Sunday, January 9, 2011

Forecasters Call For Snow. I Call For Panic.

Lionel, our "indoor" cat, making his way through snow earlier this season.

Just two days ago, the gas gauge on my beloved Honda Pilot (there’s no seat like a heated seat, there’s no seat like a heated seat) hovered perilously close to “E.”*  Yesterday, on the way to Darling Daughter’s basketball game (where, by the way, she had the game of her life), the gauge pointed squarely to “E.” And this morning? Well, let’s just say it could only have been faith that got us to church and back, because fumes were in short supply.
No problem. This evening, I made a quick trip out to “fill ‘er up.” And what to my wondering eyes should appear but … a line? At our neighborhood gas station? Why yes, Virginia. There was a veritable crush of cars snaking around, backing in askew, with drivers leaning out their windows to kindly correct and traffic-direct others.

All that, for the privilege of paying $3.05 a gallon.

It’s January here in Charlotte, so the signs could only point to one thing: Snow’s in the forecast.  But silly me, I still wanted to stop by the grocery store. I know my neighborhood Harris Teeter like the inside of my own pantry, and I only wanted three things -- hamburger buns (for BBQ tonight), Italian sausage (for marinara sauce tomorrow) and grapefruit (for me). Easy peasy. Unfortunately, I also know the parking lot like the inside of my own pantry – and even better now after circling it for far too long to locate a space for the beloved Pilot. (Hey – that wasn’t agression, I really was there before that Highlander.)

Inside the Teeter, I saw everyone I know. Or at least that’s how it felt. And while everyone I know was there, nothing I know was on the shelves. Truly. It’s not that I needed bananas. Or lettuce. Or spinach.

But who did? I need to know. What were people doing? What were they planning to cook? I could understand the disappearance of milk. (Hot chocolate. Duh.) Or diapers. (There is no substitute.) Or pinto beans. (Who doesn’t want a pot of chili steaming on their back burner during a snow storm?)

But spinach? What are people making? Oysters Rockefeller?  Spanakopita?  Gingered Spinach and Mushroom Soup?

I was all but twitching. What was I missing out on? Did we need spinach Chez Wiles? Is it possible I’d be up in the middle of the storm, whipping up a spinach-artichoke casserole? Should I be looking to find a fix at another grocery store?

Nah. I was already confused enough.  Time to get home. Besides, I already had what I needed to weather a storm. A gas grill. Gloves. Beer.

And look. In the back of the fridge, I've got some fresh spinach -- perfect for one of my favorite salads.

Tomorrow, though -- chili!

Spinach Salad with Hearts of Palm, Cranberries and Blue Cheese
One bag baby spinach (6-8 ounces)
1 can hearts of palm, sliced
1/2 cup dried cranberries
4 ounces blue cheese, crumbled
1/3 cup salted sunflower seeds
1 orange, peeled and cut in sections

1/4 cup canola oil
1/4 cup raspberry vinegar
1/4 orange juice
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon kosher salt
healthy grinding of black pepper

Toss salad ingredients in a large bowl. Whisk together dressing ingredients and toss -- lightly -- with salad. Serve immediately.

*As an aside, I never look at the “E” and “F” symbols on the gas gauge without recalling my Dad’s observation when I was a kid: “’E’ is for ‘Edna.’ ‘F’ is for ‘Fountain.’” “Edna,” of course, is my mom. “Fountain” is my maiden name. And still, they were married for nearly 20 years.
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