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Meant to be 

I am one of the lucky ones. This week we had the day for lovers. It is the worst if you’re single and wishing you weren’t. You are reminded everywhere that you should be with someone. But I believe togetherness comes in many forms, and love takes many shapes. I am happy having my soulmate by my side but that is my life, and not what everyone wants. Happiness does not come from another, it comes from within. Sharing it is just part of the fun. 

That said, I will admit I am  a sucker for romance.i love rose petals on the bed and kisses and dinner by candlelight. I even consider it a sign that expressions of like-minded people are linked to food: “two peas in a pod”, “like bread and butter, salt & pepper”, etc. And I love spontaneous moments that make me feel connected. 

We had one of those moments on a touring day during our  vacation. We spent the day traveling the island of Cozumel in a rented jeep. My man upgraded to the jeep, intending it to be reminiscent of a movie scene from “The Thomas Crown Affair”, with Pierce Brianna and Renée Rousseau. It’s a very romantic and sexy movie, full of elegant scenes with the couple.  After only a few kilometres on the road it became more like “Romancing the Stone”, with Kurt Douglas and Kathleen Turner. More adventure than elegance, requiring more humour than grace. But we laughed and took pictures to document the story, and headed to a secluded beach anyway, despite the clunks and bangs in the vehicle. 

We were repaid for our perseverance on the beach while admiring the treasures washed ashore (and not focusing on the garbage – that topic is for another post). Each of us picked up a piece of a conch shell, still retaining some of its satiny pink lustre. As we stopped to show each other our finds, we realized a certain symmetry… sure enough, they fit together!


 I don’t want to refer to that other romantic movie about completing each other, but well you know, if the shoe fits…

Now that we are home, the memories of this day will be added to our collection of stories we tell others, and each other, over the years. We will laugh at the humour in the jeep “upgrade”, and wistfully remember all the spectacular photos forever lost when his phone went in the waves as he took a shot of me in the water. It wasn’t a perfect day, but it will be a very special memory. 

Our deal as soulmates is we focus on us as a team. When one is down, the other one pulls us back up. The phone went in the water and I didn’t say anything, I just handed mine over and said, “let’s just take more pictures”.  If I ever feel not quite up to par, he is there to cheer me on and remind me how special I am. (If I get really down he might even scold me about beating myself up.) That’s what special people do. 

Your person might be a friend, or relative, or mentor… if you don’t have one, it doesn’t hurt to ask people you know if they will give more. I have discovered that most of us want to, but we are afraid to offend. 

As we move past Valentine’s Day and look towards the coming spring, how about we all try to be someone’s cherry on their sundae – even just for a moment? The world could use a bit more love. There is no such thing as too many smiling people, too many happy hearts. 

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Breathe. Think good thoughts. Repeat. 

Apparently it’s “Blue Monday” today – the day you are most likely to be depressed due to it being the dead of winter. Well I for one am not going to just roll over and give up. Thankfully, if I felt that bad I know I have friends I could contact. (If you don’t think you have anyone, reach out to a professional – there is a hand if you have the courage to ask!) 


If you can be of help, please do so. It will mean a lot, even if it’s a little thing. 

Seen at Third Space Coffee in Kelowna – ok, it’s tongue in cheek but a good reminder to connect.


So, taking the positive route, I’m just having a moment today to let my imagination work. A moment to think on my good work of late, and what else I’d like to do – or need to get done. I encourage everyone to do the same. 


Here’s to all of us! 

Funny, I just remembered it’s Martin Luther King Day, because I thought of one of his quotes:


Do good! We all have it in us. 

So what’s in store this year?

2016 hoopla

A new calendar year begins, and we all get a chance to be pundits. Since food is my topic of choice, I thought I might as well weigh in, so here are my top 3 picks for trends, and some gratuitous commentary on what I have read from other sources. Feel free to add your two cents below, please!

Food Trend Predictions for 2016

  1. HYBRID DRINKS – it’s not enough that bartenders have created shrubs, syrups and other concoctions to come up with weird and wonderful cocktails… now we have to combine what we already have! Have you heard of “boffee”, or nitro coffee? I wondered at first if that was just a redneck version of a wine spritzer, but no, apparently it’s a real drink: iced coffee served “on tap” using nitrogen to create bubbles, just like a draught beer. superfood cocktailsCoconut water, Red Bull and all kinds of superfoods are being added to cocktails; just think, you can get drunk and prepare for your hangover at the same time!
  2. CLASSY SNACKS – crackers and cheese just doesn’t cut the mustard anymore, folks. You need ethnic dips, ancient grain chips, popcorn with exotic oil & seasoning… or at least use goat cheese drizzled with honey on those gluten-free crackers.funky small plates Serving snacks is an art as well; if you haven’t invested in funky small plates, then you’d better visit Pinterest soon for a cool idea using something you can find in your pantry and “up-cycle” with a bit of burlap and a hot glue gun 🙂
  3. COOKING WITH GARBAGE – If you have been in a hole and not listening to the outraged food geeks in our part of the world, you won’t know that we suddenly realized our penchant for having every kind of food available year round and it all being perfect and unique has meant we are wasting an obscene amount of food. Chefs have now made it cool to use the stuff our moms used to regularly transform from the back of the fridge to the table. cooking with garbageDan Barber from Blue Hill in New York served “Dog Food” on his menu last summer during his themed period of working with food otherwise not used – it was ground meat using the cuts the butcher couldn’t sell.

If you aren’t already trying out these new concepts, then here’s your chance to jump on the bandwagon. After all, you don’t want to be the last person in the lunchroom still eating a tuna sandwich, do you?

One trend whose demise I’d like to support is the use of the word foodie. Adam Sach’s recent editorial in Saveur is right on the money:

Maybe we can just focus on the pleasures of eating, cooking and drinking and leave the labels where they belong – on modified corn and the side of wine bottles.

As much as there are chefs innovating with new foods, new fusion and new science, there are also restaurant brands that are working hard to be everything for everybody. McDonalds has coffee now, and menu items which can be custom made (including lettuce wraps instead of buns). Forgive me for sounding snobbish, but I don’t think that improves anything. Do you really go to McDonalds for a healthy meal? That’s like going to Robuchon for take-out, or cheap chicken wings. As consumers we should encourage businesses to be unique, to do what they do best – not to be like every other place in town. Laziness doesn’t benefit anyone in the food chain.

I don’t want to sound preachy, but I do believe wholeheartedly in the importance of good food and the time to enjoy it properly. And when we want to enjoy junk food we should make that an authentic experience as well. No labels, no obligations. Life is too short.

 

 

The Secret to a Happy Christmas Dinner

happy Christmas dinnerChristmas is my favourite time of year, and Christmas dinner seems to epitomize the festive season: the food and drink and best of all, the company. Just think – at what other time of year can you argue about whether the dressing should be traditional or adventurous, or agonize over which tablecloth would look nicer, and which serving pieces to put out to make sure Aunt So-and-so sees the gift you never otherwise use! (Okay, maybe in the closest families that happens every Sunday, but it seems most of the other days of the year we are far too busy to spend that much time on dinner.) On that point I agree with the Chef – be grateful you have those people you care about enough to argue with, and toast their good health before you dive into that sumptuous dinner.

As far as the menu goes, I have always been one who liked to “upset the apple cart” so to speak, by trying to suggest some new (or old) twist on the Christmas dinner. I wanted to try goose after having read Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol”. I always wondered what Brussels sprouts tasted like and figured they couldn’t really be as bad as my Dad said. And who wouldn’t marvel at the idea of marshmallows at the dinner table, all toasted over a dish of sweet potatoes! Then there was the stuffing. This was a topic that was hotly discussed by my parents, as my Mom read more cooking magazines and my Dad pined for the “good old days” when celery and sage were all it needed. (Years later, he would be the one saying why hadn’t we added walnuts or used cornbread earlier!)  But if you ask me what I remember about Christmas dinner, it is not the specific menu items but rather that warm and fuzzy feeling that came once the plates were empty.

I for one don’t think it was merely the tryptophan that made me groggy and light-headed at Christmas; it was more that sense of euphoria that comes over you when you immerse yourself in the spirit of Christmas. If you truly believe in the essence of Christmas then as you let it into your heart and take active part in the festivities and the giving, you cannot help but feel better yourself. Children know this intuitively, and it is only as our hearts harden if we don’t practice such things that we lose sight of the true meaning of this holiday. Christmas is not for children, but for the child that lies within us all, hoping for a chance to believe in something pure and good, and listening for that magic signal which says that something exists.

Grinch carving the roast beast

So if you need a dose of “It’s A Wonderful Life” or “The Polar Express” before Christmas dinner to get you in full gear, go right ahead. When you sit down to dinner, cherish the meal, and those around you, and of course the cook who made it possible. It is important to take Christmas to heart, for if you do it right, it just might stay with you until next year. Wouldn’t that make the world a wonderful place?

As Tiny Tim said so long ago, “God Bless us every one.” Merry Christmas from our table to yours. Tiny Tim Bless Us Everyone

More Shades of Grey than I can count

I couldn’t help it, the urge was too great. The range of emotions I have felt over the last few weeks has been a roller coaster ride of epic proportions, encompassing passion, melancholy, lust and even anger. I had to share my experience.

I am speaking of course about the wonder of our autumn season this year, the ever-changing colours of the foliage spanning more than two glorious months with each day showcased under a new variation of grey. I feel as though I have been watIMG_4058ching a symphony being composed.IMG_3752

016e3521d3983acedf1539c2b208982ac2560217ddIMG_2369In honour of the allusion I put in my title, I wanted to suggest a tribute to this spectacular season. So, I am offering 50 ways we can appreciate the wonder of autumn, and the passing of life in general. I’ve started my list in my Happy Gourmand Castanet column and I listed more suggestions on my Happy Gourmand Facebook page. I include ten below, and I’ll wrap up with my last 10 on Remembrance Day on Facebook.

1. Take a walk in the morning and start your day with a dose of appreciation for the fresh air and all of Mother Nature’s fine work, including the shade of grey.

2. Spend a quality moment with your kids (if you don’t have kids or can’t borrow some, a pet will do just fine.) Enjoy their company, listen to what they have to say. They might surprise you with their honest view on things. It might show you a new shade 🙂

3. Perform a random act of kindness and watch the grey lift away.

4. Bake some cookies and taste a little sweetness to lighten a particularly dark day. Might I suggest my Tropical Delight cookies?

5. Listen to music and tap your toes to something that will make you see all the colours of the rainbow.   

6. Take a yoga class. Stretch, relax, and maybe make a new friend.

7. Invite friends over for dinner. Even if it’s a potluck, the shared company will brighten the greyness.

8. Go see a movie with a friend. Share your popcorn, laugh afterwards about the funny parts, or share a meaningful look if it was sad. The grey will be forgotten for at least a moment.

9. Send a card to a faraway friend and tell them how much you miss them. You will brighten your day and theirs!

10. Simply take a moment and breathe deep. Feel grateful. That’s all.

foggy winter morning Rabbit Hollow

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