Although the snow that is currently ‘whiting out’ a good deal of the country should, in theory, be bright and full of light, it only really works when the sky is clear and the sun reflecting back the whiteness. For most of this week there has, instead, been a dirty grey blanket covering the sky and sparkling reflections nowhere to be seen.
My Danish friend, Sinnet Morch, who has written for us about SAD, says that she grew up on a flat, Danish island ‘where the land was covered in deep snow for three of four months of the year. Before I started school I was let out in the garden during the best hours of light from ten to one. I built an igloo and on the dark days pushed my sledge into it, curled up on it and slept. When the sky was clear and the sun visible I placed my sledge in the middle of the lawn and lay on it staring into the pale world with wide-open eyes. Many animals know they need extra minerals and seek out deposits in the ground and regularly have a healthy lick. I think that my light-seeking then was a variation of the same instinct.’
For those of us for whom lying in the snow is not an option, modern science has produced ‘light therapy lamps’ which mimic the sun for us in the depths of winter. (For more on what is available see the bottom of Sinnet’s article.) But I have just been reading a post on Dr Briffa’s site suggesting that ‘ear lamps’ may be equally effective in getting the vital rays to the brain as the skull around the ear is very thin thus allowing better penetration. He quotes a pilot study which was very successful, but, because it failed to include a placebo group, needs to be replicated to be sure.
He give a link to a Swedish (ooops, sorry….. Finnish) company called Valkee making ‘ear lamps’ which he feared were very expensive although, at £185 each, they are not that much more than many therapeutic lights.
As an additional remedy to extra light, Sinnet also recommends chicken soup – in her case, a very specific Hungarian chicken soup for which the recipe can be found here.
Although I do not belong to the Jewish tradition of Mama’s chicken soup, I certainly subscribe to its efficacy – not only for improving your mood but for knocking an impending cold or dose of ‘flu on the head! Well, maybe it was pure chance but certainly the last twice that I have made it for those who feared that they were ‘coming down’, they both made a miraculous recovery.
My chicken soup is, naturally, totally ‘freefrom’ and is very simple, the only requirements being an organic (or at least freefrange) chicken and a fridge wells stocked with vegetable remains! Below is the very last of the last brew…. And, before anyone objects to the little globules of fat on the top….. The fat is an essential element and is what gives the soup both it flavour and its goodness. A good Jewish chicken soup will be judged by the amount of glistening and delicious chicken fat it incorporates.
Put chicken in large pot and cover it generously (well over the top) with filtered water with a teaspoonful of rough sea salt – I use the wonderful gray, damp salt from the Brittany coast.
Then add some of any or all of the following, scrubbed, chopped fairly roughly but not left so large that you will not be able to get the bit on your spoon… It really does not matter how much you add as, if you run out of space, you can always transfer to a larger saucepan…. And if your fridge contains some vegetable goodies that I have not mentioned, do not hesitate to include!
fine green beans
Savoy cabbage (not too much)
sliced Brussel sprouts (not too many)
spinach or other green leaves
parsley/parsley stalks chopped up
bay leaves (lots)
black pepper corns
handful of yellow split peas or green lentils
Bring all very slowly to the boil, then cover and simmer very gently for a minimum of 1 1/2 hours but for up to 3 hours. Adjust the seasoning to taste – and eat! By this time the chicken will have entirely disintegrated so you do need to take care to remove the bones as you go – but this is a relatively small price to pay.
And, of course, the remains just get better as the days go on – and you can add extra liquid as needed.
There are those who feel that it is improved by adding wine or stock to the cooking liquid but I actually do not agree, preferring the fresh, clean flavour of just the chicken and vegetables.