February -- it's a month so cold that it will never again be warm, so white that it will never again be green, so grim that you will never wrench your pale, mufflered carcass from the salt-pocked snowbank where you lie with a jar of VapoRub and a half-eaten box of Valentine's candy.
At least that's how February used to feel to James Norton, before he and Becca Dilley came up with the idea of celebrating Febgiving.
Febgiving is, at face value, a Thanksgiving feast in February. After all, why should the most delicious meal of the year be only an annual event?
But on a deeper and perhaps even metaphysical level, Febgiving illustrates the curative power of anticipation. "Once we started doing it, it's really become this wonderful thing that we look forward to," Norton said.
As do their friends. In fact, the Minneapolis couple are hosting two Febgivings this month to accommodate the 50 friends who are flying and driving in for the festivities.
"I didn't think anyone would ever come to Minnesota in February," Dilley said.
The idea is spreading. Friends who can't travel are hosting their own Febgivings in Washington, Illinois, California and Massachusetts. Now in its fourth year, "it feels like a real holiday," Norton said.
Febgiving follows in the footsteps of other semi-ironic invented holidays such as Festivus, best known as a story line on "Seinfeld," or Chrismukkah, best known as a story line on "The O.C." While thus far lacking such a pop-culture patron, Norton figures that "How I Met Your Mother" might be a good fit, "because it features a good core group of friends who are key to the dynamic."
That show also puts the "mother issue" on the table. Dilley, 29, never found February as gloomy as her spouse did, but embraced Febgiving because it finally gave her the chance to host a Thanksgiving meal. As the youngest child of a fabulous cook within a big Italian clan in Madison, Wis., she realized that the family gathering would never happen in Minneapolis.
"My mom won't even let us bring anything," Dilley said, laughing.
With Febgiving, she can haul out her grandmother's silverplate and set the table with their wedding china, "and invite the family we choose." The holiday actually becomes a sort of rite-of-passage into adulthood, added Norton, who's 34. "Few of us have gotten the chance to preside over a big formal dinner."
Even better, for those from families for whom tinkering with traditional recipes is as horrific as the idea of playing strip poker with Paula Deen, Febgiving offers an opportunity to try all those cool variations on pies, potatoes and stuffing that they've been saving from magazines and websites.
The menu at Chez Norton- Dilley will have the requisite turkey and stuffing, although a Febgiving last year in DeKalb, Ill., featured prosciutto- wrapped turkey breasts. Dilley twice-bakes mashed potatoes in hollowed-out oranges (and is considering a sweet potato variation) and makes a mean pumpkin pie baked in a squash (to which she adds a bit of cayenne pepper).
Friends contribute side dishes such as cheesy potatoes or a surprise favorite, raspberry Jell-O salad with pretzels and whipped cream. A tradition-in-the-making is a pumpkin train, which is pumpkin bread baked in a special Bundt pan to make nine small train cars that choo-choo their way across the table.
The grand finale, however, is Norton's Doubledecker Pecan/Apple Pie, which is a pecan pie with an apple pie baked on top of it. Kind of jumping out of the seasonal funk and into the food coma.
One other aspect of Febgiving that must be noted is that it traditionally falls on the first Saturday evening after Valentine's Day (although any night will work, they say). "We've never been Valentine's people, so this is counter-programming," Norton said. Or as the website (febgiving.wordpress.com), states of Feb. 14: "Its only real competition for worst holiday of the year is Tax Day."
Dilley and Norton are editors of a local food website, the Heavy Table (www.heavytable.com) (she's also a professional wedding photographer), so little wonder that they're champions of a holiday focused around food. Norton is talking with turkey producers, as well, who probably would embrace another gobbler-centric celebration.
Imagine actually looking forward to February. Imagine the leftovers.
Kim Ode • 612-673-7185