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“Um, Mum, we are coming with you, aren’t we? Because (and sorry to have to tell you this), we actually have more fans than you do on this blog.”]

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Why, oh why did I choose Sundays? What was I thinking?  I must have been on a chocolate high at the time and totally out of it.  Otherwise, why on EARTH would any sane person choose Sunday morning to track her weight loss (which, at this point, is actually a misnomer; for, as of this morning, I am now tracking my weight gain.  Oh, woe).  

Well, I suppose I can take some small comfort in the fact that we spent all of last evening at a spectacular birthday bash for my friend Gemini I’s husband. And, given that my mouth was basically open for business between 6:00 PM and midnight last night, I’m assuming some of this is temporary (I’m hoping. . . .).  Enough self-recriminations–must move onward!  And man, that gal sure knows how to throw a party. 

For your entertainment pleasure, I thought I’d try to remember as many as I can of the continual flow of appetizers and h’ors doeuvres that floated by all evening, aloft many a wait-staff’s capable hands. In addition to a huge buffet table heaving with platters of cheese, crackers, olives, breads and spreads and cut fruits, there was also an endless array of hot and cold appetizers, including stuffed button mushrooms, garlic-stuffed olives, one-bite caramelized onion quiches, mini crab cakes with wasabi dollops, bocconcini-stuffed sundried tomatoes, mini shrimp dumplings, mini hamburgers (yes, with mini buns–looked like plastic toys, actually!), mini cold rice paper spring rolls, chicken satay skewers, mini grilled cheese sandwiches, and a probably six or seven other choices I’ve forgotten. 

The dessert trays were deadly, heaped with one-bite brownies in three or four flavors, double-chocolate chip cookies and plain ole vanilla ones, three kinds of biscotti, miniature individualized banana splits served in shot glasses, all topped off by the birthday cake, an enormous rectangle of vanilla sponge decked out with cream and fresh strawberries, all tied up with white chocolate ribbons and bows. 

One side of the room served as a bar station, where servers were generously dispensing custom pomegranate-blueberry martinis (I have no idea what else was in it, but it was delicious) and any type of wine or liquor you choose.  I was thrilled to see my favorite Australian shiraz in the group. . . all I can say is, good thing I wasn’t the designated driver last evening (thanks, HH!).

As it turns out, Gemini II’s daughter is actuallly a vegetarian in a highly carnivorous family, so there were lots of veggie options there–though I’m not sure whether that was actually good for me or not.  I threw WOCA to the winds and ate more than my fair share (and am paying the price for all that wheat I consumed).  

Which leads me to. . . .salad.  After that kind of indulgence, today I’m craving something basic.  A simple, cleansing salad seems in order. 

Now, I must admit that I’ve never really been a salad person.  Is it because I don’t like salads?  No, that wouldn’t be the reason; I thoroughly enjoy my mixed baby greens, for instance, whenever the HH and I have dinner at one of our local haunts.  After reading about the need to properly toss a salad on The Good Eatah’s blog recently, I thought my tossing skills might not be up to snuff.  Or maybe the idea of cold, raw veggies smack dab in the middle of a cold, raw winter is just too painful to bear? But that’s not it, either; I do still enjoy munching on my cold, raw apples and grapefruit.

Part of my aversion to salads may be rooted in the meals of my childhood, when “salad” meant iceberg lettuce, woody tomatoes, and wobbly cucumber slices, unceremoniously slathered with mayonnaise.  Still, I was confident that years of therapy had finally eradicated that association. No, I’ve decided that the reason for my anti-salad stance is actually twofold:  first, being basically lazy, I’ve always found it just so much work to wash, peel, and cut up all the veggies.  And second, my frugal (okay, downright cheap) nature has too often prevented me from taking advantage of time-saving salads-in-a-bag, as I’m unwilling to fork over my hard-earned discretionary spending money on those overinflated prices. You see my dilemma.

Still, once in a while I encounter a salad that does seem worth the extra effort, and today’s recipe came to mind.  Just like a fulfilling relationship, a bowl of delectable salad greens may take some work, but the result is eminently satisfying (hear that, HH?). Such is the case with several of our staple salads here in the DDD household, such as the Asian-Inspired Napa Cabbage Salad, the always-popular “Broccoli Delight” from my friend Caroline’s cookbook, or the super-easy and absolutely irresistible Raw Kale salad (“Ohh, Mum, that kale salad is our favorite!  Pick that one!”).  All these are delicious (and I’ll post recipes in future), but this time, I favored dandelion.

This simple, appealing salad accompanied our highly successful Savory Stuffed Crepes, which the HH and I enjoyed for brunch the other day.  Originally, this recipe called for the duo of pears and dandelion, but once, when I ran out of pears I subbed apples, and have now come to prefer the latter combination. 

I first tasted dandelion greens during my year studying nutrition, but had been daydreaming about them since my early twenties, when I read the novel The Bone People by New Zealand author Keri Hulme. In the book, the protagonist (an eccentric hermit whose lifestyle I sorely envied at the time) produced her own dandelion wine.  Well, if I can’t have the wine, I suppose the leaves will have to do. . . .but I would still love to sample that fermented version one day.

The salad marries a subtle, slightly sweet and creamy dressing with the bitter gusto of the dandelion.  Being high in calcium and other minerals, dandelions are a natural health food.  They’re also a great liver tonic, stimulating that all-important organ to filter the “bad” cholesterol out of the body.  And after all that booze last night. . . .well, come to think of it, I could have used a fresh juice with some dandelion leaves in it, too!

The recipe produces an abundance of fresh dressing that pools gently at the bottom of the bowl, perfect for sopping up with scraps of bread or for treating The Girls to a dressing-topped dinner. (“Um, Mum, did we hear that correctly?”) Overall, the salad is crisp, light, and very refreshing.  (“Didn’t you just say, ‘dinner,’ Mum?”) And it offers a fabulous array of minerals and vitamins. (“We were sure we heard ‘dinner.’ Isn’t that right, Mum?”)  And, as dandelion is both a high-antioxidant food and a leafy green, I’m submitting this recipe as my contribution to Sweetnicks’ weekly ARF/5-A-Day roundup (check it out on Tuesday evenings). It would make the perfect accompaniment to a healthy dinner.  (“Knew it!  Is it time yet?  So, when do we get some?“)

 Bittersweet Salad with Apples and Dandelion Greens

adapted from Enlightened Eating by Caroline Dupont

TO VIEW THE COMPLETE RECIPE, PLEASE VISIT THIS PAGE ON THE NEW DIET, DESSERT AND DOGS, BY CLICKING HERE.

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The recipe was created by the exceedingly talented Jennifer Italiano, owner of Toronto’s first all-raw restaurant and one of my personal favorites, Live Organic Food Bar (they’ve now expanded the menu options to include macrobiotic and some other cooked items). 

TO VIEW THE COMPLETE RECIPE, PLEASE VISIT THIS PAGE ON THE NEW DIET, DESSERT AND DOGS, BY CLICKING HERE.

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Remembrance of Foods Past

January 4, 2008

As our man Marcel so eloquently illustrated, it’s pretty much natural for most of us to be flooded with sensory memories when we inhale the aroma of some beloved or long-forgotten food–images come flooding back as quickly as a montage in a rap video. 

The scent of hot chocolate?  Of course: that was studying for high school metriculations, 1978.  The wafting aroma of eggplant parmesan?  That dinner party with my wacky room mate (ah, yes, the one my friend Ed said had a revolving door in her bedroom) in 1981.  The tingly, acidic rush of champagne bubbles on the nose?  The first New Year’s Eve with my HH, way back when.  Oh, and the next one.  And also our anniversary.  Oh yeah, also my birthday.  And the following New Year’s.  And this past one. . . .

Yes, food certainly elicits memories for most of us.  What’s weird about me, I’ve since discovered (among all the other things) is that the opposite is also true: memories elicit food.  What I mean is, I tend to recall past events according to the food that was present at the time.

Just the other day, my HH and I were discussing how sweet my friend Gemini I is, to always invite us to her cottage for major holidays like New Year’s Eve or Thanksgiving.  “Yeh, too bad we didn’t make it this past year,” my HH remarked. I thought for a moment, then realized we had, indeed, been there. 

“Sure, we were there, don’t you remember,” I said.  “It was the first time my gravy came out perfectly, no lumps. And Gemini II made that amazing Caesar salad in her huge salad bowl on the stand.”  (Okay, it’s true, I didn’t call her “Gemini II,” but I did say the rest of it.)  My HH had no recollection whatsoever of this.  When my HH remembers places or events, he remembers them as normal people do:  according to what happened, or where the place is, or who else was there.

Now, that’s not to say that I don’t recall those types of details as well.  It’s just that, for me, it seems major events are distinguished by the kind of food that was present.

During our first rocky summer together, my HH and I split up twice.  I will forever remember the second split, since we were at a favorite restaurant and ordered, respectively, linguine with seafood, and veggie pizza (before the days I couldn’t eat wheat).  As I sat, tears streaming down my face, my HH shoveled food mechanically into his mouth as a way to stave off the rising emotion at our impending separation.  Back in those days, untrained in how to emote (or even have a discussion with someone who was emoting), my HH seemed unable to utter the simple words, “But I don’t want to break up.”  As a result, I sat there, immobile, crying, but not touching my food. 

After a few minutes, the very solicitous restaurateur approached to inquire whether the food was not to my satisfaction (No, no it’s great, sniffle, I’m just not hungry, whimper whimper, thanks anyway, boo hoo sob sob), and then proceeded to return to the table every five minutes thereafter, sweetly attempting to encourage me to eat–anything–by placing one after the other free dishes on the table before me (I declined on the antipasto, garlic bread, and cheesecake, but did accept the wine–hey, even heartbroken, I’m no fool). 

When I think of that breakup, I always think of the food involved.  (In the end, that’s sort of what brought us back together again:  I wrote about the incident in the newspaper, and after reading it, HH contacted me to give it one more try.  In the end, what I assumed was no more than a several-night stand has endured more than a decade.)

Almost every major event I’ve experienced is somehow associated with an attendant meal, or at the least, a dish.  My ultimate date with my first love, way back during the Me Generation and Excessive Everything, was a phenomenal meal at a Detroit restaurant called The Benchmark (no longer in existence, alas).  A very posh place, far beyond the budget of a sweet, romantic History major trying to impress his girlfriend, they sure did know how to treat a couple. Led to wait for our table at the upstairs bar, we became so engrossed in our conversation (I know, youthful amour can do that to you) that we completely lost track of time and, before we realized it, more than an hour had passed.  When we inquired whether our table was ready, the horrified maitre d’ apologized profusely and offered us a free bottle of champagne as compensation for the time lost. (That brand remains my favorite). 

Later, I remember vividly the most delicious, velvety, slightly pungent and salty Cream of Olive Soup I’ve ever tasted.  Was it the company that made the soup so spectacular?  Or the fact that, as a starry-eyed twenty-something with very little experience in restaurant protocol, I was bowled over by the incredible opulence and extravagant service of the place? Who knows.  But whenever I think of ol’ Spaghetti Ears, that dinner isn’t far behind.

And what can I say, my family is weird.  (Actually, that has nothing to do with food-related memories, just a random factual statement). My sisters and I define memories based on food.  Which birthday was it?  Oh, yes, that’s right, the one with the Bo-Peep birthday cake.  Or remember when The Nurse’s boyfriend managed to quit smoking for a year and we baked him that “Happy Healthy” cake?  For years afterward, all my friends wanted a Happy Healthy when they, too, quit smoking (because in those days, everybody still smoked). 

And speaking of healthy, what about the evening–the first after I’d started on my naturopath-decreed cleansing diet–that I shared a dinner with my friend Mark? We’d actually found a restaurant willing to honor my new restrictions and serve me plain, steamed, organic vegetables and steamed basmati rice–no seasonings, no flare whatsoever.  Mid-meal, I sensed some lightheadedness and attendant dizziness.  Within minutes, the room spun and I wasn’t sure I’d make it home.  It was mid-February, snowy, and visibility was almost nil as I inched my way along the roads, gripping the steering wheel for dear life, moving no faster than 20 km per hour (that’s less than 12.4 mph, my American amigos), desperate to avoid an accident before getting back to my house.  I was so weak by the time I arrived home that my HH actually had to take my shoes off for me, before I collapsed in a heap on the bed and fell into a fitful slumber for 18 hours. My first (and only negative) detox experience.

I’m not sure why I evolved this way; maybe it was the constant parade of homemade foods in our house, the kitchen as the fulcrum of our family life, the genes I inherited from my mother’s side of the family. 

Whatever; I’m hoping I can establish a novel trend in 2008 and begin to associate milestones with healthy food, or–shockers!–nothing to do with food at all.  How about baked sweet potatoes (one of my favorites) linked with our 11th anniversary? Or a great trail-walk with The Girls encapsulated by raw Fig & Cherry Bars (recipe in a future post)? Even better, I’d love to relate significant events to other activities entirely (and no, they don’t have to be “that” kind, you naughty ones!).  Wouldn’t it be great to have strong associations with other things besides food?

Food is great, I love food, and it’s always been at the forefront of most aspects of my life, but I’ve come to learn that’s not the healthiest way to be for me.  Food will always remain a central part of most social events, but maybe in the future, it can be tempered with other important markers as well.  The next time I face a major challenge or triumph, I’d like to be able to connect it with something else, by making a conscious effort to focus on the people, or the place, or the things that contribute to that memory. 

Still, I’ll always have a soft spot for champagne and olive soup.

A Joy: Pot Luck Club

December 28, 2007

emptytable.jpg I’m still quite new to blogging, and I certainly proved it last evening.  At my house was a group of six amazing women–three whom I met at my nutrition school, one from a long-ago volunteer gig, and the last as a participant in one of my (now defunct) cooking classes–and each brought at least one fantastic, high-saliva inciting food to the table.  And I?  Yes, I, too contributed to the culinary canvas.  In fact, I added not two, not three, but four delectable dishes to the cornucopia.  But did I remember to take a photo of said table, overflowing with the bounty of our kitchens?  Uh, no.  I was so engrossed in the captivating conversation, so distracted by the eye-catching textures and colours, interesting ingredient combinations and seductively wafting aromas that I, like everyone else, simply dug in and enjoyed. 

By the time I remembered this blog and the fact that I was supposed to chronicle the evening in photos (and post it to Holidailies), it was too late.  By then, only a few solitary dregs of each food lay wilted and soggy in the bottoms of platters, bowls, and casserole dishes, far too sparse and too exhausted to submit to a photo op.  And for that, I hang my blogging head in shame.

As an attempt to make amends for my lack of forethought when it came to the buffet table, I will here recreate the menu for you, and even supply recipes!  I did, thankfully, take a couple of photos of my own contributions before the crowd arrived, so you can have a glimpse of those.

First, the menu.  What a great bunch of gals–this is the Vegan assortment they (and I) co-created:

Appetizers:

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  • * Garlicky Black Bean Dip
  • * Chickpea-mint Spread
  • * Mushroom and Walnut Pate (from Veganomicon), photo left
  • * Assortment of wheat-free crackers
  • * Homemade Veggie Spring Rolls with Asian Cranberry Dipping sauce (to die for–will definitely see if I can cadge the recipe)

Salads/Sides:

  • Caesar Salad (from Veganomicon, with a twist–see below)
  • Edamame-Cabbage and Sesame Slaw
  • Stir-fried Mixed Veggies

Mains:

  • Smoked Tofu and Veggie-Lentil Stir-Fry with Zucchini “Pasta”
  • Mushroom, Potato and Tempeh Stew (a twist on recipe from Vegan with a Vengeance)

Desserts:

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  • * Vegan Tiramisu (recipe follows!)
  • * Pumpkin-Chocolate Chip Loaves
  • * Chocolate-Cashew Bark (homemade and easy–see below)

Doesn’t everything sound amazing?  And with people just coming off all that holiday excess, this healthy yet delicious meal seemed almost ascetic.  Well, except the tiramisu, of course.

After the initial squeals of joy at seeing each other again, and the introductions (the nutrition crowd wasn’t yet familiar with the other two), we settled in to some wine or mineral water and the appetizers.  Since I’d promised at least one main and one dessert, I hadn’t planned to contribute to this particular course. But I had a surfeit of mushrooms after preparing the stew, so decided to browse my new copy of Veganomicon and came up with the Walnut Mushroom Pate.  I followed the recipe verbatim and was thrilled with the result–smooth, savory, and very rich tasting.  I seem to recall a similar reicpe from my childhood, when my mother experimented with “Mock Chopped Liver” (see, I told you she was an unwitting vegetarian). 

The other dip and spread, a chunky, minty chickpea mash and a smooth, slightly sweet black bean spread, were both delicious, but I think all the other appetizers were trumped by the absolutely mouth watering veggie spring rolls with Asian cranberry dipping sauce.  A succulent mix of veggies in a filo crust, baked to flaky perfection, then dipped in a slightly spicy, tart sauce brimming with cranberries–it was divine. 

By the time we’d cleared the buffet table of appetizers and moved to the main course,  we were all anticipating the treasures this group had brought to the table.  We began with a zingy vegan Caesar, also from Veganomicon (getting a lot of press in this post!).  I made just one adjustment to the already more or less perfect dressing recipe, mostly to accommodate my own peccadilloes and because I felt it would taste more authentically Italian this way:  I substituted roasted pine nuts for the almonds in the recipe.  Like the almonds, the pine nuts offered a slight graininess to the otherwise perfectly creamy dressing, approximating the texture of grated parmesan.  I loved, loved, loved the garlicky creaminess of the dressing, though I must admit it was a bit too pungent for most of the crowd, and that was with only 3 of the 4 recommended cloves! 

Guests also provided some sensational stir-fried veggies and Smoked Tofu mixture with veggies, lentils, and zucchini “pasta.”  The raw “pasta” is actually zucchini that’s been cut into long thin spaghetti-like threads using a Spiral Slicer.  You can approximate this idea by repeatedly grating the zucchini along its length with a carrot peeler (as if you were peeling the zucchini–but keep going even once the peel is gone).

My own addition to the menu was the savory Tempeh Stew, a variation on Isa Chandra Moskowitz’s Tofu, Mushroom and Potato stew from her first cookbook, Vegan with a Vengeance.  mushiesinpan.jpg I won’t repeat the entire recipe here, but I will tell you the changes I made:  first, instead of using exclusively cremini mushrooms (which looked a little drab and tired at my local grocer’s), I used half portobello mushrooms, for their meaty flavor and texture, and half regular button mushrooms.  This is a quick pic of the mushies after they’d been sauteed.

The combination seemed to work pretty well, allowing for a substantial chewiness along with an earthy flavor.  I also substituted tempeh for the tofu, as we were having quite a lot of tofu in other dishes and tempeh is my preference in any case.  I steamed the tempeh first in a mixture of vegetable broth and a splash of Bragg’s aminos (like soy sauce) before adding it, chunked, to the pot. 

The resulting mixture, right before it was covered for the final simmer, looked like this:

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Simmering for an additional 30 or so minutes allowed the tempeh to absorb much of the flavor, and the potatoes to soften and soak up much of the sauce.  The final product was a thickly sauced, rich tasting and lip-smacking stew that I served with some whole spelt biscuits I whipped up at the last minute–great for sloshing in the gravy.

[Later insert:  This is what it looked like, reheated the following day for lunch–mmmnn!]:

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We reveled in both the feast and the confabulation for about an hour before venturing to dessert–itself enough to fill the table with platters and bowls! 

Absolute bedlam ensued at one point while Barb recounted a visit to an alternative energy worker, the methods of whom were new to most of us (Barb included).  While treating us to her vocal imitation of the healing chant she’d heard (somewhat like the scene in When Harry Met Sally, now that I think of it), she became so animated that The Girls, who’d been sleeping peacefully in opposite corners of the living room, immediately leapt to their feet, hackles up and tails erect,  snapping and growling as they dashed to the front door to see who was there.  Much like the prophet Elijah at Passover, the poltergeist evaded their detection, and they circled the room, roused and disoriented, until we gave them each a treat to calm down, poor things.  (“It was pretty startling, you know, Mum.  She did sound rather distressed.  And we just wanted to protect you all in case someone was trying to steal the food, that’s all.”)

My friend Michelle graciously brought two treats, a container of the Mocha Hazelnut cookies I previously posted on this site, as well as some delicious Mini Pumpkin Chocolate Chip loaves, another recipe of mine that I will post here anon. 

I provided a variety of the Mostly Raw Chocolate Truffles from an earlier post as well as a dish I’d created for a customer’s Christmas party last year–Vegan Tiramisu.  I got the idea from an old recipe in Dreena Burton’s Vive le Vegan, and adapted it with my own cake and filling.  I’ll explain what I did differently from Dreena’s recipe, so you can recreate it yourself if you wish.

Dessert brought more sharing of stories and howls of laughter before everyone dispersed around 11:30 (on a school night!).  It was the most fun I’ve had in ages.  Thanks, ladies, for a great evening, filled with your talented culinary creations, thoroughly delightful conversation, and generous spirits. 

Vegan Tiramisu

This is a dish I created for a customer last Christmas, and I’ve used it many times since.  It may be vegan, but it is definitely not virtuous.  A very rich, very luscious and velvety cream filling oozes between layers of light vanilla cake drizzled with spiked coffee. The entire affair is topped off with a light whipped “cream” and then sprinkled with chocolate curls.  My HH practically swooned over this one (and let me tell you, the last time he swooned over anything I did probably dates back to the Paleozoic era, just to give you a yardstick on that).

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Ingredients:

  • one baked and cooled 9 x9 inch single-layer vanilla cake (I used my own recipe for a spelt and agave-based cake, but I think the agave cupcake recipe from Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World would work well if baked in a square pan as well).
  • Filling (recipe follows)
  • Whipped “cream” (I use a double recipe of the soymilk-based whipped “cream” from How It All Vegan, with the following changes:  I use 1 Tbsp. Sucanat instead of dry sweetener, and add 1 Tbsp. light agave nectar.  The texture is very light and quite irresistible.)
  • Chocolate curls (made by melting dairy-free chocolate chips, spreading on a plate lined with plastic wrap, and allowing to cool; then use a carrot peeler to grate along the side and the chocolate will form little curls, as you see in the photo).
  • about 1/2 to 2/3 cup cold, very strong coffee or coffee substitute, mixed with an equal amount liqueur (either coffee liquer, creme de cacao, or, as we did last evening, hazelnut liqueur (Frangelico).

Filling: I altered Dreena’s original filling recipe in the following way.  My version is really a combination of a cooked “pudding” blended with silken tofu. 

2 packages extra-firm silken tofu (aseptically packaged, such as Mori-Nu)

1 Tbsp. pure vanilla extract

2/3 cup pure maple syrup

1 cup Sucanat

1/4 cup soymilk (either vanilla or plain)

1/8 tsp. sea salt

1/4 cup organic cornstarch

In the bowl of a food processor, whir together the tofu and vanilla until perfectly smooth, scraping down sides of bowl as necessary.

In a medium pot, combine the maple syrup, Sucanat, soymilk, salt and cornstarch, and whisk to blend.  Heat over medium heat, stirring constantly, until mixture begins to boil softly.  Continue to stir or whisk constantly, cooking for one minute. 

Pour the hot mixture into the food processor along with the tofu and blend again until perfectly mixed and smooth.  Pour into a large bowl and place in refrigerator until cool, at least two hours. 

 To Assemble the Tiramisu:

In a large decorative bowl, spoon some of the filling and swirl to coat the bottom of the bowl.  Cut or tear the cake into thin strips or squares and lay down in a single layer over the filling.  Drizzle with about 1/3 of the coffee/booze mixture.  Cover with about 1/3 of the filling, and repeat with more cake, drizzle, filling, cake, drizzle and filling again, until all the filling, liquid, and cake are used up (you should have about 3 layers of each, and end with a layer of filling). 

Top the last layer with a thin coating of the whipped “cream,” ensuring no filling peeks through.  Sprinkle with chocolate curls.  Refrigerate at least 6 hours to allow cake to absorb the liquid and for flavors to meld. 

To serve, spoon into individual serving bowls, or– just to use them and because they look pretty–pull out that old set of martini glasses and use those for a decorative presentation.  Makes at least 10 servings, more if your crowd is able to exercise restraint.

Food and Warm Fuzzies

December 14, 2007

After a couple of weeks of planning and looking forward to a visit from my younger sister (we can call her the CFO), the trip was cancelled as of this morning because of the nasty storm on its way, and a forecast of 65 cm. (that’s  about 26 inches) of snow they’re expecting in Montreal.  Bummer.

It does, however, free up my weekend so that we can finally unpack the boxes still in the garage (forget about the 60 or so in the basement), hang curtains, post to Holidailies, set up chotchkes, organize my sock drawer, etc.  (“And spend time romping in the snow with us, right, Mum?  Right??”)

The aborted visit also got me to thinking about the nature of our social lives.  Here is the itinerary we’d planned:

  • Friday eve:  Sis arrives; go to our favorite Malaysian restaurant to decompress and chat over dinner.
  • Saturday AM:  sleep in; brunch at home.  Drive downtown and spend the morning browsing around Yorkville, stopping in at Whole Foods Market and the Grigorian, before heading to King Street to look at various furniture shops (even though I can’t afford any of it–but my sister, being gifted in interior design, was going to give me some hints on how to decorate this place on a budget).
  • Saturday eve:  take my sister out to dinner to celebrate her birthday.
  • Sunday:  back downtown for brunch; then to the train station to send her on her way.

Well, I’m sure you can see where I’m going with this.  Food, food, eat, food, chew, food, swallow, eat, food, food, FOOD.

True, this list is more chow-centric than my typical weekend plans.  Still, why does the addition of another person–ergo, a social group–immediately bring with it the suggestion of eating? As we all approach this most social, and most feast-laden, times of the year, it’s pretty darned difficult to find even one activity that doesn’t revolve around food.  Rich, luscious, decadent, spiked, fatty, indulgent food. 

I can see how it makes sense, but still. Since our first-ever social interaction also involves nourishment (feeding at our mother’s breast), we are born to associate food with comfort, feeling soothed, and affection.  And isn’t that what we’d all like from our family and friends, especially at this time of year? (Well, except for the breast part, that is–at least, for most of us).  So maybe the formula (no pun intended) of socializing + food = warm, fuzzy feelings of satisfaction and contentment  is just civilization’s way of allowing people to feel good about spending time with other people, and ensuring that it continues to happen. 

Otherwise, why else would we all continue to voluntarily submit to these annual holiday dinners? Ah, well, there’s definitely more to examine on this topic (food for thought?  gaak!), but I shall leave it at that for now. . . and return to my mountain-turned-molehill of essays to mark.

(“Food always makes us happy, Mum, no matter who’s around.  And, you know, we’re still warm and fuzzy, even without it.”)

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