week 10: a snapshot of winter's arrival

"It's a-snowing!" Sam announced, first thing yesterday morning, pointing at the window. It's the week before Thanksgiving, and big fat flakes were fluttering, nesting into the needles of the evergreens, into the brown leaves that still remain in the deciduous trees (how often do you see snow in leaves?). But then the sun came out, and the temperature rose to the high thirties, and Saturday's snow melted.

Sunday is cold and windy, the sky a steely flat gray, the temperature struggling to break freezing, and losing. In the afternoon, the boys and I drive across town to the Bertrange neighborhood, to visit an indoor playground. I read in the cafe area, where half the parents are drinking beer or wine; one guy has a carafe of red, a plate of pasta, and a laptop in front of him. When we head home at four, the sky is already beginning to darken and flurry. I build a fire, return the pot roast to the oven. By five, the flakes are being blown horizontal, the tree limbs swaying. We have an early dinner, then the boys have a bath, and get into their cozy pajamas, and all the while the snow continues to fall. I put on a ski jacket and chunky gloves, and go for a walk. 

Luxembourg is, everyone agrees, fairy-tale. In the snow, it's doubly so. The steeply pitched roofs with their dormer windows, the wrought-iron street lamps, the tiny plateaus and ravines of the cobblestones, all collecting their own dustings and piles. The deep gorges are cut hundreds of feet down to the little streams, with sweeps of blanketed lawns that are dotted with trees and bordered by thick woods; tonight they have the aspect of ski slopes, a bonsai-size resort. The gorges allow for a profusion of long-distance vistas, vast sky-fulls of swirling white. There's never much in the way of automobile traffic, especially here in the centre, where half the streets are pedestrian-only. In this little blizzard, cars are even fewer and farther between, the streets unplowed and -salted. It could be the nineteenth century, or earlier. 

At the Place Guillame, two minutes from home, a cluster of Christmas-market stands have already opened, in anticipation of what's clearly going to be a city-consuming market; scores of log-cabin stalls have been arriving all week, filling the Place d'Armes, spilling eastward in the rue de CurĂ©, colonizing the Guillame, along with a basketball-sized tent garishly adorned with color-gelled lights. The half-dozen stands surround an outdoor fire in a big drum and a teepee filled with picnic benches. They are selling Nordic nicknacks, sweaters, glogg, plates of poached salmon with dill sauce. Some of the girls who work the stands are throwing snowballs; a big fluffy dog peers out the flap of the teepee; a handful of people warm themselves at the fire, drinking glogg. In the open plaza, a toddler is wearing her snowsuit for the very first time, slipping and falling in the fluffy two inches. I head home. The whole town smells like burning firewood, smoke pouring out of every chimney. Including my own. 

an incredibly short recipe: radishes

Dinner is a non-notable pot roast with carrots, turnips, purple potatoes, and red onions; the meat and vegetables are great, but the sauce just isn't, and that's something I'll need to work on. We have a crisp salad on the side, and a small plate of bright pink oblong radishes, white at the very bottom of the bulb and its long, stringy tail. I bought these at the farmer's market yesterday, for no good reason other than they were there right in front of me as I was requesting my other fruits and vegetables--you don't handle and choose your own, but request, say, "Deux cents grams des haricots verts, s'il vous plait, madame," and get what you get. The seller first assesses the buyer, then she chooses a quality of produce commensurate with her assessment of the buyer. I have no idea what I rate.

Astoundingly, Alex is willing to try the a radish. He dips it in salt, takes a bite, considers it while he chews, his brow furrowed. "I like it," he says, nodding. He takes another bite. "Even without the salt, I like it." Sam is thus encouraged to take a bite, but grimaces and shakes his head; Alex wants us to add radishes into his school-snack rotation. If I'd been challenged to a wager beforehand, I would've bet a lot of money against this outcome. 

Coarse sea salt
Good butter

You can dip them in the salt. You can cut a slit lengthwise, and slip into it a sliver of butter. You can do both. If you prefer an Italian version to this French style, you can dip them in good extra-virgin olive oil, maybe a little bowl of it that's been liberally seasoned with salt and pepper. And by all means, I guess, try it on a four-year-old; you never know.

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