The Secret to Happiness is in Sharing

Norman-Rockwell-Thanksgiving

I write often about the fact that sharing food is a central concept to enjoying it. Gathering around a table to break bread and share the events of the day has been an integral part of society since the ancient Greek and Romans started it. As a cook and a lover of food, I get a kick out of seeing others enjoy my preparations and also being able to sit down and savour someone else’s hard work.

Food isn’t the only thing that is fun to share; friendship works exactly the same way. One of the easiest friendships to have is with a dog, and I have been privileged to know many four-legged friends in my life. Dogs don’t judge friends; once they have decided you are a companion they stick by you for life. I am partial to Labrador Retrievers, who are famous for their gregarious nature and ability to be thrilled with whatever you want to suggest to them. IMG_2550 They can be running or swimming at full speed one moment, and then relaxing and ready to nap the next. With their dense soft fur, they are eminently huggable, and will often encourage this kind of behaviour, being touchy-feely animals. They are also big lovers of food, another worthy trait in a friend, I think. I highly recommend at least making use of a dog that belongs to someone you know even if you don’t have your own. They say time with a dog lengthens your life, so how bad can it be?

In this post I’d like to salute my current companion, Ella. She is featured this week in a photo contest, so here’s your chance to think about dogs you might like. Hopefully you’ll vote for my lovable Brown Girl, but even if you don’t I’m sure this few moments will put a smile on your face. Vote here (no registration required)

Take time out to simply Be Happy and Live in the Moment. It’s Ella’s philosophy. Doesn’t she look like she’s enjoying life?

Ella & me selfie Knox Mtn 2014

Sandwich Making for Dummies

An example of a really sad sandwich, not something to aspire to...

An example of a really sad sandwich, not something to aspire to…

I just consumed the few edible parts of what was called a sandwich by a shop in Revelstoke that shall remain nameless as I hope this was an unusual occurrence. It has prompted me to write this post, thus preventing further such lunchtime tragedies. This sandwich was not quite as pathetic as a BLT I once had that was missing the bacon (1/3 of its identity!!) Dare I say there is such a thing as sandwich etiquette?

 I’d like to offer up some simple tips for a successful sandwich:

  1. TAKE YOUR SANDWICH SERIOUSLY. If you own or work in a sandwich shop, eat your product and make sure it works. This should be good value food, something you are proud to share with others. If you are making a sandwich just for you, then take a minute to prepare something tasty that you will enjoy, not endure. Even a PB & J deserves a little respect :)
  2. If you are taking orders in an establishment that makes sandwiches, please TAKE THE ORDER CORRECTLY AND FOLLOW UP TO ENSURE IT GETS MADE CORRECTLY. (Do I sound like a Seinfeld episode?)  I ordered a vegetarian sandwich on multigrain. My companion ordered turkey on white. I got vegetarian on white, and he got turkey on multigrain. I would have preferred waiting when the person handing over the bag discovered the error rather than eat something I didn’t order.
  3. When including vegetables such as cucumbers and tomatoes in a sandwich, SEASON WITH SALT AND PEPPER. Even when you’re using the freshest ingredients from your own garden, a touch of seasoning won’t hurt, and with the commercial groceries most establishments use, salt and pepper can be life savers in elevating the taste of the finished product.
  4. Remember, NOT ALL MEATS & CHEESES ARE CREATED EQUALLY. Choose one that fits the tenor of the rest of your sandwich. Tomatoes and lettuce from the garden deserve something more than a Kraft Single or a slice of processed turkey.
  5. For condiments and spreads, DISTRIBUTE EVENLY on the bread or wrap. If you’re going to count this item as a component that contributes to the flavour of your sandwich, then you want to taste it with every bite. Don’t be chinzy! (If it’s too expensive to spread all over, then don’t use it; otherwise you’re just teasing people.) 
    misproportioned sandwich

    A sandwich out of proportion – too much bread versus filling. It’s also hard to fit in your mouth!

  6. BUILD YOUR SANDWICH PROPERLY so it holds together as you eat it. No one wants salami slapping on their chin, or tomaatoes and cheese sliding out the back end on the first bite.
    1. The bread or bun needs to hold together, not be so soft that a spread or other moist filling makes it go squishy. If it’s toasted, then don’t wimp out – make it crispy! Otherwise it’s just warm bread. Don’t use anything too crusty though, or you won’t be able to bite through the whole sandwich.
    2. Tomatoes, cucumber and other slippery ingredients need to be not-too-thick, or they will slide around too much. Try to put other ingredients in between two slippery ones if you have them.
    3. Lettuce works best if it’s in bigger pieces, or entirely shredded. Little torn bits don’t give even distribution.
    4. Bigger is not always better. You should  be able to fit the entire width of the sandwich in your mouth, so you can taste the whole thing.
      Dividing lunch components so they don't squash each other or leak is important for your enjoyment.

      Dividing lunch components so they don’t squash each other or leak is important for your enjoyment.

  1. PACK YOUR SANDWICH PROPERLY. If you’re not eating a sandwich immediately then this is an important element to enjoying it later.
    1. Squishy ingredients are best wrapped separately, to be added just before eating.
    2. Bread softens when wrapped, especially with added fillings, so consider that when choosing your bread in the sandwich-making phase.
    3. Don’t drop an apple on top of it. If you must pack harder things in with your sandwich, think about a plastic container, or pack those items under the sandwich in your lunchbox or bag.
    4. Be food safe. If your sandwich has dairy, meat or fish it should stay as close to fridge temperature as possible until you eat it. Use an insulated container and cold packs if need be.

 

Now, that’s not so hard, is it? Trust me, you won’t regret taking a moment to appreciate this simple portable meal. Show your sandwich some respect and you will feel better about yourself all day.

A happy sandwich!

A happy sandwich!

Life is a Bowl of Cherries

cherries on the tree

Today was a family day and we enjoyed it “to the max”, as we used to say when I was a kid. At one point I looked out the kitchen window and thought, “You can’t ask for much more than this – to be happy and healthy and enjoy some quality time with loved ones”. I might be sounding a bit idyllic even for me, but let me explain…

We picked fruit today from the trees in our yard. This morning after I walked the dogs I had an apricot that was slightly warm from the morning sun. I felt a bit like I was in an advertisement; it was surreal. Then later we picked cherries – buckets of them. We pitted cherries till our palms hurt from pushing the pitter. We put cherries in the freezer. We made cherry jelly. And I baked cherry clafoutis which we took to a potluck dinner. There are still buckets of cherries in the fridge for eating! It’s like we have hit the cherry jackpot and the winnings just keep rolling in!

I don’t want to sound like I am a child of the Depression, but I have to admit that the abundance of such food on our doorstep is daunting. It is humbling to know that you have more than enough and at the same time there is an odd sense of duty in me that says I should not waste it. (Perhaps that might help explain why we turned our kitchen into an assembly line today!) I remember cherries being a rarity when I grew up; they were the most expensive fruit other than tropical varieties – and those were not something we bought unless for a special occasion. My Mom loves cherries, but she taught us that they were a treat to be savoured, not a food to gorge on (you know, “One for the bucket, one for me, one for the bucket, two for me…”) It was like a special reward today to be able to enjoy our very own bounty and to share it with others. Decadence can be a simple thing, it seems.

There was also a decadence to watching Martin and Chloae from the window, swapping stories as they filled their buckets. Father-daughter time is something else that is a rarity these days and it too should be cherished. I have many such memories to keep in my heart, and with my Dad gone I am glad for every one of them and wish there could have been more.

It seems a very fitting saying, that expression that “life is a bowl of cherries” when things are going well. The joy of being able to appreciate good things in abundance is special; it reminds us that we are fortunate, and fuels us for the days when we feel down. I am so glad we really got to live that saying today.

My Mom is still around and she still loves cherries.
I is currently staying with us, so she will have her fill too! I hope you get to enjoy time for some cherries this weekend. If you would like to make your own Cherry Clafoutis, click on the link for the recipe.

cherry clafoutis

Paprika Chicken

happygourmand:

I saw a quote today from Bill Nye: “Every single person you meet will know something you don’t.” This blog is full of foodie information, and recipes, that are new adventures for me. I just wanted to share my enthusiasm for learning :) Thanks Europa!

Originally posted on Europa...Taste the mediterranean...:

Recipe category flag hungary2

Let’s get at least one thing straight here – tasty though it is, Hungary has more to give the world of food than Goulash (proper recipe to follow shortly) and I have always wanted to include  some Hungarian dishes here among the humble pages of europa-café, so let’s start with a little food history; being the proud owner of Europes largest lake, lake Balaton, you would expect some pretty special freshwater fish dishes – and they do exist most definitely – from goose liver stuffed trout, lots of carp and crumbed pike perch not forgetting the unusual sheat-fish; similar to a catfish – some of them are huge – up to 2m is common – you’ll need a really big barbeque for that! On a culinary level, Hungary has a reputation for adding sour cream and of course, paprika to everything and dishes with an over use of heavy fats…

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Nurtured little sprouts can grow into foodies and chefs!

kids in the garden cartoon

When I was a kid it was common for my peers and I to be commandeered as helpers in the family garden. Some people just had window boxes to worry about, but my parents were always keeners and we rented a duplex with a yard. Our back car stall was converted to a veggie garden and that became my number one summer chore.kids in the garden eating I learned quickly that gardening was not for the lazy, but I also learned that fresh peas and beans and carrots that I helped plant and water and pick were much tastier and more fun to eat than store-bought items.  There wasn’t a farmers’ market where I grew up, but I did learn about where food came from at an early age.

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For the past five weeks I have been working with local chefs as part of a program that helps kids today learn how much fun food can be. Growing Chefs was started in Vancouver in 2005 as a way to transmit the knowledge and share the passion of chefs and growers to kids in urban settings. This is the second year for the program in Kelowna and classes in Comox and all areas of the Lower Mainland are participating as well. Last year over 120 volunteers helped 850 students to experience the fun of growing their own food.

 

In a regular classroom we can only do so much, so I hope that the spark has been ignited for these kids. Maybe they will ask a grown up to take them to a farmers’ market or stop at a fruit stand. Perhaps they will try growing plants in a patio pot or on a windowsill.  Hopefully the flavours excited them enough to make them want to explore with their tastebuds too. Today we made salad dressing from scratch and had them choose ingredients from a salad bar we set up. I loved seeing them – some liked the taste of the dressing on mixed greens,  others liked grated beets and carrots, and then there were some who liked the crunchy sunflower and pumpkin seeds.  The best part was seeing almost the whole class excited about salad – imagine that!

Rabbit Hollow dessert

Chef Martin and his daughter finishing homemade rhubarb cobbler with creme anglaise

At Rabbit Hollow this summer we’re going to explore the farm-to-table idea with families in some of our events.  We will literally take ingredients from the farm to the table, picking them fresh and then working with them in our backyard kitchen and tasting them at the harvest table. Parents and kids will be encouraged (even pushed if necessary) to work together and play with their food.  We hope they will find out that it’s more fun (and tastier) than opening a box from the freezer.

We can all do our part to contribute to a sustainable environment and a life eating real food. Simple things like visiting the markets in summer will open your eyes to local wonders, I promise you!

If you have kids, maybe we’ll see you at Rabbit Hollow this summer (just contact me if you want more information). If you are interested to volunteer for Growing Chefs you can check out their website; they also have great information on planting suggestions for the urban gardener. And if you’re just a big kid like me, then perhaps I’ll see you at one of the local markets or fruit stands. Check out Soil Mate if you are looking for places and ways to connect with fresh food in the Okanagan.

 

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