Category Archives: history
It’s all over the news. Fifty years ago Man landed on the moon for the first time. All the media outlets have been nostalgic this week – where were you? What do you remember about that week?
I was almost 4 years old in July 1969. As it turns out, the day of the moon landing is my earliest memory.
I remember sitting on a couch beside my Dad, with a paper bag on the floor between us. Groceries were packed in paper bags back then, and we saved them to use for other things. This one was holding peanut shells. My dad was shelling peanuts as he watched the TV.
I remember seeing the men bouncing on the surface of the moon. I remember hearing my Dad’s voice; he was excited, amazed, impressed. Even without anyone telling me, I could tell what was happening was a big deal.
Just as important to me though, was learning how to shell a peanut. Learning to push my thumb on the seam so it cracked open like pea pod was the secret. But my thumbs were little and not very strong. I don’t remember if I managed to get one open on my own, but the day was my first memory of what I would learn was “quality time” with my Dad.
It’s funny, how food was part of my very first cohesive memory. Was I destined to become a Gourmand?
I also find it striking that a memory of my Dad and I watching TV would feature as an historic event in my life. Daddy was in the TV business. I wonder what he was thinking. We never talked about that day in detail. I wish he was here today, it would be a fun conversation.
Such are the ways of the world. As we live our lives, we have no idea most of the time what will be important, what will last as a memory for us and maybe even the future world.
Sometimes it’s the littlest things – like learning to open a peanut. Sometimes it’s a man landing on the moon. Sometimes, it’s the man you remember.
Sundays. The day of the week that is all about quality time. In our house, that often means time around the table, with homemade delicacies. This time of year those delicacies involve part of the wonderful bounty we enjoy.
At the moment we are blessed with an embarrassing amount of raspberries. I could lie under the bush and just let them fall in my mouth, but I think the neighbours would talk. So instead, I made raspberry financiers.
These delightful mouthfuls look, smell and taste decadent but they are amazingly easy to make. They also work well with delicate fruit like berries. Many recipes will end up looking like a dog’s breakfast when you mix in berries (no offence to my dog, but presentation isn’t her thing). Here, you can place the berries on top of the batter and they will bake right in.
They are not a diet item. I bet the calories you get from inhaling the fumes of the butter browning are enough to blow most diets. But trust me, these are worth having a cheat day. Share them around, package some up if you have to and drop them off to a friend.
Tomorrow I’m making Cherry Clafoutis, to use up some of the cherries we picked. The peaches have only just started, so there is no rush to bake with them yet, thankfully. There isn’t enough time to work out and cover all those treats!
I love bread. I find it satisfying, intimidating, humble and rewarding, all at the same time. As a young person cooking, bread was a daunting chapter in any cookbook. It was not until recently that I screwed up the courage to take on that food central to survival for so long; the staff of life.
In my teen cooking years, I was thrilled to discover I could veer onto the side road known as “Quick Breads”, and worked up my confidence with Soda Bread, Zucchini Bread, Baking Powder Biscuits and cornmeal muffins.
One of my childhood friends was German, and her mom did a lot of hearty baking. She had an old family recipe for bread rolls that she made once a month. If the universe was smiling on me, I would happen to be stopping at my friend’s house after school, and we would be allowed to have a warm bun with butter. It was my first taste of Nirvana.
I have been working with my sourdough starter for a year and a half now, and I am still humbled every time I make a loaf. Just when I think I am the master, the starter behaves differently or the weather changes or the flour combination seems not work as well… it’s all edible, but I am far from the works of art I see on Instagram and in my cooking magazines. Those elusive bubbles and the intricate scoring patterns are like a foreign language – one in which I have only learned a few greetings and a few cuss words, like any other novice.
Yesterday, though, I think I got back to the heart of the matter. I made a recipe that I turned into a sort of pull-apart loaf and some rolls, and it was divine. It was an enriched yeast dough that I just happened to add some starter into, so it was truly a mish-mash of ingredients and techniques. But never mind, it worked. It tasted good. Even my chef hubbie said so!
I think perhaps that my interpretation of bread being “the staff of life” involves a more complex sort of survival than just sustenance. The shared experience of breaking bread is truly part of the magic for me. The love shared for the meal is also something I crave. (Like they say, we cannot live by bread alone.)
So I’m rejuvenated for another day, another effort, another bake. Leaving more crumbs, in case there is someone else out there, struggling along the same road. I posted my Kindred Spirit Milk Rolls, as a record of my progress and a message for those souls who want a taste of the magic.
In honour of Hot Toddy Day, and because I plan to binge watch the last few episodes of Outlander tonight, I thought it fitting that I share a good recipe for the drink that is supposed to be the perfect cure for a dreary winter and the mood we often have to accompany it.
I am generally a fan of hot drinks on a cold day, and I do love trivia, especially as it pertains to food and drink. Toddies not only have a connection to Scotland but also to the American Revolutionary War, so they make a perfect fit with the Outlander story. Of course, some Outlander fans would say you don’t need a hot drink to warm up while watching such a sexy romantic tale, but well, better safe than sorry!
It is said that the first use of “toddy” for a drink was in India, where the fermented sap from a toddy palm was used to sweeten a cold drink in British colonial times. This recipe of a spirit with lemon, spices and sweetener made its way back to Britain, and it was the practical Scots who decided it would work well hot as a cure for the common cold.
Believing strongly in the power of preventative medicines, the Scots made the hot toddy a popular beverage. Their presence during the time of the American Revolutionary War (just like Jamie Fraser in the Outlander stories) was what brought the drink to North America. It is said the colonists liked the drink for liquid courage, but I think perhaps it might just have been to stave off the cold, damp weather.
I was a bit surprised a recipe wasn’t included in the Outlander Kitchen Cookbook, one of my favourite themed recipe collections. (It contains so many other wonderful gems that I will use that common old Scottish phrase – “dinna fash” – if you’re thinking this makes it unworthy. On the contrary, I recommend it most highly for anyone with even a passing fancy for Scottish tastes and a love of history.
You can use the spirit of your choice to make a toddy, but here I’m offering what I believe would be the Scottish recipe. Lemons wouldn’t have been common in Scotland or America in the times of the colonists, but feel free to add a slice of lemon if you’d like a more worldly twist.
Spices too are adaptable; traditionally the slice of lemon is stuck with a few whole cloves before it is dropped in the glass, and a cinnamon stick garnishes the drink. If you’re feeling adventurous, a few pink peppercorns or a slice of ginger root can kick things up a notch.
I believe that a Highlander such as Jamie Fraser would have chosen a smoky, peaty Scotch like Laphroaig, but if your tastes are more mellow then perhaps a Glenmorangie would be to your liking. Feel free to experiment with different options. Just remember not to do it if you have to get up and drive afterwards.
Claire Fraser would undoubtedly have a stash of spices in her medicine kit, knowing the benefits of such things as cinnamon and cloves. With their time in the Caribbean, I like to think she might still have had a few treasures that could have helped raise the spirits of a toddy drinker, and perhaps eased the jolt from such a forceful libation.
As a last tip, I’ll offer a few tips on the vessel you use:
- if you use a glass, put a metal spoon in the glass before you add the hot water. This will conduct the heat and prevent it from cracking.
- if you choose a metal mug, remember it will conduct the heat very well – even handles can get hot, so be careful. It would be a shame to waste a good drink by dropping it on the ground.
SCOTTISH HOT TODDY
Instructions: Add 1 1/2 ounces of Laphroaig 10 (or another Islay Scotch) and 1 teaspoon of honey or maple syrup to a heat-safe glass. Season with lemon or orange, studded with a few whole cloves if desired, and a sprinkle of nutmeg or cinnamon. Heat 3 ounces of water to a near-boil and pour into glass; stir until honey is dissolved.
…if the person who invented fireworks was inspired by Mother Nature?
As I watered the garden today it occurred to me that it holds plenty of inspiration.
But there are many possibilities, both in individual blossoms and the entire plants as well as the landscape itself. There is no set design…
Mary, Mary, quite contrary
How does your garden grow?
With silver bells and cockle shells
And pretty maids all in a row.
It always seemed like a silly nursery rhyme to me; anyone can see that gardens don’t want to grow in a row.
Here’s to unruly blossoms that wave in the wind and gardens that inspire the child in all of us!