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

Lions and lambs and lettuce

March is a mixed up month. I never know if spring is really here or if winter is just gearing up for her grand finale. The days get longer but if it’s grey they can still seem gloomily short, in my opinion. As a result, one day I feel like eating salad for dinner – celebrating the sprouting tulips and sunshine – then the next day stew is on the menu, to ward off the damp and cold of a frosty day.

March with lion and lamb

It is said that March comes in like a lion and goes out like a lamb. In Canada those little lambs aren’t the ones eating ivy, though, for the snow could still be on the ground.

A silly aside here – does anyone else remember the old song, “Mairzy Doats”? The story goes that one of the songwriters was inspired when his 4 year old daughter came home  singing her version of a nursery rhyme, simple cute jibberish to his ear. He wrote:

Mairzy doats and dozy doats and liddle lamzy divey

A kiddley divey too, wouldn’t you?

The lyrics of the song’s bridge provided a clue to undoing the code:

If the words sound queer and funny to your ear, a little bit jumbled and jivey,

Sing “Mares eat oats and does eat oats and little lambs eat ivy.”

Then we can translate the final line as

a kid’ll eat ivy, too; wouldn’t you?

But that’s a matter more for the month of April, don’t you think?

To avoid feeling overwhelmed by the month’s maelstrom of emotions, I decided to focus on the gentler lamb image and find something “springy”. More light, more new things – that’s what was needed. I found it in my Tower Garden.tower garden

Now I plant lettuces and herbs inside and get to watch them grow in the wonderfully cheery tower brightened by LED wands. It’s a delicious sort of magic being able to eat homegrown lettuce in the month of March, without having to brave the whistling winds and half-frozen dirt that comprises my garden plot at the moment.

It’s still a bit early to plant my seeds for the outdoor veggie garden. Experience has taught me that I’ll end up with leggy shoots that can’t stay up in the continuing winds of later spring. Their stocks will mold or break in the damp outside world and I’ll have to start over. For now, I am just plotting out my plan, choosing which seeds will be featured and how everyone will fit in the space.

In the meantime, at least I can feel nourished by what is to come; I don’t have to subsist solely on the stock of the winter larder, or my winter spirit. Having a bit more colour in my diet helps me notice the colour in the world. It cheers me and brings back my sense of humour.

On that note, I’ll close with the other quote I found about March. It sums up my sentiment quite nicely.

March is the month God created to show people who don’t drink what it feels like to have a hangover.  – Garrison Keillor

march with cocktail humour

Is it too sunny for stew?

Okay, here I am, with February in full swing. As I look out the window today I see blue sky and forsythia buds. The tulips sprouting have pushed over a few of my garden sculptures overwintering outside.IMG_4472 It doesn’t seem like stew is what I should be thinking of for dinner, but that’s where my head is at. Am I giving in, or is it right to be wary of winter’s deceptive nature?

Most of the year I am an optimist, but in February I need a boost. The chocolate of Valentine’s Day helps, and donuts or pancakes at Mardi Gras generally carry me through till the Girl Guide cookies arrive in March. As these bones get older however, they feel the cold more often and don’t warm up as fast.

Maybe I’m moping because I’m missing the wonderful Wine Festival this weekend. Vancouver hosts the International Playhouse Wine Festival at the end of February, and it used to be one of my yearly calendar appointments. French wine fancy cellarI had hoped to get back this year, but it wasn’t meant to be. I shall be drinking my French wine at home this weekend.

So, that’s settled then. I’ll dig up a few old favourite recipes in my French folder and open something suitably decadent and heartwarming to pour in a glass. If all goes well, my pairing will not only warm the cockles of my heart but also the tips of my toes.

Got any French recipes that you want to share? I’m always looking for a new classic to add to my list… Have a favourite wine? I’d love to try something new.

Ideas so far:

Or maybe you’ll try one of these recipes, and if it’s your thing, a glass of wine to accompany it. In which case, Cheers! Thanks for virtually joining my table.

(I’m feeling a bit like the Galloping Gourmet on television, looking for some unsuspecting audience member to join him for the meal. Ah well, virtual company is better then no kindred souls at all.)

The Galloping Gourmet

 

Family – for a day

Today is Family Day where I live. A long weekend, a chance for families to spend some time together. Not the Spring Break-kind of vacation time, but perhaps a chance to see a movie, or make a trip to the ski hill (there is still snow up there although not much left in town). If people can manage to arrange their busy schedules to make quality time happen, I’m all for that.

In our house, the easiest way to make quality time is to set the table. Does that sound old-fashioned and corny?

We are passionate about food in all its forms – growing it, cooking it and eating it. That too is weird for lots of people, I realize. What can I say? I was brought up in a house where meal time was important and where a nice meal was a big deal. Everyday meals were not to be taken lightly either.

Growing up I didn’t think of us as not having much, but according to my parents there were times when things were tight. I loved Tuna Casserole and shepherd’s pie for dinner, so what did I know?

I don’t think I realized tuna could be eaten another way than from a can until I was much older, and I thought everyone made shepherd’s pie in their electric frying pan just like my mom. Seasoning was what counted, and she knew how to make flavourful meals.

Many of our meals today are simple – we eat salad for dinner at least a couple times every week. When we invite people for dinner we apply ourselves, offering something fun and colourful. It might be simple if it’s dinner before a movie, or it might be Sunday roast with all the trimmings; it’s always an occasion worth celebrating, just like at the family table when I was a kid.

Anyone around my table are like family – I want them to feel comfortable, taken care of and happy.

In the summertime, we set our long harvest table and host events. Gluttons for punishment, we are, but they do say misery loves company. Cooking for many is even more fun to share!

They shouldn’t feel guilty having seconds, and they needn’t worry about offending if they push the mushrooms or onions to one side. I am happy they could be there and enjoy the time – that’s what counts.

So how’s about we make every Monday a Family Day? You get the cutlery and place mats, I’ll grab the tuna casserole. I’ll meet you at the table.

 

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