Monday, March 31, 2014

fighting the winter funk: or i am so sick of being cold.

These past two months have been a bit of a blur - a grey, cold, dark, snowy blur.  This is the winter that just won't give up.  During February it wasn't too terrible.  I mean, technically it's still winter so freezing cold and snow is expected.  Plus, it's my birthday month, so I'm more focused on myself and making sure everyone around me is also focused entirely on me and my happiness.  Both in an attempt to battle the weather and as an outward expression of the joy I was feeling on the inside, my February kitchen was full of warmth - soups and stews, lots of bread and baked goods, golden browns and oranges and deep reds.  However, as February came to a close, my longing and yearning for spring and warmer weather became much more intense, and when March failed to deliver, I fell into a deep psychological and culinary depression.  I was getting sick of constantly being cold.  I was sick of being stuck inside.  I was sick of heavy stews and soups.  I was sick of squash and cauliflower and mushrooms and sprouts and thyme and sage and rosemary.  I was just so terribly sick of winter.

I wasn't the only one feeling the winter blues.  And mid-way through March, my family decided to make an impromptu weekend getaway to Puerto Rico.  Now let me just say, this is completely out of character for us.  We normally plan vacations for moooooonths, doing tons of research and scheduling every day, jam-packing our itinerary to make sure we do everything we possibly can.  And we never ever go anywhere tropical.  Our vacations are usually educational, meaning we visit somewhere with lots of history, museums and culture, all of which we need to experience in a five day span.  However, this vacation was planned on the fly with the sole intention of spending three days doing nothing but laying out on the beach drinking cocktails.  Which is exactly what we did.  Alright, fine, we did spend a day exploring the rain forest and getting dinner in Old San Juan, but otherwise all I did was snooze on the beach and drink muchos margaritas.
In addition to a pukka necklace and a sunburn, I came home with a sunnier and more positive disposition.  The vivid colors and lushness of the island - such a stark contrast to the grey mundane, barrenness of home - seemed to shock me back to life.  And the food!  Everything was so bright and fresh and light that my taste buds were awoken along with the rest of me.  While much of the Puerto Rican cuisine is meat-and-cheese laden and deep fried (sometimes multiple times), I ate some incredible foods (my dad and I basically lived on ceviche - fish, shrimp, octopus, scallop, you name it, we ate it) and encountered some insane flavor combinations (my favorite thing I ate was poached halibut with a mango-sun-dried-tomato-mint sauce, mainly because I never thought that those ingredients would taste good together, but by god, they were ridiculously delicious).

And even though it was freezing cold and snowing when we landed back home, it didn't bring me down.  I realized that instead of being completely affected by and a slave to my environment, I needed to take control.  While Winter may still be holding on out of doors, I've decided to bring Spring into my kitchen.  I'm on a big green kick - peas, basil, broccoli, spinach, edamame, mint, lime, and avocado - all fresh and bright on the plate and on the palate.  And with the lightening of my dishes and my diet, I feel the heaviness of the winter-funk lifting.  It's incredible what a little change in diet can do for you physically and psychologically...but let's be honest, I won't be back to myself completely until the farm market season starts back up.  And it can't come soon enough...41 days and counting...