Steve Madewell

Pedestrian Ramblings

02/27/08 Last night, well actually all day yesterday and last night, it snowed. We have about 10 inches of the most beautiful fluffy snow on the ground. I have read that Inuit’s have names for 28 different varieties of snow. I certainly recognize several but this is the only one I have a name for and that is “sugar snow”. So called because this kind of snow always falls during maple sugar season. I heard this snow name from Mj years ago. She grew up in maple sugar country, I grew up in corn and beans country. My first exposure to making maple syrup came through my friend Vance Wissinger’s dad. Vance senior dragged me out back of Wissinger’s Palace and showed me a series of metal barrels that he had modified and was using to cook down maple sap, which he was collecting in five gallon plastic buckets. It takes about 40 gallons of sap to make a gallon of maple syrup. And over an open stove this takes a long time and requires a lot of attention to keep it from burning. He was making this amber maple syrup that was quite smoky, and it didn’t really sheet off of a knife the way I later learned it was supposed to. Vance’s syrup was a bit thinner than that. He gave me the low down on how he tapped the trees, how much sap he was boiling down to get his syrup and told me “you never can tell when you might need how to make maple syrup”. Less than 18 months later I was working as the director of the Geauga Park District which at that time was the only park system in Ohio with a sugar house. This is only one of several stories I could recount about Vance seniors obvious connection to my cosmological existence. He was a trip! Every time it snows a sugar snow, I also think about Harold Berry. He was the father of one of Mj’s friends who introduced the term to her and consequently me. Harold had a sugar house and the last time I saw him he was standing in front of a 6 or 7 foot high pile of sugar wood. That is fire wood that has been spilt into four foot long sections. I suppose he was in his 80’s. Several years prior he had been diagnosed with cancer and given a relatively short time to live. I remember he had told me when we found out he was refusing the recommended treatment because he had lived a good life and wasn’t going to screw up the end of it. So several years later it appeared that he was doing quite well and was clearly enjoying getting ready for another maple sugar season. So what’s the big deal? Well is goes like this, once you have had real grade A light maple syrup it re defines all forms of syrup. For the past several weeks I have been getting this hankering for pancakes. And then I realized it was not really a craving for pancakes, but rather the combination of pancakes, melted butter and real light grade maple syrup. As this desire grew it became redefined and clearer, until through conversations with MJ we jointly realized it was waffles that we wanted. Not Belgium Waffles, but crisp hot corn meal waffles that will readily melt a pat of butter and are capable of holding up to a real drenching of maple syrup. So after talking about maple syrup and waffles last week, we dug out her grandma’s ancient waffle iron made up a batch of corn meal waffles and proceeded to enjoy a wonderful breakfast feasts…. for dinner! As they say, when the mood hits! We enjoyed a wonderful meal dressed up with one of the first locally harvested treats of the year. Greg Brown has a wonderful song he wrote about his grandma canning summer in a jar, I can tell you that in the middle of February the taste of real maple syrup is like those first warm rays of March sunshine, the hope of spring. As I pushed the light fluffy sugar snow off the car this morning, I really didn’t mind as much. I know it is going to be sunny today and the sap will be flowing. Tonight there will be some old fellows sitting in their sugar houses tending the fire and watching the sap boil.