17 November 2006

The Art of Living: Cider and Santas on a Cold Afternoon

Enjoying life (and food and wine) is inextricably linked to so many other sensual experiences.

I’m not talking about sex here.

Sight and smell and sound are all part of the experience. Why else do we fuss so over dishes, table linens, centerpieces, candles and dinner music?

I don’t imagine many of you will disagree.

So that’s why I wanted to share this afternoon with you. In addition to my weekly food column, I write a feature about working people. On Thanksgiving weekend, I usually feature someone associated with the holidays.

This year, I revisited an artist who makes wonderful, whimsical papiér maché figures. She is best known locally for her Santas.

Her farm is about 15 miles out of town to the north, where pine forest closes in on farm field. She and her husband live in an old log cabin that was long ago combined with a farm house to create a home that is full of odd-shaped rooms and nooks and crannies and comfortable old furniture covered in fabrics you can no longer find. Comfort is the key word here, old comfort, nothing too new and overstuffed.

An old granary serves as her studio. It is filled with dancing frogs and flying pigs and trees with faces and just about any creature that can be molded of papiér maché wrapped around a dried gourd or piece of driftwood. In her world, pumpkins dance and turtles ride piggyback atop one another.

Her Santas I leave for you to judge. But aren’t they exquisite?

I had looked forward to this visit all week. I was not disappointed. We sat around a space heater in her studio, and sipped mulled cider and nibbled on apple kringle to a background of soft Celtic music. We talked art, not food. (But that didn’t matter. It was an enchanting afternoon and whetted my appetite for more — more time to enjoy the worlds of art and nature. What better place to do that than in my own kitchen?)

Outside the studio, the air was fragrant with wood smoke. Chickens cackled and lambs bleated. Crows flew overhead and I could hear a downy woodpecker somewhere. Leaves crunched underfoot. The wine-dark smell of old leaves is gone now, but it has left behind a scent of winter on the rise.

If all goes well tomorrow, I’ll spend the afternoon in my own kitchen, with a scented candle burning and jazz tunes playing. Outside, the air will smell of wood smoke, too, for my neighbor Jerry likes a good fire on cold days. Crows will caw overhead and I may see a few late-season Canada geese flying south. I can't recreate the feel of this afternoon, but it's Saturday — my day — and nothing is going to stop me from enjoying life.

7 comments:

Tanna said...

Sounds just about perfect - hope it goes just so. Enjoy.

Katie said...

The Santa's are gorgeous! I wish I could get one home with me...not likely - book a seat?
Enjoy your day in the kitchen - sounds like fun....I'll be weeding...yuck, there are times I miss having a good freeze....

Mimi said...

I would do just about anything to have more time in the kitchen.

Lydia said...

Spending time in a warm autumn kitchen is just about the best thing. But it's also wonderful to be a storyteller and to celebrate the lives of others, and that is something you do so well.

Mimi said...

Thank you, Lydia. People are fascinating, aren't they?

christine said...

Mimi,
I hope your Saturday goes exactly the way you wish it to.

Those Santa's are stunning. Does the artist sell them by mail? How big are the ones you photographed?

Mimi said...

She sells only in galleries, but I am certain would sell by mail. No two Santas are alike. Some are up to two feet tall and in the $200-300 price range. Some are much smaller and about $125.

She has no Web site, but if you like, I can e-mail you more photos.