There, I finally said it, I love the Outlander series.
Most of you probably have no idea what I'm talking about and therefore I am, as happens often, making a big deal about nothing.
Here's the thing, as a writer I fear I hate the idea that I'm caught up in some sort of Twilight-esque novel series. And Diana Gabaldon's books certainly have their own intense following....though minus the screaming teen girliness.
I have a complex. Actually I have several complexes. I am complex.
But I hereby publicly endorse Outlander and the series. The writing is brilliant. The historical accuracy is beyond impressive. And goddamit it's a good story.
And I'm still sure that the overwhelming majority of you have no idea what I'm babbling about and don't care.
So, on to the food.
Bridies are basically Scottish street food, believed to have been originally made by a travelling food seller. They are basically a simple meat patty that would be perfect for carting around with you and snacking on your travels. I wanted a more interesting filling so I added the garlic and herbs.
Preheat oven to 450 degrees and make your filling and dough.
* or chopped rump steak ** traditionally would have been suet but I wasn't going there!
Mix the filling together well. Make sure the butter is distributed evenly throughout.
Pastry 2 cups flour 1 tsp salt 2/3 cup lard or shortening 4 to 5 tbsp. cold water
Sift together the flour and salt. Cut in the lard until mix comes together in smallish pieces. Sprinkle in water a little at a time tossing mix with fork until everything is moist and holds together. Shape into ball and place on floured surface.
Roll dough out into large rectangle. Cut into 8 rectangular pieces. Place amount of filling along one side of each rectangle. Fold rectangle in half and seal edges with water. Crimp edges with fork to ensure seal. Cut slit in top of each bridie to allow steam to escape. Place bridies on parchment lined baking sheet. Cook at 450 degrees for 15 minutes. Leaving bridies in the oven, lower the temp to 350 degrees and continue cooking for 45 to 55 minutes or until pastry is golden brown.
It all started early this summer with a visit to my most favouritest local farm stand where I was excited to find giant bulbs of garlic freshly plucked from the earth just that morning.
I had never before encountered garlic like this.
Without even breaking open the skin the aroma was overwhelming in it's pure, unadulterated garlickyness.
And the skin, so wonderfully thin was streaked with beautiful purple veins.
When I got it home I broke into the bulb and uncovered the juiciest clove of garlic I had ever been confronted with. Before I even sliced into the flesh my hands were sticky with it's oils.
Then came the first taste.
And I fell head over heels, truly, madly, deeply in love with Ontario garlic.
So spicy, so pungent, so layered in flavour that for the first while I only used it fresh; in vinaigrettes, in bruschetta, in anything I could think of.
I began to hoard the garlic, making almost daily trips to the farm stand, adding to my carefully guarded stock, fearing that one day I would arrive and there would be no more.
I couldn't figure out at first why grocery store garlic couldn't compare to my new love. I was sure my favourite farmer had some secret strand of garlic and I alone had discovered the deliciousness.
...Turns out I was getting a bit delusional.
Is it possible to stalk an inanimate food?
Upon questioning the farmer (why didn't I think to inquire about the garlic before I went all Mark David Chapman on the ? Um, 'cause I'm totally socially awkward and incapable of normal interpersonal interaction. Plus I didn't want to draw attention to my precious find and risk losing my corner on the market.)
I learned that imported (inferior) garlic is way cheaper than the locally grown product and, well, "the stores just don't want to pay more for it."
What that means for me is that I eventually I did have to say farewell to my love, at least for the winter.
I have become much more aware of local produce since moving up to farm country but it really wasn't until I met the love of my culinary life that I realized what a difference local product can make.
I can't promise not to use garlic until the Ontario crop comes around again (I might be nuts but I'm not a masochist) but I will feel the pain of it's absence with each inferior clove.
Right, so that's a totally cheesy and unoriginal response to public recognition.
However, it is also totally the first thing that popped into my head upon receiving not one but two blog related awards! Does that make me cheesy and unoriginal?
It's like I told my brother last week on the phone, "The people reading my blog like me better than my real life friends and family!" And then he said, "That's because they don't really know you."
And then I felt stupid, went to the kitchen and cooked something....but that matters not.
What matters is awards....obviously. So I win.
I started this blog almost a year ago as a way to force myself to write. It's really only been since the loss of my mother that I've been trying to put myself out there...the words "self promotion" send shivers up and down my spine and make my stomach flip over. The fact is though, I've always known that I should be a writer but I have a desperate fear of failure. So, being recognized for my writing, as well as my cooking, is really an amazing thing and I am incredibly humbled and grateful to my fellow bloggers.
Firstly, Tasty Trix has awarded me an inaugural Tasty Award.
Which I graciously accept. It feels awesome to be recognized by a fellow writer! Tasty Trix handed out awards to 10 very worthy blogs. Check them out!
Last week Chickenless Chick (another fellow writer) was kind enough to give me a Kreativ Blogger award.
Again, being recognized for my perspective and writing is the greatest feeling!
This award involves revealing 7 interesting things about myself and also nominating 7 more blogs for the award.
This feels like pressure but I guess it's just one of the burdens of being "award winning".
Wow, see how fast I let that go to my head? Don't worry though, I'll just call my brother and my equilibrium should be restored.
1. I currently live with my fiance, my father, 2 dogs and 3 cats. The animals rule the house.
2. I was once sure I would end up living in London, England. Now I can't imagine being away from my family.
3. I'm a bit of a recluse. I wasn't always but I am now.
4. I am incredibly socially awkward. This is not being helped by my growing reclusivity.
5. I hate my name. I hate Jennifer, I hate Jenn and most of all, I hate Jenny. I won't even respond to SeaBass when he calls me "Jenn", which he does only to annoy me. My parents were going to call me "Heather" but changed their minds because my Dad's Newfie accent meant that he couldn't pronounce it. He say's "Hedda". I'm not sure I like Heather, but I like it better than Jennifer.
6. I looove clothes...and fashion. This passion is totally wasted up here in cottage country. This does not stop me from getting all dressed up just to go to the farmer's market.
7. I think I have undiagnosed ADD. And obsessive compulsiveness. Opinions?
7 Nominated Blogs
All of these blogs focus on the things I love in a blog. That's why I like 'em.
I have an addictive personality, it's part of the whole bi-polar thing.
I become addicted to one thing after another without even knowing it's happening until I'm within inches of hitting rock bottom.
In the past it's been different drugs, alcohol, smoking, shopping, I could go on.
The interesting thing to me is that I eventually do notice what's happening, always just before it goes too far. At that point I tend to play a little game of russianroulette with myself.
I observe myself in the addiction for a little while so that I can analyze my own insanity. Then when things start getting a little too crazy I decide to put my foot down and I quit the addiction cold turkey.
I've become a master at playing out this pattern.
I'd like to think that I'm done with the self destructive addictions. You can only aim a gun at your own head so many times before you run out of chances and, well, you know what happens.
So I found a constructive release for my addictive tendencies. It's called cooking.
I cook the way I used to use drugs.
I become obsessed with an ingredient, a style of cooking, a particular dish and I go with it until one of two things happens:
I get bored and move on to the next thing
Or, slightly more dramatically, those forced to eat my food on a daily basis beg me to stop, refuse to let me buy any more of the ingredient and hide what I have left in the house.
Which is a shame because I'd really like to use some bacon with my latest addiction, butternut squash....so I decided to maneuver my way around that by using other yummy pork stuffs.
This pasta is my take on a Mario Batali recipe from Food and Wine a couple of years ago. The original is great but I really wanted to add another level of flavour with the chorizo sausage.
The dish is really about the flavours of the squash and sausage. It is not overwhelmed by a huge amount of pasta.
2 tbsp. olive oil 1 tsp red chili flakes 1 medium sweet onion chopped 2 cloves garlic minced *1 chorizo sausage cut in slices 1 medium butternut squash peeled and diced in small cubes 1 tsp. chopped fresh thyme (or equivalent dried) **8 oz. cavatelli pasta (cooked to al dente) (reserve the pasta water) 1/4 cup of parmigiano or pecorino cheese grated (I used a mixture)
* I used a sweet chorizo and added spice with the chili flakes. ** If you can't find cavatelli (I got excited when my grocery store actually had it for once!) just use a small but hearty pasta that will hold up to the chunky ingredients.
Heat olive oil and chili flakes. Add chorizo and saute until the sausage begins to release it's oils. Add onion and garlic and saute until softened (a few minutes). Season with s&p. Add squash and stir mixture together. Add chopped thyme. Saute mixture for 5 minutes or so uncovered.
At this point put your pasta water on to boil. Continue to saute your squash mixture covered for 5 minutes. Check the squash for firmness. You want the squash to be tender but still hold it's shape. When the squash is tender transfer to a large serving bowl. Add your cooked pasta to the squash. Mix everything together with your cheese. Add some of the reserved pasta water to loosen the mixture if you want. Serve with more grated cheese over top.
Wow! I've been getting a lot of feedback on my hair. Or more precisely, my lack of hair.
I didn't think it would change my style at all but I will admit I've made some adjustments to the way I venture out into public (when I do, which is not often I admit.)
Firstly there's the make-up thing: I don't normally where any make-up; can't be bothered basically. (Note: SeaBass would like me to point out that, for a person who wears no make-up I own an insane amount of said product. He is correct. It's a problem, I admit it. I insist I need it, I buy it, I never use it.)
Since the baldness I've found the need for my cosmetic hoard (take that SeaBass! I told you I needed it!) I have nice eyes (if I do say so myself) so I've taken to wearing mascara, eyeliner, and even curling my eyelashes (p.s. I'm now in love with my eyelash curler!)
I've also felt the need to wear lipgloss and blush (I've got a face full of pale, no sun in sight and no hair to cover it up.)
Suddenly my glasses feel nerdy: Normally I think I suit glasses, but there's something about the harshness of the shaved head with glasses...I don't like it. (Also, they negate all the pretty make-up on my eyes!)
So, I've been breaking out the contac lenses.
Clothes: I haven't changed this much. It's a good time for soft layers and cardigans, which I love.
I'm looking forward to an opportunity to get all pretty-fied and dressed up so I can rock the whole hard edged hair and girlie dress.
I've been wearing necklaces more...to accentuate my beautifully long neck....not really. I don't know why, they just seem to balance the lack of hair above my face.
Someone told me that I should be wearing earrings but I dunno, I always feel like they just look silly on me. Opinions?
I guess I shouldn't be surprised at all the feedback I've been getting. As I've mentioned I've always kept my hair pretty short. Like, a bob chin length bob is sooooo long as far as I'm concerned. On every visit to the salon I am surrounded by women with shoulder length or longer tresses. Grown women freaking out over having more than an inch cut off their hair. Women spending hundreds of dollars on adding fake hair to their head so they can maintain the illusion of lustrous strands.
And then there's me, with my hair grazing the back of my neck and freaking out 'cause it feels too long and I don't feel like myself anymore and I want it cut off....immediately.
I don't understand them and they apparently don't understand me.
They stare at me as I'm getting my hair chopped. They say some of the same things I've heard here, that they wish they had the nerve to cut their hair off too.
I still don't get it. Why can't they?
I really hope I'm not sounding pretentious. I'm not trying to.
I'm just really curious as to why I don't regard my own hair the same way so many other women do. Why don't I connect it to my femininity in the same way?
I feel lost with long hair. I feel like I lose my identity.
My understanding is that the vast majority of women feel exactly opposite. If someone shaved their head they'd feel less feminine.
I went to Bala on the weekend for the Cranberry Festival. The small cottage town was absolutely packed with cranberry lovin' folks. And dogs, oh so many wonderful puppies. I was very upset with myself for not bringing Dolan.
I somehow seemed to miss the entire point of the festivities, making my way back home not with berry filled bags but with, you guessed it, more pig product.
How did this happen you ask? Well, I'll tell you.
I blame this man.
Purveyor of pork, curator of cured cuisine, seducer with savoury swine.
He sucked me in with his smile, I was hypnotized by the heady smells of sausage (p.s. I used to stand securely by the motto "I don't eat meat in tube form") I was finally completely entranced by samples of such beautifully produced pig meat.
The next thing I knew I was purchasing more pork product.
But my god, it was all so damn good!
Really, there is nothing like hand crafted product produced by someone who so obviously loves what he does and takes great pride in it.
I want him to be my grandpa and teach me his secrets.
Do you think he'd like to come live with me if I build him a nice smokehouse?
For me grief has been something like this; you know when you're in an airplane or at a loud concert or club and your ears plug up so that everything outside of your own thoughts is muffled and garbled and ultimately it becomes too much effort to attempt to focus on anything outside yourself (maybe that part is just me - I'm both lazy and self absorbed)?
Then suddenly, out of the blue, your ears pop and unplug and you are hyper-sensitive to the slightest sound?
So I was all plugged up for the first few months and that was comfortable enough. But then a couple of weeks ago my bubble popped and I am suddenly aware that grief is not suffered in isolation. It's actually very much about relationships.
Relationships were wounded by the loss of my mother.
Holes were created in individuals and in the way those individuals relate to one another.
My mother was a peacemaker, a buffer, the central point of our family network. The one thing we could all agree on. The safe place. She made home, home. She defined family.
This process of grief includes all of us coming together to fill the holes, or at least to cover them over so they don't do so much damage along the way.
The problem is that some of those holes are like booby traps, just waiting to maim the unlucky voyager.
Alright, enough with the imagery and symbolism.
I'm talking about my relationship with my father.
How to describe how we relate? We're very much alike...in all the wrong ways.
Short tempered, stubborn (is there a stronger word than stubborn? 'Cause it seems like an understatement), hyper-self conscious, sensitive, controlling, moody.
Our relationship has always been...difficult (I hear Mom laughing as I type) we're like oil and water, like bacon and tofu, like Miley Cyrus and Radiohead, like The Hills and actual reality, like Perez Hilton and actual news sources.
The fact that I am the one left here to be his day to day support has got to be like some sort of karmic retribution. For both of us.
You see my father never imagined being left without my mother. I don't think he realized just how dependent he was on her. He realizes it now. It's a very scary world for him.
I get it. But, he's making me crazy. And angry, he's making me very angry. And frustrated, very frustrated. And of course I'm taking this out on SeaBass, which is making me even more angry, and crazy, and frustrated.
We're not fighting or anything. In fact, the one good thing is that I feel very close to my mother because I hear her voice in my head constantly as I try to deal with his moods and his short-temperedness.
Her voice guides me carefully through situations that I know for sure would have, in the past, blown up into full scale emotional warfare.
I am silent when I would have snippy. I am patient when I would have been abrupt. I am careful when I would have been heavy handed.
I am on full alert for his every need, yet trying to not step on his toes, not get in his way. I'm walking a fine line between trying to give him his freedom and supporting him along the way.
Unfortunately this is costing me a lot. There's the crazy, the anger, the frustration that I mentioned. There's also this reminder of how much I miss my mother, my support, my biggest fan.
Because conversations with my father go like this:
Me: "Hey Dad guess what? I've finally figured out how to write that novel I've been thinking about!"
Dad: ...10 seconds of staring straight ahead..."Mphm. When are you gonna put yer snow tires on?"
Or (this one literally just happened):
Me: "Looks like it's gonna rain"
Dad: stares straight ahead and turns up the television.
Or (my personal favourite):
Dad: "What should we have for dinner tonight?"
Me: "I'll make you whatever you want."
Dad: "I don't know what I want."
Me: "How 'bout I roast that chicken and do some potatoes?" (Get it? Meat and potatoes? A sure winner, right?)
Me: "Okay dinner is ready. I made a pretty good gravy Dad and did the potatoes the way you like."
Dad: ...no response...
Me: "Dad? You gonna eat?"
Dad: "I'm not really that hungry."
Me: Trying not to look disappointed, "Oh, okay then."
Dad: Ten minutes later in the kitchen making macaroni and cheese whiz.
I don't know what to do about any of this.
I'm trying desperately to support my father but he's hurting me so badly right now.
And I feel selfish for thinking about myself in this situation.
Seriously, somebody give me something to go on here.
It sounds dirty. But it's not. It's chicken and leek soup. Cock-a-leekie is the Scottish name for it, and plus, it's much more fun than "chicken and leeks". I'll take any opportunity to throw the word "cock" out in polite or food related conversation.
Hee, hee. It's just funny...cock-a-leekie...okay, I'm done now.
Back to the business at hand;
before shaving my head last night I made soup. I've been wanting to make this very traditional Scottish soup for some time now both because it sounded so damned tasty and because I have an incurable obsession with a series of books based in 18th century Scotland and, well, I've taken to trying to make many of the dishes they eat in said books.
(It's a very strange obsession, they're not the kind of books I'm generally into but, damn-it, I can't stop. No really, I've tried. I keep re-reading them. The historical accuracy is incredible and....oh forget it. I just like 'em. A lot.)
So here is my traditonal cock-a-leekie (with a few variations)
1 tbsp olive oil 1 clove garlic minced *3 slices nice fatty bacon diced 1/2 a chicken (about 2 lbs.) 5 or 6 cups of chicken stock and or water 6 leeks white and green parts chopped garni of 1 bay leaf, parsley and thyme 1 tsp. brown sugar **5 or 6 potatoes quartered ***couple handfuls pitted dates s&p
Heat olive oil in big soup pan. Add garlic and bacon and saute for 2 or 3 minutes (you don't want to crisp the bacon, just release some of the fat and get it started.) Add the 1/2 chicken as a whole (skin and all - for the sake of flavour.) Add stock/water. Bring to a boil and ladle off any scum. Add leeks and potato. Add garni. Add brown sugar. Reduce heat to a simmer. Simmer for 2-3 hours (add dates in the last hour to 30 minutes.) When the chicken is falling off the bone remove it and strip the meat from the bones, chop into bite sized chunks and add back to soup.
This soup was so incredibly tasty (should be even better tonight.) The chicken and the potatoes just flake apart. The leeks are so soft and tender. It's the unexpected sweetness from the dates that really got me though. Incredible! All the textures and flavours in the soup just blend together into something wonderful and filling and warming on a dark, windy night.
* There is no garlic ingredient in the traditional recipes. However, I'm pretty sure garlic wasn't being used for anything more than medicinal purposes in the 16th century. Poor people didn't know what they were missing! Also bacon is traditionally an optional ingredient, but we all know everything's better with bacon!
** Potatoes are not a part of the traditional dish. In fact, they didn't have tatties in the highlands back then (learned that from my Scottish books.) The Scots would have used rice or barley to thicken the soup. But, I'm not a big fan of either ingredient in abundance in my soups. I do like potatoes however and I especially like the way they just fall apart into the soup in this recipe. Great texture!
*** The traditional recipe calls for prunes. Dates just sounded much more appealing to me.
I shaved my head. To some of you I'm sure this seems extreme or possibly insane. Probably mostly those of you who don't actually know me. Those who do know me know that I've taken my hair all that seriously. I've had my hair pretty much every length...except past my shoulders.
I lack the patience, the ambition, the drive to grow my hair that long.
My mother kept my hair short as a child, she too lacked the requisite patience for my very thick hair. So, for most of my early childhood I sported a very fashion-forward mullet (it was the early 80s people).
It haunts me still.
I think the mullet may be the ultimate source of my lack of self confidence, my body dysmorphia, my general mess-up-edness.
No wait, that has to do with dance recitals and being forcefully dressed up like Winnie-the-Pooh and a piglet.
Seriously, who thought it was a good idea to dress impressionable little girls like pigs and roly-poly bears? Screwed me for life.
The fear of a return of the tragedy of the mullet is the one thing I can't abide when it comes to my hair.
The reason I neglected to post a "before" shot of my hair here is actually because I was starting to fear that mullet syndrome was setting in.
I haven't been to see my hairdresser in a while. He was also my Mom's hairdresser (since she was pregnant with me) and he's more than just the dude with the scissors to me. I can't face him yet.
As a result my hair was having issues, major issues. It had grown out to something between a bob and...a mullet. A couple of weeks ago I chopped off my bangs, which calmed me down some. But last night I couldn't take it anymore.
I took my scissors and started hacking at chunks, that way I couldn't go back. Then I grabbed Seabass' trimmer and went to town.
And now here we are. Feels awesome.
Seabass hasn't seen it yet.
Are these the kinds of decisions that I should be making with him in mind?
When you lose someone the way we lost my mother, a very typical weekday summer evening suddenly interrupted by a medical emergency that ends with the beginning of a nightmare, you are left with a sense that life can now only be defined by that one night.
For me there is simply before and after and separating the two is that terrible, impossible, nightmarishly vivid night.
I want to write what happened that night, I think it will help me to let go of it a little. To accept the finality of what has happened. I've tried. I'm not there yet.
At this moment, and for the past couple of weeks as I've chosen to focus my energies on my own future, I feel like I've found some way to accept that She's not coming home. I no longer reach for the phone to talk to Her. Instead I find myself in constant conversation with her in my mind.
She is my strength as I clear out Her things.
She is my comfort when the tears start to flow.
She is my patience when I am frustrated by my new roles in the house.
Squash is one of those foods that I detested until...well until I actually tried it. It got stuck in my head from who knows when....childhood, perhaps infancy that I didn't like it and stayed there for 30 years. Kind of like pumpkin pie which, hey guess what? I love! Just found that one out two days ago. Who knew it could be so sweet, so creamy, so cinnamony so...I think I need to make pie.
Plus, squash make wonderfully co-operative photography subjects
Discoveries like this have been happening to me a lot lately.
Like meat. For years I've been a quasi-vegetarian, just because I didn't much care for meat. Now all of a sudden I'm all over it, which comes at a remarkably good time since I've been promoted to head chef here in the house and since I'm feeding an old school Newfie male (no meat? no potatoes? Obviously not a "real" meal), a man who has, in the past, looked upon one of my meat-free culinary creations, well knowing I've spent the day in the kitchen and just got off the phone with the hubby and told him how proud I am and how I can't wait for him to try it out - and said, "well I guess I can make some macaroni and cheese whiz for me and SeaBass."
These days it's a little different, just last week banned me from bacon. He begged me to sabbatical from pork. A year ago I couldn't even stand the smell of bacon frying.
Have I mentioned that I've been feeling the urge to participate in the ritualized pig slaughtering that I saw Anthony Bourdain take part in while in Portugal?
No, I didn't mention it? Hm, right! I was going to keep quiet about that as I thought it might scare anyone reading this and might cause some (increased) worry for my relative sanity amongst family and friends. I have mentioned my lack of a filter for my brain though.
Anyhoo....let's just forget I mentioned the whole slaughter thing (while visions of piggies dance in my head) and get back to the butternut squash soup.
My brother's wife Alexandra (happy almost first anniversary guys!) introduced my family to this soup a couple of years ago. It took just one taste for it to be added to the top of the traditional fall recipe list.
1/4 cup unsalted butter 1 large onion roughly chopped 2 leeks (white parts) roughly chopped 1 large potato peeled and diced 1 medium butternut squash peeled and diced 3 cups of chicken stock whipping cream pinch of nutmeg pinch of cayenne pepper salt and pepper basil (optional) toasted pine nuts or roasted squash or pumpkin seeds (or both)
melt your butter in a large saucepan. Add your onion and leeks and cook until softened Add potato and squash. Stir in chicken stock. Add in nutmeg, cayenne, season with salt and pepper. Bring mixture to a boil and then reduce heat and simmer covered until everything is softened (about 20-30 minutes). Use a hand blender/food processor/whatever you have to smooth out the soup. (I don't blend too heavily, I like to leave the soup rustic with some chunks in it - do what you like.) Stir in enough whipping cream to reach a consistency you're happy with. Re-season if necessary. Add in a few basil leaves. (The basil really lifts the flavour of the soup and gives it a hint of real garden freshness. I really miss it if I don't have it.) Serve with pine nuts/squash seeds as a garnish.
p.s. I love piggies. It's not my fault that they're so damned tasty!
It's Thanksgiving weekend up here in the great white north (colder climate means earlier harvest which calls for an earlier celebration of said harvest and the original reason for our early holiday weekend) so of course I've been dreading/preparing myself for this the big family event since Mom's death. For me it was if not painless at least bearable.
We were surrounded by close family and that, I think, helped me blockade my emotional door against the onslaught of tears that I'm still fighting daily.
I've got a lot more to say about yesterday, issues with my father and his grief that I can see emerging. I just can't seem to translate it from thought to blog at this moment so I'm giving up for now in an attempt to ruminate and unravel.
This is the first of two versions of butternut squash ravioli I'll post here....what can I say? I love me some squash. Both use wonton wrappers as the pasta so no worries about trying to make your own dough, only the bit of time it takes to actually put them together.
Butternut, Sage and Pecan Tortellini
1 medium sized butternut squash (peeled, seeded and cut and diced to 1" pieces) 3 tbsp olive oil 1 tbsp maple syrup salt and pepper 1 onion chopped 1/2 cup chopped pecans 2 tbsp minced sage leaves wonton wrappers
Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Toss your dices squash in a bowl with 2tbsp. olive oil and 1/2 tsp. of salt. Spread the squash on a baking sheet and place in the oven to roast for about 25 minutes. You may want to turn the squash at least once. Transfer the squash back to a bowl and mash. Warm 1 tbsp. of olive oil in a skillet. Add onion and saute until lightly browned (about 10 minutes). Add pecans and saute about 2 minutes. Add squash and cook until heated through (1 minute) Add maple syrup. Season with salt and pepper. Transfer the filling to a bowl and let it cool to room temp. You're ready to fill your wonton wrappers. Set up a work surface with a bowl of water, a pastry brush, and a flat area covered in wax or parchment paper to rest your tortellinis. Place one wrapper at a time flat on your work surface and in the middle place a heaping spoonful of filling. Wet the edges of the wrapper well with water and fold the wrapper in half in a triangle shape. Make sure your wrapper is well sealed or it will burst in your boiling water when you cook them. Take the two ends of the triangle and fold these together to stick. Your tortellinis should look like these.
To cook: Boil your water. Salt well. Drop in totellini in small batches. Cook for only a minute or two (until they rise to the top).
Serve with: Brown Butter Sauce 1/2 cup unsalted butter handful of dried cherries or dried cranberries handful dried walnuts salt and pepper to season
Heat your butter in a small pan until the butter bubbles and begins to take on a slightly brown colour and a nutty smell. Add your cherries and walnuts. Pour over pasta. Add lots of parmesan.
A little insight into how my mind works (or doesn't work):
This morning SeaBass called from work with a request: "Hey hunny, you weren't by any chance planning on driving down to Barrie (our nearest "city") today were you?"
Me: "Um, randomly drive the 45 minutes on yet another horribly rainy and cold day for no apparent reason? Nope, not really. Why?"
SeaBass: "Well, I kinda forgot to pack my shoes for the weekend. Do you think you could come down and meet me there with the shoes?" (Note: SeaBass is abandoning me until Sunday for a golfing weekend with the guys. He's a meanie, I know.)
Me: "I guess so. Sure, no problem."
SeaBass: "Okay, I'll meet you in about an hour then."
Immediately the wheels in my head start turning while I jump in the shower.
Barrie is only a real city in terms of population; mostly it's really just a sprawling suburb and there's not a whole lot to recommend it. But I was determined not to waste a trip down there just to drop off shoes and wave a lonely farewell to my abandoning hubby while he heads off on his little party weekend and I head home...alone...in the rain...
A glimpse inside my internal monologue:
"Hmm...what else can I do while I'm down there? I could go into the mall and just window shop, I haven't even had a chance to look at the new fall stuff yet....yeah, then I'll get something to eat, or maybe ice cream. Do I feel like ice cream? I should put his shoes by the door so I don't forget....what should I wear? It's cold out. Ooh, that's what I should look for, a nice fall coat. I shouldn't really buy anything much, should be good. SeaBass never buys anything. Hm, but he is doing this golf weekend thing without me, I deserve something new. A transitional coat is important. I don't just want it, I need it. Yes, I will enjoy leisurely window shopping and take my time heading back. I wonder if Baskin Robbins will have Pink Bubblegum ice cream? It's probably out of season. Hey the radio station's are actually coming in clearly for once. I haven't heard this song in a while. (cue off key warbling) Arghhhhh!!!!"
It's at about this point in the monologue and about 35 minutes into my 45 minute drive that I realize something.
Here's something I haven't had the balls to mention here yet; I have been dealing with diagnosed bipolar disorder for the past 11 or 12 years.
The word "diagnosed" is important here because I have memories of being depressed as early as elementary school.
In my real life I have no problem talking about my diagnosis, my treatment, my path to where I am now; but here I felt like I had to keep it secret because I know that my Mother was was always just that bit embarrassed when I started talking about my struggles.
For some reason She didn't think it was an appropriate topic of casual conversation at a family gathering, or a social event, or when we randomly ran into acquaintances we hadn't seen in years on the street, or in the mall or the grocery store or...well you get the idea.
Besides Bipolar Disorder I also suffer from the lack of a filter for my diarrhea of the mouth.
I've never felt ashamed of this though.
Well maybe not never, I suppose there are some people in my life (former bosses, university professors, store clerks, my favourite local farmer, the egg man) who didn't need to know EVERYTHING about my issues.
My ability to be totally candid is something I'm sorta proud of. So, from this moment on I'll share it with you all.
I am at the point these last few days where I can rationally work through the reality that my mother is gone.
When I focus on that idea I can work it through to it's logical end and accept that all we have are our memories of Her. Luckily for us those memories are so full of Her incredible, indestructible spirit that they will not easily be lost.
And then I lie in bed and close my eyes.
That's when the instinctual part of my brain makes itself heard and reverberating through my mind, through my whole body as I begin to shake and the tears begin to roll, is that She cannot possibly be gone.
It seems exactly that, a complete impossibility. How can the world keep turning, the sun keep rising? How can I keep breathing?
It is difficult to explain the sensation of knowing something so clearly in the rational part of your mind while at the same time your instincts are telling you, insisting, the exact opposite.
The irrational mind is the one that ultimately still rings true to me right now. I was never very logical to begin with. The death of the most incredible human being I have ever known at too young an age, with too much left to do, is just too cruel for me to comprehend.
I am learning to accept that she's not coming home.
I can't countenance that She is gone from this world.
This new rational and logical reality makes no sense to me.
The thing is, I hadn't experienced any of the sudden, overwhelming, excruciating memories of my mother that has the power to contort my body, mind, my spirit and leave me huddled on the floor curled into myself and trying to ward off the emotional blow.
Instead, my mother had actually been in my thoughts all day, at every step. I looked back over the morning and realized that everything chore I completed, every e-mail checked, every conversation had was accompanied by the presence of my mother's spirit in my mind in the calming, peaceful way in which she accompanied me through me life.
I have to say, I think I'm okay with that.
On to cooking. While I have returned to that activity with a vengeance, I'm not totally back to form and as such completely forgot to photograph my efforts.
Without further ado I give you: Pasta with Eggs, Onion and Sage
1/2 medium red onion diced coarsely 2 large garlic cloves minced 7 or 8 large leaves of sage torn finely 1 tablespoon of red pepper flakes 1 pound long pasta (spaghetti, linguine, etc.) 7 large eggs 2 cups shredded cheese (I used a mix of romano, parmesan and manchego)
Set your pasta water to boil.
Heat a large (12") saute pan with 2-3 tablespoons of olive oil and your pepper flakes.
When the oil is heated add your minced garlic, chopped onion and sage leaves.
Season with salt and pepper.
Saute this mixture for a couple of minutes or until the onion is translucent.
Take the pan off the heat.
When your pasta is done strain it off but reserve the cooking water.
Return your saute pan to a medium-low heat and add your eggs.
Watch this mixture carefully and stir it up until the whites of the eggs are JUST beginning to whiten (you don't want this to turn into scrambled eggs or an omelette! It's more like a carbonara sauce)
Put your pasta in a large serving bowl and pour the egg mixture over top.
Add your grated cheese.
Mix everything together.
Season with pepper. Add a little of the reserved pasta water to loosen the mixture and make it creamy and sauce-like.
Today I feel like I'm waking up from a hazy nightmare.
For the past two and a half months I've felt like I've been asleep and wandering through a nightmare fog that clung like cold, miserable mist no matter where I was or what I was doing.
Today I feel awake - and not just awake but clearheaded - like the weight of grief has lifted ever so slightly - enough to give me some energy to focus on something other than pain and fear and sadness.
I picked up my camera today. Even though Mother Nature seems to have decided that since she skipped right by summer around these parts she might as well continue the trend and bypass the blaze of autumn brightness and colour and head straight into dull, damp pre-snow gloom, I picked up my camera because I saw something worth capturing in the world.
I looked at recipes today. I went to the market and got excited by the harvest and thought about the joy I got from cooking just a few months ago and it suddenly seemed possible again. I found a meal that I am excited to prepare and maybe even to eat.
I wrote a post today and hey! I even wrote one yesterday.
I don't think that it's going to be smooth sailing and I'll admit there's even some guilt at starting to experience moments of recovery from the all encompassing, crushing grief - how can I find joy in anything without my mother to share it with? I won't be surprised if I don't feel this good tomorrow.