It’s been hot the last couple of weeks. So hot the last thing I wanted to do was turn on the oven. I don’t know what was worse, having all those ideas of baking pies and crisps and pound cakes that incorporated all the fruit coming into season or sweating through the muggy days with only a small air conditioner that was as overwhelmed as me.
Finally today it clouded over and cooled just a little. I whipped out an old magazine and started the quickest recipe I could remember – fruit streusel muffins I used to make when I first started baking. I had peaches sitting on the counter, so away I went!
About an hour later, I was duly rewarded. Not only did the house smell divinely delicious. there was a rack of muffins proudly displaying themselves on the kitchen island.
I did not hesitate. I poured myself a fresh cup of coffee, grabbed a side plate and a dob of butter, and sat myself down with a warm muffin. Nirvana was the word that came to mind.
It’s supposed to warm up again tomorrow. But we are coming to the end of summer, and there is still plenty to harvest. The fast has been broken, and I feel a burden has been lifted from my gourmand soul.
Not to mention there are more muffins awaiting consumption. I might just have one for breakfast…
A New Year. Endless possibilities. A whole world of opportunity and adventure. And the chance to get back to more healthy eating and avoid the never-ending indulgences of baked goods and cocktails. It all sounds simple in theory.
But I’m sitting here wishing there were just a few mincemeat tarts left, or maybe one more lebkuchen. My cup of tea is lonely. I did work out this morning, so I would be deserving of a wee something, wouldn’t I?
It’s hard to start fresh. The pressure of new goals, new resolutions, hopes for improving oneself; it’s all a lot to handle. I wonder if it didn’t come on the heels of all that Christmas spirit, would even bother attempting such lofty efforts? Who can blame us if we need a little help in getting over the hump?
The Epiphany is the closing gesture on our holiday season, by some accounts the twelfth day of Christmas. I like to celebrate in the French tradition, with a Galette des Rois, but I have also enjoyed the New Orleans version with an English name: King Cake. Either way, it’s a nice treat to share, shaking off the after-Christmas blues and giving us that kickstart for the New Year.
Food is sustenance, in many different ways. Perhaps as a gourmand, I need more sustenance than the average soul. The ambience of a good meal shared around the table is as fulfilling as the meal itself.
One of my kindred spirits, Winnie the Pooh, expressed this philosophy best.
“When you wake up in the morning, Pooh,” said Piglet at last, “what’s the first thing you say to yourself?”
“What’s for breakfast?” said Pooh. “What do you say, Piglet?”
“I say, I wonder what’s going to happen exciting today?” said Piglet.
Pooh nodded thoughtfully. “It’s the same thing,” he said.”
So whether a piece of cake does the trick, or the company of a friend with whom to share that cake, it’s still time well spent (and calories well consumed, if you ask me.)
Do you ever end up on an adventure because of some small moment? Often life gets in the way of us being able to take advantage of serendipity, but with food and drink it can happen more easily. Today is a day we got to enjoy such an adventure.
I like to window shop at food stores. If you’re not a foodie you probably think I’m crazy but I believe it’s a skill I have developed as a Gourmande. I can ferret out an obscure condiment or spice from a shelf full of otherwise mundane choices, and I can imagine an entire dinner party with the inspiration of a single ingredient. Those things tend to happen on more random occasions, especially when you live in a smaller city with not much in the way of specialty food shops. I always have my eyes peeled for opportunities…
Over the holidays, I was at the liquor store (as happens on more of a regular basis than the rest of the year). I was buying rum for holiday egg nog and Christmas pudding hard sauce but being a wine geek I did wander through the wine section. We live in wine country, so we tend to drink more local wine but I love wines from all over. Imagine my delight when I saw a bottle of Chianti wrapped in straw! You know, the ones our parents had with a candle stuck in them, like they were channeling that romantic scene from “Lady and the Tramp”?
How could I resist? I would be able to dress up a lazy night when we ordered pizza, or I could turn my husband’s favourite meal – spaghetti and meatballs – into a romantic evening. And all for under $20! I bought s bottle and tucked it away in our pantry (a.k.a. Back-up supply of goods, and my special storage for “good things”).
So this morning when my beloved said, “what would you like for dinner? I have some meatballs in the freezer we could have…”, I saw my serendipitous moment. It’s slow season for us, so being a “school night” doesn’t matter; we can put regular routines aside for the evening and none of the balls will fall out of the air. I picked up spaghetti to make sure he didn’t use just any old pasta, and pulled the wine from its hiding place. I dug out the checkered napkins for added effect. The candles are ready, and the table is set. I might even put on a bit of Billy Joel…
And so now I have to go, and as they say, “slip into something more comfortable.” We are having a romantic dinner. See you tomorrow!
(Watch for my new candle holder in a future post!)
I write about the passion I have for food – its tastes and textures, the variations that come with different spices or cultural evolution, and how it affects the rest of my day. All this seems normal to me but every once in a while I do remember that there are people who don’t relate to food in the same way. For some, food is really just a means to an end; eating a meal is just a fuel stop. But I don’t think that means they don’t enjoy the experience, perhaps the company or the memory that might go with a food item. After all, Tim Hortons TV commercials wouldn’t be nearly as poignant if they just showed people drinking coffee without showing us where they are or who they share it with, would they?
So am I a food snob ? Did the enthusiasm from foodies like me inspire the market to offer exotic ingredients on a more regular basis?? Am I to blame for the impression we have as a society that the value of food is only as much as the latest grocery flyer says? This may sound like faulty logic but I have started to wonder if we are reaping the harvest sown from our own greed.
When I was a kid, many of the foods that are imported from faraway places were rare, expensive, and only seen at certain times of year.
Gradually it got easier for those foods to become more common on grocery shelves; the world got smaller. And then stores got bigger. And then prices dropped and you could buy a pineapple for $1.99 or kiwi 3 for a dollar. Pretty soon it was cheaper to buy a plastic box of strawberries from Mexico or Chile than it was to buy the ones from the local farmer’s market. Now you can get just about anything you want – ingredients or prepared food – at Costco and places like it. So, does this go against the philosophy of supporting your local farmers? Am I committing a foodie sin if I shop at those big box places??
(I’ll continue with part 2 of this post tomorrow. In the meantime, I’d love your comments!)