Not much can compensate for having to pack away our shorts and sandals, except food. Goodbye deck chairs and suntan lotion, hello soup bones oozing marrow. Much as we miss sand between our toes, we can drown our sorrows in hot toddies, and instead of the pounding surf we can listen all night to a simmering stewpot.
It is getting to be that time again when we want foods as heavy as our ski sweaters. We return to meat and relegate salads to the side rather than the center of the plate. Baking sounds like comfort rather than punishment. Steaming grains make greeting the morning bearable. And we look for vegetables that melt on the tongue rather than crunch between the teeth.
Mourn not for peaches and corn, or at least take consolation in roots and leaves and broths and pot roasts. Here are the foods that make blustery days worthwhile:1. Call it New England Boiled Dinner and accompany it with horseradish, or with side dishes of pickles and mustard call it pot-au-feu; for bollito misto include a sauce of herbs pure'ed with garlic, oil and vinegar, and a jar of Italian mustard fruits. In any case, beef brisket simmered with potatoes, carrots, leeks and a variety of other meats from chicken to tongue to sausage creates a broth of incomparable flavor and a meal to warm a body as well as a soul. 2. Vegetable soup, with at least a half-dozen fresh vegetables, a lot of marrow bones, plenty of gelatinous soup meat and just a touch of tomato is grand in itself. But try adding diced sweet potatoes to the brew; their slight sweetness mellows it all. 3. Any old hot chocolate has its charms, but Mexican chocolate, grainy and flavored with cinnamon, cloves and almonds, sometimes with honey or vanilla added in the kitchen, is whipped to a froth with a carved wooden beater twirled between the hands. The flavored chocolate can be found at Mexican shops and brewed at home with hot water; but look for a beater, too, for the twirling is half the pleasure. 4. Serve bread pudding warm and make it French style, with slices of stale French bread buttered on both sides, then layered in a pan and baked with not-too-sweetened eggs and cream. 5. Chicken in winter deserves dumplings, studded with lots of chopped parsley and simmered in the pot along with the bird. 6. Dumplings should not stop with the main course. For dessert wrap the dumpling dough around a plum that has been pitted and filled with sugar and cinnamon. And after boiling them, top the dumplings with bread crumbs browned in butter and sugar. 7. Baked potatoes have become the darlings of the dieting world, for they stick to the ribs with not very many calories, as long as butter is shunned. Season them with herbs or spices, from chili powder to nutmeg. Or for a hot, filling and surprisingly non-caloric meal, split a baked potato as soon as it is done, and drop in an egg. Season well, wrap in foil and return to the oven for a few minutes, until the egg is just set. 8. Think sauerkraut, especially Hungarian style, cooked with pork and sausages and onions and paprika into a Sze'kely goulash, topped on the plate with a dollop of sour cream. 9. Wrap them in pastry if you like, but apples are wonderful baked simply naked, their cores removed and filled with what you like: chopped nuts, raisins, grated lemon peel, cinnamon, cloves, sweetened with white or brown sugar or perhaps with honey, and maybe a spoonful of rum drizzled over the top. 10. Many people don't even know that they love turnips until they have them whipped into a pure'e and enriched by a spoonful of butter. Season with lemon juice if it suits you, and pure'e with the turnips a little cooked pear, about one pear per pound of turnips. 11. Cornmeal may be cooked Southern American style as cornbread, or Northern Italian style as polenta, a cornmeal mush sliced and served with anything from liver to game, but best of all to soak up the juices of small birds. 12. The reason cities have street corners is so there will be a place to sell chestnuts, smoky-tasting and slightly singed from a charcoal burner. Cook them at home if you must, but certainly over an open fire. 13. And once the fire is going, you might as well give in to marshmallows. Good tests of character they are: Are you a patient, let-them-melt-slowly-and-turn-golden marshmallow cook, or a make-them-quickly-puff-and-blacken type? Or do you alternate the two methods and thereby justify eating twice as many? 14. Cassoulet, properly made, is the work of an entire weekend. A long weekend. That is why it is so wonderful. Start your duck confit today. 15. French fries are evil. Sweet potatoes are nutritious and healthful. Straddle the fence with french fried sweet potatoes. 16. Summer is made for lemonade; winter is made for hot lemonade, left fairly tart and drunk late at night when even the smell of coffee might keep you awake. 17. Cabbage earned a bad name from boiling. It can be retrieved by saute'eing. Plenty of butter and long, slow cooking turn sliced cabbage into a nearly melting vegetable delicacy. 18. Put away the pasta salads and pull out the barley. Cook it long and slowly with mushrooms -- fresh or dried -- into a thick and warming mushroom-barley soup. 19. Maybe you have to be from Philadelphia to understand, but scrapple is synonymous with winter. The cornmeal absorbs the pork fats and juices and blends into a loaf that slices and fries into a hot, spicy breakfast meat that hits the tongue crisp, then melts as it goes down. 20. You have a choice: Get up five minutes earlier, or set your oatmeal to cook the night before. It would be a shame to start the winter's frostiest mornings without hot oatmeal swirled with brown sugar or maple syrup and sprinkled with raisins, diced apple or banana, or maybe some chopped pecans. 21. We can even look forward to January once we remember that the best of the fruit markets will have comice pears, those fat, squat Oregon fruits that ripen to such juiciness that they require, if not a spoon, at least a bib. 22. Everyone who has ever been married has a fondue pot somewhere in the attic. Even without a special pot, you can rig up something or stand around the stove for that friendliest of meals. Remember to spear the piece of bread through its crust to hold it on the fork, and don't forget to eat the wonderful brown crispness that sticks to the bottom of the pot. Finally, don't think a proper fondue can be made with any cheese but that which is imported from Switzerland. 23. When you've had your fill of cheese, switch for a special occasion to beef fondue: Tender beef, cubed and cooked by each diner on long metal forks in simmering oil, then switched to another fork lest you burn your lips on the oil-heated one. The crucial part is the sauces, at least four, in which to dip the meat after it is cooked. Bearnaise, certainly. A light tomato. Homemade mayonnaise spiked with mustard. Horseradish, chutney or whatever else strikes your fancy. 24. Winter nights and popcorn are an irresistible combination. After a month of them, though, you may want a change. Season the popcorn with parmesan, garlic and oregano. Try chili powder. Ginger wouldn't hurt either. 25. The Great All-American Grilled Cheese Sandwich can be open-face or closed, broiled or fried, stuffed with any cheese under the sun, even cottage cheese. And it can be elaborated with a slice of ham or turkey, a layer of tuna fish and of tomatoes, a hidden surprise of green chilis. But by all means make one this week with rye bread, toasted slowly until it is crisp r of pink Texas grapefruit or fat Florida oranges. 29. And find an English connection for a wheel of stilton to go with your winter supply of walnuts and your old bottle of port. 30. Then search a French connection for foie gras, the real stuff, the fresh kind, the pale, fat liver barely cooked and melting on the tongue like meat turned into butter. 31. More down-to-earth, winter turns our thoughts to pork, particularly the delicate pork available at farm markets such as the Bethesda Farm Women's Market. Cook it with saute'ed apples and onions and the last of the sage from your garden. 32. When those bananas are beginning to darken in your fruit bowl, pop them into a very hot oven, peel and all, and baste them with butter and brown sugar, turning frequently, until they are quite blackened and very soft. Spoon out the fluffy interior, topping it if you wish with cream and rum. Some people even eat the skin. 33. Relive the Kennedy era and soothe away the day's tensions with the winter drink of JFK and his friends: scotch and hot milk. 34. Mashed potatoes deserve a revival, those mashed potatoes made right from scratch, whipped with a little hot milk or cream and a knob of butter. Don't forget the gravy. Or fold very dark, crisp fried onions into them. 35. Those same potatoes, fresh ones, ought to be remembered for soup. Just dice them and boil them and add a little cream and butter, maybe a dash of dill. 36. Or if you happen to have a chunk of cod or halibut, simmer that as well, preferably in some stock made from fish bones, with the potatoes and along with the cream (or milk) and butter add thyme. If you also have some salt pork or bacon, cook it crisp and simmer with the fish and potatoes. And add some chopped onion if you are so inclined. 37. Discover lentils. Let sausage help you discover them, for they complement each other in the cooking. 38. Bake your stew in a pumpkin. 39. Don't forget to roast your pumpkin seeds. Spread them on a baking sheet -- without washing them first -- and rub them with a little oil and salt. Bake in a slow oven, about 250 degrees, for an hour or more until dry. 40. Pull out your ethnic cookbooks. It is time for osso bucco, stuffed cabbage, chicken paprikash, Janssen's Temptation.
And one for good health: It's chicken soup season. Simmer a fat bird with plenty of carrots, celery parsley. Add leeks and parnsips if you've never tried them. A big onion studded with two or three cloves. You can season it with dill or cumin, but do so lightly. Skim it, freeze it and be ready for the first sneeze.