Thursday, February 11, 2010

February Weather

While the TV announcers exclaim with news and pictures of the blizzard in the East, I look out our many lakeside windows and can see only variegated brown ground cover with white snow stripes despite this week’s two snowfalls. Our school kids here in Williamson County, who were hoping for a snow day, were disappointed when the 3-7 inch prediction fell short and the roads stayed in good shape thanks to the highway department. President’s Day on Monday is going to be welcome to weary students wanting a break.

During an earlier snowfall, I saw a couple very tiny snowmen in a couple of yards, but I’ve seen no forts or evidence that the kids have been able to enjoy a good wet snow here in our part of the Midwest. I’m sorry for the kids about that lack and also sorry for the destructive record breaking snows in the East. For myself, despite enjoying the beauty of snow and always liking being snowed-in, I am grateful for anything that saves our local road budgets snow removal costs.

It is soup and chili weather, and that is what our church sent over to the International Luncheon for students at Southern Illinois University yesterday. I didn’t go because of an annual doctor check-up, and I did not help because everything was already planned by the time I volunteered.

Charlene Morris, who has made this luncheon her special project for several years, was having knee surgery. Consequently, she and others were highly organized and early on cooked all the meat for freezing so that after the surgery Charlene would only be putting it together for the soup. Charlene not only made soup but went along with her husband Gerald to deliver it. She was tired of being house bound. I am wondering how they transported that huge amount of soup. Jo Barger, one of the area’s best cooks, made the all-vegetable soup for those who didn’t eat meat. It took a lot of will power on her part to refrain from seasoning those veggies with a bit of beef. I am sure if Jo made it, the soup was good, and the reports at the village church tonight was that menu hit the spot with chilled students.

I made a favorite pork chop recipe today for our noon meal. Years ago the late Marguerite Lashley, a school librarian and New Dennison neighbor, shared her favorite way to fix chops as we rode to a club meeting together. She had gotten the simple directions from a chef at a New Orleans restaurant. Back then over at Pondside Farm, Gerald was raising hogs, and I collected pork chop recipes. (Fried pork chops with milk gravy is superb, but we needed variety, and I rarely fried foods even back then and certainly don’t now in our senior years.)

So today after flouring, seasoning, and browning the chops—I use olive oil—I peeled potatoes and sliced them and sliced large white onions to add on top of the chops. The layers of onions and potatoes were also seasoned with salt and pepper. Then I covered it all with water. This takes a big skillet. Then starting on a high burner and later turning down to low, I cooked until everything was tender. The kitchen smells are wonderful by the time this meal is ready to serve. I had five very large chops, so I was able to take the meal to Katherine’s family for their supper to make their house smell good on a winter day.

Even though the fields around our lake are rich with native grasses providing food for birds and small beasts, the snow makes the seeds a little harder and less pleasant to retrieve, and the birds flock to the feeder on the deck. We’ve had chickadees and juncos, sparrows, jays, cardinals, red-bellied woodpeckers, and a downy woodpecker, and some birds I don’t know. The starlings also come and are not as welcome because they drive off the smaller birds. I heard Gerald muttering the other day as he watched, “I guess God created the starlings too.” He was trying to be sympathetic to their hunger, but they certainly aren’t pretty and their manners aren’t the best. But they are hungry this cold weather, and I am sure they are grateful for the bounty Gerald supplies.

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