Sweet Memories Are Made of This – Food

September 27, 2010 § 8 Comments

I was talking to my friend Redawna Kalynchuk, a food blogger, sugar artist and gift basket designer from nearby Sexsmith, recently about how her writing about food preparation is working with two art forms at once.

Then I started thinking about how many wonderful memories are associated with food.

churchill’s roast beef and yorkshire pudding

Image by Joits via Flickr

Amongst my earliest recollections as an adult was the Sunday fare when I boarded with the Hunter family in Richmond, B.C. while attending college. What particularly stands out is the Yorkshire pudding that accompanied the roast beef and gravy.

Of course, that was just a precursor to the pecan pie! I’ve had a weakness for that sweet pastry delight ever since.

I boarded with the Hunters for three years and we’ve remained close friends – more like family – over the years. In fact, I just celebrated my 50th birthday with them.

It is 27 years this fall since Joyce and I started dating. At one of our first outings, I made a small wager for dinner. I won. Joyce made me Chinese food. I reciprocated with a spaghetti meal shortly after. Very nice memories of our first weeks of dating!

Over our 20 years in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, nearly every Christmas dinner was shared with Jeni and Jim Rice and their daughters in alternating years. Our kids are grown now and dispersed. We live three provinces away, but I can almost smell Jim’s rhubarb-strawberry pie baking as I type.

It was wonderful to share these many special occasions with another family when neither of us had relatives in the Sault.

Speaking of food and family/friends could not be complete without mentioning my sister-in-law, Louise, and the sumptuous carrot cake recipe she shared with me many years ago. It’s been the highlight of many gatherings in our home and in the workplaces Joyce and I have had over the years.

When I mentioned my idea for this blog, many friends ate up the idea of sharing their memories.
Here are a few:

Jackie Ostashek, Parkland County Communications Co-ordinator
My Baba (Grandmother) has mastered the art of making cabbage rolls. She makes them so tiny, they are barely the size of the end of your thumb – and sooooo delicious. She always makes them in this ceramic dish that is probably 50+ years old. I swear that is the magic behind the most spectacular cabbage rolls.

I was nervous about telling her I’d become a vegetarian. But my Baba, being the amazing lady she is, took it in stride. Knowing how much I love my cabbage rolls, she makes a point of making them, bacon-free, every time I visit.

This amazing and spectacular woman turns 98 October 1st. For a woman of her age, she is shockingly spry and modern in her thinking. I can only aspire to be half as amazing as she is. But no matter how much I try, I will never come near her talent in making her tiny, tender and amazing cabbage rolls – even if I inherit the old ceramic dish.

Alina Popescu, Principal, Mirror Communications, Bucharest, Romania
They don’t make bread like they used to!

I might sound like an old lady, but the statement is nevertheless true. The best bread I’ve ever had was while visiting my grandparents (from my dad’s side of the family) in a small village near the town of Ramnicu Sarat.

Getting the bread was quite an adventure. I’d take my tiny bike and ride it to the bakery, a trip that seemed to take ages, when it was actually a 10-15 minute bike ride, but time always flows a lot slower when you’re young.

I’d buy this huge, round bread, put it in my bag and go back home. I would just walk along the bike because the bread was way too heavy for me to be able to ride. I’d get home to an extremely warm and lively kitchen where my grandfather would wait for me with stories and smiles while grandma would bicker about the meal being ready for quite a while.

We’d place this huge, wonderfully smelling bread in the middle of the table and break steamy pieces out of it as it was too fresh to cut it.

Whenever I sense the smell of bread resembling that special type that I cannot find no matter how long I look for it, I am taken back to a place of extremely long days filled with wonder, where I never asked for any given day to be longer than 24 hours.

Grande Prairie businessman Brooks Hoffos

Shauna and I were in Cinque Terre, Italy. We hopped off a train and grabbing a lunch break in a quaint little restaurant.

We had a local Chianti wine and spaghetti and local fresh clams. Now, whenever we cook spaghetti and clams, it takes me back to that time and place. We shared a table with an Aussie and an American. We laughed. We drank. We ate. We bonded. It was a great experience. Italy also made us the cooks we are today. It was a life changing experience! Forever!

Debra Ward, Edmonton Communications and Professional writer
I can’t remember what we even ate but my family and I were in Christchurch, New Zealand having dinner at this really nice restaurant when we all had an attack of the “sillies”. Everything, and I mean EVERYTHING, made us laugh uproariously. …It was a memory moment.

The first Christmas back in Canada was the best turkey dinner with all the trimmings dinner I have ever had. It was special because it was our first “in Canada” Christmas meal after living overseas for so long and because it would turn out to be my mom’s last.

Dale Tiedemann, Youth Facilitator, City of Grande Prairie
Family Dinners at Grandma’s place were the best! Always delicious with home-grown vegetables (she had a market garden)! It’s always amazing watching her cook…no need for a recipe, just add a little of this and a little of that! Plus, you can’t forget about the home-baked goodies for dessert…chocolate pie with whipped cream! Yum! 🙂

Grandma doesn’t cook as often as when I was younger, but when she does … bliss!

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So, what stories do you have where you and family and/or friends partook in some great food while forging wonderful memories? Want to share any special recipes?

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Moshin’ and a-rollin’

September 13, 2010 § Leave a comment

This summer, I attended two different day long music festivals.  One was Warped Tour, the other was the Sonic Boom Festival.  Both were in Edmonton and set up at Northlands.

I’ve been going to concerts and outdoor shows much like these two for over a decade. It was odd watching the shows through my nearly thirty something eyes.  I looked at the young kids at the shows and remembered what I thought of people my age when I was their age.

“Oh my god they’re so old. I’m never coming to a show like this when I’m that old, they’re so out-of-place.  Don’t they know they’re too OLD?”

The perspective was based out of what nearly 30 somethings are supposed to be doing.  When you’re this age you should be married and settled down, possibly with a couple of kids, a steady job and a house.  People who have those don’t go to punk or rock shows.  Once life starts, you aren’t allowed to have any more fun.

And I suppose there are a group of people who actually do live that way, after all, the stereotype had to come from somewhere.  And yet there I was, with other nearly 30 somethings, and some over 30 somethings, at each show.  Hanging out.  Enjoying the music.

Mosh Pit Warped Tour 2005

There is one major difference in how I participate in the shows though.  The mosh pit.  That’s right, back in the good old days I was right smack dab in the middle of it.  I’d mosh all day and emerge from the pit, my hair a mess, and smelling like only a kid in a mosh pit could smell… the odour of other people’s sweat mixed with my own, perhaps the fumes of somebody’s joint or cigarette mixed in.  Oh yes, somehow that was a desirable state to leave a concert in.  These days, I appreciate the music from afar.  I enjoy being able to see and hear what’s going on over attempting to support a crowd of body surfers above me while holding my own in a gnarled pit of other teenagers there to jump around while pushing and shoving one another in a mild form of chaos.

The rock show pit is much like I remembered it.  Disorderly, unruly.  Some moshers were watching out for their felling pitters, but many had no regard for those around them.  They would jump, push, shove, whatever they wanted to break through a crowd, trampling any in their way.  Experiencing it first hand at Edmonton’s Sonic Boom Festival reminded me of why I quit trying to be in the centre of that crowd.

Warped Tour was a different story.  Find yourself a pit at Warped Tour, and you’re more likely to encounter what is known as the circle pit.  I have no idea where this concept originated, but it is the most orderly mosh pit I have ever seen.

Everyone knows what to do in a circle pit, when one starts to form, the crowd that wishes not to participate backs up to make room.  As soon as the space is there, participants start to run around in a great big circle.  Yes, they run.  And they’re all going in the same direction.  There’s no body surfing in a circle pit, because there aren’t enough people to support body surfing.

Watching one particular pit, there was a point where many of the moshers stopped running around in a circle, and then started to do the same moves.  It looked like they could have been kick boxing.  It didn’t look like most of them knew each other, and yet they all knew the same pattern of moves.  Had they been close together, they surely would have hit one another.  And yet, in the confines of the circle pit, they had enough room and nobody got hurt.

Ten years ago, the pits at both shows probably would have been very similar.  I find it intriguing now to see the subculture that’s morphed over the years into the different scenes I saw before me at these two shows.  And it surprises me that those at the punk/metal show appear to have developed more regard for one another at their events than those at the rock show.  They seem more harsh on the outside, but what I’ve observed tells me differently.  What I see here is more community than we’d ever get from the mainstream.

I’m no anthropologist. But how this subculture developed is of interest to me.  Did it have anything to do with a stronger sense of identity for the Warped Tour crowd?  Or was it all just one big coincidence?  And on a sidenote, if I were growing up in today’s youth, I wonder which group I’d identify with more?

The obvious lessons are always the hardest to learn

September 7, 2010 § 1 Comment

Apple.

Image via Wikipedia

This summer has taught me a much-needed lesson. Well, it’s RE-taught me rather, because I know I’ve encountered this one before. I don’t know that it’s the last time I’ll need to revisit this lesson, but it seems to be in a different capacity each time, so that a good thing, right?

The lesson I’m learning is this:

I am not exempt from the effects of the natural progression of life or from the laws of this universe.

How incredibly obvious.  And yet, it remains something that I, and many others out there, continue to try to defy. Youth has proved my defiance right in the past, but three separate instances this summer have given me reason to pause and rethink my approach.

The first one is that over the last couple of months, I’ve noticed a fairly consistent ringing in my ears.  I figured it was stress and would go away once life settled down. It’s the end of summer and life is settling down. The ringing is still here. I also find myself straining a bit harder to hear what people say.  I once could hear what others could not, now I’m turning up the volume?

The second is that I’ve had an incredibly busy summer, which isn’t out of the ordinary.  But instead of feeling refreshed and invigorated from all of the activity, I’m just plain worn out. Where is my youth that thrived on that energy level and used it to fuel and propel me forward?

Thirdly, I was home for the long weekend and I took my dog Tetris out for a run.  As we jogged down by the creek in Millet, I noticed that my calves and my shins weren’t as spry as they should be after a summer of shenanigans and Ultimate Frisbee. In the past, I’ve always bounced back fairly quickly after a lot of activity with minimal maintenance and effort. 

What’s going on?

Age.

Last fall, David had a post about the importance of health before wealth. It was a great reminder to take care of ourselves now.  And yet I was still of the mindset that I was young enough that I didn’t have to.  For the first time, health before wealth is really hitting home for me.  Of course I *know* that things like stretching after exercise, eating well, getting enough sleep, etc. is important. But I’ve always bounced back quickly when there was a lack of any or all of these things. 

Had the hearing, the sore muscles and the exhaustion not happened within a short period of one another, I doubt I would have paid them much attention.  But I’ve always believed that when things come in threes it’s a signal.  Here’s my signal to put health before wealth.

The somewhat ironic part is that in doing so early, I become exempt from many of the situations I may find myself in if I continued to ignore the lesson here. But it most definitely makes for a clear choice. Health before wealth now for me too.

Where Am I?

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