I am a product of my upbringing. The tales of root cellars where everything was preserved, my Grampa’s stories of living during the war when things were rationed, and the prevalence of farm culture from both my parents’ prairie life – all these elements combined with those Little House on the Prairie volumes in my head to make me thrifty in the kitchen.
Gramps used to say when I refused the last morsel, “Can’t be wasting!”, and I would capitulate. It was like referring to those starving kids in Africa. I often wondered, would they eat sandwich crusts?
This time of year is when we work to save and store. It’s the end of harvest of course, so it’s a mad dash to make sure as little is wasted as possible. Some of the bounty doesn’t get used – it’s impossible to eat it all, even when we share. But I am heartened when I remember my farmer neighbour’s words that everything going back to the ground helps the soil for the following year. Mother Nature provides.
We dried fruit and canned chutney and jam and made hot sauce and kimchi and infused vinegars and oils. I baked bread and pies and bread pudding. I roasted squash and tomatoes and put them in the freezer. my last effort is to plan menus for the next couple of weeks so we can use the last of the arugula, green beans and green tomatoes.
It can be exhausting. I have new admiration for the pioneer housewives and their fortitude in the face of such a daunting task: providing a variety of flavours for a household through a cold, dark winter. Before there were OXO cubes, Heinz ketchup and Classico pasta sauce, there were women who kept everyone from losing their minds over endless bowls of turnip soup and boiled potatoes with mutton.
Perhaps the return of Outlander on TV has given me my second wind… are there any other fans among my readers? If Claire could manage to survive in a kitchen-of-old, then surely I can do it too.
My inspiration this weekend is to use the last of the apples and some quince with my final trimmings from the mint to make a sort of preserve that I’d like to use for both sweet and savoury purposes. My plan is to make it on the sweet side, and then when I want to use it say, for roast pork, I’ll sauté some onions and add in the apple mint preserve with a bit of cider vinegar to get more of a chutney or Branston-pickly kind of condiment. (If anyone has any experience with a similar recipe, I’m all ears.) I shall post up the recipe once I’m happy with the result.
And perhaps I’ll make a batch of Millionaire Shortbread in celebration of the Outlander premiere on Sunday. Since Claire and Jamie will be in the New World, it seems only fitting that we encourage that spirit of entrepreneurship, don’t you think? (wink)
You know how sometimes life gets ahead of you? Good intentions trip you up and instead of checking items off your “to do” list you are mired in the weight of the list itself and spinning your wheels. I love to try new things and to share my excitement at new discoveries, but I have been caught in a hamster wheel for a while with things I told myself were “more important”. I was making excuses instead of getting organized.
But now I’m back, and I’m so glad I have this safe space to come back to. I still haven’t completed that list, but I did bake brownies today. And I feel so much better for it. It’s about following through, I discovered.
It seems so silly now that I’m here writing – I try to live not feeling guilty for indulging in life and yet that’s what stopped me from taking time to write or try new recipes. I felt guilty because I didn’t have everything done I thought I should do. Foodie heal thyself, right?
Okay, so I’m human. Today I took Ella for a walk and we decided we should stop by the local fruit market for ice cream. It turned out to be a rather nice fall day, and they will be closing soon for winter, so it was a “carpe diem” kind of inspiration. You know,
Eat ice cream, breathe the fresh air, shuffle in the leaves; for soon it will all be cold and white.
Root beer float and Tiger Tiger, on a waffle cone of course. I only ever eat Tiger ice cream in a cone. I have to say, the combination with root beer may be a new classic I want to lay claim to. It was like a key to a time warp that made me feel ten years old again. Living in the moment. Ella seemed to approve too, although her tastes are not very discriminatory when it comes to ice cream cone bottoms.
I felt a wonderful sense of pride and accomplishment seizing that beautiful moment. After all, I had spent the morning inside doing housework. I deserved a break. (And even if I hadn’t done housework, why not say “Yay me!” for making a memory?”)
The brownies didn’t get made until after dinner, since other tasks were prioritized. But they only took about 10 minutes to whip up, and then just 35 minutes in the oven. They were lukewarm when I cut into them to serve.
Hubbie was very happy I made brownies, and even happier when they showed up in a bowl with ice cream and a drizzle of caramel sauce and crushed toasted pecans. I was happy when I tucked my spoon in for the first bite and realized how gorgeously gooey and rich (not sweet) they were. Thank you, Sarah!
The thought did cross my mind as my spoon headed to my lips: “this is the second time I’m eating ice cream in a single day – and I only bothered to stretch today, didn’t even really work out!” I swallowed that thought with the bite of brownies – it was delicious.
So, there you are. I’m human. Not at all perfect. Completely fallible. But I can bake a good brownie with a little direction. And now that I have my momentum back, I may even come up with a variation on something or a new idea. Just watch me! Like my Dad used to say when I was trying to improve my clutzy basketball skills, “It’s all in the wrist.” One just has to follow through.
We’re in the heart of autumn. The days are shorter, the skies are greyer, but there is still a light from within the trees as they change colour. I wonder if the idea of undercarriage lighting came from brilliant yellow leaves on the grass in fall? The temperatures are cooler too, and so the flavours of the season are crisper and as a result.
In the spring, I enjoy the first green flavours from the warming sun – peas, baby greens, and asparagus all taste like new life fresh from the garden. In the summer, the longer brighter days allow for rich, luscious flavours and sweet aromas – peaches, tomatoes, and corn are decadent in their intense juiciness and complex flavours. In the fall, the bounty begins to diminish and I savour the squash and pears and plums.
I am lucky enough to walk through a veggie garden and fruit orchard every morning. I am trying hard to gather the last of the freshness before winter arrives. We have been drying herbs, pickling beets and peppers, making chutney and jam, drying mushrooms, and freezing all kinds of goodies.Today I ate one of the last Bartlett pears still hanging on a tree, and I made a Plum Torte with the very last of the plums we had. I was wistful as I stood in the orchard, the floral perfume of the pear filling my mouth and the crisp bite lingering on my lips and the low rays of sunshine lighting the leaves.
The winter flavour for me is quince. The fruit are still on the trees now, awaiting the first frost before they reach maturity and show off an elegant lemony tang along with an exotic perfume that belies its gnarled exterior and rock-hard raw interior. But until then, I’ll make the most of the last of the bounty. If you can scrounge some plums, you can join me!
We spent a weekend in Revelstoke recently and had the most amazing time. I remembered this small mountain town from my childhood, but more as a stopping-place when we camped in the region or a pit-stop driving from Calgary to Vancouver. Although the small peek you get of the river as you cross the bridge is a pretty view, you are missing the fun if you don’t go into the town itself.
We were fortunate enough to arrive on a Saturday morning when the farmer’s market was on. The sincerity of the vendors was absolutely charming, and the small businesses that operate on McKenzie Street were the perfect pairing to compliment the market. I had a deliciously seasonal pumpkin latte made with a homemade sauce from Conversations Coffee House. That made for the perfect way to warm up to the market ambience.
There was a live turkey on display (he looked a bit nervous). One of the farmers was displaying her pumpkins for their natural art – the designs created on the skins. She was getting all kinds of feedback from people, and so I ask you to join in the chat… what do you see? 🙂 There were homemade baked goods and breads, stone roasted coffee, farm fresh eggs and sausages, and some pretty interesting artisan accompaniments. We picked up some of our ingredients for dinner and headed on our way to meet our friends and look for our main ingredient.
The main purpose of our trip was to hunt for wild mushrooms. Yes, we were going foraging – that cool new pastime that’s all the rage with foodies these days. Autumn is mushroom season, and with the weather we had this year (moist, and then warm, and then moist again) it made for perfect conditions. My chef husband was very excited; going into the forest to look for mushrooms is his version of spending time at the spa. He has been foraging since long before it was cool.
It was a humid grey day and our friends took us deep into the forest above town. WIthin a few minutes we saw a number of different mushrooms, but we were looking for specific species. We expected to see lobster mushrooms, and we hoped to find some chanterelles too. We got lucky on both counts. The lobster mushrooms are easy to spot, as they are the colour of cooked lobsters. It’s a great sense of accomplishment, especially if you are a novice picker, to see something like this in the woods and know it can be part of dinner.
It was a magical afternoon, wandering through little clearings that sported all manner of fairy toadstools amidst a thick blanket of moss. The views we got along the ridge were spectacular, showing the flood plain of the Revelstoke River far below us. Even the dogs were inspired. We headed back with bags full of our harvest and ready to celebrate with a glass of wine. If it had been earlier we would have stopped in at Mt Begbie Brewery for a beer tasting 🙂
Martin made beautiful ravioli with mushrooms in a cream sauce for dinner, and we enjoyed some bruschetta with the last of the heirloom tomatoes brought from our garden at Rabbit Hollow and bread from Okanagan Grocery to share with our friends. The magic of the forest seemed to permeate our evening as we shared stories along with the food and wine in a stunning house that showcased the view. That’s what weekends should be all about!
NOTE: If you’re interested in recipes from my husband including some with wild mushrooms, check out his website The Chef Instead.