Sorry-for-myself Cake

I am going to apologize right now. Sorry. Sorry for wingeing. Due to a seemingly endless string of energy-sapping life incidences, I am tired and cranky. And tonight, in particular, I am feeling sorry for myself. Sorry that I’ve been neglecting my sourdough starter. Sorry that I haven’t written thank you notes and letters. Sorry that I’m so unorganized. Sorry that I can’t get things done in a timely manner. Sorry that I’m running out of steam.

I was feeling so sorry for myself that I baked myself a cake, (yes, I was feeling sorry that no one bakes me cakes). I didn’t need anything fancy, just something flavourful and simple and that didn’t require me to run out and buy anything.

French-style yogurt cakeI settled on a French-style yogurt cake. The recipe called for lemon zest and juice but I didn’t have the energy to zest and juice so I threw in a dash of vanilla. I did remember (and being able to remember anything these days is a major accomplishment) that I had some leftover homemade mincemeat in the fridge. I poured in half the batter, dotted it generously with the mincemeat and smoothed the rest of the batter over.

A quick cooling on the balcony on this unusually frigid night and voilà! Cake for a sorry Ms. Crankypants.

OK, I’m done with feeling cranky and sorry for myself now. Thanks for listening. I hope you bake a cake for yourself the next time you find yourself weary, tired or cranky.

One day

It’s been a while. The unavoidable and inevitable has happened. Dad died 2 months ago. He slipped away peacefully with us around him. The extinguishing of a bright light that illuminated our lives with integrity, generosity and gratitude. A Dad-shaped void will always be in my life but slowly that space is being filled with memories and stories of a genteel man who lived a full life.

I’ve felt compelled to write a food tribute to Dad. So much of his essence involved food, the celebration of food and the magic of how food draws us together as a community. The ideas swirl around as I replay stories and meals shared with Dad. I find myself cooking the dishes he used to cook and ones that I used to cook for him. And I think of him at almost every meal.

But I’m not there yet. One day I will be.

birthday cake

Bittersweet

So much of life revolves around food: basic nourishment, health, celebrations, art, community. Tonight we gathered at the table for a timely, albeit somewhat uncomfortable meal. My dad gathered six of his closest church friends, my mom and my brother and I for dinner to discuss his final wishes. Dad is dying.

My dad was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer this spring, just about the time my mom-in-law died of the very same disease. Nasty, nasty cancer that it is. To date there are no reliable early detection methods for pancreatic cancer and survival rates are unfortunately low. In my mom-in-law’s case, it had metastasized so much that by the time she was diagnosed, she only had a few days to live.

Dad’s tumour, although not large, is inoperable and there are no treatment options. His health is declining and we’re noticing how cancer is slowly taking over and how Dad is slowly slipping away.

But true to Dad’s wise and practical nature, he’s taking care of business. As hard as it may be, he’s thought through endless details and has made his final arrangements. And of course he would share these with the ones he trusts most at his favourite place, the dinner table. So tonight we feasted on platters of Chinese food and talked and reassured Dad that things will be the way he wishes. We also laughed and joked and listened to Dad’s always eloquent stories of life, politics and travels.

Life is uncertain these days. But the table is where we can always find some comfort, solace and love.

Electronics Ban Solidarity

After a brief reappearance here, I’m taking off for a while again.

Last week the Kid’s teacher proposed a 10 day ban on electronic devices for the class. Those items include iPads, computers, mp3 players, TV, video games, etc. The Kid started his ban today and I will be joining him in solidarity! So starting at midnight, I am taking a break from the ‘net. Other than checking e-mails and using the computer for work purposes, I won’t have extraneous online presence.

So no texting, skyping, googling, surfing, youtubing. No Etsy, Ravelry, Pinterest, Epicurious. No photos taken on my iPhone.

I’m looking forward to the fast. There’s plenty to do now that it’s warm enough to work in the garden and there are plenty of cookbooks for me to read, reread and use to cook.

See you in a while! Cook and eat well!

Spring has stung, I mean, sprung

Whenever I tell someone about our fall mushroom foraging adventures I get this wide-eyed look of bewilderment and a guaranteed, “Really? Weren’t you afraid of getting poisoned?”

I get a similar response when I mention that we’ve been eating nettles, “Really? You mean the stinging kind?”

I suppose eating off the beaten path has never made me nervous. Besides, nettles and wild mushrooms aren’t exactly as risky as eating fugu or scorpions.

So when my foraging friend Carol brought nettles to work last Spring I was game at giving them a try. She put on a kettle of water to boil, reached for a pair of tongs and gingerly transferred the tender hairy leaves into the teapot. After dousing the leaves with scalding water and steeping for a few minutes, we sipped on a deliciously green, grassy, nutty elixir. I managed to get my hands on some more and made an emerald green nettle risotto and delicate risotto pasta.

Chock full of nutrients (Vitamins A and C, iron, potassium, magnesium and calcium), nettles are just too healthy to pass by. Especially if you forage, because then they’re nutritious AND free.

Now that Spring is once again upon us, the boy and I are looking forward to gathering our own nettles for some more springtime feasting from the forest floor. Don’t worry, we’ll wear gloves.

Field Notes: San Francisco

Once upon a time, in the days of unbridled free time, less financial demands and long before parenthood, I traveled to eat. Many of my travel decisions were based on where I could satisfy my epicurean curiosities and find interesting tastes and culinary inspiration.

Those days, needless to say, are long gone. Travel has become more about visiting family and discovering experiences that are more inclusive to our family’s interests. Luckily, food exploration is now becoming a family past time.

We recently had the opportunity to visit one of my favourite cities, San Francisco. I was delighted to show our almost 9 year old some of my favourite neighbourhoods and places including some old and new favourite food destinations.

My favourite souvenir to take home from any trip is culinary inspiration. Here’s a list of some from this visit:

  • cook more Mexican food: time to brine and simmer that le8582019122_a9db87b528_nngua that’s languishing in the freezer
  • baked egg breakfast sandwich from Cowgirl Creamery Sidekick in the Ferry Building
  • gnocchi with mustard greens and grainy mustard from Cotogna: perfect balance of richness, bite from the mustard greens and tang and texture from the large grains of mustard.
  • moussaka and melitzanosalata (because the boy finally decided that he likes eggplant)
  • nettle pizza: Spring is calling!
  • intense ma po tofu à la Mission Street Chinese: best ma po tofu I’ve ever had!
  • lemon meringue pie. Because I was able to make a gorgeous one on the fly while visiting friends and realize I ought to be making more pies.
  • more support of the local food movement. CUESA has a huge presence in SF, so would love to see broader support of the food system in BC. One of the ways to make this happen is to shop at the markets more.
    8573925478_af692b20eb_n8587209475_5432551a14

Any favourite food and travel destinations?

Back to Regular Irregular Programming

The completely predictable and inevitable has happened. I have a terrible track record for beginning a blogging project, all shiny and gung ho, then dropping off the face of the blogosphere. But I’m back.

There have been big changes. Good changes. Food related changes. Hopefully I’ll be able to capture some of those for you in the next little while. Oh, where to start?

Happy 100th Birthday Julia

I watched a lot of TV when I was a kid. A lot. But I’m glad to say that I was raised on a healthy diet of cooking shows. And The French Chef was the first one I lapped up.

I was fascinated by Julia Child. Drinking in her detailed instructions and staring intently on the TV tube, I didn’t miss a single flip, dice or stir that Julia did. At the time, I had no idea about the mystique of French cuisine. Nor did I really understand her tongue in cheek humour. I was just mesmerized by a completely wonderful world of food that was so different from my own.

Over the years I’ve watched and re-watched many of Julia’s cooking programs. I still learn from her uncanny, intuitive teaching style, her affable approach and her joie de vivre. And at the end of each program, I still look forward to hearing her cheerful “Bon appétit!”

Today I, like many food enthusiasts worldwide, am celebrating Julia’s birthday. Happy Birthday Julia. Thank you for all your morsels of wisdom. Bon appétit!

Picking up where we left off

Here we are, twelve years after our first post on VanEats. Twelve years of celebrating food and life adventures. And what an adventure it’s been: Roland and I married, became parents, changed careers, travelled, cooked and ate. Mostly with a mini-epicurean in tow. So life took over and we took a long hiatus from VanEats. The world outside our own little vortex has changed exponentially during our break. The blogosphere has exploded. Social media is everyone. And the world of food blogging has evolved beyond all expectations.

Now it’s time for us to pick up where we’ve left off. We present to you, VanEats at Home.

While we haven’t been food blogging, we’ve been more involved with the food world than ever before. We devote a lot of our time to cooking, learning about where our food comes from, growing our own food and teaching our child and others about food literacy. It’s a luxury we are blessed with and hope that we can share it with readers.

VanEats at Home focuses on our daily food life from our trials and tribulations as new food gardeners to the fantastic things we cook to food in our community. You’ll notice a trend towards eating locally and sustainably and towards cooking from scratch. You’ll find more words, stories and recipes than photos (we leave beautiful food photography to the pro’s) as we channel our energy into developing a dialogue about our everyday love affair with food.

Pull a chair up to our table and settle in for a nibble.