Winter holiday preparation is basically an extension of harvest time. It makes sense, since most of the holiday season takes place in autumn. Homes are turned into a kind of indoor sukkah, festooned with trees, branches, and berries. Special music is played that is forsaken the rest of the year.
And the food! People whip up more cookies than anyone could ever eat, fancy milky cocktails, roasts and pies and snack mixes to fish from little bowls while playing cards and board games.
This year was no exception for Mike and me, except in the sense that we poured it on more than usual. I’ve known for a long time that we are not typical people when it comes to expendable income. While most Americans save their money for vacations, tickets to sporting events and concerts, or weekly shopping trips to a mall, Mike and I favor quality groceries. This autumn has been especially good to us, so I’m sharing a few pictures of our bounty.
It all started this summer, when my colleague Sara asked if I wanted any apricots. I documented canning them as well as some peaches that I bought. When we had windfall apples in our yard, I made applesauce. A friend who was going on a cruise and needed to unload a bunch of half-ripe tomatoes and peppers unloaded them on me.
But here’s where it really gets good. Our friends at 6 Ranch posted a contest on their Facebook page in September. They wanted to trade a quarter beef for something. “What’ve ya got?” they asked. People offered fence-mending, firewood, maps, carpet cleaning, a weekend in Bend. Mike offered to record their family history. 6 Ranch being a “century ranch,” one of Oregon’s oldest operations, this was a smart bid. He won.
In order to store that much beef, we finally bought a chest freezer. Then, we had a chest freezer to fill, so I ordered a half-pig from Carman Ranch. The local FFA has a fruit fundraiser, so I ordered a case of grapefruit from Texas. A friend told me about a fishery on the Oregon Coast that ships tuna straight from the cannery. Done.
At our Winter Solstice party, people brought gift-jars of the food they had put up during the summer. Anyone who had pickles pointed out that they were “for Mike.” (They had seen my blog post.)
And then my colleague Lisa said that her significant other was in Bandon, taking orders for oysters. Not much of an oyster fan, I wondered about Dungeness crab. This is a New Year’s tradition for Mike and me. Last year, the best we could get was frozen Alaska king crab legs from the Safeway.
A few days later, Scott pulled into our driveway with two dungies. And some still-squeaking cheese curds. And persimmons. And chanterelles. I buried my face in the box of mushrooms and inhaled the mossy, earthy scent of Western Oregon.
Wallowa County winters are long. But, we will eat our way to spring.