Another plus on winter’s side: New England Boiled Dinner.

Its origin, I surmise, is back in Colonial Days when the last foods were gathered from the garden, the root crops. There was no supermarket down the road to get any vegetables our hearts might desire. There was no produce department with such as fresh peas or spinach, let alone vegetables coming from Salinas Valley.

There were also no big box stores or maga-online shopping outfits to buy every pot known to exist to cook with. The factories that made such things were across the “pond.” And they were, therefore, extra expensive. Ditto, no stoves with at least four burners. A big pot was the staple piece of housewives’ cookware. Remember “housewives”? A noble and vital profession. “The hand that rocks the cradle rules the world.” (Attributed to more than one source, even supposedly quoted by Abraham Lincoln, it simply points out, like a proverb, that mothers ultimately have the greatest power in the world because they influence the character of their children who grow up to take over the reins of civilization.)

It’s my number-one go-to meal on a frigid winter weekend. Grab a big pot, throw in the fixings: a nice big red brisket, onions, potatoes, carrots, cabbage, and a few turnips, cover with water, add some spices, cover and turn on the stove and enjoy the three-four hours it takes to simmer into a mighty fine meal.

Some good. Some wicked good.

However, short of taking out a loan for the brisket, I’ve had to tweak the ingredients a bit lately. I now substitute with kielbasa. I don’t add that until the last half hour of cooking, just to spread its taste out into the vegetables which would be a bit bland without.

Is there one among us these days that still isn’t all but gasping when the clerk rings up the grocery tab? And when we unpack at home, think: “Is this all I get for that money?” And many more of us hardy Mainers have rolled up our sleeves in the last coupla years to plant some vegetables in our backyards. That brings down the cost further and makes the meal sweeter.

I remember, back in the ’70s in California before I came back home t‘Maine, when Carter was president and food and gas prices skyrocketed — for the same reasons as today. A big pot of short ribs and vegetables was one of my favorite meals to feed my five children. I simply love short ribs. And back then, short ribs were one of the cheapest cuts of beef and they came with their bones — and rich marrow — which add not only flavor but invaluable nutrition, for example, collagen. Collagen, basically, is the glue that keeps our cells glued together.

Nowadays, it’s hard to find short ribs “bone in.” And have you checked the price? Now, as in the ’70s, once people turned to less expensive meats like short ribs, the price shot up. So I turned then to the super affordable ox tail for the meat portion of the pot. And it wasn’t long before the price of ox tail shot up. I wondered: “What now can I use?” I never got desperate enough, however, to try hot-dog-soup.

Now the price of ox tail rivals that of filet mignon.

However, kielbasa is still reasonable. And it really makes for quite a respectable New England Boiled Dinner. The biggest drawback between it and brisket is that there’s no Red Flannel Hash for breakfast.

Marion Tucker-Honeycutt, an award-winning columnist, is a Maine native and graduate of Belfast schools. She now lives in Morrill.