Saturday, January 18, 2014

BAKED CHICKEN ON A COLD DAY...

Snow flurries fill the overcast sky but don't stick to the beige tufts of dried grass in our yard here at Sewanee, Tennessee. Bleached acorns that the squirrels didn't store up are scattered across the tufted expanse, and a few sparrows hover near the rotten tree that fell during our absence from The Mountain. The log once housed the nest of a beautiful pileated woodpecker that often tapped out a drummer's song near my study window. After seven years, the backyard fence separating us from student life has finally turned gray to match the over-riding hue of gray peculiar to Sewanee, the village to which I often refer as "Grayburg."

Temperatures have risen to 34 degrees, and I'm indoors after venturing out once this morning to take Communion to a close friend who is housebound. We aren't usually in residence on The Mountain in January as we migrate south to New Iberia, Louisiana for the winter, like true snowbirds; however, we had commitments for meetings this month and arrived in time for hard freezes, traversing a muddy road leading to our cottage.

Life moves on, despite the wintry cold. A few night ago, we went down to the valley for dinner at a Japanese restaurant in Tullahoma, Tennessee just to break the cabin fever of the last few days, returning after dark when a huge full moon lighted the winding road leading from Cowan.

Winter seems to inspire hunger. The smell of baked chicken lingers in the cottage, a delicious aroma that filled the kitchen this cold morning and made us feel as if we were on holiday. I know that during winter months, I feel hungrier than usual, and I'm not alone. Food enthusiasts write that we have a tendency to store up calories during winter because of certain primitive impulses or animal instincts to "eat up" because we must endure cold weather.

Certainly, we eat more fat, researchers conclude—thus, the feasting on a fat hen at lunch. I told myself this food was needed as I sat swathed in a fuzzy robe, looking out at the snow flurries. And therein lies another reason for food storage during the winter—less physical activity.

In an NPR interview, Dr. Ira Ockene, a cardiologist, reported that less light in the winter prompts us to look for food and to eat it faster. Also, the holidays prompt more feasting, and consequently our fat pads grow. Food experts advocate that we must eat more protein and use moderation in our consumption, two things that are in opposition to the themes in a book I'm reading entitled Provence 1970 by Luke Barr. This fascinating volume highlights the history of American cookery and the French influence on chefs MFK Fisher, Julia Child, and James Beard, among others.

Provence 1970 is filled with appealing menus, including one that features roast chicken and Barr's description: "Was there a better smell in the world than a chicken roasting in the oven? The slowly crisping skin, the sizzling noises reaching a crescendo..."


So what if we consume 200 more calories a day in the winter (according to researchers at the University of Georgia)? Good food is linked to good memories, and a chicken roasting in the oven is just another one of life's small pleasures associated with a little fat sizzling in the pan.
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