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How to get unstuck

I don’t know about you but I feel the need to share rather acutely nowadays. It’s a bit of relief to connect by video call with friends and family and at least see their faces and hear their laughter. But I want to give something, to feel that I am reaching out and that hopefully someone on the other end of the line gets some benefit from my effort.

Sharing recipes has been fun, and learning from other people’s sharing has been cathartic too. I watched Amanda Hesser, one of the founders of Food 52, do an Instagram video making cookies in her home kitchen. She laughed about it being the first time in 4 days that she put a clean shirt on, and I laughed back, looking down at my shirt of more than a couple of days, too.

img_8112I’ve also posted garden pictures, and been cheered by those of others. Spring blossoms always boost my spirits, and knowing the bees are still humming and green shoots are still sprouting is wonderfully reassuring.

I’m going to try a new thing this week. Our group of little Sparks (the tiniest of Girl Guides, aged 5 and 6 years old) will be hosting our first Zoom meeting tomorrow night. It’s only going to be “Show & Tell” this first time – I’m quite sure that 24 littles trying to feature the new project they have at home will be more than enough for one hour! Thank goodness for the mute button.

Along the same lines, I also volunteered to do some story-reading for a kindergarten teacher who wanted “community helpers” to read their favourites so she can show them to her class. My role as a Girl Guide leader is to help kids and offer them another adult perspective, so I figured why not. Selfishly, it gives me a chance to be a big kid and connect at the same time.

Pooh and friends on paradeSo, I’ve made myself a cup of tea and dusted off my Girl Guide vest with the bazillion crests and badges on it (that’s how they know that I am wise old leader, or at least that’s the plan). I shall introduce myself as “Poppy”, my leader name for the last 14 years. Then I’ll launch into my stories.

Dr. Seuss and A.A. Milne would have been friends with my Gramps I think, if he’d  ever run into them. Mulberry Street full version“And To Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street” and “The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh” sounded like the stories he told about when he was young. I’m hoping my reading will convey the kind of wonder I knew, sitting on his knee listening to his tales of yore.

Even if the kids are not enthralled, perhaps the stories of an imaginative youngster making the most of a boring time and a silly old Bear stuck in a hole will offer them ideas for how to get through this crazy time.

I am so thankful we have many ways to share nowadays. I do still like the in-person method best, but there is a lot to be said for having a back-up plan at times like these.

Me at Disneyworld in Dr Seuss’ world. I have also been to the real Mulberry Street in New York (but all I saw was a cart and horse 😉)

 

P.S. If you’re a big kid like me and love the fanciful stories usually dedicated to the young at heart, here are some classics I love. Feel free to read them, pass them along or read them aloud.

  • “The Last of the Really Great Whangdoodles” – Julie Andrews (she also wrote “The Very Fairy Princess” books)
  • “Peter Pan in Scarlet” – Geraldine McCaughrean (didn’t you ever wonder what happened to Peter Pan?)
  • “The Wind in the Willows” – Kenneth Grahame (I read this to my stepdaughter when she was little, and she still remembers it)
  • “Mrs. Frisby & The Rats of NIMH” – Robert C. O’Brien (like “Watership  Down” this isn’t all sunshine and roses, but it’s a wonderful read)
  • “The Cricket in Times Square” – George Selden

 

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.

 

 

 

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