Are you over your cold? Your cough? Your sniffles and sneezes? Did you get over that and then get more? Welcome to mid-winter blues, and take solace in the fact that when it does bother to show up, the sun is visiting us for minutes longer every day.
Fortunately, many folks in the greater Tri-Town area are firing up their kettles, and putting on their chef’s toques to make healing soup. Or ramen, the popular Asian soup mixes, as the case may be.
Danny Nhan of Fitchburg owns Millbury Fish Market at 60 Bemis Road. Fitchburg has literally dozens of varieties of ramen soup, beef, fish, shrimp, spicy, mild, medium, some that come with bowls and spoons, others that come a dozen to the box.
“People buy a lot of ramen in the wintertime,” he explained. “You can feed a whole family, easy. Nice hot soup!”
As we loaded a bag of ramen in our mom van — including the top-selling item: “Buldak, spicy chicken flavor,” we wondered what soups were most popular in another hemisphere.
So off to visit Carmen Guzman at at Mi Rinconcito Salvadoreño, 444 Main St., Fitchburg. Her store has items from all over Central and South America, and she’s happy to walk visitors through a recipe.
“In El Salvador, my country, people make ham soup, or bean soup,” Though El Salvador is in the tropics, “we have cold and rainy winter,” she explained.
Carmen has soup packets for flavoring, which are sought after by many customers, to have “the taste of home,” she said, adding that there are many kinds of soup people enjoy in the winter which will have onion, tomato or garlic as a primary flavor.
Of course, many area restaurants are happy to make your soup for you, and this winter, whenever a virus found me, my first stop was for soup, preferably hot and sour, whether I was Fitchburg (Gold Bowl, 22 Ashby State Rd., Jade, 345 Main St.) or Leominster (Jade II, 40 Mechanic St.). ‘Tis the sneezin’ – indeed!
A modern day Thoreau
I have a lifelong friend. Let’s call him Hollis the Mountain Man, a close observer of nature, weather, and the human spirit. Imagine if Henry David Thoreau lived today and had a dismantled car engine on his table in that shack at Walden. Hollis lives in the greater Tri-Town area, by the shore of “Lake Magoonamitchusimaug,” a mash-up of English, French and Algonquin which means: “my idiot friend who lives by the bog — he likes it.”
Hollis stayed healthy this winter because of a natural inclination to isolate. However, winter takes a mental toll, especially when it’s overcast, day after day.
“I love that bright sunny day – the pure white light reflecting off the snow,” he said. “But more often, it’s that weak, grey light, that sneaks around your curtain. You wake up and feel like Rip Van Winkle — with no idea what season it is.”
“Then you remember: It’s the 43rd of January and you hope there’s gas in the snowblower. When I go out, I wave to my neighbor engaged in a similar activity. That provides enough social interaction for days.”
The season of reading
As endless as winter days seem, this is truly the season for reading — especially newspapers. My joy this year was boundless, when I came across a pile of mint Fitchburg Reveille newspapers from the 1850s. I look forward to sharing items. Here’s a heartwarming news story that appeared 170 years ago, this very week:
“SLEIGH RIDE. The schoolars of Leominster District School No. 1 numbering some 70 or 80 under the care of Mr. Perley Davis visited this town yesterday, on runners. They spent a few hours at the Fitchburg Hotel, and to all appearance enjoyed themselves right heartily.”
Leominster historian Mark Bodanza noted, “District 1 was in Garner Hall — today the site of City Hall. It was also the first public high school from 1850 to 1865.”
It’s clear that Davis had to have been a remarkable educator to organize a field trip of that scale!
We’ll close on a slightly more recent item. Here’s a gag from 70 years ago, the 1953 winter edition of the “Red and Gray,” Fitchburg High School’s literary magazine: “Teen-ager: “Mom! Dad! What happened to my new record — the one I played all day yesterday?”
Sally Cragin is an award-winning writer, and city councilor-at-large in Fitchburg.