Monthly Archives: March 2013

Old friends, new memories

I am in jolly old England, visiting a friend for her 25th wedding anniversary along with her daughter’s (and my Goddaughter’s) 21st birthday. We have known each other for almost 30 years, and one of the things that drew us together in the first place was our love of food.
When we met in Europe both of us were young adults looking to experience the world. We tried any new thing we could – local specialties, traditional fare, and a few local wines 🙂 Over the years, we have shared all kinds of recipes over the miles and every time we get together we have more favourites to share as well. This trip is no different.

Yesterday afternoon at tea time, we sampled rusks, a South African sort of biscotti. I hadn’t had them since visiting my friend in Cape Town and the taste took me back immediately.

Last night we had a simple but tasteful meal of ribeye steak paired with a salad. My chef husband Martin shared a taste of his Taboo BBQ Latino spice rub to make it extra special. We rewarded ourselves for a healthy meal and brought home the concept of celebrating 25 years with a chocolate soufflé for dessert.

Tonight we’re having pheasant risotto – local pheasant was used for the stock (we had roast pheasant the night we arrived). We bought some delectable chocolate truffles in Oxford today to share with coffee.
Tomorrow us girls are off to London to have lunch at a trendy Venetian restaurant, Polpo. It was one of our fave cities on that fateful Contiki trip to Europe so many years ago so it seemed fitting to have those tastes again as another
milestone occurs.
I can hardly wait for Saturday night, the big celebration. We’ll be in a marquee tent behind the house, all dressed to the nines. Martin is cooking appies, and I know he’ll have new fans as a result. My goddaughter and her friends will do their best to keep to us old farts as we party the night away and make more memories.

Each time around the table we share stories, we laugh, we nod knowingly as we each bare our souls he way close friends do. I am chuffed to hold these people close to my heart and know that with so many tastes I can bring them closer even when they are half a world away.

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Kudos to the girls – in the kitchen and out

intl womens day - silhouettes

Today is International Women’s Day, and since women are such a big part of food and the kitchen it seemed only fitting I pay tribute. There are many women in my life who have helped and inspire me along my journey in life, not the least of which was my Mom. She started in the kitchen (perhaps because that’s where I always hung out!) and then her wisdom led me out to the garden, and then to the sky. Her encouragement has inspired me to discover many of my passions. Her love of being a Mom, at home for her family, is something I will always admire.

Mom - my hero

The women I have come to admire later in life are also people who are secure in who they are, proud of what they have to contribute. When I was growing up, I loved reading Ayn  Rand’s books (thanks, Mom 🙂 ) She was a strong woman who wrote about strong people with convictions and passion. I loved classic movies, and my favourite actresses were Katherine Hepburn and Lauren Bacall. They never let movie men push them around but they were elegant and sexy nonetheless.

Katherine Hepburn not inferior sex

"Your whole life shows in your face, and you should be proud of that."

“Your whole life shows in your face, and you should be proud of that.”

When I discovered my true passion in the kitchen, I was thrilled to read the story of Ina Garten, who jumped in and bought a specialty food store in the Hamptons because she wanted a change from a job at the White House, and fell in love with the place when she visited. She called her business The Barefoot Contessa, starting out with no formal training and learning every job. She developed recipes and started to cater.

click the picture link if you are interested to view Ina's cookbooks on Amazon

click the picture link if you are interested to view Ina’s cookbooks on Amazon

Years later, she wrote a cookbook. When I wrote my first cookbook, I sent her an email saying what an inspiration she had been. She replied, to my surprise and delight, saying she loved my book and wished me every success.

I love to share, and so people who do the same attract me. Alice Waters is a woman who wants to share food with the world, and make sure they appreciate not just the taste but the work of the farmer who produced it as well. It was through reading about her work at Chez Panisse in California that I learned of Slow Food for the first time. I heard her speak in Italy at Terra Madre last fall, and she is every bit the humble but formidable force of nature I expected. Her Edible Schoolyard Project is saving many kids from a life of ignorance about food and community.

Perhaps the perfect inspiration for me though, is Julia Child. Her passion for food was topped only for her passion for her husband, Paul – something I can totally understand. (Thank goodness I married a chef, so he doesn’t mind my foodie mentality.) Julia Child cookbook philosophyShe wanted to make great food something that was accessible for everyone; I love her distaste for the pretentious side of the North American restaurant industry. I love her common sense approach to life.

One of the things Julia espoused was that time around the table was precious and should be encouraged. I say three cheers for that philosophy! So, in honour of Julia and all the women who inspire others to do more, dream bigger, live larger, I offer you a simple recipe to share at the table sometime soon. Roast Chicken is something anyone can accomplish in the kitchen.

1970 photo of Julia Child during taping of her TV show. Photo by Paul Child.

Toast the women in your life that have inspired you. If you are a woman, perhaps you can think about who you might be able to inspire…

Many Happy Returns to a best friend

It’s birthday season in my world it seems. I just wrote a post remembering my Dad’s birthday. Now I have another day of note worth mentioning, so I hope you’ll indulge me, and my loved ones.

Today is Simon’s birthday. He is 10 years old today. Everyone deserves to be celebrated on their birthday, even someone as egocentric as Simon. You see, Simon is my husband’s German Short Haired Pointer.He is a well-trained and handsome dog, but he loves me for my throwing arm. ImageSo, any tribute I make in this article is directed much more towards MY best friend, Ella, the Chocolate Labrador you see gracing my photos in this blog. She is the one who nurses me through my sinus infections in winter, and watches over me when I garden in the summer, and always looks back when we walk to make sure I am still there. (Simon, on the other hand, could care less till it’s dinner time where I am.)

In honour of all four-legged best friends, I am contributing a recipe for healthy dog treats to my archives. You can just feed your dog popcorn as a natural treat, or slow roasted sweet potato slices (cook them in the oven at 200F, or a dehydrator, for about 6 hours). This is a fun recipe to do with kids, and it gives them great practice at kitchen skills. It’s also a great gift to give a fellow dog owner. I once even hosted a canine birthday party at the local park where we walked our dogs, and gave out homemade dog treats as a take-away. Dog owners tend to be really sociable people; it was a fun party!

Of course, if you’re not a dog owner, your best friend would likely enjoy a more decadent birthday treat. For this kind of celebration, I suggest chocolate. One of my favourite special desserts is my husband’s Chocolate Souffle. ImageIf your friends are more into simple fare that is not so decadent, how about Pavlova? It’s even gluten-free, for those who don’t eat wheat.

Whether your friends are two-legged or four, you could hold a party with just balloons and still elicit many smiles. But I am a firm believer that birthdays deserve a cherry on top, if you know what I mean. Gathering people together to share a taste of something special makes for a great memory.

Here’s to doing back flips for birthdays!

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