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    Greens Shakshuka.

    I can feel my kidneys twinge every time I visit my community garden plot.

    Just the sight of those oxalic acid-packed greens — the chard, the beet tops, and to a lesser extent, the kale and spigarella — has me reliving every kidney stone I’ve ever had and feeling the ache of every future one setting in.

    I can’t quite bring myself to leave those greens to languish or give them all away even if it would mean a kidney-stone free future. They are among my favourite vegetables, despite what they can do to me. I just wasn’t expecting them to thrive as much as they have in my tiny plot.

    Which brings me to my other problem. My brain feels a similar, cramping twinge when I open my fridge and see my stockpile of harvested greens in every shade and shape. Inspiration is in short supply right now as I finish my job at the university, dig myself out from under my pile of freelance writing assignments and get pinned under a separation-anxiety suffering toddler whose favourite word is “Up,” said with arms thrust skyward to indicate indefinite clinging is imminent. Continue reading

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  • Peach Tree
  • Sweet escape to bee school

    Spot the queen bee in red.

    I sometimes wonder if bees have it all figured out.

    They get the importance of working together for the greater good. After all, there’s no ‘I’ in colony.

    And then there’s that work ethic required to venture out on a warm day to forage and pollinate crops miles from home so another species — us humans — can survive. Granted, their reward is making honey to feed themselves, so it’s far from a raw deal.

    Being able to fly, forage and make honey, which I go Winnie the Pooh on when it’s around, sounds like a dream life. So maybe in the next one for me. But for now, I’m content to be a wannabee — erm, wannabe — and marvel at the magic bees and their keepers work.

    That’s what I did recently when my family and I travelled to Elgin and Oxford counties where we found sweet escape hanging out with apiarists and witnessing the ripple effects of their handiwork. Continue reading

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  • Peach Tree
  • One, two, eat tofu (cheeseburgers)

    Barbecued tofu burger with cheddar and arugula.

    When I was in Grade 4, I made up a skipping rhyme about tofu for a creative writing assignment.

    Growing up in what was then a very German Kitchener, no one in my class knew what tofu was. I had the unfortunate experience of trying the stuff when my mom brought some home from a night course she was taking at OISE for her master’s degree. Her professor was a hippie who treated his students to a vegan meal at the end of the term. My mom got the leftovers. 

    Among them was tofu and seaweed stew, which made my nose wrinkle. I had never heard of tofu and seaweed conjured images of the slimy stuff that harboured all kinds of mysterious underwater life in the lake at our cottage. Continue reading

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  • Grown-up endeavours and Mexican spritzers

    Mexican spritzers from The Craft Cocktail Party by Julie Reiner.

    Having a liquor cabinet or bar has always struck me as very grown-up.

    It’s probably because my parents’ liquor cabinet was off limits to me and my sister when we were children. Of course, that made it all the more intriguing. What were they keeping in their oak sideboard that we weren’t allowed to touch? When my folks weren’t looking, we’d open it and marvel at the collection of potions inside.

    I felt a mix of fascination and disgust at the tequila with the shrivelled worm lurking at the bottom of the bottle. I was in awe of the brilliant evergreen mint liqueur. And what was with that stern-looking guard wearing a funny hat on that bottle of gin?

    Fast forward more than 30 years to my adulthood and I’m sad to say that I don’t have a liquor cabinet. I have a bottle of 12-year-old Guyanese rum and some lime bitters shoved in the back of a cupboard occupied mostly by pots and pans. And until I used it up to make borscht, a bottle of vodka languished in my freezer for nearly four years. Continue reading

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