the (anti) shopping list


Here is my not-quite-but-almost annual list for them wot don’t especially like ‘stuff’… Also, coincidentally, it’s a list of my favourite things to both give and receive… (note for those intent on giving:  the asterisked books? got ’em.
But I’m wide open for all the food items… leave baskets on the porch).

1.   Food. Any form. You can’t go wrong with cheese. If you live in the vicinity of Country Cheese… fill my stocking with the goat brie (coated in ash). It’s absolutely heaven sent, this stuff. Appropriate for the time of year, no?

2.   A book about  food. I’m mad for anything Laurie Colwin, also *The CanLit Foodbook  and most recently, *a Taste of Haida Gwaii,  by Susan Musgrave. And… Euell Gibbons’ Stalking the Wild Asparagus.  I can’t believe I don’t own this.

3.   Music by Laura Smith.

4.   Gift certificate to a garden centre. My choice would be Richter’s Herbs for the following reasons: the staff know things and are pleasant (this is no longer the case at all garden centres). The selection is amazing and mostly edible. They play classical music to the seedlings. (Also, and not insignificant, the route home goes right by my favourite place for pizza.)

5.   Gift certificate to my favourite place for pizza. (This is an excellent gift and comes with a good chance of being invited to share a slice.)

6.   If you have made anything pickled, I would welcome a jar. (FYI, I’m not much for jam.)

7.  Honey. Unpasteurized of course. Local please. Or a kombucha mother. And who would say no to a bag of Atlantic dulse???

8.  And because we can’t ever have enough… books, books and more books from across this literary land. One from each province/territory — mostly published this year:

YUKON — Ivan Coyote’s *Gender Failure (Arsenal Pulp Press) actually came out in 2014. So sue me.

NWT — Ramshackle: a Yellowknife Story,  by Alison McCreesh (Conundrum Press)  (this review by John Mutford sold me)

NUNAVUT — Made in Nunavut,  by Jack Hicks and Graham White (UBCPress) Because we could stand to know more about this part of the country.

BC — Please don’t think Amber Dawn’s *Where the Words End and My Body Begins  (Arsenal Pulp Press) is only for those in love with poetry. It’s for anyone who loves words. Trust me.

ALBERTA — Rumi and the Red Handbag  (Palimset Press), by Shawna Lemay.

SASKATCHEWAN — *The Education of Augie Merasty  (University of Regina Press), by Augie Merasty and David Carpenter.

MANITOBA — A writer new to me, Katherena Vermette. I want very much to read her North End Love SongsAlso the more recent The Seven Teachings  (Portage & Main Press, 2014/15).

ONTARIO — A Rewording Life,  a fabulous project by Sheryl Gordon to raise funds for the Alzheimers Society of Canada. 1,000 writers from across the country were each given a ‘word’, which they then returned in a sentence. Essentially, it’s an anthology of a thousand sentences. I’m proud to have been invited to join the fun. My word was ‘nettles’.

QUEBEC — Okay. This came out in 2013, not 2105, but I haven’t read it and have always meant to and now it’s long listed for Canada Reads. So it’s time. Bread and Bone  (House of Anansi), by Saleema Nawaz.

NEW BRUNSWICK — *Beatitudes  (Goose Lane Editions),  by Hermenegilde Chiasson. This was published years ago (2007) but I include it because it’s truly one of my favourite books ever and I don’t get to talk about it enough.

NOVA SCOTIA — *These Good Hands  (Cormorant), by Carol Bruneau.

PEI — *Our Lady of Steerage  (Nimbus Publishing), by Steven Mayoff.

NEWFOUNDLAND & LABRADOR — Ditto the Canada Reads argument for Michael Crummey’s 2014 *Sweetland   from Doubleday.

9.  Donations to any number of good causes. And a few more ideas (some repetition, but also not). And this, recently discovered: The Native Women’s Association of Canada.

10.  The gift of art.

11.  The gift of lunch, or a walk, a phone call, an hour to really listen to someone who needs to be heard. A visit to a nursing home. A poem tucked into a card. An invitation, a freshly baked pie for the neighbour who could do with some cheering. The gift of letting someone give to us too. Margaret Visser wrote a wonderful book on that… The Gift of Thanks.

12. The gift of a promise kept.

13.  And never to be overlooked or forgotten: the gift of massage.

You’re welcome.

And thank you.

east friesan black goes with brownies

In honour of my friend Chead’s birthday, I’m sharing what might be the world’s best brownie recipe. (Drink with east friesan black tea for happiest results. Add maple sugar crystals to tea for bliss.)

Katharine Hepburn’s Brownies

1. Melt together 1 stick butter and 2 squares unsweetened chocolate and take the saucepan off the heat.

2. Stir in 1 cup sugar, add 2 eggs and 1/2 teaspoon vanilla, and beat the mixture well.

3. Stir in 1/4 cup all-purpose flour and 1/2 teaspoon salt. (In the original recipe, 1 cup chopped walnuts is added here as well.)

4. Bake the brownies in a buttered and floured 8-inch-square pan at 325 F. for about 40 minutes.

—courtesy of Laurie Colwin’s More Home Cooking


—I bake for exactly 40 minutes in a pre-heated oven. The second the timer goes off, I take them out and let them cool (thoroughly) in the pan before cutting.

—Some people prefer pecans to walnuts. You know who you are.

red and yellow and tomatoey all over

Very ‘connected’ to our tomatoes this year as Peter grew every one of them from seed—coddling the seedlings through the last weeks of winter, convincing them that, yes, they must go outdoors, easing them into the sunlight, into small pots, larger pots, and finally into the big bad world of real soil with its inherent bugs—and worse. And all of them heritage plants, which made them very different from what we’re used to. Not as plentiful on the vine as the hybridized versions, nor as perfect or uniform in shape, but delicious (and beautiful). Along with the usual red variety, we had orange and green striped, plain orange, and yellow. Made some very nice salads.

And even though things are slowing down a bit—picked the last big bowl of cherry tomatoes yesterday (it’ll be small batches from here on out)—for the moment it’s still fresh bread, butter, salt, and occasionally some onions and a drizzle of oil—as the tomato festival continues (thankfully) just a little longer…

“One of the joys of summer is to go roaming through the garden, pulling ripe tomatoes off the vine and biting in. Juice and seeds drip all over your nice white shirt, but who cares? In summer the idea is to eat as many tomatoes as you can and enjoy the luxury of getting sick of them…

“My own idea of pure bliss is the tomato sandwich, which is good on any kind of bread… This sandwich can only be made with ripe tomatoes, luscious and full of seeds. The bread is slathered with mayonnaise, then dusted with celery salt and layered with thinly sliced tomatoes. I prefer this sandwich open, but it is fine with a lid.

“My favourite salad is the ubiquitous salad of the Middle East: diced cucumber, onion, and tomato dressed with salt, pepper, olive oil, and lemon juice. If you fry up some squares of pita bread in olive oil and add some flat-leafed parsley and a little fresh mint, you have a salad called fattosh, which is ridiculously delicious and extremely simple to make.”

—from More Home Cooking, by Laurie Colwin (who, in the same book, offers up a recipe for Tomato Pie that is next on my To Be Made list)