Sunday, July 31, 2011
Thursday, July 28, 2011
WOOD STOVEOne summer I spent a week on an island too sparsely populated to support a store, perfectly content cooking on a wood stove in a cabin with no electricity and no running water. I came back half convinced that our kitchen don't ask too much of us, but too little.That doesn't mean that I want primitive fixtures in my city kitchen. (A tiger's love for her kittens pales beside my love for my dish washer.) But once in a while, I like to reconnect with fire. For if cooking is a matter of reading labels and pushing buttons, then how important can eating be? If cooking means evoking the fire god and courting him through the tempestuous drama of roasting a chicken, then what comes to the table is an offering, and thanksgivings are due if it isn't burnt.For visitors, the island is a place of gently enforced inactivity. People swim in the lake, or row out on the battered rowboat to see the family of loons at the other end. Or they go for walks along the path by the water, or through the fields that a big, hard-working Swede homsteaded in the 1930s. He planted orchards and fruit and vegetables, and built rock retaining walls around parts of the lake, and canned and ate his horse Lindy after she accidently hung herself in one of the apple trees.Six people bought the island in the early 1970s and built some cabins. In mid-July, the family that has claim to the old farmhouse was there, a couple with two children. So was the property's caretaker, who farms a little garlic and keeps a vegetable garden. He lives there year-round in a cabin close to the old homestead. His son, a four-year-old wild man with hair to mid-back, like his father's, and a grubby fist forever brushing it away from his face, was one reason I wanted to make cookies. The boy had a Popeye doll, and a beaten-up plush parrot. When I held the parrot on Popeye's shoulder and croaked "pieces of eight, pieces of eight" at him, he looked at the parrot with desperate regret, and said, "I don't have those." I wanted more access to the world of a four-year-old. He had a sweet tooth, and I am not above bribery.Going to the island means going back to turn-of-the-century technology, to wood stoves and kerosene lanterns. Our friend Jerome, known to his partners as Mr. Crisp for his fastidious ways, has a propane fridge that miraculously makes ice cubes. Small quantities of ice cubes, to be sure, but enough to clink in a glass at the end of a hard day's basking on the rocks and cooling off in the lake.I brought to the island olive oil, basil and thyme from my garden, the pasta shells I like for pasta salad, sun-dried tomatoes, artichokes, olives, sweet onions, Belgian chocolate, and, on an impulse, a little jug of real maple syrup. Blueberries, lots of lemons, oranges, apples, baking soda and powder. Smoked salmon. Sausage and cheese. A dozen beer, a bottle of Scotch. A roasting chicken, frozen solid, bought from the last big supermarket on the route. The dense, heavy sunflower-seed bread from the bakery down the street. And one litre of milk. If we hadn't had to carry the food on a trail that climbed from the ocean, then dipped into the lake, there would have been more milk.As for the rationale behind the rest of the shopping list, I reasoned that we could always go to the next big island for staples. But we'd have to come right back to civilization before we found a store selling Belgian chocolate and sun-dried tomatoes.I can swim and read and lie in the sun only for so long. I take a certain pleasure in hacking back salal so that a walk along the path after a rain doesn't soak the chins, but that's the sort of thing I want to for got only twenty minutes at a time, to clear my head. I had endless time for cooking. And because there was no store, I was blessed by limits. Except for the beans and beets, all coming ripe at once in the caretakers garden, the materials here were finite. What we had was what were were going to eat, so I was free to concentrate on the food at hand.The first meals where simple, with a minimum of cooking: smoked salmon and cream cheese on slices of sunflower bread, with fresh thyme, a drop of lemon, a little black pepper and a slice of sweet onion. Then a green salad with olives and artichokes for heft, and sun-dried tomatoes for salty, concentrated flavour. Then fruit and chocolate for dessert.Sometimes in the two years since Jerome had last stayed at the cabin, someone had borrowed the sugar. No one wanted sugar on the coffee or on cereal or fruit. But once we lit the wood stove, I wanted to bake. We had fresh flour. There was a copy of the aptly named Joy of Cooking on the shelf, and two flour-company cookbooks, the kind that are a monument to the marriage of commerce and cooking. My mother used to say: "They want to sell more flour, so everything in there is guaranteed to work," and she was right.We first lit the oven to bake the chicken. And if the oven was on for chicken, then there was no reason, apart from the sugar shortage, not to bake cookies. I studied the Joy of Cooking, and with the help of the sugar substitution chart, made thin, crisp, elegantly coffee-coloured maple chocolate chip cookies, the chips cut from the clock of Belgian chocolate. They tasted magnificent. The chicken roasted to red-brown, crisp on the skin and juicy inside. I was in love.I had never been in charge of a wood stove before. When I was a child, and saw them in my prairie aunts' kitchens, they frightened me. You would burn yourself if you brushed against one, which was not true of the electric stove at home. To me, wood stoves were just one more proof that the country is full of dangerous unknowns, and the city is safe. Later I stayed in cabins with wood stoves, but I was unsure of my skills. Besides, there was always someone there first, already weaving the dance of fire. Poke the fire, or add a stick or wood, and you would only throw them off their game.My knowledge of fire is far from perfect. But I can light one, and keep it going, and modulate its temperature. As days went by, I studied the science of the damper, opening and closing it to feed air to my fire or starve it. I leapt to the pleasant challenge, at the end of baking time, of stirring up the coals just enough to keep the oven heat constant, without having to add more wood. I was playing with fire, a game made all the more because of the stove's defects. Rust had loosened the oven handle and opened a hole in the oven wall above the door, and another between the oven and the top of the firebox. When the fire was too hot, you could see orange flames rush over the oven roof. The required adjustments were minute but constant.I never got around to learning to tell the temperature by the number of seconds that I could keep my hand in the hot oven. I'm told that's the sign of a wood-stove master. But I cooked, using a far bigger chunk of attention and skill than it ever takes to set a number on a dial. On the last afternoon, I made cinnamon buns. I had time to nurse the dough, and the classic place to let it rise: the shelf over the stove. When I lifted the bread bowl to put it in it's place, I felt centuries of cooks with bread bowls stretch into the past behind me.I put the buns in to bake after dinner, while we did the dishes. We waited for them on the deck, drinking plum wine that Jerome had made seven summers before. Six rainy winters in the back of a kitchen cupboard can have good effects or ill. The wine was as clear and as rarefied and good slivovitz, the dry, slightly bitter, plum brandy.The oven was warm and glowing. Too warm, I realized, when I saw through the hole over the handle of the oven door a stream of molten air, quick with sparks, flowing over the oven roof. I put a light pan lids in place to protect the buns, but it singed the top of some of them. By the time the dough was baked, the surfaces that weren't under the lids were charred.From Jerome's deck, you can see lake through the trees, and hear loons on the lake. We drank plum wine and ate cinnamon buns brushed by fire and spread with the last of the butter. While we ate, the bats came out to trace the rapid kiss of their black shapes on the sky.I have never since found myself with maple syrup, a need to make cookies, and no sugar, but I have made these cookies again. They're perfect cookies to make on a whim, a small batch that mixes up in the time it takes the oven to heat, and irresistible while they're still warm. I make them small, so they have plenty of room to spread on the cookie sheet.Maple Syrup Chocolate Chip Cookies1/2 cup very soft butter1/2 cup maple syrup1 egg1/2 tsp vanilla1 cup flour1/2 tsp baking soda1/2 cup coarsely chopped Belgian semi-sweet chocolatePreheat the oven to 350°FIn a medium mixing bowl, beat the butter and syrup together with an electric mixer until smooth. Add the egg and vanilla and beat until well mixed. Add the flour, baking soda, salt, and chocolate.Using a teaspoon, drop the dough onto a greased baking sheet. Bake for 12 minutes, or until the edges are browned.Makes 2 1/2 dozen cookies.
Wednesday, July 27, 2011
These are a couple pictures from Amanda and Brendan's wedding! They were taken by our friend, Elmira, who brought a pretty nice camera with her. I didn't really take that many, because I am, in fact, a moron. But that's okay, because there are other people out there who aren't morons, and they can always be relied upon for nice wedding pictures. I don't think I look very good in any of these pictures, but Amanda looks great, and that's what really counts.
Tuesday, July 26, 2011
So, this is the point in the blog where it autosaved, and then I fucked up and navigated away from the other two prefect paragraphs that I had written, and proceeded screaming curse words at my computer screen. Fuck. Shit. Tits. Et cetera. Oh well, I guess I'll just have to recreate them.
Okay. The wedding.
This was possibly the nicest wedding that I have ever been too, and I know a few other people, my mother included, said the same thing. It was just so simple, and included all the elements that every good wedding should have: the glowing fathers, the teary mothers,one nervous groom and one bride with trembling lips. I couldn't keep my giant smile from creeping onto my face, and hadto blink away happy tears more than once. Actually, I'm quite proud that I didn't cry all over myself like I thought I would.
I hear a lot about the drama that comes along with all weddings, but I am pleased to say that we had none of that going on at this wedding. We left Amanda's house at about 8:30 am, and arrived at the salon for her hair appointment at 9:00. Exactly one hour later she was finished, and by 10:30 we were at her grandmother's house. Her dress laced up perfectly, and I wrestled into my own dress with considerably ease. The makeup went on, and we left the house around noon, and got to the chapel at noonish. At this point there had been only one teensy hitch. Amanda's mum, Candy, had left Amanda's dad's, Jason, boutonnière at their house, and he had to drive back real quick to get it. After that though, it was smooth sailing.
We (Amanda, Candy, Jason, me, Kevin (Brendan's brother and best man) and Fern (Brendan's mother) all waited in the brides room at the chapel, and promptly at 1:00 pm, Hugo the pastor came to tell us that we were going to get things started. Brendan's aunt played beautifully on the piano as Candy and Fern walked in with lit candles to place at the table where the marriage certificate would be signed. Kevin and I followed, grinning ear to ear. Brendan was standing up on the church stage, nervously clasping his hands and smiling. The Vancouver crew (Elmira, Carla, Alma, Cerina and Dru) were sitting in a pew together, smiling. We took our positions, and then Amanda and Jason came in together.
I'm going to admit, it was kind of weird seeing Amanda all dressed up as a bride. Earlier that day, as I was doing our makeup, I said to her "I'm confused. Aren't we still 17 and having lunch in D-Wing?" (That was our old highschool haunt.) We laughed, but it was still strange to think that we were growing up to the point where we and our friends were going to start getting married and living our adult lives. I still feel like a little kid most of the time, so while things like this are definitely fun, they get mixed with this sense of melancholy.
So, as Amanda was walking down the aisle, I could see her lip starting to quiver and her eyes tearing up. It was so, so, SO cute. I looked and Brendan, and he was blinking away tears too. The icing on the cake, my friends. After this, the rest of the ceremony went along faster than I thought it would. Hugo told a couple of jokes, and then before we knew it, their vows were being sealed with a kiss. I got to sign some official looking paperwork, and then everything was over.
There were a couple of reception parties to go to after the ceremony, which were all very nice, but I was just so wiped out by the point that I was daydreaming about naps. As fun as the whole day had been, and the months leading up to it, I was drained. My maid of honour duties were over, and I was more than a little relieved. I ate some at the parties, met some nice people (and dogs! At Josh's house, a friend of the newlyweds, he had a dog that's part wolf! He was so big, and his name was Koda!), and finally left for home at 9:30 pm in Dru's car. We made it home from Chilliwack in an hour, no joke, mostly thanks to Dru's speed of 160 kmph on the highway. I have never gone that fast in a car before in my life, and to be honest, I don't think I ever want to again. I came home, and passed out.
Alright, now that I've finally written that all down, I've got to go out the door now. I'm sure I'll add more details in a later post, but I need to go and be reunited with my Max, who I haven't seen for a little while, and I'm starting to get this pang right where my heart should be.
Friday, July 22, 2011
Tuesday, July 19, 2011
For example, I went to the Waldorf Hotel with Chiara about a week and a half after the funeral. But it feels like it happened months before Yasaman even died, even though I know it didn't because while we were there, I talked about Yasaman and she talked about a friend of her's who had committed suicide a couple months prior. And on February 2nd, I went to Langara for an info session about the Fine Arts program I would later be accepted to, a month before the accident. But now it feels like it happened last year or something. I don't know why, but everything's been thrown out of wack. Zaffy agreed, saying that she had been feeling the same thing.
Hahaha, another silly thing. We'd both already seen the final Harry Potter, and there's this one part in it towards the end where Harry is talking to the ghosts of the people he's cared most about (Lily, James, Sirius and Lupin), and he asks them if it hurts to die, and Sirius replies "Dying? Not at all. Quicker and easier than falling asleep." Now, I'm not going to lie, as soon as I heard this I really had to blink away the cascade of tears that was about to fall. When I told Zaffy about this, who'd also seen the movie, she said that she immediately thought about her grandmother too. We then agreed that while it was nice to be able to talk about these sorts of things to people, we'd better stop because we were both getting misty-eyed.
Ah, life is sad sometimes, but there are such good things in it too. Amanda's wedding is in 5 days, and I'm shipping out to Chilliwack in 2 hours. Expect an earful on the subject when I come back, folks.
Saturday, July 16, 2011
EDIT: I don't know why this post looks retarded. No matter what I do, the font stays small and the spaces are too big. Like I say in here, Internet Explorer is awful.
I tried to reply to the 2 comments that were left on my last entry, but Blogspot seems determined not to let me. So, thanks you guys. You're the best :)
My darling laptop has been out of commission for the last two days, because it's power cable started to not work, and beep like it was a bomb everytime I plug it in. Yes, it beeps. I looked it up, and apparently that's just a thing that happens to those specific ones. Also, the battery on my laptop is so craptacular that it won't last for an hour without dying. Don't you just love being surrounded by useless junk? So I'm stuck using our old computer, and it won't let me use Firefox, so I'm being forced to use... ugh... Internet Explorer. I kind of feel sorry for ol' Internet Explorer. It's like the ugly girl at the dance that no one wants to dance with. But that's only because it's just so terrible.
So, one more week until the wedding. I'm not even the one getting married and I'm super excited! I'm going out to Chilliwack for a couple days prior to the wedding, just to help get everything in order. Also, I'm going to be making the wedding cake! And oh, what a cake it's going to be. I'm going to be making what's called a Framboisier. It looks a little something like this:
Glorious, isn't it? It's basically a white chocolate buttercream raspberry cake, and the batter is predominantly eggs so it's incredibly fluffy. That pink layer on the top is rolled out almond paste, dyed pink with food colouring. Would you like the recipe? Of course you would. It's a little fiddley to prepare, but so, so worth it.
For the Genoise (that's the batter)
2/3 cup sugar
4 eggs, at room temperature
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
3 tbsp unsalted butter, melted and partially cooled
For the White Chocolate Buttercream
3 tbsp water
2 tbsp honey
1 cup unsalted butter, cut into pieces and softened
4 oz white chocolate, melted and partially cooled
For the Almond Paste
200 grams almond paste
Red food colouring
2 1/2 cups fresh raspberries
For the Genoise
1. With the rack in the middle position, preheat the oven to 180°C (350°F). Butter a 20-cm (8-inch) square Pyrex cake pan. Line with parchment paper, letting the paper hang over 2 opposite sides.
2. In a bowl, beat the eggs, the sugar and the vanilla with an electric mixer until the mixture turns pale and triples in volume, about 8 minutes.
3. Gently fold in the flour with a spatula. Gently stir in the butter.
4. Pour the batter into the cake pan. Bake until a toothpick inserted in the centre comes out clean, about 25 minutes.
5. Let cool for 10 minutes. Run the tip of a thin-bladed knife around the inside of the dish. 6. Unmould onto a cooling rack. Let cool completely.
For the White Chocolate Buttercream
1. Break the eggs into a large bowl. Set aside.
2. In a saucepan, bring the sugar,water and honey to a boil. Simmer until a candy thermometer reads 117°C (242°F), about 5 minutes.
3. With an electric mixer running at medium speed, beat the eggs until frothy. While beating, add the hot syrup in a thin stream, being careful not to pour it on the beaters. 4.Beat until the mixture has completely cooled, about 10 minutes.
5. Add the butter, 1 or 2 pieces at a time, beating until the buttercream is very thick. Add the tempered chocolate, beating until combined.
For the Almond Paste
1. Mix the almond paste and a few drops of food colouring by hand until the paste is uniformly pink. If desired, wear disposable latex gloves.
2. On a clean countertop dusted with icing sugar, roll the almond paste into a 20-cm (8-inch) square.
1. Slice the cake horizontally into 2 layers. Place the bottom half on a cake stand. Ice with 1/3 of the buttercream. Cover with raspberries. Ice with 1/3 of the buttercream. Place on the raspberries, icing side down. Ice with the remaining buttercream and top with the almond paste.
2. Refrigerate for 2 hours. Trim the sides of the cake so they are straight and even.
I know, it looks a little daunting. But after it's all said and done, you will have this delicate looking, delicious little cake to share with friends, or hell, eat by yourself. Now, since Amanda's wedding colours are blue and gold, I'm going to be dying the almond paste blue, and getting little gold balls to decorate the top. I think they're called carnivalettes? Not too sure, but it's going to look great. I'm also double the recipe, which might be a little hard since I'm not even sure I have a bowl big enough to mix the genoise in. See, when you beat those 4 eggs with the sugar, the end up quadrupling in size. I'm going to be doubling the recipe so the cake will be for more people, so I'm going to be using 8 eggs, you can see what my problem is going to be. No matter though, I'm sure everything will just be fine and dandy. I'm going to pack all my cake making supplies in a my big suitcase and tow it out to Chilliwack with me.
I've started drawing a lot more, and it feels good. Instead of sitting and playing Fallout for hours on end, I put on some music and just draw my little heart out. Of course, I still find time to play Fallout for hours on end, but the important thing is that I'm drawing more. I'll tell you what my big project is. There's this woman named Alison Sudol, who is the singer for one of my favourite bands, A Fine Frenzy. She's also really, really pretty. I was bored the other day, so I was looking for an image of a person that I'd like to draw. I looked Sudol up, and then I found that she'd been in some kind of adorable photoshoot. All portraits, and they each feautre a different hairstyle and come kind of headband. So, I decided that I'm going to draw all of them.
Yeah, I can't make them any bigger than that. But if you really have this burning desire to get a closer look, you can find them by googling "Alison Sudol". You've to go back a couple pages, though. Anyway, I'm excited to do this. I've already completed two, and it's going to take a looong time to finish the other ones. But that's okay, I've got plenty of time.
Well, talk about making up for missed blog posts. I think this is plenty for now. I'vegot to go get ready for hanging out with my friend, Rum, today. We're going to Saffron's and then going to see Harry Potter at the little movie theatre near my house. It's pouring rain, but you know what, I like the rain.
Thursday, July 14, 2011
Give me a little while longer, until after Amanda's wedding, and then I'll be back.