Snowed into the Slow Lane

The farmhouse kitchen is dark, due not to sunset but snow-covered windows, kindness of the Blizzard of ’16.

In the oven a turkey gently roasts Northern Italian style, while the sound of a crackling wood fire and tumblers of white and red wine, considered essential ingredients in serious cooking like this, warm us.

The turkey is an extra from November that waited patiently in deepfreeze for a day when time is abundant. And to this farmer’s eye, the week-ago weather forecast revealed a fait accompli: roast turkey on Saturday, with derivatives hence like cacciatore with polenta, pot pies, and of course turkey soup. How else does a civilized society endure January in the Northern Hemisphere?

Today’s dinner would not be a Thanksgiving redux, but rather a high mass honoring the gift of time that comes from being snowbound, forcing us to downshift to a more comfortable life speed.

To my 12 year old I gently taught the finer points of kitchen craft, prompting her to announce that she now owns making mashed potatoes Bolognese style. This is but one example in a day that feels like slow-cruising the mountain roads of Trentino near the Austrian border, where food and wine are taken seriously, and both conversations and culture are a tapestry of Italian and German (Austrian, actually), all with a stunning view.

Thus a turkey, slowly roasting under latticed-barding of wood smoked bacon, mashed potatoes infused with steamed garlic and gobs of fresh butter, offset by a comparatively healthy sauté of carrots, zucchini and olives, farmhouse style. We started with fresh mushrooms, breaded and fried. Cabernet Franc, aged in Hungarian oak, and Blaufränkisch, both vintage 2012, completed the meal.

Not bad for a snowy day in West Jersey.

We, like you perhaps, find ourselves chronically short of time, beyond the ever-increasing pace that comes with age. We are constantly moving, and never fast enough.  Yes, my road warrior days are likely behind me (unlike my wife, who returned from Europe just before the weather turned sour). And yes, we live among vine rows, rolling hills and fine Hunterdon folk. But winegrowing has its own rhythm that is harder than it looks. Not rising at 4 AM today would have been enough, but this relaxed day with a fine meal was the real gift.

I hope you found yours, too.

– Peter Leitner