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A Memorable Chocolate Cake


“Auntie’s chocolate cake (was) a moist, sour-milk, two-layer concoction spread thickly with Jennie’s soft, white frosting and covered in grated coconut.  As a child I loved to watch the vinegar -Heinz’s white, not my grandfather’s red-start to sour the warm milk.  If I stared long enough I could see the milk begin to thicken and coagulate from the chemical reaction of the vinegar.  When the cake was pulled from the oven, leaving moist, dark crumbs on the toothpick tester, I loved the sight of it sitting on a cake plate in the center of any of the tables from my childhood, whether it was my birthday’s or someone else’s.”

“A single bite of that cake still conjures up the days when all the characters of my childhood used to sit around Jennie’s kitchen table on Whitney Avenue celebrating the joy of birth, when I was little, when my parents were young, when my grandparents were still only in their sixties.  It keeps those Sunday dinners alive in my memory,”from Paula Buttuini’s “Keeping the Feast”

Well here it is the weekend of Daughter #1’s birthday and what has she requested for her birthday dessert?  A recipe for the chocolate zucchini cake from her childhood-one that I haven’t made in years.  But not surprisingly, I find it in one of my many “Best of Bridge” recipe books and as I scan the ingredients to ensure that I will have everything I see that it calls for sour milk…

Daughters #1 and 2

I’ve run out of time and space this morning but I will post the beloved recipe soon and also dig up one for the requested chocolate cream cheese icing.  Have a wonderful Canada Day weekend.  Find a food treat to celebrate this great country that we live in and the memories of the day will live on.

Kath’s quote:  “We have never been a melting pot. The fact is we are more like a tossed salad. We are green, some of us are oily, and there’s a little vinegar injected when you get up to Ottawa.”-Arnold Edinborough

“Joy for Beginners”-by Erica Bauermeister


I devoured Erica Bauermeister’s first novel, “The School of Essential Ingredients” and have eagerly anticipated this, her latest offering.  Erica is especially good depicting women and profiles each of a special cluster of friends in this new novel.  The recent history of these women and distinct personality traits are revealed when each of them recieves a “challenge” selected by Kate who is celebrating her good health after having faced life-threatening challenges of her own.

As the vignettes unfold, their themes are various: bread-making, garden tending, book shelf clearing, tatoo getting.  Sounds simple enough, but each of these tasks become crucial, life-changing, pivot points for these women.  

The woman I identified most with was Sara, who was challenged with leaving her growing family at home to travel to Europe on her own.  She set out to redisocover the individual that had been lost, (or perhaps hidden) underneath the duties of wife and mother.  Sara finds herself in Venice and the following exerpt discibes her first night of dining alone:

“The pasta arrived, four plump squarees arranged across her plate, their edges pressed shut in tiny half-moons the size and shape of a child’s fingertip.  Melted butter flecked with thin, dark shavings flowed lanquidly over thier surfaces and formed a golden pool on the plate around the ravioli.  The smell rose up, deep and luxurious, like perfume warmed between the breats of a beautiful woman.

“Tartufo,” the waiter said to Sara’s inquiring expression.  “Truffles.”

“Oh my,” the American woman at the next table said, and directed her attention to her husband.

Sara took a bite and the taste filled her mouth, dense and rich, like the essence of longing, then the pasta gave way to warm, fresh ricotta cheese and the sweet earthiness of procini mushrooms.

“Oh my,” said Sara softly to herself.”

Remembering our recent sojourn through Italy and the food delights that awaited us at every turn, I found this sensual depiction of  tasting, an absolute delight.

The rest of the novel is as tasty as this excerpt-a perfect summe read.

Kath’s quote: “Venice is like eating an entire box of chocolate liqueurs in one go.” – Truman Capote

In Honour of the Father of my Children


Another excerpt from Paula Butturini’s “Keeping the Feast”. 

“I loved John also because, like me, he liked to cook as much as he liked to eat, because both of us grew up in homes where honest food was the central magnet that brought us all to the same table two or three times a day.  I loved him because both of us were blessed with a metabolism that let us eat with pleasure, not guilt.  I loved him also because both our families came to the table not just to eat, but to talk, laugh, share our problems, share our lives.  I loved him because I could envision a lifetime of ordinary meals together, alone or with good friends who might share our sense of what nourishment really means.  I loved him because he knew that good talk, good books, good music were one staff of life, and that simple, good food, shared with others was the second.  I loved him because he was smart enough to know that food was a lot more than fuel.”

If I was a writer as eloquent as Paula, I could say just about the same things about my husband D (except for the metabolism part). I remember early in our relationship when we went out for breakfast together.  I carefully perused the menu to see what items came with hash browns because potatoes (as you likely already know about me) are my favourite part of any meal.  D too was trying to make a decision based on his favourites so he ordered eggs that came with hasbrowns AND a side of buttermilk pancakes!  I was impressed!  You can do that?  You can have two carbs in one meal and live to see another day?  Well if I hadn’t decided yet that I wanted him to marry me, it was not long after.  To be specific, it was when he told me that he wanted to have six kids and that he wanted to be a young Dad (we stopped at three). 

D heads to the gym 3 times a week, rides his bike to work whenever he doesn’t have a trunk full of stuff and plays a mean tennis game.  He is intelligent, a hard worker and an expert on the news of the world.  He loves rock on the edgy side and a good margarita.  He was always the kind of Dad who would run and wrestle and make the kids laugh when they thought that they might want to cry.  AND people sometimes think that he is the older brother of our 26 year old daughter.

He not only does all the grocery shopping and laundry, he picks up dog poop.  He is so organized that he has already slow roasted the ribs that we will finish on the grill Sunday night for his Father’s Day dinner.  When we travel together, he makes all the arrangements and just tells me what time to set my alarm.  He has made all my dreams come true and he is an energetic, fun-loving, Dad who loves our kids unconditionally.  I am blessed that he choose me to be the Mom to his children. 

Kath’s quote: “A woman who knows how to compose a soup or a salad that is perfectly harmonious in flavour ought to be clever at mixing together the sweet and harsh elements of a man’s character, and she will understand how to charm and keep forever her husband’s heart and soul.”-Berjane

“Keeping the Feast”-Part 1


Every once in a while, a book comes into my life that I know will live with me for a very long time.  I had never heard the title or the author until this treasure was gifted to me on Mother’s Day by my son and his wife.

The author, Paula Butturini, is recounting a stretch of time spent in Rome.  The work is non-fiction.  The read restores memories for me of our time in Italy.  I am unable to adequately describe the Italian’s reverence of food although I have attempted it often in this space.  I believe that we are intended (like the Italians and French) to shop daily and then prepare fresh food with urgency.  If this was the case for us in North America I know that our reliance on packaged and processed food would be a thing of the past.  We would enjoy better health and families would once again gather around the dinner table.

The Campo that is mentioned here is the Campo dei Fiori which means “field of flowers”.  It was originally a meadow, then cobble-stoned in the 1430’s.  It was transformed into a public market in 1869. 

This is from Paula’s prologue:

“Morning after morning for an entire year, I walked to the Campo before most people were up.  Noisy, hoking, shouting Rome is almost quiet at that hour, and what began as a simple routine soon took on the trappings of a ritual.  I woke up early, dressed, walked out the door and over to the Campo.  I would buy a shiny, plump purple-black eggplant.  Or a handful of slender green beans, so fresh and young, you could eat them raw.  I bought three golden pears, or a heavy bunch of fat, green grapes.  I bought a few slices of Milanese salami, a bit of veal.  I bought a thin slab of creamy Gorgonzola, to spread on crusty, still-warm bread.  I bought milk, yogurt, butter and eggs, and finally the newspapers.  Then I would head home, stopping in the tiny church of Santa Brigida, which lay halfway between the Campo and our apartment.” 

Kath’s quote:  “When I was alone, I lived on eggplant, the stove top cook’s strongest ally…. “-Laurie Colwin

“Women Food and God”-A Good Read


I’ll start with the conclusion-Eating Guidelines:

“1. Eat when you are hungry

2. Eat sitting down in a calm environment.  This does not include the car.

3.  Eat without distractions which may include: radio, television, newspapers, books, intense or anxiety-producing conversations or music.

4.  Eat what your body wants.

5.  Eat until you are satisfied.

6.  Eat (with the intention of being full) in full view of others.

7.  Eat with enjoyment, gusto and pleasure.”

I took particular note that the list did not include eating when you are sad, stressed, tired or bored but “Eat when you are hungry”.  A simple and basic concept that I would love to really embrace.  

I review these guidelines and I think about my previous day: I consumed breakfast and lunch at my desk while grading student’s papers (a stressful task in itself).  I did sit down in the dining room to eat a well balanced supper with my husband.  But we had a short dining window because he was going to spend the evening doing laundry and already had his laptop set up to work at home for the evening.  I thought that I had to be somewhere at 7 in order to get some assistance for a writing deadline that is looming.   We did have a pleasant chat but we did not pause to make eye contact, take a sip of anything or savour the wholesome fare.  And I write a blog about celebrating life with food!  I wasn’t celebrating my husband or our time together or my blessed life-I was going through the motions so that I could get onto the next task on my to-do list!

Geneen Roth’s New York Times bestseller also revealed some other thought provoking notions for me based on her premise that “the way that you eat is based on your core beliefs about being alive.”  “Your relationship with food is an exact mirror of your feelings about love, fear, anger, meaning, transformation and yes even God.”  I would beg to differ with this last premise but won’t go into it here.

If you have a healthy relationship with food, if you don’t despise any part of your body, if you don’t obsess about getting on and off the scale, if you don’t exercise obsessively, this book is not for you.  But if you said yes to any of the “don’t” items above, this book will help you look at what’s “eating” you.

We only have one life and one body-we are precious and lovely.  Celebrate that!

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