Dear Shaina,

What’s with all the snow in Jerusalem? Extreme weather seems to follow you. I remember the snow storms during your senior year at GW. All the government offices in DC were shut down for two weeks.

I know it snows occasionally in Jerusalem, but the worst blizzard in 300 years!  I actually lost sleep worrying about your highway adventures, your freezing hands and wet feet and the brutal snowball attacks. It sounds like Jerusalemites don’t quite get the art of snow etiquette.

It’s been really cold here in Alabama, too. I woke up this morning and actually had to scrape a thick coating of frost off my car windows. I thought I was back in Buffalo, but without the appropriate tools and gear.

Dad’s been busy splitting wood and loading it into the wood stove. He is very proud of the pile of wood he has amassed and stacked meticulously at the end of the driveway. Nothing makes him happier than having a roaring fire in the stove…and a pile of wood that will last the winter.

And I am in the kitchen, my comfort zone.  I am making vegetarian chili, a huge pot…and split pea soup and black bean soup and anything else that one might need for a long cold winter in upstate New York, even though I live in Birmingham and haven’t lived in Buffalo for over 40 years. There is something about old habits and the comforts of childhood that keep resurfacing, especially when the days are cold and the dark nights come so early.

I sometimes question why I can’t seem to make anything in quantities less than seven quarts.  I don’t seem able to cook only enough for the two of us.  It hardly seems worth it, and it’s great to have a ready meal in the freezer…and certainly someone will stop over and want a hot bowl of vegetarian chili.

Before I even finished cooking, I learned that a friend was recuperating from some surgery. They welcomed a homemade chili casserole dinner. Another elderly family friend landed in the hospital in respiratory distress.  A container of split pea soup was received like it was manna from heaven by the loving family anxiously sitting vigil. Yet another friend underwent surgery, and I still had plenty of food left over to be shared.

Sometimes food is more than just food…and I’m glad I made enough for an army. At this point, it’s all gone, even the quarts I put in the freezer!

I know you’re cooking your own healing food, and I can’t wait to hear what exotic dishes you have created to keep you and your friends warm and nurtured.  But I can’t help myself from wishing I could serve you a bowl of steamy veggie chili and warm your freezing hands in my own.

I am sending strict instructions to wear your coat, boots, gloves, hat and scarf…in case you’re inclined to listen.

Sending all my love and warmth.