A guid new year to ane an' a'
Wednesday, December 31, 2008
A guid new year to ane an' a'
Sunday, December 21, 2008
I love snow. I guess one would when it shows up so infrequently and in such small amounts. Rain and wind are usually my lot in winter and that can get pretty depressing after a while. At least snow reflects the light and makes things seem a bit brighter and cheerier. I like snow at any time of winter but the idea of snow at Christmas holds a special place in my heart. I think it does for a lot of people, even those who see it quite a bit all winter.
There is something magical about a snowy Christmas. I know a lot of those Currier and Ives pictures, well-cherished movies and Christmas prose of long past play a part in my nostalgic sighs but there seems to be some necessary about snow for Christmas. When snow falls, all the noises are muted; the world seems hushed. What better time of the year to have a moment of quiet than the days when we ponder the mysteries and wonder of that special birth so very long ago that brought Love personified to the world. When it snows, it's as if the world itself seems to meditate on the sacredness of this time of year.
Christmas is also a time for joyful get-togethers with friends and family. What is better to get people together than snow and cold? Snow lets a little bit of the child out in so many people just like Christmas can. Or should. It makes us a little more apt to throw a snowball or two, build a snowman together, go sledding or even use it as an excuse to go inside to have hot chocolate heaped with marshmallows. And so it should. I think we all take life a little too seriously sometimes.
So there you have it--the reason I love snow. Snow is LOVE and snow is JOY. Snow brings both these feelings to my heart and my heart sends these feelings to all of you out there who read this.
Bless you all!
Tuesday, November 11, 2008
Growing up and into my twenties, my family had boxer dogs. They are amiable, fun-loving family dogs and I still have my heart set on having another boxer one day. Yet there was always one thing that bothered me about the boxers we had. As much as I had fun walking them, stroking their enviably soft ears, squishing their fun jowls, I never got the gesture of affection I saw my sister and father get. I, too, wanted a sleeping dog to snuggle up and rest a weary head on my lap. It never happened. I tried all kinds of coaxing and sweetness. Nothing. I thought I'd never know that kind of sweet moment of pure love from a dog. Then I met Buster.
I've had Buster for one and a half years. Runt of the pack, living outdoors since he was just weaned, he was the happy-go-lucky, mixed breed puppy I passed by on my way to work. He was a bit too happy for the other dogs in the neighbourhood, though. More than I cared to see, his pale fur was smeared with blood from one submission session or another. Fate placed his care into my hands around his sixth month and it has been love, sweet, love ever since.
When I first got him, Buster was a shivering worrywart, scared of doing the wrong thing but he soon learned that my man and I were head over heels in love with him. He knew in a short time that he'd never have to shiver in the cold anymore if he didn't want to nor have to sneak around to find food when his brother wasn't looking. He is currently a much-plumper, long-legged couch hog who likes to chase squirrels, birds and water from the hose. He has us wrapped around his little finger. Most of all, he is the answer to my snuggly puppy dreams.
Buster loves to cuddle, practically rubbing himself around you like a cat or flopping like a fish across the couch so he can burrow his head on your lap or behind your back. He'll curl up like a ball one day or stretch out like a bear rug across you the next. Bliss really does happen while a gently snoring puppy dog uses you as a pillow, occasionally twitching and whimpering in his sleep as he chases that elusive cat through his dreams. It melts my heart every time.
My prayer was a simple one and I thank God every day that a furry little angel entered my life ready to snuggle.
Thursday, July 31, 2008
Michelle of Accidental Scientist is such a support. She's far more prolific in writing than I am and always an inspiration. Answering her tag is the least I could do for my dear blog friend. Go by and read hers, too.
1. Last Movie I Saw In A Movie Theater?
Yikes! I think the last one I saw in the theatre was “I am Legend” with Will Smith. Not much chance to go to movies in my little village. No movie theatre and I thoroughly do not believe in downloading movies illegally.
2. What Book Are You Reading? Well, of the English language books I just finished reading there was “The Real Food Revival” by Sherri Brooks Vinton and Ann Clark Espuelas, “The End of Ignorance” by John Mighton and “The Audacity of Hope” by Barack Obama. Food, Education, Biography... the only thing I’m missing is a book on Spirituality. I’m also trying to improve my French by reading the old “Pif” pocketbook comics from The Frog’s childhood and some purchased French food magazines.
3. Favorite Board Game? I enjoy playing Risk ( We have the Lord of the Rings version) if I have the time and patience. I like the French strategy game, Abalone, too. My tagger need not worry about board game nights. I’ve done that with friends, too, and it can lead to all kinds of great potlucks and conversations. My best memories usually involve a night with games and good friends.
4. Favorite Magazine?
I don’t know how alone I am here. I rarely hear people ooh and aah over Cook’s Illustrated Magazine but it’s the magazine I prefer. I like knowing all the things the test kitchen has tried so I don’t try to take a lazy way out and end up flubbing up a dish. I like their brand comparisons and tests of new food tools, too.
5. Favorite Smells? I love the smell of the rain mixing with dust on the pavement after a long run of heat. I love the smell of sweet peas, honeysuckle and wild roses. I love the smell of cinnamon, particularly in baking. My dog’s warm fur.
6. Favorite Sounds?
The world without electricity. Real church bells (the fake ones just don’t cut it). Birds in the trees. Wind in the trees. Soft rain patter on deciduous trees. Baby giggles.
7. Worst Feeling In The World?
The feeling you get the moment after you said something you shouldn’t have
8. First Thing You Think of When You Wake?
”Where’s the dog?”
9. Favorite Fast Food Place?
Not that fond of anything “fast food”. Does sushi count? They can make it REALLY fast at TOGO Sushi. And it’s really good, to boot.
10. Future Child’s Name?
This has been thought of often so, unlike Michelle, I don’t feel I’d be jinxing anything. Ideally they would be Gabriel for a boy and Marie-Madeleine for a girl.
11. Finish This Statement—“If I Had a Lot of Money,"
... I’d have an organic hobby farm with a small B&B on it.
12. Do You Drive Fast? Hmmm... I don’t think I really do but I do like to drive in places that I can legally go a bit faster like a freeway.
13. Do You Sleep With a Stuffed Animal?
After his dinner, I guess he’d be a “stuffed” Frog. LOL
14. Storms—cool or scary?
Having grown up with Canada’s West Coast’s answer to storms, I ‘d say cool. They’re rarely bad. I experienced my first French plains one a few years back and it had me a bit nervous. Way more violent than anything I’d known before. So the jury’s out on that one.
15. What Was Your First Car?
My first car was a little used red Geo Tracker. It smelled a little. The driver’s side window was completely wonky. I called him “Cooper”. He got me where I needed to go and I miss him.
16. Favorite Drink?
Hmmm... how boring is this—water! But I do like sweet iced tea, iced green tea, raspberry juice and pineapple juice too. Pineapple juice holds a special place in my heart. A number of years back I got sick during archaeology field school. For days I could hardly keep anything down. My first real “food” was a glass of pineapple juice one of the gals gave me in pity because I was restricted from the camp kitchen.
17. Finish This Statement—“If I Had the Time, I Would…"
... go back to school to take culinary arts. Even if it was just for me and not a job.
18. Do You Eat the Stems on Broccoli?
Umm... of course! Why don’t other people??? All you have to do is peel them.
19. If You could Dye your Hair Any Other Color, What Would It Be?
It will almost certainly never happen but I’d like peacock blue or deep purple hair if I could just snap my fingers between natural and fake colours.
20. Name All the Different Cities In Which You Have Lived – The Greater Vancouver area is the only city I’ve lived in. Anywhere else has been small. Too small to count as a city. Or even a town. *sigh* I’m such a country toad.
21. Favorite Sport to Watch? I’ve surprised myself lately. I used to be completely intolerant of my father’s hockey and football watching. Football is still on the outs for me but I’m becoming a true Canadian sucker for a decent fight on the ice. You know, the stick and helmets flying kind. Otherwise my preference lies in swimming, horse jumping or gymnastic events. But that’s very rare.
22. One Nice Thing About The Person Who Sent This To You She leaves lovely comments on nearly everything I post. I really appreciate that she lets me know she’s still out there reading my blog. There’s nothing worse that feeling like you’re talking to yourself on a blog. :-/
23. What’s Under Your Bed?
Paper Storage. Extra sweaters in storage. Mending I still haven’t got to.
24. Would You Like to Be Born As Yourself Again?
I would. It would be a shame to not know the wonderful people I’ve known in my life if I had a different life.
25. Morning Person or Night Owl?
By rights I am a true night owl but having had so many reasons to get up early in the morning (school, teaching, etc), I have trained myself into a morning bird. I wouldn’t go so far as to say a lark. ;-)
26. Over Easy or Sunny Side Up?
Sunny Side Up. Yolks have to be runny. Great preference for it to served on top of a buttered whole wheat toast. That way I can cut the egg without worrying about losing any precious yolk. Too much whites compared to the yolk? Yuck.
27. Favorite Place to Relax?
The bath. Give me a pile of reading material and hot water and I’m happy. The pool, floating on my back watching clouds and birds is related but not as high on the list. Out of the bath, I like to be curled up on the couch with my dog, his head resting on me, a good book in my hands.
28. Favorite Ice Cream Flavor?
Pistachio. Mind you, the French have some amazing flavours of ice cream and sorbets. My favourites of these are coconut, lemon sorbet, lime sorbet and pear. Oh god... the pear. It is SOOOO good.
29. Of All the People You Have Tagged, Who Is the Most Likely to Respond First?
Um. I hate answering this question. If Michelle hadn’t tagged me, I know she’d likely have been one of the first.
Oh dear... now I have to tag 4 or 5 other people. The part I “love” the most. It kinda feels like telemarketing to me. I just hope people don’t mind.
Cate, always warm and supportive and wonderful to read, at Sweetnicks
Darling Jasmine, my fellow Canadian, who tried to keep me in touch with the blogging world so many times by email, at Cardamom Addict
The other Michelle, my new blog buddy and a great writer, at Le Potage
Wednesday, July 23, 2008
While I'm away I'll be thinking of sweet Sher, whose dear friend, Glenna, wrote a lovely tribute about her friend. Sher will be fondly remembered. God bless you, Sher.
Tuesday, July 22, 2008
We'd stopped in Lunéville to see the mini-Versaille built by Leopold, Duke of Lorraine and later occupied by the deposed king of Poland, Stanislaw Leszczynski. We only saw the outside as we spent a little time walking the large gardens attached to the chateau.
I'd mistakely thought we were staying in the town of southern Alsace, Colmar. Instead, we ended up staying on the Ile du Rhine, a lovely hotel right beside the Rhine River. Our room looked out over a lake-like side channel of the Rhine where I found a bit of bliss in the early morning and the evenings watching the ducks and swallows there as well as a pair of swans with their four babies.
We ate at the hotel for dinner the first night. It wasn't the chateau by any stretch of the imagination but it was a good introduction to a new favourite of mine--flammenkueche, also known as tarte flambee. I'd describe as perogy-fixings on a flatbread.--lardons (bacon), creme fraiche (sour cream) and onions-- yet superior. I'd also had a fillet de sandre, a halibut-textured fish, with a creamy reisling sauce but it didn't match the love at first sight I had with the flammenkueche. I could have had a version with grilled cheese or with Munster cheese, but the sheer peasant simplicity of the dish would have been ruined. Having it served on a wooden board enhanced its comfort food status immensely.
Monday, July 21, 2008
I didn't really want to reinforce the tourist-who-mistakenly-wandered-into-the-palace image we already presented so I never took pictures of the food. There was just no privacy. That room was designed to see and be seen. The food, however, left a big impression on me, enough to remember it in detail.
Let me first begin with the setting. Imagine a well-kept Caribbean estate terrace garden leading onto a covered lanai. The lanai itself is decorated in the fashion of a colonial club room in Southern Asia. Palms, multi-drawered apothocary chests, tiles, white linens--you know, the works.
We all started with the tuna carpaccio. Three long rectangular portions of paper thin belly tuna lay across the width of the plate, parted by light dressed fresh greens with a sprinkling of raw mung beans on top. The tuna itself was dressed sparingly in soy sauce, sesame oil, toasted sesame seeds and rice vinegar. A smattering of wasabi/chili oil dots lined the sides of the plate. It was served with an avocado soup/sorbet. The tuna was very moreish, the light bitterness of the mung sprouts a nice contrast to the lusciousness of the delicate tuna. But the avocado thing, my only disappointment of the meal, had a top note of cool richness. The bottom note that played out after, however, was bitter. Not "try not to spit it out" bitter, but certainly not appealing.
After, Papa Frog and I had salmon ravioli. If the tuna was very good, this dish was heaven in a celadon-green glass bowl. In a light salmon broth, awash in a confetti of lightly cooked carrot, turnip and zucchini dice, were a few pieces of luxuriantly-textured poached salmon. Most of the few salmon pieces were half-wrapped in perfectly cooked wonton wrappers. There was a seasoning of herbs in the soup that I think was chervil, parsley and basil. It was topped off with a little green cloud of leek sprouts. It seems too simple to be good but it was a marriage of flavours that defied explination. It took all my reserve to not lift the bowl to my lips to get every last drop of the lovely broth.
My Frog had ordered a cut of beef with a pepper sauce. We thought we knew what to expect. Oh how wrong we were. The rare-cooked piece was so rich and buttery under the knife that I expected Froggie's eyes to roll back in his head. The 'sauce' was actually a pale-green pepper oil served on the side. It only added to the unctuous nature of the little beast. Also on the side was served a collection of lightly poached white asparagus spears and poached radishes. Again unexpected but they worked so well with the rest of the dish. I can say this because it became too much of a curiosity for me not to beg a piece. It was every savoury bit of butteriness that he promised. Every bit.
As I'd ordered from a menu I still had a dessert to arrive. While we waited for the course to come we were given a small bowl of top notch dark chocolate cut into cubes and the most darling thumb-sized madeleines. Those little cakes were strawberry pink and rose-flavoured. Yum! I would have been happy if THIS had been my dessert but the best was yet to come.
I didn't know what to expect of a "passion tart" but I didn't expect what came. A tiny glass of canary yellow passionfruit smoothie with a tiny black straw hovered on the plate above a tart of simple splendour. A cookie-like crust was filled with the most breathtakingly rich, yolky custard, crowned with four perfect fat raspberries and dusted with silver leaf. Yeah... edible silver leaf. Honestly, the snobs could take a hike. I was going to relish this.
I'd entered this place feeling like I better pretend to own this joint. By the end I didn't need to pretend to act pampered. I was.
Wednesday, July 16, 2008
See you in a few days! Coq au Reisling, Munster Cheese and Gewürztraminer here I come!
Tuesday, July 15, 2008
As he awakes, your man suggests a lovely surprise for his father and the guests of the last two days, an aunt and uncle. His suggestions pleases you as you wish to do something nice for these two lovely people. Almost instantly after meeting them you warmed to them, their presence in your first few days in France a sweet and unexpected blessing.
Quickly you both dress for the day, whispering in hushed but fervent tones about favourite topics. Quickly you both slip out of the house, trying not to wake anyone. Out of the gate you wander down the lane, chattering and admiring some of the fruit trees belonging to neighbours. The apples seem bonny and abundant and surprisingly flush for the time of year.
You turn to the main village road, pass by the park and cross the street quickly. The road is actually quite busy for the morning but not unexpectedly. People are racing back to work and home after France's National holiday, a long weekend this year. You can even still see a little of the detritus of the weekend's festivities and fireworks along the curb.
The houses of the village press close together like long stone snakes bordering the roads. The early morning sun presses against their shuttered windows. Were it not for the constant bustle of passing cars and trucks, you would have felt quite alone in the streets, so few living things are in your path except the odd cat and the swift-darting barnswallows. But the scent of the flowers are quite alive as you walk, some well known like the deep red roses splashed across the farm building and some haunting, unknown perfume--green yet sweet.
You pass under the blue shadows of the tall, typical Eastern French church. You both pause to admire the tower, topped with a weathered but proud cockerel before continuing on to your destination--the bakery. The shop is quite modern looking, inset amongst the archaic stone buildings. You look in the window and realize that there is indeed life stirring in the quiet country village.
As you enter, an ancient but proud-looking little lady passes by you, a bread loaf half her size tucked almost militarily under her sweatered arm. She greets you with the abbreviated street-greeting so familiar to you now--'Bonjour M'sieurdame'. The greeting is echoed by the cheerful baker's wife, young and energetic-looking. Your darling quickly asks for all the remaining ten croissants, freshly baked that morning. His eyes wander to the little quiches beside the croissants and folds to temptation at the thought of having good French quiche. He orders two. You must hurry out and no longer tarry as people of all shapes and sizes suddenly try to squeeze into the shop, waiting for their daily fresh bread. The village, it seems, is now awake.
You take a quieter, quicker route home, admiring the still-flowering wisteria crawling across the expanse of three stone houses. Faces are now peeking through windows as you pass. The waking of the village has happened so quickly, you're almost breathless. An old lady waddles along the narrow alley to her garden. A troupe of young men discuss loudly as they start working on refurbishing a house. A child babbles as a mother coos in some unseen upper floor. The buttery scent of the croissants drives you on to quickly get back home.
Flushed with excitement and the walk, you both dash through the gate and up the hill to the veranda, laying your treasure out on the table for the sleepy-eyed but obviously pleased guest. Breakfast goods are gathered up and all emerge to partake of the coffee, juice and croissants. You share a bit of quiche with your sweetie and your eyes widen at the beautiful taste of the eggs and bacon. This is nothing like the quiches you've known from Canada. It's far more dense and rich. You know how much the quiche means to him, so you refrain from grabbing the rest. Instead you sink your teeth into a flaky, buttery croissant. Again your eyes widen as this freshly made treat melts against your tongue. 'We ain't in Canada anymore, Toto', you think. They may not be the prettiest you've seen but their bare touch of salt and understated sweetness are infinitely superior to anything you've had before, at least in recent memory.
As you listen to the conversation open up around the table, blending with the hum of a distant lawnmower, you realize that this really IS the life.
Sunday, July 13, 2008
If there is nothing to be done, I'm going to have to rely on my word skill to describe the food. I hope you don't mind. Then, maybe after I get back, I can upload pictures to go with the words.
Saturday, July 12, 2008
I anticipate the month with nostalgic and gastronomical excitement. Old friends like my beloved chèvre cheese, brut de pom (apple pop) rilettes de canard and French yogurt have already zipped through the shopping scanner as well as some new hopes like raspberry juice with violet aroma. They are still sitting placidly in the fridge ready to seduce my tastebuds.
One unexpected surprise so far was the champagne we drank on our arrival back to the homebase. I'm not always so keen on champagne alone, preferring the addition of crème de cassis. but this one had such a haunting grape tone that it was far more interesting to my palate.
We hope to travel a bit to the east and a bit further north so my future may hold such delights and curiosities as waffles and coq au Riesling on Spätzle. I know Ze Frog wants to ask about another more local specialty--pig's feet. I'm not sure about it but I'll try at least if offered the chance. Life is too short to be weird about food.
Friday, July 11, 2008
But I say basta ya to my inner self-critic and throw caution to the wind. This IS a food commentary and so, dang it, I'll comment. This IS a place to share food adventures, so, By God, I'll share. No Olympic swimmer dipped into the pool just yesterday and won the gold medal on the day of swimming lesson #2 so I don't know why I seem to think I need to write Shakespeare on my first tries.
So I'm jumping into the dictionary with my waterwings, sweetheart, and preparing to bob up and down until I find my strength. Practice makes perfect says the old adage so I'll work my way up in wordcraft. They may be diatribes, they may be little bubbles of thought but I need to stop kidding myself that I'll be a master with no preparation. I just need to write. So sit back and strap in--you're in for a bumpy ride.
Sunday, March 23, 2008
Even with all the quirks and annoyances getting to that stage, I am very proud of myself for getting there. And to think it was all so easy (if you don't count a borrowed pasta maker that would rather fling itself off the counter than stay put). Now I'm hooked. I want to try again. And again. And maybe... again!
I even made sure I tried the pasta maker before I went down south to Vancouver so I'd know what little things would make my next time easier. For example, I definitely needed to level up on the scale. So I got one. Wish I could have got one of those hundred dollar examples out there but I'll just have to save up for it along with the pasta maker, a new car, etc. But I have other things I got to make the three month wait worth it--fresh herbs for the garden, Italian tomato paste, anchovy paste and the funkiest kitchen shears given as an early birthday present from my dear friend.
I've been doing some spring cleaning of my more whiney posts and maybe take the Easter message of rebirth seriously this time. Can't think of a better time to blossom back into the foodie world. Let's just hope I mean it this time. ;-)