Am I the only one who indulges a bit too willingly during the holidays? It's possible, but unlikely. To combat days when I've been popping the chocolates with reckless abandon, living in an imaginary world where there are no consequences — like shrinking pants — I often have smoothies for lunch.
My family and I immigrated to Canada from France in the days before grocery shelves offered shoppers a tour of the world. Today when we walk into our local stores we can bring home the tastes of Greece, Thailand, Morocco, or France, but in the Pleistocene era (also known as the late 1970s) if you wanted sauerkraut, you found the closest German deli.
Then we talked about baguettes. You know? Baguettes. The Queen of Bread. The staple in any self-proclaimed bread lover’s arsenal. The epicurean delight whose proper enjoyment thereof separates the wheat from the chaff. I’m likely suffering from a bread and cheese overload. What are the symptoms? Use of thereof?
As a child, when we played the What Would You Eat Or Take To A Deserted Island game, my food of choice was always Lao, specifically caillau (Lao spring rolls). I promise to share that recipe another day. People ask me if Lao food resembles Thai or Vietnamese cooking, and my answer is always the same and accompanied by a shrug—“Sort of.” The Lao use similar ingredients to their neighbours, but their food is unique.
Anyone else addicted to a certain coffee shop — starts with ‘s’ and rhymes with trucks — oat bars? I love these treats and am convinced that they’re the healthiest choice to accompany a latte or three. Don’t try to tell me otherwise because I prefer to live in a state of happy ignorance about their nutritional value and calorie count.
On any given day we can have an extra one, three, six — I stop counting after a while — people sitting around the table. My mom’s table was the same and she often fed whichever one (or more) of our friends had stayed longer than planned. I don’t know how she kept up with three kids and their teenage friends. Now that I have my own teen I estimate that we’ll need to invest in a dairy cow and half a citrus grove if we hope to stay on top of his eating habits.
This is likely the easiest and least sophisticated meal that I make. Actually, many of my meals are unsophisticated, but that’s not what I’m going for. Like many parents out there, my main concern is to provide nutritious, tasty food with a variety of flavours without spending twelve hours prepping. And most evening we're either coming or going from one arena or another.
When I was growing up we had a vegetable garden of ambitious proportions. Let’s just say my parents grossly overestimated the amount of asparagus, green beans, and zucchini a family of five could eat. It took years to get over the fear of pulling weeds. The upside was that my mother baked a lot of zucchini bread to keep up with a crop that could have supplied a small town grocer.
This is not your Nonna’s lasagna mainly because I didn’t grow up with a Nonna. I had a Mamie and an Oma and they didn't make lasagna. Since my children are Canadian—and what’s more Canadian than incorporating foods from different countries and making them our own—I’ve learned to make it my way. That means using cheese and lots of it.
Even with due diligence—checking best before dates—sometimes cooking cream still comes out in globs and pieces and that’s a definite no for this recipe. Or any recipe I’d want to try and share. Pair that with two minor hot caramel burns and a brain still foggy from a twelve-hour time difference and it’s a wonder my kitchen’s still standing.
There are some who will tell you that cheese should be reserved for special occasions. Those people are probably well meaning and also misinformed. Cheese is perfect any time, but if you need a reason then the Winter Olympics are coming up soon and cheese is good fuel for watching Canadian athletes kick butt.
While there’s nothing wrong with being a dedicated cheese and pastry eater, we all need balance in our diets, too. There’s been a resurgence in the popularity of juicing recipes recently, and there’s a reason for that—juicing is a great way to reap the benefits from a variety of vegetables and fruits, some of which might not make their way onto our dinner tables that often.
In Canada two things are certain: we’ll talk about the heat and humidity during the summer and then about the cold during the winter. So, in case you’re not aware, this winter has been ridiculously cold. So cold that even Winnipeg cancelled school buses in early January.
I know what you're thinking, "Why is she pushing cake when we're all ready for a post-holiday indulgence cleanse?" The thing is, I'm celebrating joining the Yummy Mummy Club group of writers and celebrations call for cake. Ask anyone.