Five Things

April 21, 2008

Well, the HH and I just returned yesterday from a quick weekend jaunt to Montreal to visit with family and friends (more on that next time), which means I haven’t had time to cook over the past few days.  A food post will have to wait, and so. . .  

Since I was tagged recently by the lovely A-K of Swell Vegan to tell 5 things about myself, I thought I’d share those those today instead.  Spending 6 hours in the car yesterday did afford some time to think of new things to include (which seems to be getting harder and harder, as the blog itself more or less broadcasts such info daily!).  Here goes:

1) Even though I was born and raised in Montreal, I am one of those few ex-Montrealers who prefers Toronto to my native city.  I moved here in 1983 and feel as if Toronto is where I really grew up and developed an adult identity.  I love that Toronto is the most multicultural city in the world; that it’s number three in the world (only after New York and London) for live theater; that it hosts the “premier[e] film festival in North America” as well as North America’s largest literary festival; that it’s the original home of comedic greats like Mike Myers, John Candy, Eugene Levy, Martin Short and Jim Carrey; that is has fantastic, world-class restaurants, as well as personal favorites like this and this and this. So come on, visit!  I’d be happy to show you around when you’re here. 🙂 (And no, I don’t work for the tourist bureau!)

2) I am a real sucker for sappy movies and even some television commercials: like every female character in Sleepless in Seattle who was confronted with that scene in An Affair to Remember, I turn on the waterworks if I watch anything sentimental (and especially anything with sad puppies. . .*sigh*).  When my sisters and I were kids, we’d tease my mother mercilessly about her “soft” streak.  For years, I was mortified to have inherited her mushiness; more recently, however, I’ve just come to accept it.  So, I’m a sap; what the heck.  (The first time the HH observed this trait in me, he had glanced over as we sat beside each other in a darkened movie theater; there I was, silently watching the film, my cheeks streaming with tears. At first, he found this odd behaviour a bit alarming; nowadays, he just rolls his eyes and hands me a tissue).

3) Some people are ocean people; some are woodsy-forest people.  I’m in the latter group (it’s one of my “dog-like qualities,” the HH tells me).  One of my friends was literally so drawn to the ocean that she quit her job and moved across the country to live near it.  My own dream home would be situated smack in the middle of a huge forested lot, surrounded by meadows and trees of every kind and trails along which The Girls could gambol to their hearts’ content. I love the smells of the forest–pine trees, damp mossy patches after a rainfall, maple sap, fresh grass and even the scent of dandelions.  And since walking is my favorite form of exercise, I love a good walk through the woods (though am not a huge fan of the creepy creatures who inhabit it–viz, bugs, snakes, spiders, etc.) This isn’t to say that I don’t wish to remain close to civilization, of course–just that I want enough space around my home to see trees and green in every direction. 

[“Love to gambol, Mum! Yes, please, go ahead and get that property!”]

4) I wrote my PhD thesis on a little-known American short-story writer named Katherine Anne Porter.  I read her novella, Pale Horse, Pale Rider, as an undergrad, and felt such a strong connection to it that I immediately went out and devoured the rest of her works; I decided then and there that I’d have to write about her.  While researching my thesis, I discovered that I was even more entranced by her astonishing life–much stranger than fiction–than her writing.  To learn more about her, you can go here.

5) Even though I studied English literature and psychology in university, in a game of Trivial Pursuit, I’d excel most at the category, “popular culture.”  I thoroughly enjoy most movies, television, and trashy magazines.  I am addicted to a soap opera  (thankfully, only one)–something else I inherited from my mother–and I watch faithfully while plodding along on my treadmill.  If I ever won one of those contests to have a cameo role on my soap, I’d be in New York City before you could say “Procter and Gamble.”  In fact, I once created a course at the college where I teach, called “Serialized Fictions,” which dealt with Victorian serial novels, radio serial dramas, serialized comic books, and, yup–soap operas.

Well, for this one, I think I won’t tag anyone specific, but will open up the fun anyone who’d like to play along.  Consider yourself tagged!

Dreams of Chocolate

February 23, 2008

Nope, not one.  Not a single one.  Not even the tiniest smidgen of one. 

That’s right: for the first time ever in my adult life, I have not seen ONE of the movies nominated for Best Picture tomorrow night. (And YOU thought I was going to say “not one piece of chocolate!  Ha ha on you!! Well, I haven’t had a single smidge of that, either.)

And that is all I will be saying about the Oscars.

I’ve decided that I must have been a cacao overlord in a previous lifetime, and now as part of my atonement, I’m seeing chocolate, chocolate everywhere–just when I’m trying most to avoid the stuff (for those of you who just joined us in medias res, I’m attempting a detox to clear my body of the influence of the Devil Chocolate–and so, the Week of Chocolate Asceticism). 

As I mentioned before I began my week, I did whip up a few delectables before I started so that the blog wouldn’t be entirely bereft of the sweet stuff for the entire time.  Then, last night, I even dreamt of some new chocolate-based dessert I could make! 

And, of course, other bloggers are flinging chocolate this way and that, directly into my field of vision all this week: Eat Me, Delicious has just posted about a mouth-watering Chocolate Cookie Bark; The Good Eatah made a very rich, very creamy chocolate pudding;  Vegan Noodle of Walking the Vegan Line made some wicked-looking truffles; Hannah made her own–homemade!–white chocolate bar; that rascal, Michael Clayton, made nothing; Cate from Sweetnicks made Chocolate Pots de Creme (how did she find the time??) and Ivonne from Cream Puffs in Venice has even devoted an entire month to the stuff (please, somebody save me!)

And so, I decided I couldn’t escape it.  Although I am still determined not to let one mote, not one spec, not one shaving, not one MOLECULE of chocolate enter my mouth until I’ve given my system a decent break, I thought a little virtual indulgence wouldn’t do any harm.   

So here I’ll share some photos of chocolate-based recipes I’ve played with over the past few weeks, as well as some goodies I had to bake for customers.  

When I expressed some dismay that I wouldn’t be able to taste-test any of my catered goods, my friend’s very helpful teenaged daughter piped up:  “Well, you could just take a bite, chew it, and then spit it out.” Remember that episode of Sex and the City, where Miranda has dinner with an ex-boyfriend?  And they haven’t seen each other in years, and when they do, he’s lost a ton of weight?  And then they go out to eat at a swanky NYC restaurant, and he orders steak?  And then she catches him spitting a gnarly, saliva-soaked wad of chewed steak into his napkin?  Yep, that’s the one. And so you see why I couldn’t take the daughter’s advice. 

As it turns out, I’ve made most of these items several hundred times, so I didn’t have to break my WOCA and sample anything. 

The first item was a Double Chocolate Mint Explosion Cookie, part of the treats table at a birthday party.  These are fudgy on the inside, just slightly crispy on the outside–a definite winner with kids and adults alike. 

dblmintexplcookie.jpg

Then I revisited a recent experiment with vegan chocolate-covered caramels (to which I must devote an entire post, anon):

caramelclose.jpg

After that, the chocolate rush subsided a bit, leaving just the chips in a Chocolate-Chip Blondie, baked for a school event (yes, indeedy, that is a kitchen towel behind the plate):

blondietower.jpg

 Next up, a Chocolate Satin Tart.  These were a holiday item last year, which I baked for a vegan meal-delivery service here in Toronto to give to their customers (I hear they’re thinking of expanding to Calgary, where the Canadian Music Awards–called the Junos–are taking place this year).  A shortbread-like crust is filled with chocolate ganache, then dusted with cocoa:

silktart1.jpg

And I ended the virtual pig-out with a memory of a recent experiment, with sugar-free, gluten-free chocolate buttercream frosting:

cupcakegffrost.jpg

After this heady daydream, I felt prepared to snack on my lovely carob pudding, or raw fig and cherry bars (recipe to follow eventually).  And while it’s true that this No-Chocolate Land is a tough place to be (and it’s no country for old men, either, believe me),  I do feel more energetic, a bit more in balance, and happy about my healthy eating ths week.

WOCA Update:  Big, massive, seismic cravings today. And just when I thought they’d all passed!  Serves me right for being so smug about it last post.  But I shall persevere. . . I shall battle the demon with all my wits and all my inner resources. . . and I shall overcome. . . the scourge. . . that is Chocolate! Watch out; it’s possible there will be blood. (Oooh. Do you think I could maybe get away with just one little, tiny, eensy-weensy piece?  Naw, didn’t think so.)

And to those of you who watch them, enjoy the Oscars tomorrow (and sorry about that Juno reference.  It was either that or mention the mythological daughter of Saturn.)

[All of these recipes will appear in my upcoming cookbook, Sweet Freedom, along with more than 100 others, most of which are not featured on this blog.  For more information, check the “Cookbook” button at right, or visit the cookbook blog.]