Monthly Archives: April 2017

A trip to the market

The farmers market here opens at the beginning of April, and it’s a lovely treat I like as part of my Easter experience. There is no parade and we don’t have a formal dinner with guests, so I decided to put on my Easter bonnet today for my outing.

I made a solo trip today, since hubbie was busy building the new deck. I knew there wouldn’t be much in the way of freshly grown veggies but I was excited to wander  in the fresh air and gather inspiration.


I got some local cheese and fresh bread for tonight’s dinner. Since it’s more root veggie season I picked up some potatoes, and of course, carrots. Our local forager, Scott Moran, had the first dandelion greens too, which I couldn’t resist.  Then I soaked in the atmosphere…

home-baked goods included cute little Easter nests


There were real chicks with their mom at one of the farm booths. The kids would have loved them to death if they had been loose.

 I decided to have a treat, and chose to honour my memories of French street vendors by having a crèpe with sugar and lemon juice. It’s funny to me that in a society which has supposedly mastered the art of eating and driving a classic street food is served on a plate with a knife and fork. (In France, you get your crèpe in a waxed paper cone, so you can eat it as you walk.) The Crèpe Bistro’s system for making all the different flavours was quite spiffy – they even have a gizmo for slicing bananas! ​

​My spirit and my tummy were both completely satiated, and the wind started to kick up so I mosied along home. My hubbie just laughed as he saw me get out of the car with all my packages. At least he got a picture of me in my Easter outfit.

 

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One a Penny, Two a Penny…

Did you have hot cross buns for breakfast today? I did. Do you know why we have them at Easter? I remember the rhyme from childhood, but I must admit that not having a religious upbringing I didn’t know the history of this seasonal sweet bun. As I sat munching and sipping my tea this morning I did some research, and I figured I can’t be the only one who didn’t know all the tidbits I found. So, here you go – new knowledge for your brain.

Let’s start at the beginning: Easter Sunday is the celebration at the end of Lent, commemorating the resurrection of Jesus. Lent is the period before Easter, starting on or about Ash Wednesday  (depending on your religion),  and ending just before Easter. It signifies the 40 days that Jesus wandered in the desert, and those observing Lent solemnly honour his sacrifice by many activities that seek to bring them closer to God. Fasting as Jesus did, or giving up luxuries in life is usual for the faithful during Lent; prayer, penance and repentance are also common. Hence the common expression, “giving up (something) for Lent”.

The Lenten fast of ancient times was much more broad and strict than it is today, in some places allowing only bread in one’s diet, but for most removing all animal products and allowing no meals until later in the day or the evening. Nowadays, a fast usually involves a full meal and up to two “collations” – sustenance to keep one going, but not so much as to count for a full meal. Some people do not fast but do remove meat from their diets, either for all of Lent or at least on Ash Wednesday and on all Fridays and Saturdays in Lent. Lent ends either on Good Friday, or at midday on Easter Saturday, depending on your faith.

Since no animal products were allowed during Lent, sweet breads (containing milk, eggs and/or butter) would not be on the menu. Therefore, hot cross buns would be eaten at the end of Lent. They are not just a random treat, either – the cross on the top signifies the crucifixion of Jesus, and the spices represent those used to embalm him for his funeral. The first hot cross bun was apparently baked by a monk in medieval times.

The solemn nature of hot cross buns is not to be taken lightly – in 1592, Queen Elizabeth I actually forbid their sale on any day but holy days (Good Friday, Christmas, or for funerals). The punishment for selling them was to have all your product donated to the poor. James I of England did the same thing in the 1600’s; for many years you could not find a hot cross bun recipe, as the buns were only made in secret by home bakers. The first modern record of them is a written account of street sellers hawking them in the 1700’s, the source of the nursery rhyme I remember:

Hot cross buns!
Hot cross buns!
One a penny, two a penny.
Hot cross buns!

If you have no daughters,
Give them to your sons!
One a penny, two a penny.
Hot cross buns!

Of course, as with most things that carry such significance there are many bits of folklore attached to hot cross buns. Did you know…

  • hot cross buns are said to have healing powers? If you give one to someone who is sick, it can help make them better (perhaps this comes from sharing them with those less fortunate?)
  • hot cross buns don’t go bad? If you hang one in your kitchen on Good Friday, it will bode for good breads all year long, and keep your house safe from fire and bad spirits. (the preserved fruit would help keep the bun fresher, but I’m not sure I would keep it up for a full year.)
  • hot cross buns are full of luck? Taking one on a sea voyage will prevent a shipwreck, and it is said that friends sharing a bun will have a strong bond of friendship in the coming year. (Any hope against shipwreck was probably worth trying; as for friendships, well who wouldn’t want a pal that shared their treat?)

Although I don’t observe any traditional religion, I do certainly believe that sharing oneself with loved ones and in the community is important. I also believe that to be a good person requires thoughtfulness and focus. As such, I can understand the importance of Easter and appreciate its solemn history.

So, in honour of Easter, may you enjoy every moment. Whether you celebrate a feast day that is at the centre of your faith, or your family, or both, I wish you well this Easter weekend.

Peace be with you.

Be Flexible, and Committed

This morning, I remember thinking, “it’s a good day to be a worm”. As I walked with Ella this morning in the pouring rain, the only other creatures outside were the worms. It was then I decided that we should have stew for dinner. But then,  the sun came out at 1 pm.

Thankfully, I did my computer work early in the day, so when the skies lightened and the thermometer actually slipped into double digits I high-tailed it outside. The vitamin D did wonders for my mood and the look of the garden, after I finished trimming all the herbs.

I’m glad I had the ability to be so flexible in my day’s plans. Back in the days when I had an office job, I used to have to just pull the blinds up to soak in the rays. Today I even had time to stop and smell the flowers, hear the bees buzzing. Being self-employed has its advantages, especially in the shoulder season.

I did want to stay committed to dinner. I have a great cookbook for stew inspiration: Lobel’s Meat and Wine. It offers choices by meat type, with different themes based on recipes from various places in the world. Tonight I made a beef stew Provençale. The recipe is based on their Beef Stew Flavoured with Black Olives & Oranges, adapted for my tighter time schedule and ingredients on hand. We did still manage a nice local wine pairing.

I also got to chat with my brother today. We have had a tumultuous relationship over the years, running hot as great buddies or cold when we didn’t speak at all. These days, there is water under the bridge that doesn’t run smooth or clear, but we have found our way in the current and it feels good to have my oldest pal back. I suppose that speaks to the same theme of being flexible and committed, doesn’t it?

Life is about balance. Sometimes you just have to go with the flow.

Taking a Wellness Day

You know those days when you just feel like your get up and go got up and went? Today was like that for me. 

I got up this morning early  to a dark sky.  We were out of yogurt, my best morning energy boost. Ella and I walked in the rain, muck up to our ankles and clouds around our ears. Even the tulips were on strike. 


As the day wore on, I just seemed to get colder even though I was inside. (It was supposed to be a day working on garden projects but pouring rain doesn’t make for good digging weather.) I needed to focus on my wellness, as it was suffering 

 I decided about mid-afternoon that my best chance for a pick-me-up lay in the remainder of the Chocolate Pudding Cake on the counter. I set my sights on dessert to heal my spirit. (Not the most healthy option, I’ll admit; but sometimes instant gratification offers the energy for the next step.)


Thankfully, Wednesdays have a built-in bonus for me – it’s the night I volunteer with Girl Guides. Our Sparks troop, a wonderfully rambunctious bunch of 5 and 6 year olds, is the best remedy for low energy or feeling down.  After a very bouncy Easter egg hunt, ribbon dancing and a parachute game, they all went home smiling, and just a bit more tired.  I felt much better. 

Now that I’ve had my tea and dessert, I feel prepared to tackle the world again tomorrow. I’m so thankful I got a chance to soak in some positive energy today (and a bit of chocolate). 

What You Eat Can Make You Smarter

I was catching up on my foodie reading today and I came across an interesting theme… research that studies the correlation between what foods are in our diet and how that affects not only our physical health but our brain capacity as well. Can what we eat really make us smarter?

As a small child, I was a big fan of fruit. I didn’t eat a lot of meat early on, but fruit was always popular with me, and still is. So of course I was interested to read more about an article that said primates who ate fruit had bigger brains.  If monkeys of similar social groups developed larger brains just because they ate fruit instead of leaves, I should go to the head of the class.

In case you don’t want to read the entire article, the gist is this: searching for hard-to-find fruit over leaves that were abundant and closer to ground level meant fruit eaters were more innovative and critical thinking than their lazier leaf eating neighbours. It made perfect sense when I thought about it.

The bad news is that eating more fruit doesn’t do you or I much good as this kind of development takes evolutionary time to realize the effects. Generations of fruit-eating progeny are required before we would see results. Maybe your great great great great grandchildren would be smarter, but you’re just not getting scurvy.

There is good news, though. The other research article I read was about healthy snacks versus nibbles that had less nutritional value. Did you know that if we have to wait for our food we choose to eat more healthy? Perhaps that is the real reason fast food is mostly junk – if it took longer we would be eating a salad. The researchers called it a time tax on less healthy food choices. They used vending machines at a university, with a 25 second delay on less healthy items and no delay on healthy ones.

Since the experiment did show a positive result, there is talk of extrapolating the concept for more food activities. One suggestion was that grocery store shoppers who chose more healthy options could be streamlined to a faster checkout than those with less healthy items in their cart.

Is this discrimination? Should we be allowed to be unhealthy if we choose? We know people don’t like taxes on “undesirable behaviour” (such as the taxes on alcohol and tobacco). Perhaps positive reinforcement is a less offensive option to encourage our society to “do the right thing”. I guess the catch is, who decides what the right thing is? Today we’re talking about being healthy. Tomorrow what will be the encouraged choice?

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