Humans are social creatures. Our ancestors developed the most complex language in the animal kingdom and we use it all the time. In fact, its rare to spend any time now where we don't meet human communication. Through television, social media, music, conversation, we are bombarded with information and it takes a lot of energy to sort through all of it and find the bits that actually hold value. Maybe its just me, but I'm beginning to notice that I value words less and value silence more. The exception, of course, is those moments of connection that bind us together, moments like those that happened this weekend.
As a child, snow always seemed to have a magical effect on the land. The harsh dead leaves and grey branches were softened by their soft blanket of snow and the whole forest looked clean and new. It seemed almost required that such a wonder replaced the classroom during snow storms. No child can look outside the window at billions of falling pieces of sky and concentrate on long division; and nor should they. There are a million lessons to be learned about crystal chemistry, layers of the atmosphere, meteorology, geography, hydrology, architecture, tracking, winter ecology, not to mention the valuable lessons that simply come from free play. As an adult we look at these memories of childhoods fondly and distantly. We reign ourselves to taking time off of work to spread salt, shovel the driveway and worry about friends and family members who don't have the luxury of days off.
Anyone who has seen me this winter has heard my protestations for real winter weather so when I woke with the sun on Saturday morning and was greeted with a soft blanket I called in to work and scheduled a snow day for myself. Word came down that a few friends from Canada were on their way south so after a quick feta and kale omelette my roommates and I set out for a big cleaning of the house. Pots were flying this way and that, brooms dusted up clouds and bags of trash appeared. Its remarkable what 7 dedicated people can do in 20 minutes and just as our guests were walking in the door we wiped up that last of the spills.
The next 8 hours held all of the magic as a child's snow day but for adults. As we sat around the big cast iron wood stove that heats our home in winter, adult craft projects came out. Socks were darned, scarves were knitted, leather bags were repaired. A violin appeared and music wafted through the ancient chestnut beams of our home. I put up a pot of venison chili and we feasted thought the night. Food, music, and friends filled the building with as much warmth as the wood stove and proved that magic snow days aren't just for children.
The chili is a simple receipe I developed that takes almost no effort but is rich and rewarding. Anyone will eat it and it is often the meal I make for groups on campouts since it can be made over a fire as easily as in a kitchen.
Easy Venison Chili
1-2lbs ground venison
16 oz cooked kidney beans
16 oz crushed tomato
1 medium sized sweet potato
1 small onion
Chili powder and cumin to taste
1. Slice onion lengthwise and sauté over medium-high heat in oiled cast iron dutch oven.
2. Add meat and stir until all browned.
3. Peel and cut sweet potato into 1/2" cubes and add to pot with tomato and beans. Mix thoroughly.
4. Turn down heat to simmer, partially cover and cook 15 minutes.
5. Stir mixture and add chili powder and cumin to taste (I find when I can smell the spices it tastes about right) Cook additional 2-3 hours.
6. Add lime juice and serve warm over high quality bread.
It disappeared before I could get a picture of the finished product.
I hope everyone reading this is enjoying the weather and gets a chance to spend some time outside soon. Take a snow day for yourself, no matter how old you are!