This morning we woke up to a white cover over our property and the pitter of sleet on the roof window of our “sun room.” There was no sunshine. It wasn’t unexpected. The meteorologists have predicted this weather for several days. It was one of those times that I hoped they’d gotten it wrong.
When I went out to get the papers the ground crunched under my feet. Yes, indeed, there was a layer of light snow, icy crust, and the sensation of something wet and cold settling from the sky. When I checked the weather report the words they used were “wintry mix.“ It sounds like the kind of term that is used on cans of nuts you buy in the grocery store. You know, mixed nuts. But this isn’t about nuts…it’s about hazardous roads, rear-end collisions, and schedules that get further and further behind. The only “nuts” are those who continue to drive as if it was July.
Oh, it could be worse. The road maintenance people have been out all night preparing the roads with sand and salt. So it’s not as bad as it could be if it came as a surprise. And they tell me that by noon it will be just rain. That means that if the temps stay above freezing that the wintry mix will be gone by mid-afternoon.
It occurred to me that the spelling of the term wintry is worth noting. I had not thought about it before, but there is a spelling change that takes place when the noun, winter, becomes an adjective, wintry. The “e” disappears. The Merriam-Webster Dictionary points out that either spelling (with or without the “e”) is acceptable, but the spelling with the missing “e” is preferable. They tell me that it is a word that is traced back to before the 12th century in England. Having said that, it sounds like an English poetic word.
The thing that struck me this morning is that the definition of wintry has a “northern” bias. If someone lives in Miami or San Diego, the definition of wintry may have a different twist to it. It might not include snow, sleet and hail, but would be more about a “chill” in the air, and very limited beach conditions. That’s not to say that the definition might exist (as it does) apart from local weather conditions and norms. Maybe the people in Miami celebrate that they don’t experience wintry weather, and it means the same thing as if they lived in Fargo, North Dakota.
As I’ve said before, I’m not a big fan of winter. I used to be. When we went skiing, and took the kids out sliding on the huge hill south of the town where we lived, winter was fun. Hot chocolate made everything okay. Those romantic memories are just that…memories. Today it means lots of layers of clothing, dangerous driving, and the need to constantly clean off the sidewalk and front step. Events get cancelled, the gas bill soars, and life becomes more grouchy. (Or is it just we who are grouchy?)
In any event, today is a wintry day. Just four months until Spring!
Photo Credit: Bird & Whale
HORSERADISH: a coarse plant cultivated for its thick white pungent root; a sauce made from the plant as a condiment
Close your eyes. Settle into your chair. Then begin thinking about the most delicious sandwich you can conjure up. For me, it begins with a fresh Kimmelweck roll. Round, soft, and sturdy, the roll is about the size of a large tomato. It is sliced and laid open on a plate. Add a fresh piece of leaf lettuce which is crisp and moist. On top of the lettuce place several thin slices of rare roast beef, tender and tasty. Then, comes the piece de resistance, a thin layer of spicy horseradish. Put it together with a mug of cold locally-brewed beer, and you have a meal which is incomperable. It is the horseradish that makes the sandwich. Without it, it is simply a roast beef sandwich. With it, however, it is a delicacy worth every penny spent in making (or ordering) it.
If you are shopping in the produce section of the supermarket, you may be surprised to see that a horseradish is a sizeable, rough-looking, white root. It’s not particularly pretty, and sometimes it is crooked or even twisted. Most horseradish roots in a supermarket are about 7 or 8 inches long and about an inch thick. It looks like a stick you might throw for a dog to retrieve. I wouldn’t suggest it, however.
Horseradish is very, very spicy. One of our exchange students from Finland had never experienced horseradish before. He slabbered it on his sandwich, closed the roll, and took a big bite. He was typically Scandinavian, with towhead hair, fair skin, and big blue eyes. Within seconds his hair was almost standing on end. His face became bright red, the color of a tomato. And his blue eyes were filled with tears. Not of sadness. Not of joy. But of palate pain. The burning didn’t go away when he swallowed the bite. It continued to burn for a long time. He was a brave soul and dutifully finished his sandwich. But all it took after that was the mention of horseradish and his face would return to its beet-red color. I’m not sure he thought it was his favorite sandwich ever. But he did learn to appreciate the taste of a light coating of horseradish. Emphasis on the word light.
I chose the word horseradish for this post out of curiosity over what the name meant. Despite what you may think, it has nothing to do with horses. As a matter of fact, one dictionary points out that horseradish is poisonous to horses. No, the name is not at all related to the lovable animals. Rather, the term horse is related to the word as used to describe someone’s countenance as being large, bulky and strong. It is very derogatory, but occasionally you will hear a woman described as having a horsey appearance. It doesn’t mean that she resembles a horse. Rather, it is a term that defines her physical characteristics as large-boned, solid, and thick or full. That is the reference to the horseradish. Not only in its rough appearance as a root, but in its strong, heavy flavoring, it is horsey.
And it is a radish, meaning that it is a root which is edible. I happen to be one of those people who loves red radishes, and can’t wait for summer when they are fresh and local. Somehow winter radishes are mealy, tasteless, and disappointing. But I can eat a whole dish of fresh radishes right out of the garden. I like to put some salt (!) in the bottom of a dish and dip my radishes in the salt before popping them in my mouth. Horseradish, however, can’t be eaten like that. It is much too hot.
I suppose there are any number of uses for horseradish. Some entrees are served with a horseradish sauce. And a good cocktail sauce for seafood will contain a hint of horseradish. But I’ll take mine on rare beef in a Kimmelweck bun any day.
Photo Credit: Elena’s Pantry
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