Tag Archives: food

Rearview Mirror on a Summer

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Long Beach, Vancouver Island

September has come, it is hers / Whose vitality leaps in the autumn…*

Except that my vitality ain’t doing too much leaping at the moment. I’m still scrambling to catch up with the long, busy, and, above all, “away” summer – you’ve seen a few of the pictures. We left home on July 9th; spent two weeks in Vancouver and on Vancouver Island; came home; then after all of two days I hopped on a plane (or rather, a series of them), and headed for Europe for a month. A few days of sightseeing in Munich; three weeks of family stuff (helping with a move, to be precise); then to cap it off, three glorious days in London.

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Marienplatz, Munich, with Mary’s Column and Old Town Hall

Six weeks, 1500 photos, a wealth of experiences and memories. My house and garden, meanwhile, went to pot. As for my writing – well, I was going to say that nothing happened on that front, either. But that would actually be quite untrue. No, I didn’t really put any words to paper (or screen, as it were). But among those 1500 photos are quite a few that I took specifically as references for my WIP (that’s short for Work In Progress, for the un-artsy of you). The whole time in Germany I was soaking up atmosphere, sounds, tastes, sights – all with a mind to how that could be put to paper. My hotel in London was a converted Regency townhouse – inspiration pure (I might just have to write a Regency novel one of these days just so I can set it in that street; it was called Burton Crescent in those days).

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Cartwright Gardens, Bloomsbury

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I want to go back…

One street over, Tavistock Square, was where both Virginia Woolf and Charles Dickens lived for a while and wrote To the Lighthouse and A Tale of Two Cities, respectively. Five minutes walk up the street was the British Library – I got to see original manuscripts by (i.e. stare in awe at the notebooks of) Jane Austen, George Eliot, and Oscar Wilde; my jaw literally dropped when in one of the gorgeous glass cases I saw the Lindisfarne Gospels, and in another the Codex Sinaiticus… But I didn’t just revel in high-brow literature – I stopped in at King’s Cross Station and took a look at the Platform 9 3/4 store with its trolley stuck into the wall, too.

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The one and only portrait of Jane Austen, by her sister Cassandra. National Portrait Gallery, London.

I drank Bavarian beer in Munich, Württemberger wine in Stuttgart, and English cider in London; I ate pork roast with dumplings in the Hofbräuhaus, lentils and spätzle in the old part of Stuttgart, and beef-and-ale pie in a pub by King’s Cross. I got claustrophobic in the Bloody Tower as one of the bloody masses of tourists and sat in silence in the Stiftskirche in Stuttgart among a few other visitors stopped in to pray. I revelled in train rides and was moved to tears by world-famous paintings. And in between, I packed boxes and unpacked boxes; walked to the grocery store, walked to public transit, walked to visit people, and on Sundays went for walks by way of recreation.

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Beef pie and Symonds cider, in honest-to-goodness London pub

And now I’m back home in the land of peaches and salsa and grapes, where one has to take the car even to buy a jug of milk. I have limitless wi-fi again, so I’m catching up with what I’ve missed on the internet (which I haven’t actually missed that much – I’m considering making this a lifestyle). And I’m bound and determined to get back to writing. I have great good intentions to regularly sit down and work on my, well, work. One can always be optimistic, no? I certainly have enough inspiration to carry me along for a while.

Life, the Universe, and a Long Busy Travelling Summer. Now to process all those impressions…

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Franz Marc, “Birds”. Lenbachhaus, Munich. So beautiful it made me cry.

*opening line from a poem by Louis McNeice, Autumn Journal

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Lenten Soup

lentil soup

It was so cold and miserable yesterday, I had to have something hot for lunch. There weren’t any leftovers, and I didn’t feel like having anything from a can. So I made some lentil soup, from Puy (French) lentils I’ve had in the cupboard for, oh, probably three or four years. (Me in bulk food store: “Oh, look at those lovely [lentils, peas, beans, walnuts, hazelnuts, mixed dried vegetables, chunks of chocolate, etc etc]! I’ve been meaning to try  making [lentil/pea/bean soup, nut bread, veg soup, real chocolate cake, etc etc.]” Buy food. Sit food in cupboard. Periodically open cupboard and consider food. “Oh, look, I never did get around to making [lentil/pea/bean soup etc etc]. Must do that.” Close cupboard, forget about food. Months later, open cupboard, consider food…)

Anyway, I just sort of randomly threw this soup together. Lentils have the advantage that they’re the instant-food variety of the legume world, i.e. they cook in under an hour, as opposed to dried beans which have to pre-soak and then simmer away most of the day. So lentils lend themselves relatively well to impulse cooking (haha, see what I did there? Im-pulse).

So here’s what I did:

Lentil Soup

3c stock (I used ham stock I had in the freezer, but I think even water would work)

1/2 c Puy lentils, rinsed

3/4 tsp salt (could have used less)

chopped green onions

1/2 grated carrot

black pepper, pinch of cayenne pepper

1/2 tsp dried lovage, pinch dried oregano, large five-finger pinch frozen parsley

Dump in pot, bring to boil, turn down heat, simmer for about 45 minutes. To serve, I threw in some grated cheese. Very tasty and warming.

I also found out something: for a while now, I had this theory that the words “lentil” and “lent” are related – that perhaps we call lent lent because people used to eat more lentils then; or vice versa. But, alas, I was wrong. “Lentil” comes from Latin lens, meaning, well, “lentil”, while “lent” comes from Old English lencten, meaning “springtime”. I guess eating lentils in lent is just a coincidence. It was a plausible theory though, don’t you think?

Life, the Universe, and Lenten Soup. I think I’ll have the rest of it today.

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Master Peaseblossom, or What’s In A Salad

IMG_20160530_101217This spring, a patch of peas sprang up in one of my garden beds. I didn’t ask for them to be there, they just showed up. I have a suspicion that they came from one of my attempts to grow pea shoots in the winter in a tray on the counter; the leftovers got dumped in the compost, and that’s probably where they ended up, in that garden bed.

So now they’re blooming, and yesterday I made a salad with a head of lettuce from the garden, and just for fun decided to toss in a few pea blossoms (or peaseblossoms, if you want to go Shakespearean). No, Nick Bottom, I didn’t add Mustardseed, Cobweb or Moth, sorry.

The Offspring were of mixed opinions on the matter – actually, most of them didn’t eat the blossoms, just the lettuce. The one that did, though, really enjoyed them. Pea blossoms taste like fresh green peas (as do pea shoots). Edible flowers are lots of fun, although I do understand why people would be weirded out at seeing a bouquet on top of their lettuce.

Anyway, in case you’re interested, I thought I’d share my salad dressing recipe. It’s a basic yogurt vinaigrette (well, actually, not vinaigrette, as it’s not got vinegar in it – so is it a limonette?).

IMG_20160529_185108SALAD DRESSING

-1/4 c plain yogurt
-1 good squirt of lemon juice (let’s say 1 Tbsp)
-a glug of salad oil (or 2 Tbsp)
-salt & pepper to taste (or 1/4 tsp each)

-you can add 1/2 tsp prepared mustard, like dijon (if you want your Mounsieur Mustardseed), and any or all chopped fresh or dry herbs that strike your fancy. This one has chopped parsley, dill, lemon thyme, chives and green onions, because that’s what I happened to have in the garden.

-whisk together or shake in a small jar or gravy shaker. Put in the bottom of the salad bowl, toss lettuce in it (or pour over thinly sliced cucumbers or any other salad veg, toss). Top with whatever edible flowers you happen to have on hand. Serve immediately.

So there you have it, salad with peaseblossoms. As Nick Bottom would say:

BOTTOM: Your name, honest gentleman?
PEASEBLOSSOM: Peaseblossom.
BOTTOM: I pray you, commend me to Mistress Squash, your
mother, and to Master Peascod, your father. Good
Master Peaseblossom, I shall desire you of more
acquaintance too.
(Midsummer Night’s Dream, III, 1)

Life, the Universe, and Peaseblossoms. What’s in a salad? A salad, of any other veg, would taste as nice…

 

 

 

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Easter Eggs

IMG_20160328_102501Happy Easter Monday, to those of you who celebrate it (Germans, Canadians, Brits, Down-Under-ites?). Here’s Steve, being the Easter Bear, to add his good wishes.

Yes, we still have Easter eggs at our house, even though the Offspring are a few years past the Easter egg hunting stage. Much like I can’t imagine Christmas without cookies, I can’t have Easter without eggs. When we were kids, we always got some in our Easter baskets, or rather, we hunted for them in the garden. (One year, one got missed, and a friend of my brother’s found it months later in the juniper bushes beside the garage. I vaguely recall someone cracking it open; it wasn’t a pretty sight.)

Eggs were somewhat of a luxury item around our house; you got one boiled for breakfast maybe once or twice a week – one, mind you. And sometimes when you had a picnic lunch for a trip, there’d be a hard-boiled egg in it, which was always a treat. But on Easter, you got something like four or five of them, all to yourself. So very awesome.

Of course, there were chocolate and tiny sugar eggs and chocolate bunnies, too, and my grandmother sometimes got us these really elaborate caramel creations – like the hollow chocolate bunnies or lambs you can get, but made out of hard caramel (like Werther’s candies), with very intricate detailing. I recall one large Easter bunny, upright with a basket full of eggs on his back. In my memory, he’s really big, something like 8″ high, but he probably wasn’t – I was quite a bit smaller then myself, and you know how back then everything was so much bigger than it is now.

IMG_20160326_142855So yes, there was plenty of sugar to be had for my childhood Easter celebrations, but the real Easter eggs were still something special that I treasured. And so I still want Easter eggs to celebrate with, as well as chocolate and other sugar, so I always make a dozen or so. I also bake a sweet bread bunny each year now. That’s not something from my childhood, but a tradition I started when the Offspring were little. Maybe it’ll become part of their childhood memory – can’t have Easter without a baked Easter bunny?

Life, the Universe, and Easter Eggs. Have a Happy Eastertide!

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Wordless Wednesday: Frankencarrots

frankencarrots

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28 October 2015 · 10:28

Excuses

We interrupt our spate of regular blog postings for these messages, uh, reasons, uh, excuses – that’s it, excuses:

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calendula oil

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tomatoes

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peaches

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an early stage of zucchini salsa

Life, the Universe, and Harvest Season. See you on the other side.

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Marmalade

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A Paddington Bear notebook my daughter got for me at Paddington Station

So I promised you a post on marmalade, didn’t I? Well, now’s the time. We went and saw the Paddington movie last night, and when can you write about marmalade if not fresh from a viewing of a film starring The Bear With a Worrying Marmalade Habit? (The latter bit is a quote from Mr Brown, the movie version. The one in the book doesn’t seem to be worried about it at all.)

(In case you’re wondering, Steve didn’t come to the movie; they don’t have bears as a category at the ticket counter. Seniors, Children, and Generals, but no Privates, Corporals, or Bears. Also, even though I would have smuggled him in in my purse, he’s a little leery of watching things on a big screen. If you’re six inches high, even a large-screen television can be a little overwhelming.)

marmalade (1)So. Marmalade. Oh, the movie was quite good. However, I have to inform you that it presents a quite serious factual inaccuracy: they’re using the wrong kind of oranges for their marmalade. Yup. The movie shows Paddington and his Aunt Lucy making marmalade out of ordinary sweet oranges, the ones you get year-round in the grocery store – you know, navel oranges. How do I know that’s the ones? Because they chop them open, and they’re way too juicy on the inside. No, no, no. Just wrong. Marmalade is made from Seville or bitter oranges, which are a different thing; their flesh is quite dry.

Now, the funny thing is that nobody in my family actually eats marmalade except for me; and I only have it occasionally with a bacon-and-egg breakfast (the bitter taste offsets the grease something wonderful). It’s one of those acquired tastes, and I’ve acquired it in order to be able to feel more British. Well, yeah. It allows me to say “Pass the squish!” like Lord Peter Wimsey, and reminds me of the line in Gosford Park where Mrs Wilson, the housekeeper, asks Mary if her employer couldn’t have strawberry jam for her breakfast: “Only, we’ve run out of marmalade. Dorothy [the stillroom maid] didn’t make enough last January.” And then Lady Trentham (played by Maggie Smith at her most snobbish), the next morning on lifting the cover off her breakfast tray: “Boughten marmalade! I call that feeble.”

marmalade (2)Marmalade oranges are only available for a couple of weeks in January – hence the fictional Dorothy’s failings in producing enough for the household; if you don’t make it in January, you’ve missed the boat for the year. And I think that might be one of the reasons I like making marmalade: it’s the one preserve that you make in the dead of winter. The canning jars and rings and lids, the funnel and tongs, all the paraphernalia of canning season, which live in the kitchen all summer long, are put away in the storage room in the basement from October to June. But this one short stint of once again stirring the fragrant amber bubbling away in the big pot, of whirling around the kitchen to get the steaming hot jars out of the dishwasher and ladling the sticky-soft sweetness into the glass, clapping on the lids and then listening for that satisfying little snap when they seal – it’s an unmistakable reminder that even though the snow flies outside, summer’s warmth and harvest will be back.

I don’t have a worrying marmalade habit myself – although I might have a marmalade-cooking habit. And I have friends who are quite happy to support me in that habit by taking the product of my hands – or they say they are, anyway. Maybe they’re just being polite, being English and all? Paddington is a very polite bear – it’s the English way.

Life, the Universe, and Marmalade. Pass the squish.marmalade (3)

PS: Here’s the recipe, the short version: 2 lbs marmalade oranges, 8 cups water, 4 lbs sugar. Cut up oranges, take out pips. Chop whole oranges in food processor, boil with water for 1 1/2 hrs together with the pips tied in a little bag. When the orange peels are soft, take out the bag of pips, add the sugar, and boil for about 15 minutes, proceeding like for any other jam. Makes about 8 half-pints of marmalade. (Pardon the imperial measurements – I got the recipe from an older pre-metric English cookbook. Seems kind of suitable.)

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