The Glue of my Childhood


When I was a kid, things were different.

We didn’t have all kinds of packaged foods for lunch. It was simple sandwiches. Peanut butter was the most common filling.

I know what you’re thinking. “Here she goes. Next thing she’ll be telling us she walked uphill to school both ways.” But seriously, 40 years ago, a peanut allergy was rare and peanut butter was a food that fit in everyone’s budget.

I was a Skippy kid. Back then Skippy was a popular brand. It was the one with the peanut on top. We had Kraft, and Jif, and a few brands that were unsweetened, but that was about it.

I remember a brand whose jar had the jelly already in it too. It looked cool with its stripes but my mom convinced my brother and I that it was better to choose your own jam each time.

It could be said that nostalgia makes foods taste better, but the foods of my childhood feed my soul. The comfort of sticky peanut butter and jam, or banana slices between soft fresh bread, is like a warm blanket. And the exact nature of that sandwich is a very personal thing.

The finer points of a PB and J could be discussed in the lunchroom for days on end. Which kind of jam was your favourite? What kind of bread? And, of course, what kind of peanut butter? Smooth or crunchy?

I like smooth peanut butter, with raspberry jam on sourdough for a sandwich, and crunchy with bananas on brown toast.

You can’t buy Skippy in B.C. anymore. I have to stock up when we go to the U.S. in the summer (Walmart sells a one-kilogram tub for people like me). Here at home I use the Dark-Roasted Jif now, and the natural stuff for baking.

Which one is your favourite?

You can buy many more kinds of nut spreads now, too. There are cashew and almond butters galore, and even hemp butter. I wonder if the rise of nut allergies helped inspire these innovations.

The world is a smaller place now and lunch boxes show that from their contents. Sandwiches are less common as more ethnic foods have become familiar. You can eat anything from soup to nuts, as the saying goes, and even the nuts can be a new variety.

Nutella is now a popular condiment, perhaps more common for breakfast than lunch but just as dear to the hearts of European folks as our peanut butter is to us.

Did you hear about the riots in France when a grocery chain put Nutella on sale? The news video showed people pushing and shouting their way to the display to stock up.

I don’t want to see peanut butter riots, but I do hope my soul food doesn’t disappear into the annals of history. I wonder if the inflation of food prices will bring nut butters back into the fold? I know it will be staying on our grocery list.

Good old sticky peanut butter really was the glue of my childhood. It helped hold me together as I grew into an adult, and that feeling on the roof of my mouth as I eat it now has the same value as a cozy hug.

Excuse me now while I go put the toaster on. I have a hankering.

Pancakes, anyone?

Tuesday, March 1, 2022 is Shrove Tuesday. It’s also known as Pancake Tuesday. For those of us who love breakfast, this is exactly the kind of special day we should have more of!

You might wonder why pancakes are the one food chosen to represent indulgence at the table before Lent began. It was a practical decision that started the tradition.

Lent – the 40 days leading up to Easter – is a time of self-discipline and sacrifice to show gratitude. Sweet and rich foods were some of the most popular items to remove from a regular diet, but no one wanted to waste food.

Pancakes use eggs and milk, perishable ingredients. Sugar was a luxury ingredient. The idea was to eat pancakes until everything was used up. Waste not, want not, right?

And just in case you are seeing this after breakfast, here are some other Mardi Gras treats you can enjoy to fulfill your Shrove Tuesday obligation.

beignets are a New Orleans tradition at Mardi Gras
  • Beignets (also known as donuts, but they only count if you get the best ones 😋)
  • King Cake (think cinnamon bun stuffed also with cream cheese filling and covered with a glaze and coloured sprinkles – best eaten with friends, according to folks in the Big Easy where they bake thousands of them
  • A Sazerac cocktail – the official drink of New Orleans, a whiskey flavoured with Absinthe & bitters

By now you must be getting the idea. Here is a day where you are given license – encouraged, even – to indulge in your favourite treat. So why are you still sitting here?

On Ash Wednesday you can contemplate how you can serve a greater cause and become a better version of yourself. You will be fuelled up with all the positive vibes of those wonderful treats, so I have great faith in what you can do.

We got this!

Geronimo!

You’re welcome.

Edible Fun for Valentines – with aphrodisiac foods

Read on to find out why this could be the hit of the night…

What better month than February to focus on aphrodisiac foods? Being the month of love, I thought I’d get you started with a few ideas, just in case you need some inspiration for the edible part of your Valentine’s Day celebrations…

For the single people reading this, please know that I believe you should celebrate this day too – practicing self love is a crucial part of being able to love others fully.

And I want everyone to know that I am not encouraging the commercial side of Valentine’s Day. I just think it’s a great reminder to profess our love for our inner circle of folks (and creatures too!) – something that is worth doing every day of the year, in my humble opinion.

SO, without further adieu, here are a few things to nibble on to get you in the mood.

Apple – of course, the historical implication of the fruit from the Garden of Eden makes this an obvious choice. Some say it has the shape of a heart when cut open, which is suggestive. They are also a great energy food, a factor that might come in handy if you need a bit of a boost. And well, if you don’t find your libido lifting after biting into a juicy red apple, then at least you’ll be healthy.

Bacon – (did you think I was going to say “banana” for B? I didn’t want to get too far into those woods.) Okay, so this entry isn’t so much a healthy one, but you can’t argue about many people’s passion for pork, and especially bacon. I know of folks who call themselves vegetarians, but with the caveat that they refuse to give up bacon. Carnivorous passion could certainly be called primal, right?

Caviar, Champagne, Chocolate – well, there is a running theme here, isn’t there? The romance created by these items is long known to set the mood, and that is half the battle in most situations.

Marilyn Monroe having a tipple after the premiere of EAST OF EDEN

caviar doesn’t seem to have any scientific evidence to justify its place here, but the symbolism of eating a rare, luxury food presented with such elegance seems to be enough. I did find it sexy to eat those little blinis with tiny toppings when I tried it…

champagne has a history like caviar – many famous people have helped make it sexy, as well as it being a symbol of celebrations. Marilyn Monroe’s favourite drink was not just cool though; those bubbles do make one a bit lightheaded by getting to your bloodstream faster than still wine, but they also have been shown to support brain function and help heart health (in small amounts of course – don’t go crazy.)

chocolate doesn’t need an reason to be considered luxurious, sexy or healthy, but it has many. Did you know dark chocolate is a good source of iron? (You need your strength if you’re going to have a big night.) It has also been shown to improve our mood and have some benefits similar to red wine, from its flavonoids.

If your partner doesn’t like these things, then set out what they do like – maybe it’s bacon (wink wink).

You get the idea, don’t you? Some foods through history have been linked to sensual aromas, tastes or textures, or suggestive shapes. Some raise body temperature (like chiles), others spark mental or physical reactions that arouse us or make us feel loved (like the zinc in oysters). Any, or all, of these factors can help you to set your own scene for passion – even if it is simply a passion for life.

In today’s age, we seem to need all the help we can get in making quality time work, so why not try a new idea?

Here are a few more foods that might strike your fancy…

Marshmallow – originally, this sticky treat was made from mallow root, and it has a long history of being used as a medicinal herb, curing all kinds of ails, including impotence, apparently. Today’s recipe doesn’t use the root but this does give the idea of “s’mores” a whole new sexy angle…

Shrimp – many cultures have stories of the alluring qualities of this crustacean (other shellfish also qualify – remember Jessica Biel eating lobster in “Flashdance”?) There is scientific background here as well: the iodine in shrimp is essential to our metabolism, and a low iodine level is linked to low sex drive. So, go ahead – have another one (I’m winking again).

Watermelon – the colour red is a good start, and juicy foods are sexy to eat. If you practice, spitting the seeds can be sexy too (but only if you practice.) Kidding aside, there is a scientific basis to include this quintessential fruit of summer – it contains a phytonutrient called citrulline that helps to relax blood vessels, much like Viagra. Now don’t get too excited, the citrulline is mostly in the rind. Research is of course underway to create a “souped-up” version but no luck yet.

It’s hard to deny that having the quality time is what you need to create a romantic evening… organizing your grocery list to include some of these items might take an extra stop or two. But don’t you think a bit of fun with a loved one or a friend is worth a bit of planning?

We all deserve great memories, even on a Monday in February.

Cooking & eating intentionally

I recently saw the film “Julie & Julia” again and it inspired me to take on a challenge for this year.

In the film, Julie (a food blogger) decides to cook her way through Julia Child’s book, Mastering the Art of French Cooking. I love this idea, but it didn’t seem prudent to take on all those rich recipes when Hubbie and I are trying to keep our weight trimmed down.

So, I adapted the challenge a bit, deciding to incorporate more of my cookbook inventory. After all, there is a whole bookshelf of dear friends just waiting to be called up for duty.

I could stop anytime I wanted. I just don’t want to.

I have committed to cooking 2 new recipes each week from my books. This way I will not only review the wonderful world of food memories I have, but also venture into new territory.

I’ll be posting my weekly photos and notes on Facebook, and hoping folks will comment, share and maybe even offer their ideas for new recipes to try.

I have to say, I feel better already – having a resolution that I’m excited about ! As long as I keep working out I’ll be able to cover many of the treats I have bookmarked without becoming the size of a house 😁

Dear Santa

I haven’t written to the man in red every year, just when I felt an urgent need. This year has been full of twists and turns, so checking in on something dependable seemed like a really good way to tie up the year.

Dear Santa,

First of all, I just wanted to say thank you for all you do. I am sure that you must take advantage of the technology these days that didn’t exist way back when – I have wondered every time I use Microsoft Excel if that is how you keep track of the nice and naughty kids now. And you have global warming to worry about now too. Did the North Polar Bear have to move? Is your workshop safe where it is?

You know me, Santa, I was never one to ask for stuff. I always felt very fortunate to share my Christmas with loved ones. But I did wonder about people this year. Even though we had all this time at home to get closer and practice being kind, we seem to have gotten better instead at being divided. Being right became more important than doing the right thing.

I spent much of this year frustrated, trying to figure out why people would be so contrary. Why would we want to be judgemental and always pick sides for everything? Why would respect for others be so hard to give? It made me angry that I couldn’t understand it all, and then it made me sad.

I am grateful that I have found a way to look past all the anger and focus on finding my own way to fulfill my purpose in life. In looking back on your old letters to me, I remembered that is what you told me so long ago – it’s the giving that makes the magic.

I have put out a few shortbread and some vinertarta, as usual ( I haven’t forgotten the flavouring in the shortbread this year, so they taste pretty good). I also put out one of Martin’s chocolate marshmallows as a wee something special, and a garden carrot for Rudolph. I hope Mrs. Claus will have a nice warm toddy for you when you get home.

I guess I really just wanted to say thank you, Santa. Thanks for still being there, for still wearing your red suit and your smile, and sharing your “Ho ho ho”. It warms my soul to know that the bells still ring on the reindeer harnesses and that giving is still where it’s at.

Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good night!
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