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My Moment of Zen

In a world where things move at 4G (or is it 5G now, I can’t remember) and there is a lot of non-stop noise, it’s nice to enjoy a slow and quiet moment. One of my favourite reasons for walking the dog is to have those kind of moments. Another way I take a deep breath is to spend time in my garden. The first method I discovered for stepping back from the fray was reading.

Today I stopped at the local Chapters to stock up on reading material. I do have books at home, but I was looking for inspiration, new information to broaden my horizons. I also have to manage my time and focus on priorities. I don’t know about you, but if I have a good book I have been known to disappear inside it for lengths of time. I can only allow shorter intervals right now, so having something that was of shorter duration was more practical. A few food magazines was just enough to do the trick.

Just buying the magazines put me in a state of euphoria. Choosing publications that offered something unique was important; I don’t need to read about 15 different variations on brownies or omelettes. I wanted something outside the box.

Scooping up the last few issues of Lucky Peach was important; if you haven’t heard of this periodical yet, unfortunately it’s almost too late. The offbeat and ingenious effort from Momofuku’s David Chang and Peter Meehan will be shutting down later this year. (I invite you to at least check out their website for brilliantly written pieces.)

I am a fan of foodie travel, and my current favourite on that front is Saveur. There used to be a similar magazine called Intermezzo which I loved, but I can’t find it anymore. (You have to roll with the punches.) I have learned of cuisines in faraway places, and ingredients I never knew existed. I have added places to my bucket list and filled my kitchen with aromas that had me transported across the world.

As a treat, I picked up a special edition on California wine, as we are travelling there in the fall. Not only will I have some new pairing ideas, I might find a few pit stops. After all, travelling is thirsty work.

Hiding in the back shelves was a title I hadn’t seen before, so I splurged and picked it up too. I love to know how things work and Milk Street is all about the how’s and why’s of a dish. It’s a new publication; I’ll let you know how I like it.

I suppose you could call this literary gluttony a guilty pleasure. There are many websites with foodie information, and articles galore on every topic imaginable. But there is something comforting in putting my feet up and flipping those glossy pages, pondering the delectable food photos as I sip my tea. I consider this akin to meditation, a time for my mind to wander at leisure with no agenda. As much as my workouts are important to stay in shape and my recipe testing helps with my writing, a bit of mental free time helps me find my ways to new ideas. Sometimes, like a walk with Ella where I let her decide the route, my mind will wander down its own path and find a solution to a challenge that doesn’t even involve food.

I read an article today about Paula Wolfert, a renowned cookbook author and icon in the world of food and restaurants. She has Alzheimer’s disease, and so not only does she not remember how to cook many recipes anymore – she also has lost much of her sense of taste. And yet, she is still working with food and with people who want to learn from her. (I can’t wait to read the biography of her that is coming out soon. If you’d like to read the article, it’s on my Facebook page. ) 

Reading Ms. Wolfert’s story reminded me that every moment counts. Even with a life rich in memories, we need to make every effort to live our best life in every moment.  There is a zen saying:

Quiet the mind and the soul will speak.

I’d like my soul’s vocabulary to improve.




Best friends in the kitchen

I am in Calgary visiting a long-standing girlfriend and it has been wonderful to catch up and have some quality “girl time”. We have been around for numerous events in each other’s lives, but  it’s nice to enjoy everyday things together too. One of the reasons I always knew we could be good friends was how we could operate in a kitchen together.  From a simple cup of coffee (or tea, now as we get older and don’t tolerate the caffeine :)) to a full -fledged family meal or even entertaining, we can putter away together and always come up with something that tastes wonderful and looks great, and we have fun doing it. Not only are we nourished by the food, but also by the company.

Perhaps it is a mutual love of dance that helps us understand the way people need to weave in and out of a kitchen, orchestrating movements so that they are efficient and also harmonious. Maybe it is simply the love of life we share, that need to make the most of moments as they happen and take in all the magic they have to offer. Summing up a moment with a toast at the table is a wonderful way to ensure that memory is catalogued for future enjoyment.

It could be that we both come by our love of the kitchen honestly, too… both of our Moms have spent a lot of time there over the years and I think the smell of good food growing up does affect your brain. When you have a Mom who combines the practicality of cooking for a family with the desire to ensure the food is enjoyed as an experience, then you have a perfect recipe for success. I was thrilled to be able to spend time with Sue’s mom, Alice, on this trip – we spent a thoroughly enjoyable time at Heritage Park, having brunch, singing carols, petting reindeer, and hearing all kinds of great stories – many from pioneer kitchens. (I’ll be posting the awesome pictures as soon as I get home.)

I will be posting more on my trip to my old stomping ground in the coming week – Calgary has become a great city for us gourmands. Now I am off to lunch!

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