Fall chill means warm treats

Published 1:51 am Wednesday, November 19, 2008

A cold wind blew in this morning, creating a blizzard of oak leaves that landed in piles on my deck. I watched from the warmth of my kitchen as I listened to the hum of the heater, glad for the comfort of my nest.

When the weather turns chilly that is what my house feels like to me — a comfortable nest. So the arrival of the cold naturally fires up my nesting instincts.

Could it be some primal urge like the one that drives bears to seek out the best caves and make them all comfy for their winter retreat? Or maybe it harkens back to something left over from ancestors who struggled against the elements for survival. Perhaps the secure feeling I get seeing neatly stacked firewood waiting for my use is a throwback to the emotions of a time when having a supply of wood meant you didn’t freeze to death.

Now my fireplace exists as much for the atmosphere it brings as it does for the heat it provides. Although it is nice to toast your backside in front of a fire on a cold night, something I’m sure was true even for folks living in caves.

And like my cavemen predecessors and those bears I mentioned, food plays a role in nesting. Of course I don’t have to hunt and gather and store in preparation for winter like they did — that job I leave to the pesky squirrels running around my yard frantically planting acorns every two feet.

Still, a desire for food, especially what I call “comfort food,” becomes almost an obsession for me this time of year. Suddenly, I want to bake bread, make hearty stews and pop cakes into the oven.

On a freezing afternoon, I crave the smell of oatmeal cookies baking, mingling with fresh brewed coffee and cinnamon-scented candles. Only problem with this idea of nesting is calories, lots of calories.

Comfort food, if I cook it like I like to cook it, equals potential poundage. Without exercising self control and doing some actually exercise as well, I will emerge from my nest in spring rounder than I entered it.

Perhaps my focus should be on different nesting practices like cleaning and ordering the nest. You know, take advantage of the cold outside to force me inside to straighten out closets, set cabinets in order, alphabetize my book shelves or finally sort through the stuff living under my bed.

I could spend blustery evenings with the written-on-scrapes-of-paper recipes I promised myself I’d put into a collection someday — make my nesting desire count for something that produces real positive results. I could do all those wonderful worthwhile things and use my need to nest to transform my space.

Yes indeed I could, but that wind keeps howling outside my kitchen window and I have the ingredients for a vanilla wafer cake sitting in my pantry. And those chicken breasts in the freezer have the potential to become a yummy pot pie with rich sauce bubbling up through crispy pieces of flaky crust that crisscross the top like a checker board.

Oh heck, let the cold weather blew in; life in my comfortable fireplace-warmed, oven-baked nest is going to be one long, delicious, if not potentially fattening, experience.