Tag Archives: potatoes

Love letters, part 1: Switzerland

8 Jul

Oh yeah, I was away for 3 weeks a little while ago. Here are some letters I’m sending back to Europe. Warning: I am speaking directly to countries and my food but at least you can’t hear the songs I made up as well.

Dear Switzerland,

The quality of your food is so astounding it almost makes up for the prices that are shocking to North Americans. Your dairy products = spectacular. Your bread, so far the best in Europe. Here are some pictures I took to remind me of your yummy goodness.

Shakeria

Shakeria

Oh Shakeria! I bought you for your hilarious name and because I still remember those school yard rhymes that still make me laugh. Despite your hilarious name, you are seriously delicious and not at all too sweet.

Bretzels

Bretzels

When traveling  through train stations (also pretty amazing), it was hard not to make cartoon sound effects as I screeched to a halt in front of the Brezel Konig. Brezel – you are soft, crunchy, perfect and make a good alternative to sandwich bread.

after Jungfrau

after Jungfrau

Dear giant rosti wok at the base of Jungfrau, thanks for the potatoes. After oxygen deprivation at 3500 metres up it’s nice to have another spectacular view, to have my skin return to its natural colour, and to drink some Fanta with your generous helpings.

cheese

cheese

You look like a flower but you taste like cheese. You are perfect. Please grow in my garden.

Ricola

Ricola

Just off the plane, I was handed a free sample. Ricola, you make all my jokes come true.

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Sometimes, in the depths of (a Canadian) winter

12 Feb

Sometimes, in the depths of winter, you get tired and feel lethargic. Food tastes a little off, like it has frostbite. Sometimes, food isn’t the only one with frostbite.

Sometimes, you can’t find fresh fruit anymore that doesn’t come from the Southern hemisphere (damn them!), and you miss the bustle of the local market.

Sometimes, you feel like hibernating, like a bear, in a cave somewhere. Before crawling in, you want to gain 5 pounds a week. You plan to gain that weight expressly through potatoes and bread.

Sometimes, you lose the will to jog, which means you lose the endorphin rush, which means you eat chocolate, and you don’t even like chocolate. What’s up with that?

Sometimes, you wonder why your father and grandfather emigrated from fairer isles to this godforsaken land. No, seriously.

Sometimes, you feel utterly uninspired: you can’t think of a single meal you want to cook, a single thing you want to do when you get home from work, or a single blog post topic. Yo can’t be roused to take photographs, even, unless they are on your phone.

In cases such as this, here is a prescription:

  1. In the morning, take two cups of fortifying coffee, not one.
  2. In the evening, rely on canned soups. In every meal. Even if it means making Easy chicken a la king, an entirely wonderful recipe (use peas instead of pepper, and multi-grain bread instead of rice or pastry) instead of the real thing.
  3. Drench things in warming red wine, even if said thing is out-of-season, overpriced asparagus. Because sometimes you just need exorbitantly-priced vegetables steeped in red wine, garlic, and butter in the depths of a Canadian winter.
  4. Rinse. Repeat. Things will get better.

Food in books, #2

30 Jul

From Nora Ephron’s Heartburn (also briefly blogged about here), talking about different potatoes at the beginning, middle, and end of a relationship

“Crisp potatoes require an immense amount of labor […]. All this takes time, and time, as any fool can tell you, is what true romance is about. In fact, one of the main reasons why you must make crisp potatoes in the beginning [of a relationship] is that if you don’t make them in the beginning, you never will. I’m sorry to be so cynical about this, but that’s the truth. [….]

Sometimes, when a loved one announces that he has decided to go on a low-carbohydrate, low-fat, low-salt diet (thus ruling out the possibility of potatoes, should you have been so inclined), he is signaling that the middle is ending and the end is beginning.

In the end, I always want potatoes. Mashed potatoes. [….] You can always get someone to make the mashed potatoes for you, but let’s face it: the reason you’re so blue is that there isn’t anyone to make them for you. As a result, most people do not have nearly enough mashed potatoes in their lives, and when they do, it’s almost always at the wrong time.”

Fridays are for foodies (chez moi)

18 Jul

Tofu with spinach and red pepper, in home-made peanut sauce

I work alternate Saturdays, which means I have the Fridays prior to those days off work. This makes for a strange schedule that often confounds attempts to plan weekend getaways, and will likely prove to be even more irritating when more humans are added into the family mix one day. In the meantime, I secretly quite love my Fridays off. They are all mine, to do with as I please, and the most recent one was an example of a more or less perfect day (well, a massage and a butler would have made it utterly perfect, but, well, let’s be realistic).

One of my favourite things to do on a Friday off is cook something elaborate or try a new recipe. I often find myself thinking how sad it is that our frantically busy world more or less prevents anyone from eating properly, or slowly, or truly enjoying the act of cooking a meal on a regular basis. [In the interests of full disclosure, I also work two evenings a week, which really messes with dinner hour]. Fridays off are my chance to push the pause button for a measly 24 hours and re-capture the fun of cooking.

I wasn’t raised in an family of elaborate home cookers. My mother has some fabulous family recipes that she has shared with me, and some of my earliest memories are of helping her bake. During my school years, however, both my parents worked: I remember my father as the more improvisational, “forget measuring” kind of cook. He seemed to relish the chance to play in the kitchen, although he rarely had the time for it. Perhaps I got my love of food from him, since he loved many foods passionately even though his diet was restricted by medication and illness. Despite being under strict orders to avoid salt, I remember him spiriting me away for a plate of fries at a diner once on vacation, with strict orders “not to tell your mother;” I often wonder if this salty taboo explains my tendencies towards savoury over sweet. My mother says I certainly got the habit of drinking a glass of something (in my case, wine; in my father’s case, sherry) while watching over a pot on the stove from him. After his death, the rest of my childhood and youth is a blur of school lunches, harried dinners before my mom’s meetings, interspersed with mother-daughter pizza nights I treasured and the occasional delicious home-made chocolate chip square.

I only came to truly love cooking, however, and to be comfortable enough to experiment with it, in university, via a friend who first introduced me to brie, coffee made in a French press, and sun-dried tomatoes.

In many ways, I still live the life my mother lived (as sure a sign as any that I truly admire her passion and love of her chosen vocation): harried dinners before or after meetings and packed lunches to work (high school tuna salad sandwiches replaced with salad and fruit). Food doesn’t always come first, and it’s sort of tragic, I think, that with the way our weekday world structures itself, there is little room for devotion to a particular meal.

Potato salad

On alternate Fridays, however, food does come first in our house. This past Friday, after a leisurely breakfast and coffee over a novel, I planned my dinner (a mix of tried-and-true potato salad my mother used to make for me, and a new Asian-inspired tofu and veggie stir-fry, since the husband was pining for Asian food). I combined a long jog with a trip to the grocery store, spent the afternoon relaxing and cooking, to have dinner on the table when my tired husband came home.

I would probably get bored with a stay-at-home life on a regular basis, and I am admittedly a workaholic who is devoted to her professional life. Alternate Fridays, however, to be a lady of leisure who shops for the evening’s dinner and meets her husband at the door, are a gift, an homage to an earlier, less busy time, when dinner hour was sacred and meals were prepared with care.