Matt Sabato & Ilyn Wong
Mud. Dirty dog paws. A deceiving sun that’s bright enough to make you think it’s warmer outside than it is. Seventy degree days followed by random snowstorms. If you’re in the Northeast like I am, there’s enough fluctuation in the month of March to make you want to shelter inside until friendly summer climes beckon. Maybe I’m a little off kilter. Maybe it’s the impending anniversary of “the time that everything fell apart” and a year of pandemic fatigue. There’s something about this time of year that is, well, actually invigorating.
There’s a perhaps obvious and psychological element to feeling this way. After the last twelve months, change, even if it's cloying, feels very welcomed. So much about enjoying March, however, depends on your ability to feel joy now in the anticipation of what’s to come. Sloshy puddles, muddy, brown-tinged fields -- these are things that, yes, don’t yet welcome a picnic and rosé. But they do signal that picnics and rosé are coming and coming soon. So then what’s to make of “the now”?
Farmer’s markets and grocers don’t have much new to offer yet and wintry stews and hearty veggie dishes have, for me, lost their lustre. The freedom afforded by this liminal culinary season to keep it simple and delicious, on the other hand, usually pays dividends. In a time of transition it is best to avoid unnecessary complication -- and the best experiences come from beautifully simple things. It doesn’t get much simpler than sardines packed in savory olive oil, gently warmed, spread over a country toast and sprinkled with Maldon sea salt. I threw back some textured, high acid Chenin Blanc from Chateau Yvonne along with this insanely easy dish recently and couldn’t have been more satisfied.
"In a time of transition it is best to avoid unnecessary complication -- and the best experiences come from beautifully simple things."
Some of my favorite things find their highest utility in March. Waterproof duck boots -- classic, iconic, durable style -- find their best use on my feet on long walks with my dog, rain or shine, this time of year. Even though we rarely venture more than a few miles from home, I like to think I am conjuring the spirit of John Steinbeck and his poodle Charley on their journey across the United States in the mid 20th century. The sea of change between Maine and Montana must have felt a little like March, which, not so coincidentally might just be the perfect month for a road trip.
Early spring also has a very distinctive smell and it's one of the things that endears me to March the most. I’ll stand tall, barrel chested, and breathe in the air around me. I’ll smell the earth turning over on itself, buds scratching at the surface. Silky, aromatic, Grenache-based wines put this sensory experience into the glass. And if you’re still not convinced, try a bottle of Comando G’s La Bruja de Rozas and you’ll see what I mean.
There’s only a little bit of March remaining. Spring will roar in shortly and the ups and downs of an almost end of winter will stabilize. If you’re like me, you’ll revel in the arrival of the next season, but miss feeling like you’re on the cusp of something new. Get out and drink it in while you can.