Measured Extravagance

03 January 2002 - 8:46 p.m.

The forecast for Tennessee keeps hinting at snow, which has the natives in my office quite excited. Having spent twelve winters in the Midwest (lake effect, whee), I have to admit that I am less than thrilled at the prospect. I also seem to be stuck with The Cough That Won't Go Away, which in turn means a fairly thick bout of the blahs. It's one thing to be sick when one can lounge on the sofa with a mug of cocoa topped with extra marshmallows; it's quite another thing to be sucking on lozenges when the phone is ringing every five minutes. Whine, whimper, grump. So to help cure what's ailing me, I made cabbage and tofu soup tonight. (The tofu was on sale at Good Earth Market and the cabbage was left over from one of the suppers I cooked earlier this week. Recipe? Pour one can of chicken broth and one can of water into a pot. Chop two or three cups' worth of green cabbage and toss in into pot. Boil until cabbage is tender. Cut one package of tofu into cubes. Toss into pot. Fill bowl with soup and season with sesame oil and coarse black pepper. Sip up broth; then toss cabbage and tofu with garlic powder and soy sauce and consume. Had two bowls of that with the last of the Niersteiner, then took out the small winter squash (no larger than my hand) I'd thrown into the oven as soon as I got home, split it open, scooped out the seeds and served it to myself with a tablespoon of butter. As soon as I finish this post, I'm going to slice off another section of butter for the potato I baked with the squash. And then I'll brush my teeth and go to bed. Speaking of cruciferous feastings, here's a passage from the book I was reading earlier this afternoon while at the allergy clinic:

...there is an element of self-denial in kale cuisine, a certain gritty northern survivalism. The two most familiar types are Siberian and Scotch kale, both of them evocative of bleak and arduous environments. Very curled and crumpled, in both dwarf and tall varieties, Scotch kale (or kail) was once a mainstay of rural Scottish cuisine, at certain tough times the only cultivated green being eaten. The name also came to mean a broth in which kale was the principal vegetable. Thus Walter Scott has one of his stalwarts promise to do lunch: "I will be back here to my kail against ane o'clock." Because kale was by far the most prevalent vegetable in it, the cottage kitchen garden came to be called a kail-yard, as in the old lyric "There grows a bonnie brier bush in our kail-yard." This less-than-immortal line was penned by Ian Maclaren, one of a group of writers who came, in the 1890s, to be known as the Kailyard School from their depiction of humble life in Scotland, their dialogue laced with more extravagant brogue than an open bar at a Robbie Burns party. The kailyarders' rise to prominence a century ago leads me to wonder in passing if perhaps the celebration of simple living isn't specifically a fin de siècle phenomenon.
    - Des Kennedy, An Ecology of Enchantment
One year ago: "yes, I also cry on cue when I read Harlequin romances"

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