I was running behind, having spent some time taking care of ‘matters of consequence’ on the home front. Once turning in toward Westhills Starbucks, I felt the excitement, even in the pouring rain, of getting out to Many Springs and discovering our wild flowers.
We missed Wendy. We missed Carla. And, we missed Darlene. And, we missed Darren, too! Oliver and Cam, glad you could join! We shared many remembrances as we made our way from our meet-up and headed for the Bow Valley Parkway and then on to our hike. Only one other group was out on the trail while we were there.
Everything was lush and the colours were more saturated as we wound our way past Middle Lake and on to the parking. Only a single ‘Bear in the Area’ sign, so nothing to be concerned about.
I don’t think we saw as many orchids as usual, but we certainly saw many more wild Tiger Lilies.
IT POURED….especially as we made it back to our cars. Thank you, Val and Cathy for sharing this time. It almost feels sacred.
When the ladies send me their shots, will publish them here…photo credit: Val Vine and Cathy Szata.
Early morning, before my walk at the river and after a phone call with my friend, Joan, Max and I attempted a selfie session, with a variety of results. He began by turning his back to the camera. Here are a few of his very personalized expressions. I was just so relieved in the morning because the afternoon before saw Maxman downing a half a large fruit cake while I was wandering about watching coyotes. As a result he had to visit the vet and, gratefully, Dr. Justine, averted any more drama.
In the afternoon, I headed for Trinity Lodge. I had an opportunity to enjoy a performance with Joan in her new residence. Joan has made a recent move to the Lodge and I was pleased to find her in terrific humour and to have a beautiful friend in Sophie.
Together, we watched a Robert Burns tribute delivered by St. Andrew Caledonia Society of Calgary, in preparation for today’s official anniversary.
First a wee pipe, then a brief history was given by Ian, followed by a recitation of this poem. Well, it’s longish and so that I don’t lose my readers, I’ll post it at the end. The title is To a Mouse: On Turning her up in her Nest, with a Plough, written in 1785.
I really enjoyed that the residents to the left and right of me were able to, in part, recite the poems and songs that were shared in the afternoon.
I feel very grateful that Joan is making adjustments to her new residence. I see myself enjoying many wonderful times with her. Sophie, Joan and I went to the Bistro and sipped our Lattes while sharing many fun stories. Once home, I took Max out for his neighbourhood walk and anticipated my evening attendance at the Katie Ohe retrospective at the Esker Foundation. Overall, it was a beautiful day.
On Turning her up in her Nest, with the Plough, November 1785
Wee, sleekit, cowrin, tim’rous beastie,
O, what a pannic’s in thy breastie!
Thou need na start awa sae hasty,
Wi’ bickering brattle!
I wad be laith to rin an’ chase thee,
Wi’ murd’ring pattle!
I’m truly sorry man’s dominion,
Has broken nature’s social union,
An’ justifies that ill opinion,
Which makes thee startle
At me, thy poor, earth-born companion,
I doubt na, whiles, but thou may thieve;
What then? poor beastie, thou maun live!
A daimen icker in a thrave
‘S a sma’ request;
I’ll get a blessin wi’ the lave,
An’ never miss’t!
Thy wee bit housie, too, in ruin!
It’s silly wa’s the win’s are strewin!
An’ naething, now, to big a new ane,
O’ foggage green!
An’ bleak December’s winds ensuin,
Baith snell an’ keen!
Thou saw the fields laid bare an’ waste,
An’ weary winter comin fast,
An’ cozie here, beneath the blast,
Thou thought to dwell-
Till crash! the cruel coulter past
Out thro’ thy cell.
Thy wee bit heap o’ leaves an’ stibble,
Has cost thee mony a weary nibble!
Now thou’s turn’d out, for a’ thy trouble,
But house or hald,
To thole the winter’s sleety dribble,
An’ cranreuch cauld!
But, Mousie, thou art no thy-lane,
In proving foresight may be vain;
The best-laid schemes o’ mice an’ men
Gang aft agley,
An’ lea’e us nought but grief an’ pain,
For promis’d joy!
Still thou art blest, compar’d wi’ me
The present only toucheth thee:
But, Och! I backward cast my e’e.
On prospects drear!
An’ forward, tho’ I canna see,
I guess an’ fear!
Little, cunning, cowering, timorous beast,
Oh, what a panic is in your breast!
You need not start away so hasty
With bickering prattle!
I would be loath to run and chase you,
With murdering paddle!
I’m truly sorry man’s dominion
Has broken Nature’s social union,
And justifies that ill opinion
Which makes you startle
At me, your poor, earth-born companion
And fellow mortal!
I doubt not, sometimes, that you may steal;
What then? Poor beast, you must live!
An odd ear in twenty-four sheaves
Is a small request;
I will get a blessing with what is left,
And never miss it.
Your small house, too, in ruin!
Its feeble walls the winds are scattering!
And nothing now, to build a new one,
Of coarse green foliage!
And bleak December’s winds ensuing,
Both bitter and piercing!
You saw the fields laid bare and empty,
And weary winter coming fast,
And cozy here, beneath the blast,
You thought to dwell,
Till crash! The cruel plough passed
Out through your cell.
That small heap of leaves and stubble,
Has cost you many a weary nibble!
Now you are turned out, for all your trouble,
Without house or holding,
To endure the winter’s sleety dribble,
And hoar-frost cold.
But Mouse, you are not alone,
In proving foresight may be vain:
The best laid schemes of mice and men
Go often askew,
And leave us nothing but grief and pain,
For promised joy!
Still you are blessed, compared with me!
The present only touches you:
But oh! I backward cast my eye,
On prospects dreary!
And forward, though I cannot see,
I guess and fear!
While speaking with my sister, this morning, she reminded me that today, January 15, is the anniversary of the day our brother, John, went into hospital. It was from this date, onward, that our family was sucked into the vortex of the medical system and diagnostic testing. As it would turn out, our brother would celebrate his last birthday in Peter Lougheed Hospital.
I begin this particular post, writing about my brother, because I’m thinking about comfort food and what happens when people gather with foods that are familiar and rooted in memory. These foods will often vary depending on cultural context…sometimes an affordability context…regardless, if my readers look back into their journeys, they will find foods that mark various moments along their journeys. Stories and narratives will endlessly surface of childhood and Mom or Grandma or Great Gramma’s cooking.
For example, if I type the words, FRIED BOLOGNA (Baloney) SANDWICH…what memories are evoked?
We brought foods to hospital and those we love, also fed us. My brother enjoyed jello and Cozy Shack rice pudding during those end days. He also enjoyed fresh ju-jubes for the duration of his hospital stay. My sister-in-law sent loaves. John shared birthday cake. Spaghetti was brought from home. Things we create in the kitchen, we have control over (usually). Sharing food creates a feeling of joy, constancy and being rooted. I am grateful for how food brought some pleasure to my brother in his last months. Now, the remainder of this blog post will explore one particular recipe that comes from my memory banks and my Acadian family’s tradition.
Our little Airforce family found itself in Quebec and New Brunswick for two of its postings. These postings gave some proximity to my Great Grandparents, Mamie (Sugar Arsenault) and Papie (Gabriel Gallant) and my great uncles and aunties.
My Grandmother, in back and my mother, directly in front of her. Jimmy Fardy, my Mom’s cousin is directly to her right.
My Mamie, with my mother in her arms.
Mamie and Papie.
I knew when I went to Prince Edward Island that I was among some of the dearest people who were in my mother’s life. I knew, also, that when we traveled there, my mother was home.
Memories of that little Summerside house on Front Street are connected with wood stoves, home made rolled cigarettes, potatoes grated and cooked up into pancakes, horse drawn milk delivery wagons, coal chutes, seaside smells carried on the wind, bingo chips, coffee, bottles on the kitchen table, loud laughter and kitchen gatherings.
Shortly after the session, I sent my Mom’s youngest sister an e mail. “I was telling Dad about a cookbook that was mentioned at a Library program I attended last night. It’s called Feast: An Edible Roadtrip. I asked the speaker if the recipe for “Rapeur” (don’t know the spelling) was in it. One Acadian lady sitting next to me said it was called Rappi Pie hmmm…Dad told me that you make Mamie’s recipe and I was hoping you might send it to me. I know it’s a big job to make and that it needs a special touch to turn out right, but I would like to share it with my daughters. If you would be so kind…I’d really appreciate it. Kath”
I sent that note in 2015 and received an expedient reply that included these steps. I quickly learned that the spelling of the recipe was Rapure and that its translation is coming from the word grate in french.
to grate some cheeserâper du fromage
This recipe was followed by one through the post…thank you, Auntie Pat.
Some time during the Christmas break, I decided to invite a small circle of friends to the house to share some Clam Chowder, also made in my mother’s east coast tradition. Clam Chowder also varies depending on where you grew up in eastern Canada.
With the invitation to my friends, came an opportunity to try making my very first Rapure, without any of my matriarchs present for help. My friend, Hollee, was visiting from Vancouver in order to attend her Auntie’s 100th birthday, so she became my cheerleader as I endeavored to bring my east coast traditions in comfort food, to life. I remember, well, this dish being prepared by my Great Grandmother, my Grandmother and my Mom. It is important to me that I share this, along the journey, with my children. One thing I decided, after looking over the recipes and speaking with Hollee, I was going to borrow my daughter’s food processor!!
The Rapure brought back particular aromas in the little PEI kitchen of my memory, pork and onion fried up on the wood stove, along with a scoop of lard. This dish, along with my mother’s Meat Pies, was very much a symbol of home for me.
Nervous, the night before, I spent a lot of time seeking out Youtube videos, learning for the most part, that the Acadians from Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, were using chicken stock and chicken in recipes that they called Rappie Pie.
On the Arsenault Facebook group, I put out an all-call for recipes and these are some from the Rappie Pie tradition.
These were the posters’ connections with their recipes.
Judy Arsenault I recently made a Rapure from the cookbook Abram-Village Handcraft Co-Op Recipes (which I purchased from the Bottle House (PEI) that my cousin use to own) and it didn’t turn out. Has anyone used this recipe from this cookbook? How did it turn out for you
Thelma Arsenault Hack I have varying results with rapure, regardless of the recipe. Choice of potatoes makes a difference – I don’t think ‘baking potatoes’ work as well. And whether the grated potatoes are rinsed and dried well makes a difference. It’s a lot of work and very frustrating when the results are not good. I’ll be interested in what others comment. Good luck to you.
Jim N Wendy Spain This recipe was made by my great grandmother Catherine (Lefave) Doucette, from Nova Scotia. I recently typed it as shown, for a family reunion. 🙂
With great courage, Hollee and I peeled 10 lbs of potatoes and I chopped up the pork roast into 1 cm cubes, setting aside the pork fat to coat the roaster surface, keeping all chilled and prepared for the morning’s culinary adventure and the visit with my friends. I decided to stick closely to my Auntie’s recipe.
At 7:00 am…I began my processing of the potatoes and put my pork to browning.
I’m going to log my notes here, for future reference. I had my daughter’s food processor set for grating and tried both the medium grate and the fine grate. In future, I would use the fine grate setting. Whoosh…out spewed the gratings of ten pounds of potatoes. The kitchen smelled yummy and CBC radio was turned up, as the pork, onion, salt and pepper were bubbling in the 350 oven. (use the roasting pan for this)
Once the potatoes were done, I quickly covered them with wrap so that oxidization wouldn’t happen. (green bowl) I cut up my cheese cloth and began the process of removing starch from the potatoes. (I will use my red bowl for this next time.) I transferred my shrunken potatoes into my large soup pot. Once finished the cheese cloth step, I added the yummy pork and onion to the big soup pot and mixed and mixed and mixed some more.
This is the step where I decided that in future I would use the fine grate. I remembered my Great Grandmother’s Rapure being smoother in texture, but being coated with crunch. This is what my kitchen looked like, right before beginning my Clam Chowder.
From the mixing stage, I pressed the mixture into my roasting pan…nicely greased with some cubes of pork fat (not all), and pulled from the oven. (don’t burn your hands, here) I roasted the Rapure at 275 for an hour and turned it up for three hours at 350. Next time, two hours at 350 for me!
Thank goodness, Wendy brought a salad as it made the appearance of the square of Rapure look more appetizing, on the plate. I began apologizing before we even sat down because I knew already that the topping was TOO crunchy.
My guests are such dear friends that I could tell them I expected them all to try a piece, as I was very much in the mood to share my PEI nostalgia. They all carried on, without complaint. I love them so much! Photo Credit below: Wendy Lees.
Later, I discovered that the crust softens with just a short wait after removing from the oven, so I would serve it a little differently next time, and definitely crust up instead of flipping it over (lol). I have been happily nibbling on the leftover Rapure ever since and I am generally really happy with the flavours and it very much reminds me of Mom, my Grandmother and my Great Grandmother.
See the next post…the feast…for the treasured gathering.
When I remember my brother, I also remember the family meals that brought us together. I remember celebrations and loud responses to the yummy-ness of food! Much of the recollections of family come with the memory of food. I am so grateful for this.
Thanks to Lauraine, who remembered that her mother made ‘Snowballs’, those red cherries wrapped up in coconut buttery sweetness and rolled in graham cracker crumbs. Isn’t comfort food amazing?
Three Halloween nights with my grandson…this year was so much fun because he actually made the big connection between the act of knocking on the door and enjoying an interaction with the host, as well as gaining a little something in the way of a snack. I am grateful for every bit of fun and laughter we can share.
I was pretty excited as I drove out to Mount Royal University that day! I was going to be meeting up with my sister-in-law, Karen. She had driven into town to enjoy some of the Wordfest events and because of her extensive time in the north, she was more than familiar with the topics of this particular book. She had worked with our neighbours to the north. She had lived with our neighbours to the north. She held a wealth of knowledge within her, but stuff that we had never really made opportunity to speak about. I, on the other hand, was dumber than door nails about the challenges of the north. Like most Canadians, living in the south, we don’t know about what we don’t see. Out of sight-out of mind. It’s shameful, really. I feel shame.
Today, however, as part and parcel of my own journey of truth, I feel I have had a very generous introduction to the topic through the book, The Right to be Cold, and can now build upon knowledge that exists within me, however scant that knowledge might be. If the Globe and Mail can refer to this book as ‘revelatory’, so can I! And it was! To gain any insights about the wrongs of the past and sadly, the present, is to liberate ones self. It is only in educating myself about these mistakes that I can go forward to make change happen within me and in the outside world.
Mount Royal always stumps me, in terms of locating absolutely anything. It isn’t as simple as the posted maps convey. I wandered for quite some time before coming upon the theater where Sheila Watt-Cloutier would be speaking. The people who gathered seemed casual and friendly, calling out to one another. It turns out that some people were connected through the story and through the north. I felt like a blank slate…pretty excited. When Karen settled in next to me, she quietly told me about some of the people in the room. Embraces were shared.
I want my readers to read this book. There are chapters within these pages that overwhelm the reader with unfamiliar acronyms (NGO, POP, ICC, KSB, INC, CAIPAP, UNEP and so on…), but if possible, move beyond these to understand the huge complexities faced by our northern neighbours as they work tirelessly to advocate for safety and health for their families and future generations. Also, pay close attention to the work that has been happening in the past…the voices that have reached out desperately on behalf of human beings, voices that, like the author’s, spoke always from the heart and out of concern for the other.
I can not imagine what it would be like to be so impacted by colonization, industry, and ignorance that my identity, culture and even the health of the foods I ate were at risk. There is a dark history in our country. And while it seems too late to be educated and make a difference, we have no choice. For the Inuit people to lose their way of life is for us to lose what is distinct about our Nation. I grieve. I grieve because while I am typing these sentences, years have gone by since the writing of Watt-Cloutier’s book…and the exponential loss of the ice is going on at this very moment.
The Right to be Cold is written in the memoir genre, a form of writing that consistently appeals to me. I found the narratives about Sheila’s early years very powerful. As my readers know me fairly well, there were tears in many places. Yes, at times, I had to put the book down. The writer does not, however, write from a place of victim. In fact, I think it is important to her that we not place the story of the north in the context of a victimized people. Instead, she speaks from a place of strength and hard work and strong belief.
I was blessed, a short while ago, to attend an exhibit at the Glenbow Museum titled North of Ordinary: The Arctic Photographs of Geraldine and Douglas Moodie. Those photographs did for me what Sheila Watt-Cloutier did with words. We have sacrificed much by not caring for the north…the ice and snow…and the animals and people who needed to be heard. In fact, sometimes I think that we, as people of the south, cared more for the animals of the north than the people. And…isn’t that just crazy?
There was a bench where I could sit down. I felt the breath knocked out of me. I felt the truth, like a blow to my gut. I compared the images captured by the Moodies with the current news stories published about the north…suicides among the youth, housing crisis and melting ice. It wasn’t many years ago that I heard a teacher who had worked up at Cross Lake, Manitoba say something like…”I don’t get why, when there is fresh fish to be caught, that the people would go pay such huge prices and buy processed fish sticks from the store?” Read this book!
When I was a little girl sitting in a DND school, I learned about the ‘Eskimos’. I drew pictures of igloos and harpooning. But, I was given no context. Along the way, I was given nothing. I guess the most magical truth that I received was from my father who had a thirteen month long period away from home. We lived in Ste. Sylvestre, in Quebec, at the time. It was in the late 1950s. My father brought us stories and experiences. Apart from that, I knew nothing about the north.
Studio portraits, above, taken by the Moodies.
We have stolen a pristine and health-filled life from the people of the north. We have tried to take away all of their traditions, culture and ways of being.
Photos taken by my father’s old camera…
I’ve poured myself another coffee…never really got writing about Sheila’s talk that morning at Mount Royal. She was inspiring. She was light-hearted. She was serious. Sheila has impacted me and opened up my heart, with the writing of this book. As an author, she has connected me to the narrative that is our north country and to the fine citizens that have made the north their home over time and forever.
….okay, well, I just had a long Skype session with Karen and thank goodness because the writing of this post had become very difficult. I’ve settled…deciding to conclude this post with a quote and a short thought of my own.
On August 26, 2017 my grandson, Steven, came into this world. It is a powerful and natural thing that he breast feeds and that his Mommy, for now, is his whole world. It should be that this is the very safest place for my grandson to be, and it is. Imagine, then, the sad fact that in the north, this generous and natural relationship should be, in fact, dangerous to the infant population, in that country foods have, over generations, been tainted with POPs at a level far greater than we can know or understand. The peoples living in the north are struggling for their children and their children’s children. We must contribute to their hope and to their futures. We must be a strong force, where we can, in their right to be cold!
Book discussion happened with Aboriginal Pride with 12CSI Chapters and Chat. Photographs below credited to Michelle Robinson…woman who has opened my eyes to more than you know!
Lindsay Anderson and Dana VanVeller are the co-creators of a recent and beautiful collection of insights, recipes and images, Feast: An Edible Roadtrip
I missed Mark’s birthday celebration last evening. Happy birthday, Mark and I’m sorry I wasn’t there to share the brilliant conversations that are so typical of your backyard gatherings and the culinary treats that always seem to surface.
I registered some time ago for a session at the Alexander Calhoun branch of the Calgary Public Library, a book talk with Julie Van Rosendaal. I was pretty pumped about the experience. My friend, Pat, and I were very impressed with the beauty of the blooming Mayday Trees that edged the park-like grounds of the Alexander Calhoun. We were greeted at the door…a lovely touch. Immediately, we were offered our choice of tea or coffee and a selection of cookies…one with its origins in Cape Breton and the other Grandma Woodall’s Oatmeal Marmalade Cookies.
I liked the idea that we were invited to share a memory of ‘Canadian’ food that we enjoyed from our childhood. This brought to mind a dish prepared by my Great Grandmother (Mamie) in Summerside, PEI. I decided that I would go on a search for that recipe so that I might prepare it.
Julie Van Rosendaal was not able to present…apologies were given…and very quickly, we were introduced to Julie’s replacement for the evening, Gwendolyn Richards, writer of Pucker: A Cookbook for Citrus Lovers. She was fantastic…very much fun, spontaneous and capable. A great presentation, interview and conversation ensued. I am very excited, as a result, to have a whole list of new resources in my repertoire, as well as an interest in exploring recipes from across the country, beginning with a quest for a recipe for Acadian Rauper (my recollected title for the recipe based on family pronunciations), a comforting potato based treat that attendees, last evening, described as Rappie Pie. (and based on the image on this particular link…it is obvious there are regional distinctions) For my reader’s information, my Mamie’s recipe was spelled Rapture and pronounced raw-purr.
More on that later…
I enjoyed the fact that the session included places to purchase ingredients locally…ways to incorporate some of these ingredients…and a bit of the background on the FEAST source book.
A wonderful evening and another successful program.
What foods and recipes connect you with family memories?
On my paternal side, my Gramma Moors always put a huge Blade Roast in the morning and it cooked on very low all day long. For a treat at the kitchen table, it was a simple matter of dipping white bread into molasses or sprinkling white sugar onto a slice of buttered bread.
My mother, having come from the Arsenault/Gallant lineage, prepared beautiful boiled dinners…whether that was with fish, corned beef or pork hocks. She also made the most amazing clam chowder. My daughter, Cayley, just prepared her first pot of clam chowder the other day. ;0)
This morning, while drinking my morning coffee, I fired off an e mail to my Auntie who lives in Quebec. She makes large batches of our family dish to this day and responded very quickly with the recipe. I’m going to try it. I think it’s an important practice to share our family recipes with our children. I hope that my kids will make this one with me.
Hi, nice to hear from you… yes I make it on a fairly regular basis for Paul, your lady was somewhat right. Yes it is quite a job, but so worth it for us. As for recipe, it is kind of this and that. That saying I do have an official recipe from Canadian Living magazine. It is not what mom did, at least exactly. For us and for you it depends on how many people you are feeding. I made a lot of extra so Paul can take it home, he really loves it. If you want send me your address and I will copy the official one to you too.
So here it goes. I peel 30 pounds of potatoes
I cook about 3-5 pounds , when cooked I mash them.
This is the long part, grate with a machine the rest of the raw ones.
Once done, squeeze as much of the starch juice out with your hands as possible
Put in a container that you can easily mix after. Fairly large
For the meat we always use pork, I cut a large roast uncooked into small pieces.
Understand that I use a roast pork loin, a large one, can’t tell you the weight
Also you must use at least 4 cups of onions chopped in small pieces, I grind them in my
Once this is all done, mix all ingredients together, this is when the special touch comes
into play. Mix and mix and mix again. Everything must be mixed evenly.
While you are doing this in the oven should be your pans with pork fat, to coat the pans
For the grease like Pam. I do this in the beginning of everything, the oven is at 300° until I
I put everything in the pans, and cook at 275 the first hour, then raise to 325 for at least
another 2-3 hours.
Don’t forget salt and pepper, more salt than pepper because the pepper taste is strong
for some reason
If you remember correctly, this is a mushy kind of meal somewhat like a casserole. As many say a little bland. Joan’s husband uses creamed corn, Ray uses ketchup, but we Thompson eat it just as is.
This seems complicated, but it just about feelings, I wish I could be there to show you, I love to carry this tradition for mom,
Call me if you need more explanation…. I would be more than happy to help.
Should this be enough, let me know how it goes. By the way, I peel my potatoes the night before, put in cold water until the next day, also I cut my meat, put fat in one bowl, and meat in another. This is the fat I use for my pans. I have a large black spotted spaghetti pot I use for my potatoes. Something like what you would use for a corn roast.
Hope this is enough, thanks for wanting to carry on this tradition, it’s a good one.
Why fruitcake? A lot of people don’t even like the stuff…
To be honest, last evening, after cutting cherries (green and red) in half, following a really different and physical day, I was suffering a bit of a martyr complex that can sometimes hit women if they do too much in preparation for the Advent season and Christmas. I say ‘women’ simply because my observations tell me that women value the traditions and rituals of the kitchen and appear to do a lot of preparation for holiday seasons. (I also know a gentleman who prepares hundreds of perogies, in the tradition of his mother, prior to Christmas…so, I’m not meaning to make this a story about who-does-what.)
In my family of origin, my mother did a lot of work in the kitchen and sat many hours, sewing our clothing at her sewing machine. My father participated…for example, he told me that he remembered cutting the cherries in half. (news to me…and as a result, this is the first year that I cut them in half) The reason for starting this blog post.
I set my alarm for 6:30 this morning. I decided before I went to bed that I would get up early, mix up the batter and fruit and put it all together to rest in order to bake it this evening. (I’ve got lots I want to do today). Well, it turns out that I woke at 4:00 in the morning. Wide awake. I made a decision to rise and SHINE…shine, being the operative word.
I put the coffee on and let Max out in the back yard to pee.
I looked up Gordon Lightfoot on Spotify, after listening to one short album of The Tallest Man On Earth. For some reason, I woke with the lyrics of Wherefore and Why on my mind. I made a choice to enter into the fruitcake prep with happiness and with a sense of nostalgia.
Some things came to mind as I worked and I wanted to write them down before I get on with the day.
First of all, the smells of Christmas are really important. Allspice. Molasses. Cinnamon. Nutmeg. Mixed Peel…evergreen…mincemeat.
I remembered my family while making fruitcake. My grandparents. My parents. My brothers and sister. And through the last many years…my children.
When I opened the small carton of molasses, I remembered my Gramma Moors. A dessert treat would be to soak up molasses with a piece of white bread. I remember her doing this while sitting at her small kitchen table. The table was covered with a piece of floral vinyl. I remember her soft yellow bath robe. I remember that her feet didn’t really touch the floor when she sat at that table. I miss my Gramma.
My kitchen is small, by today’s standards. I realize this. But, I have no desire for a larger kitchen. My dishwasher hasn’t worked for almost two years. I wash my dishes by hand. But, as I worked in my kitchen this morning, I remembered the kitchens where my mother toiled to make turkey dinners and dozens of butter tarts and fruitcakes and, for the most part, they were small kitchens. I liked the intimacy, this morning, of my kitchen. I enjoyed the idea that this kitchen is in a home that I have made, along with my children, all on our own.
I haven’t got a hankering to purchase or use mandolines or food processors of any kind. I use a knife, a glass lemon squeezer, a grater…those sorts of tools. In our family fruitcake recipe, for a single batch, we require one lemon and one orange; zest and juice. As I squeezed these this morning, I remembered my mother’s knuckles…her hands…doing their work at the kitchen counter. The image was as clear as day. She pressed so hard that I remember her knuckles being red. Every last drop of juice was won by her efforts.
Having no bowl large enough in my kitchen, I used my roasting pan and combined ingredients there. Mom and Dad used their turkey roaster, also. I remembered the large batch of batter resting in the family roaster.
I had a beautiful start to my day, preparing our family fruitcake recipe. Thanks to Dad for sending me grocery money, I will be baking these up tonight, wrapping them up with the help of my girls tomorrow evening and posting them to my family, for the holiday. Even if my brothers and sister just open the wrap and take in the smell of brandy and fruitcake, it will be enough…to remember our shared Christmases, our history and our Mom.
When I woke this mornin’, something inside of me told me this would be my day
I heard the morning train, I felt the wind change, too many times I’m on my way
Come on sunshine, what can you show me
Where can you take me to make me understand
The wind can shake me, brothers forsake me
The rain can touch me, but can I touch the rain
And then I saw the sunrise above the cotton sky like a candycane delight
I saw the milkman, I saw the business man, I saw the only road in sight
Then I got to thinkin’ what makes you want to go, to know the wherefore and the why
So many times now, oh lord I can’t remember if it’s september or july
Then all at once it came to me, I saw the wherefore, and you can see it if you try
It’s in the sun above, it’s in the one you love, you’ll never know the reason why
Come on sunshine, what can you show me
Where can you take me to make me understand
The wind can shake me, brothers forsake me
The rain can touch me, but can I touch the rain
So much to lose, so much to gain
Mom always made us a bunny cake…my sister and I continue on the tradition. And now, the next generation continues…my daughter Erin’s version, with two variations of a bunny face, at the very bottom. I missed Mom a lot this year…again…still.
My daughter’s thoughts on faces…always a variation depending on the availability of licorice, chicklets and jelly beans.
Thanks to Wendy, Rebecca and Darren for hosting yet another amazing feast to celebrate our long-time friendship and the Christmas break. This culinary experience is a bit of a tradition and not like any ‘eat in’ dining experience that I’ve enjoyed elsewhere.
2011 saw us enjoying a Japanese Hot Pot and all of the other dishes that precede it…
Japanese Hot Pot…amazing!
Beautiful friends….awesome chefs!
Prime Rib and a most amazing tea service. (I am only selecting a photo or two to represent the epic treat!)
Yet another feast! Can my readers believe the presentation?
Here we are some time years ago, likely after being spoiled!
And…this year…let’s face it, we’re Besties! YEAH!
Darren began by serving us roasted potato soup…and yes…absolutely yummy! The most creamy delicious soup! Unbelievable! On the menu…
“Potato soup with micro frites and green onion. Pork rib roast studded with garlic and rubbed with rosemary, pepper flakes and salt cooked over charcoal. The pork was served over steamed asparagus on a roasted pepper reduction. With the pork, were two potato croquettes topped with sour cream and homemade grainy mustard. For dessert, there were profiteroles with some melted sugar.
The extra sauces I made were: Parsley and garlic in olive oil and salt. Home made grainy dijon mustard. Raspberry puree with balsamic vinegar. Chimichurri. Pico de gallo.
I think that’s it. Was going to make fresh bread sticks but I forgot. Next time!”
The nourishment that our friends share with us is very symbolic of how we nourish one another through the laughter, the tears, the celebrations and the struggles. To be fed by others is an act of sacrifice and of giving. I want to thank my friends for the treasure of their giving hearts. I appreciate the empathy and the support that you have offered me. I also appreciate the good food and the good drink that brings us to a circle. Grateful…always!
And…because it’s the first anniversary of his passing and I really like this song…this.
There are many approaches taken by artists to achieve perspective and build an accurately proportioned and modeled figure/subject on a flat surface. They sometimes use a viewfinder when it is difficult to determine the overall composition of their piece.
Some of my readers may not know what I mean when I talk about overall composition…here are a couple of ‘rules’ that any artist can basically ‘throw out’ of their artistic tool kit if they wish…but, I tend to observe these.
In the past, I have used a slide frame as a viewfinder and shared that tool with my students. What a basic viewfinder will do is eliminate a lot of the chaos that appears around the subject of the piece the artist is composing and crop the piece so that the composition is dynamic and gains interest.
Another technique that helps to accurately transfer information and placement of content in a composition is to grid both a flat reference or photograph and the larger surface of the canvas/panel or paper with squares of equal proportion. (The number of grid squares measured on the reference must be the same as the number of grid squares measured on the drawing surface and the ratio of those must be consistent in their ratio, 1:4 for example.) What the viewer/artist sees in the top right hand square is then transferred onto the drawing/painting surface accurately. Here are a couple of examples of paintings and drawings rendered by my former middle school students, using this technique. I think that this provides an exercise for student artists in observation and in training those brain/eye/arm/finger muscles to work together.
View finding and using a grid system are only two techniques used to compose. On this subject, there is a huge and sometimes complex manner of creating a well-proportioned image. Any and all techniques are available to every artist to the extent that they wish to use them. It is often a magical thing to make reference to some basic skills in drawing and painting before one tears into self-expression. If it is not your intention to distort figures in your work, it can be a frustrating thing to do beautiful painting and mark making that is lost because the eye travels immediately to the loss of foreshortening or proportion.
I have randomly selected a couple of videos here that demonstrate formal techniques.
Then…there is also the Fibonacci principle. Wowsah!
Presently, in Calgary, my friend, Douglas Williamson, is the featured artist at Collector’s Art Gallery. He has a practice that includes some of the very technical aspects of rendering and painting. I admire his work and his dedication.
Most of the time, quite frankly, especially during events like Rumble House painting, I ‘eyeball’ it and remember that my teachers always told me that I had a bit of a natural sense for composition. I just naturally eliminate peripheral visual information that I don’t want included when I am plein air painting or working in my studio. Artistic style and intention need to be kept in mind and not forgotten. I think it’s a dangerous thing when one artist tells another how things SHOULD be done. Some artists work in a purely intuitive manner.
As I’ve discussed before, many contemporary artists access slide projection or image projection in order to create a large and accurate view. Some among us label such artists ‘cheaters’ and this makes me laugh because typically the connoisseur of art knows little about the process. Ted Godwin demonstrated his technique for me in his studio, as did Bill Webb. With every brush stroke, the works created by both artists became unique and while accurate in terms of the perspective, breathed the life and human touch not found in a photograph.
Recently, I saw that a facilitator, Francois Lavigne, at the wonderful create! in East Village had constructed a viewfinder that I thought would be fun to use while doing a seated sketch.
So, I headed down to see Wendy Lees and the gang at create!, now housed in the Center of Hope next door to the Salvation Army. Present yesterday, were people I care about so much, but haven’t seen for the longest time. It was nice to meet Margot and Philip Lozano of Momentum, as well! I hoped to hook up with Francois and purchase a viewfinder…and I did! WHOOT!
One of the projects during the open session was a section for a Calgary Public Library project in the works at create! So, I sat down and painted me a panel and ate up the varied and enthusiastic conversations that ensued. Thanks, Wendy! Thanks, Francois. If you are an artist who is interested in the purchase of a viewfinder, please contact Francois directly here.