Comfort food

Listening to CBC radio this afternoon while driving to Stittsville for my daily car wash, the announcer reported that a snow squall was expected.

A snowsquall, or snow squall, is a sudden moderately heavy snow fall with blowing snow and strong, gusty surface winds. It is often referred to as a whiteout and is similar to a blizzard but is localized in time or in location and snow accumulations may or may not be significant…snowsqualls are very dangerous for motorists and airplanes or generally any traveler unfortunate enough to get stuck in one. The change in conditions is very sudden, and slippery conditions and abrupt loss of visibility due to whiteouts often cause multiple-vehicle collisions. In the case of lake-effect snow, heavy amounts of snow can accumulate in short periods of time, possibly causing road closures and paralyzing cities. For instance, on January 9, 2015, a localized, heavy snow squall caused a 193-vehicle pile-up on I-94 highway near Galesburg, Michigan.

I confess I hadn’t any preliminary anxiety concerning this particular forecast, first because the word squall sounds generally so insignificant akin to a gust or puff; but more importantly because – not knowing the sudden nature of the effect – the current atmosphere was nothing short of idyllic for an early springtime afternoon. The highway was perfectly clean and dry; there was on the horizon what appeared to be a retreating bank of grey clouds (a fact which led me to speculate that the meteorologist had been tricked) and a mounting blue sky above a fluffy ribbon of white clouds. Indeed so intoxicating was the weather that I opened first the driver’s window then all the others and let the wind batter me at will!  It was a preliminary venture into the summertime glee of motor vehicle fervency!

When I landed at the car wash it was closed for maintenance.  This naturally upset me but there was another close by and one further abroad.  Being so close to a gas pump I chose to pause to fill the tank (another of my obsessions). While doing so the maintenance clerk removed the rubber orange-coloured standards which had been blocking the entrance to the car wash.  His work was apparently done. After a dutiful retreat inside to “check the children” I was the first in line behind a vehicle already half-way through. My errand had been performed to exquisite perfection!

Thus animated by the fortuity of the weather and the chance encounter at the car wash, I observed with pleasure the critical performance of the numerous dashboard lights and directed myself northward through the County of Renfrew.  The spaces instantly opened wide, revealing a mixture of blue and white snow upon the expansive fields. I had by this time closed the windows to enjoy another of my Apple Music collections, this time jazz essentials from the likes of Stan Getz. It was a heavenly absorption in part because I had momentarily listened to – and quickly excused myself from – cable news and heard that Trump and his crowd of devoted conservatives had done something else stupid at their CPAC get together. The latest brainlessness involved some further ignorance of the dreadful state of minimum wage in a country that calls itself the greatest show on earth! With Trump so thoroughly moth-eaten and archaic, I no longer billet the least interest in the rubbish he is promoting.

Instead my focus uncommonly turned to a revival of one of the very few culinary performances I own; namely, my so-called “Caribbean” pasta.  There is – as I have so often accounted – nothing Caribbean about my dish other than it was originally related to me by a beautiful young woman whom I met on the beach on Saint-Martin in the Caribbean Sea.  I recognized her as a fellow traveler on the plane from Canada.  When her husband was swimming nearby we struck up a conversation.  She explained to me that when she and her husband were dating, her answer to a late-night snack was not to order a pizza but rather to prepare a simple pasta dish consisting of olive oil, garlic, parsley, oregano and red pepper flakes all poured over pasta then smothered with grated Parmigiano-Reggiano.

Parmigiano-Reggiano is an Italian hard, granular cheese produced from cow’s milk and aged at least 12 months. It is named after the producing areas, the provinces of Parma, Reggio Emilia, the part of Bologna west of the Reno, and Modena (all in Emilia-Romagna); and the part of Mantua (Lombardy) on the right/south bank of the Po. Parmigiano is the Italian adjective for Parma and Reggiano that for Reggio Emilia.

Over the years I have added to those essentials sun-dried tomatoes, sliced green olives stuffed with Pimento, occasionally basil, sliced field tomatoes, chopped red or green pepper. Tonight I’m adding some fresh Rosemary (just because I adore it and it reminds me of our mountain top sojourn in Sardegna overlooking Isola Maddalena). Also, shrimp.  I have shared this recipe with two accomplished cooks – my mother and my erstwhile physician, both of whom to my delight speak well of it and flatter me to prepare it themselves from time to time perfected and altered as they wish and as the pantry permits.

Yet before this adventure was undertaken in the kitchen I parked myself in the Village of Appleton to view the state of the Mississippi River.  Coincidentally upon my return home I received an email from the daughter of a former ancient friend and client who, like I, was accustomed to celebrating the advantage of summer at the nearby Mississippi Golf Club where I expressed the desire to rally with her and her husband as soon as possible!  It is all part of the awakening!