Feast: An Edible Roadtrip

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.

Here are a few recommended titles and such…

Vegetarian Cooking for all by Deborah Madison

Spilling The Beans: Cooking And Baking With Beans Everyday by Julie Van Rosendaahl

THE FLAVOR BIBLE:
The Essential Guide to Culinary Creativity,
Based on the Wisdom of America’s Most Imaginative Chefs

by Karen Page and Andrew Dornenburg
Photography by Barry Salzman

Looneyspoons :Low-Fat Food Made Fun! & Crazy Plates By Janet & Greta Podleski

Whitewater Cooks

Patent and Pantry, a blog by Gwendolyn Richards

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
                              Chopper.
                              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 
                              finish mixing. 
                              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.
Pat

A Fruitcake Tradition

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.

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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

Bunny Cake Tradition!

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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.

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My daughter’s thoughts on faces…always a variation depending on the availability of licorice, chicklets and jelly beans.

Erin's Bunny 2016

Erin's Bunny 2016 2

Val’s Bunny 2016!

Val's Bunny Cake 2016

A Ya Ya Feasting Tradition

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!

Japanese Hot Pot…amazing!

Beautiful friends....awesome chefs!

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!)

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Yet another feast!  Can my readers believe the presentation?

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Here we are some time years ago, likely after being spoiled!

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And…this year…let’s face it, we’re Besties!  YEAH!

Feast Christmas Ya Yas 2015

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!”

Kath's Canon, December 20 and 21, 2015 Wendy's Feast and Franks 011

Kath's Canon, December 20 and 21, 2015 Wendy's Feast and Franks 012

Kath's Canon, December 20 and 21, 2015 Wendy's Feast and Franks 013Kath's Canon, December 20 and 21, 2015 Wendy's Feast and Franks 015

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!

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And…because it’s the first anniversary of his passing and I really like this song…this.

Finding That View at create!

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.

Slide Frame ViewfinderAnother 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.

March 17 2009 Art and Feb Words 130 March 17 2009 Art and Feb Words 035 IMG_8185View 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.

P1070233Recently, 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.

Viewfinder by Francois 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.

Kath's Canon August 20, 2015 create and viewfinder 013 Kath's Canon August 20, 2015 create and viewfinder 012 Kath's Canon August 20, 2015 create and viewfinder 011 Kath's Canon August 20, 2015 create and viewfinder 009 Kath's Canon August 20, 2015 create and viewfinder 008 Kath's Canon August 20, 2015 create and viewfinder 007 Kath's Canon August 20, 2015 create and viewfinder 005 Kath's Canon August 20, 2015 create and viewfinder 004 Kath's Canon August 20, 2015 create and viewfinder 002

Meeting Jean Richardson

Jean-short-for-Eugenia, a retired nurse, came to be with the grade three classes yesterday and left me, both fascinated, and in awe of her passion for eggs and her organization as a workshop presenter.  The class was informative, seamless and so much fun!

This is something that Jean has always enjoyed doing with her husband, Al.  Her eyes lit up as she mentioned him and their shared love for Eggs-Quisites.  They’ve been going out into schools and organizations to share their experience with different aged children and adults for almost thirty years.  When they come out to your school, they supply dyes, books, wax and amazing exemplars of this traditional craft.  They even manufacture their own kistky!  After a fascinating history of Pysanky, Jean shared a hands on adventure through the application of beeswax in preparation for six different dye baths.

I enjoyed the stories that Jean shared with us and the children adored her.  Such a gentle and truly lovely person!  Thank you, Jean!

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The Art of the Jack-o’-lantern

The last few years, the pumpkin has been transformed in ways that it really hadn’t ever been before.  I suppose it started with the sale of special carving tools that went beyond the basic carving knife utilized by our parents.

Just yesterday, I saw one of these contemporary carvings posted by friend, arts educator and artist, Jen Dunne, a depiction of Edgar Allan Poe.  Absolutely fantabulous!  I would guess that the carving happens, much like the process of batik, where you have to think ahead to what general forms you wish to read lightest in value all the way to darkest or black.  The light will glow through the various layers revealing a number of glowing orange values/greys….very coolio!

Photo Credit: Jen Dunne

Photo Credit: Jen Dunne

While the Tell Tale Heart is my favourite, Edgar Allan Poe is most known for his poem, The Raven.

Back to pumpkins.

When I was a child, it was Dad who gathered us around the kitchen table for the carving of the jack-o’-lantern.  Mom was always busy harvesting items in the house that we could use for our home made costumes.  She also salted and placed in the over, a tray of seeds once separated from the heap of yucky pulp.

2006 pumpkin

2006 pumpkin

I’ve carried on the tradition with my children all of these years, but consistently carving the same grinning face that my father carved out for us. I missed my Dad last night…I do every year on Halloween night.  He is and will always remain a part of my memory when I light up the candle in my jack-o’-lantern.

DSC_1053HAPPY BIRTHDAY, MARY!

 

Christmas Magic

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The Magi by William Butler Yeats 1916

Now as at all times I can see in the mind’s eye,
In their stiff, painted clothes, the pale unsatisfied ones
Appear and disappear in the blue depth of the sky
With all their ancient faces like rain-beaten stones,
And all their helms of silver hovering side by side,
And all their eyes still fixed, hoping to find once more,
Being by Calvary’s turbulence unsatisfied,
The uncontrollable mystery on the bestial floor.

2012 Fruit Cakes

My mother and father, for years, would prepare fruit cake and send it off in parcels to each of us.  While I was always grateful for the gifts and candy packed up in the Christmas parcel, it was especially the fruitcake that ‘smacked’ of family and made me feel close to home.  So…my daughter and I have taken up the tradition, using Mom’s recipe as best we can. We cranked up the Rita MacNeil music and sharing company for three days, made the magic of Christmas happen once again.  Here are only a few archives of this year’s preparations because I forgot to bring the camera along for the mixing in of the mega-ingredients!

Cheese Cloth for Brandy Wrap

Minis for Gift-Giving

BRANDY!

Cakes

Wrapped and Ready for the Post

The Better Part of the Afternoon

This is what I’m talkin’ about!

Alright…so, I spent the better part of the afternoon writing brief accounts of only some of the artists I had the opportunity to hear this past weekend…but, what I failed to capture was the ‘experience’ of the Calgary Folk Festival.  I’m not certain that words or photographs can ever bring the experience of heading for ‘the island’ to life. Spending a hot and sunny July weekend with friends and family, chilling, is an experience that warms the heart in all of its corners.

The volunteers are remarkable…the enthusiasm can be felt everywhere.  Good food smells permeate the venue!  On Saturday, I had a plate of Indian food, a tradition in our family on one of our folk fest days. From Steven Hunt’s

Opposing world views find harmony at folk fest
Calgary Herald, July 25, 2010

“For more than a decade, the Nagpals, Saroj and husband Ashwani, who operate the India Palace food vendor, have been loading up their trailer and making the drive from Winnipeg to sell their popular butter chicken and other Indian dishes.

It’s the first stop of an India Palace Alberta tour that also includes the Edmonton Folk Festival and that city’s fringe fest.

While the Nagpals spend a large chunk of their summer at hip music festivals, that doesn’t necessarily translate into seeing much of any of them.

For one thing, none of India Palace’s food is prepared ahead of time.

“Everything we have to do (prepare) on the site, and it takes a little bit of time,” says Ashwani.

For the Nagpals, a division of labour helps keep the epic lineups outside their trailer moving steadily. As Saroj supervises serving meals, Ashwani trains and supervises food preparation. “He trains all the chefs and cooks, and then he walks around,” says Saroj.

While there isn’t much opportunity for the Nagpals to hear much music, one year did produce a pleasant surprise: an Indian band.

“They were here from Rajistan, from India,” says Ashwani. “They were playing right in front of our booth when it was the opening ceremony and we just know that because my wife studied in Rajistan.

“We look after them,” he adds, “because when they’re from the same country … and you meet them in a country far away (from home), you feel so good.””

I enjoyed my ritual of a lemonade slushie during the heat of the afternoon and then later,  I drank a beer with a former student in the beer gardens, sharing stories and lots of laughs.  Much like squatters,  my daughters and I spread our tarp on a piece of property and, this year, had only one occasion of racing to cover up our ‘stuff’ because of a quick thunder storm that blew through.  The folk festival ‘fashions’, the hula hoops, the  beach balls and location markers, two-dollar plate rentals…these are all part of the crazy ambience that IS Calgary Folk Festival.  It is a wonderful time!

The C-Train’s rocking movement lulled most of its riders to a quiet hush as we headed south and away from Prince’s Island for another year.  Another successful folk fest!