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, An Honest House, Cooking, Family Moments, Floral Arrangement, Garden Humour, Gardening, Giant Pumpkins, Humour

I Deserve a Prize, I Do

I was once the proud recipient of the Pumpkin Princess Prize – awarded by Scotland’s pre-eminent herb-blogger, The Hopeful Herbalist.

Was Miss Hopeful smoking her own herbs when she did so?

Don’t know, don’t care. I took the title seriously.

Pumpkin photo of our tiny pumpkin and peach

Actually, what my lovely blogger friend said was: “Award yourself the pumpkin princess crown!”

Which to my deliriously happy state of mind, meant much the same thing.

And now I wonder: if my tiny imperfect pumpkin could win me that regal honour, perhaps the next thing is my cooking? Or baking? Or floral arranging?  

Let’s face it: It takes tremendous effort to be really bad at something.

blog-photo-christmas-arrangement

A lot of trial and error is required. Mostly error, mind you. 

Take my cooking and baking (please — someone has to).

I famously made a two-ingredient dish – cauliflower and cheese – and forgot the cheese.

The harder I tried, the worse my cooking got. I forgot half the ingredients, or doubled them — or burned the dish. Husband added ketchup, salt or spices to everything I cooked. Yegads! Ketchup!

I’d  perfected the art of  truly bad cooking.

But do you hear anyone giving me the title for worst borscht?

Perfectly pathetic pie?

Instead, they flock to stories of delicious dishes and beautiful bouquets. I’ve never understood it.

blog-photo-flowers-with-alium-closer-e1403881941537

 Meanwhile, we lesser folk never give up trying.

And still, our creations are catastrophic.

But consider this:

It takes a lot of work — and maybe even a strange type of talent — to turn out truly awful stuff.

So I think it’s time our efforts were acknowledged. Don’t you?

(Tee hee….)

 

 

A Good Home

Idiot-Proof Comfort Food

 

For a few years now, I’ve been following two rules to improve my cooking, and save money at the same time:

  1. Use simple recipes
  2. Use what’s already in the fridge, freezer or pantry

The first recipe my friend John Garside taught me has just three ingredients.

“You can’t go wrong with this one!” he said.

“Wanna bet?” I asked.  “I made a two-ingredient dish — cauliflower and cheese — and completely forgot the cheese!”

John just smiled a beatific smile.

“I’m serious,” I insisted. “My husband stopped me from cooking for years after the accident. I’d either forget the pot on the stove, or forget half the ingredients. Awful.”

“Just try this recipe,” John said. “And let me know.”

blog-photo-recipe-onions-in-dish

First, get about 3 or 4 medium size onions.

Then, 2 or 3 medium size sweet potatoes.

Then a can of chickpeas.

“Got that, Cynthia?”

“Yes, John.” I madly scribbled as he spoke.

“You can add seasonings if you wish, but not necessary… Now, slice up the onions and simmer them in a pot with a bit of oil or butter for one hour.”

“One hour?”

“No less than an hour.”

Hmmm…

“Peel and slice the potatoes, thinly.”

“How thinly?”

John held his thumb and forefinger slightly apart.

“Layer that on top of the onions and simmer for one hour.”

“One hour?”

“Yes, another hour. Then, rinse the chickpeas, add and simmer for an hour.”

Another hour?”

“Yes. Do not try to hurry it up. It won’t taste as good.”

“Okay, John,” I said obediently.

“Ann and I call it ‘Fired Onions'”.

“Fired onions?”

Turns out, the name comes from when the couple stopped at a restaurant that had a sign saying “Fired Onions”. Someone misspelled the word ‘fried’.

“Now,” said John. “Remember what I told you: the burner must be at the lowest level. Not medium, not a bit low, but the lowest setting possible.”

“Okay, then!”

~~

It worked! Thank you, John.

Photo by John Garside