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Hallowed eves of old

I don’t think of myself as old. I often think of myself as a big kid, never quite having grown up. So many memories of how much fun I had as a child are still so vivid in my mind.

I wonder, is the imagination still an active organ? With images supplied for almost everything today, where is the chance for mystery and magic? Hallowe’en is a perfect example of that. I do hope people can still enjoy a good old-fashioned scare.

My dad was a good-natured fellow, but he was also the youngest of four children with two much older brothers. From the stories he told my brother and me, he was scared plenty of times thanks to his vivid imagination, his sister’s equally healthy creative mind and his brothers’ ability to sound really creepy.

The anticipation of what might be under the stairs or behind the door or lurking “out there” in the dark is the scariest part. Apparently studies have shown that we can come up with much scarier things that we will see on a screen. I know I have. I hated the dark as a kid. I am still not fond of it; I just learned how not to think about it.

Gathering a pillowcase of candy while skipping from house to house all dressed up, yelling “Hallowe’en Apples!” – it was good entertainment with a suitably cool reward. But now that I am a big kid, I like to know the story behind the tradition.

Perhaps it is the respectful tone of the day that I admire. Even if one isn’t interested in pagan rituals, it’s hard not to appreciate all the thought that goes into them.

At its heart, Hallowe’en comes from the ancient celebrations of the harvest – the end of the growing season and all its life, and the coming of the darker, winter season with its shorter days.

Festival of the Fires is Ireland’s oldest festival – a celebration of Irish culture, art, heritage, music, ceremony and sport which has been held at the historic Hill of Uisneach for over 1,400 years.

Legend has it that this transition is when the veil is thinnest between the worlds of the living and the dead.

  • Wearing a disguise or costume was a way to avoid being recognized by evil spirits.
  • Food was also put out, or possibly given, to spirits as a way to placate them. Today we call that trick-or-treating.
  • Carving pumpkins today is done because of a fellow named Jack who tried to outsmart the Devil, if you believe the legend. Jack was left to wander the earth with a hollowed-out turnip lit with a lump of burning coal as his lantern.

I come from a childhood full of mist and smoke and fairy dust. The legends I learned made the world I lived in even more special. I hope the children out there tonight will find something special as they gather their treats. They deserve to have a good old-fashioned scare, and to believe in something bigger than all of us.

May your soul be safe under the light of the Blue Moon.

New and improved! – but if it ain’t broke…

I tried multiple times over the Canadian Thanksgiving weekend to post a collection of my kitchen pics. Each and every time, I was foiled at the last minute with the message “There was a problem with your post. Please try again later.”

The whiz kids over at Facebook have been “improving” things, putting together a new look and working towards integrating Instagram and Facebook so we “can manage them together for a smoother experience”.

With no reason as to why my post would not complete, I can only assume that by not already jumping into the new format (which I don’t want to do anyway), I am bucking the system.

I can get used to changes, and I understand technology advances and we have to go with the flow for the most part. But to me this is like being forced to use an alternative ingredient in a recipe when I like the original combination just fine. I don’t want avocado brownies, I want brownies with brown butter and melted chocolate!

Does anyone else feel this way? Am I the only one who doesn’t want to adapt every time something shifts? Couldn’t we have the option to stick with a classic now and then? You can have your avocado brownie, I just want mine the regular way.

In the spirit of traditions and preserving something of nostalgia, I am posting my pictures here. Perhaps this is a sign that I should be blogging more and stepping away from Facebook as a Gourmande. I just hope there will still be some engagement.

Brunch on the deck in October! Talk about the good life #blessed
There is nothing like garden tomatoes, basil and greens to honour the hard work spent in the dirt. It was worth every blister, callus, broken fingernail and tired muscle.
A year ago this weekend we headed to Morocco for the trip of a lifetime, our 20th anniversary celebration. We won’t be travelling to exotic places anytime soon, but we can bask in the flow of their flavours.
One of the great things about travel is coming back to appreciate what we have at home. Pairing a favourite #BCwine from Tantalus Vineyards with an exotic meal was the perfect foundation for the evening.
This time of year is all about preserving the bounty – we have frozen and dried and canned – chutneys, compotes, sauces, pickles… It will cheer us during the dreary days in winter.
Baking sourdough bread has become my meditation. This lovely addition to my collection of accessories for the baking process makes me smile every time I use it – thanks, Your Green Kitchen
The last fruit to be harvested is the quince. I know when they are ready when they seem to glow from within.
Ella has a great nose for ripe fruits and veggies. She helped me choose the pumpkins for our Thanksgiving dessert.
Thanks to the wonderful team at Paynter’s Market for such delicious ingredients! 😋
Thanks to Mumsy for such a great recipe –her pumpkin cheesecake tastes as good as I remember from my childhood!
Having only two people at our table, a Thanksgiving feast was not practical. The last big cooking task then, was to mix the Christmas cake ! I chose Mary Berry’s recipe this year, having seen her make it in lockdown.
This was a full family effort, with everyone there in spirit. I managed to have a group call with my brother and his lady in Vancouver and my mom in Mexico. We all made our wishes as I stirred the batter, and shared virtual hugs – and a few nostalgic giggles – to seal the deal. The crowning glory for the cake was the Courvoisier cognac that came from my late Daddy’s liquor cabinet.

Kveðjur, elskan! / Salutations, little one!

This week I became an Amma. (That’s Icelandic for Grandma. ) I have no children of my own; my stepdaughter, whom I’ve known since she was a bit less than 4 years old, just gave birth to my husband’s first grandchild. I am overjoyed.

This is my shot at having a legacy. Since I have no children and neither does my brother, so our branch of the Peturson clan dies with us.

Why do we care if we are remembered? I have decided in my just over half a century of living that the importance is in knowing that I helped improve the world, or at least a few of the people in it.

I don’t care if I am recognized. I’d like to be remembered by those I loved.

More importantly, I’d like it if someone I spent time knowing or something I did while here tips the dominoes in a way that sends the world down a nicer path. Just one link in the chain.

I understand the food chain. I contemplate it often, and give thanks for my chance to participate in it. I work hard to appreciate its bounty. All I’m asking is for the chance to do the same with people.

I plan to give this grandchild a taste of my heritage, both Scottish and Icelandic. And I don’t just mean shortbread and vinertarta.

This little girl will learn the strength of both the pillagers and their impossible-to-conquer Celtic “pillagees”. She will have a chance to understand the strength of character that comes from integrity and believing in yourself – even when it means eating haggis or rulypilsa.

I can’t wait to talk to her, to hear her dreams for the world and for herself. I hope I’ll have the chance for many meals filled with scintillating conversations, just like I had with her mom. Talks about everything from what the latest cartoon characters are doing to who had what foe lunch at school to what she wants to be when she grows up.

I can’t wait for her to teach me things about the magic of the world she will know. I have a feeling she will have more for me than I for her. But that is my idea of the circle of life.

It’s just like an enjoyable meal, starting out with one course or ingredient and working your way through a collection of flavours and aromas and textures.

At the end, your memories are about the combinations and how they interacted. Your appreciation though, is for the ingredients (just like it is for the people) that make up the experience.

Jiffy Pop

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…

As Time Goes By

Twenty years ago, my life changed forever.

I woke up and started the day much as I have for most of my adult life – by taking my Brown Girl for a walk. I’ve had a few furry friends over the years, but all of them have been the same loyal companions day in and day out. There is something wonderfully grounding in starting the day with a creature that stays by your side and loves you no matter what.

From that early and ordinary start, my day would be like no other I had. It was to be full of symbols, however. I felt linked through time to so many moments in history, so many places in time. Wedding days are rife with symbols.

I’ll admit, I geeked out on traditions that exemplified the spirit of a happy wedding. I had my “something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue.” I looked up the tradition behind certain flowers and I wanted good omens, positive vibes, moments to connect the day.

We got married on the same day as my parents. I wore my mom’s dress. My dad and I walked down the aisle to “As Time Goes By” from Casablanca, and Sleepless in Seattle. I was so proud to walk with my dad, as his health had not been good at all and I was grateful he was there to hand his princess over to the next guy taking care of her.

My mom carried daisies, just as she did on her day. I even had my cousin throw confetti down her dress after the ceremony, just as he did all those years ago. (He was only 3, and was disappointed he missed throwing his handful with the adults as my parents left the church. She bent down for him just before she got in the car, and he tossed it right down her dress. I remembered her showing me the envelope of it, one day as she was reminiscing.)

We incorporated personal symbols too. Our first connection, our first date, was with our dogs. It was important they be a part of our celebration, so they played key roles in the ceremony. His Doberman was our ring bearer, walking with my stepdaughter down the aisle; my Chocolate Lab was my flower girl, led by my goddaughter.

My hubby had no one from back east able to come out to Vancouver. We had a picture of his mom on a reserved seat right up front, in her honour. His best friend was busy with young kids. His sister was moving that weekend in Montreal. And yet he was all about me having time with my people.

  • My longest-standing girlfriend came all the way from Ghana with her family so she could be my Matron of Honour and her daughter (my goddaughter) could be a bridesmaid. She brought a coin for me to carry in my shoe as a token of good fortune.
  • my best girlfriend in Canada designed T-shirts for our family to wear that weekend, and delivered them personally from Calgary.
  • all my aunts and uncles were there (it turned out to be the last time that my dad would be with all of his siblings)image-4

Everything was done outside, at Brock House in Point Grey, Vancouver. Thankfully Mother Nature was kind and we had a pleasant day. We didn’t spend money on a photographer as we were keeping expenses low, but a friend took a beautiful group shot and my dad thankfully couldn’t resist snapping a few frames. This was before the days of smart phones – we had Instamatic cameras for guests to be put out on the tables, but no one remembered to do that. (I didn’t have a wedding planner, either.)

Dancing was another big part of our life, and our wedding. Hubbie and his daughter did a lovely cha-cha, and my dad and I danced to the Platters. For our dance together, I changed into the dress I was to wear on our destination wedding in Jamaica (I wore it there 13 years later).

It all went by too fast. I remember moments, but wish there were more. A few people had to leave before I had much of a chance to chat with them. And of course Hubbie and I hardly had anything to eat. The buffet looked lovely, though.

We did get some cake, and we took the remainder back to the hotel and had some at midnight. I wish there were more photos of that cake – the best one we have was when it was in our fridge before the wedding, as Hubbie decorated it.

Our wedding day didn’t go quite as planned. Neither did much of the twenty years that followed – we learned very quickly to roll with the punches the Universe threw at us. There were hard times, and sad times, and plenty of happy times too. The best part, the part for which I am most grateful, is that we had each other throughout all of it.

I am so very fortunate. I have a soulmate. My guy is someone who committed twenty years ago to stick it out with me, and he has been true to his word. I had no idea then just how much I could love him for it. I’m beginning to get an idea now.

Not to mention… boy, have I had a lot of great cake!

 

*One final note:  For anyone reading this who has yet to be married, here are my top tips:

  1. If you don’t hire a wedding planner, get someone reliable who isn’t in your wedding party to be your point person for the day and keep things on track.
  2. Tell your photographer the shots you want – people and moments you want to have pictures of. Then tell them they need to stay on time with the schedule, so your guests aren’t kept waiting.
  3. Make yourself a “bucket list” of moments for the day with your partner (each and together) and keep it handy on your day – a hug from Granny, a moment just the two of you, etc.
  4. Don’t try and include everything in one day – it’s impossible. If you have the luxury, spread the festivities over a few days. If not, go back to your bucket list to narrow it down.
  5. Stop, at least twice during the day and just breathe. Take it all in, and be grateful.

 

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