Arctic Fruit Salad

It’s -23ºF. this morning, and the wind chill is unquestionably in the nether regions. At 6 a.m. I walked outside onto the porch to grab more wood to feed the fire, and during that 30-second jaunt I felt like I had entered a different atmosphere. At that temperature the air is thinner somehow, and harder to breathe. It takes lungs by surprise.

Winter here, at the very bottom of the Alberta Clipper, is histrionic. A day of blinding sunshine that saturates every hue will be followed by one drained of all color, drawn entirely in black and white. If it has any moisture in it, the wind paints the edges of the black pines with thick coats of frost; they’re dry today, but last week they looked as if they had had a run-in with an over-zealous Christmas tree smocker. (As I remember, all of the Christmas trees of my childhood had accidents with the same fellow.)

Even weirder, somehow when it gets this cold, the house cracks at night, as if popping its joints. The birds at the feeder are spherical, their down inflated into life-saving ruffs round their necks. The morning butter is so hard it shreds toast. The internet weakens; like a jaw too frozen to talk, it just won’t go where I want it to go. (I can get my email, but can’t open any links. Universe? Does this have something to do with the cold or are you trying to tell me something?)

In cold snaps like this I tend to concentrate my daily cooking on a large, smothered hunk of meat. With that as the main event, I punctuate the rest of the day with a few well-tailored snacks. This morning began with toast topped with avocado cream, some plump, shiny fillets of sardine, and a wobbling cup of bibb lettuce. To that I add this midday fruit plate, which I will confuse with savories and olive oil until it tastes more to my taste, and more like lunch.

First things first, I needed the right plate—a neighbor’s plate that needs returning should be just right. I laid out some slices of Minneola tangerines (zingy-tart and pretty much seedless), a perfectly ripe fuyu persimmon, scattered the plate with a handful of frozen wild raspberries, and then seasoned it all lightly with salt, pepper, a squirt of lemon and a good drizzle of olive oil.

Having plenty of wild raspberries to load into the freezer is my summer goal. I picked them last July from the canes that grew along the driveway, froze the berries on a sheet tray in a singular fashion, and then rolled them into a container—all so that I can now shake them out loose, as needed, like pellets of candy. Small, powerful, and deliciously frosty, frozen berries will always feel dear to me because they were the baby boy’s favorite toddler snack. And now they’re mine. Against the summery lull of the overripe slices of persimmon—which lay so softly on the plate they might as well be melting—the raspberries taste like droplets of sorbet.  They do a good job of representing the blunt, but bright, side of winter.

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