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Warm winter memories

Sunday evening, my wife began planning the meals for the week. Perhaps her afternoon trip to the grocery store, and feeling the pinch of the cold outside air prompted her to plan a stew for Monday night. It might also have been a case that a stew can be ready at any point around dinner. Marnie had a conference call that was only expected to last a couple of hours. But many of her conference calls have run far beyond the expected time, and a stew would compensate for a long call. Stews are one of our household comfort foods. It may even be our favorite comfort food in winter followed closely by chilli. And stews always seem to taste a little bit better the second day, as the various flavors from the root vegetables meld together. Marnie started the stew Sunday night. My mother in law is visiting, and she began simmering the stew pot again early Monday afternoon, When I arrived home, beans, peas and corn were added. Marnie was well into her conference call and hoped to be finished around six. The stew worked its desired magic. Tasty, hot, and filling, the stew warmed from the inside out and melted the winter coldness. The bleakness of the cold January night was forgotten. When I was young and a paper carrier, we would hustle from house to house delivering papers and arrive home shortly before six at night. My parents insisted that we wear felt boots and rubber buckled or zippered boots. Our feet were never cold. We were well protected from the cold. On particularly cold nights, as we burst through the door, my mother would bring from the oven a large roasting pan of baked macaroni and cheese. The steam would rise from the crispy cheese topping and my brother and I would dig in to several platefuls. Sometimes she would add bacon or canned tomatoes to the macaroni. The memory of how good it tasted on those minus 40 degree nights remain. Comfort foods do that. They bring on comfortable memories. Comfort foods warm the heart. And as our family enjoys the rich aromas of a stew, on a lazy Saturday or Sunday morning, the skillet filled with bacon crackling on the stove, smells of richly brewed coffee will fill the house or cottage, with eggs and toast to be added. And we’ll sit around the table, enjoying the laziness of the morning, contemplating our weekend schedules. In summer, we’ll be looking out over the blue waters of Rainy Lake while in winter, we’ll be looking out the kitchen window at the paper birch in brilliant sunshine standing frigid against the snow. Such are the memories that come back on cold January days. –Jim Cumming, Publisher