Archive for the ‘food’ Category

Farmer’s Market

August 16, 2016

A block’s walk from my apartment is the venue of our local Farmer’s Market. It houses an odd mixture of vendors’ stalls – vegetable growers, artisanal sausage makers, pie makers, garlic growers, purveyors of hand-made soaps, macaroons, jams, sauces and condiments, crafters of dubious quality hand-strung jewelry, bannock frying natives, hand crocheters and knitters who use really nasty acrylic yarns of ghastly colour combinations, the occasional potter and local amateur painters of  picturesque dabblings. The prices are exorbitant. Anyhow much of what is on offer is a bit too pricey for my wallet, or would be, were it not for the coupon program for low income seniors and families, of which I count as one. So, I do not flinch too much when asked to hand over $4 for a knob of Russian.  garlic or $3 for a couple of medium sized tomatoes. There is a $6 allotment for meat weekly included in the coupons, but a package of four artisanal sausages comes priced at $9, so every other week a purchase of one package is manageable. Otherwise, one might purchase a precooked sausage on a stick for $5. A 3 oz. piece of Sockeye salmon is priced at @ $17, so that is a market I find myself reluctant to frequent.

I do find the vegetables of such excellent quality that the act of eating freshly picked and fully at optimum ripeness produce is a tremendous pleasure. The weekly coupons are a welcome gift!

Last Saturday, my favourite vegetable vendor had two generous sized Vegetable Marrows left over at the end of market. Every August I am always on the hunt for these. They are not commonly grown  or seldom available in our little city as most people don’t know how to cook them. The vendeuse, Flor, asked me what they were, as this was the first year she tried growing them. Casting my eye around her booth, I collected an onion and a clump of fresh dill. As I handed over $6 worth of coupons to purchase the marrows, onion and dill, I explaine how I was going to prepare them fro my special feast for that evening’s meal. “Heavenly it will be!” I told her. She replied that she was wanting to ty that dish, as it sounded so simple to prepare.

Here is my grandmother’s recipe for Hungarian Tokfozelek (missing the umlaut and accent ague)

1 Medium Vegetable marrow – halved lengthwise, seeded and peeled. Cut each half into thin slices across the width, set in a colander, sprinkle with salt to release excess water in the flesh. Set aside for 20 minutes.

1 Peel and finely slice one medium onion.  Saute in butter over medium heat. While onion is softening, squeeze excess water from the sliced marrows, and add them to the transparent softened onions.  Stir, cover pan and lower temperature slightly. Stir several times over 10 minutes.

3 Meanwhile chop about a handful of dill fronds, toss into onion and marrow, stir and keep cooking.

4  measure out 3/4 cups of sour cream , add to the vegetables, stir in, grind on salt and pepper, let heat to steaming.

5 Sprinkle with Sweet or Hot Hungarian Paprika.  Serve with bread, chicken, sausage ,or pork steaks.  A green salad on the side completes this feast.

I often just eat this vegetable side dish by itself, if I have eaten my daily meat alottment already.

Fussy eaters…

September 7, 2012

Glasgow Girl, my daughter-in-law, is one of the most fussy eaters I have encountered in my lifetime. She will not eat organ meats, or any meats with bone in. One cannot even present to her a dish of cooked meat without bones first removed prior to cooking.  As a result of her predelictions Mousey, also is demonstrating tendencies toward unreasonable fussiness, and it seems this dislike of bone has become one of her peeves as well.

Fussy eaters are made, not born. If one has unlimited choice, the tendency is toward refined, adulterated tastes I expect. Is there anyone out there in blog-land who might share with me great delight in eating the marrow out of soup bones.  This common fare is best served on substantial toasted bread, lightly salted, and is in my opinion absolutely delicious.

Cavemen in early days were the first to discover the delights of cracking the long bones of their killed, roasted meats, and extracting the delicious bounty of cooked marrow. As a modern suburban woman I am finding it increasingly difficult to acquire soup bones.  Poor people in my neighbourhood might utilize a good supply of these to prepare delicious broths as base of soups and stews.  However modern urban people, especially the poor, do not know of this plentiful enriching ingredient, and instead rely on purchasing highly processed, over-packaged and unhealthy junk foods.

It is to me a sad state of affairs, that in these times of seemingly unlimited plenty so many of us have forgotten a most basic rule of making use of every available part of animals we husband as food. As animals, we humans can share the seeming pleasure of dogs in extracting from animal portions every bit of taste and nutrition they might provide There is basic deliciousness in cooked connective tissue, the gelatinous portions, on the ends of soup bones well stewed, in the taste of marrow, the greasiness of which is necessary addition to help process vitamin nutrients from vegetables accompanying our meals. Such simple unfussy enjoyment seems to ba a matter of repeated experience through which taste acceptance is gradually acquired through familarity.

Twenty years ago, I provided room and board to a young native fellow from Kitkatla.  He had been raised on an Northern Island, where much of the foods eaten were obtained by fishing. When he first arrived in my home, he had broughtwith him several big cardboard cartons which smelled intensely of smoked fish.  He explained that his mother was most concerned that he would not have easy access to his favourite snack – dried salmon roe on dried seaweed.  Also in his stash of goodies from home were many cans of home-canned salmon.  He shared some of his roe and seaweed snacks – and they were surprisingly delicious, but foreign tasting to me, and I expressed to him my idea that favourite foods became such through repeated experience, and that sometimes he might not enjoy some of the foods presented to him for suppers. He said, it would be all right, because  his supply of familar foods might help allay his nostalgia for comfortable, familiar fare. And being a very young man of healthy appetite, he openly sampled the variety of foods presented him at meals.  Some he found more to his taste than others, and would gladly verbalize his analyses of flavour impressions. He most definitely wasn’t fussy. I expect this may have been on account of growing up in an environment where food sources were limited, and he did not develop a jaded, world-weary palate.

Too much choice tend to spoil our possible pleasures, I feel.

Sprain therapy – frozen peas and Montmorency cherries…

August 23, 2012

Two weeks ago, I travelled to Vancouver Island to stay with Ardent Feminazi at her Saanichton acreage and to kick around exploring the city of Victoria with a vague idea of relocating me and my goods there. Since becoming an official senior with a Gold Card, the only vaguely golden item I possess, it is now possible for me to sail to the Island via ferry, as foot passenger, GRATIS, but only if travelling between Monday and Thursday.  This is quite the perk for canned pet-food eating seniors in B.C.  Naturally, I took advantage of this.

After disembarking and dragging my wheelie suitcase across the sweltering tar-mac of the passenger pick-up zone, I spied Ardent Feminazi’s ratty red Toyota pick up truck, but no AF in sight anywhere. We had a bit of mix-up with the time of arrival, and she is not one to sit idle, but had gone off to the bottom of the ferry dock to see if in my heat-addled daze I had perhaps disembarked with vehicles rather than foot passengers.  After all I was piloting a wheeled bag, and may have taken too literally the advice for wheeled appliances to leve the ferry via the car deck. Since I have been known to make such errors in judgement on previous occasions, it made sense to me that eventually AF would return to her parked vehicle if she didn’t see me labouring along down below.  Meanwhile I wandered around from one shady bit to another and gathered a decent amount of melted buble gum on the bottom of my sandal soles, and then whiled away some more time trying to scrape that off at the edges of sidewalk.

At AF’s acreage, under the shadow of tall cedars, we sat quaffing cold coffee and plotting my searches of Victoria area to find just the right apartment for me. We made lists, looked at maps, looked up nearness of grocery stores and medical offices, considered nearness of neighbourhoods to the University, the Art gallery, parks and beaches.  I settled for Fairfield/Cook Street Village area as most meeting my diverse needs, and we made an apartment search list for the next several days.

During non-search times on the following days I played with Ardent Feminazi’s wonderful Malemute/Wolf cross, Sheena, inspected AF’s studio with the gorgeous huge etching press and wonderful light, made phone calls to Property Management agencies to view desired apartments, and ate fresh organic produce grown in Saanich.

As luck would have it, I did find a great little apartment a few blocks from the Lieutenant Governor’s mansion, the art gallery, Beacon Hill Park and Cook Street Village, and decided to come home and look after the deposits, etc..  The morning before I was to come home via ferry, I was up early, enjoying the cool of the morning while boiling water for a pot of tea.  AF’s house is situated among tall trees and  blessedly cool on a hot day. I walked from room to room in the quiet enjoying the green views from various windows and decided to go to my room to collect my morning medications.  Meanwhile, Sheena had, unheard by me, arrived in the computer room to continue her early-morning lie-in, thus as I was passing through that room I tripped over her recumbent body and lofted over her back, landing in a pile of freshly washed, unfolded laundry.

Thankg God for AF’s tendency to be casual with laundry – at least the pile made my landing a bit softer.  Sheena was surprised, but unharmed. My right foot however had folded under much in the same way as 19th Century Chinese folded a young girl’s arch and bound it tight to deform the foot to an ideal standard of beauty. Boy, did that hurt! Sweet Sheena gazed into my eyes and licked my face to let me know she would look after me.  I hopped off to retrieve my pills, then limped back into the kitchen to make the pot of tea and put my sore foot up on Sheena’s back. The foot looked all right, but hurt like the Dickens. I sat quietly sipping tea and applying cold wet cloths.

When AF woke up, she chastized me for not calling her to help.  But why should someone be disturbed just because I am such a Klutz? After breakfast she drove into Sidney to buy me a sturdy cane. Afterward she tried to convince me to go into Saanich Emergency and get my foot X-Rayed.  I refused to spend my last day on the island by sitting for many hours in a hospital waiting room, and figured that could as easily be done when I got back home. I figured since I could put weight on my right heel, but not the arch and bottom of the whole foot, things may not have been broken.

So, the following noon Ardent Feminazi borrowed a wheel-chair at the ferry, where thus ensconced, and in true Crippled Klutz style I was deposited on board into the care of a kind stewardess who actually brought me a sandwich and a cup of decent coffee and then wheeled me off at Tsawassen to pass me into the care of my sister, Margaret.

On the way home to my place, Margaret said. “you know what will make you feel a whole lot  better, G? I found a wonderful Hungarian deli in Vancouver where they actually carry canned Montmorency cherries and other goodies. I know how you often whine plaintively for sour cherry soup.”

“Okay” I said, ” but they better have Dios Beigli (Walnut Roll), Toportyu (deep fried pork rinds) and Majos Hurka (spicy liver sausage) as well. I feel the need to be totally self-indulgent.”

So, on the way home, we stopped at this deli, and I went wild, purchasing all of the above, as well as my beloved Montmorency cherries. As well, we stopped at a Save-On where Margaret nipped in to buy a large pack of frozen peas to serve as renewable cold-pack for my darn foot.

The frozen peas came in handy for the regular application of cold to my swollen and colourful foot.  I did go to local emergency the next morning and lucky as I tend to be, found no breaks, but chipped tarsal bones, and sprained tendons.

So the past two weeks, while regularly icing my foot, I also foraged my way through the Hungarian delicacies and frugally doled out tiny portions of Montmorency cherries – on youghurt, with sliced peaches, on oatmeal, spoonfuls by themselves.  No Sour Cherry soup, but simply delicious sour cherries.  Now I know where to get more of these cherries, and now that the frozen peas have eased my foot so I can freely hobble around, I think a bus ride is in order to the Vancouver deli, bring home several bottles of the Montmorency cherries and make the soup before the end of August.

The Yenta strikes again…

September 20, 2009

Pssst… don’t tell anybody, but, Hungarian Yenta is about to strike again.
Yes, busybody me has set the scene and invited Our Lady of Perpetual Crisis, a single matron of 51, and Rob, a single man of 61, to a Hungarian repast the object of which is to introduce these two chronically single souls to each other. Rumpole, good natured as he is, is merely groaning and rolling his eyes at the prospect of such a dinner, which might be a disaster. However I placated him with promise of a Schnitzel, roasted cabbage, roasted potatoes, pickled beets and shrimp salad menu.
A bit earlier, when I was pounding the daylights out of pork cutlets with my trusty metal tenderizer, he wandered through the kitchen and accused me of overkill. He did stop to smell the roasting cabbage and announced it smelling delicious. Odd, though, he didn’t mention that cabbage might be too flatulence-inducing to be appropriate for a match-making dinner. Did I err, in selecting cabbage as an accompaniment to schnitzel? I mean, we are all adults who are going to sup together, and what better way to break the ice than a few choice farts wafting from under the regions of the dining room table.
Poor Jessica may, however, be overcome by the compendium of olfactory effects, hanging around under the dining room table as is her wont during meals.
Our Lady of Perpetual Crisis expressed some concerns about the timing of this dinner. She is after all coming off day-shift this afternoon and is concerned with presenting herself as buffed up and pretty. Will she have time to adequately prepare herself for meeting Rob? And is he not slightly too old for her.
Nah, I told her. She is perfectly presentable as long as she is not wearing her uniform. Just comb your hair, I suggested. And, don’t wear your Red Door perfume – it’s likely to make us all pass out from sheer delight, and excess. (She does tend to douse herself in the stuff!) And, no. He is not too old. Just think, if things go well between you two and you hit it off, then you’ll have a chance to use your nursing skills on him in the not too distant future, I reminded her. This seemed to reassure her a little. She, after all, loves what she does for the living. And oddly, she seems to attract special needs men of the paraplegic sort, and I hastened to remind her that Rob has full use of all his limbs, and can do stuff, even – like walk and run, for extended periods, fix things, and think with all his perceptual faculties intact. He’s a real catch! Why? Because Hungarian Yenta has expressed that opinion, and is not to be questioned about things pertaining to romance between the two major sexes.
Well, things will turn out as they will. No point in second-guessing, no time for doubt. I just hope both Rob and Our Lady of Perpetual Crisis don’t rebel and act out. And I hope the Schnitzel doesn’t burn.
A perpetually hopeful, and busy-bodyish Hungarian Yenta, who keeps score, needs another win in the Romance Sweepstakes.
Wish me luck?

The Auld Sod – here and there…

July 20, 2009

Rumpole, Renaissance Man, Glasgow Girl and Mousey have travelled to the Auld Sod, Scotland, to visit Glasgow Girls mother and to make the pilgrimage to the Gathering of the Clans in Edinburgh. I am left behind, thankfully, to tend to the animals and the garden, in its current incarnation.

Rumpole has been keeping me updated with news of their various doings via e-mail. Mousey is not acclimatizing at all to the time change and she keeps them up until 3am at night. Rumpole finds himself having to drive the busy streets of Glasgow in a hire car; he is terrified of driving on the left hand side of the road, which, surely, takes some getting familiar with. Glasgow Girl is partying with her school mates, and Mouse is entertaining the neighbourhood matrons and little children with her own peculiar brand of Canadian wild childhood. Rumpole and Renaissance Man are doing father and son bonding and trekking around Glasgow taking in the sights and getting lost. I am happy watering and critter entertaining, so all is well with the Stepford-Rumpoles.

Yesterday, Lookingforbeauty, Moira, OurLady of PerpetualCrisis and I had a yard sale chez moi on what had to be the hottest day of our summer yet. I tried to offload such interesting items as Rumpole’s old pre-amp, kitchen chairs, crystal, my favourite conversation piece – my Osama Bin Laden Zippo-clone lighter, some jewelry that hasn’t seen the light of day in 20 years, rubber boots, a vintage 1930s pedestal ashtray of interesting provenance ( it comes from a demolished funeral home and has been the repository of many extinguished cigarette butts from generations of mourners), a crab trap, a dressage helmet and hand-painted mexican tiles.

Osama got a lot of varied responses from the die-hard Garage salers out and about on this hellish morning; some outright indignation, some chortling and some questioning – “Where on earth did you get this?” I managed to offload…er, sell, Rumpole’s pre-amp, and have already decided what to do with the loot gotten for its sale. He may not exactly approve, but he won’t be here to weigh in with negative comments on what I plan to do with the money. I also sold some jewelry. And that was that.

We girls decided that our Yard Sale was a bust. None of us did at all well for all the work involved in hoisting stuff outside, setting up and sitting sweltering in the sun for 4 hours, let alone the bringing stuff back inside when the sale time was up. We figured our timing for the sale was off – too hot, wrong time of the summer, we didn’t have stuff people wanted. But who’s to know? Except for Lookingforbeauty, the rest of us were Garage Sale beginners. Honestly, I didn’t like the whole experience, not being cut out for the badinage required to engage prospective buyers. I hate stuff, anyway, and the less stuff I have the more at ease I find myself.

Today I languished, wiped out by the experience. So I did three loads of laundry and cleaned the basement floor. I hung out the laundry to dry, which happened really fast, it being infernally hot again today. No complaints here.

This afternoon, I invited Lookingforbeauty over to harvest some zucchini, while I harvested some lettuce about to bolt and some sorrel for dinner to which Lookingforbeauty invited me and another friend. We got a good crop; especially one spectacularly large zucchini which I plan to wrap, Furoshiki style and gift, anonymously and with great night-time stealth, to my neighbours Gary and Laurie.

Boy, will they be surprised tomorrow morning. And will Rumpole be delighted that I have less zucchini to process and freeze to augment winter dishes, unbeknownst to him, and ostensibly to convert him, although he is completely unwilling to become a zucchini consumer.

Rats! There go the Brussels Sprouts…

June 19, 2009

My family loves Brussels Sprouts – those perfect little piquant globes of green goodness in the wintertime. So, there had to be a row of these plants in my new vegie garden. Of course, if there were going to grow Brussels Sprouts, there also had to be had a supply of Kale and Kohlrabi, two cruciferous vegetables I associate with my early life in Hungary. There were already three burgeoning Zucchini plants taking over one end of my little plot, promising enough produce to satisfy our Zucchini-loving Scottie, my tendency to hide shredded Zucchini in all sorts of dishes (Rumpole hates Zucchini! – so it has to masquerade as something else) and to provide ammunition for my planned late-summer stealth Zucchini bombings by night of our neighbours front stoops.

So there we were, outside by the rows to be planted – Jessica, Lookingforbeauty and me. Seedlings at the ready we busied ourselves planting before nightfall. Lookingforbeauty was placing onion seedlings into available unplanted spots in the rows. I was fluffing up Kale fronds and admiring them, when all of a sudden Lookingforbeauty uttered “Shoo, dog!” I looked up from my admiration of new green seedlings to spot Jessica sprawled, nonchalant among the Brussels Sprouts rows, working her jaws over a healthy bit of growth. I leaped up and made to chase her away, at which threatening gesture she merely hopped to her feet, threw herself onto the grass verge and began to roll around luxuriously, meanwhile keeping a beady eye open should I reach her to give her a swat on the bum.

I made like a shreaking scarecrow, but she simply sprinted around in the garden, making spectacular leaps over the vegetable rows. I looked at the damage she had done to the Brussels Sprouts. Four plants chewed down to their roots in the ground! By this time, Jessica was hiding behind the already planted Kohlrabi on the other side of the row. She was starting in on the Kohlrabi leaves, meanwhile peering out at me from under her awning-like eyebrows. I chased her around some more. She is short and fat, but boy can she move when motivated!

“You’re going to have to keep her out of this garden,” commented Lookingforbeauty. “It’s your own fault, G, for giving her all kinds of vegetables as treats. You spoil that dog!”

“But, just look at that little mug – those saucy eyes, that gooofy clowning she does. I can’t resist her in the slightest.” I said. “At least vegetables are good for her – the vitamins, you know?”

But, I have decided. Those remaining Brussels Sprouts will be in the forefront of my vigilance against the depredations of my vegetarian pooch. So will the Kohlrabi, Kale and Zucchini. If she behaves herself for the rest of the growing season, I promise to let her sample the produce come harvest time. I’m sure Rumpole will not be heart-broken to share the Zucchini bounty with her. Hah!

Going to the dogs…

April 11, 2009

This past month has been health month for Jessica, our, Scottie, and me, both. I have undergone numerous tests for a heart blockage and for measurement for a new lens for my left eye. Jessica had to have some dental cleaning done and some blood tests to determine her overall health, after all, she is a ten year old, but vigorous, Scot. She welcomes visits to the vet’s – there are cookies there, and plenty of admirers to compliment her on her greying black sleek body, her shiny black eyes and her remarkably loving temperament.

Now that she is through with the trials of teeth cleaning and ear-hair plucking, she is feisty and energetic as is appropriate for any being in the new Spring-time. Last week she also went to the groomers and recieved her spring clip, which always make her have a little vanity induced sprightliness. She seems to feel, as I do, the same insouciant joyfullness whenever she is freshly groomed. Yesterday, I too went to have my spring hair-cut, so we both prance about the house and yard like a couple of ageing divas. Rumpole is amused with our new-found flirtatious gadding about. Spring has sprung at the Stepford household.
Meanwhile, the yard has also gone to the dogs, so to speak. Our fences are falling down and no longer will stand up when propped into proper position. Time to bite the bullet and have new fences installed. According to all the local wags, “good fences make good neighbours”, so I have to beard Lookingforbeauty, next door, to agree ro a simple and effective separation of our two plots of suburbia. She wants, it seems, a new re-reiteration of our old fence – with no embellishments such as latticework, which she deems as trifle fussy, and frankly so do I.

On the other side of the property, Gary and Laurie seem also to want a repeat of the six-foot fence that separates our back yard from theirs. My own idea is to lower the fence to four feet there, so we can get more afternoon sun for my planned vegetable garden. Next Saturday, our garden Guru, Matthew, is coming by to break turf on the back yard and rototill the manure and compost for the planned vegetable beds. I have wonderful visions of Swiss Chard, rhubarb, beets and beet greens, pole beans and herbs to start out my little gardening effort. Also maybe some yellow Hungarian peppers.

Since Jessica is almost a vegeratian, I will also have to plant zucchini, as she really likes to chow down on smallish zucchinis. (She always raids my weekly vegetable sack and extracts any zucchini in it as her treat.) Any garden plan has to take into consideration the eating habits of any dog which might currently be living with us. It may be that turnips should be on the to-grow list, as Jessica is wild about chomping turnips, as well.

I figure I have two good months of establishing a little veggie plot before my late June eye-operation, which will prevent me from mucking about in the soil. Our Lady of Perpetual Crisis is going to have some growing space here for herself, in exchange for weeding in July and August, while I recuperate from the operation. We should be able to share in any growing bounty at harvest time, and then plan to increase the size and scope of the veggie garden next year.

How do I love you…

February 14, 2009

Last Saturday, when Rumpole took me to shop for fruit and vegetables at the local farmer’s market, we spied a pile of Blood Oranges. Now, Blood Oranges are a spectacular seasonal treat, only available this time of year. They are my February obsession; I have to purchase 5 to 7 of them to hold, admire the variegated peel colours and to strip, cut open in different ways and assemble for a painted study. Then wolf them down, smacking the lips all the meanwhile. They are an acquired taste. This year’s selection, which we picked up, did not have the peculiar bitter sweet tang of previous years’. But their peel was so beautiful, that I decided to make a Valentine’s treat of candied orange peel for friends and family.

Mousey has never tasted candied orange peel before. So I am especially excited that my little labours will provide a first taste ecperience for her. She may not find the flavour exactly to her liking, but it will be a first exposure to a new taste sensation.

While Rumpole was off on Wednesday evening to his weekly guitar lesson, I carefully peeled foor blood oranges. The white spongy inner membrane required cutting off. None of my paring knives were sharp enough to be up for this task, so I had to sit patiently sharpening the blade of my favorite small knife to razor conditions. That in itself is a relaxing, meditative task – honing the blade, testing it, resharpening until the perfect cutting capability was achieved.

Once the knife was capable of slicing the peel from the pith with ease, I took off my glasses, took up one quarter peel at a time and, taking a deep centering breath, made tidy work of stripping each section of peel. Since I can see up close with one eye, it was fine and calming work, that suits well my degree of sightedness.

After all the work of separating pith from peel had ended, I sliced each peel into thin slivers. Then a liquor of supersaturated sugar solution is required to be made, for slowly simmering the peelings for about three hours, in order to reduce the sugar solution considerably. I kept a close eye on this process to ensure no burning could possibly occur. The pot on the stove smelled delicious. I know this as I frequently hung my head over to sniff the citrus scent evaporating from the batch. MMM!

At the conclusion of the simmering process, I drained the sugar-saturated peels and laid the slips onto parchment covered cookie- sheets. (They sat out overnight to dry and harden.)

At breakfast, the following morning, I dredged the bits of sugared peel in a bowl of sugar. Rumpole snagged a slip and munched it with his coffee. Then he took a second sliver and pronounced it “addictive”.

During the morning, Jessica and I hiked to the local grocery store to buy some chocolate bits, which when melted might coat the ends of each sliver of peel. I came home with the dog after our walk, energized, full of resolve to do a bang-up job of coating the orange bits with chocolate.

(Now I am not a chocolate-loving person, and don’t cook and bake with variations of cocoa and chocolate. Why, the one time I ordered Mole Chicken at the Mariachi Restaurant in Tucson, on New Year’s Eve, twelve years back, I was horrified at the taste of a spicy chocolate coating on that fowl which should never, in my opinion, be treated with extreme flavours. So need I add at this point that chocolate is not a staple in my pantry or a favoured taste?)

I nuked the half the chocolate in the microwave and it came out a mess of steaming pumice textured stuff. No way was that flowing and liquid enough to coat the ends of my bits of candied peel. (I am still soaking and chipping out the bowl from the mass of vulcanized chocolate, and that, three days later.)

That endeavour being a complete failure, I settled on the tried and true double boiler method of melting chocolate. Yay! It worked.
Just at the point where I was ready to start dipping, Flora arrived at my studio door. She breezed in, uncoated herself, snaffled a candied peel, then another and yet another. So I poured her a coffee to slow her down. Instructed her to wash and dry her hands and to start dipping the peels one after the other in the chocolate.
Every fifth one she popped into her mouth and mumbled, while chewing, “God, I’m going to have to work extra hard at my spin class this evening to work off all these calories! Slap my hands, if I take any more of these to eat.”

“Just keep dipping.” I ordered her.

Flora made short work of dipping half the peels. We figured some of my loved ones and friends may have allergies to chocolate, So they should be able to partake of naked peels. She popped the chocolate coated peels into the fridge, and we sat down to discuss Gallery business and ideas for bringing in the public in numbers, over another cup of coffee.

Before Flora left to go on to the rest of her late afternoon, we packaged up the naked peels, and then the cooled chocolate ones. One batch was to go to Amy and her sons; one batch was to serve as after Valentine Day’s dinner treat for Martha’s do tonight; a group of us to eat a fabulous meal prepared by Martha, after which we will look at her photos from her trip to India over Christmas.

Tomorrow Mousey, Glagow Girl and Renaissance Man are coming to our house for Valentine’s dinner. Mousey will get her first taste of the third package of candied orange peel. Glasgow Girl gets a reprieve from having to cook Sunday dinner after working 5 evenings this past week. And Renaissance Man has a taste treat which is a blast from the past.
No trite Hallmark cards for any of us. No over-packaged commercial chocolates or flowers from far away places. Just each other’s company for pleasure, and a tiny bit of labour from me to show they are important in my life.

And, as added bonus, I learned how to and not burn chocolate. This old dog continues to keep learning.

Martha travels to India for Christmas…

December 20, 2008

Rumpole was off this evening, having gone into the city for dinner with Man of Science. So I made dinner of gulyas for Martha, Lookingforbeauty and me, what I jokingly called “The last Supper”, given that Martha will be enjoying more exotic fare during the next two weeks. You see, she is flying off to Delhi tomorrow, where she will meet her sister-in-law to travel around together. To prepare her palate for more spicy food, I had been rather liberal with tossing in hot Hungarian paprika into the gulyas while assembling it this afternoon. Martha dutifully choked back the meal, but it was a bit apparent that it was a slight bit too hot, as she consumed many glasses of water during the meal. She is far too polite to make pointed comments, but is known on occasion to grab her throat in a dramatic fashion and cough dramatically, but it is not something she did tonight. She just drank her copious amounts of aqua and regaled us with airport experiences.

It is apparent that she dislikes the airport checking-in routines, and maybe is dreading her upcoming experience at YVR tomorrow evening. She fears being singled out for extensive searches and frisking with the screechy wands. As she puts it, if there are several Hell’s Angels types languishing in the lineup with her, it is inevitably she who is selected to have her suitcase ransacked and picked apart with close scrutiny – she who looks like your average middle-aged lady teacher of French, complete with matching sweater set, sensible shoes and perm, jauntily accessorized with a cavalierly tossed long scarf about her neck and shoulders. Sort of like your every day middle-aged female terrorist, she snarls with sarcasm.

As well, she may be anticipating being mugged, because dinner conversation thoroughly covered the topic of older people being set upon by hooligans on the prowl for easy pickings. She and Lookingforbeauty engaged in a lively exchange over a recent sting operation set up by the Vancouver Police Force. With the aid of local film make-up artists, they made male and female decoys up as elderly or indigent persons and sent them out on the mean streets to entrap the thugs who victimize the helpless and infirm. There seems to be a theme during our women’s dinners that keeps cropping up lately with more frequency than I can remember from previous years. It is the theme of personal safety, and how fearful and increasingly cautious each of us is becoming when out and about on our peregrinations.

Martha smartly pointed out to us that her chances of being mugged, here in our own small municipality, is as great or maybe even greater than that happening to her in India. Of course, I was too busy stuffing my face to counter-argue with an observation that whilst one is in familar territory with known landmarks and a businesslike manner of moving positively toward known goals and not distracted by unfamiliar and fascinating sights and details, one tends to be more attuned to what is happening in the immediate surroundings. Hence, more watchful, aware, and less likely to be taken by surprise, although that possibility does exist even here, on known turf.

Martha demonstrated to us how she planned to carry her money and Visa and her passport – in a small zippered purse she can sling around her body and grab in front, close to her body, with one hand. Killjoy that I am, I pointed out how I could come up close behind her on a crowded sidewalk, cut her purse-strap and yank the purse from her grasp. Of course, she pooh-poohed my cautions and asked how on earth she was supposed to visit restaurants and shops with her goodies hidden in a pouch under her clothes.
“What, am I supposed to do a strip-tease every time I want to buy something?” she asked irritably.
Lookingforbeauty commented that chances of being mugged are probably higher in Italy than in India. Martha was going to India. She was going with a tour and would be safe. But, Lookingforbeauty reminded Martha never to leave her purse on the floor, or just sitting at her side at a restaurant table.

Bur surely, tourists from North America stick out like sore thumbs whilst in India. And not just because they walk about gaping at everything about them, either. Their clothing sets them apart. Oh, well, both Martha and Lookingforbeauty dismissed me as a well-meaning Nervous Nellie and changed the subject. As I ate my way through dinner, I half-listened to them chatting about previous overseas adventures, while being distracted by thought of what kind of footwear Martha might choose to wear on this trip.

As a non-sequitur I blurted out, “I hope you are not planning to wear sandals. There are monkeys about in India, and they bite.”
I was visualizing Martha hopping about on one foot screaming her lungs out in pain, while the offending, biting, monkey sauntered off licking its bloody chops. Then the rabies shots at the local clinic, and what have you, AND limping about with a bandaged foot at the ghats in Varanesi.

Of course, Martha is excited by an opportunity to ride on an elephant at one of the stop-offs. Shades of her camel riding adventure in the Australian outback! I just hope, this time her room-mate, her sister-in-law, doesn’t end up Mace-ing her during her elephant trek. But true to form, Martha will have somethings unlikely and unexpected happenings during her India adventure, with which she will entertain us for months upon her return.

As she prepared to leave for home, Martha complained that she probably not going to get much sleep tonight. She was nervously excited. I imagine she will unpack and repack her bag several times during the night just to double and triple-check that she had everything she might possibly need on this trip. I nipped into the bathroom drug cupboard and brought the over-the-counter sleep aids that I use from time to time. Whatever is in it sure knocks one out cold, with no lingering morning hangover. I doled out 4 tablets and read her the dosage instructions while she wrapped the pills inside a twist of paper.

Martha wrapped herself up in her sheared fake beaver coat, wound her long Bolivian scarf around her throat, struggled into her winter boots. We hugged and kissed good-bye at the studio door and she went out into the bright snowy cold night.

“See you in two weeks,” she called back from her car.

“Stay well and have great adventures! We’re looking forward to your marvellous reports!” I closed the door and waved at her through the window as she drove away.

Fried eggs and rain…

November 2, 2008

Cast iron pan sizzles with fat.
Hard wet pavement fizzes with
passing traffic, fading in and out
in the background.
The yellow suns gather heat.
Their clear film gradates to opaque
whiteness, with a ruffling skirt that
puffs and subsides
in counterpoint crackling.
The toaster’s pop signals
an abrupt end to this small
observed miracle.
While traffic hisses by
we sit, contemplating our offered
feast of needed warmth which waits
to be pricked and pooled,
sopped up and savoured
this cold November morning.

GM, November 2008