Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Musings Upon a Long Winter

Yes, it's snowing again here in DC. The weather industry has come up with all sorts of snappy nick names for storms, but I think I'll stick with exactly what's happening here- a long winter. This might be the wrong time to bring it up, considering it's late March, but I love the white stuff.  I associate snow with sledding and hot chocolate and pancakes. I don't like driving in it, but I love watching it from a window- feeling lucky that I am inside.

Snow was a great cause for celebration growing up because of the possibility of "a get out of jail free" card at school. It didn't happen very often, but I still remember the suppressed exhalation of joy that would escape when, while trapped at our desks, one of us would look out of the window. "Oh! It's snowing!" someone would whisper, and all eyes would leave the teacher.

Back then I loved the "Little House" books so much that when the TV series came along I was truly offended that Michael Landon didn't grow a beard for his part as "Pa." The Long Winter was one of my favorites- the story of a tiny frontier town enduring an endless succession of blizzards,  but what I remember most about the book was the pancakes.

illustration by Garth Williams

To refresh your memory, the handsome Wilder boys, entrepreneurs of their day, had hoarded seed wheat and hid it in the wall of their shanty. Every night they would enjoy buckwheat pancakes while the rest of the town was on the edge of starvation.  No ordinary griddle cakes these- they were "light as foam, soaked through with brown sugar." The description goes on, but the scene was so wonderful that to this day, I am driven to make pancakes almost every snow fall. (Sometimes I even make them for dinner - eaten by candlelight of course)

That winter, which really happened in South Dakota in the early 1880s, makes DC's white out look like a piece of angel food cake. Yeah, the snow is falling, but the streets are (mercifully) clear; and even if they weren't, we have snow plows and public transportation. (back then even the train could not get through) We've got electricity and various sources of heat. Indoor plumbing. A gas stove with four burners...

Who wants pancakes for dinner?

illustration by Garth Williams

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