Ah, it’s October. That’s why I feel out of sorts.

I can’t believe my last post was in mid-August. It’s not like I haven’t been around or been thinking of anything. In my defence I did make a few posts on Instagram and Facebook . But I could never seem to come up with a whole idea that warranted sharing.

I will admit that 2021 has been a tougher year for my mental state – and consequently, my cooking – than 2020 was. Last year we were just on pause. It was frustrating but we stuck it out.

This year we have had to weather the storm AND make some kind of regular life (I refuse to use the word “normal”, as we will not be going back to what we called normal. The works is a different place now. )

We took advantage of the beauty at home. That was about as much advantage as we could manage.

Spring dawned full of hope that the year would be busy and we would be out-and-about again. But then, hope is not a plan. I was busy making plans and trying all kinds of things, but that’s as far as it got.

It has been a roller coaster of a summer. Here in the Okanagan we had a heat wave, heavy smoke in the air and then actual forest nearby . All that was amidst ever-changing Covid regulations that limited activities, not the least of which was our work catering events and gatherings.

This was a good day with minimal smoke but that orange sun gave an ominous tone to the summer skies.

Autumn is a season of transition, one that often brings a sense of melancholy. The metamorphosis of spring brings new life and fresh growth, but autumn heralds the end of the growing season and entry to winter.

I feel my losses heavily at this time of year. Last October, the Chocolate Lab who had been my unwavering companion for 14 years passed away. My beautiful Ella was the one friend I still had close through the pandemic. Losing her was devastating.

In October of 2007, (the same year we got Ella as a puppy) my father died. He had been ill a long time but actually losing him was still a horrible shock. I was so fortunate to have a happy creature reminding me daily that love and joy were very much alive in the world.

This year, we have not been working. We made the best of things, building memories. We camped and paddle-boarded and trained our new puppy, Freyja – all lovely pastimes we were grateful to experience.

The colours of the leaves this year have been
more spectacular than I remember
in all our 17 years in the Okanagan.
Perhaps Mother Nature is telling us something?

Our momentum with new work ideas is growing as we work our pivots to create new livelihoods. All that is in contrast to the falling leaves and shorter days, but following the divergent nature of the season with its striking colours against pale skies.

I have spent October in a blue funk for the past 14 years. This whole year has been topsy-turvy but suddenly here I am in a space with energy and direction. It feels electric.

Does anyone else out there feel like this might be an important corner on their road of life?

The full moon arrived this week, and it seemed to herald a new phase. For the last few weeks it grew in the night sky, and each day our pantry shelves filled us as we dried grapes and plums, made various compotes, a plum torte, pumpkin pie and some lovely sourdough loaves.

Thanks for reading my rant, if you’ve made it this far. I suppose I rambled on to say that for me, food is central to my focus in life. I always feel fueled not just by eating but by working with the ingredients in my meals. There is a synergy between the circle of farm to fork and the circle that makes a balanced life.

Coming back to the garden and the kitchen has grounded me again, so that I can pull the other pieces into place for my life. Is this what is meant by “from the ground up”?

I’m so grateful that we are heading into the season of warm foods that draw us around the table. Perhaps a few cozy meals will help is all heal the wounds of the past two years.

smell of happiness.

Thanks to Beth at “I didn’t have my glasses on” for sharing this post.

At the moment, most of what I smell right now is smoke from the nearby forest fires. Each time I enjoy a “new smell” like this author mentions – fresh-picked berries or carrots or arugula from the garden, sticking my nose in the sunflowers or in Freyja’s furry puppy neck – I am thankful to still be at home having those experiences, and not evacuated because the fire has crept closer.

Your house smells. Don’t feel bad—it’s not just you! Your neighbor’s house smells, as does the White House. Even Martha Stewart’s abode has a …

smell of happiness.

It’s all peachy

Here in the Okanagan, it’s peach season. I am lucky enough to live next to a peach orchard, so I get the full magic of their beauty.

The ripe fruit on the trees are like glowing lanterns in the morning light. It’s as if fairies light the way to start my every day through the heat of summer.

The smell of so much fruit is intoxicating; the combination of a floral and honey sweetness envelopes the canopy under the trees.

To taste a ripe Okanagan peach in an Okanagan orchard is an experience without equal. Its firm flesh crunches just slightly as you bite into it, and the fuzzy skin tickles the roof of your mouth.

The juice runs down your arm as you take another bite, and if the moment is just right, the sun will hit your face at that moment between the trees.

When I was a kid, peaches were an entirely different experience. A juicy ripe peach was a rarity. The ones at the grocery store were often bruised and sometimes mealy. Once cooked up in a crisp they were still tasty, but cut up on my Grape-Nuts cereal they were hit-and-miss.

My dad was a big fan of peaches, but not their fuzzy skin. I remember my mom pouring boiling water over them in the colander so the skin would come off easily.

I wish Daddy could have visited us at Rabbit Hollow. We could have walked through the orchards of Paynter’s Fruit Market and picked them off the trees during u-pick time. Some of them are so perfectly ripe the skin peels off after the first bite!

I was thinking of you tonight, Daddy, as I savoured my peaches and ice cream. The taste of that snow-white vanilla ice cream with those tangy and sweet slices made me think of breakfasts of old.

Grape-Nuts cereal might not be available in Canada anymore, but my memories of them are still fresh, just as the moments we shared eating them. In my mind’s eye, I was back at that tie-dyed dining table sitting next to you as we smiled together, enjoying the flavours in our bowls and beginning another day.

Tried, Tested and True

Hello, my name is Kristin. I am a cookbook addict. 😁

My cookbook collection.

Some people might ask why anyone would use a printed cookbook anymore. With the internet’s omnipotence and recipe apps galore, who needs one measly collection?

But it’s not just the recipes I love. The stories behind the recipes and the communities they come from are what really satisfy me.

Although I appreciate the mastery of the cookbooks I have from professional chefs, my most cherished ones are those from community groups, full of family favourites and garnished with household hints.

I found another such volume this past week while visiting a local antique shop. I bought it for its original price of one dollar.

The cover is tattered, held on with scotch tape. The title is simple and straightforward:

COOK BOOK – compiled by the Porcupine Plains Ladies Hospital Aid – Tried & Tested Recipes.

I think it was mimeographed; the ink is the same purplish tone that I remember from elementary school. At some point, a person overjoyed with a pen took to scribbling on a few of the pages, but thankfully none of the information was compromised.

Although the presentation is simple, many of the recipes assume a fair bit of knowledge. A recipe for Jelly Roll Cake lists ingredients and then just says:

Add egg whites last. Bake in a long tin and while still warm turn out on a damp cloth, spread with jelly or jam and roll.

This is a cake that was a featured test on the British Baking Show, and it takes up only 4 lines. Obviously this was a community that had a few star bakers. It is also worth noting that the recipe next to it is Puffed Wheat Cake.

There is a dog-eared page splattered with batter which I think became Apple Upside Down Cake. And a recipe for Six Day Pickles that has a number of check marks, as if someone was making sure they got it right. Tried and tested indeed!

Already I knew I had a winner for my collection, but when I saw the last page, I could hear my Gramps’ voice telling stories of “back in the day”. This page didn’t have recipes. It started with the heading, DID YOU KNOW…?

Salt was a very useful item to have!

There is no publication date, but this historic booklet has indications it comes from a good while ago. It harkens back to a time when women went by their married name – as in Mrs. John Smith. The ladies in the Aid Society were recognized as such. There is a thank you note listing each member at the front of the book, and it says in part:

Without this help, and Moral Co-operation, the Board would find it difficult to give the high standard of care which we endeavour to maintain.

The list of equipment and supplies that were provided included items like basic linen and bedding as well as a furnished nursery that included an infant incubator. Exactly what “Moral Cooperation” entailed I don’t know, but given the capitalization it must have been important. Q

Today the world runs at a different pace. Hospital fundraisers are gala events. Recipes are shared by Facebook. Our community is global now, and sometimes that means we lose the intimacy of old.

There is a simple truth to recipes like Jellied Salad and Puffed Wheat Cake. And I have admiration for a community where cooking was common enough that baking times and temperatures were not needed when sharing a recipe.

Trying and testing is important too. It might be fun to cook something new sometimes, but we master a skill when we have a chance to learn from our mistakes. Once we gain confidence we can adapt and change and evolve from a solid foundation. The most solid foundation is made with a collaboration of people and ingredients.

I feel like an emissary, sharing this wee piece of history. Perhaps that is what draws me to these books, a sense that I am being called to carry on the traditions and continue the Moral Cooperation that gets people around a table.

I’ll let you know how the Apple Upside Down Cake turns out.

in the midst.

Reposting from a blogger whose work I enjoy immensely. Thank you, Beth, for sharing this quote.

This is why I love cooking. It gives me peace. In sharing food with others, I hope to pass some of that peace along.

“peace is not the end of the mundane, troublesome, and painful moments of life. peace is created in the midst of the mundane, troublesome, and …

in the midst.
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