Saturday, November 24, 2012

November eats

It's November here in Vancouver. Most days have been grey and rainy, but some look like this:
By the end of summer, I am usually tired of grilled food and salads, and ready for some heartier dishes. Here's what I've been cooking:
Paula Deen's cinnamon rolls, first spotted here. I go easy on the sugar/butter filling because I like them to be a bit lighter. The coffee shop down the street makes theirs with mini blueberries. I tried a second batch that way and they were delicious.

These pancetta, white bean and chard pot pies may be the best things I have eaten this Fall. Creamy, salty, crunchy, bacony goodness. They're pretty rich, so I halved the dough recipe and drained some of the pancetta fat. I made them once with bacon and once with pancetta. Both were divine.

These meatballs were another Saveur winner.

This soup was hearty and healthy. I added a can of white beans, as some of the comments suggested.

What are your favourite recipes for this time of year?

Monday, October 1, 2012

September Reads

My good book karma continues! Here's what I've been reading lately.

1. Falling for Me by Anna David - Anna David takes Helen Gurley Brown's Sex and the Single Girl as her bible to turning her life around.

2. Heat by Bill Buford - If you like food, you must read this. Bill Buford starts out working in Mario Batali's kitchen to write a magazine piece, and ends up staying, PLUS travelling to Italy for extended periods of time to learn pasta making and butchery. I learned that some people will follow their passion to admirable extremes, that some spouses are very tolerant and supportive, and that I want to go drinking with Mario Batali.

3. The Blitz by Juliet Gardiner - During the Second World War, people burrowed nightly underground to dubious safety while London, and other British cities, burned. This book is sad but very interesting. I'm reading it in little sections.

4. This month's Saveur has a recipe for Nanaimo Bars! I grew up 45 minutes from Nanaimo on Vancouver Island on the West Coast of Canada, and we made them every year for my dad's birthday. They were one of my earliest kitchen fails - the yellow part oozed out. I should give them another go.

Friday, June 29, 2012

June Reads

My book karma has been excellent lately! I've been into lighter non-fiction, and somehow they just keep turning up in my library queue. 
 First up: The Lost Ravioli Recipes of Hoboken by Laura Schenone. What do you do when you find your great-grandmother's ravioli recipe and it includes Philidelphia cream cheese? Go back to the source, in this case, the lemony, herby hills of Liguria.

My favourite part of this book was her sheer determination to learn to make authentic ravioli. I love my job, and I quite like yoga and reading, but I'm just not that passionate about anything. I borrowed her passion for an afternoon and make ravioli myself. It was delicious, and I felt like I'd really accomplished something other than stacks of marking.

I also really liked the way that she was honest about her own struggles with her family and the ambiguity of looking for "authentic" family traditions. In the end, her father prefers ravioli with cream cheese. Who cares.

Next up: Bringing up Bebe by Pamela Druckerman.

Dogs are, of course, not human. You can leave your annoying dog in the house and go to yoga. You can't do this with your child, your spouse or your coworker. But some of Druckerman's advice jells with my favourite pieces of dog-related advice which I am convinced also work on the humans in your life.

1. Decide what your limits are (the French cadre) and stick to them. Mozart is allowed to sleep in the bed and climb on the couch, but he wears a cat collar from Walmart and he isn't allowed to pee on the landscaped shrubs or grass in front of the apartment building. I was on the strata. Those shrubs cost more than he did.

2. Observe before acting. On walks, Mozart prefers maniacal sniffing to covering actual ground. Treats weren't working. Pulling wasn't working. Finally, I read somewhere (Caesar?) to observe how dogs behave together. When we picked him up from the breeder, his aunties herded him around the kitchen like a herd of boarder collies with one small sheep. Now, I just walk right up behind him and cajole him on his furry little way.

3. You have to mean no.

Final book: The Churchills in Love and War by Mary S. Lovell.

Someone once told Winston Churchill that his infant child looked like him. He replied that all babies look like him. It's funny because it's true!

His family is full of American dollar princesses, Dukes, expensive cases of champagne, crumbling country houses, ambition, dysfunctional children and, of course, hilarity. This was a great read.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Rue Montorgeuil

 We stayed on beautiful, pedestrian Rue Montorgueil on our recent trip to Paris. After I read this recommendation, I knew that's where I wanted to stay. We rented an apartment that cheap (70 Euros a night!) and full of character.
We ate most meals here due to both the fantastic food and people watching. There weren't a lot of tourists and the servers were all very gracious with our limited French.
We collapsed at an outdoor table one day after the Louvre and ordered a couple of beers. Sometimes, when you go out on a limb, you can pink beer. Although, another night at the same cafe, I ate one of my favourite meals of our trip - a delicious bowl of herbed white beans with a giant "leg" of lamb.
Overall, I loved this neighbourhood and will definitely stay there again.

Friday, June 8, 2012


One of the benefits of teaching in the college system is the healthy chunk of time off you get at the end of April... perfect for travelling! Three years ago, we went to Italy, and this time we went to Italy and France.

For me, highlights included the Eiffel tower in the evening. I daringly hopped the fence (only to see the actual gate later) and we settled in between Korean students enjoying  a picnic and two South American couples. Everyone graciously took pictures of everyone else.

I also loved the Musee d'Orsay; it was a bit surreal to see the originals of the prints that I saw in art history textbooks and on dorm walls throughout university. (Those poster companies that set up in the Student Union Building in the first week sure love their impressionists).

I also loved the cafe culture: we ate almost every meal outside - in April (with heat lamps)! You might be eating dinner, but the two girls catching up next to you might be drinking wine and the couple on the other side with the small dachshund might be enjoying drinks with a plate of meat and cheese. Everyone was free to come and do their thing, and everyone seemed to be having the most interesting and deep conversations.

My football loving-boyfriend always finds a way to work a soccer game into our travels, which is tons of fun and fantastic for people watching. One of my proudest moments was explaining the precise location of my black umbrella to the lovely umbrella-check girl... in French!

Overall, the people were fantastic, the sun came out for at least half of every day and the city itself was lovely. We only saw half of what we wanted - missing Montmarte and Versailles, among others - so we will definitely be back.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

The Hare with Amber Eyes by Edmund de Waal

My favourite book of the year so far! Edmund de Waal traces the history of his unique inheritance: a collection of over 260 netsuke, or small Japanese carvings.

The netsuke travel with various members of the Ephrussi family from a Parisian apartment hung with Impressionist paintings, to Vienna under both the Emperor and Hitler, to post-war England and bombed out Japan.

The book captures much of what is beautiful about the period - clothes, architecture, art, summer houses, optimism - and much of what is ugly -  what it means to lose a war, the racism involved in collecting, and most vividly, crushing anti-Semitism.

It is also a biography of a family, and a honest reflection on the way an author creates a story around a set of events, objects and places.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Need a good book?

I escaped to Victoria for the day on Friday, and managed to squeeze in a trip to my favourite book store of all time, Munro's. Housed in a former bank, it is a temple to books. (I snapped this photo with my phone.)

While on the ferry/bus, I managed to read Sarah's Key. I really liked it - the story was gripping, the characters were interesting and the descriptions of the roundup and deportation of Paris' Jews were truly horrifying. 

[Just one question: why didn't Sarah tell a) Leon, the little boy from her school, or b) the nurse where her brother was???]

Also,  getting Death Comes to Pemberley for Christmas has also sent me off on a Jane Austen renaissance. (Interesting, but mystery may be a bit, um, clinical for Austen's characters. Elizabeth isn't very funny and Darcy isn't very dreamy.) 

So far, I've re-read Pride and Prejudice, Persuasion and Emma, and I'm now reading Jane Austen in Context, edited by Janet Todd. The chapters about dress and food were interesting, but my favourite has been the chapter about money by Edward Copeland.

Copeland calculates that Austen's poorest characters are Miss Bates and her mother, who live on about 100 pounds per year. This is enough for one young, inexperienced servant. The Price family have about 350 pounds per year, and the Dashwood women have 500 (generally thought to be "a thoroughly genteel income of a single woman" but perhaps not quite enough for four). 

Mrs. Elton brings Mr. Elton about 500 pound per year; however, Emma would have brought him three times that. Miss Grey brings Willoughby 2500 (hopefully it was worth it). 

Colonel Brandon and the Bennets have 2000 pounds per year, enough for a carriage. Bingley, Mr. Crawford, and the John Dashwoods have about 4000-5000 pounds per year, enough to participate in the London "Season," and Mr. Darcy and Mr. Rushworth are, of course, the richest of all. 

Who's your favourite Austen hero? Mine has always been Knightley, although in this last re-reading, the bossiness was a bit much. Henry Tilney may be a bit more fun. And then, of course, there's always Mr. Darcy. Swoon.