We've entered the new year and here on the East Coast, we’ve gone into full-blown winter mode. Hunkering down to avoid the cold and also Covid, I’m reminded of the freezing winters of my youth growing up in the middle of England, when I’d come home from school, hoping my mum would have started cooking something with a delicious smell that would hit me as I walked through the door. My favorites were Cottage Pie and chicken in a creamy, white wine sauce - proper comfort food that would ‘stick to your ribs’ and guarantee you’d come out of winter with a few extra pounds on you.
I still enjoy these kinds of dishes occasionally, I must admit, although my idea of comfort food now is more likely to be a wonderful soup or stew, seasoned with those spices that are especially good in the winter and that all offer different types of health benefits. Cinnamon helps to lower your blood sugar and makes you feel more grounded; ginger is wonderful for digestion; cardamom possesses infection-fighting qualities and lastly, the powerful antioxidant turmeric also contributes to keep you in a better frame-of-mind by increasing serotonin in the brain - much needed when the days seem long and grey. Whether it’s a curry or a delicious blend of these spices in a cup of Golden Milk, your spirits will be lifted and your belly filled.
I buy spices (and a lot of my tea blends) from the Sullivan Street Tea and Spice Company in Greenwich Village, a beautiful shop where the pungent aroma of their wares immediately hits you when you walk through the door. It’s one of those wonderful, unique stores that exists here in NYC and that, literally and metaphorically, puts the flavor into the neighbourhood.
I’m also not averse to putting some spice into a cocktail to give it a delicious fragrance, as well as warming properties. I recently discovered Damrak Gin, which is from Holland, and it has a very lovely citrus quality to it. When made into a Winter Punch, with the addition of cinnamon, cloves and star anise plus a couple of other tasty ingredients, you get a delicious hot toddy that will definitely help to lift your spirits and warm your soul. They also make a virgin Damrak too, just in case you’re doing Dry January but still want to enjoy a tasty libation.
I must admit that chair pose is my go-to when I’m chilled, lifting my hands above my heart to increase circulation, although you can get some funny looks when you do it at the bus stop or on the subway platform, but hey, it’s New York and I’m cold! Once home, another nostalgic tip for surviving the chilly months is good, old-fashioned flannel sheets. Not only do they keep you warm, but there is nothing like tumbling into a bed made with beautiful, cosy bedding, and I am a firm believer that good linens are something to invest in - as is a good bed. Boll and Branch sheets are made in Portugal from organic cotton and they feel heavenly. Magically, they keep you warm without overheating: the only downside is that they make it hard to get out of bed in the morning. Who wants to move when you’re toasty warm and it’s frosty outside?
Moving through this new year that will undoubtedly bring challenges and hopefully solutions, let’s remain grateful to have a roof over our heads and warmth in our homes. Think of others not so fortunate and do what you can to help.
Here’s to a good start for a better, healthier year where we can happily find our joy. Cheers!