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Hunger Moon: Lean Winters and a Recipe for Roasted Root Vegetables

The reason we chose this excerpt from Full Moon Feast: Food and the Hunger for Connection by Jessica Prentice has nothing to do with the release of Universal Studios’ The Wolfman this weekend. We swear.

The following excerpt has been adapted for the Web.

In the deep of winter, when the earth in the North has been covered with snow and ice for many moons already, comes the Hunger Moon. This late-winter lunar cycle was called the Hunger Moon by many peoples in various languages, but always for the same reason—the frozen land yielded little to eat, and game was often scarce.

European American settlers in the New England area adopted the name as one of the full-moon names used in the Old Farmer’s Almanac. They adapted it from Native American calendars, particularly the ones used by the various Algonquin peoples that lived in the northeastern areas of what is now the United States, from New England to the Great Lakes.

Indigenous names for the moon were as varied as the languages that they came from, but often carried similar meanings. The Choctaw name for this moon is translated Little Famine Moon; a Cherokee name is the Bony Moon or the Bone Moon because it was said that there was so little food, people gnawed on bones and ate bone marrow soup to survive. All of these names lament the scarcity of food. In the days before refrigeration and wide-scale shipping of produce and staples, hunger often became a real threat by the end of a long winter. Both hunter-gatherer societies and farming peoples subsisted on very little after months of bitter cold.

Roasted Root Vegetables

Serves 1 person for every 3/4 cup of vegetables

You can use any of the following vegetables, in any combination:

  • Celery root (aka celeriac), peeled
  • Parsnip
  • Rutabaga
  • Turnip (either white, purple, or golden)
  • Beets (either red, golden, or chiogga), peeled
  • Carrots
  • Potatoes (any color)
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Olive oil
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  1. Preheat the oven to 475° F.
  2. Peel any vegetables that have thick or blemished skin. Cut the vegetables into a uniform dice—1/2-inch dice, 3/4-inch dice, or 1-inch dice—or just quarter or half the vegetables, if they are on the small side. The only important thing is that all the pieces are about the same size. The smaller the size, the faster they will cook. The larger the size, the longer they will take. Half-inch-dice vegetables can roast in 20 minutes or so. Figure about I cup of vegetables per person as a side dish.
  3. Coat all the vegetables with olive oil. I do this by getting the pan I am going to use—a cast-iron pan, sheet pan, or roasting pan, preferably metal—and pouring in a generous amount of oil. I put my hands right in the oil and spread it all around the bottom of the pan, getting my hands oily. Then I pick up the vegetables in handfuls, rub them with my hands to cover them in a thin layer of olive oil, and drop them in the pan.
  4. Ideally, prepare enough vegetables for a single layer in the pan you are using. You do not want to pile up the vegetables. If you have too many to fit in a single layer, get another pan, grease it with olive oil, and put the rest of the vegetables in there.
  5. Sprinkle salt and freshly ground black pepper over the vegetables. It is hard to say how much salt to use. It is better to use too little than too much, because you can add more later. You also don’t want to overwhelm the flavor of the vegetables with salt. So just sprinkle lightly at this stage, until you’ve roasted vegetables often enough to know what you are doing.
  6. Put the pan in the oven on the top rack and leave for at least 15 minutes before opening the oven, then check them. They should be starting to brown. You can use a spatula to mix and flip the vegetables in the pan, or just shake the pan. Stick a fork in the vegetables to see how tender they are. If they feel pretty tender, try eating one. Check them regularly like this until you are happy with the results. Add more salt and pepper if you like and serve with fish, meat, or egg dishes, and a fresh salad.

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