Today is the Fourth Sunday of Advent. It is the last Sunday before Christmas and we have lit all four candles. The white candles are burning bright in the morning dusk, in the evening twilight, and any time in between. In this busy time of the year it gives pause to ponder on the real meaning of Christmas.
Blessed is the season which engages the whole world in a conspiracy of love.--Hamilton Wright Mabie
The legend that originated in Syracuse on the island of Cicily has it that Saint Lucia secretly brought food to persecuted Christians in Rome a long, long time ago. She would wear a crown of candles in her hair to leave her hands free to carry the food items and distribute them.
Today in Sweden in particular; in Atlanta Georgia; in the Panhandle of Florida; and throughout the world, Saint Lucia lights up the halls and corridors in hospitals, jails, and churches spreading light and hope as well as coffee and cookies. Saint Lucia is also celebrated in homes with the eldest daughter serving as the bearer of light surprising her parents with coffee and saffron buns served in bed in the early morning hours.
The annual celebration of Saint Lucia falls on the 13th of December, on one of the longest and darkest days of the year.
It is the Swedish custom for girls and boys to dress in full length white gowns and singing songs together. There is only one Lucia in the procession with candles in her hair and red sash holding her white gown in place. It is awesome to hear the children sing the Lucia song as they slowly enter a darkened room,
I hope that everyone will find their own light and hope this Holiday Season.
The other day, I was watching a Public Broadcasting System (PBS) show featuring The Little Inn of Washington in the foothills of the Virginia mountains. I liked that the chef utilized the local farmers' seasonal harvest and my interest really perked up when the chef talked about the rutabaga that he used in a soup made of winter squash and Granny Smith apples.
Assorted Winter Squash, Sweet Potato, and Rutabaga
I was inspired to venture down to the Farmer's Market to find out what kind of squash they had to offer and found a pale pie pumpkin, butternut squash, and an acorn squash. In addition, I also bought a rutabaga and some Granny Smith apples.
The pumpkins and the squash are nice to look at but how the heck do you halve them and/or peel them? May I recommend an ax?
The butternut squash was the easiest to cut and peel. I halved the rest sideways, scooped out the seeds, and placed them on a cookie sheet and baked them in a 375 degree F oven for 40 minutes.
To make the soup based on a recipe from The Little Inn in Washington, I used the following: along with the squash, I also used carrots, sweet potatoes, yellow onions, and half a diced rutabaga. I peeled and cut and diced them and put them all in my stock pot.
I added 3-4 cups of homemade chicken broth and to sweeten the mix I added 1/4 cup of pancake syrup, I let the mix come to a boil, turn the heat down, and let it simmer for 30 minutes.
When the vegetables were soft, I pureed them in a blender. Some people like their soups pureed finely and even put through a sieve while others don't mind being able to recognize some of the vegetables.
After pureeing, I returned the soup to the pot to heat up again and added a chunk of margarine and a grated half of a Granny Smith apple. (Add more broth, if desired.) Finally, I added half a cup of heavy cream.
The beauty with this soup is that you may cook it any way you want and use as much or as little of the squash and the broth. It is so naturally sweet and no spices are necessary.
This makes for a smooth and sweet soup served in demitasse cups as done at The Little Inn of Washington. I couldn't find my cups so I used mugs.
It is the Second Sunday of Advent and we have lit the two candles in waiting, waiting for the arrival of Christmas. The Advent consist of four Sundays before Christmas and on these Sundays, we light the first candle on the first Sunday and on the second Sunday, we have two candles lit and so on. It is a Swedish tradition that I have carried with me.
White candles are most often used in religious ceremonies and meditation. They give peace and comfort and enhances spirituality.
During the Advent season, a Star is also hung in the window. The Star is hung in my living room facing the Back Forty. This particular Star is made of patterned paper. An electrical cord with a small bulb is inserted in the Star and when lit, it shows up very nicely inside and outside. ( I bought my Star at IKEA.)
During this very busy time, I hope that we can take a few moments to be still and reflect on the true meaning of Christmas.
After a visit to the doctor, my husband and I stopped in at the 904 Restaurant in Jacksonville Beach, Florida, and I was pleasantly surprised and impressed that they adhere to the concept "from farm to table." We had a very interesting talk with a most delightful waitress about this concept that I will share with you with her permission.
A home gardener knows the value of fresh vegetables from the garden directly to the table; but, there is a very exciting movement among restaurants known as "from farm to table" that refers to the different stages of the production of food, especially food grown locally and delivered to local consumers.
This movement has recently risen with changes in attitude about food safety, freshness, seasonality, and small-farm economics (904). David Griffis on the Cognito Farm in Starke, Florida, called it "The Real Food Movement" in a recent Times Union article.
The motivation for these restaurant practitioners is the scarcity of fresh, local ingredients; the poor flavor of food shipped from afar; the poor nutritional value; the encroachment of genetically modified foods; the disappearance of small farms; heirloom and open-pollinated fruits and vegetables; and the danger of highly centralized food growing and distribution systems (904). Are these not our concerns?
As a home gardener, the above mentioned areas are of great concerns for us, too. We are concerned about the seeds we sow and the food we eat.
A gardener knows about the seeds and knows what went into the soil and knows what pesticides and herbicides were used (if any). We know what sanitary practices we use when we prepare our freshly picked harvest to be put on our tables, or freezers, or jars.
The waitress at 904 recommended tomato soup but I frowned on that idea but relented. If you are in the neighborhood, stop in and try it. Check out 904 on Facebook, Internet, and other media.