I woke up this morning to the sound of little pieces of ice hitting the windows. It was not Sunday, but Monday, and so instead of being cozy in my little winter tree house of a room, my stomach started to churn, just a little.
A secret about me that is not very secret but is not something that I’m proud of, is that I am terrified of winter roads. One would perhaps suggest that I shouldn’t be living in the nether hills of Western Massachusetts, but here I am, and I must say that I really love everything else about the winter, as long as I don’t have to drive to get to it. I am married to a very savvy Colorado driver an we have a sturdy and safe little chugging Subaru, but still, the stomach churns.
I wasn’t actually the one who had to drive anywhere this morning, but the fact that the precious ladies in the backseat of the Subaru heading through the hills are in the car even with their savvy Colorado driving papa is enough to make me pace, not to mention the safety of the savvy Colorado papa himself. I have been known to keep those ladies home, just so I don’t have to think about them in that car. I’ve only done it once or twice when most of the county schools were closed, but I’ve done it. Today, after some repetitive and anxious checking of the school closures and weather report, I decided that it would be neurotic and silly to keep them home. A few schools were delayed, but none closed, and I had a chapter to finish today. Joey went to scrape the inches of ice off the car, and he said that it was really just slush, not ice, and so I shouldn’t worry.
We’ve gotten good at this, and now I take his word. I won’t worry, I say, but call me when you get there. A kiss for Joey and a prayer to whatever God might watch over this family. The ice fell harder. I settled down at my desk. It took a while for the phone to ring, but when it did, I said, “not so bad, right?”
“Actually terrible. Someone spun out in front of us on the mountain, but we went slow and listened to The Hobbit, and we were okay.”
Shit. And so winter begins. I know that it’s a rational kind of fear, and the truth is that I’ve got it because a few people I’ve known and loved have left the planet behind the wheel of a car. But I don’t like being ruled by a fear–I don’t like how it takes over my body and makes me want to scoop everyone I love under my wide and sweeping cape. I’ve heard a lot of reasons not to have children, but the only one I might at moments agree with is so that you don’t have to be so afraid of losing them.
But miracle of miracles, we tend to make it through the winter. And on this first day of ice, I’m going to think about all of those winter-y things that I love. Snowshoeing in the woods out back, Christmas music even though we’re supposed to be Jewish, braising, the coming succession of holidays starting out with my very favorite, days when school is actually closed and the mudroom is filled with wet snowpants that don’t have a chance to dry before they get stepped into again. I especially love this beginning of winter, before we are tired of it and the snow banks are dirty and there is salt everywhere and all of our savings have gone to oil to heat the house. I love the fall part of winter, this one, the November and December part.
And for now, I love the food that we have to be creative to keep around a bit longer. I try not to buy vegetables in the winter when I can feed us with something in the freezer or from jar. Inevitably we buy lettuce for sandwiches, but the freezer is filled with greens that I’m still packing in here and the kale palm trees in the back will continue to produce for a while still. Our CSA had its last week, and as is their yearly ritual, there was a big sale there this past weekend. Bargain basement prices on roots and greens and other things too, and every year I curse my lack of inventiveness that I don’t have a root cellar. But I pack the fridge and the understairs closet, and that should get us through December, at least. I bought a few daikon radishes with the thought of pickling them, and I figured I’d have a bit of fun with it and then the jar would languish in the fridge for awhile. Turns out we ate the whole jar that day.
Daikon is a Japanese radish, and you will often find a tiny pile of it grated next to your tempura at a Japanese restaurant. The unspoken instruction is to pick up the whole pile with your chopsticks and to swirl it around in whatever salty and warm sauce came with your tempura. The Japanese are smart about this, and you know that there is always a reason. I’ve been told that daikon is magic for the liver–it helps your body to deal with the grease and oil clinging to your delicious fried vegetables or fish or what have you. Leave it to the Japanese to offer you the medicine along with the food; we could learn a thing or two there, I think.
So of course Daikon doesn’t have to be grated–it’s a radish but not spicy at all, and it’s good peeled and chopped into soups or salads or anything really. It’s crisp and lovely and quite neutral tastewise, so of course it makes a good pickle. This is based off of Karen Solomon’s recipe–it’s a quick fridge pickle with a lemon base, which is addictive in a good way and especially good with beer. Make a few jars, and maybe they’ll last through November.
Quick Pickled Daikon with Lemon
adapted from Karen Solomon, Jam it, Pickle it, Cure it
1 1/2 pounds daikon, peeled and thinly sliced
1/4 cup kosher salt
1 tablespoon honey
1 tablespoon brown rice vinegar
1/3 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 clove garlic, minced
3 pieces lemon zest, about 2-inches long
Put the daikon in a colander over the sink. Pour the salt over the daikon, and mix it in with your hands. Let it sit for 15 minutes, it will give the daikon a quick salting and will let go of some of its moisture.
Whisk together the honey, vinegar, lemon juice, zest and garlic in a large bowl.
Rinse the daikon under running water, spread it out to dry on a kitchen towel, and roll up the towel to squeeze out the moisture. Transfer the daikon to the mixing bowl and toss in the lemon mixture. Let sit for at least an hour in the pickling brine. It’s ready to eat now, or you can transfer to a jar in the fridge where it will last (so I’m told) for up to a month.