Yearly Archives: 2014

  • 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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  • Peach Tree
  • 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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