Wednesday, October 29, 2014


Sundays have got to be my favorite day of the week. They represent relaxation and peace, good meals and family time, its the day where I just take the time to live.

When I was growing up, Sundays were always reserved for family supper, my mom would be making food all day, sometimes a roast or grilled fish with about 10 million sides and a couple dessert to boot. We were very poor when I was very young, before 10-11. I remember sitting around mashed potatoes, and plain macaroni with some carrots, and my mother would act like it was a feast. And it was, because of the time we spent together. As we got older, that's when the roasts and the abundance of food made appearances, and those suppers are memories and life lessons that I cherish. We still meet once every two weeks for a delicious supper between us. Its a beautiful tradition that I am grateful for. It taught me to sit down, eat slowly, and enjoy the people you are with.

This past Sunday, Jeff and I made breakfast for Cecile, Jeff's father in law's mother. Shes like a grandmother to us, in fact, more of a grandmother than Jeff's blood relatives. She also happens to be living downstairs from us. Side note: Ive loved the experience of living in the same house as her, we pass leftovers back and forth, she's teaching me to make a few of her dishes and vice versa. It was her birthday last Friday, and the supper that was made for her by the rest of Jeff's family was a disaster, extremely awkward and frankly, an awful, purposely cruel mess. Relations are very strained between them and us/Cecile right now, so we chose not to take part of the supper, and do our own thing. Thank goodness for that choice because I dont know how I would have reacted had I been downstairs to witness what was done and said to her. Long story short, it became extremyl important to me, to give Cecile a pleasant experience where she could look back and remember something positive. So we chose breakfast.

It was very simple. Jeff made his famous pancakes, we made some bacon and a bowl of hard boiled eggs. A large plate of fresh fruit and everything you could possibly want on pancakes. A simple tablecloth, potted flowers and candles were the tables decorations, along with very simple name tags I quickly made the night before. She had never been to a pyjama party, so we were all in our pjs. \ Just simple food and simple beauty, but it was what she needed to receive and what I needed to give. We chatted for a good two hours or so, and then it was done. When she went back downstairs, she hugged us hard and told me no one had ever done this for her before. Something so simple. People dont need things, they need moments.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Hello again!

*Being full of sickness is an excellent opportunity to catch up on long overdue LG posts*

Bonjour a tous et toutes (encore une fois)!

I am Cyn and here is a short description of myself for anyone who doesn't already know me: Im currently 27, married for 3 years, a daycare educator, and am part Greek and part Quebecois/Canadian.

Can I have a moment to say how super grown up I feel right now? :)

So, I love food and I know slash love Amy, that's how I got here! And here is my flurry of questions!


- Take a picture of the front of your fridge. What's on it and why?

Ooo, I like this one! I've got a pretty standard fridge front, on the right, top to bottom, knife sharpener, magnet my mom brought me back from Les Iles de la Madeleine, my weekly menu (I seriously wouldn't be able to function without planning a menu, seriously), a postcard of the Pope my bro-in-law brought me back from the Vatican last year (along with a rosary that had been blessed by him, a treasured gift) coupons and election papers. On the left, a postcard one of my students sent me from China where he is spending his summer, pictures of Jeff and I on our wedding day, our dogs, and a picture and postcards from my best friend who moved to England/Ireland for an undetermined period of time. As to the why, everything on my fridge either has a purpose or brings me comfort. 

- Three things you learned in the kitchen in the last year/the last five years.

Hmm.. I feel as if I've learned so much I have a hard time pinpointing 3 down. I would say resting my meat is a huge one (I thank the food channel for that). Also, how to combine different cooking techniques on the same item, ex: when I roast a pork tenderloin, right after pulling it out of the oven, I give it a quick sear in a super heated iron cast pan, then let it rest. It gives a nice textural crust to the pork while keeping the insides very tender. And lastly, my mood very much affects the food I make. For me, when I cook (especially elaborate dinners that require multi-tasking to the extreme), its like a dance. Do this, stir that, chop this, saute that, lower the temp on that, etc. If I'm not feeling good or feeling up to it, that dance is disrupted and the fails happen, So Im slowly learning to evaluate myself and what I'm capable of in the moment, rather than forcing myself to do whatever I said I was doing. Like two Sundays ago, I had my family over for dinner, and had planned this work intense fancy dinner. But with a bad head cold/allergies, my head was really really not into the game, so I threw a spaghetti sauce in the slow cooker, made a quick salad and bought a fresh loaf of bread from Premiere Moisson. Done, and I could rest all day and actually enjoy supper with my folks. Had I stuck to the previous plan, things wouldn't have turned out and I would have been stressed and upset and generally failed the entire day.

- If you have a decent budget for a small dinner party, where do you turn for food inspiration?

I looove dinner parties. I love to host. Having people in my home to cook for, to serve, to treat as if they were a king or queen, that is what I love the most. People have completely lost the art of hospitality and taking the time to enjoy company with food and beverage, so I try to make my home an oasis of good food and good love. The first thing I always do is ask for dietary restrictions and the sort, because as much as I'm inspired by that beautiful purple cauliflower, someone might be allergic to it, and then where would we be? So that being done, I then look at what I have in my fridge/freezer/pantry, and what's on sale/in season. I will choose one main ingredient to center the whole course around (i.e.: butternut squash for the entree, trout for main course, strawberries for dessert) and its only then that I start looking through my cookbooks and the internet to build on those ingredients (squash becomes a soup, trout becomes a grill, strawberries become a berry salad with gelato). Once I've got my menu firmly planned, I then go purchase my items in the store. I have walked through a store or market and pulled inspiration straight from the ingredients, but that always seems to end up costing me more than planned, and that in turn doesn't make the husband happy, which in turn reduces his enthusiasm for said dinner parties.

- Have you discovered a new favourite cook book lately? Restaurant? Ingredient?

Less of a new book/ingredient, and more a shift of my philosophy. I love to cook, we all do or we wouldn't be part of this lovely blog. But there is something to be said about raw ingredients, and the more I read about it, the more I'm convinced we (meaning my household) need to eat a diet that is much more infused with raw fruits/veggies, which is surprisingly a hard thing to do when you're used to roasting/cooking/sauteeing/steaming/grilling pretty much anything you can get your hands on. But slowly we are introducing a portion of every meal as raw, and learning what works and what doesnt (I hate raw peppers, Jeff loves them).Raw doesn't mean there's no flavoring, just forcing my brain to find different ways to adapt and adjust. 

- What were your favourite things that you've eaten in the last week?

Yesterday's supper wins this week's tasty award. Honey mustard chicken thigh (1/3 cup honey, 1/4 cup yellow mustard, 1/4 cup dijon, 1tsp paprika/oregano/crushed pink peppercorns and a couple sprigs of rosemary. Bake for 30 mns @350 in a covered pan and then uncovered for 15mns @375) served on rice, with barely steamed ginger carrots and a little tomato/basil/cuke salad. Oh and a bit of cranberry sauce my friend made for Thanksgiving.

- What do you listen to when cooking?

Everything is according to my mood. In the last four days, Ive listened to an opera play mix, Bob Marley, Snoop Lion/Dogg whatever he calls himself (dont judge me, I love his album Reincarnated so) Matisyahu and Red Hot Chili Peppers. I have no particular genre I prefer.. although I tend to put on country kitsch when I make bread (??).

- What are your favourite smells in the kitchen right now?

Ill tell you what my fave SOUND is.. I love the sound of food hitting a hot pan, especially a piece of steak or onions. 

- What has frustrated you in your food & cooking life in the last year?

This is in two parts. First thing that was a really hard thing to go through was basically the past 3 1/2 months. We moved out from our apartment into my grandmothers basement for about 1 month, and then we moved into our current location before it was completed so I couldn't really cook, apart from a slow cooker. I thought I had it all planned out and would be on top of things, but no, I really didn't. It was a nightmare, stressful, shit food everywhere, I completely lost inspirations or desire to be in a kitchen. 

The second frustration was that I learned I had Polycystic Ovary Syndrome, which among a whole bunch of other things, determined I have an insulin resistance, It answered a whole bunch of questions, like why I wasn't losing weight. Weight has been a battle for my whole life, and well meaning people always told me two things: stop eating so much/eat healthier, and start moving more (of course, these were the same well-meaning people that told me margarine was healthy). My job requires a high level of energy and movement, and my eating was healthy, fresh, and made by me (this was prior to the move), so why wasn't I losing weight like normal people? Everything was explained, and that on top of everything else was too much. The will to cook, bake, make beautiful food was completely gone, replaced by desire to be done with this eating and making food thing as fast as I could possibly do it. It was a dark 3 months, and were not out of the woods yet, but I'm finding my joy back, and most importantly my interest in the way ingredients are made, cooked, boiled, spiced, etc was renewed and I feel stronger than I was back in June. My relationship with Jeff is stronger than ever and his interest in food has been lighted as well (in fact hes cooking more than ever, and fancies himself a pancake expert... I'm inclined to agree!!)

- What do you want to get into or explore in the coming year?

DEEP BREATH... I want to go to cooking/pastry school!!! I really really do and the only reason I haven enrolled already in night class is because of our imminent move in July.. when Jeff graduates, we might be moving across country depending on where he will start his career. It could be in Vancouver or right here in Montreal, we just dont know, and so I cannot start something I would have to drop before I finished.

- Write a haiku about one of the following: a kitchen fail, a kitchen win, the last time somebody cooked for you, eating outside, or dining with friends.

Although I think most of us are on fb and have seen this, Im going to repost it just because. This is literally what I look like when I cook, all the time.

My apron is my armor; my wooden spoon, my sword. 
I will fight the wars of my world with food, love, and kindness. 
I have no weapon in my arsenal more appropriate or more powerful.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

paul george pezold, 1944-2014

Rewind to the beginning of the fall semester.

sterile elevators

a dark house, a dirty sink

blinking against 2:47 am

harrowed eyes in my bed

--no. that's too soon.

Rewind to before the end of the summer semester, when I rose at 4:30 in vain efforts to calm my frantic soul-body, fraught with knots that only a cocktail of stimulants and evasive instruction could plot--so calculated and deep that even when I lay down on my frigid concrete floors, I could feel my back contort against the even surface. I often found myself at the foot of my makeshift desk, rummaged from the nearby dumpster, cheek and temple making contact with cool stone.

Respite only called in Calloway, home to Matt's family farm. Mary would always ask how things were going and with a knowing, compassionate smile, pull fresh sheets out of the dryer for the guest room. She is a reserved, 4"11-tall pillar of wisdom and faith. She knew I'd be staying the night, again.

"Oh, hullo, Sam."

Signature plaid shirt, cap emblazoned with a deer or tractor, a deep stoop in his posture.

Years of hard work, many of which involved sitting in poorly-designed, delivery-truck seats not made for extended sitting, I was told.

"How's Samson? How's your grandma?"

Paul always opened with the same questions.

"You need...any more sweet potatoes?"

"Did you see our raspberries growing?"

"Ya ever ride in a four by four, Sam?"

"Is pie a big deal in Canada?"

Paul loved sweets. He loved ice cream. I always brought some over to impress, and in efforts to win the family over.

When we would sit down to eat family dinners, I observed. Two semesters of anatomy and physiology of the speech mechanism will make you a creep at the dining table. You stare at people. Swallowing. Masticating. Wondering. Bolus squeezing past the faucial pillars, larynx pulling up. Paul often coughed as he was swallowing. It bothered me, but I know it is common for older individuals to aspirate. Peristalsis slows down. Things degenerate. This I knew, but for some reason, I couldn't stop fixating on Paul coughing. I hadn't thought of it at the time, but Mary never aspirated food. She never coughed. How old were they? Aspirating food into the airway can be a sign of neurological dysfunction. But I didn't ask.

What did I know? I had no professional opinion developed as of yet. I was just here, by some miracle of God and friendship, at this Missouri dining table, thinking of the journey of our garlic red potatoes made, from a patch of land just outside the sliding doors, expanding against the snug earth, dug up by hard hands, sheared of their skin, shimmying in oil, and finally bursting into energy upon meeting everyone's roaring tummy.

"We're out of eggs, Paul."

We'd already eaten breakfast. Mary wakes up early and normally fries sausage patties, potatoes for herself and Matt; eggs with the works for me and Paul. They had a system worked out--I didn't know what. She does almost all of the cooking in the house. Her sons grill every week, but Mary always takes care of meals. Mary was a caterer for over 20 years--Matt teases me about how my cooking will never match up to his mom's. It makes me angry, but truth be told, what I have shown off of my cooking abilities have been less than impressive. I blame it on the vegan blueberry muffins I tried to make for him that exploded in the oven. Yes. EXPLODED.

Paul was outside, perhaps getting produce ready for the market. I had always meant to go with them to help, but coursework was simply overwhelming.

I reached into a cookie jar to help myself to Mary's vegan coconut-oat cookies. Coconut crack, simply addictive. Her wink and nod of approval was cut off by a commotion--she ran outside, Paul was clutching his foot. She scurried back inside and called for Matt. He was showering. She turned to me and said, "Would you mind driving Paul down the road to get eggs from the neighbor? Something stung him." It was the first time I'd seen her anywhere near worked up about anything. Paul was also undergoing treatment for colon cancer, and treatments had been making him tired. I understood why she was worried.

"I'll be FINE!" I could hear Paul fuming from the door. I looked back at Mary.

"He doesn't seem to--"

"You should GO with him."

Never having seen a stern look on her face, I grabbed my keys and moved fast.

But Paul was already in his truck, revving up the engine. I stuck my head in the passenger window.

"Paul, I've never seen real chickens before!" I blurted out. "Can I go with you anyway?"

His furrowed brow melted into the smug look the rural only have reserved for the urban.

I hopped into the dusty truck, and we chatted as the old pick-up ambled down the road.

He pointed out the old post office. The old bank. Who lived there now. How long they had been there for. Whether he realized it or not, Paul loved sharing stories of his upbringing. I liked to listen. He knew everyone who lived on either side of the gravel roads, and I heard all of their stories.

We finally turned into the driveway of a gorgeous property. It looked like something right out of Martha Stewart--but no, whoa, whoa. This was the real thing. Fuck Martha Stewart.

I waited for Paul to get out of the truck. I hung back, waiting for him to make his way up the pristine white steps of his neighbor's veranda. He never complained of pain, but he was limping noticeably.

He greeted his neighbor, and I peeked into the house. A neat, clean kitchen. Copper pots gleamed from their nooks on the walls. Painted hens and roosters everywhere--and it was tasteful. Not kitschy.

Paul introduced me, but his neighbor was tight-lipped. I grinned, nodded hello, and took my cue to back off.

I stood on the porch as Paul made smalltalk.

I looked out onto the land. A wide plot of land was designated for the chickens. I was dazlled by the sight of regal birds pecking at sun-dappled grass. So clean, so expansive. I reached for my pocket to take a picture. It's empty. A surge of disappointment electrifies my body.

This was purely idyllic.

"Can she go out and look at the chickens?"

I whirled around as I heard Paul's request. The lady was still wary of me. I have been told that southern hospitality is a joke.

"Sam's from the city. You know, she ain't never seen any real chickens before and she really wanted to come see them. She's from Canada, you know. Real far away."

She reluctantly agreed, and Paul hobbled down the steps, and pushed the gate open for me as if to say, "Don't mind her." I stepped out onto the grass, relishing in the sight of the multicolored hens jolting forward and back. The sun was warm and streamed in soft rays through the large chicken coops.

Back in the truck, Paul laughed. I craddled the cartons of eggs in my lap.

"One more thing to cross off your bucket list, huh, Sam?"

Fast forward to Montreal. I'm having trouble adjusting to being back home. Matt calls--Paul has pneumonia. I don't understand. It is later revealed that he's been aspirating, which caused the pneumonia. I still don't understand. Why pneumonia now? He'd always aspirated food.

One evening, Matt's voice shakes. He's calling from the hospital. It's a brain tumor.

But where is it? I press.

Near the right ear.

I come up with dozens of possibilities. There's a benign tumor that grows on the hearing nerve. That is likely it, I say confidently. "Has your dad been dizzy?" Hard to tell, the chemo injections had been making him nauseous. I knew the answer to that. I was in denial myself.

Friday morning.

I'm relieved to come home to Missouri. It's odd, but that's exactly how I worded it in my head. My loft with my cuddly cat. A loving family that led me rediscover the simple goodness of meat and potatoes. A good man who serves me and sits next to me while I do my homework.

Matt greets me at the airport, I try to make him laugh. I have 2 huge bags, not to mention overflowing carryons. My flight was delayed, it's almost 1 am. We make the drive to his cousin's place near the airport. Matt's quiet. I tell him I've missed every inch of him. I try to distract him. He has dark bags under his eyes. We plan on leaving early in the morning to see his dad at a local hospital. He's had surgery, but hasn't really been responsive in the last week.

We get a call from Matt's mom at 4 am. "You need to come now." Matt is distressed and his voice breaks with exhaustion. I jump to volunteer and drive the two-hour route. Adrenaline gets us there safely.

Matt's sister-in-law envelops me in a big hug when she sees me. I've always liked her. She's spunky and sarcastic and lives next door on the farm. Her eyes are bloodshot.

Matt's eldest sister is also happy to see me. She runs multiple veterinarian offices with her husband. She always brings Samson his special cat food and never asks for anything in return.

"Dad was asking about you, Sam. He said, 'Is Sam back yet from Canada?'"


Matt's dad has been transferred to another hospital. Just after lunch, his oxygen levels are dangerously low. The floor lobby is flooded with family members.

By mid-afternoon, the hospital staff puts up a laminated picture of a rose on his door.

I am disgusted by the gesture.

"We're not helpless here. We've got arsenal." An eloquent nurse reassures that they are doing all they can to make him comfortable.

An in-law says, "I just hope it's fast. My grandma hung on for TWO WEEKS breathing."

The nurse doesn't think it will be much longer until he passes.

The priest comes by to pray. I am outside holding an inconsolable granddaughter. She doesn't know if she wants to see her grandpa like this, but is torn thinking she may regret not seeing him one last time.

It's getting late. I offer to get food for everyone. 22 people, to be exact.

At the grocery store, I pick up ready-made foods that I normally would not have eaten in that combination. Coleslaw, overcooked green beans, cheesy potato casserole. I pick out dessert--he would have liked that.

Paul, this isn't the right time. What if Matt and I get married? Please. Please hang in there. 

Everyone is ready. But Paul defies everyone, and keeps breathing throughout the night and into the next morning.

He is taken home. He breathes for another two weeks.

There is a deafening silence without Paul. Whenever my car crunches gravel up the farm's driveway, I expect to see him in his plaid shirt, tending to the garden or coming out of the barn holding tools. I expect him to be there. When I sit at the table to eat, I expect him to be coming in through the door from feeding the cows, or the horse.

My expectation is but a memory. I am haunted thinking of everything left behind. A tractor he won't drive. A coat he won't wear. A cap that will stay on the shelf. Confused dogs that wander in search of their owner.

A thought crosses my mind as a I step out of my car. Does Paul only exists in memories now? In pictures, videos?

I know this is wrong. I know Paul exists outside of the material world.

But nothing moves the same way on the farm anymore. Not the flowers, the animals, or even the water.

"Hey love, can I get leeks from the farm when they're done growing?"

"I don't think my dad planted leeks this year."

"You had them last year."

"You know, my dad only planted them last year because you told him you liked leeks. And you ran a website about leeks."

"I don't run it, Amy more like runs it. Anyway, it's not just about leeks!"

 "Well, whatever. They don't typically do well at the market, but he planted them because he knew you liked them."