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A world reimagined

When the lockdown came, we hunkered down. It was surreal, but we thought at first it would be over by summer. “This is just a bump in the road”, we said. Another time to

I baked more. We did virtual happy hour with friends and relatives we mostly hadn’t talked to in a while. I was perfectly prepared for my best garden. We survived, and I even wondered if humankind might improve from this experience.

My sourdough skills improved greatly, and I kept my workouts steady to ensure I would keep my form as the bread kept its form.

Hubby and I found that life hadn’t changed much for our personal time. Almost all of our friends and family live out of town so not seeing them was not unusual. We spent time together every day before the pandemic so we were good at that too. There was just no work, no way to share our passion for food other than leaving the odd care package on a neighbour’s doorstep, or sharing baked goods with the garden workers in the neighbouring fields.

Then we reached Phase 2. Summer was approaching and bookings for campgrounds opened up so that became our focus, in between tending the garden. A month later, in June, we were at Phase 3. In our region there hadn’t been any real cause for alarm, other than the shortage of toilet paper, pasta and flour.

Line-ups outside stores are still common. The one at Costco the first time we went took 50 minutes to get through.

The whole summer has gone by now. We camped 4 times. Despite Mother Nature reminding us all was not as before with excessive bugs, wind, rain and/or smoke (from fires thousands of miles away), we had fun. Our family philosophy of making the most of the moment played out well.

We spent lots of time enjoying the great outdoors.

But – and it’s a big but – the act of sharing food has changed. We cannot prepare our sumptuous BBQ buffets for events anymore – everyone touching the same utensils is too dangerous. Passing appetizers in a group is also not allowed, as it puts people and shared food in close proximity without barriers.

As we move indoors and the virus begins to spread faster again, social gatherings become a risky business. It’s nice to see people’s faces over Zoom, but seeing food and drink and not being able to share the sensory experience the same way is just plain old depressing.

My love for food was born out of learning what joy it brings to people when the come together for a meal. Now that our health officials are discouraging this practice, what do I do?

As I start to tidy the gardens for winter and harvest all our bounty, there is a new kind of melancholy in my soul. I always mourned the end of the growing season but this year my heart breaks as I consider the possibility that this lack of sharing could be the “new normal” people are talking about.

In the meantime, I shall keep preserving in preparation for a time when we can break bread safely together again.

I wish my pantry was big enough to fit jars like this; I will content myself with the flavours we have and share as much as I can.

Can’t be Wasting

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.

little-house-on-the-prairie books

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.

Power Season 5 2018 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)


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