Tag Archives: childhood

A Roasted Chicken Kinda Day

Some days — grey-sky, nothin’-doin’ kinda Sundays (or stat Mondays) — are made for puttering around the home, listening to some podcasts, cleaning, cooking. And those are the days made for roasting chicken. Thank you, cosmos.

Got me a fatty of a bird I’m gonna roast up soon. Tuck some sundried tomato & basil butter under the skin, roast it on a bed of celery, carrots, leek, and all kinda onions. Puree most of ‘em after for the most veggie-licious gravy ever. That, a little stock, some pretentious jelly for flavour. Boom. So good.

I will miss days like this when I’m abroad, but I know I’ll also do an amazing job of making a “new version” of this. I picture myself on a rainstormy day finding a way to make comfort food that smacks of home. I’m bringing maple syrup with me, bitches. The Quebec stuff. Real deal. Oh, yeah.

Food is an emotional thing. Just like roasted chicken, things like Yorkshire pudding evoke my childhood. Pouding chomeur takes me right back to being 8 and standing on a chair to look in the oven at the carmelly-mapley Quebecois version of a sticky toffee pudding baking on Sunday nights.

I can’t buy that memory anywhere else. Same thing with the roasted chickens, stews, breads, all those smells I remember from my childhood kitchen. My mom and dad weren’t the BEST cooks, but they sure put their effort into it and we ate pretty well. And all the muffins you could dream of.

Here’s a story for you. Best.

We went away for a day when we were kids, only to come home and find a ladder against the left-open living room window. The grand theft item? Muffins my mom had made. A couple of the neighbour kids came in, helped themselves. Couple glasses used for milk left on the counter was the big evidence. AHA! My first Sherlockian encounter.

It was the neighbours in the kitchen with a butter knife!

Chicken with all the fats.

Chicken with all the fats.

T & D, trouble-making brothers up the block, were sent over to meekly apologize. I wouldn’t be surprised if they went home with muffins in-hand post-apology too. It was that kind of a neighbourhood.

I’m hoping I luck into reasonably well-stocked kitchens. I’m tempted to bring a silicone muffin tin with me on my travels. (I already have the meat thermometer I’m bringing!) I mean, muffins are serious and there ain’t a storebought muffin in the world I think holds up to a solid home-baked one. Emotional food, indeed.

That will be one of the great aspects to my travels, for me anyhow, is that I want to learn how to do all the cookin’ of what I’m eatin’. I want to be pushy and friendly and get myself invited to family get-togethers. How cool would that be? Politely elbow my way into the kitchen. Watch how it gets done.

And I will just die if I get to go to those big meat-a-paloozas. Grill pits, underground fire pits, brick ovens, over an open flame. Whatever, man. If it involves primal meat cooking in the great outdoors, I will find a way to get there. I will need to connect with serious foodies in every town and not take no for an answer.

I can do this!

But for now, I’m capping this grey day with a roasted bird. It’ll be nice salads and other treats, all week. I’m enjoying cooking these days.

Enjoy the home pleasures while I can, right?

By the way, I’ve got the domain reserved for what will be my travel blog. You can go ahead and bookmark it, and it’ll take you here in the maintime. It’s called The Full Nomad.

“Going full nomad” is gonna be a “thing.” Mark my words!

RANT: They’ve banned ICE CREAM TRUCK music?

STOP THE PRESSES.

A town here in BC has banned ice cream trucks. Lumped in with all the douchebags who create “Mobile Noise” via blaring music, commercial inducements, and other stupidities, the age-old rite of childhood, The Noble Ice Cream Truck, has been banned from this town of uptight fucks who don’t remember what it was like as an 8-year-old to hear those tinny strains in the distance and go running like a fiend with emptied piggy bank funds jingling in their short pockets, all in a quest to score a Creamsicle.

Sure, there are asshat hot dog vendors and other food trucks trying to whore out their wares with voluminous music, but the ICE CREAM TRUCK?

The ice cream truck is a part of the fabric of my childhood. I remember those moments, profoundly.

Did I get ice cream every time it passed? No, probably one out of 10 times, if that. But when I did, it was blissful. And when I didn’t, it was comforting to know I lived in a world that still had ice cream.

Music has been used for selling ice cream for nearly 90 years. It began, some say, in Britain, where ice cream bikes outfitted with little freezers would have a variety of tinny tunes to attract those around them.

Not hot dog trucks, not popcorn carts, no one else used music for all those years. Not industry-wide, anyhow.

For most of us, there’s something natural about a hot, hot blue sky day with sap dripping off trees, sweat pouring off your face, and heat shimmering on blacktop roads, as the tinny tinkling music of an ice cream truck begins to be heard in the distance. It conjures visions of lemonade in tall glasses, children laughing, and good times had by all. “Don’t sweat it! The ice cream truck is coming! Sweet relief!”

If it makes the residents of (West) Kelowna feel better, I too dislike loud noises, annoying trucks, businesses piping music onto their sidewalks, and more.

But don’t fuck with the ice cream truck. Don’t mess with my nostalgia.

If there’s any one business that deserves to have their music rights grandfathered in, it’s the ice cream truck.

I’m allergic to ice cream these days, and it’s a once-or-twice-a-year thing, and I’ll probably never even eat at an ice cream truck again, but I hope I never, ever stop hearing them.

In fact, last week, when I heard my first one tinkling down the streets of my new city and new neighbourhood, I giggled and turned off the TV just to enjoy the music.

That’s not noise pollution. That’s a Band-aid for my jaded soul.

I’ll never be moving to West Kelowna, I guess. A world without ice cream trucks is a world that’s just a little too cold for me.

I love lucy

Remembering Funny

I’m catching my breath after the two-part Lucy-Desi Comedy Hour episode with Tallulah Bankhead. I laughed and laughed and laughed.

It was the 100th anniversary of Lucille Ball’s birth this weekend, teaching me something I previously didn’t know — my mother died on Lucille Ball’s birthday. Kind of weird. Mom loved Lucy.

The top three shows for my mother — I Love Lucy, Columbo, and the Carol Burnett Show. All three were funny as hell, I thought. Peter Falk really had great comedic timing in a subtle way.

So, Saturday was the 12th anniversary of Mom’s death. People tell you that loss never really stops. Well, it doesn’t. The hurt kind of even hurts more now, sometimes, because I realize now how long forever really seems to be. It was a different kind of hurt this weekend, since I’ve been down with a cold and stuck watching re-runs half a century old on a hot August weekend.

I don’t remember if my mother was very funny. I don’t think she was. Just the average kind of funny. She sure knew what funny was, though. I grew up with I Love Lucy, Carol Burnett, the Apple Dumpling Gang, and classic slapstick kind of humour like that. Dad introduced us to Porky’s and Porky’s Revenge, so, you know, we got a little balance there. Both Dad and Mom were fans of MASH and Three’s Company, too.

All the other little kids at Catholic school were shocked we were watching that sin-filled Three’s Company. “They live together! There’s s-e-x!”

Still, I don’t think we were a particularly funny household. There weren’t miles and miles of laughs, ever. We weren’t unfunny, either. I think we laughed enough, that’s for sure.

I remember being distinctly unfunny, myself. I couldn’t tell a joke to save my life before the age of 10. I was funny just “being myself,” since I’ve always been an odd one.

My brother, he was a laugh riot sometimes. He’s still very funny but we have differing opinions on some of his methods, since I can find him really irritating… which is fitting, since he’s my big brother.

As a kid, though, I thought he was hysterical. If he wanted a laugh, he got it. He seldom blew the joke’s punchline.

Unfortunately, I didn’t make people laugh much until I got older, into my mid-to-late teens. As a kid, most of my jokes involved me flubbing the timing, blowing the punchline, and receiving a split-second blank stares then confused guffaws. Or, just a swat from my brother, since siblings are allowed to be jerks.

Being funny, that was important to me. It was a life goal. I couldn’t imagine living life without being FUNNY.

Then… I introduced my brother to Saturday Night Live. I was 11.

I remember it being fall of 1984, I’d just turned 11, and I was sleeping on the sofa, sick, while my parents entertained friends. I woke up after a few hours sleep, turned on the television, and am surprised now that I didn’t hear a choir of angels harmonizing as I discovered something that just blew my mind: Saturday Night Live.

As Billy Crystal would have said, it loohked mahvellous. Eddie Murphy was Buckwheat, wookin’ pa nub.

In the next couple years, I’d be getting into SNL and Second City TV and Johnny Carson. And, oh, The Blues Brothers. It was a crash course in Funny. by 14 I was getting my comedic cues from John Hughes movies, too.

Throughout it all Lucille Ball was a constant, so was Carol Burnett. I knew I’d never be slapstick kind of funny the redhead queens mastered, but I wanted to make people laugh.

These days, it’s still something I love to do. If I make a stranger laugh during the day, it’s great. If someone can’t breathe because my timing’s so good when telling a funny story and they’re laughin’ so hard, I’m on top of the world. I don’t look like I’m elated about it, I always have that sorta-surly Irish-girl look, but I’m secretly on top of the world when I get a good laugh.

Once upon a time, I had a nightmare. It was when I was 19, and I was becoming “in with the out crowd” and getting lots of friends, not a lot of whom I could call “close,” but who typically wanted to invite me to parties ‘cos I’d be interesting. So, the nightmare hit one day and I had it a couple times. It went like this:

I’m driving down a treacherous seaside highway in my hatchback, a bunch of friends in different cars behind me, as I lead the pack and our caravan weaves down the coast.

Suddenly, my car careens and I shoot through the embankment, off the road, over the cliff, plunging hundreds of feet to the rocky coast below — my car exploding into a fiery inferno, and me most certainly as dead as can be.

Smash-cut to the top of the cliff where a dozen or more “friends” all stand peering down in not-so-much-abject-horror as “dude, what a bummer” kind of faces.

One friend goes, “Wow. That really sucks.”

Another goes, “Yeah. She was funny.”

It was one of those moments of clarity when I realized I should be careful what I’m wishing for, because “being funny” is a pretty short list of what one should offer. I tried to be more, and began to collect friends who wanted me to be more than just funny, who didn’t see me as interesting filler for the guest list, who saw me as insightful or as having something more to say in life than just the next gag.

So, this weekend, I’d sort of spent time remembering my comedic roots and sometimes thinking of Mom too. No, she wasn’t “funny,” but she was well-rounded and certainly enjoyed laughing. I think she and my dad must have laughed a lot in the early days, to spawn such amusing kids.

I’m glad I was raised with a mix of genres around me — comedy, film, music, theatre, and big fun parties thrown at home. I’m glad I had parents who entertained a lot, because once in a blue moon I did manage to say something amusing, and having a whole room of adults laughing was a gift. Look at me, I’m a funny kid. Don’t you wish your kid was this funny?

In the middle of all these remembrances is a big gaping hole. My mother died at a time I was really seeing her as human — flawed and all — and when I was beginning to teach HER a lot about living life. I wish there could have been more of a full-circle event between us, but that’s cancer for you. It doesn’t tend to take rainchecks. I’m glad she found me funny and enjoyed that about me when she got sick. I’m glad we found the same things funny then, too.

I may be motherless now, but I’ve got some 30+ episodes of I Love Lucy on my PVR, and somehow it’s like I’m back in my childhood. Pretty awash in memories these days.

I’ll worry about Being Funny tomorrow.

A Christmas Candy Story, by Steff

This Christmas, people in my life are getting simple gifts. I’m making candy for most people. Fiscal Frugality is probably wise in my world — and in most worlds.

Look around, right? The economy’s fucked. I could overspend, but I’d rather use my time and efforts and put ME into my gifts than injecting concern into my life. Makes sense.

It’s probably why I’m having so much more fun this Christmas. I can afford what I’m doing. I’m having to do it from my heart, too, because I want the candy to be awesome, not just some phoned-in treat.

Candymaking is all about the temperatures, that controls texture.

Friday, I got to play Santa Steff as I took my first batch of candy around to people. Tonight, I’ll be making another 11-12 pounds of the convection, with a good chunk of it being used for charitable purposes–my small way of giving back to a valued member of Vancouver’s social media community. I figure elbow grease turns into a donation from someone else. The circle of good.

But this isn’t just any candy.

This is the kind of candy that comes with a story.

Isn’t that the BEST kind?

As a kid, my mom always made us this homemade brown sugar candy. She called it “fudge,” so we did, too. Supposedly it’s “brown sugar pralines,” but there ain’t never been a batch that had pecans in it at my house, man.

She died in 1999, and that’s when I learned that it’s not the big posthumous regrets that weigh down your soul — it’s the little shit. Like childhood recipes.

When I realised her death came and I’d never gotten the recipe for brown sugar candy from her, it broke my heart. No one in the family could find it, either. She’d kept it secret.

But then, 10 years later, a friend of mine, ZoeyJane, helped me “purge” my home. I was made to go through all the old papers, sort all my boxes.

Another friend came over and we were goofing off, and I showed him my big purge-find of the day: My 1983 Girl Guides & Brownies Cookbook.

My friend starting flipping through the pages–thwap-thwap-thwap– “CRANBERRY JELL-O MOLD? This is totally 1983! Oh, hey, here’s yours–Brown sugar pralines.”

WHATWHATWHAT? LEMMESEETHATLEMMESEETHAT.

I snatched the flimsy recipe book from him, and lo and behold, there it was. Mom’s candy.

My eyes watered and my heart pounded. There was a piece of my childhood, RIGHT THERE. It DIDN’T die with her.

I was elated. Over the damn moon. I planned to make it soon. I’d need a candy thermometer. Duly NOTED.

A couple days later, I’m walking to work. Looking down on the sidewalk in Yaletown, there’s a candy thermometer in its package–$2.49. A fissure crack made it useless trash, but I picked it up and fell deep into thought as I found a bin to toss it in.

Later that day, I bought one myself.

That Friday, I took a deep breath and set about rekindling a part of my childhood. It was time to make some candy.

Immediately after I pour my first batch into trays to cool, the phone rings. It’s my brother. He’s with my dad. They wanna pop by.

I’d lived here 10 years, then. It was the first time ever they just “popped” by.

So, they came over, happy to know the “fudge” awaited. The candy was made of fail. I didn’t hit the right temperatures. It’s not cooking, it’s alchemy–and I had much to learn. My candy that day turned into a taffy-like chewtoy one could spend hours nom-nom-nomming but never melting down.

But it took us all back to a place that spoke of Monopoly nights with candy and a fire in the hearth, pizza delivery, pajamas and goofing off.

When my folks’ marriage started truly failing, the candy stopped making appearances. It became increasingly rare. Mother always made a double batch and put half away, hording it for herself. She had false teeth. (Obviously.)

In the 16 months since I found that recipe, I’ve really made it my own. I never make it plain as Mom did. Now it’s a vehicle for great flavours. I’ve made it with bacon and whiskey–a small circuit of the American deep-South barbecue circuit speaks of it like a barbecue urban legend, thanks to a friend who bragged about my work in competitions down there. But it’s the peanut butter-vanilla one that’s really popular with friends and family.

This Christmas is a new version and is my favourite. I think Mom would have loved it: Browned butter, toasted walnuts, and Butter Ripple Schnapps. It’s toasted and carmelized goodness that’ll make you understand the value of a good dental plan.

There were a few things I could’ve made to gift this year, with much less work, but my brown sugar candy is closer to my heart than any of ’em.

Don’t ask for the recipe. The Next Generation Cameron will carry it on: Nephew knows now what’s involved in making it. One day, Nephew too will be a Candymaking Ninja. But, for now, the alchemy eludes my little grasshopper.

Mother would be pleased. She’d love knowing her candy made Christmas special in two provinces last year, since I sent it to other family too, but she’d be more thrilled to know she played a part in candy-for-kindness and other Christmas goodness this year. She liked it simple-but-generous, life.

My folks went the extra mile to make Christmas memorable when I was little. One day, I grew up and the season became shrouded in the cynicism that makes stories like A Christmas Carol resonate 170 years on.

This year, being frugal, using my time and energy to make old-fashioned candy, is the first time I’ve really felt seasonal “joy” in a good 15-plus years. There’s something about returning to the simplicity of the traditions.

Being single and childless, that’s more easily accomplished than it’d be for others, but what a fantastic choice I made. I’m so glad.

Well, then… girl’s got some candy to make. Today’s most-epic-batch-ever requires a 20″ whisk, 24-quart stockpot, and a 24×18″ bun roll sheet with 1.5″ high walls. And, you know, 90 minutes of whisking.

Pray for me.

Ho, ho, ho.

If you can’t attend the fundraiser here in Vancouver tomorrow and you’d like to do a random act of kindness to support a couple good folks financially-felled by health crises for months in the past year, here’s a great place to drop five bucks and do just that.

Existential Excavating: What Made Me What I Was

The hardest part of losing weight, I’m finding, is the challenge of identity.

Being fat isn’t just something that happens over the course of a month. Being fat, becoming as fat as I ever got, took me 25 years exactly. 25 years of daily contributing to an obviously ever-growing problem.

From an eight-year-old spending a summer with an unlimited flow of Mountain Dew and Pepsi at my aunt’s for the first time, I began the journey of Becoming Fat. Continue reading

When We Were Kids: Thoughts on BDSM

Experts will tell you that who we are in life is defined by the age of seven. Our ethics, our play, our work habits, it’s all laid out as part of who we are, and will continue to be, by seven.

There are those who’ve taken this a step further and will tell you also that who you are sexually is defined, as well, by seven. But we often spend our lifetimes trying to make sense of that definition.

Take me, for instance. I’ve been out of the getting-laid world now for a couple of years. After not having had sex for 26 months (but have since) thanks to a totally disappearing libido because of meds I was on, and experiencing the incredible rush of libido-arising all of a sudden after such a long dormancy, I’ve found myself in some very, very new and different headspace.

After not having wanted sex at all, barely ever masturbating for months on end, I’ve suddenly found myself craving a different brand of sex. Something rougher, more primal. Perhaps even a little less democratic. Power plays. Teasing. Even a little pain. Certainly with discipline.

Not that I’ve ever sat around fantasizing about rose petals on the bed, silk sheets, and soft, feathery kisses and all. That’s never been my kind of imagery anyhow. I fantasize about sex on floors, against walls, in public places, getting rugburn, and always have. But this takes things to another level.

And with that comes the reckoning of how much of that is just “Fuck, I need me some” versus evolution of a new kind of desire. Continue reading