Thankful! And a few caramelized pears, squash, and red onions

This is Thanksgiving weekend in Canada. For the record – I’d like to say I’m thankful and that I really love Thanksgiving. I like that it’s food and family and gratitude focussed and not commercial. And I think that gratitude is a very civilized thing.

It was Cicero, who was born 106 BC, who said, “Gratitude is not only the greatest of virtues but the parent of all the others.” He also said a lot of other wonderful things such as, “Time heals all wounds,” and, “Nobody can give you wiser advice than yourself,” and this – also one of my favourites, “If you have a garden and a library, you have everything you need.”

I love that the most essential knowledge has never really changed and that all we really need to know, we knew over a thousand years ago.
Continue reading “Thankful! And a few caramelized pears, squash, and red onions”


the complicated business of ethical eating – and the Starbuck’s pumpkin scone clones


Food has become big in every way. Forbes magazine says that food is the world’s largest single industry.

When you start to think about the size of the food industry globally – the numbers are impossible to quantify and understand. But what is understandable is that there are over seven billion of us on the globe and every single one of us is affected daily, several times over, by the food industry.

From farmers and growers to processors, manufacturers, and advertisers; to transporters, wholesalers and retailers; from celebrity chefs and cooking shows, to food magazines and food blogs; to farm stands, markets, restaurants and speciality stores; from fast food to slow; and from vegans to locavores to flexitarians – food permeates our existence in more ways than ever.

Eating safely, reasonably, and ethically is an increasingly complicated business.  Continue reading “the complicated business of ethical eating – and the Starbuck’s pumpkin scone clones”

last taste of summer – loaded lemon & blueberry scones


I’m in favour of dragging summer out as long as possible. It’s my favourite season and although I agree, autumn is fantastic, I never, ever want summer to end. I love the long days and nights, the cycling and outdoor activities, time at the lake and shore fires. I love running about in sun-dresses and sandals. I like summer fruits and salads and barbecues. And shooting stars, and fireflies, and sleeping with the windows open and the overhead fan on. 

All summer long, I make an effort to never complain about the heat or humidity. My theory is that you cannot complain all year round – if you must complain then you must limit yourself to one season. It’s only reasonable. It’s generally winter when I feel entitled to complain. Last year I made it through the winter with very little moaning at all. Continue reading “last taste of summer – loaded lemon & blueberry scones”

tart wild thing: wild apple crisp

Last night, just after dusk, I heard a pack of coyotes howling. It’s such a classic call of the wild – first the high-pitched yipping – then the howls. Then the dark silence, as though it never happened. Except it’s so haunting that the sound stays with you a while – lingering on – giving you just the slightest sense of unease.

This morning it was the wild geese. They’re gathering on the river just beyond my house. Every fall they do this. They congregate for days until, I presume, they reach some critical mass, when they take off and head south in their classic V-formation.

Wild seems to be a theme in my life just at the moment.  Things are a bit wild – a bit messy and out of control – too many deadlines – too much on. I’m overwhelmed. Even my misuse of hyphens seems to have become a little more wild than normal.  Continue reading “tart wild thing: wild apple crisp”

metabolising disappointment – and some rosemary sea salt

A couple of years ago, I was interviewing an author for a magazine article when I asked him how he felt about being passed over for literary awards. It was a fair question and one my editor had suggested I ask. But it was also a tough question. Awards are so controversial. A bit of a popularity contest with strange rules and sometimes strange juries. And often with strange results. Of course, I already knew that he must have felt awful. But that’s not what he said. What he did say, stuck with me:

Continue reading “metabolising disappointment – and some rosemary sea salt”

fast, simple, tasty – garlic scape pesto

Garlic is one of those rare crops that gives you two harvests. First the scapes, which at least in Ontario, are usually ready to harvest around the summer solstice. Then the actual garlic bulbs which are harvested a bit later, typically on the first weekend in August. The bulbs can then be left to dry in the sun for a few days before storing for the winter.

Garlic scapes are lovely grilled or made into pesto which can be used on pizza, pasta, or bruschetta. This version is dairy-free and freezes well.


Garlic Scape Pesto

(this version is an adaptation of the recipe in A Taste of Wintergreen)

16-20 garlic scapes
½ cup extra virgin olive oil
2 tbsp lemon juice
½ cup walnut pieces
¼ tsp salt
Parmesan cheese as desired. I make mine without the cheese because I think it freezes better and that way it’s also vegan and dairy-free.

Wash the scapes and chop into approximately 1-inch pieces. Process all the ingredients together in the food processor until desired consistency is reached. Bottle and use within a week or freeze.


M.F.K. Fisher’s Tomato Soup Cake Revisited


“People ask me: Why do you write about food, and eating and drinking? Why don’t you write about the struggle for power and security, about love, the way others do?. . . The easiest answer is to say that, like most other humans, I am hungry. But there is more than that. It seems to me that our three basic needs for food and security and love, are so mixed and mingled and entwined that we cannot straightly think of one without the others. So it happens that when I write of hunger, I am really writing about love and the hunger for it. . . “

~M.K.F. Fisher

  Continue reading “M.F.K. Fisher’s Tomato Soup Cake Revisited”

a week of lost and found and the perfect recipe for muesli

Not until we are lost do we begin to understand ourselves.” Henry David Thoreau

This was a week of losing and finding things.

I lost a silver charm bracelet loaded with sentimental value. It felt like a metaphor for all kinds of other things I’d lost over the years – people I’d loved,  people I’d trusted, my father, my longest term friend who died much too young of breast cancer, places I’d lived and left behind, a gold box-link bracelet that slipped from my wrist while I was riding my bicycle to university years ago, beloved books that ran away and never returned, the only piece of designer clothing I ever owned – a long flowing sheer black shirt – that mysteriously disappeared from a hotel room in Copenhagen, and memories of things that I can no longer fully retrieve.

I know that material things are just that – things. I know that while I was turning my house upside down, stripping beds and looking in teapots and gumboots and other unlikely places for my bracelet – that people were being diagnosed with cancer, or dying, or being born. That relationships were breaking down or being formed. That tragedy and horror and miracles would be unfolding somewhere else on the planet. That life goes on. That a charm bracelet is an insignificant little thing in the grand scheme. I know that.

But still, my mind turned over and over wondering when I’d last actually seen the bracelet on my wrist. I backtracked through the days that preceded – through all the places I’d been – trying to remember some detail that might be a clue. I chastised myself for my carelessness. I heard my father’s voice, reprimanding me, oscillating between anger and frustration and care.

I kept thinking about my father. In my memories he is almost always in the kitchen – wearing an air-force blue wool pullover, standing at the sink, looking out the window – eating a bowl of muesli. Or if not this memory – one of him carrying our huge ginger tabby cat around like a baby, telling it utterly ridiculous things – like Very Important Scientific Facts or reciting “the Owl and the Pussy Cat”. These things stand out for me. If I delve a little deeper there are a million other memories – but these are the immediate ones.

Then, the night before last, I woke in the dead of night, hot and sweaty, my throat sore, tears rolling down my face. I’d been dreaming about my friend, the one who died of breast cancer. I’d had a crystal clear memory of us – 40 years before she died. We were six years old and at Brownies. We were running hand-in-hand, full-tilt, round and round the church hall, screaming with joy, our long hair – hers auburn, mine blond – streaming behind us. Our Brown Owl was the first adult I’d ever met who seemed not to mind noise nor care what we did. So we ran and screamed with complete abandon. Week after week we did this. And it was one of the most joyful things I’d ever known.

This is why losing something is hard. Because it triggers the layers of memories of past losses.

But while I spent my week searching, I found things. I found memories that reminded me of great joys, I found missing socks, and on the floor of my car – an ancient hair barrette that I’d assumed was gone forever. Then, on Friday, at the closing ceremony for a First Nations event, I found a lovely, young teenage girl, who stood in the sunshine reciting a traditional blessing in her own language. And for those few moments while she spoke everything else ceased to exist. Later, standing together in the kitchen, I asked her what the blessing was about – “It’s about thankfulness – for the earth – for each other – all that kind of stuff,” she said, with a beautiful, carefree smile.

All that kind of stuff indeed. I felt as though, in her presence, I’d found a bit of my younger self. I wanted to interview her for a story. So she wrote out her name for me – and told me to look her up on Facebook. I did – and the first thing I found was the Henry David Thoreau quotation above.

This morning, just after I ate my muesli, standing at the kitchen sink, looking out the window, lost in a week of reveries, I found my bracelet.

Here in memory of father – is my recipe for muesli. It’s insanely healthy, a lot less expensive than the packaged kind, and seriously addictive. I eat it with rice or almond milk and a swirl of honey or maple syrup. I think it is the best muesli ever. My dad would have loved it.


Homemade Muesli

2 ½ cup large flake oats
1 cup rye flakes (I buy organic rye flakes at Tara, my local health food store. They’re surprisingly inexpensive and very healthy.)
1 cup unsweetened coconut chips – like large flakes (I also buy these at my local health food store – but you can use whatever kind of coconut you like. Some people like this toasted – but honestly – the whole point of this exercise is that it’s fast, easy, and RAW)
1 cup trail mix (or make your own – nuts, raisins, currants, pumpkin seeds and sunflower seeds, etc.)
1 cup dried fruit – I like cranberries and dried sour cherries
¼ cup ground flax seeds
1 tsp cinnamon
¼ tsp salt

Toss all the ingredients together and store in a glass jar. Voilà perfect homemade muesli!

when everyone else is spring-bound…

kahlua ice cream2Homemade Kahlua Ice Cream and Dark Chocolate Gelato
sans Ice Cream Maker

This winter, a friend I met in Vermont last year, sent me a CD with a collection of the songs he had written about in his work. Amongst them was a song called After All  by songwriter Dar Williams.

I won’t forget the first moment I first heard After All – track number five on the CD. I was driving home from a cold, snowy winter hike with my dog. The roads were snow-covered and the sky was white with falling snow. From the moment Dar Williams’ voice filled my car, I felt a physical tug in my heart.  Continue reading “when everyone else is spring-bound…”

Old-fashioned Soft Ginger Molasses Cookies

These cookies are a trip down memory lane. The recipe came from my mother-in-law. And likely from her mother before her. I think it’s fair to say that they are a very longstanding family favourite.

Old Fashioned Ginger Molasses Cookies

  • 1 cup butter
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup fancy molasses
  • 3 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2-3 tsp of ground ginger
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  1. Line a couple of cookie sheets with parchment or butter well.
  2. Beat together the butter, sugar, and molasses. Add the dry ingredients all at once. Mix to form dough.
  3. Roll into small balls and place on prepared baking sheets. Flatten with a fork.
  4. Bake at 325 deg F for about 10-12 minutes or until just starting to brown. Don’t overcook – they are supposed to be soft.
  5. Remove from the oven and allow to cool on wire racks.