• Cookbooks and coleslaw: Reviews of Yummy Supper, The Bread Exchange and Bar Tartine

    Rainbow slaw with purple cabbage, radish, green apple and orange.

    I was 15 when I got my first cookbook.

    It was What to Cook When You Think There’s Nothing in the House to Eat by Arthur Schwartz. With its red- and yellow-checked jacket, and heavy, black serif typeface leaving no room for photos on its pages, this book’s sales pitch was clearly in its title.

    I pointed it out to my mom when I found it in the stacks of the W.H. Smith bookstore at Fairview Mall in Kitchener, knowing it would at least get a raised eyebrow out of her, if not a chuckle. It was a time in our lives when she was growing tired of the usual refrain that happened every day when she got home from work around 5 p.m.

    “Mom, what’s for dinner?”

    “Can you give me a minute? I just got in the door. Besides, did you ever think I might like to come home to dinner already made?”

    “But there’s nothing to eat!”

    Cue my mom’s eye roll and her trip to the fridge where, like a magician pulling a rabbit out of a hat, she miraculously found the makings of dinner.

    “Will you use it if I buy it for you?” she asked about Schwartz’s book. Continue reading

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  • Peach Tree
  • Lucky lentil soup and lofty goals

    Lentils and other beans are said to bring good luck when eaten for the new year.

    I’m not superstitious but I wish I could have a do-over of New Year’s Day just so I could eat some beans.

    Legumes are believed to bring good fortune when eaten during the changing of the calendar and after 2014, which was a banner year for me, I want to do as much as possible to help 2015 continue on such a positive path.

    I gave birth — twice — first to my daughter and then to my book, both of which are events I had only dreamed of previously. To have both happen within months of each other often makes me marvel. I’m really not sure how I accomplished either, in hindsight. I don’t say that in a “Whoa, look at me,” kind of way, but more of a “Wow, how did I pull that off?” loaded-with-self-doubt statement. Giving birth always petrified me, which could be why I waited until I was 37 to do it. And writing a book, well, as much as I had imagined doing it since I was a child, grown-up me figured it would remain an elusive achievement because I wasn’t sure I had the discipline to do it.

    And so those beans in my bowl on Jan. 1, symbolic of prosperity, would have made me feel that much better about what’s ahead. That I can do it — whatever it may be — in 2015. Still, as a vegetarian (yes, I call myself that despite my recent serial monogamy with smoked trout), I have eaten plenty of beans in the past year, so I can’t help but think I’ve accrued some serious legume credit to hold me in good stead for the 12 months to come. Continue reading

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  • A diamond in Niagara with a side of fried rice

    One of the last remaining unobstructed views of Stilt City behind St. Paul Street can be seen from a stairwell inside the Marilyn I. Walker School of Fine and Performing Arts.

    It was early in my tenure as a Niagaran that I clued into the possibility St. Catharines might have some self-esteem issues.

    The giveaway was a gateway sign on the Queen Elizabeth Way. It read ‘St. Catharines. When you need a little Niagara.”

    Every time I saw it, I imagined a family of tourists hurtling down the highway, bound for Niagara Falls (a lot of Niagara, by contrast, perhaps?), when Mom or Dad decided to pull off in St. Catharines. “You know kids, I just don’t feel like that much Niagara after all so we’re spending the day in St. Catharines instead.”

    Oh, the chorus of disappointed moans and groans I was certain would follow such a decision.

    Poor St. Catharines, the largest urban centre in Niagara Region and nothing to really hang its hat on. Until now.

    Continue reading

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  • Peach Tree
  • Soup and self-loathing in Niagara

    Filling this bowl with soup is like giving yourself a hug.

    You know those days when you just need a hug?

    Well, that day has lasted all week for me.

    You see, I have two other posts, in different states of completion, that so desperately needed to go online before this one. But every time I look at them, I hit this wall of cinder block-like proportions (aka writer’s block). The problem is simple. While the words flow freely in my head when I think about them while doing other mundane stuff — I feel like I could write Hemingway under the table while I’m brushing my teeth — when I sit in front of this computer screen the words flow slower than sludge through a sewer pipe.

    I am sleep deprived. Eight months into this parenthood thing and I can tell you my daughter is perfect at everything except mastering the art of sleeping for extended periods of time. We were on track — so on track because she’s perfect, of course — to nail this mythical feat called sleeping through the night when she just changed her mind. There was no consultation with the rest of us. She just up and did it, going from waking once or twice a night to five or six times. Continue reading

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