• Pledging allegiance to the United States of Bread

    Jewish-style rye bread from United States of Bread by Adrienne Kane.

    I’m going to let you in on a little secret.

    Jan at de la terre bakery in Vineland will spare you some of his sourdough starter, if you ask nicely. Wheat, white or spelt, he’ll happily oblige your request for the magical stuff that gives a jump-start to his sublime loaves with their porous innards and tang throughout. The only catch is that you have to share the results with him.

    As someone who has never baked bread — well, until recently — I find that more than a little intimidating. It’s the culinary equivalent of spastic me asking to kick around a soccer ball with the German national team. I fear I could easily make a fool of myself, even though Jan has offered me the goods to play with rather than wait for me to ask.

    A few weeks ago, though, someone came into my life, promising to help me along when I do pay a visit to de la terre for my hunk of fermenting flour. Her name is Adrienne Kane and her assistance comes by way of her new book, United States of Bread: Our Nation’s Homebaking Heritage: from Sandwich Loaves to Sourdough (Running Press, $23). Continue reading

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  • Peach Tree
  • Radler slushies and nostalgia

    MADD Virgin Craft Brewed Lager

    I was 16 the first time I got drunk.

    No, I didn’t raid my parents’ liquor cabinet and go crazy with the Sambuca, nor did I sneak a six-pack to the park to drink under the slide with friends.

    This intoxicating experience came compliments of my dad. I call it part of the curriculum of Life Lessons with Ludwig. I’m sure there were other teachable moments brought to me by my dad prior to this one, but they would have happened before my folks split and so, those poignant parenting episodes have just blended into one another in the era PD (pre-divorce). It wasn’t until after my parents’ marriage breakup, my dad landing back in Germany for a time, that Life Lessons with Ludwig became more defined, each with a beginning, middle and end. Getting drunk is the first one I remember vividly, despite my beer goggle vision at the time.

    It was the summer of 1993 and my sister and I were visiting my father in the land of beer and schnitzel. Like all good German burgs, his hometown of Zweibrücken had a summer festival whose central activity was — wait for it — drinking beer. There’s a good chance they have similar festivities in spring, fall and winter, too, but this particular celebration was called the Staadtfest, the Town Fest, so all drinking was purposeful, done in honour of Zweibrücken. Continue reading

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  • Peach Tree
  • Silver maples, golden dreams and Tokyo caviar

    Tokyo caviar is an Asian-inspired spin on Texas caviar.

    It seems whenever I manage to get one vegetable in my possession in check, I turn around to find another has multiplied like fruit flies on yesterday’s nectarine.

    The latest case of abundance came compliments of edamame from my CSA. I was in awe just a little a bit when I found a bag of fresh soybeans nestled among the tomatoes, herbs, peppers, dragon tongue beans, lettuce and ground cherries that Linda managed to squeeze into my basket a few weeks ago. I mean, fresh edamame grown right here in Niagara? Beats the way one usually finds these guys when not ordering them at an all-you-can-eat sushi joint: in the freezer at the grocery store.

    Problem was, what started as one small bag that I had pledged to get to as soon as those pesky zukes and cukes were off my plate and in my belly had clearly become a case of manifest destiny in my fridge.

    And so my attention, once devoted to the overwhelming zucchini and cucumber, switched to the growing mounds of hairy green pods filled with sweet spring green (thank you Laurentian pencil crayon set for that reference) soybeans. It was up to me to keep their population in check and so I set out to fix the problem like a gourmet Bob Barker. Continue reading

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  • Peach Tree
  • The Last Hurrah

    Strawberry cucumber pops are the key to denying summer's end.

    It was very kind of July to show up in September.

    A month after my own heart, really, showing up well after its original ETA. Better late than never, I suppose, and much better than January making an obscenely early appearance. Poor Calgary.

    Still, it was just two weeks ago that people were bidding adieu to the hot season, assuming it dead and gone simply because it was Labour Day. Meanwhile, my calendar begged to differ. There were still three whole weeks left of my absolute favourite season, and fortunately, the forecast backed it up. In fact, if I were a betting woman, I’d put my money on Sept. 5, with its 41°C  temperature and trusty sidekick, Oppressive  Humidity, being the hottest day of the year.

    So take that all you Debbie Downers so quick to dismiss summer and count your fall pumpkins before they ripen, even if today, as I write, I am wearing long sleeves and pants, socks and a scarf. Continue reading

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