Hunkering Down

I have a theory. (I know, surprising isn’t it?). Anyway, you know how as we move into November we start to become lethargic? How it gets more and more difficult to get up in the morning as mornings become darker and darker? How our creativity flags? How we get all stressed this time of year? How we are more susceptible to colds and flu? How all we really feel like doing is curling up in a big armchair by the fire wrapped in a blanket with a flagon of Glüwein[1] in one hand and a good book in the other?

So, my theory is that humans were originally built to hibernate, or at least semi-hibernate, during winter months.

Let’s look at the facts. First, during cold weather our metabolism slows down, our blood thickens, our heart rate slows, we need and crave more sleep – all biological signs of impending hibernation in mammals.

In the way long ago olden days before electricity and office buildings and stuff, what the heck did people do during the winter? Nothing, that’s what.  Agricultural people had no crops to tend. Hunter-gatherers had nothing to gather and not all that much to hunt.

On top of this they had a limited store of supplies that they knew had to last them until spring, so they weren’t about to expend any unnecessary energy. So, I reckon during the dark hours – which is just under 16 hours a day this time of year – they just slept. And then the other 8+ hours they just sat around the fire, chewing on some dried boar, sipping some warmed-up fermented berry juice and playing Parcheesi or telling each other hilarious stories.

They probably also went out for an hour or so every day to scrounge around for a critter or two they could slay or to wander off for a quick pee. Those that had obsessive modesty issues wandered too far off ended up frozen into the side of a mountain only to be discovered thousands of years later and given stupid names like Ötzi.

So I think we should take a lesson from our ancestors and spend our winters in semi-hibernation or “chillaxing” as the annoying young folk say, or “hunkering down” as I’m going to call it from now on since it’s my theory.

So, get a lot of sleep. Don’t eat too much. Drink warm, fermented beverages. Laugh with friends around a cosy fire. Go outdoors for a bit every day, but don’t wander off too far. I reckon our equivalent of that frozen mountainside is the mall. We could become disoriented and end up stuck there until our leathery bodies are discovered thousands of years from now under the escalator at The Bay.


[1] Glüwein for those who’ve never had it, is a perfect winter and/or Christmas beverage. Its literal translation is glow wine – so you know it’s going to feature the festive goodness of wine. (Also sometimes called Mulled Wine or in French it’s called Vin Chaud). So what you need is a 750 ml bottle of inexpensive red wine. Warm it up in a pot on the stove. Whatever you do, DO NOT let it boil or even simmer. That will dissipate all the alcohol. You DO NOT want to dissipate the alcohol. Throw in one lemon, (or tart orange) sliced; 2 sticks of cinnamon; 3 cloves; 3 tablespoons of sugar (or 1 ½ tablespoons of mild honey); and a dash of cardamom and/or a few slices of peeled ginger. Leave it warming on the stove for about 5 minutes. Turn off the stove. Cover the pot and let it stand for about an hour while you enjoy the insanely wonderful smell now wafting through your home. Then warm it up again, strain and serve in warm mugs. [NB: Just to be perfectly, perfectly clear – NEVER heat this stuff to the point where it’s bubbling, simmering, boiling or moving in any way. You DO NOT, I repeat, DO NOT want to dissipate the alcohol. Because that would take the Glü right out of the Wein]

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34 responses to “Hunkering Down

  1. My way of dealing with winter is to go outside and embrace it, (instead of avoiding it). In fact, I’m looking forward to cross-country skiing this weekend.

    There was an article in the Ottawa Citizen a few years back, about how our hatred for winter is a relatively recent phenomenon. Because back in the 1850’s, they actually looked forward to it.

    No crops to tend. No bugs. There was a lot less work to do, and more socializing took place. No muddy roads to deal with, it was easy to get on a horse-drawn sleigh and visit your neighbor.

    Plus, in these pre-refrigerator days, it was a luxury to be able to keep fresh meat on hand, without having to pickle or salt it.

  2. I spend the winter drinking to excess to stay warm. Its different in the summer. I drinbk to excess then because its hot out.
    Screw it – just drink to excess.

  3. “or telling each other hilarious stories” really cracked me up. I imagine they went like this: Remember when Groog fell down that cliff and his bone stuck out? He howled and howled like a baby! followed by: I miss Groog.

    I actually become way more active in winter because I can move about in my house without breaking a sweat, unlike May through September when it is too hot to do ANYTHING. I usually spend all of July and August sitting on the couch under the whirring ceiling fan. I guess I hibernate backwards.

  4. After last night in the bitter cold and wind, I am ready for some Glüwein.

    And from my experiences at The Bay, it could take that long for some staff person to notice, or ask if they could help you.

  5. Friar – Ya, I reckon if you’re going to stay living in this part of the world, you might as well make friends with all the different types of weather we get. I don’t like having to tromp through a cold wet mess to get to work in the morning, but other than that I do try to find ways to enjoy the winter. Skating on the canal is great and I’m going hunting for some x-country skis this weekend. I haven’t had any for years. I even thought of bringing them to work and going for a quick shoosh at lunchtimes. There’s lots of empty fields and trails around my workplace.

    Lebowski – Your method has the added bonus of ensuring that you won’t have to put up with too many more frigid winters or sweltering summers!

    Dr. Monkey – NO! Absolutely not. No way. Don’t. No boiling. No simmering. No excessive heat. Unless you like hot spicy juice.

    Geewits – Poor old Groog. Little did they know he’d become famous 5,000 years later. But ya, you live in backwards land where your most miserable season is summer. My theory doesn’t hold a lot of water for people who live somewhere where it never gets really cold.

    Violetsky – Did I dream that the Americans had bought The Hudson’s Bay Trading Company or is that for real? I thought about that last night and thought, nah – how could they sell a Canadian institution? Anyway, enjoy your Glüwein. I haven’t made any in forever.

  6. Personally I don’t like ginger in my Glühwein; makes it taste kinda medicinal. I recommend spiking it with some brandy or honey liqueur – just in case it simmered a bit and lost some of the wine’s alcohol 😉

    I think you’re on to something with the hibernation theory. At least for those of us in the northern climes.

  7. I agree wholeheartedly.

    Like those cultures/climates that have siestas daily to cope with their weather, we, inhabitants of the North, should hibernate (or at least hunker down) in the winter.

  8. Parcheesi! Made me laugh.

    You know what works great for mulled wine (or apple cider)? A crock pot! It takes longer to heat up but then it stays hot but at a low temperature. And you’re right – it makes the house smell great, especially with apple cider. I think I’ll go get some now…

  9. I really want to end up as an Otzi.

    Being found under the escalator at the mall 1000 years from now with a credit card in my hand would be so cool.

    The stories Historians would make up about me, how I was gathering supplies for my tribe and was a great shopper revered by other lesser shoppers would be great.

    When my time comes I may even hunker down under the escalator with a crown on (probably from Burger King) to make myself even more significant to Historians..

  10. I like the heat (insofar as it gets ‘hot’ in Ottawa), but I also like the snow. Monday’s light snowfall reminded me how much brighter Winter is than fall, especially at night.

    I particularly like how motorists can’t go any faster than I do on my bike when there’s lots of snow on the ground, even if they do sometimes get in my way. Very equalizing, and lots of Schadenfreude to take in.

    – RG>

  11. Dave – My advice to you would be NOT to put ginger in your Glüwein. The honey liqueur is a good idea as you also pointed out in your Glühwein recipe.

    Jodes22- I think the people who hunker down, get some fresh air every day and don’t eat too much survive winter better.

    Hannah – Bah! We shouldn’t work at all over the winter. Just relax. Of course I believe I also did a post suggesting we take all of July and August off since it was the only nice weather we ever get. So, that would leave September, October, April, May and June for working — seems doable to me.

    Julia – That’s brilliant! A crock pot, of course. That’s where I’m making my next batch — not apple cider, because that makes me barf — but mulled wine.

    H&B2 – It would be far less expensive than pre-arranging a funeral, for sure. And, it’s akin to the ancient tradition of sending your elders off to Nirvana on an ice floe. I don’t know how old you are, but maybe when the time comes, we could meet up under The Bay escalator and have a coffee or something before expiring?

    Grouchy – I think Mayopie would be upset if I didn’t correct you (like I did him) on your use of the word Schadenfreude, just a little. People throw the word around willy-nilly, but it’s really quite evil. It’s not about a little thrill because you have the advantage over motorists for once — it’s more about sucking actual personal happiness out of tragedies that befall other people. But I get what you’re saying. I hate it when motorists take out their frustrations at not being able to drive quickly and freely by driving right through big slush puddles in order to splash pedestrians. That’s jut mean.

  12. I derive pleasure from the misery of motorists, who (despite going no slower or faster than I) lament going ‘slowly’ in winter. Diese ist nicht Schadenfreude?

    I don’t see anything in the definition that requires me to cause their misery.

    – RG>

  13. This time of year, we envy people who live in tropical climates.

    But have you ever been to one of those places in the summer? I have…and it’s MISERABLE.

    Grass always seems greener, I reckon.

  14. I just want to eat root vegetables and drink red wine and knit.

    Friar, curling really took off in Canada in the 1850’s. Check out the curling history website. Anyway, one obvious reason for the ancestors to embrace winter.

  15. If I put all the stuff in the coffee pot and run the wine through the Mr. Coffee and let it sit would that work? Or is that just crazy? CRAZY GENIUS!!!!

  16. Violetsky – Wow. That sucks. That’s just incredibly sad.

    Grouchy – No, you don’t have to cause their misery, just be inordinately delighted by it. But delighted by greater misery than slow traffic – misery like disfigurement, death, financial ruin…stuff like that.

    Chris – Hey – you wanted to move to Ottawa. I’m sure we tried to talk you out of it. Toronto has it all over this place for tolerable winter weather.

    Friar – Actually I spent a considerable length of time in a tropical climate once where every single day it was 80 degrees and sunny and I almost went out of my mind with weather boredom.

    Grace – Root vegetables, eh? Like French fries and potato chips?

    Sean- Shut up.

    Cedar – I suppose you could. It might take on a bit of a coffee taste though and your coffee might taste odd for a while. Totally your call. Let me know how it works out.

  17. Hee Hee

    I forgot to mention that I get a second, yes second, 10 week vacation come the 3rd week of June.

    I guess it’s time to duck now as you’ll be throwing furniture at me shortly.

  18. KNIT SLEEP EAT ROASTED ROOT VEGETABLES KNIT SLEEP…that would be my routine right now if small rambunctious cubs didn’t insist I help them into and out of waterproof wind and cold proof clothing 12 times a day.

  19. Is that why I put on five ugly pounds every November? (Let’s not talk about December; I am on my second of three Christmas dinners this week with two more to come.)
    Glug!

  20. Have just moved in from a tropical country into the unpredictable English weather. I guess it is the cold, even coffee can’t keep me awake. And, thanks to d consumption of animals [which apparently is NECESSARY to beat the cold] clothes have ‘shrunk’. Currently blaming it on the washing machine.

    btw, while all of us hibernate, who will take care of the economy? the bankers?

  21. Sean – Ya, well you’ll be in Canada soon enough.

    Anonymous – Cubs should be born in spring and fully self-sufficient by winter.

    Nat – Yes, be sure NOT to boil the wine. I simply cannot emphasize that enough.

    Mary – It is. You should eat less in winter; unless you’re out doing a lot of physical activity in the snow.

    Lean – Okay then. Good night.

    Cedar – What you want is a Mr. Gluwein. Or as Julia suggested, a crockpot.

    Linda – Only another week to go!! Woo-hoo

    Ramble – Phfft- Economy, eschmonomy. It’s all a big stinkin mess anyway. And it will still be there in spring.

    Daniel – Sure, but nothing too rambunctious, right? Just a laid-back greeting will do. No getting up from the lazy-boy

  22. My personal recipe for mulled wine also includes use of an Earl Grey teabag. Sounds dreadful but works, honest.

    And is it a cool claim to fame on my part that I saw some of Otzi’s stomach contents once? (Clients of mine were the scientists who were analysing same. I thought it was cool.)

  23. Loth – No way? That IS cool. You didn’t get to see Otzi himself though? Did you get to bring the stomach contents to court? What was in his stomach? Could they tell what he’d eaten? Very cool.

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