Posts Tagged: comfort food

change, big change, and food

I’m sitting here looking out at the millions of diamonds floating on the harbour and I’m filled with contentedness. I don’t know what that has to do with this post, but it seemed like a good way to start it. We’ve just finished our weekly brunch of frittata – this time with purple kale, asparagus and tomato and accompanied by couple of slices of nitrate-free bacon. I don’t know what that has to do with this post either, but it certainly reflects my rather limited perspective of the last month and a half. Cooking, was, I suppose, my way of coping; it felt productive and healthy and financially responsible. Back when I was a single mother going to university, I could stretch a grocery budget like nobody’s business.

image from flic.kr

One would think that when one is suddenly laid off from her job, she’d find all kinds of time to go to the gym, write a first draft of a novel, while away hours creating dolls and collaging and all the other things that stimulate her creative self. Most certainly she’d find time to blog. What really happened was she went into some sort of shock.

Not that it was a surprise. Most of my office had been laid off in the months before I was. My company’s industry had gone into a holding pattern and one by one, engineers began to go and then supporting staff. And then the business development group was dismantled too. One by one, ending with, I’ve heard, my boss, its director. I guess things are pretty bad when business development isn’t seen as useful anymore. It’s a giant company – our industry was a small part of it and they’d focus their pursuits in more profitable areas. Fortunately for me, my career isn’t centred on any one industry; I can write proposals for any kind of company and I have done so in a number of realms.

image from flic.kr

So the shock that wasn’t really a shock sent me into finding employment mode. I didn’t want to talk about it. I just wanted to find another job. And I did. Lucky me – proposal writers are needed everywhere these days.  I started with a new company last week and the fit seems great.

But for five weeks my alarm clock was retired and I wore yoga pants every day and I revised my resume. And I tried new recipes. Food was comfort and my creative output. Likely it was a way to divert from the shock of the sudden retreat from the work world. North of that harbour I see from the vantage point of my sofa, the work world went on without me. Suits hopped off streetcars, blank faces filled the subway cars, couriers delivered packages and crews tore apart roads. I made soup.

image from www.flickr.com

Food might also have something to do with the other big change in the wind. After I was laid off, Ceri and I talked and it seemed like a good time to go forward with us and move in together. It occurred to me that I haven’t shared a home with a man in more than twenty years. But that’s not entirely true. Ceri and I have lived together, either at my place or his, every weekend for almost a year and a half. We have dinner together every Wednesday. It’s time. There is no need to be paying for two residences. Or be apart. Before Ceri I never knew a relationship could be so consistently pleasant and uncomplicated. Cooking for us and our family is an extension of our relationship.

I haven’t moved over to his place yet, that comes next month. We’re really excited about the challenge of merging stuff and making a home together. The Co-Habitation Project has given me new ideas about my blog space too, and I expect its documentation will be part of some needed change here.

In the meantime I am adjusting to the big changes. I love change – in many ways I have always lived for it. But as I discovered during the last time of major change in my life - when I sold my home and quit my job and took a big trip then relocated to another part of the province – big change causes system shock. But today as I look out at the diamonds floating on the lake and contemplate a different beautiful view out a different window, I feel grateful that the shock is giving way to living back in the world. And knowing that I have the capacity to keep putting one foot in front of the other, having trust in that the road that unfolds beneath them is the right one.

image from flic.kr

rainy sunday brunching

It's one of those little gifts life hands you every once in awhile: a rainy Sunday morning.  That which invites you to have coffee in bed, to loaf around in your pyjamas and to think of things to cook.  Tomorrow I'm heading out of town for the week for work, so I've got some things in the refrigerator to use up, like a red pepper and some zucchini.  I had recently noted this recipe in my Pinterest recipe collection which I'd saved from my favourite foodie blog, Skinnytaste.com, and decide to make it, modified to incorporate some not-so-skinny pancetta, also sitting there in the refrigerator.  More thumbs-up from both sides of the table.

image from www.flickr.com

Cook slices of onion until they're browned. Caramelizing works best if you do it slow and long; but that tends to make people in the household hungrier faster.  Today I counter pre-brunch hunger with fruit bowls of pomegranate, pear and grapes and cook the onions slow.

image from www.flickr.com

Add in matchsticked zucchini and chopped bell pepper and cook until soft.

image from www.flickr.com

Transfer cooked veg and some cooked pancetta to a pie plate. Whisk a combination of eggs and egg whites together with fresh grated parmesan cheese, salt and pepper, and a few drops of hot sauce and pour over top of the veg mixture.

image from www.flickr.com

Bake 20-25 minutes at 400 F.

image from www.flickr.com

Tastes great as a next-day leftover.

beautiful stuff midweek in a february

Thirteen: Today’s sunshine.  It’s above O°C, for starters, and that is always a bloody beautiful day this time of year.  But the sun – whooo boy do we need it.  I take vitamin D supplements but there’s an extra dose of something in that sunshine – like some secret vitamin that worms its way through your pores and bones and finds its way to your soul. 

But it’s more than that today – the sun is different today.  It's closer, more present.  I could feel it enveloping me down there on the ground, as opposed to just shining down and filtering its way through the blanket of winter.  It’s as if spring is hovering at the door deciding whether to come in.  I say come on in Spring – you’re never more beautiful than you are when you’re hovering at the door.

Fourteen: This post by Steve.  My friend – women everywhere are going to be jealous of your beached goddess.  Finding wonder in long-established love, what could be more beautiful?

Fifteen: This cookbook, which I bought on the weekend.  I have to make myself not buy cookbooks; I could sit and look at them forever.  But I allowed myself this one because I buy the magazine often and I justified the cookbook thinking that instead of buying the magazine every month, I would buy this at the cost of less than two issues.  (Who am I kidding?  It’s a beautiful magazine.)

Clean eating 
These days I'm particularly enamoured with cookbooks featuring natural, unprocessed food.  Natural food is of the most beautiful gifts this planet shares with us, and meals that are simply and lovingly prepared from it is more beauty for the soul.  This winter I’m in love with food more than I’ve ever been – maybe it was my way of enduring embracing the winter months.  When my television is on, it’s on Food Network most of the time – when I'm not cooking and eating, I'm watching somebody else cooking and eating. 

Recently I had to put a moratorium on kitchen activities because I had too many things saved in the freezer for my lunches and dinners.  I’ve used it up and am rocking the kitchen again.  Last night I made Turkey Chili Taco Soup and I’m counting down the minutes until lunchtime so I can eat it.  

Sixteen: How I feel when I do yoga.  My body is not a lot of things.  But it continues to be flexible and bendy and for that I feel fortunate, because the little bit of heaven I feel at the end of a yoga session is something you just can’t bottle.  I’m so ready for serious some outside action again, but in the meantime, daily yoga makes me happy – and beautiful.

How do you define what's beautiful?

Monday Nighters

On a night like a lot of Mondays, I pop into The Lion after work for a quiet dinner.  They do comfort food well, and I usually get the soup and sandwich special and a glass of wine and stick myself in a corner to read my book.  It’s the kind of place where lots of people do that. 

As I approach the door a voice booms down the sidewalk asking me to hold it open, and through it traipses a an attractive woman with a bubbly demeanour bellowing “thanks” in a voice that belies her small stature. After I’ve ordered, a couple of girlfriends walk in and sit down near me to have beer, nachos and a gab.  A couple of lone blokes are at the bar with newspapers, keeping half an eye on the sports TV channel and chatting idly with the bartender.  A group of five or six are finishing dinner at one table and a married couple is over in another corner. It’s the kind of patronage you’d expect in a neighbourhood pub on a Monday night.

“Are you ready for karaoke night?” the bartender asks me with not a little wariness as he cleans off a nearby table.

“Huh?”

Perplexed, I look around at the other Monday nighters who surely haven’t come here expecting that either. Annoyance washes over me.  My plans for the next hour included hot chicken pot pie and my book.  I was ENJOYING the seventies songs playing low over the sound system.  The two girlfriends sitting near me are annoyed too, more vocally than I am.  And it’s understandable.  If you’re a Monday nighter, you don’t generally go into your local looking for karaoke night.

So the bubbly woman with the table is Karaoke Girl.  Having hooked up her gear, her gravelly rock chick voice booms across the pub through a microphone set at a level to be heard over rousing, drinking crowds of karaoke-ers.  She busts into her first rock chick song and walks through the pub so she can work the crowd of eleven. 

I look over the top of my book and see she’s standing up on the level where the two girlfriends and I are sitting.  It’s painful.  She’s facing back out into the rest of the pub, but I can read into her back that she’s realised she doesn’t have a happy audience up here.  After she hits an extended husky rock chick high note, I wince involuntarily and the girlfriends at the next table complain to the bartender again.

Karaoke Girl has brought a fan contingency.  It seems she and the table of five are visiting our little Toronto Beaches pub all the way from the Niagara Peninsula.  With the group is a middle aged man with Down syndrome, who is excited to do karaoke.  The fans whoop and whistle enthusiastically for Karaoke Girl, while looking sort of apologetically at us Monday nighters.  While she’s belting out a rock chick spin on a Tragically Hip song, a new couple walks in, and she says into the mic: “Hey, a couple of new karaoke singers have joined us everyone!”   The couple looks confused and embarrassed and defensive.  “Ohhh no” says the woman and gives her the ‘talk to the hand’ wave.  And the murdering of the perfectly good Hip song is carried through to completion.

So the man with Down syndrome takes the stage, and he does a rendition of “You Belong to Me.”  His squeaky, thin voice and tentative delivery is strangely beautiful, and I think I’d rather listen to him than Karaoke Girl.  He gets my applause. The bartender is looking at us Monday nighters nervously.  Karaoke Girl offers to pick up the tab of the complaining girlfriends.  (I really should be more vocal sometimes.)  The girlfriends are getting on their coats, unable to tolerate one more rock chick high note. 

But then the couple who had nervously sat down a few minutes ago has a change of heart.  He’s going to sing, but can’t find a particular Elvis song.  So she gets up and does a duet with Karaoke Girl.  The girlfriends take off their coats.  The bartender pours one of the blokes a fresh pint.

As I ready myself to go home, I’m thinking things are looking up for karaoke night at The Lion.

 

Copyright © Jennifer Morrison 2008