beverages, books, medieval cookery, winter

Winter is coming

But really, it’s here.

Last weekend Josh and I hosted two separate gatherings of friends to play the Game of Thrones board game. This is a complicated, multiplayer game where folks play as the houses (House Stark, for example) from the books by George R.R. Martin. Each house aims to capture seven castles, all while dealing with betrayal, vicious fighting over single pieces of land, and lots of jokes about Valyrian steel.
Here’s where I confess.
I’m in the midst of both reading and watching Game of Thrones, and it’s tons of fun. Josh blazed through all the books a few summers ago (and suffered through a major, inadvertent spoiler), and watched the entire TV series about as quickly. I am traditionally pretty measured in my approach to media: I don’t binge-watch TV shows, I like to space out my installments of beloved book series. Right now I’m gearing up to watch the second season and read the third book (because of course, it’s best to read first, then watch). George R.R. Martin has done a fabulous job constructing a complicated world with compelling characters, and even though it’s sometimes hard to keep track of everyone, the first two books have been immensely fulfilling.
So yes, playing as House Baratheon was pretty great. Even better was playing with Josh’s personalized deck of cards, which he developed over winter break. We also brewed some medieval spiced wine, which, while not technically of Westeros origin, might very well have been served at Ned Stark’s banquets. It was warm and toasty and spicy and did the trick on a cold winter’s night.

All Stark jokes aside, though, I’ve been having a rough time with winter this year. Sure, I love snow days, and tramping around in freshly fallen snow is satisfying in a way I can’t describe. But there’s something about the bleakness of the days, the gray skies and biting wind, the fumbling with keys while you still have your mittens on, the inability to just sit on the porch and enjoy the day because the weather sucks, that gets to me. After the hustle and bustle of the holiday season, January and February are bitter. It was great fun to sit inside over a board game, but now that the workweek is once again upon us, it’s hard to be interested in much of anything when the weather’s like this.
In the meantime I’ll make some more spiced wine and watch my narcissus grow. Spring has to be on the way, right?

Spiced Wine (Hypocras)
4 cups red wine (roughly one bottle)
5 tbsp sugar
2 tsp powder douce (recipe follows)
First, make the powder douce: mix 3 tbsp ginger, 2 tbsp sugar, 1 1/2 tbsp cinnamon, 1 tsp cloves, and 1 tsp nutmeg together in a small bowl.
Next, pour 2 tsp of the powder douce, and the sugar, into a saucepan. Mix in the red wine. Warm over medium-low heat until steaming. Serve in cozy mugs.

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