Welcoming Baba Marta to Ithaca
A March ski on the Six Mile Creek gorge trail
Story and photos by Janet McCue
“In like a lion, and out like a lamb” might be the epigram that most of us remember when we think of March but in Bulgaria, the month is personified by Baba Marta. When Grandma March is grumpy, the weather is miserable; when she’s happy, the sun is out and there is a glimmer of hope that spring will come. I like the idea that March’s erratic nature is embodied by this folk-figure with mercurial moods. Proudly wearing my red and white martenitsa that my friend’s mother send me from Bulgaria, I hope that Baba Marta will be charmed into giving us a mild March.
My sister and I set off on a Baba Marta ski to Six Mile Creek in Ithaca. Sundays are sister-time for Sheila and me; depending on the weather we’ll ski, hike or kayak in the area. It was a grey day in March—Baba Marta was grumpy—but the winter woods were strikingly beautiful. The mottled bark on the sycamores set off by a collar of wind-blown snow, the ice-blue formations on the frozen cascades, the churn of the black water and the still whiteness all around mesmerized us. Naturalists know this area, the Elizabeth Mulholland Wildflower Preserve and Van Natta’s Dam, for its profusion of spring wildflowers; winter brings its own admirers. We were the only skiers but we saw groups of friends hiking, folks walking their dogs, and a dad with his red-cheeked son riding atop his shoulders.
After our ski, we planned to stop by the Coal Yard Café on Maple Avenue and enjoy one of their perfect breakfast sandwiches. Alas, I forgot that they are closed on Sundays. Open every other day of the week, the Café is well worth a stop for breakfast or lunch (M-F 7:30 am-2:00 pm; Sat. 9-2) or for their special Fish Fry on Friday night. Located on Maple Avenue in the former office of the Perry Coal Company, the small café serves homemade soups, savory omelets, as well as a good selection of vegetarian and vegan options. The dining room is decorated with equipment from the days when Perry supplied coal to the community, the kitchen is in full view as you enter the café, and come summer there is plenty of outside seating.
Since we couldn’t go to the Café, my sister and I reverted to Plan B—head home and enjoy some homemade Carrot and Ginger Soup and a slice of “birdseed bread” from Wide Awake Bakery. Twenty years ago, my good friend Joan gave me a cookbook, Easy Soups from Joan’s Kitchen, with all her favorite recipes. Her Carrot and Ginger Soup is a perfect way to greet the long month of March. The soup is sweet and savory; the fresh ginger and the cayenne give it a kick. Perfect when Baba Marta is a bit under-the-weather!
Carrot and Ginger Soup
3 tablespoon olive oil
1 large onion, finely chopped
2-3 garlic cloves, minced
4 teaspoon ginger root, finely chopped
7 large carrots, peeled and finely chopped
6 cups broth (chicken or veggie)
3-4 fresh basil leaves or small handful of fresh cilantro
1 cup white wine (preferably a dry Finger Lakes white)
1 teaspoon lemon
Dash of cayenne
Salt and pepper, to taste
Garnish: slivered almonds sauteed in 1 tablespoon sesame oil
Heat oil in a heavy soup pot. Add onions, garlic and ginger and sauté until soft.
Add chopped carrots and broth to soup pot. Add basil leaves (or cilantro).
Bring soup ingredients to a boil, lower heat, and let simmer for 20 minutes or until carrots are tender.
With a hand-held blender, blend the soup.
Add wine, lemon, cayenne, and salt and pepper, and gently heat the soup.
Prepare garnish by heating 1 tablespoon sesame oil in a small skillet. Add almonds and brown quickly. Drain on paper towel and add a sprinkling of almonds to each serving of soup.
Janet McCue is an avid hiker who enjoys both the beauty and the bounty of the Finger Lakes. Her website follows her six-day culinary trek through the Finger Lakes, a journey that Edible Finger Lakes covered in its July/August 2014 issue (“Hike to Eat”).
For more of Janet’s adventures, check out her story on skiing and eating on the Catharine Valley Trail.