All posts tagged: recent

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. …

The transition fruit

I’ve never been very excited about eating rhubarb, except by knowing that strawberries follow closely behind. Having grown up with rhubarb raising itself in our swampy backyard, I’ve always thought of it as a quasi-weed. One of the few things the deer won’t bother chomping up when you turn around. But it turns out I can get excited about drinking rhubarb. For a drink, I like the tart flavour. For a drink, there’s nothing fresher. This rhubarb cocktail tastes like right now. It’s sweet and sour like an afternoon in early June where it’s warm and cool at the same time. Tannic, bright and bracing, rough winds on the darling buds. I’m trying to take a moment to cross something off my list, and that’s midwifery school. Rhubarb, the transition fruit, is here for the occasion. Those stubborn pink stalks with their floppy umbrellas on top, pushing though the rains. You can count on rhubarb. It’s a perfect palate cleanser. This recipe is a riff on this one. You juice raw rhubarb so the end product is not a softened syrupy cooked rhubarb, but a nose …

A little flair

I have longer mornings at home these days because I’m in a small pause between training and practice. It’s the sort of pause in life that has a lot of rushing around, like an intermission where a whole new set is constructed. In my case it’s studying, paperwork, more paperwork and purchasing a certain quantity of home birth equipment that I will theoretically be able to carry all at once as I dash from my car. Also getting ready for a trip and the prerequisite reading up on Italian wine varietals. A morning at home feels decadent, even with a lots of work to get through in the day ahead. It feels especially sweet when breakfast has a little flair. But I don’t have time for a big mess in the morning. After some experimenting with blender pancakes I’m quite taken with these little buckwheat crepes. It’s a liquidy batter of egg, milk and buckwheat flour whirled up in the blender. I add vanilla and a couple pitted prunes for a little fragrance and sweetness. I fold them …

93 Years

My aunt and godmother dropped off a special package for me the today. A delivery from the past. It came in this amusing box, presumably one of several boxes it’s lived in over the past century. Inside is a 93 year old caul. The amniotic sac that my grandmother was born inside in 1921 in Stettler, Alberta. They say it’s good luck, being born in the caul, and that you’ll never drown. Some say it means you’ll have a special destiny. She kept it all her life. Most of the time the amniotic sac is broken before the baby is born and the membranes are delivered afterward, with the placenta. A baby born in the caul is either born with the membranes still over her head or, much rarer, with the waters still completely intact, surrounded in the bubble of membranes. There are some beautiful photos of a caul baby here, along with some nudity – you are warned. I think it’s beautiful, though you may not agree. It reminds me of some thin membrane of seaweed you might find …