As my regular readers will know, I’m an old-fashioned gal who loves nostalgia. Apparently nostalgia is a popular thing in a pandemic world. It might be one reason why camping has been a top activity for families this summer.
People are creating new memories, about which they can be nostalgic years from now. There are also us older folks, shaking our heads as we compare our nostalgia with the newer version.
I remember camping as being a time when most of the everyday rules were suspended. Bedtime was when we were done having fun for the day; parents didn’t mind because that meant we were out of their hair.
As far as I can tell, this part hasn’t changed in principle. The difference is that often the activities and entertainment are provided by the parents, not thought up by the kids.
If we ever said we were bored while camping, we were given a task like picking up any garbage on the ground in the campsite or chopping wood. It taught us to come up with our own more attractive alternative. Today’s version is often supplied: I saw more than a few parents setting up videos for viewing in camper trailers.
I’m not sure what is new and exciting for kids today; for me it was simple things that changed when we went camping. Perhaps that was because we didn’t have portable screens? I bet some other old folks out there share my memories.
Are you ready? Here we go…
🥣 Those nifty miniature cereal boxes you could cut open and eat from. We only had Apple Jacks and Fruit Loops out of those boxes, never at home. Thankfully my dad ate the Rice Krispies.
🍪 Camp cooking was home-grown ingenuity – wonders that could all be cooked in a fry pan. Store-bought cookies were a camping delicacy – Oreos and Dad’s Chocolate Oatmeal were our favourites. Mom’s cookies at home were good, but you couldn’t pull them apart or lick off the coating.
🚘 Time in the car was even entertaining. (Okay, it was, except for when my little brother took up more than his share of the back seat, or when the dog drooled on my shoulder. ) We sang songs and played “I Spy” and license plate bingo.
It’s true that there were times I didn’t enjoy in the moment. Cold and wet and tired, dragging myself back to the campsite after hiking Illecillewaet glacier, I felt even worse when my vinyl runners melted by the fire as they were set out to dry. And when my cousin got his roasted marshmallow stuck in my pigtail, that was no fun either. But those times are the threads that make the fabric of my life unique.
I don’t mean to say one has to suffer to have a good story, but experiences offer us a chance to learn and grow, and share the excitement that can entail.
When I was a kid, the ultimate camping treat was Jiffy Pop popcorn. It was a compact tinfoil pan when Mom packed it, but once we shook it over the fire or Coleman stove, it unfurled into a magnificent silver ball full of steaming hot popcorn.
On our recent trip to the Kootenays, I discovered the current version of Jiffy Pop does not have the “pop pop” I remember. Rather, it was the “beep beep” of the microwave. I winced, mourning the loss of a great tradition.
“When I was a kid” was the preamble for my Dad’s tales of how his childhood was more interesting than mine. Dare I say “challenging”? He might have even said “better”.
Now that I’m about to become a grandmother I look forward to being able to pass along the wisdom of my days to a brand new generation.
Most of all, I hope camping will be an occasion to remind my grandkids about having time when there is no need to rush, just a desire to share. We will sing songs in the car and stop for ice cream and collect treasures and roast marshmallows. Then they can tell their kids about the days of old…
I love ice skating. As a kid I saw competitive skaters like ballerinas, and both were akin to fairies in my mind. I didn’t have the guts to take up the sport to that level – I could hardly walk and chew gum at the same time – but I always loved it as a duffer. I’ve had the good fortune to skate outdoors in the Rockies, and in Charlevoix, Quebec. Even as a duffer it is magical.
Tonight was our first Girl Guide meeting of the new year, after our Christmas break. The tradition for our unit is to have a skating party at the community rink in Kelowna.
It’s fun to see the girls after all the excitement of the holiday season, with their stories of what they did and what Santa brought. It’s a thrill to see them skate, some of them for the first or second time.
I also love this meeting for the memories it brings back…
- my Dad lacing my skates nice and tight before a family skate, and pushing my mitts into my coat sleeve cuffs till my fingers hurt against the mitten seam.
- Skating at Mayfair Park in Edmonton on the lake, then along the Bow River when we moved to Calgary – outside among the trees, with speakers that blasted music to skate along to
- Playing “crack the whip” and trying so hard to not be the one to let go! (Then laughing hysterically when we all slid out across the ice)
- Skating with my little brother on his bob skates (once he had graduated from the plastic bathtub on a rope towed by my parents
- Watching my mom skate so gracefully (she competed a bit as a girl) – the figures, the spins. She taught me how to skate backwards – that was as fancy as I got.
My mom came to my skating party when I was a Brownie. She broke her leg that night, catching her blade in a gouge in the ice made from all the hockey play on our little community rink. It was a dramatic end to the evening, and it sure made for an interesting Christmas that year but thankfully we smile about it now.
I didn’t tell the girls about how my skating party went when I was a little Girl Guide. I did watch for gouges in the ice, though. I took pictures of them all, and gave them thumbs up as they wobbled and skidded and then skated – hooray! New moments in the memory books.
And I was sending good thoughts out to my mom, feeling thankful for the memories. And wistfully smiling at the same old warm feeling, remembering times with my dad, now gone.
All that in an hour, on a not-so-cold winter night. Life is good.
Are you laughing? This is not a parody, like that infamous episode of Saturday Night Live with Betty White. (If you’re looking for a naughty giggle, go ahead and click. Otherwise, keep reading with a clean mind.)
My mom is not as old as Betty White, but she did spend lots of time in the kitchen and so I always thought she was an expert cook. She made cookies, cakes, pies, and even cream puffs, in addition to all the savoury dishes she prepared. But she only ever made one kind of muffin – bran muffins. In her defense, this was before the days of coffee shops that sold muffins in multiple flavours right beside donuts, and certainly before the trendy “muffin top” was developed. Muffins were meant to be a healthy snack when I was a kid. Bran muffins may have been overkill, but served warm with butter I thought they were okay with the raisins or dates she made sure to include. (Now that I think of it, Mom may have liked muffins more as a vehicle for butter than for the muffin itself, but no matter.)
Perhaps it was a subconscious twinge of nostalgia amidst the grey days of early spring, or maybe just a craving for more fibre, but I found myself searching the grocery aisles for bran this past week. It took me 4 stores to find wheat bran – is this a backlash to the gluten-free trend? I didn’t want to use processed bran cereal, just the plain old bran.
I made them this afternoon, and I plan to warm one up for breakfast tomorrow. I will watch the butter melt, and maybe add a wee bit more for the last bite the way I remember my mom doing. There is something so very “homemade” about the taste of these little morsels… the bran is excessively healthy, but the moist chewy sweetness of the dates always made for the perfect contrast. It was that special juxtaposition that made me feel like my mom really loved us – she didn’t punish us with super-healthy, yucky-tasting stuff, she made it yummy. (Childhood logic can be so blunt.)
My mom’s bran muffin recipe is simple enough, and I’m sure you can find something similar if not identical on the web. But I am including it in my list nonetheless, since this is a taste from my childhood. I did add one small Rabbit Hollow touch this time, using dried greengage plums instead of dates. I think my mom would be proud.
The glory days of air travel are gone; it seems all that is left of the in-flight service from a foodie perspective is the insipid cry of “peanuts, pretzels!” As the flight attendants wander down the aisle.
Granted, airline food (at least in economy class where I’ve been eating it) has not been any great shakes for a long while. But nowadays you might as well bring your own, since it’s all our packaged snack items anyway.
Travelling by air used to be a grand experience in itself, with cocktails and full meals on platters with silverware. It was a full service, but now you purchase the service in pieces – buy a snack, buy a drink, buy your space for your luggage…
Don’t get me wrong, I know air crews still work hard. I am just the kind of person who enjoys a smooth ride as opposed to feeling the speed bumps created by breaking things up into little pieces. Isn’t the journey supposed to be as much fun as the destination?
You will also see a few guest posts from my worldly mom, Nancy, who is wintering in San Carlos, Mexico and has spent the last few summers “on the continent”, touring Europe. She has graciously offered to fill in since my ability to post might be hampered on vacation (whether by intermittent wifi or too many margaritas!)
Here’s to enjoying whatever you find on your plate and in your glass!
Today is my mom’s 70th birthday. This is the lady who first got me cooking in the kitchen and digging in the garden. I am proud to say that she is now enjoying her own adventures, having raised a family and made a career and created beautiful artistic environments in her many homes and gardens. She has travelled through much of Europe now, and the west coast of America and Mexico. I’d like to go back to particular culinary memory though, that may have started it all.
Many years ago, my brother and I created a dessert for her birthday dinner. We wanted something that represented how elegant and classy we thought she was. It took more than a few magazines and cookbooks to find the right recipe (this is well before the internet, you see). Finally we decided on a Decadent Chocolate Mousse. My dad whisked her away for the day so that we could prepare. It took us many hours and almost every bowl and utensil she had, but we did it. The special glasses were filled with this wonderful concoction and we awaited the time to present dessert to the birthday girl.
My dad had made a lovely dinner, and after the dishes were cleared it was time. With as much pomp and ceremony as we could muster, we carried the glasses to the table and presented the mousse. I think there may have even been a sparkler. She oohed and aahed – we were pleased. So far, so good. Then came the tasting…. she took a bite and tasted, and I could see her thinking. She smiled at us and said it was delicious. Then she took another bite and began to chew. Chewing? Yes… “What are the crunchy bits in it?,” she said. “They’re really good,” she added (the sign of a great mom). I answered with utter confidence: “Oh, those are the coffee grounds. I’m glad you like it!” My dad chuckled.
It wasn’t until much later that it dawned on me – the recipe called for “2 tbsp strong coffee” but they meant brewed coffee, not coffee grounds. Well, I was only 12 years old, I didn’t drink coffee. My dad wasn’t home so my brother and I figured that “strong” meant heaping tablespoons. (Remember, there was no such thing as a Google search back then.) My mother, bless her heart, was not discouraging but rather adventurous even then. She appreciated our efforts and soldiered on to enjoy the dessert. She has said in later years that she really did enjoy it, and in fact has never had a mousse that she remembers as being as good. I love you, Mom.
The recipe we used has long since been lost in the many moves and purges of cooking magazines, but I have found a suitable replacement which does still include the coffee: Decadent Chocolate Mousse. Both Julia Child and David Lebovitz have apparently used this recipe. Feel free to think outside the box and add something crunchy if you like! I’m going to make it for my mom the next time she comes to visit, as a belated birthday present.