A Good Home, Food

Witless Wednesday

Did I tell you about….

… that time I went on a diet, and got a nasty surprise?

It happened around this time last year – Ash Wednesday, the start of the 40-day period of Lent, a time of sacrifice and reflection.

I reflected, decided, and said to myself: “Self, let us agree that, this Lent, we will give up any food that is not healthful.”

Self wholeheartedly agreed.

Self is always up for a good-sounding plan. And this one sounded positively virtuous.

~~

Over the next several weeks, my grocery list consisted primarily of healthful stuff like the following:

  • Oats, Bananas, Pears and Berries
  • Pecans and Walnuts
  • Coconut everything and Quinoa everything
  • Cabbage, Zucchini, Green Beans, Spinach
  • Fish – especially Salmon or Trout
  • Beets, Avocado and Sweet Potato.

blog-photo-recipe-sweet-potatoes-sliced

I felt great. In fact, I felt quite saintly about it, since almost every item was a ‘super-food’. 

~~

Then came an ominous sign.

Things started shrinking.

The waist of my jeans shrank. Then my skirt. Then my other jeans too.

I was flabbergasted. 

Just to be sure, I weighed myself.

I’d gained 6 pounds.

“I don’t understand!” I wailed to my daughter. “I’ve been on a health-food diet!”

“Mom”, she said, in that deliberately patient voice one uses to a 5 year old who stamps her feet and refuses to understand. “It’s not enough to eat super-foods. It’s also a matter of portion control.”

“Portion control?” I sputtered.

“Yes, Mom.”

Portion control… I wrinkled my nose and screwed up my face and stared at her, willing her to retract those words. No luck.

“Are you saying I didn’t ….”

“I’m saying you ate too much avocado, Mom. And sweet potato. And quinoa. And other stuff too.”

Shoot.  

~~

Photo Credit: John Garside

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A Good Home, Cooking, Food

Sprouting Feathers

 

I’m known for my cooking. How I wish that were not so.

I burn things, forget half the ingredients, forget what I added then put them in again. It’s right there in my books, on my blog, and in the memories of everyone who knows me.

And now nobody trusts my cooking.

Take Marilyn.

“Do come for lunch”, I say.

“Oh, great,” she says.  “You choose the restaurant.”

What’s the point in visiting a person at home if you’re going to go out for lunch? But I was so glad to see Marilyn, I didn’t fight.

Then there’s Elaine.

“You make the tea,” she said. “But I’ve read your book. So I’ll bring something for us to eat.”

Then Jane took sick.

“I could make you a roast chicken”, I phoned Jane and said, not revealing the thing was already roasting in the oven. 

But Jane declined immediately. “I have pneumonia,” she said. “Don’t want you to get it.”

“I didn’t know you could catch pneumonia from someone else,” I argued.

“Well, with your luck, you just might,” she replied.

So there’s a roast chicken sitting in my fridge. Or lying on its back, as roast chickens are wont to do. In a freezer bag. Surrounded by lovely roast potatoes.

But the real reason I’m not pushing the chicken is because, since I’d have to deliver it whole, I’m unsure how it tastes.

“How ‘bout I bring her half of the chicken we roasted for ourselves?” I suggested to my husband. “We know it turned out well.”

“You can’t bring half a chicken!” he replied. “It’s like giving someone your leftovers.”

~~

What to do?

Muriel to the rescue.

My friend Muriel is in her 80’s, her husband Michael in his 90’s. Michael’s been ill and in hospital. Muriel, meanwhile, needs all the help she can get. She spends almost every day at the hospital, returning home exhausted.

What could I do? Well, I’d considered giving her a roast chicken too, but then I started to worry – what if I’d over-seasoned it? Worse, if Muriel got sick anytime in the next 10 years, I’ll know it was my chicken that did it.

Then Muriel called to say Michael’s health was improving. I was so happy, I offered both roast chicken and butternut squash soup. My soup – pureed butternut squash, made with apples and onions – always turns out well. I said so.

“I’d be glad for the soup, Cynthia. Thank you, dear.”

Thank God. Thank Muriel. 

So today I brought soup for Muriel. Then for Jane and Allen.

I’d planned to leave it at Jane’s door, run away, then phone to say, “Check your front door!” But she opened the door  just as I was about to do so, thanked me, and said they’d be glad to have my soup.

Hooray!  I’ve finally become one of those women who bring food for their friends.

Meantime, my poor husband claims he’s sprouting feathers.

“Chicken again?” he groans.

Yes, dear. Until that roast chicken is all done.

A Good Home, Books, Canadian Gardens, Food, Gardens of An Honest House

When Readers Write

Photos by Hamlin Grange

One of the most enjoyable experiences I have as a writer of a newly published book is hearing from readers. It happened with my first book, A Good Home: I got hundreds of notes and cards from readers.

Book photos - cards from Readers

This time, a new thing happened: readers started emailing me while still reading the book. Bloggers whom I knew and many readers whom I didn’t, wrote as they finished a chapter or part (the book has 3 parts).

I love it! 

I also love the surprises involved.

Jeanne at Still A Dreamer posted a beautiful remembrance of her dad’s garden.

I savoured every flower, every memory she described. Then, at the end of her post, came a surprise connection to An Honest House. A smile warmed my soul.  I was glad that reading about our farmhouse gardens had triggered Jeanne’s happy memories.

Blog Photo - White garden Bridal Wreath and Arbour

But when – over just 2 days — readers in 3 different countries wrote to praise “all the great food” in An Honest House, I was stunned.

The only great cook in this house is my husband. Could I really have written so much about food? It sent me scurrying to reread my own book. 

Eureka! There it was, dozens of mentions:

Blog Photo - Afternoon Tea Ladies

blog-veggies-in-basket2

Food growing and being harvested from the garden.

Blog Photo - Garden harvest Basket tomatoes pumpkin

Food cooking on the stove or fresh-baked from the oven.

Blog Photo - Cake 2

Pots of jelly burbling.

Blog Photo - Jelly in Pot

blog-photo-verandah-red-currants

And there it was: 

Blog Photo - Apples in Bowl

The joy of making apple pies, apple crepes and jellies – from our own rare apples.

Blog Photo - Kitchen harvest table

The delight that comes from knowing that almost every ingredient in a meal has come from one’s own garden.

Blog Photo - Tomato Yellow

blog-photo-herb-garden-parsley

Family and friends having supper — cooked by our resident chef.

Blog Photo - Robert Family Visit Dish CU

Blog Photo - Robert and Family on the Verandah
Above 2 photos by Robert Vernon

And, of course, the hilarity that follows my guests’ discovery that I’ve ruined yet another simple dish.

~~

Running gag among family and friends:

Me: Hi there. Will you please come over for supper?

Them: Ah…hmm… who’s doing the cooking?

~~

I learned that sometimes, what you think you are writing and what the reader is getting may be not exactly the same. I knew that I wanted to infuse this (sometimes painful) book with my family’s gratitude and joy in life’s simple pleasures. But it took my readers to tell me how much I’d written about food.

So:  ever wanted to write to an author whose book you enjoyed?

Do it. You might tell them something they didn’t know. 

 

A Good Home, Cake, Dessert, Food, Poetry

The Hungry Philosopher

At dinner that evening, I asked a man

Who had taken three pieces of cake

One after the other

Though he paused before the last

Photo by Simply Splendid Victorian Afternoon Tea
Photo by Simply Splendid Victorian Afternoon Tea

And looked straight at me across the table

As if seeking a stranger’s approval

Then dug right in

With an almost-grunt of satisfaction

**

“What happened?” I asked him, curious,

“At that very last moment

Just before

You gave in to temptation?”

Photo Courtesy of The No Grainer Baker
Photo Courtesy of The No Grainer Baker

He smiled at the crumbs on his plate

Then looked at me and said:

“You tell yourself

That it won’t be that bad, not really

**

That’s what you tell yourself.

It is, after all, such a little thing

A small piece of nothing

That you’ll make up for later.”

Jamaican Christmas Cake - Google Images
Jamaican Christmas Cake – Google Images

The hungry philosopher smiled again

But sadly now, at his plate

Regretful, yes

And something else, perhaps

 **

A bit of shame caused by a stranger

Who spoke

When she should have stayed quiet

And let the man enjoy his cake.

**

Dedicated to everyone who knows when to keep their mouth shut.