For many Iowans, this winter will go down in history as one of the worse in decades. As early as the first week of October the first flakes fell to cover Des Moines with more than a mere dusting of snow. There was a brief glimmer of hope with a warmer than usual November but it was a false hope of a mild winter. This year has been anything but.
Following that beautiful November weather came a blizzard that covered most of Des Moines with 3 feet of snow and downed power for thousands of residents. The cold did not let up for the holidays as Santa had to share the skies with a mixture of snow and rain that smothered the city. A week later, folks in the Capitol City rang in 2010 with temperatures at -10 degrees in some parts (putting a frigid damper on women used to sporting cute, sparkly heels and snazzy little cocktail dresses for their midnight smooch). The temps hovered in that negatives for two weeks before the first 32 degree day- mind you, that is the freezing point but to many Iowans, those days felt like spring (there were even sightings of Drake students walking to class in shorts, Uggs and parkas)!
But, Mother Nature didn't stop there. She followed up her dazzling snow storms and freezing temps with an ice storm with drops of water freezing on contact as they touched down covering everything in a quarter to half an inch of ice. You can see amazing photos of the storm and all the problems it caused at http://tinyurl.com/desmoinesice. Yes, the ice-covered trees do look glamorous as they shimmer in the night but it becomes a different tune when those ice-covered tree limbs collapse on your roof or block the roadways.
What do Latinos do when Jack Frost and Mother Nature decide to torture their city? They make soup! Although most of Latin America does not see this level of winter, they still have a plethora of soup, commonly called caldos, to warm the body. Salvadorans warm up with sopa de pata made from cow's feet, green plantains, corn and tripe, although in Des Moines, they most often make gallo en chicha soup because the ingredients: chicken (substituted for rooster), corn, and sugar cane are easier to find in local grocers. Most Mexican restaurants serve up large bowls of pozole, a pre-Colombian stew made with ground chiles, hominy, pork or chicken and a mix of spices. Topped off with avocado slices, chopped onions and cilantro, it not only warms your insides, it keeps you full for hours and is best followed up by a long nap. Des Moines' smaller pocket of Caribbean residents boil up a special concoction called sancocho. Dominican sancocho de siete carnes, 7 meat stew is made from chicken, beef, sausage, pork and other meats found in stores within the Metro. Its name represents the seven islands of the Canary Islands. Des Moinesians from Puerto Rico combat the frost with their version of sancocho which often includes chayote, butternut squash or pumpkin, garbanzo beans, root vegetables such as cassava, onions, garlic, green peppers, potatoes and seasonings.
So the next time you find yourself stuck inside due to a wintry mix beating down on Central Iowa, get online and look up some of the above recipes. You'll fill your home with wonderful fragrances and fill your belly with warm goodness, courtesy of your Latino neighbors.