’s been a good day. It looks like more of the same tomorrow as we enjoy the togetherness icy weather brings.