The Stories of A Cookbook

“Books are the quietest and most constant friends; they are the most accessible and wisest of counsellors and the most patient of teachers.”  ~ Charles W. Eliot

A Taste of The Mediterranean by Farrow and Clark, book cover
A picture of the cover of our special cookbook.

Eating together has always been a rich part of my relationship with my husband, even while we were dating.  He has always expressed his artistic side through his cooking, and loves to experiment with recipes, adding his own twist.  He gets recipes from everywhere: old magazines, Youtube, cooking shows.  As we celebrate our 20th wedding anniversary this week, I want to tell you about the one cookbook that has most influenced the meals we’ve shared with family and friends on special occasions, as well as quiet meals at the end of a long day.

When my husband and I were on our honeymoon in Gimli, we went for a walk one afternoon, and found ourselves in a charming shop near the hotel. The small store had been there for a long time, and I believe that it is still there.  It is located in the corner of an old building, and has an eclectic collection of goods: everything from clothing to unique toys to books.  And that is where my husband first spotted this book, and I encouraged him to splurge, to go ahead and buy it.

A Taste of the Mediterranean Clark and Farrow
The book is full of gorgeous photographs of the Mediterranean.
A Taste of the Mediterranean Clark and Farrow, a page from the book
It is a well researched book with lots of interesting information about the ingredients and regions.

There was something special about this book, A Taste of The Mediterranean, by Jaqueline Clark and Joanna Farrow.  As we looked through the pages, it felt like such a labour of love.  It was a well-researched feast for the eyes. The colours, the imagery of far away places, and mismatched ceramics that were so clearly part of a real, time-worn collection, and of course, the recipes.  It simply connected our imaginations to a world of possibility.  And it still does.

I will always remember the first, official “Greek Feast” that this book inspired.  (Though we are not greek, we could have been!) Early in the spring of our first year of marriage, my husband decided to make a special dinner for my small Winnipeg family (much of my family lives elsewhere).  Several days in advance, he started to prepare: shopping, cutting, dicing, marinating.  He planned to serve lamb, with all the fixings: from Greek salad, lemon potatoes and homemade tzatziki sauce to a decadent dessert.   We decorated the kitchen in sparkling lights, and prepared to illuminate the living room and dining area with candles.

Then, on the morning of the big dinner, Winnipeg was hit by what was being called ‘The blizzard of the century’.

It was unlike anything I had seen before or since.  I mean, I’ve seen blizzards, but this was something else.  The city was paralyzed.  For the first time in more than 50 years, school divisions would have to cancel classes on the upcoming Monday.  And that night, we had to cancel our dinner.  It was disappointing, but there was no choice.  Now, we wondered, what to do with all of this food?

At the time, we lived on the 10th floor of an apartment building, and my husband’s best friend happened to live on the 9th floor (he had been the best man at our wedding).  So, our friend lucked into an impromptu invitation to our Greek Feast.  Much to our delight, our friend would later declare jovially that it was this kind of evening that makes life worth living.

It was such a surreal experience. Picture this: through the glass doors of our balcony were the awe-inspiring sights and sounds of freezing blizzard winds whipping record amounts of snow into white-out conditions. Meanwhile, inside our apartment, the atmosphere was glowing with warmth.  We were celebrating life with an exuberant home-cooked feast.  Rich culinary fragrances.  Lively greek music (and all other kinds of music, too).  Red wine.  Dessert.  Laughter. This contrast deepened the exhilaration of witnessing a winter spectacle.


That dinner marked the beginning of many memorable meals to follow.  But some were memorable for different reasons.

I remember, shortly before I got pregnant, I kept telling my husband that the next recipe he should attempt was the ‘Polpettes’, which are fried little morsels of potato with feta cheese.

Well, early in my pregnancy, I developed terrible nausea and was having trouble eating.  In an effort to help, my husband surprised me one day with a big batch of these freshly fried Polpettes.

It was at that moment, as my husband was smiling at me with eyebrows raised in anticipation of my reaction, that I realized I had developed an undeniable aversion to fried food.  I didn’t want to hurt his feelings, so I tried picking at the morsels with my fork, admiring them, and pushing them around in an effort to stall actually putting a bite in my mouth.  Breathing through the sensations that were welling up in my stomach, I had to put my fork down and break the news to him.  Understanding the situation, he quickly took the plate from my view, and I honestly can’t remember what, if anything, I ate instead.  Probably plain toast.  We still chuckle.

This cookbook has accompanied us through so many experiences.  We have turned to its recipes for ideas when celebrating, and to raise our spirits during difficult times.  There have been moments of exuberance, and quiet evenings – sitting by the fire place, dipping fresh baked olive bread into a velvety mix of oil and vinegar.  Unlike most cookbooks that may yield 1,2, maybe 3 favourite recipes, this one has contributed more than 30 recipes to our culinary repertoire.

A Taste of the Mediterranean Olive Bread
This snapshot was taken a while back, one weekend, when my husband was inspired to bake a couple of olive bread loaves. Here they are ready to go in the oven. Too bad my picture doesn’t really capture it’s beauty!
A Taste of The Mediterranean, Olive bread picture.
Sadly, when the bread came out, I never thought to take a picture! So here is a detail from a photo in the book (A Taste of The Mediterranean), to show you what the finished product looks like. Yummy!

You could say that this book has become a kind of reminder to live life fully.  To savour each bite.  And to some small degree, like that Greek Feast, maybe things haven’t always gone exactly as expected, but we’ve always made the best of times.   I guess that’s been our recipe.

And really, that is how this book has become – more than a cookbook – a book about stories of our life together.

A Taste of The Mediterranean, the bookmarks and papers on a well worn book.
A well loved and often used book.

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My Favourite Clutter: The Patina in These Spoons

Years ago, I de-cluttered my home. I discovered that the process was more about celebrating what you choose to keep than mourning what you decide to discard.

Home…Hurrah’s series My Favourite Clutter is all about celebrating those special items – the ones that share our stories and express something unique about who we are.  The clutter that we love for whatever reason!

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I have noticed, over the last few years, that a lot of the meaningful clutter in our home winds up in my workshop.  Simple items like my son’s first running shoes; the satiny, cream coloured shoes that I wore on my wedding day almost 19 years ago; lovingly home-made cards that we’ve received.  I store these things in boxes or place them on shelves.  I have no intention of throwing them away, and this type of clutter seems to feed my creativity.

The workshop is where I also used to keep these 9 spoons and a tea sieve.  They have travelled over miles, continents, and time to find their way into my possession.  They were given to my mother by my paternal grandfather’s grandparents. (Yup. Pretty old.  My mom figures that some of the spoons are probably from the mid 1800’s.)  If these spoons could tell their story, they would probably need a whole book to say it.

These spoons have developed a natural, worn beauty over time, the kind that cannot be replicated, charming and imperfect with age.

I mean, look at the first spoon below.  How many meals does it take to wear a spoon down like this?  It was clearly someone’s favourite soup spoon!  Do most of the things made in our modern day and age even last long enough to show that kind of wear?

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How many conversations were had over the meals that wore this spoon down?
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I love the patina that these spoons have developed over the years.
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Engraved flowers and a bird infused tea time with a sense of family history.

Last year,  before storing them in a safety deposit box, I decided to have a bit of fun and draw one of them.  No plan.  I just picked up a spoon and started to draw it in the middle of a large paper.

Eventually, I added other things to the drawing: a piece of wood that I picked up while walking at a park with my mom, tassels from (the same) great-great grandparents’ table runner.  The background drawing was mostly from my imagination, and has a lot of symbolism.  The Rosemary branches are from my husband’s plant that we keep in my workshop.

My drawing skills are a bit rusty, but the only way to deal with that is to practice, so this was a useful exercise.   Maybe I would have done a few things differently if I had sat down and planned the drawing in advance, but allowing it to develop spontaneously was part of the fun.  Anyhow, hopefully this is just one of many drawings to come.

I think I am starting to understand why I am collecting “clutter” in my studio.  I may not be able to get to it for a while, but I think I have plans for it all.  Vague, incubating sort of plans.

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Some of the colour and detail are lost in the photo, but it still gives you a good idea of what the drawing looks like.

I would love to hear about your favourite clutter!  Please feel free to join in the fun and link it back here so I can check it out!

Thanks so much for popping by.  Have a wonderful week!image

Letting Go

Working in the backyard, I notice again the bike leaning in a corner, up against the large wooden play structure.  It’s starting to look rusty, sitting there all of this time.

My son has outgrown this bike, I think to myself. Somehow I keep it here, waiting to make a decision about it.

Donate it? It’s not in good enough shape at this point.  Sell it on Kijiji?  The amount of effort that would take is hardly worth the 10$ I might get for it.

I roll it over past the front gate, onto the boulevard.  It’s later in the day, the sun is getting lower in the sky.  Using my cell phone, I take a few snapshots.

The neighbours’ daughter stops on her way to get the mail, asks me about the bike.  It’s a special bike, I tell her.  I inwardly notice that she looks more like a young lady now, rather than the girl she was three years ago when we first moved into this home.  She moves on.  I take a few more pictures.

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I turn around, start walking towards the gate, and haven’t even reached it when I hear a car stop on the street behind me.  A woman is already putting the bicycle into her mini-van.  “It’s free?”, she confirms.

“Yes.  Just needs some oil.”

She nods confidently, “Oh, we’ll be able to fix it.” Adding, “My son is 8”.  We smile at each other.

“Enjoy.”  I wave and slowly start walking toward the gate again.

That bike looked so big when we first got it.  I am astounded at how quickly and permanently time has passed to change my perspective.  Today, that same bike looks small.

And now, another eight year old boy will be excited to get it, excited to ride it through the neighbourhood and park.

Much better than watching those memories rust in the backyard.

 

 

My Favorite Clutter

Several years ago, I de-cluttered my home. I discovered that the process was more about celebrating what you choose to keep than mourning what you decide to discard.

It turned out to be an exciting undertaking with joyful results. Our home felt relaxing, spacious and revived by a new energy.

I was so glad that others could benefit from the many items that we no longer needed, and thrilled to have re-discovered items that I had abandoned in my own basement.

My home was transformed. One treasure at a time, one change inspiring the next.  Our house became a place that celebrated our life and nourished us in new ways.

We have moved to a different house since then, and the experience of decluttering my previous home has profoundly affected how I am setting up my current home.

It has also inspired the new series I am introducing at home…hurrah!  It’s called My Favourite Clutter!  This series is about celebrating those special items – the ones that share our stories and express something unique about who we are.  The clutter that we love for whatever reason!

 

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My Favourite Clutter 

A Mysterious Lakeside Treasure

When my son was about six years old, my husband and I took him on a drive out in the country, along a lake-side road.  Stopping here and there to explore,  we wound up finding a quiet, narrow, little beach, lined on one side with trees and bush. We stayed for a while, enjoying the air and peaceful view, while our son played in the rocky sand.  At one point, he stopped and ran excitedly toward us holding this object he’d found in the shoreline, where the water meets the rocky sand.

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It was made of a heavy metal, and had clearly been around for a long time – deeply encrusted with rocks, and so rusted that it had an organic appearance.

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On our way home, we had fun guessing what this object might be, and imagining what unusual circumstances could have brought it to its current state.

How long would it have taken for rocks to become so deeply embedded into the metal?

Any ideas?

My son was so proud to have found such a unique souvenir.   Now it happily adorns my studio, on a shelf amongst my plants, reminding me of a beautiful afternoon that is suddenly 5 years away; reminding me to pay attention to life as it happens.