Tag Archives: cooking

It always comes back to food

It has been a long while since I have posted anything here. I will chalk it up to being inordinately busy, and shifting through some major changes (like moving unexpectedly and starting a new job with a schedule that requires getting used to) and generally feeling blah all winter.

This book arrived in yesterday’s mail (with several others that I’ll speak to in a moment) and though it isn’t one that the doctor recommended I own (she did tell me, after encouraging me to follow a more plant-based diet, to get Plenty and Plenty More, both by Yotam Ottolenghi), I couldn’t resist My Paris Kitchen by David Lebovitz after reading through the sample pages online.

While the recipes cover a full spectrum of foods that would delight any omnivore such as myself, it is the rambling dialog that endeared me to it, and the tacitly apparent sheer love of food that the author has, which borders on reverence. I understand this, even if I am not a trained cook. It’s the fascination with the ingredients, and an appreciation for their unique and special qualities that draw me to cooking. When it is not a mere utilitarian act (to feed and nourish the body) it becomes a sort of dance with the ingredients, leaves us open for new discoveries of flavours and textures, and how they meld together when consumed. Food nourishes us in many ways, not just through their ingestion and digestion but by our interaction with it, in a dance of sorts.

Maybe I exaggerate. Maybe you don’t have this symbiotic relationship with food, or perhaps you have it with something else.

For me, it always comes back to food. I’d like to think I came upon it honestly. My mother was a fabulous cook, though she never strayed from the Hungarian cuisine she grew up on and mastered. Delicious as it was, I became culinarily curious the older I got. I grew up in Montreal, and anyone who has been to that city can attest to the fact that food, good, great food, is plentifully available throughout the city.

My challenge is that I am mostly cooking for one, these days.

With the movement towards local fresh food, and almost forgotten varieties of fruits and vegetables slowly making a reappearance on the (mostly farmer’s) market shelves, it is an exciting time to be cooking. This summer I’ll be looking for those white-tipped radishes, fresh mixed greens and locally made cheeses.

I can’t wait.

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green… but maybe not eggs and ham

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Not even the lure of a cup of coffee with fresh table cream was enough to convince me to brave the wet. The neighbourhood trees are growing into a riot of green, leaves bursting from branches like out of control afros and the petals of magnolia and cherry tree blossoms leaving a beautiful trail of detritus. But this is what the back balcony looks like today:

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A nap is sounding much more my speed (the cat has the right idea methinks).

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So on days like today one of my favourite things to do is to look through some books, and lately (perhaps ever), my favourite cook book has got to be Deb Perelman’s The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook, and her blog a close follow up second for all things food inspiration

20140419-151240.jpgI often adhoc stuff in the kitchen. Yes folks, I have finally gotten to that enviable place that my mother was at (and who I was in awe of) in the kitchen to know enough about food chemistry and flavours to make ingredients submit to my will and have a dish turn out without the exacting process of following a recipe. Well, baking takes a little more finesse and accuracy, so I follow rules a lot more carefully there (as did my mother) but cooking dishes has become much more of an intuitive process. Which is why I love Deb’s recipes. She will pair things together that are intriguing to the palate and so obviously divine together in retrospect.

Last week’s double chocolate banana bread is still being talked about and lusted after (and will be made again just as soon as the bananas are ripe enough). But seriously… if it’s not on your cookbook shelf, and you aren’t afraid of embracing a variety of ingredients, this one should definitely be part of your repertoire. Tomorrow is Easter and I’m wondering what I should make for the two of us. Double chocolate banana bread for certain, but the rest? I’m not sure yet.

But what I do know is that I am now ready for that nap…

morning pages and cultivating roots…

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(pencil undersketch penned over and painted with tube gouache. #30DayJournalProject)

Slow. Rain. Comfort. Coffee. Dream fragments. Hunger pangs. Hair and clothes that need washing. Lists made. Things to be done. All folding into this space and time of semi-wakefulness. This moment. WHAT do I want? What do I want to DO? Besides sleep some more. Oh sleep, how I love thee. It took months before I broke out of the cycle of awakening early every morning, filled with anxiety as though I’d missed the alarm. My rhythms are different now… back to what they naturally are inclined to do – late nights and not wakening until it’s light, which on these shortened winter days is late. Ah, yes… light. Not much of it again, these days. I think that I ought to go for a run and try fitness again but all I want to do is sleep. Keep warm and cozy and dry. Definitely not wet. Why do people like running in the cold rain?

It’s almost 10am and I am only just dragging myself up and about.  It’s grey outside and the grumbling in my stomach reminds me to put the kettle on. Coffee first. Then, when there are enough neurons firing, something else… food. Yogourt and granola. Love this granola but seriously – $8 for the bag made me cringe, but I got it anyway because it has Good Stuff in it, and I don’t have much Good Stuff so I need to make it count. I have a sort of dietic apathy.  I love food but the preparing and cooking of it doesn’t interest me, so quick and convenient (which usually doesn’t mean healthy). I did buy some pita bread and will experiment with making my own chips (*must steep fresh rosemary in olive oil*). I do like the experimental aspect of it. And when people enjoy what I make. There’s only the two of us and it gets old always being the one to be doing the cooking.

*pausing to make some coffee*

The smell of coffee is still on my hands. I love how it smells. How it tastes, too, but the smell is what brings it all together – the scent, the taste, the way it’s warmth spreads as it progresses down to my belly.

I had an image come to me this morning, for my art journal page, as I laid in bed with my arms clasped together over my lower abdomen, feeling it rise and fall with each breath. The awareness of my breath made me focus on it even more, and I breathed relaxation into it. I saw it as if it was burning, like a fire enlivened by the wind from the bellows. I had until now thought that my creativity stemmed from the root chakra, the elemental connection of our bodily selves to the spark that materialized us, but I see now that it’s at the second chakra where my breath is feeding the raging fires that it births from.

I made plans. I wrote them out (in my Notes, on the iPhone).

One is to do these… morning pages. To write for an hour. Another is to write on one of my stories. I haven’t touched the Telescope story in a while, and I feel it’s time to revisit it again. I’m just going to write. What else can I do but write it out? Yet another to-do item is to research freelance opportunities for writers and artists. I want to know where the markets are, what they require, so that I can build a repertoire of material that will likely be attractive. Targeted work. I always thought that making “art” to order would take away from my creative process, but I think in some ways it will fuel it, make me stretch in ways I would not have had it just been for me and my being left to my own devices. I hope it makes me a better writer and artist.

And then there is the roast for dinner. I am going to put it in the oven around 4PM. It’s a mammoth rolled pork blade roast, and I now realize that I will have to return to the grocery store because I think it needs to be accompanied by brussels sprouts. Yes, definitely. It will be poked and inserted with slivers of garlic and resemble Pinhead – Clive would be proud. I wish I had some rendered fat to rub on its surface. I have some duck fat and it works well as a fat for many things but it just doesn’t sound like it would taste right with the pork, which is lighter and more subtle in flavour and the duck fat doesn’t ever quite lose that wildness. I wish I could find some juniper berries. Not tons.. just a bit. I had a recipe call for some and it’s not something that regularly shows up between the peppercorn and nutmeg and turmeric.  I have a serious spice hoarding issue. Well… not hoarding – collecting. But I use them. I’m the one who makes lavender and thyme shortbread cookies. I love lavender. In food. Well, in anything, Period.

*pauses to go grab the mail that just got violently shoved through the mail slot by the postal carrier – it always startles me*

Nothing particularly exciting, though Organic Gardening was in there, and I know that preparing for the next growing season isn’t all that far off. I’m so grateful that Tyler and Amanda are keen gardeners and that they allow me to stick my hands into the dirt here, and also reap some of the bounty. I’ve been thinking that perhaps my (two boxes of!) paper making supplies could be put to use during this lull and that I make some seeded paper to sell. On etsy, maybe. I always wonder about whether it’s worth opening up an etsy storefront or not. Whether it’s more trouble than it’s worth; whether you need the demand already in place for the supply to be worth the trouble. Not quite buying the “if you build it they will come” paradigm. But who knows.

Well, the hour is about up. I’m ready for some granola and yogourt. Maybe another coffee, and then I’ll tackle something else on my list. One of which should be to take a shower.