A Warm Country Meal for a Long Winter's Night

Spicy Oregon Lamb Tagine
In honor of the first anniversary of Sticks Forks Fingers, we are polishing and re-publishing a post from the early days; one that still clearly reflects the heart of this project. We thank each of you for your readership and encouragement this year, and for coming along on this important year of our lives. My best, Pam
Winter in Oregon is dark. Our short Pacific Northwest days are clouded over, sometimes creating weeks of not seeing the direct light of the sun. For those of us born and bred in brighter climes, this can pose a challenge to our senses of well-being. It becomes a matter of perspective whether we deem the days short or the nights long. I'm learning, after 20 Oregon winters, how to make peace with the dark.

Beautiful Gourd, made for us as a wedding gift by our dear friend Marla
  • Candles. Lots and lots of candles on the dining table to evoke warm bright light. Candlelight implies warmth and light while holding respect for the reality of winter. Candlelight seems to say, "Hang on... Good and hopeful things are happening deep within".

  • Warm company. If you've been blessed by warm relationships, you know what I'm talking about here. Relish those. If you haven't, don't give up. Imagine the life and relationships you'd like to have. Settle for nothing less. With firmly set intentions, it will happen. I promise. And learn to enjoy your own warm company in the meantime.

  • Great wine. Take the time to really notice the wine you drink. Don't rush this. If you've been blessed with warm company (see above), don't be afraid to share what you smell, taste and feel in your glass. If you are by yourself, write it down. Noticing the nuances in your wines dials you in to notice many other wonderful things about a dark day. Sharing it affirms your humanity.

  • Winter foods. Uncooked vegetables and fruits are great, but may throw your sense of well-being way off in the dark days. Read a little about Ayurvedic eating and apply the concepts to your table, such as using warming spices, root vegetables, cooked orange vegetables and dark leafy greens. A little braised meat now and then won't hurt either. (David Tanis says he'd like to launch a society for the Protection of Long-Cooked Stews, whose members would braise regularly!) Start your meal early and end it late, savoring each bite and sip and word and thought shared at your table. Accepting the long evening the Universe has given as its gift lightens the darkness.

Our Sunday meal honored the beauty of a long winter's night. A tagine of locally raised lamb shanks cooked with dried apricots, spicy fresh and dried ginger, garlic, cayenne, cinnamon, cumin and coriander seeds over smashed potatoes. The dish was an abstract on David Tanis' Fragrant Lamb with Prunes and Almonds from his The Heart of the Artichoke, and Dorie Greenspan's Lamb and Dried Apricot Tagine from Around My French Table, two wonderful and inspiring books. Tanis calls his tagine, "a cozy port in a stormy world." Just the way I want my winter table to be thought of as well.

A lush bottle of New Zealand Craggy Range '08 Syrah brought back from our October honeymoon was shared. Once again I was reminded of how exciting the fine New Zealand wines are... not much like those on U.S. grocery store shelves. Reminiscent of our tasting experiences there, this Syrah had an intense bouquet. It led with black plum and black currant and had spicy licorice-y notes. A sparkling acidity and the finest grained tannins made an elegant, refined, long finish.


  1. Simply beautiful. It's tough to keep spirits up sometimes in dark winters -- and your reminders that good, slow cooked food, wine, candles and company are great ways to find comfort are precious. It's dark and nearly dreary here . . . and cooking is a great panacea.

    Happy anniversary!

  2. If that's not comforting, I don't know what is!

    The best to you! Happy Anniversary.

  3. Happy Anniversary! Looks like you had a wonderful dinner!

  4. how true! a good meal, slowly cooked, enjoyed with friends and family. That's why Slow Food is so popular these days :). Happy Anniversary!

  5. Your country meal warmed my soul all the way in KS. Your blog has become my cozy port.

  6. Happy Blogiversary!

    I loved your point about taking the time to enjoy your wine and share your thoughts. The mysteries of wine, food and our relationships with them fall when you take the time to really taste and experience them. Shall we never lose this treasured way of living.

    For a trip to Oregon which would be better, Septemeber or October? Microbrews did you say? We knew we liked you...


  7. Great meal enjoyed with great friends...and a great bottle of wine! It doesn't get better than that! Happy Anniversary!

  8. I'm going to try something like this lamb in my new tagine before I give up on it. Happy Anniversary to your blog! I enjoy it a lot.

  9. Some times I find myself wishing for more overcast days that call for thick blankies, snuggling and a wonderful, savory meal exactly like this! I am however grateful for the 360 days a year of sunshine here in Phoenix.
    There are very few types of meat I'll eat and serve my family these days, lamb is one of them, so nutritious.
    That is a beautiful tablescape and a very pretty hand made gord!
    I just love your blog to bits!

  10. I just had my first blog-anniversary as well! Congrats, Pam. I love your blog...can't wait to see what you post in the years to come!

  11. Happy Anniversary (belated)! Love your philosophy about life and food and friends. The tagine looks marvelous. Right up our alley!


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