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Tuesday, October 30, 2007

last suppers

If you were to die after dinner, what would you eat?

Da Vinci's last meal was crème brûlée.

Explorer Kit Carson's last words were "I sure wish I had time for one last bowl of chili."

Oscar Wilde, the man who said: "Either the wallpaper goes or I do." Had champagne for his last meal.

Elvis Presley had four scoops of ice cream and six chocolate chip cookies.

If I could choose my last meal, I would have a macaroni and cheese casserole, meatloaf with ketchup, chicken wings and Oreo cheesecake for dessert.

These aren't my favourite foods, but they're all comfort foods that I associate with good memories.

From the finest gourmet cuisine to the simplest home cooking, we can all think of a few last things we'd like to tempt our palates with.

What would your last supper be?

halloween cupcakes

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Tuesday, October 23, 2007

what do you love about food?

Food makes my life beautiful.

Food is coming home from work tired and digging into a moist piece of chocolate filled banana bread made by my room mate. It is a time to take a break from the day and enjoy life.

Food is salty, oily smoked salmon sliding between my finger tips and gliding through my lips into my mouth. It is corn on the cob crunching between my teeth and getting stuck in the crevices. It is a perfectly aged blue cheese, falling apart in my hands and landing on my tongue, as pungent aromas make their way up my nose.

I love food because it is a part of life I can connect to.

Tonight, when I walked through the doors of St.Lawrence Market to a table lined with wine glasses and a giant basket of apples with a sign that read "Help yourself", I knew I belonged.

The event was an evening of local cuisine, and consisted of a room filled with local chefs, food, farmers and wineries. There was even an Iron Chef style cooking competition held on stage.

I enjoy eating locally as a way of connecting to my food as well as the environment. Tonight was a perfect example of how good local food can taste, and how good it feels to know exactly where it's coming from.

It wasn't long before I was digging into smoked trout crackers with a ginger yoghurt and cheese mousse and talking to the chefs that put it together. I sauntered from table to table, sampling local wines, roasted beet and goat cheese crostini, olives, roasted squash with peccorino and herbs, locally made salsa and tortilla chips, and other tongue pleasing treats.

As I passed a bread and cheese table I spotted someone I recognized. It was my favourite professor from my course on the geography of food (I can't believe I'm allowed to take something so interesting). He is witty, knowledgable, hilarious, and more importantly, loves food.

We spent the rest of the evening talking about food, food writing, travel and food, and other delicious subjects. He told me about a food writer he heard speak, a woman who had worked as a lawyer, until one day she broke down crying and realized she wasn't doing what she loved. Now she travels around the world, tasting and writing, with her husband and two children. I realized that I do have a place in the world, and that I can find a job that I enjoy if I listen to my heart and my stomach.

After many glasses of local wine, I said goodnight and took off home with a bag full of goodies. Walking home I passed several homeless people, all of which happily accepted a crisp local apple, and one who was very happy to accept a bag of bright local tortilla chips.

Again, why do I love food? Because it connects me to people. I love to share food, to feed those I love, and enjoy one of life's greatest pleasures with other people.

I love food because that's what it is, a pleasure, and I can enjoy it every day.

"The first thing we become convinced of is that man is organized so as to be far more sensible of pain than of pleasure."
Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin

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Monday, October 22, 2007

21 years gone by

Last week I turned 21.

I was overcome by the amount of love and affection that came my way.

My day was filled with birthday messages put together by my mother, gifts from my room mates, self-pampering, and a selection of goodies from my boyfriend, including my first proffessional chef knife.

I spent the evening surrounded by friends, food and wine, and my cousins who showed up at the restaurant with a giant bouquet and a bottle of champagne from my mother.

At this age it's good to know I have people who love me for who I am and the woman I'm growing into.

Over the weekend my boyfriend and I took the train to Montreal, and spent three days walking, laughing, shopping and eating at our own pace.

On the train back I studied for my English midterm, arrived home after midnight, and got back into the pace of my life early the next morning for school and work.

Life is busy and I'm fighting to keep up, but meanwhile I'm still enjoying the celebrations and pleasures in between.

birthday dessert
montreal graffiti
post box love
durant and gill

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Sunday, October 14, 2007

forever young

As I run around the city with radio equipment strapped on and a microphone in my hand, I think of my father.

He studied radio and television at the same univeristy where I study journalism. His voice made him excellent for radio, his ear made him exceptional.

Now a production sound mixer he continues to impress people with his understanding of sound.

And as I run around the city, I pray that some of these things are genetic.

I owe a lot to my father. His sense of calm makes the world seem manageable. The love he's shown me over the years makes me feel like I could take over the world while I'm at it.

The combination of work, school and sleepless nights are getting the best of me. But like him, I will keep going with strength and a smile.

Happy Birthday dad, you are an inspiration, a friend and a great person. I love you.

my father

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Tuesday, October 09, 2007

sweet potato pie

I need to celebrate each season, and I usually do so with food.

As soon as it’s summer I want strawberries in the park, and as soon as it’s fall I want turkey and pumpkin pie in the warmth of my home.

This year, not only did I get my turkey and pumpkin pie, I got summer weather, and a room full of friends sweating into their stuffing and mashed potatoes.

Since I wasn’t able to get together with any family, my roommate and I decided to hold a thanksgiving potluck in our apartment. It was set that we would provide the turkey, if all our friends who were also without homes, would bring the fixings.

The whole weekend I dreamt of turkey baking in the oven. At work I asked customers more about what they’d be eating then what clothing they’d like to buy.

When the day rolled around, my roommate earned my deepest respect by roasting an entire turkey to perfection. I made my first makeshift stuffing, shoved it into the bird myself, and felt proud to help make a meal I'd only ever watched being made.

Craving flavors of the season, I also steamed a batch of brussel sprouts and beets. While I kept it simple, my chef boyfriend added some exotic flavors to the feast, and dropped off some coconut rice and spicy smoked salmon rolls for everyone to snack on.

As the smell of turkey filled the apartment, my roommate and I shuffled around the kitchen to Motown until the guests started to arrive.

Although I ached to be with family, the empty feeling in my stomach was filled as the guests arrived, bearing beautiful dishes of sweet potatoes, mashed potatoes, spinach salad, candied carrots, a pumpkin pie and a berry crumble.

One friend arrived late with two giant bottles of wine and a young man she’d just met from Brazil-who barely spoke English-and the room filled with conversation, stories and laughter. I don’t think anything makes me happier than seeing a group of people that barely know each other interacting in such a positive way.

As the guests left, each with a Tupperware of leftovers, my boyfriend taught me to make my first turkey stock.

For years I’ve watched my mother make turkey soup after Thanksgiving, and it seemed a positive way to conquer my urge to be near my real family.

As I tore off the meat from the turkey bone, I felt in touch with my food, my family and myself. It’s strange how these small traditions can do so much in marking a time of year and bringing people together.

I didn’t need the holiday itself, but I needed a night of good company and familiarity. Needless to say, I felt completely satisfied at the end of our thanksgiving feast.

the leaves are falling
walk in the park
shades of fall

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Wednesday, October 03, 2007

meet me at the watchtower

I'm up in the night, wide awake, mind spinning.

I want to calm myself, but think that maybe this is good, and that I can use these moments to come up with plans and new ideas.

Life has taken a hold of me lately.

Opportunities continue to pop up in my life like unexpected gifts.

I've started my new job, and am happy to be surrounded by beautiful clothing again. Part of me is nervous, there is a lot to learn. I need to work as a style consultant and look the part.

School conitnues to excite my mind, but again, part of me is nervous, as test dates approach and my memory is still trying to grasp all the information that's been thrown into my head.

I organize get togethers to keep the people I love close to me. This is never time lost. I keep my schedule tight, but usually manage to have a quiet night at home cooking myself dinner.

In these moments I find I have so much, but that I'm so filled with passion that I continue to want more.

This, I suppose, is a good thing, but it would also be a good thing to get some sleep tonight.

looking ahead

"All I can do is be me, whoever that is."
-Bob Dylan

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Irish wheaten bread

3 cups of whole wheat flour
1 cup of white all purpose flour
2 tsp baking soda
2 tsp salt
1/3 cup canola oil
1 3/4 cup buttermilk

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. Combine dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl.
3. Mix buttermilk and oil. Make well in centre and add about 3/4 cups of buttermilk and oil mixture.
4. Mix together with floured hands.
5. Add the rest of the buttermilk and oil until mixture becomes soft dough.
6. Turn onto lightly floured counter and knead 8 to 10 times gently shaping the dough into a ball.*
7. Place ball of dough on a greased baking sheet, and press into a circle about 2 1/2 inches deep.
8. Cut a large cross in the centre about 1/4 inch deep.
9. Bake in oven at 350 degrees from 40 minutes to an hour, and check to see if it is using a knitting needle or a toothpick. If it comes out clean, it’s ready!
10. Cool on a wire rack.
11. Enjoy a slice or two with butter and jam, and save the rest in a bread tin to keep it fresh.

*I decided to make two mini loaves instead

(Recipe donated by Kathleen Wetherall)

Irish wheaten bread

The smell of wheaten bread baking is the smell of my grandmother in the house.

When I was sixteen and moved to Northern Ireland for a year, I found that wheaten bread was everywhere. While in a small city just outside of Belfast, I was served the hearty Irish bread with breakfast, lunch, and even dinner. I quickly realized that the bread isn’t only good in the morning, but that it goes beautifully with a hearty Irish stew on a cold evening. And while I was unimpressed with most Irish cuisine, I quickly grew fond of some of the local breads: potato bread, a flat bread made on a griddle called farl, and of course, wheaten.

My grandmother grew up on a farm in Northern Ireland, where her mother made wheaten bread with a cake-like texture she's never been able to replicate. She made the bread herself for the first time in technical college, and collected several different recipes before she decided how to perfect her own. It wasn’t long before her own children, five girls and one boy, were enjoying her many varieties of wheaten. “Kids love it,” says my grandmother, who sometimes adds dried fruit and golden raisins (“They taste much better than the ordinary raisins,” she points out).

Northern Ireland is never to be mistaken with the Southern Ireland. One is British, one is European, one carries the pound, one uses the Euro, and they both have different names for the country’s favourite bread. What we know as wheaten bread in the North is referred to as soda bread in the South. It is called soda bread because yeast is substituted with baking soda in the bread’s dough. The cold and wet climate of Ireland is best for growing hard wheat, and the flour rises with the help of baking soda. The cross cut in wheaten bread is rumoured to ward off evil, but is most likely there to help it bake properly.

Irish wheaten bread only stays fresh for a few days, so it’s important to store it away in a tight container. It’s even more important to toast it just lightly enough to warm it up, and to put a healthy helping of raspberry or strawberry jam on top.

To this day, the bread reminds me of my childhood and also my heritage. It makes me think of my mom, my grandmother and I all in our bathrobes, standing in the kitchen eating toasted wheaten bread. It makes me think of my great aunt in Northern Ireland, putting out trays of wheaten bread and sharp aged cheddar for us to eat with hot tea.

Something as simple as a recipe can tie one generation to another. It can represent family, familiarity, nationality and more. A huge part of who I am and where I come from can be tasted in a warm slice of bread.