Screw You, Mild Winter Weather! It's Still Chowdah Season To Us.

I planned to write about a LOT of cold weather food for lunch this winter. As in, I scheduled it out. Not on Food Republic's actual editorial calendar, but in my head. My internal editorial calendar. And this delightfully pleasant, mild-temperature thing we are having here in the Northeast is messing with my creative flow. If it's 55 degrees and humid in what is practically February, I kinda want tomatoes. So I buy those watery pink paperweights that half-ripened on the truck they later fell off of, thinking, "of course these will be different." Then I'm sad. So I'm going deep into my memory to the coldest I've ever been, which involves clam chowder, because it's all about seasonality. Hear that, weird winter? I'm not ascared of you.

I was a prefect in my dorm senior year of high school. Yup, just like in Harry Potter, except I shirked all responsibility and let the young'uns stay up until all hours of the night, provided they bribed me with Easy Mac and Perrier, maybe a swipe or two off the ol' laundry card. So...not a very good one. One particularly frigid night — around negative 20 with howling winds — I was dead asleep, as teenagers sleep, when a lone freshman came a knockin'.

"Can you take me to the nurse?" she asked. Any other night I would have grudgingly dragged a freshman to the nurse, but I could see the wind blowing powdery gusts of snow in little cyclones across the soccer field outside my window. I really didn't want to go out there. But she was definitely sick enough to require attention, so I put on four layers of clothes, then put four layers of clothes on her, took a deep breath and opened the...nope, the front door wouldn't open. Frozen shut. I bodyslammed it with all of my 90 or so pounds at the time, and it opened with a shatter. Icicles fell menacingly from the awning.

We walked slowly against the frigid gusts on the completely iced-over road through campus, both slipping and falling a few times, only able to inhale air through scarves. What's the sound of frozen puke hitting the frozen pavement? I can't really imitate it, but it sucks. By the time I was desperately ringing the infirmary doorbell, I could have easily not had a face for how much feeling I had in it, my nose and lips were blue and all my bone marrow was frozen solid. The nurse ushered the sick freshman into an available room, then yelled at me for walking her over in the middle of the night when I could have just called the security car to come get us. I was speechless while she dialed the guard and told him she had a "Jessicle" heading back to her dorm, because my lungs and esophagus hadn't thawed out enough to speak.

Back at the dorm, I discovered I couldn't warm up or sleep. I tried huddling by the heater, making hot chocolate, using up all the hot water at 5 a.m., nothing. I shivered actively until lunch the next day, when I saw the steaming vat of New England clam chowder that was always in the dining hall at lunch and dinner from October to April. By the grace of the Sox (or whatever, I don't care), the chowdah worked. The bowl warmed up my hands, the steam thawed out my face and the soup itself adhered to every freezer-burned rib. And it was probably the best thing the dining hall made — several batches from scratch every day. I noticed several classmates also enjoying the miracle of warmth New England clam chowder bestows upon the tired and cold.

So that's what's for lunch today, delicious, creamy potato and clam-filled chowder and nothing else that claims to be clam chowder. It doesn't seem to be getting any colder, so I'll have to rely on the memories to get my winter fix. Hey, stuff lasts longer when you refrigerate it. I'm going to live to be 112.

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