Category Archives: food

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! 😋

Life is like a loaf of bread

I’ve been spending consistent time baking sourdough bread since the world went sideways with covid-19. As I’ve gotten into the rhythm of it, many thoughts have floated through me. Baking has been my meditation, a good thing since it’s not yet gardening season – my other therapy. I thought I’d share some of my musings here, for posterity’s sake.

sourdough process

Life is Like a Loaf of Bread…

Slow to react, but almost always there if you don’t give up on it.

Unpredictable, but rewarding in so many ways.

Requiring many steps and various skills that aren’t necessarily related to each other.

Complex – not all of its parts are loved by everyone. bread crust

 

 

Not as easy as it looks – and it doesn’t look easy!

bread ready to bake gif

Able to reflect the character and mood of its maker.

 

 

 

 

Worth the time and effort it takes to produce something for which we can be proud.

Takes time and patience and extreme conditions to succeed to the utmost.

 

Beautiful in all its forms.bread scoring

Meant to be shared. 

bread as world image

Wishing you all happy moments in this new crazy world, whether they be alone in your kitchen or virtually with your loved ones. Stay safe, stay home and be kind. 

Brave Little Blossom

Here in the Okanagan the fruit blossoms are not out yet, much as the impact of the pandemic has not struck us as hard yet as in some places. Ali has written so well about how this touches us all though, and she offers a lovely perspective we can consider, even if we have no gardening desires.
I hope everyone out there looks to the resilience of the spring shoots they see and remembers we are in this together. And for those “shoots” leading the way – all the front line folks – I add my applause and virtual hugs.

The Mindful Gardener

I struggled to write last weekend’s post. I manage a team of NHS Speech and Language Therapists, Occupational Therapists and Therapy Assistants. On Friday evening I had been given the instruction that we would start redeploying staff to adult services on Monday morning.

I knew that the team were already frazzled after a frantic week of reorganising our service so that we can continue to meet the needs of our service users. I didn’t want to plunge them into uncertainty and doubt on Friday evening, when their questions may not have a readily available answer. The conversation would wait until Monday.

Last weekend felt quite lonely. There was a fair bit of introspection. I hovered over things, but didn’t get stuck in. I flitted from one thing to another.

I noticed the pear tree was about to burst into blossom.

The pear tree, about to burst into blossom

I love…

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Who knew we could all bake so much?

My social media feed has gone from various memes of silly behaviour and random family updates with the odd video of dishes that have melted cheese and bacon… to a stream of cinnamon buns, cookies, sourdough, cakes, doughnuts… well, and then about 4 pm it’s virtual happy hour but that’s another story altogether. Who knew so many people liked to bake things from scratch?

baking montage (2)

I know many of us are getting tired of being cooped up at home, not able to go out for coffee or go to the gym. The routines for most people of being at school or work most days have evaporated. It was a fun holiday for the first few days, but now that our bottoms are numb from days of binge-watching all of Netflix and Disney+, we feel like we need to accomplish something. Anything.

I wistfully pondered the concept of buying a Masterclass membership to follow Gordon Ramsay on his journey to teach me sauces, pasta making and all other manners of cooking a beautiful meal. But then the reality of keeping the money to pay the bills that will come while I’m still not using those skills to make any more money came crashing down around me. Besides, I don’t need the added pressure of him yelling at me.Gordon Ramsay yelling

However, this is no time to wallow, we need to keep our spirits up. So, here’s a few fun baking friends I found out there who can help us stay positive. Perhaps I ought to have tempered these links with home workouts, so we don’t all end up looking like couch potatoes? Nah; for now I’ll stick with walking the dog more often.

Borough Market Bread Ahead Bakery in London rose to the occasion quickly (pun intended). They started hosting live cooking demos on Instagram, featuring many of the classic recipes from their Baking School cookbook. Very educational if you’re into bread products. The videos only stay up in IG Stories for 24 hours but they are replaying them through April, and you can get the ingredients on their website. You can also buy a copy of their full book, or the e-book they created for these recipes.

If you have kids, you might want to look up the hashtag #KitchenBuddies . Jamie Oliver’s Buddy_Oliver Kitchen Buddiesson Buddy started doing IG videos as well, and together he and his dad are encouraging families to cook. Jamie has also done some posts offering recipes with what you have on hand, like pasta made in just a few minutes with only flour and water. I offer a link to his recipes online which is quite extensive.

If you want something more formal, I stumbled upon a resource through a site I’ve mentioned before that is rich with foodie info. The Kitchn’s Cooking School offers 20 lessons, starting with knife skills. They include links to recipes that help you practice what each lesson teaches, and different skill levels for you to choose. It dates back to 2014 but all the information is timeless.

Millionaires-shortbread

Want something more decadent? How about something called Millionaire’s Shortbread ! I first had this in Scotland, and being a fan of Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander tales, I was overjoyed when it was included in the Outlander Kitchen batch of recipes (and what a good batch it is, too – I can vouch for many of them personally). This one takes a bit of time as one layer has to set, but we’ve got plenty of that these days, don’t we?

David Lebovitz cocktail

In case you’re put off by the pressure of having to cook more, already cooking all meals and not being able to eat out at the moment, well then how about a cocktail? David Lebovitz, our foodie friend in Paris, has just launched a cocktail book and to celebrate he;s been offering recipes as part of his virtual happy hour, live on Instagram. There is also information on his website.

However you are managing, I do hope you’re taking time to enjoy meals at home. Pull out those dishes and table linens that you never have time to find. Make hot chocolate from scratch for the kids. Have a nightcap if there is a bottle of something suitable in your liquor cupboard. When we get back to the crazy pace of what we called normal, we can look back on this and say, “Wasn’t it great when we had all that time to share?”

 

 

 

 

 

“It’s the end of the world as we know it… and I feel fine”

Road Runner the end

That R.E.M. song lyric keeps playing through my head. I heard it on the radio during a comedy show doing its best to make light of the current state of world affairs. It sums up nicely the surreal nature of world affairs at the moment.

I remember the song coming out in the 80’s, and back then a pandemic wasn’t even a topic for a sci-fi movie. (It wasn’t until the 90’s that we saw Stephen King’s “The Stand” and “12 Monkeys” using diseases as the villains in apocalyptic films.) Now of course, end-of-the-world scenarios have been played out with numerous plot-lines, and a sense of doom is much more pervasive in pop culture. That doesn’t make me feel any better, though.

toilet paper hoarding solutionWhat does make me feel better is remembering to laugh amidst the absurdity of this new reality. Watching the silly people fill their shopping carts with toilet paper, Hubby and I calmly proceeded through the store stocking up on perishables. Being people who cook real food on a regular basis, we have a running stock of canned food, pasta, baking supplies.

I am happy I began a new sourdough starter (great series of videos through Northwest Sourdough if you’re interested). We also have our Tower Garden which allows us to  have fresh herbs and lettuce indoors even in winter. If we won’t be working in the next short while then I might as well be busy cooking!

support localMy heart goes out to all my friends in the hospitality biz right now. People are scared  to go out at all, and many health officials have said they should avoid any contact except with people they know. Dining out is way down the list of reasons to disregard the advice, and staying in hotels is even scarier for most.

I’ll do my small part here and say please do your best to support your local businesses.  Corporate chains have a much larger capacity to weather any kind of business storm, and this one is a doozy. Your neighbourhood bakery, butcher, greengrocer, coffee shop and even restaurant need your help to stay afloat.

If you aren’t comfortable going out or can’t, consider buying gift certificates to local places. They won’t expire, so you can use them sooner or later. If you can get out, then do. Follow necessary precautions and don’t panic. Remember these are your neighbours, the businesses you trust to help you live well. They will be doing their best to maintain that relationship, and they are hoping you will, too.

kindness to do listOnce you’re back home, relax. Catch up on those things you’ve been meaning to do but forgot with all the hustle and bustle of regular life. Board games with the kids, reading a book, creating that photo album, contacting a far-away friend… there are all kinds of activities on that “never got ’round to it” list we all have. Not to mention all those recipes you have bookmarked?

Oh, and don’t forget the humour. The Sirius comedy channel, YouTube videos, a funny movie on your streaming service… or even a funny book. I humbly offer a few of my favourites below.

the muppets group pic

  • Stewart Maclean’s Vinyl Cafe, a classic CBC radio show
  • Ellen’s “Relatable” comedy tour, on Netflix
  • for something kid-friendly (although I still love them) – any of the Muppet movies or episodes of “The Muppet Show”
  • if you want a funny read, try a classic and read something from Erma Bombeck 
  • for those not minding a bit of naughty British humour, Ricky Gervais’ bit on the funniest leaflet ever made

 

Whichever way you manage to spend your days, remember there are plenty of quotes to keep us going:

“Just keep swimming.” – Dory, Finding Nemo

“There’s no place like home.” – Dorothy, The Wizard of Oz

“It will be alright in the end so if it is not alright, then it is not the end.” – Deborah Moggach, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel

And for us foodies:

“Leave the gun. Take the cannoli.” – Peter Clemenza, The Godfather

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