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What is so mesmerizing about melting cheese?

Have you ever noticed how your Facebook friends keep posting recipes on their news feed, all of them containing cheese? There is always a slow-motion video with a forkful of food and a string of melting cheese or an oozing blob of cheese onto a plate…

I love cheese but those videos are truly over the top. I feel like the next thing on my feed will be a promotion on defibrillators.

Comfort food often involves rich ingredients, and it never seems to be served in small portions. Is that a first world necessity – do we need to show that we can afford to have more on the plate than is advisable, much less required? Where did the idea “more is better” come from?

Okay, bear with me: I looked it up and “more is better” relates to economic theory and indifference curves.  I won’t bore you with the details or the math but suffice it to say that when thinking of things you prefer, your first reaction is usually that more of that preferred thing is better. (I know, the only part that stuck in your head is the idea that somehow economics relates to melting cheese. You’re thinking, “why didn’t my first year Economics prof say THAT?!”)

The problem is, once you reflect on this principle you also realize that at a certain point you are working harder to get something that is giving you less at the end of the day. That’s called “diminishing returns”. With melted cheese, diminishing returns occur when your waistline grows faster than your ability to appreciate a new recipe. (If you want to know the best cheese to use for melting, this link is a quick study. )

The simple truth is, not many people get excited about salad videos. I have worked with kids on the topic of “edible education” and the best competing concept I can offer is to eat a rainbow.   It’s fun to make skewers of fruit or veggies in all colours, and talk about all the different nutrients and tastes they offer. But the kids only really go crazy for cookies or ice cream. (Cheese becomes a fixation when you’re older, apparently.)

I’m not espousing a dairy-free diet. I for one am not giving up cheese anytime soon. I do hope that we can all live healthy enough lives to enjoy more cheese over time. Mostly, I just wanted to share a few random thoughts. Does anyone else wonder about this stuff?

Maybe we should just work to make food more artful. Can you imagine mid-week dinners looking like this?

 

 

 

Beware the Ides of March

Yesterday was a lighthearted day in the world of food – it was Pi Day (3-14, as in the mathematical value giving the ratio of a circle’s circumference to its diameter. ) In my humble opinion it was a construct created by some bored mathematicians trying to justify a bit of dessert, but hey, whatever floats your boat. I suppose one could say we make up for it with today’s significance, in the infamy of the quote from ancient Roman times that forbode the assassination of Julius Caesar in 44 B.C. A psychic had told the Emperor he would not live past March 15th, and sure enough he was killed on his way to a Senate meeting. His death triggered a civil war.

ITALY – SEPTEMBER 09: The death of Caesar, March 15, 44 BC, by Vincenzo Camuccini (1771-1844), 1798, oil on canvas, 400×707 cm. Detail. Republican, Italy, 1st century BC. (Photo by DeAgostini/Getty Images)

Now I don’t intend to rain on anyone’s parade today – it’s Hump Day too, and I try not to add to the stress of everyday life but rather lighten it. So, hang on till the end and you will be rewarded, I promise. I just thought you might find it interesting that the 15th of March is a day prone to unfortunate events, to say the least. (All the more reason for rejoicing when we make it through, right?)

Did you know that March 15 was the day in 1917 that the Czar Nicholas II abdicated the throne, ending a royal dynasty in Russia that had lasted over 300 years? To make matters worse, he and his family did not get to live out their lives happily in exile; they were taken captive and executed a year later. The same day in 1939 is when Germany invaded Czechoslovakia. Things certainly went downhill after that.

Weather phenomena of nasty proportions have taken their toll on the Ides of March as well. In 1889, a cyclone sank six warships off the coast of Samoa. Over 200 sailors died. In 1941, a blizzard blew through the American Midwest; at least 60 deaths were related to the storm. The world record for rainfall on a single day happened on March 15, and NASA announced the alarmingly fast decrease in the ozone layer in 1988.

With all of this historic data – and more – I deemed it necessary to invoke another ancient quote:

carpe diem, quam minimum credula postero

You have likely heard the first part of this quote from the Roman poet, Horace. It usually translates as “Seize the day, trust not in tomorrow”. I agree that Horace’s intent was not to scare people into thinking about death, but rather to take action and make the most of one’s life.

With that in mind, I’ll remind you that it’s #WineWednesday (yes, that really is a thing). If you’re not a wine drinker, you can still toast your good health with your beverage of choice – craft beer, artisan cocktail, home-pressed juice, even a glass of Coke – or filtered water – will do the trick. It’s the action that counts. If you can, support a local business and try something fun. We are very fortunate in the Okanagan to have many wineries and breweries as well as distilleries with wonderful libations, and there are more in other parts of British Columbia. If you’re interested, here are a few references:

And, in the interest of being a responsible drinker and also enjoying life to the fullest, I suggest you add some food to your celebrations. Cheese is lovely with wine, or beer. The folks at Bright Cellars have a wonderful website with a Cheese Quiz that might help you choose (and if you live in the U.S. you can join their cheese club!) Or perhaps some veggies and dip? if I do say so myself, my Hummus recipe is pretty darn good. Even if you’d rather skip ahead to dessert, make the most of it – Chocolate Soufflé fits the decadent side of life, but if you need something more practical, Chocolate Wacky Cake can be whipped up in a jiffy.

However your day is going (or went, depending on when you read this), it’s always worth taking a moment to breathe in and rejoice. I myself feel extra fortunate, since food and drink are most often shared. That gives me one more reason to celebrate; being around a table with others is sustenance on another level.

Short and sweet

I had intended to write about Friday afternoon cocktails today, but that outing was kaiboshed, so I shall hold that idea for another posting. I do have a redeeming thought, brought about by a dinner inspired by our purchases from a recent visit to Granville Island Market in Vancouver (one of my most favourite foodie haunts).

We had a winter picnic tonight, enjoying treats such as raw milk cheeses and fresh exotic fruits. I read an article in SAVEUR magazine recently about a newly appointed cheese from Switzerland called L’Etivaz (appointed in that they have designated a style and protocols for the making of said cheese). I looked for it, and was thrilled to find it at Benton Bros., the cheesemonger. It was deliciously nutty, and went very well with the tomato chili jam I had.  Martin splurged and got a beautiful mango – it cost $12.38 ! He made a delectable salad with jicama, cilantro and an Asian vinaigrette. A bottle of local wine gave us the chance to toast our good fortune, while bringing back memories of my time in France – Quails’ Gate’s Cailleteau, a light red in the style of Beaujolais Nouveau.

cheese-and-wine-picnic

It was a wonderful way to round out the holiday season. After all, today was Epiphany, the 12th night. I made a traditional torte, just as I remembered from France. (It sounds even more grand when you say “Galette des Rois“, I think. “King Cake” is what they call it in New Orleans, where they eat it at Mardi Gras.)

twelfth-night-torte

 

Here’s to celebrating every day of the year in its own way. Life is short, why not make the most of it?

Sandwich Making for Dummies

An example of a really sad sandwich, not something to aspire to...

An example of a really sad sandwich, not something to aspire to…

I just consumed the few edible parts of what was called a sandwich by a shop in Revelstoke that shall remain nameless as I hope this was an unusual occurrence. It has prompted me to write this post, thus preventing further such lunchtime tragedies. This sandwich was not quite as pathetic as a BLT I once had that was missing the bacon (1/3 of its identity!!) Dare I say there is such a thing as sandwich etiquette?

 I’d like to offer up some simple tips for a successful sandwich:

  1. TAKE YOUR SANDWICH SERIOUSLY. If you own or work in a sandwich shop, eat your product and make sure it works. This should be good value food, something you are proud to share with others. If you are making a sandwich just for you, then take a minute to prepare something tasty that you will enjoy, not endure. Even a PB & J deserves a little respect 🙂
  2. If you are taking orders in an establishment that makes sandwiches, please TAKE THE ORDER CORRECTLY AND FOLLOW UP TO ENSURE IT GETS MADE CORRECTLY. (Do I sound like a Seinfeld episode?)  I ordered a vegetarian sandwich on multigrain. My companion ordered turkey on white. I got vegetarian on white, and he got turkey on multigrain. I would have preferred waiting when the person handing over the bag discovered the error rather than eat something I didn’t order.
  3. When including vegetables such as cucumbers and tomatoes in a sandwich, SEASON WITH SALT AND PEPPER. Even when you’re using the freshest ingredients from your own garden, a touch of seasoning won’t hurt, and with the commercial groceries most establishments use, salt and pepper can be life savers in elevating the taste of the finished product.
  4. Remember, NOT ALL MEATS & CHEESES ARE CREATED EQUALLY. Choose one that fits the tenor of the rest of your sandwich. Tomatoes and lettuce from the garden deserve something more than a Kraft Single or a slice of processed turkey.
  5. For condiments and spreads, DISTRIBUTE EVENLY on the bread or wrap. If you’re going to count this item as a component that contributes to the flavour of your sandwich, then you want to taste it with every bite. Don’t be chinzy! (If it’s too expensive to spread all over, then don’t use it; otherwise you’re just teasing people.) 
    misproportioned sandwich

    A sandwich out of proportion – too much bread versus filling. It’s also hard to fit in your mouth!

  6. BUILD YOUR SANDWICH PROPERLY so it holds together as you eat it. No one wants salami slapping on their chin, or tomaatoes and cheese sliding out the back end on the first bite.
    1. The bread or bun needs to hold together, not be so soft that a spread or other moist filling makes it go squishy. If it’s toasted, then don’t wimp out – make it crispy! Otherwise it’s just warm bread. Don’t use anything too crusty though, or you won’t be able to bite through the whole sandwich.
    2. Tomatoes, cucumber and other slippery ingredients need to be not-too-thick, or they will slide around too much. Try to put other ingredients in between two slippery ones if you have them.
    3. Lettuce works best if it’s in bigger pieces, or entirely shredded. Little torn bits don’t give even distribution.
    4. Bigger is not always better. You should  be able to fit the entire width of the sandwich in your mouth, so you can taste the whole thing.
      Dividing lunch components so they don't squash each other or leak is important for your enjoyment.

      Dividing lunch components so they don’t squash each other or leak is important for your enjoyment.

  1. PACK YOUR SANDWICH PROPERLY. If you’re not eating a sandwich immediately then this is an important element to enjoying it later.
    1. Squishy ingredients are best wrapped separately, to be added just before eating.
    2. Bread softens when wrapped, especially with added fillings, so consider that when choosing your bread in the sandwich-making phase.
    3. Don’t drop an apple on top of it. If you must pack harder things in with your sandwich, think about a plastic container, or pack those items under the sandwich in your lunchbox or bag.
    4. Be food safe. If your sandwich has dairy, meat or fish it should stay as close to fridge temperature as possible until you eat it. Use an insulated container and cold packs if need be.

 

Now, that’s not so hard, is it? Trust me, you won’t regret taking a moment to appreciate this simple portable meal. Show your sandwich some respect and you will feel better about yourself all day.

A happy sandwich!

A happy sandwich!

Breakfast makes the world go round

Muffets was my favourite cereal growing up – especially with hot milk and brown sugar.

When I was young and in a hurry to get out the door, I thought there were more important things than eating breakfast before I left. My Dad thought otherwise, and he made sure my brother and I always had breakfast to start the day. Now I am grateful for that; breakfast is a ritual that I enjoy and on days when I can make the most of it I feel like I am spoiled.

Last week my husband and I took a day away and went on the road to just enjoy each other’s company and spend some quality  time together. We didn’t have breakfast at home but felt sure we could find something fun on the road. We were right.

We stopped at a place I had seen many times from the highway but never had the chance to stop and check out. We took that right turn and wandered into the Lake Country Coffee House. The service was friendly, the menu looked appetizing, the art on the walls was very cool, and the chai latte warmed the cockles of my heart. The  lemon poppyseed loaf and raspberry muffin we ate in the car as we continued on the road were fresh and delectable, full of flavour.  My insides were humming.

We had a fun day in Salmon Arm, lounging around and visiting with friends. The next morning we got up early to check out the local farmer’s market so breakfast started with fresh organic cherries and strawberries from one of the stands. We licked our sticky fingers and headed out to our next stop, Gorts Gouda Cheese Farm. Coffee with fresh farm cream is like a whole new experience, I have to tell you. And their aged gouda will be fun to match with a wine – perhaps a Riesling, or maybe a Merlot? I’ll have fun sampling with the piece I bought. We petted a few super-soft calf noses and then we headed off down the road. 

Just to make sure we wouldn’t be lacking in energy later in the day, we decided to check out a local spot for something more substantial. The Blue Canoe Bakery & Cafe makes a mean breakfast sandwich, with a fried egg that leaks out the side, fresh tomatoes and toast that is crisp but not burnt. We sat and solved the problems of the world as we munched.

The rest of our day was a roaring success, more great memories and relaxing time together, all fueled by a good breakfast. I know ordinary days often don’t have the time that days away do, but at least a good breakfast puts you in the right frame of mind. I highly recommend it.

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