There is something insanely exhilarating about a snow day. Not just for children, who kind of expect such things to happen, but for adults especially. We don’t have to go anywhere, worry about anything and we can busy ourselves with our favorite activities, inside or out. It’s this notion of play that gets adults and children alike so excited about snow days. I remember as a kid literally leaping for joy over a major snow event. Bear in mind that back then, in the stone ages (I once innocently asked my Dad if he remembered the dinosaurs – my Mom roared with laughter, Dad just looked annoyed until he seized the moment and told me all about the dinosaurs and how they would hunt them when he was a little boy. I was enthralled.) Weather forecasts were rarely right. I guess it’s kind of like today, we just weren’t overloaded with news, facebook, twitter, texts and alerts every time a butterfly sneezed in Hong Kong.
For me, the biggest emotional trigger that I have is the desire to cook. Whenever we were not at school due to snow, my Mom would literally cook all day long. Huge breakfasts with eggs, sausage, gravy and cat-head biscuits. A mid-morning snack after we’d romped in the snow all morning of hot chocolate and cookies, usually but not always chocolate chip. A big lunch with canned tomato soup from the summer before, hot sourdough bread that had been rising behind our big wood stove with grilled cheese and pickle sandwiches topped with pork loaf. I think that might have been more fun than sledding down the driveway, which was nearly a mile long and very, very steep! We would take turns pulling one another back up the mountain on our ATV until it became too slick for even that rugged vehicle. We had only one family of neighbors, an elderly couple who were by themselves on their family farm a few miles past us, further into the Appalachian wilds. They would stop and fuss at us in their old jeep that we were making the road too slick. We hardly paid attention.
Mom would try to confine us to specific areas to undress, with our soaked clothes and frozen shoes, but seven children are hard to confine in any way, especially when there are leftover biscuits and cookies to snag out of the kitchen jars, applesauce just made out of fall apples that had been stored in our cellar from days spent with our fruit trees under the bright October sun as the leaves transformed into magical color and the days became shorter and nights colder.
There would always be a bean soup of some kind simmering on the wood stove, usually with onions, potatoes, garlic, dried herbs and a soup bone of some sort. Combine that with slab-cut bacon, applesauce and sourdough bread and you had yourself a meal fit for the gods.
As poor as we were, we really never noticed. We never went hungry, we were never fat as children (it took years of fast food and alcohol consumption for any of us to actually get fat) and our nutrition levels were off the charts.
So, the last two days, as the snow has poured down nearly incessantly, I have been gripped with a desire to cook. Chores that I once found to be heinous, such as canning, I now do out of pure enjoyment. So, Laura and I went to work. We made spaghetti sauce for freezing, peeled and cored apples for canning, baked apple cake, played in the snow with Nolan despite all three of us having head colds and in general had a wonderful time.
I rarely bake, but our apple cake was wonderful and the applesauce and applebutter will be a delight, especially for Nolan, who loves the stuff. He also loves olives, bread – and nearly everything else that you stick in the kids face. I guess he is like us!
Applesauce Spice Cake (Adapted from “Canning for a New Generation” by Liana Krissoff
Dry Ingredients: 2 ½ cups of all-purpose flour, one cup of light brown sugar, one teaspoon of cinnamon, ½ a teaspoon of nutmeg, ½ teaspoon cloves, ½ teaspoon of vanilla extract, 1 ½ teaspoons baking soda and ½ teaspoon of salt.
Wet Ingredients: One cup of applesauce, ¼ cup of softened butter, ¾ cup of water.
Optional: ½ cup of nuts, ½ cup of raisins. You can also substitute for other dried fruit. My personal favorite is dried apricots, but I rarely buy them as I eat them all!
Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Mix all the dry ingredients in a large bowl until well combined. Add the wet ingredients to the dry, and mix until “pourable.” Pour into a lightly greased nine-inch cake pan or well-greased iron skillet and bake for 35-40 minutes, or until the cake is golden and a chopstick or toothpick, inserted into the middle, comes out clean. Let it stand for ten to fifteen minutes and then enjoy!!
Lest I forget, Happy Valentines Day!