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The perfect egg

I’m a morning person, and a savoury breakfast person. And a grown-up person without children. As such, one of my pleasures on a day off is a leisurely breakfast in my kitchen nook. Just me and a New Yorker, or me and Ira Glass, or best of all, when our days off line up, me and Brock. And eggs. A perfectly cooked egg is so appealing. The beautiful contrast of yolk and white, the range of texture from liquid to custard to crispy. But eggs can go so wrong too when they’re dry or rubbery. I’ve been slowly collecting and amending some of my favourite simple egg preparations over the last few years and I’ve finally figured out a few things. Here are my favourite ways with eggs. I read about this method a couple months back and wow, scrambled eggs have never been so creamy and decadent. The texture of a soft polenta, like a savoury custard of little curds. Add a little butter, keep stirring, you can’t screw it up. It will never yield a dry egg. For boiled …

The digital ether

I have been a naysayer about e-readers for a long time. I love the aesthetic of a well-made book. I love a pleasing typeface and a page that feels nice to turn. I love a beautifully-designed cover that suits the story. Brock was intrigued about e-readers from the get go. He likes to fancy himself an early-adopter, even though I tell him the early-adopters are just suckers who pay extra for technology that’s still in-the-making. On the point of e-readers, I was a luddite. Until he got one and I slowly started to come around to the idea. Brock and I both work shifts, sometimes odd hours and there are nights (or days) where we joke that there has to be someone in the bed at all times. I get paged and get out of bed to go to a birth. I get home and go to bed, then Brock gets up and goes to work, etc. There’s a lot of quiet creeping and little piles of socks left in the office. A some point I realized that when I crept into the dark …

What it’s there for

In the last year and a half I’ve realized the poison in the do what you love Steve Jobs mantra. And underneath that, the Generation Y idea that we are all special. At first I thought the problem was the cliché. But then somebody put their finger on the point rather beautifully and I realized it was so  much  more. Here’s an idea that rings truer to me: work is work. That’s the natural state of work. Even if you have a fancy, fun-sounding job. Like working in a toy store, for a TV production company, or being a midwife. I have done all of those things and they are all still jobs, even though there are wonderful moments. If you are searching to love every minute of what you do, I think you will be searching forever. Roll up your sleeves and pick some work to do. If you are lucky, it feels worthwhile or maybe even important. Every job has an aspect that needs to be survived. And I think that is part of what gives value to your work. You’ve done …

A little secret

It was a rainy day and Brock & I went for a walk in Stanley Park, which turned into walk on the sea wall when a man started following us and I got creeped out. The fog horns were groaning and everything was socked in, including Brock’s glasses. We headed back for the great indoors. On the way back, we picked up a loaf of fluffy white sourdough and some cheddar to try a crazy new technique for grilled cheese. Instead of butter, your spread the outsides of the bread with mayo. Sounds kind of gross, right? I like mayo and it sounded gross to me. (Brock thought it sounded kind of good which tells you he’s a way more of a mayo guy than me.) The mayo melts and leads to grilled cheese with an exterior of astonishing crispiness. You would not know it was mayo, you would just think you were in the presence of a grilled cheese genius. It also works with egg-in-a-hole although I miss the butter a little more there. I read …

One little step

You may notice things look different around here. The spring cleaning itch has hit me a little early, when this book came up for me at the library. I think it’s a gem. It’s making the rounds on the interweb. I heard about here, then here. By nature, I’m a slob about some things and an organizational nut about others. My spreadsheets are tidy. My clothes are a disaster. I can’t abide a dirty bathroom. But there is no doubt in my mind that having a clean, organized home brings me peace. I love purging my home of clutter, but it never seems to last. Marie Kondo’s insights about decluttering are simple but actually kind of game-changing. You choose what you keep, rather than what you throw away. The things you should keep are the things that “spark joy”. And what a relief to have only things will bring you joy in your closet, on your bookshelves. She says go by category rather than room. And she has all kind of interesting ideas about organizing and …

Favourite things

When I was in grade three, I had the honour of having my toothy grin featured in the “Saltspring Says” section of the the local newspaper, which keeps folks abreast of cougar spottings and development scandals. The question posed to me and a few other kids was something like “What is your favourite part of Christmas?” The obvious answer: presents. I was eight. But I knew that would not print well, so I said “Surprises and tobogganing”. Surprises being a euphemism for presents and Christmas morning. Tobogganing showing a complete denial of the fact that I lived in a rainforest. For years I looked out my bedroom window on Christmas morning fully expecting the miracle of a Chirstmas eve snowfall had happened. My mum told me it happened to her once, so it could happen to me. Nevermind that she grew up in Saskatoon. Instead I saw the same muddy creek running through our swampy backyard. Occasionally a thick frost would be there and before my eyes fully came to focus I would see a silvery cedar limb and think: snow! …

Little Cake on the Prairie

You may not want to talk about Christmas yet, but people are getting ready. Choirs are practising their harmonies and sugar plum fairies are trying out their tutus. And in a foil wrapped package in my cupboard, my favourite Christmas sweet is softening and ripening. Vinarterta is best aged for 3 weeks, so I cracked open the Christmas baking this week when I had a few days off. It’s a layer cake made of cardamom flavoured dough pressed into cake pans and brought together with a prune jam flavoured with cinnamon and vanilla. Once aged, the cake is soft enough to slice into tiny squares like a fruit cake. It adds beautiful stripes to your Christmas baking plate. It’s one of my very favourite things to eat. This recipe came into my family in the 1960’s somewhere on the chilly plain of Sakatchewan from a church-going woman of Icelandic descent. My family is not Icelandic but smart enough to know a great recipe and so my grandmother baked it, and after her my mother and now it’s a bit of a family tradition. This cake is now quintessentially …

The power of Elvis

It was a busy summer. If I’m honest, I feel a bit worn out. But everyone has some things that gets them through the week. Here are mine. 1. Tea in my favourite mug, which I bought here. When I drink from it I remember rummaging through the heaps of beautiful pottery stacked outside the artist Susan Crowe’s studio on Hornby Island, each piece decorated with spider webs, fallen pine needles and rain drops. Like some kind of outdoor tea party for grown-ups. I’m a big-time mug snob so I care about things that normal people don’t think of. I care that the inside is pale, so the rosey taupe of a perfect cup of milky tea shows its true colour. I care that the tea-colour contrasts beautifully with the blue glaze on the outside. I care that the rim is thin for the right sip-feel and the shape feels nice in the hand. I like that there is no handle. My steely hands can take the heat. The payoff of being a mug snob is that …

Not ready for cinnamon

As the internet explodes with autumy snacking cake recipes, I feel the need to tell you about one of my favourites. And put a plug in for my favourite autumn fruit: the pear. Apples get all the attention with their snappy bite but I sometimes find them a bit sharp. Pear has a subtler note, a dedicate skin and pleasing grainy mouth texture. Also, can I say that I’m not ready for cinnamon? How about a little pear with nutmeg & vanilla. This is a perfect September cake. We are not resigned to gingerbread yet. It was a happy day last Tuesday when a dozen conference pears turned up in our CSA box. I pulled out a recipe for French Apple Cake written out in my teenage scroll. I believe the recipe originally came from here. It has a custardy topping that gets baked onto the cake until it’s bubbly and caramelized. I don’t know whether it’s actually French in origin, but it’s a keeper. French Pear Cake 1 lb of slightly under ripe pears, sliced …

Mangiafagioli

I’ve been meaning to tell you about this place I went to in May. It’s hard to know where to start with a country that has such a beautiful aesthetic. Many things won my heart. Getting lost on the quiet streets Venice (yes, there are many.) A city which, though centuries old, still feels like it belongs to the ocean. The  Venice Vaporetto workers, with tailored shirts and jaunty scarves, leaping from dock to boat . The gas station in Arezzo where 3 men scrubbed our rental car within an inch of its life (inside & out) for 10 euros. We actually had to ask them to stop cleaning so we could return the car and catch our train. The fragrant essence they call espresso consumed from a tiny cup standing at the bar for 1 Euro. The time I ordered it con panna, topped with a thick dollop of what could only be mascarpone. Chianti, that sour cherry bite that leaves your mouth thinking of roses. And the green rolling hills where they’ve been growing those special grapes for a good 700 years. …