I hate winter. To be more precise, I'm not happy anytime the thermometer falls below 60. I sleep under two comforters and in a sweatsuit all winter long, while the love of my life sleeps in PJ bottoms with no covers.
This past Saturday, watching the final game of our son's college career, as the wind whistled down the I-93 corridor from the White Mountains, I reflected on just how cold I had been through the years.
I considered myself fortunate when our son, David, at the age of 6, embraced competitive swimming. While other parents complained about the hot, humid pool area, I was in seventh heaven.
On the other hand, David also played youth soccer. One of the most miserable games I remember was the year another mom and I were coaching his team.
I know nothing about soccer or coaching, and neither did the other mom. But if we hadn't stepped up, the team would have been disbanded due to the lack of a coach. The refs would stop the action at least 10 times a game to explain the concept of a player being off-sides. I still don't get it.
There was torrential rain storm one Saturday. My co-coach and I wanted to postpone the game; the opposing coach didn't.
"It's barely raining at my house," he told me on the phone.
"It's a monsoon where I live," I shot back. "And I live 500 yards, as the crow flies, from the soccer field."
We got to the field, which was two inches under water, and watched as the opposing coach, dressed in shorts and a T-shirt, danced on the field like Gene Kelly in "Singing in the Rain."
I spent the game sheltering the players not on the field under my rain poncho, like a mother hen protecting her chicks. And the game? Let's just say it was more like water ballet than soccer.
Then football came into my life and I got to know just how cold I could get. At home games, I worked the concession stand, where I could warm my hands over the pot of chili or the hot dog steamer, rather than sitting in the bleachers.
A play-off game between Drury and Hoosac Valley high schools David's senior year will forever stand out as the coldest I've ever known -- and I was prepared for an expedition to the North Pole.
I had on underwear, long johns, an Under Armor long-sleeved shirt, a turtleneck, sweatshirt, jeans, socks, heavy woolen socks, boots, a snowmobile suit and a heavy winter jacket. For good measure, I added a heavy knitted hat, mittens and a scarf.
"You look like Ralphie's kid brother in ‘A Christmas Story,' " my husband observed. "Can you put your arms down?"
Despite all the layers, by halftime, Guy and I were hunkered down in our car with the heater on full-blast. By the end of the game, I could no longer feel my extremities and was shaking from the cold -- and Drury had lost.
It took a long, steamy shower and hopping into bed with the electric blanket on high to finally get warm.
When I get cold, there is nothing like a huge pot of soup simmering on the stove. First, there's the comforting smell that permeates the house as it simmers. Then there's the warmth that spreads through your body as you eat it. One of our favorites is from a TV friend. I'm not a fan of arugula, so I leave it out when I make it.
Italian Sub Soup with Garlic Toast Floaters
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, 2 turns of the pan, plus 1/4 cup for croutons
3/4 pound, 3 links, hot or sweet Italian sausage, split and meat removed from casing
1/4 pound piece stick pepperoni, diced
1 ham steak, diced (about 1/2 to 3/4 pound)
1 green bell pepper, seeded, quartered and sliced
1 medium yellow onion, peeled, quartered and sliced
1 (15-ounce) can diced tomatoes
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
6 cups chicken stock
1/2 pound gemelli pasta or other short-cut pasta
5 cups cubed crusty bread
3 large cloves garlic, cracked from skin
1/2 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
2 bunches arugula, trimmed and coarsely chopped (about 4 cups)
Place a soup pot or deep sided skillet on the stove top and preheat to medium high heat. Add olive oil, 2 turns of the pan, and the sausage. Brown and crumble the sausage, drain off excess fat if necessary then add the ham and pepperoni. Cook meats together 2 minutes then add peppers and onions and cook 2 or 3 minutes more. Add diced tomatoes and season with salt and pepper. Add chicken stock and bring stoup to a boil. Stir in pasta and cook for 8 minutes. Make croutons while pasta cooks.
In a large skillet heat about 1/4 cup of olive oil, 4 turns of the pan, over medium heat. Add garlic and cook 1 minute. Add bread to garlic oil, toss and toast the cubes 5 or 6 minutes. Season the toasty cubes with red pepper flakes, oregano and lots of grated cheese.
Stir arugula into soup just before you serve it up. Ladle up the soup and float several toasty garlic bread cubes in each bowl.
Margaret Button is the city editor of the North Adams Transcript. Send recipes for inclusion in future columns to the North Adams Transcript, 85 Main St., Suite 2, North Adams, Mass. 01247 or email them to email@example.com.