Food Fascinations

I have always been fascinated by food.

Peanut butter and mayonnaise sandwiches, lime jello, and Cheez-Whiz melts on Wonder Bread were the staples of my childhood. Now those were fascinating icons of 1960’s cuisine!!!

But once I was old enough to reach the countertops in the family kitchen, I started experimenting and creating beyond the processed food aisles and deep freezers of my formative years.

Perhaps it was youthful rebellion. Most definitely, it was freedom!

Early in my teenage apprenticeship, I ordered herbs in the mail from Murchies. This famous Vancouver tea merchant also stocked a large variety of dried herbs in bulk. This notion of abundance and of herbs that still had fragrance  struck me as a rare commodity, sharply contrasted with the neat jars of very dry, very boring “spices” on the supermarket shelves, each a replica of the other. Thinking that herbs could now be my culinary salvation, I began to augment my cooking.  Questing more ooomph than found in the humdrum dishes I had been raised on, I branched out into happy hours of experimentation.

My patient brothers and sisters took bay leaves out of their teeth for hours after sampling the hearty beef stew I concocted one winter day.  Under the mistaken impression that more was clearly better, I added a half cup or so of bay leaves to the dish! One or two just didn’t seem enough to make the dish flavourful… Oh, the lessons learned by doing! Thankfully, my seven brothers and sisters still ate and continue to eat my cooking!

Eight kids -- cooking and my brothers and sisters make me happy!

That said, there are differing ways in the kitchen. To each, her own. My mother insists that stripping fresh thyme leaves from their stalks and harvesting and chopping fresh sage is an inferior practice to those tidy, uniform little supermarket spice bottles. In the spirit of family harmony, we have agreed to disagree – at least for family dinners. If I want fresh herbs in the Thanksgiving turkey dressing, I take on the hunting and gathering. If she is making the stuffing, she gathers the bottles of poultry seasoning herself.

Cooking is like that I think. We try something out and if it doesn’t work to our taste, we revise, fine tune, or we try anew. And our loving family and friends will come to the table or arrive at the picnic with an appetite and laughter. The bay leaf story has been family fodder for decades!

I hope this growing collection of recipes with its revision history tried on family and friends over the years strikes a chord with your taste buds and that you find occasion to try a recipe or two on your crowd of enthusiastic supporters.

 

My Gramma Ellis was a great cook! This poem is about her. And butter tarts. And love.

You made me butter tarts

Your name was Edith.
I laughed when they told me that
You weren’t “EDITH”!!!
You were Gramma!!!                                                                 
With no “n” or “d” —
The other Grandma had the hard consonants

You
were soft and squishy
with double “m’s”
like your yielding breasts when you hugged me
warm and soft against your apron
the blue rickrack
on the shoulders
flour dust on one eyebrow
unaware of your dishevelment.
You made me
butter tarts.
Pastry escaped in flakes
gooey
ooze
dripped
on my lips and chin.

You let me squish the margarine till the red dot disappeared
Standing on a big kitchen chair,
I was tall,
put little hands around the plastic of the margarine package

helped

You made it a game
That anyone could play
We passed round the hard margarine from uncle to aunt to cousin to me till the colour yellowed and the whiteness softened
Like your hair
Wavy and curly and laughing
around your face

You had canaries
For no reason
They sang
In the kitchen
And through the windows

You whistled their songs
And talked to them
In bird language
and I played on the moist grass
Outside

You taught me
That love was big
And sweet
And mushy
And there was always lots more of it
— Like butter tarts

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10 responses »

  1. Hello there from the west of Ireland! I knew this is what you’d be up to Terry Taylor, creating gastronomic delights in a beautiful BC location! Sooo delighted to have come across your blog. Not only do I find you but I can create these treats in my kitchen and think of you and all the fun/pleasure/joy we had so many years ago, feasting on our(well mainly your)culinary creations. Lots to share still…

    Ethna x

    • Oh, long lost friend… Food always drew us together. It’s been decades since I’ve heard from you. How utterly incredible to have you tromp into my kitchen again. More recipes coming soon! From the shores of Slocan Lake to the west of Ireland, I send my love! I have some summer salad recipes you might want to put on the table before the heat of summer morphs into fall. Will get writing again soon!
      Love,
      Terry

  2. This is the West of Ireland TT-Summer morphed into fall last July! I’ll crank up the heat and enjoy your salads of multiple coloured leaves and other great things. Any pig’s tail recipes on the go these days?
    Ethna x

    • No pig’s tails in my house, apart from the tales of pig ends from long ago — oh Mennonite delicacies cooked up with dear friends waiting to feast. Puddles of fat do not appeal, however long they stew in the oven!

      • Pig’s Tails! ah that vintage year in Ontario.
        “Burnt Offerings to a Mennonite God”, “The Easter Bunny Kidnap”, ” Spot of Bother with Spinach Soup”
        Not a series of Sherlock Holmes tales, but just some of our food related escapades. Oh happy days when we were young and hungry for life.

        I am going to enjoy cooking your delicious recipes in my Northumbrian kitchen dear Terry,
        Love
        Claire

      • Darling Claire… May we always be hungry for life. Our whole lives long.
        What grand times we had together — may they happen again, years hence. My kitchen misses you. My heart too.
        Love you so,
        Terry

  3. OMG! It’s as if we are about to gather round a table. Claire Bagness!! You of the Enchanted Broccoli Forest fame. I found you through your Woolers running club one day but thought the blog too public to make a comment. So Terry Taylor lures you here ’cause cooking makes you happy too,I recall. I think of you often and would love to break bread with you gals again
    Love Ethna x

  4. Darling Ethna and Claire. Oh, I miss the pair of you, and what a grand time we had tramping about in markets and gardens and making magic in our kitchens in Southwestern Ontario.

    Whatever happened to the head of that chocolate rabbit MIA in Stratford circa Easter 1987? That and other mysteries may ne’er be solved.

    However, cooking does make us all happy and how joyous it would be to lure you from the British and Irish isles back to the wilds of Canada to share a fine meal or three. In the meantime, I am so happy you have found my blog. Finally I have a few moments to share some recent recipes. Hold on for the Spinach-Mushroom Canneloni. It’s divine!

  5. Thought I’d add another English ‘voice’ to the pyre. Terry, your opening of ‘peanut butter and mayo sandwiches’ and the like nearly put me off food for life. But then I saw you had branched out somewhat. Looking forward to trying out some of your culinary delights.
    Tim

    • That doesn’t kill us makes us strong, Tim. I survived peanut butter and mayo sandwiches and even endured pig’s tails one Christmas night in Stratford, Ontario with the likes of Ethna McTeague and Claire Bagness.

      I hereby vow to add yummy, not icky to this blog!

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