Ever since the Blizzard of ‘78 – back in the day when weather forecasting was not quite the “science” it is today, and people actually were stranded in their offices, cars, and Boston Garden for days on end; when everyone lost power; and the stores, banks, and just about everything else were closed – people (including those who weren’t alive in 1978) go into a grocery-buying panic whenever a major storm is forecast. The scenes are hilarious, of course. Five gallons of milk? Really?
Monday the scene was the usual: markets with lines wending their way up and down the aisles, and folks reporting waits of 2 hours in some stores. While the bread and milk shelves were, not surprisingly, stripped bare by early evening, people at a couple of stores tweeted that supplies of broccoli were all out.
I had stopped in Roche Bros. for bread and bananas – both normal purchases – on my way to the gym around 8 a.m. Monday morning. Pre-panic mode. No mobs, no long lines at that point.
Anyway, I was all set for whatever Mother Nature threw our way, and settled in on Monday night with a forecast of 12+ inches and blizzard conditions for Boston.
When I got up on Tuesday, about 8 a.m., there wasn’t much on the ground and it was just snowing lightly, so I decided to take my chances and get in some of my 10,000 steps out of doors. (Circling my dining table and pacing my galley kitchen make me dizzy after about 500 steps, and I do so want to get my 10K in.)
It wasn’t too bad out. I wouldn’t say pleasant, but it was fine. And a lot warmer than it’s been the past couple of days. So I cut through the Public Garden, past Mrs. Mallard and her brood, and headed toward the Back Bay, where there was little car or foot traffic, but where businesses were already out cleaning the sidewalks.
The walkways on the Commonwealth Mall and in the Public Garden were also being cleared, even though the accumulation when I was out was barely an inch.
Between the steps I had cobbled together before heading out, and my meander around Back Bay for 45 minutes or so, I knew I was nearing my goal. So I decided to tack on a stroll down Charles Street, where our wonderful local (locally owned: the proprietor and his family live over the store) hardware store and saw that they were open, in case anyone was in need of firewood, a shovel, ice melt, paint, garbage bags, a corkscrew, a hairdryer, or anything else our wonderful general store sells. (Yay, Charles Street Supply.)
There were folks in all the coffee shops, including one lone new economy worker-bee wonking away on his laptop in J.P. Licks, which is mostly for ice cream. Just not today.
This is the sort of a day when my husband and I would have gone out for lunch to one of the restaurants around the corner. (One more reason to miss him…) But I had bread. And bananas. So I was fine with lunch on my own at home.
By the time I got to Charles Street, the wind was picking up. Blessedly, it was to my back, but that didn’t bode well for the return trip, which I foolhardedly decided to take along Storrow Drive, which runs along the banks of the River Charles. But the wind on Storrow was coming sideways, which was fine.
It was an afternoon designed for baking and, having gotten my buttermilk and caraway seeds over the weekend, I was set for making Irish soda bread, which I do each year around St. Patrick’s Day. I put on Ceol Tigh Neachtain, a CD from my favorite trad pub in Galway, and baked away, stopping on occasion to admire the snow scene out my window.
Speaking of stopping, during one of my admiring looks out the window, the snow – which couldn’t have accumulated to more than 6 inches by mid-afternoon – seemed to be turning into rain. (The weather folks were still assuring us that at least it was a blizzard in Worcester. Of course.)
But it was snowy enough that, with a cup of Barry’s tea (sweet and milky, my grandmother’s way) and a chunk of soda bread slathered with Kerry Gold butter, there was nothing left but to curl up with “The Dead,” arguably the greatest short story ever written. It doesn’t snow much in Ireland, but it does during “The Dead,” and this is James Joyce at his best.
My recipe for soda bread comes from County Cork, from whence cometh James Joyce’s antecedents. My Joyce antecedents hailed from Co. Mayo, so we’re no relation. But perhaps the recipe I use was the self-same one that James Joyce’s mither followed.
Ready for another cup of tay, I texted my upstairs neighbors to come down for tea and soda bread, which they did (and reciprocated with an invite for home made beef stew for dinner: yum).
Other than cleaning off the steps and front walk at one point, I didn’t do a lick of work all day, at all, at all.
Altogether, an excellent snow day.