Here is a splendid way to lessen the sting of those bitterly cold winter nights like the ones Americans were reacquainted with this year. It might be called a Siberian Banquet or with only a slight shift of emphasis, a Taiga Tipple.
Certain modifications have to be made depending on the locale of course. The real thing, such as one I was privileged to be a guest at last week, takes plate at about 40 degrees below zero under a setting sun and spectacularly clear sky in the silence and untouched snow of the pine and birch forests outside this city in Russia's far north.
But any beautiful woods would do. It's the food and spirit, the kind you feel and the kind you drink, that matters most in the end.
Given the conditions, attire in optional, Siberiaki wear, among other items, long johns, woolen tights, sheep skin coats, hats and gloves of animal fur and most imporant of all, boots called oonsti , which are heavy leather to the ankle and then wolf, dog or sheep fur to the knee. The chicest thing in polar haute couture in high boots of reindeer with embroidery at the top that are still handmade in rural villages and cost about $125 a pair.
Preparations need not be complicated, although an axe, several good knives, a shovel, some pots, sturdy mugs, bowls, a tea kettle and some matches are essential.