Yesterday I had a little afternoon snack, and as I took my first bite I was inadvertently thrown back in time to my childhood. Suddenly I wasn’t eating a delightful nibble of pâté and crackers… I was in my school lunchroom, eating what was then known to me as a meatspread sandwich. It was completely humbling.
As a child I really disliked meatspread. Little did I know then that it was a grocery store version of what I would covet as an adult, under the name of goose liver pâté. It was an inexpensive sandwich filling, a change-up from canned tuna or egg salad. My mom did her best to make it appealing: she put it on fresh French bread and added sliced sweet pickles.
The problem was, in those days “French bread” was in the shape of a fat baguette but it was still soft bread. The meat spread was rather firm stuff, and by the time it got distributed across a slice of bread, there could be squished places or even worse, holes, where the pickle juice would seep through and give the sandwich a soggy spot by lunchtime.
I ate my meatspread sandwiches anyway. They were certainly my least favourite, but I was a growing girl who was perpetually hungry so I wasn’t going to not eat. I saw other kids that had lunches with less appealing ingredients than meat spread, in my opinion. I was lucky my mom was a good cook, and a crafty packer of a bag lunch. (Her best trick was to take a piece of Chocolate Wacky Cake and pull the bottom half away, sticking it on top of the icing. Then you didn’t lose any icing when you unwrapped it from the waxed paper!)
I had a rueful smile yesterday as the memory of pickles and meatspread washed over me. It didn’t taste that bad at all, on one of my sourdough crackers. But then, I’m a much wiser foodie now, aren’t I?
It’s Father’s Day today, and I’m sad. I feel rather forlorn. You see, I grew up as a Princess, with all the trappings of a young girl in a magic kingdom. I had an idyllic childhood, full of happy memories in good times and lessons learned in tough times. Everything always turned out okay, and more often than not it felt that way because my Dad was the one to cheer me on or push me on. After all, he was the one who made me a Princess. The problem is, he’s gone now.
I miss my dad every day, but Father’s Day hurts in a special melancholy way. It makes me remember the myriad of things that my Dad taught me, and then the breath catches in my throat as I am struck with not being able to tell him or hug him to say thanks.
I don’t like to dwell on the past – you can’t live there. But I don’t want to forget “wonderful Daddy from Winnipeg” , as we used to joke should be his title. So if you’ll indulge me, I’m going to mention some of my favourite memories and learnings:
- Waking up to music he would play… I had a turntable in my bedroom and he would come down and put a record on to wake me up for school. Billy Joel, The Eagles, Supertramp, Neil Diamond, Nilsson. I still love “Dad rock”, as all that music is now labelled.
- Watching CBS Sunday Morning, together and then separately when I was older, but still sharing our love for the good news and the quirky discoveries in the world. I still watch, and often smile at stories I know he would have enjoyed.
- Marching to “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice” – through the house, pretending to be like Mickey Mouse with his broom.. The whole family would march in a line, my brother and I swinging our imaginary brooms with great fervor and my Mom bringing up the rear (to make sure things didn’t get too crazy). We’d go down the hall and over their bed, even. It makes me smile every time I think of it.
- Eating the fried egg sandwiches he used to make me before early morning high school basketball practice. I wish now I had practiced even harder. I wish I’d known then that stronger arms would have helped my shot. But he cheered me on through my clutziness, and even bought season tickets to the Vancouver Grizzlies’ inaugural season years later, so we could watch games live. I travelled from Calgary whenever I could, and we saw Michael Jordan play!
- His sayings still get me through tough days – “Illegitimum non carborundum est” (don’t let the bastards get you down) and “optireculitis” (a condition in which your optical nerve gets tangled with your rectum, giving you a shitty outlook) . When I felt as though the world was against me, he would always say, “Who loves you, Kricky? Your Daddy does.”
- Our trip to Maui was full of great memories and lots of laughter. He hadn’t been well and the quality time was good for both of us. I was so chuffed when one of the last times we spoke he talked of how great that trip was…
- The Treehouse Bistro, which was the 2 directors chairs at the corner window in his West End apartment, was the place we solved all the problems of the world on many a Friday night. Now I have the chairs, and every time I sit in one I think of our great ideas, and the spectacular meals we ate in them.
- “Where’s the other 2 percent ?” – the answer to my declaration that I got 98% on a test at school. Then it was frustrating to be teased, but it made me tough enough to take the blows the world dealt me, and it made me want to push myself and improve.
- “Drive till you get there”. Learning to drive, a standard no less, was stress at a new level with my dad, who was an RCMP officer for a time as a young man. Thanks for keeping me safe, Daddy.
- “If you got it, flaunt it”. This wasn’t meant to be trashy, but rather to encourage my self-confidence. My dad knew I was the not the kind of kid who fit in, and he more than anyone helped me learn to be myself, and be proud of that.
- “Take 10 pictures for every one you want. Film is cheap.” Nowadays it’s even cheaper with digital pics, and I’m thankful to have memories recorded. I wish I had copies of more of my childhood photos!
I could go on, but perhaps the most important thing I learned, ironically, came from the fact that he got sick. For many years the doctors predicted he didn’t have long to live, so my dad did not sit back to save for a rainy day. He lived the Carpe Diem philosophy to the fullest he could. It shaped my life, and has been my motivation to strive for that balance in life we all hope to have.
I so wish we’d had more time together. But I am so thankful for all that I got from my dad. I might be a Princess without a kingdom but I am still a Princess. I can still flaunt it, I can still battle the dragons, I can still reach for my happily ever after. I know somewhere there is a soul out there smiling proudly. Who loves you, Daddy? Your Kricky Princess, that’s who.
It’s a day off today, so we made a plan for our free kitchen time. In the spirit of Sunday morning, a day of traditionally indulgent eating, we chose to make donuts.
My dad and I made cake donuts a few times when I was a kid and it was a very fond memory. We did it again years later when I was in my thirties; we couldn’t find the original recipe so we worked out another one. We called the recipe “Born Again Donuts“, as it was a resounding success.
Today I went wild and created a new variation (it’s listed with the recipe in the link). My dad loved an adventure; I’m pretty sure he would have approved of the new chocolate orange flavour. I got a kick out of the new Rabbit Hollow-inspired shape, too.
My hubbie decided to make a yeast donut, so that we could have a variety of flavours. He created a chocolate caramel glaze for the usual donuts with holes, and then filled some round donuts with strawberry jam we had in the fridge (not a house-made preserve, but strawberry is the kind of jam you need to put in a donut). I also made a rosewater honey glaze that we dunked a few twists into, just for a bit of sticky fun. All those flavours covered the retro and foodie angles nicely.
Donuts are certainly not a healthy food, what with being deep-fried and coated in sugar or honey. However, homemade with no chemicals or preservatives they are at least natural. And they can provide a sense of emotional wellness.
My dad would have been tickled pink if he could have sat down with us to sip on a cup of fresh coffee and a homemade jam buster.
Here’s looking at you, Daddy!
Today would have been my Dad’s 74th birthday. He passed away almost 10 years ago, but every year on his birthday especially, my thoughts are of him. He and I were close, and some of my favourite quirky food memories are of times with him. So it seemed only fitting that today’s entry would be in his honour…
When I was a kid, my diet started out with rather small parameters. My mom says I used to eat mostly fruit as a baby, and that sausages were one of the first – and only – proteins I liked. I did get over that picky stage, but we were a Prairie family and my dad was a meat-and-potatoes kind of guy back in those days. My mom cooked what he liked. Pork chops and applesauce, or meatloaf with mashed potatoes and turnips were regular stand-bys. My dad’s contribution was the traditional grilling component: he did cook a mean steak, and he mastered vegetables in a tinfoil package with butter and herbs, steamed over the coals. (I still love doing these with steaks in the summer.)
I was a baker long before I was a cook, but my dad never had much of a sweet tooth. He loved a good cookie (not too crunchy, of course – we agreed on that) In true Prairie fashion he also loved apple pie, with a slice of cheddar cheese. But his favourite dessert was jelly roll.
When I was a teenager, my parents took a trip to California. After that, food changed. All of a sudden we were having nachos with salsa, and eating more fish. Then the stuffing for the turkey at Christmas had nuts, and there was no going back. By the time I was an adult, my mom could cook anything and he would try it. My dad had started to cook and even bought cookbooks. He made salads with dried cranberries and toasted pecans, veal piccata, ice cream sundaes.
My favourite foodie memories with my dad are in the years when I was first married, and we both lived in Vancouver. My hubbie was working some nights and so Daddy and I had a standing date on Friday for appies and drinks. We would while away the evening over tidbits he had made and wine I had brought. Our conversations ranged from trivial tidbits to solving the problems of the world. I would often bring dessert, as I was working at Senses, a gourmet food store and bakery that featured the treasures of Thomas Haas. My dad finally gave up jelly roll as his favourite dessert, replacing it with Thomas’ Stilton Cheesecake with Rhubarb Compote.
In later years, we didn’t get to share many meals between the miles and my dad’s ill health. I am very grateful we shared so many memories for me to enjoy. Every time I taste jelly roll, or salad with dried cranberries and toasted pecans, I think of him. When I taste something new and exotic, I smile and think of how he would have enjoyed it.
I’m also due for a piece of Stilton cheesecake on my next visit to Vancouver. Just for old time’s sake.
Eight years ago today my Dad passed away. Not a day goes by that I don’t think about him, often wishing that he could be there to share in a special moment. Many of those are foodie moments; my Dad developed a real passion for food as he got older. He went from a meat-and-potatoes Prairie guy to a West Coast cool dude that cooked three course meals and tried all kinds of exotic dishes. When I was a kid the family shared meals and valued time around the dinner table. Once I grew up, my Dad and I would share meals together in all kinds of places, and discussing all kinds of worldly problems.
It is not hard for me to think of food memories, possibly because as a kid I hardly stopped eating. My father used to say I had a hollow leg – I could eat like a horse and I just kept growing taller and eating more. I remember him saying that maybe if he put bricks on my head that would slow things down and it seemed that might be the only remedy. I could have new pants in the spring and be watching for the flood before summer was over!
I don’t want you to get the idea that all we did was eat though… after Sunday breakfast I remember the whole family sometimes having some goofy family time. Music was often playing and it wasn’t just hippie tunes, either. I have great visions of all four of us marching through the house to the classical tune, “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice”, just like the brooms Mickey Mouse tried to control. My father would lead us around from room to room like a parade marshal, even going up and over the beds!
These are favourite memories of mine because they make me smile and that in itself makes me proud. I think it is a great testament to the way I was raised that I can look back and say I had such a great time.
This time of year the memories seem to flood in. I eat a fried egg sandwich and I remember the early mornings he got up to make me one before basketball practice. I snack on peanuts in the shell and I am reminded of being little and sharing some of Daddy’s treat as he sat watching a bit of TV, with a paper bag on the floor to catch the shells. I sample a new delicacy and I am taken back to the Friday nights when I lived in Vancouver and we would share an evening of nibbles at “the treetop bistro” in his West End apartment, swapping stories and solving the problems of the world.
All those smiles and tastes far outweigh the sadness I feel, and they remind me of his love of life and sense of adventure. I know he would be proud to see that I am making the most of my experiences. Here’s to you, Daddy – cheers!