I am a sentimental and nostalgic person. I love symbols and traditions and fairy tales. Smiling at the whisper of a fairy’s wings or the twinkle of a star is often the highlight of my day.
Our lovely home and garden in the Okanagan is my sanctuary. We have a beautiful expanse of space with my wild gardens. I say wild in part because there are wild blossoms courtesy of the wind and birds, but also because I can’t seem to be disciplined enough in the dirt to create a formal structure. Like my life I suppose – elements of a framework but never enough to close the box.
I am inspired by quirky things, and I love to cheer for the underdog. (Another reason my gardens look so unkempt- everyone gets the benefit of the doubt until they demonstrate more evil than good.)
The back garden is full of artifacts and artful tokens. Some are simple junk, retrieved because I loved the memories they evoked or wanted to ponder the ones they contained. A few pieces I created, and a few I inherited. All of them add to the natural character of our place with a worldly sort of homey-ness.
We always envisioned a sort of gateway to the world even though we had no intention of a fence. Our original vision was for a moongate, inspired by our honeymoon visit to Bermuda with many of them showcasing the sunsets. We talked of an arch, but that became the passage from the garden to our harvest table. When we rebuilt the front door to our old farmhouse, I knew I had just the thing.
There are so many expressions about doors, with many of them seeming appropriate for 2020:
- getting one’s foot in the door (what the virus did around the world)
- closing the barn door after the horse has bolted (what happened in some regions as the pandemic struck fast and hard)
- having the wolf at one’s door (the financial situation for so many after the pandemic lockdowns)
- don’t let the door hit you on the way out (what I’d like to say to the virus)
You might say I ought to have left the door open to foster a spirit of hospitality and welcome. I’ll add an expression to the historic list to defend my case – a sort of “be prepared for any occasion” idiom:
Never leave the door ajar on a windy day.
I am heartened to see the door when I look out the window now. It announces the rest of the world is out there, waiting. It keeps out the negative energy as it makes me smile, thinking of all the good times it brought into our house. And it’s there for us – day and night, through every kind of weather – ready when opportunity knocks.
Who knows when the winds will change and the world will return to one that allows for more work, more hugs, more visitors through our doors. But in the meantime, I’ll watch out the window and remember…
When one door closes, another one opens.
That R.E.M. song lyric keeps playing through my head. I heard it on the radio during a comedy show doing its best to make light of the current state of world affairs. It sums up nicely the surreal nature of world affairs at the moment.
I remember the song coming out in the 80’s, and back then a pandemic wasn’t even a topic for a sci-fi movie. (It wasn’t until the 90’s that we saw Stephen King’s “The Stand” and “12 Monkeys” using diseases as the villains in apocalyptic films.) Now of course, end-of-the-world scenarios have been played out with numerous plot-lines, and a sense of doom is much more pervasive in pop culture. That doesn’t make me feel any better, though.
What does make me feel better is remembering to laugh amidst the absurdity of this new reality. Watching the silly people fill their shopping carts with toilet paper, Hubby and I calmly proceeded through the store stocking up on perishables. Being people who cook real food on a regular basis, we have a running stock of canned food, pasta, baking supplies.
I am happy I began a new sourdough starter (great series of videos through Northwest Sourdough if you’re interested). We also have our Tower Garden which allows us to have fresh herbs and lettuce indoors even in winter. If we won’t be working in the next short while then I might as well be busy cooking!
My heart goes out to all my friends in the hospitality biz right now. People are scared to go out at all, and many health officials have said they should avoid any contact except with people they know. Dining out is way down the list of reasons to disregard the advice, and staying in hotels is even scarier for most.
I’ll do my small part here and say please do your best to support your local businesses. Corporate chains have a much larger capacity to weather any kind of business storm, and this one is a doozy. Your neighbourhood bakery, butcher, greengrocer, coffee shop and even restaurant need your help to stay afloat.
If you aren’t comfortable going out or can’t, consider buying gift certificates to local places. They won’t expire, so you can use them sooner or later. If you can get out, then do. Follow necessary precautions and don’t panic. Remember these are your neighbours, the businesses you trust to help you live well. They will be doing their best to maintain that relationship, and they are hoping you will, too.
Once you’re back home, relax. Catch up on those things you’ve been meaning to do but forgot with all the hustle and bustle of regular life. Board games with the kids, reading a book, creating that photo album, contacting a far-away friend… there are all kinds of activities on that “never got ’round to it” list we all have. Not to mention all those recipes you have bookmarked?
Oh, and don’t forget the humour. The Sirius comedy channel, YouTube videos, a funny movie on your streaming service… or even a funny book. I humbly offer a few of my favourites below.
- Stewart Maclean’s Vinyl Cafe, a classic CBC radio show
- Ellen’s “Relatable” comedy tour, on Netflix
- for something kid-friendly (although I still love them) – any of the Muppet movies or episodes of “The Muppet Show”
- if you want a funny read, try a classic and read something from Erma Bombeck
- for those not minding a bit of naughty British humour, Ricky Gervais’ bit on the funniest leaflet ever made
Whichever way you manage to spend your days, remember there are plenty of quotes to keep us going:
“Just keep swimming.” – Dory, Finding Nemo
“There’s no place like home.” – Dorothy, The Wizard of Oz
“It will be alright in the end so if it is not alright, then it is not the end.” – Deborah Moggach, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel
And for us foodies:
“Leave the gun. Take the cannoli.” – Peter Clemenza, The Godfather
I was scanning the news this morning and thinking foodie thoughts in a rather stream-of-consciousness fashion. Nothing seemed to stick, it was all random. My brain went with that theme and suddenly I was humming the Arlo Guthrie tune about a pickle…
That was my inspiration today. My commentary on some of the new cooking and eating trends is entirely random, and without any expertise other than my own tastebuds. It’s fun to be adventurous and think outside the box, but when I threw so many random trends together it made me wonder if we aren’t trying too hard to be unusual. But then, comfort food and retro recipes are other popular trends. Anything is possible.
- Brinner – when you miss breakfast, you can have it for dinner! Some of this trend is centered around the concept of putting a poached egg on top of a dish, but there’s something to be said for making more meals acceptable for all those wonderful Sunday brunch dishes 🙂
- Gyros – it’s cooler when your wrap has an ethnic name, isn’t it? The Greek flatbread with flavourful fillings is the new wrapped sandwich craze. Portable food is always cool in today’s world. If only there was an app that would allow telepathic texting while you eat…
- Donuts – what else can you put in them? It’s frankly scary the range of fillings available in fried pastry, and then consider the variations of stuffed food similar to a donut – like kolaches (great with plum jam but now possible with candied jalapenos and smoked beef, just because).
- “I dare you” food – ever tried beef tongue? How about fresh grated horseradish? Foraged greens? Moss? It’s all out there for the adventurous. Chefs love shock value too sometimes.
- New twists on beverages – craft beer pubs are passé; look for beer bars with odd themes (think different glassware or decor and innovative beer styles). Wine is okay, but mead is more fun. And cocktails can come with any kind of garnish now, even scented feathers!
- Salt cod – no really, you have to try it! Andrew Knowlton, the editor of Bon Appetit magazine, said it looks like “a last-resort snack for those beyond the wall in Game of Thrones”, but treated properly it is delectable.
- Nitro coffee – because life just keeps getting more Fast & Furious. Seriously, why have just caffeine when you can have it injected with nitrogen and served from a tap? It has a creamy texture not unlike a pint of Guinness. Or you can just have cold brewed coffee, the minimalist version.
- restaurant names like never before – in an effort to be new and inventive, owners are picking terms like “luncheonette” and “provisions” to sound unique. Couple this with some wacky ingredient or animal name (think anise hyssop or blue oyster) and you’re all set. Only trouble is everyone else is using the same kind of formula – go figure. It sounds like the new Facebook quiz – “What would your name be if you were a restaurant?”
- Lithuanian and South African cuisine – it sounds like someone spun a globe and said “quick, what countries have we not featured on menus recently?” But there are some interesting foods to try – a Lithuanian stuffed potato dumpling called a cepelinai sounds delicious, and I love bobotie, a sort of South African shepherd’s pie.
- Pickles – you thought I was going to leave you hanging, didn’t you? Don’t you agree, what with kimchi everywhere now and pickled mushrooms as garnish and pickled fruit on cheese boards… the recession wasn’t that bad we need to preserve everything! I love a crunchy dill pickle like the next person, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves.
How trendy are you? Does any of this stuff even pique your interest, or are you more of a Meatless Monday, Tuna Casserole Tuesday kind of person? Does your family enjoy trying new things? I’d love to hear your comments.
Have you ever noticed how your Facebook friends keep posting recipes on their news feed, all of them containing cheese? There is always a slow-motion video with a forkful of food and a string of melting cheese or an oozing blob of cheese onto a plate…
I love cheese but those videos are truly over the top. I feel like the next thing on my feed will be a promotion on defibrillators.
Comfort food often involves rich ingredients, and it never seems to be served in small portions. Is that a first world necessity – do we need to show that we can afford to have more on the plate than is advisable, much less required? Where did the idea “more is better” come from?
Okay, bear with me: I looked it up and “more is better” relates to economic theory and indifference curves. I won’t bore you with the details or the math but suffice it to say that when thinking of things you prefer, your first reaction is usually that more of that preferred thing is better. (I know, the only part that stuck in your head is the idea that somehow economics relates to melting cheese. You’re thinking, “why didn’t my first year Economics prof say THAT?!”)
The problem is, once you reflect on this principle you also realize that at a certain point you are working harder to get something that is giving you less at the end of the day. That’s called “diminishing returns”. With melted cheese, diminishing returns occur when your waistline grows faster than your ability to appreciate a new recipe. (If you want to know the best cheese to use for melting, this link is a quick study. )
The simple truth is, not many people get excited about salad videos. I have worked with kids on the topic of “edible education” and the best competing concept I can offer is to eat a rainbow. It’s fun to make skewers of fruit or veggies in all colours, and talk about all the different nutrients and tastes they offer. But the kids only really go crazy for cookies or ice cream. (Cheese becomes a fixation when you’re older, apparently.)
I’m not espousing a dairy-free diet. I for one am not giving up cheese anytime soon. I do hope that we can all live healthy enough lives to enjoy more cheese over time. Mostly, I just wanted to share a few random thoughts. Does anyone else wonder about this stuff?
Maybe we should just work to make food more artful. Can you imagine mid-week dinners looking like this?