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The Midwest blogger behind My Name is Yeh finds that even the harshest winter in the lower 48 is pleasurable when one gets cozy in the kitchen making giant loaves of challah and slabs of quiche.
I start on the bottom, with the warmest long underwear money can buy. Over that go jeans or fleece-lined leggings—or both—and socks and leg warmers piled on by the twos. On top, after more long underwear, goes a Patagonia pullover that I zip up all the way to the tune of “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?” I buckle on my bomber hat and burrito my neck and head with a six-foot scarf. A puffy coat, mittens and boots complete the look. I am a monster ready for minus-20-degree weather.
A quick explanation for why I relocated from Brooklyn to East Grand Forks, Minnesota, the coldest town in the Lower 48: My husband, Nick, whom I met in college in New York City, is a fifth-generation sugar-beet farmer. No big move goes down without its hitches, but in general, the Midwest has engulfed me like a fluffy down blanket. When I’m live-streaming contemporary chamber music concerts from my bathtub, I feel like the only true downside of living here is the limited access to fresh vegetables during the long winter months.
Come the first frost, most of my vegetables are hiding in cartons deep in the back of my freezer or in cans in my pantry, where the house’s previous occupants left a handwritten label for Cream of Mush. Onions and other alliums are some of the few truly enjoyable vegetables we have access to all winter, so we go through them by the dozen. The happiness I get from that first whiff of buttery onion makes using frozen blocks of spinach and herbs by the cube much, much easier.
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A typical day begins by wishing a good morning to my chickens, who produce so many eggs that pickling them is a must. Nick’s grandma, who grew up pickling to survive the winters, never understood why he and I like it so much. (We’d try to explain, “It’s popular in Brooklyn now!”) Breakfast often includes a thick slice of toast, always made with challah I bake myself, because that’s the only option, and it’s how I give my arms a winter workout. For dinner, butter and onion might turn into a chicken paprikash ladled over day-old bread or a German dumpling soup called knoephla (nip-fla).
Weekends are for my brunch club. It’s ladies-only in the summer when our husbands are in the fields, but we make exceptions in the winter. These women know the value of scones and quiche, and they’re not afraid to brave the cold for them. They know they’ll leave my house with a box of sweets, like the hazelnut marzipan chocolate bars that fill the void left when I said good-bye to Brooklyn and all its very fancy chocolate.
The sun sets not long after 4, making the march to bed a long one filled with lots of kitchen cleanup. Still, I can’t complain: Washing dishes in a farmhouse sink under a jet-black sky is a small price to pay for the joy I get dirtying them.