Author Archives: happygourmand

A Few of my Favourite Memories

It’s Father’s Day today. I gave my Hubbie a big hug – he’s going to be a Grandpa soon, so next year it will be an even bigger celebration. He has done an amazing job being a consistently present and loving father with his daughter.  The other part of my Father’s Day was a few moments remembering my Dad.

I’ve mentioned him in many of my posts, how close we were and how much he loved food. I wanted to post something in his honour today, and memories flooded back as I reminisced.

I still have the pan he used to make me fried egg sandwiches, and as I built the nachos for dinner tonight I remembered how meticulous he was with those chips – like he was constructing a card house.

As these images flashed through my mind, I thought of something I’d written many years ago, just before he died. I decided that was the best piece to post, so here it is, my column for the local community website in October 2007.

I still miss you, Daddy. You still remind me to stand tall, not let the bastards get me down, and follow through (and not just on my jump shot). I will always remember who loves me.

A Few of my Favourite Things

We are moving, and other things have happened of late that have made me look back and smile at memories I have. Autumn always makes me even more reminiscent than usual (perhaps because I was born this time of year) but not in a melancholy way. I suppose some would say it is overly romantic, but I like to think that looking back can help you go forward, if you see things in the right light. The golden light of an autumn day seems just right for me… can I share a few gems with you?

It is not hard for me to think of food memories, possibly because as a kid I hardly stopped eating. My father used to say I had a hollow leg – I could eat like a horse and I just kept growing taller and eating more. I remember him saying that maybe if he put bricks on my head that would slow things down and it seemed that might be the only remedy. I could have new pants in the spring and be watching for the flood before summer was over! 

I don’t want you to get the idea that all we did was eat though… after Sunday breakfast I remember the whole family sometimes having some goofy family time. Music was often playing and it wasn’t just hippie tunes, either.

I have great visions of all four of us marching through the house to the tune of “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice” (just like the brooms Mickey Mouse tried to control). My father would lead my mom, my brother and me around from room to room like a parade marshal, even going up and over the beds!

These are favourite memories of mine because they make me smile and that in itself makes me proud. I think it is a great testament to the way I was raised that I can look back and say I had such a great time.

My Dad will not be around much longer and that makes me sad. But you know what? Every time I eat a fried egg sandwich I will remember the early mornings he got up to make me one before basketball practice. Eating peanuts in the shell will always remind me of being little and sharing some of Daddy’s treat as he sat watching a bit of TV, with a paper bag on the floor to catch the shells.

A new delicacy will forever make me think of Friday nights when I lived in Vancouver and we would share an evening of nibbles at “the treetop bistro” in his West End apartment, swapping stories and solving the problems of the world. All those smiles will far outweigh the sadness, and I will toast to his happy adventures wherever the waves may carry him.

Here’s to you, Daddy.

Earl at the beach

My door to the world

I am a sentimental and nostalgic person. I love symbols and traditions and fairy tales. Smiling at the whisper of a fairy’s wings or the twinkle of a star is often the highlight of my day.

 

Our lovely home and garden in the Okanagan is my sanctuary. We have a beautiful expanse of space with my wild gardens. I say wild in part because there are wild blossoms courtesy of the wind and birds, but also because I can’t seem to be disciplined enough in the dirt to create a formal structure. Like my life I suppose – elements of a framework but never enough to close the box.

 

My original plan was to have the flowers in my raised beds but when you plant heirlooms in a windy place, well…

Ella doesn’t mind that sunflowers pop up wherever they like…

I am inspired by quirky things, and I love to cheer for the underdog. (Another reason my gardens look so unkempt- everyone gets the benefit of the doubt until they demonstrate more evil than good.)

The back garden is full of artifacts and artful tokens. Some are simple junk, retrieved because I loved the memories they evoked or wanted to ponder the ones they contained. A few pieces I created, and a few I inherited. All of them add to the natural character of our place with a worldly sort of homey-ness.

My homemade heron sculpture
A scale from a junkyard now measures time in the garden…
A thrift store bunny is now an ambassador at Rabbit Hollow

We always envisioned a sort of gateway to the world even though we had no intention of a fence. Our original vision was for a moongate, inspired by our honeymoon visit to Bermuda with many of them showcasing the sunsets. We talked of an arch, but that became the passage from the garden to our harvest table. When we rebuilt the front door to our old farmhouse, I knew I had just the thing.

There are so many expressions about doors, with many of  them seeming appropriate for 2020:

  • getting one’s foot in the door (what the virus did around the world)
  • closing the barn door after the horse has bolted (what happened in some regions as the pandemic struck fast and hard)
  • having the wolf at one’s door  (the financial situation for so many after the pandemic lockdowns)
  • don’t let the door hit you on the way out (what I’d like to say to the virus)

You might say I ought to have left the door open to foster a spirit of hospitality and welcome. I’ll add an expression to the historic list to defend my case – a sort of “be prepared for any occasion” idiom: 

Never leave the door ajar on a windy day.

I am heartened to see the door when I look out the window now. It announces the rest of the world is out there, waiting. It keeps out the negative energy as it makes me smile, thinking of all the good times it brought into our house. And it’s there for us – day and night, through every kind of weather – ready when opportunity knocks.

Who knows when the winds will change and the world will return to one that allows for more work, more hugs, more visitors through our doors. But in the meantime, I’ll watch out the window and remember…

When one door closes, another one opens.

 

The view from one corner of the garden, out to the world.

 

Surviving, one bake at a time

I’m going on a bit of a rant – if you’d just like the foodie part of this tale, skip over the section in italics. I won’t mind, really.

It’s been 65 days since the covid-19 pandemic was officially declared. Hubbie and I went into self-isolation then, having already started to prepare for some of the challenges.

We are movie fans; you’d think we would have seen the signs. But then the characters in the movie never see the signs until it’s too late to do anything.

I’m a mostly optimistic person. Our lifestyle was already one that involved trying to be grateful and make the most of moments, so we looked for the positives:

  • Canada is a relatively safe place, with universal health care and plenty of infrastructure
  • We live in a smaller community where there were initially no outbreaks
  • Spring is traditionally slow for our business, so the initial lack of work was manageable

Following the movie analogy though, everyone knows that a Polly Anna story doesn’t sell. And Mother Nature loves that guy Murphy.

You know the rest of the story after this point – it hit the fan. Once we passed into the third month of this with no real end in sight, I decided that I need to regroup. I can’t listen to more news or read more articles or see more memes – I need a chance for my brain to focus on something else, something that involves an accomplishment. A bit of that will refuel me for what comes next.

I am so very thankful one of my passions is something as essential as food. It’s easy to lose myself in the garden or the kitchen.

At Rabbit Hollow we have the garden and the kitchen together in summer!

Spring is the beginning of gardening season – my grubby green thumbs could not be luckier. I have weeded my heart out and transplanted all my seedlings, the first time ever on schedule. But the garden takes months to deliver its bounty.

My real saving grace has been baking. Okay, and working out – ‘cause someone has to eat all those goodies once they come out of the oven 😁

I have to give a shout-out here, to Matthew & Erika and their team at Bread Ahead Bakery in London. I stumbled upon them early in the lockdown and quickly became a “breadaheader”, watching their live Instagram baking tutorials. I learned about sourdough and pastries, got recipes for numerous classics, and found a way to mark my days with the accomplishments of treats to share with my guy, and anyone else whose doorstep was willing.

Sourdough – and amaretti
Sourdough – and cinnamon buns
Sourdough, and chocolate chip cookies (are you getting the theme here?)

It may sound silly that following baking videos kept me sane, but it’s true. The sense of community I feel with food is truly magical. Cooking and eating allows us to experience all our senses, and sharing food is the most basic gesture of gratitude and respect.

What is my point to all this rambling? Honestly, I’m not sure yet. But I do know that food brings people together – even when they have to be apart.

I wish I had the finances to provide meals or even snacks for those less fortunate. All I can manage is to offer smiles to friends and loved ones, and share my passion in hopes it will spark someone else’s fire. At least in sharing we have a sense of camaraderie. If we are all in this together for the pandemic, why not be in something together that offers hope and a smile?

So, I’ll get up tomorrow and decide what I’m cooking (after I work out 😉) Tonight my chef hubby and I filmed our dinner prep on Facebook and it felt good, to wave at friends and share little tips. Life finds a way to persevere.

We will keep going, a few weeks at a time, just like they tell us now. Where will it lead? To the table, for another meal, more sustenance. Each season has its purpose. I have faith that in practicing my skills I will find a way through.

Does it seem logical to anyone else that if Murphy’s Law is consistent, then if anything is going to go right, it will do so at the best possible moment? As Matthew kept saying in all those tutorials, “Practice, practice, practice!”

Busy baking away in my first online cooking class. Boy, were those doughnuts good! 😋

No passengers on Spaceship Earth, only crew

This quote from Marshall McLuhan struck a chord with me. Here we are on the 50th anniversary of Earth Day, and so much of the planet is in pause mode. Is this Mother Earth taking roll call, waiting to see if we will show up for duty?

earth from space

I know many people have posted pictures and comments of how quiet it is, with the sounds of birds chirping replacing traffic noise. The air has become clearer over the cities, and animals have ventured back into spaces they had left behind. Are we being shown the web of life amidst this pause, like a public service announcement before the feature film?

I just can’t get over the fact that the irony of all these components piles up, day after day.

  • In a season known in many cultures for contemplating sacrifice and then celebrating at large, we are forced to spend the time apart from one another and truly reflect on our world and our deeds.
  • In a world full of technology, we can connect virtually but our daily routines revert to basic skills. Who knew so many people wanted to bake and garden and sew?
  • After years of being too busy to have time to look up from our screens, people are finding creative ways to recognize those who deserve praise and help others who cannot help themselves.

I for one am hopeful. I believe humankind has a great capacity to learn, and I take heart knowing that young people most of all are often the ones who learn fastest and are keen to change. Young minds can see a bigger picture with fewer encumbrances; I think it might be due to their general lack of prejudice and better imagination.

It is said we are borrowing the world from our children. Perhaps the best thing we can do is take good care of it until they need it for their children. Is there a bigger – or more important – picture than that?

Dr Seuss Lorax someone has to care

How to get unstuck

I don’t know about you but I feel the need to share rather acutely nowadays. It’s a bit of relief to connect by video call with friends and family and at least see their faces and hear their laughter. But I want to give something, to feel that I am reaching out and that hopefully someone on the other end of the line gets some benefit from my effort.

Sharing recipes has been fun, and learning from other people’s sharing has been cathartic too. I watched Amanda Hesser, one of the founders of Food 52, do an Instagram video making cookies in her home kitchen. She laughed about it being the first time in 4 days that she put a clean shirt on, and I laughed back, looking down at my shirt of more than a couple of days, too.

img_8112I’ve also posted garden pictures, and been cheered by those of others. Spring blossoms always boost my spirits, and knowing the bees are still humming and green shoots are still sprouting is wonderfully reassuring.

I’m going to try a new thing this week. Our group of little Sparks (the tiniest of Girl Guides, aged 5 and 6 years old) will be hosting our first Zoom meeting tomorrow night. It’s only going to be “Show & Tell” this first time – I’m quite sure that 24 littles trying to feature the new project they have at home will be more than enough for one hour! Thank goodness for the mute button.

Along the same lines, I also volunteered to do some story-reading for a kindergarten teacher who wanted “community helpers” to read their favourites so she can show them to her class. My role as a Girl Guide leader is to help kids and offer them another adult perspective, so I figured why not. Selfishly, it gives me a chance to be a big kid and connect at the same time.

Pooh and friends on paradeSo, I’ve made myself a cup of tea and dusted off my Girl Guide vest with the bazillion crests and badges on it (that’s how they know that I am wise old leader, or at least that’s the plan). I shall introduce myself as “Poppy”, my leader name for the last 14 years. Then I’ll launch into my stories.

Dr. Seuss and A.A. Milne would have been friends with my Gramps I think, if he’d  ever run into them. Mulberry Street full version“And To Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street” and “The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh” sounded like the stories he told about when he was young. I’m hoping my reading will convey the kind of wonder I knew, sitting on his knee listening to his tales of yore.

Even if the kids are not enthralled, perhaps the stories of an imaginative youngster making the most of a boring time and a silly old Bear stuck in a hole will offer them ideas for how to get through this crazy time.

I am so thankful we have many ways to share nowadays. I do still like the in-person method best, but there is a lot to be said for having a back-up plan at times like these.

Me at Disneyworld in Dr Seuss’ world. I have also been to the real Mulberry Street in New York (but all I saw was a cart and horse 😉)

 

P.S. If you’re a big kid like me and love the fanciful stories usually dedicated to the young at heart, here are some classics I love. Feel free to read them, pass them along or read them aloud.

  • “The Last of the Really Great Whangdoodles” – Julie Andrews (she also wrote “The Very Fairy Princess” books)
  • “Peter Pan in Scarlet” – Geraldine McCaughrean (didn’t you ever wonder what happened to Peter Pan?)
  • “The Wind in the Willows” – Kenneth Grahame (I read this to my stepdaughter when she was little, and she still remembers it)
  • “Mrs. Frisby & The Rats of NIMH” – Robert C. O’Brien (like “Watership  Down” this isn’t all sunshine and roses, but it’s a wonderful read)
  • “The Cricket in Times Square” – George Selden

 

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