We’ve all read those lists of things celebrities say they simply can’t live without — organic, small-batch chocolate; eye serum made from nearly extinct flowers; Ugg boots. But what about the mere mortals of the Outer Cape? With winter’s icy fingers wrapping themselves around our throats, what creature comforts do we need if we’re to survive until spring?
I started my investigation into what locals — partners and pets not included — are gathering by drafting my own list: foreign crime shows, Tylenol, Ace bandages, and the 48-hour audiobook edition of My Name Is Barbra. But surely those things are on everyone’s list. Tracking down subjects who identify as year-rounders, I was surprised by how rarely our answers overlapped. Don’t tell Barbra.
“Eye contact,” says Katie Pentedemos, a Wellfleet resident, teacher, and the funny mind behind the local improv troupe Improvincetown. “If I see a person on the street, any person, I will go to great lengths to make eye contact,” she says. “I will wave relentlessly until they acknowledge me. Also, I need a colorful winter coat. It brightens my mood.”
Curt Sharp, who lives in Provincetown, is not afraid of winter. “I like to be outside if I’m dressed for it,” he says. “I don’t mind being in the cold as long as I’m not cold.”
Sharp plans to nurture his inner penguin with literature and games. “Jigsaw puzzles are a must,” he says on a break from his job as a budtender at the B\well marijuana dispensary. He goes for the complicated ones with 1,000 pieces or more. “The subject can be anything from paint cans to New Yorker magazine covers as long as it’s got a lot of pieces.”
Also on Sharp’s list are visits to the Provincetown library. “There’s nothing like sitting in a chair on the third floor near the big windows with that amazing view with a mystery or historical fiction,” he says.
Landscape designer Agustín Vrech, originally from Argentina but now living in Truro, struggles with the long hours of darkness at our latitude. Candles, complicated desserts, world history books, and a photo of his abuela help him keep homesickness at bay.
“In the summer, you can pick a handful of flowers and it brightens your mood,” says Vrech. “But without flowers in the winter, long-burning candles are the closest substitute.”
Like Sharp, Vrech loves to read in the winter. But his must-reads are histories of countries he hopes to visit. “I know nothing about Paraguay,” he says.
Now is when his thoughts turn to his family and home in Argentina. To keep his memories sweet, he stirs up a pot of dulce de leche. The caramelized milk and sugar reduction transports him back to his sunny homeland. It takes six or seven hours, “with a lot of stirring,” to make it, he says. A photo of his 99-year-old grandmother is placed near the stove. “I miss her so much.”
Nicole Cormier will also be spending a lot of time in the kitchen, especially after foraging in the forests around her home in North Truro for pine, juniper, and fungi to use in her daily work as an anti-diet dietician at Delicious Living Nutrition. But conversation is also a priority for her. “I like a nice five-minute chat with the baristas at Kohi,” says Cormier. “And inviting people over for tea dates and playing records, so we can dance in my living room.”
“It’s so important to maintain your connection with your community,” says retired dentist Tim Deahl. He looks forward to spending time at Tin Pan Alley, he says. Actually, he’s there right now, standing next to the piano. “There’s always something going on here,” he says. “Music, food, drinks — and you’ll see your neighbors.”
Provincetown musician Julie Wheeler knows she needs to keep busy to hold off the winter blues. “A mini-road trip to T.J. Maxx in Orleans always gives me a lift,” says Wheeler. “Lots of walks on the beach with my dog, Minnie Pearl. And if I like what’s on the menu, starting the day with friends at the soup kitchen at the Methodist Church, with a quick trip through the thrift store.”
Both Mark Lynett and Jo-Ellen Erickson, who work at Gibson Sotheby’s in Provincetown, embrace the likelihood of snow in our forecast. “It’s not winter without a little snow or even a blizzard,” says Lynett. Erickson agrees, saying that cozy blankets, red wine, and nostalgic movies top her necessary accoutrements list for winter.
Lynett is also looking forward to taking Winter Wednesday classes. They are both in-person and on Zoom, and this year they’ll be held in Provincetown, Wellfleet, Eastham, and Orleans. “I’ve taken a few of their photography classes, and I’m always up for more,” he says.
“And don’t forget clamming,” Lynett adds. “Fridays and Sundays during low tide at the breakwater in the West End. I love to cook with clams. Stuffed clams, steamed clams, or linguini with clams. It’s all good.”