Words by Yolanda De Montijo Photographs by Laurie Frankel Styling by Lisa Moir
Yolanda de Montijo loves winter weekends in Northern California—for the way the house grows warmer, crumpled blankets on the couch and a warm mug of champurrado.
For a Northern Californian, winter can exist all year round, depending on where you find yourself—there are chilly San Francisco summers, cool peninsula autumns, the still-brisk spring mornings in Sonoma and Napa and everywhere, on almost any day, our Pacific fog rolling through.
When winter finally comes, the fog and mist stay longer, as though they are welcomed at last, and you embrace their presence. We pull out sweaters and blankets, shake them of their hibernation and drape ourselves in layers and layers. We go through the bottom kitchen drawers and pull out the big pots for soups, sauces, stews, tamales, mulled wine, hot chocolate, champurrado. The inside of the house knows to make up for the weather outside, for the starkness of the trees, for the stillness of the air, for the sounds of dry leaves and branches snapping underfoot. The inside of the house grows warmer from all of us, louder, more colorful, more chaotic maybe, messier maybe. There are crusted rain boots by the door, bits of branches and wood chips from the wood stack by the fireplace, cups with coffee stains in odd places, mud tracks, jackets hanging over chairs, blankets crumpled on the sofa, toys and toy parts everywhere—like a perpetual winter weekend that we don’t want to end.
When my parents come up for the weekend, I can only tell our son, who is almost three, they are coming a few hours before they arrive, or he will want them there immediately. My mom and I will spend most of our time in the kitchen, staying warm, cooking, cleaning, talking, not talking, laying out the food, then putting away the leftovers, contented with our duties. For dinner, we dress the table, light the candles and pull out all our big vintage serving dishes and serving spoons. It takes a day to make dinner, and it’s over in less than an hour, though we try to linger, to prolong it, until the food is cold and we pick at it directly from the serving dish.
I remember the growing excitement that winter brought, when my brother and I were small, as the holidays came closer each week. Every weekend was special because it was almost the holidays, and our parents indulged us more with food or behavior, as though they finally gave in to us being wild, staying up later, eating too many sweets. I love winter weekends for the warmth that builds in the house all day, for the sweet indulgences, for times that are a mix of family and friends, and I still feel a secret sense of excitement for the holidays to come, and for future holidays.