Outside my closed window, snow falls to the ground—swirling out over green grass and brown, shriveled leaves, drifting into soft, fluffy piles. A similar scene is occurring in my apartment. Inside the warmth of an oven-heated kitchen, stiff white peaks swirl and form as I stir milk into a pot of mashed potatoes. A few feet away sits a dish, full of browned meat, dotted with the yellows and oranges and greens of winter squash and broccoli. It patiently waits for the peaks in the bowl to fall out and drift over its textured top.
In the solitude of my winter kitchen, I am making Shepherd’s pie.
I first encountered Shepherd’s pie on a college exchange program in London. Along with a book and a beer, it would accompany my late afternoon pub study sessions. There, its meat was adorned with carrots, peas, and corn—vegetables bought from the frozen section of the local Sainsbury’s. When my months in England finished, the recipe came back with me over the Atlantic. I made it all the time as a graduate student in New England. Once, I prepared it for Easter dinner, replacing carrots, peas, and corn with lamb, leeks, and mushrooms. As the soft, spring air seeped in through an open kitchen window, I stirred milk into a pot of mashed potatoes as two dear friends sat at the kitchen table, cutting leaks and mushrooms. After I emptied the pot’s contents, they asked if they could have it. I gave them the pot, and, with spoons in hand they began to scrape it clean, turning a pair of thirty-year-olds back into children.
Inside the warmth of an oven-heated kitchen, stiff white peaks swirl and form as I stir milk into a pot of mashed potatoes.
No soft spring air seeps in through my current kitchen window. Outside, snow still falls to the ground—swirling out over green grass and brown, shriveled leaves. In my silent kitchen, I am far from an English pub and I am far from my friends.
But, the Shepherd’s pie I now make draws their memory close.