Tag Archives: cooking

Summer Supper on Scotchmere Drive

Perhaps the best part of my special Saturday evening was not knowing I was going to the wonderful country church supper and suddenly finding myself there. Invited along by my sister-in-law and her friends I was included at the last minute. Unfortunately another,who held the ticket for the annual event had taken ill. Fortunately for me I was the one generously called as a stand in. With the most perfect late summer weather, a beautiful family farm setting, no mosquitoes, excellent food, great music and friendly company it was an unexpected treat.

The event at the McGugan Farm was a Pork and Corn Roast sponsored by North Caradoc St. Andrews Presbyterian Church. The setting (Strathroy, Ontario) was like something from a picture on a Canadian Country Calendar. Beautiful countryside, country road, huge shady trees, towering cornfields, lovely well kept heritage family farm, wide expanse of lush green lawn and a big drive shed set up for a feast. An estimated gathering of almost three hundred people gathered together to enjoy this home-style supper.  Very good music filled the air. It was the right kind of music, the kind that told a story and made you think back. One or two of the songs really got to me and that is why I think I was inspired to write this post on my blog. However, it was more likely the combination of all the elements I’ve mentioned that just seemed to be special and when I am moved this way, I write.

While thoroughly enjoying the tasty food, people watching, listening to music I constantly had the feeling that this was indeed something to share on my blog. After all, someone had shared with me so I could be there. Just being in the moment. Pies and butter tarts, homemade, ice cream on the side stretched out on a long table. Little kids, adorable, with families gathered. A hay wagon, tempting platform for the little ones to climb on. Lawn chairs in the shade. Tables set up in the drive shed. Food in bowls, platters, some nestled in icy buckets. Hot food, baked potatoes, beans, pork roast and corn on the cob and cold chilled salads.

Help yourself style with many helping their elders and their youngsters. The farm host, mingling and carrying a basket of raffle tickets, listening to my request to write about the supper. Buttertarts, like the wonderful buttertarts I shared with some folks there may have spurred me on as well. A wonderful country church supper all around and it was just what I needed. (Oh, and the peach pie… I can’t forget the peach pie. Yes, I had both.)

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Ever Bearing Berry Seasons

At about 9am yesterday morning I bought some wild black raspberries at our tiny farmer’s market. Gladly I paid three dollars for the large container. I know the young person selling the berries and I know she found them growing wild in this immediate area. As soon as I saw the berries I immediately thought of my mom and her berry picking excursions that usually included me very much against my will. At this point I started telling the group of neighbours gathered at the teeny market about some of the very close to the surface memories of my mom. They suggested I write about these preserved thoughts and as I have had a patch of dried up and fruitless writing lately I turned on the computer .I picked my usual late hours to produce this mixture of plucked recollections, revised a few words here and there and went by my old recipe of writing from the heart.

Throughout her youth, maturity and old age my mom was in tune with the seasons and made the very most of every available harvest. Berry picking was one of the most tedious things I could think of doing as I was not as motivated as she was by the hard work, strain, heat, exhaustion and endless boxes of berries from our own patch or from other commercial sources. I would rather read, act out stories, play with our puppies and daydream.

Despite this attitude I continued as the many years went by to  suggest to mom that if she would like to go berry picking I would go along or drive her to a local “upick” place as I knew it  would be fun for her. Once we were driven  by a farmer to the very back of a huge field and dropped off for the day so she could pick to her heart’s content. She was well over ninety years old, decked out in shorts and long sleeved shirt with a berry pail attached to her waist with a belt and jauntily wearing a sun hat and her favourite white nurse’s shoes and ankle socks. She was pretty impressive and caught the attention of several younger pickers working their way down the enormous patch. When she saw student pickers taking a break and resting she gave them a piece of her mind and told them they better get busy picking berries if they wanted to make any money. My job was to run the boxes of berries she picked to the end of the rows so they could be gathered up at the end of the day’s pickathon.That day my legs ached and I sweltered in the heat  in total sympathy with the  student pickers but she seemed  content and very proud indeed of her huge harvest. We drove around later to show the relatives what she had picked like  it was some kind of athletic achievement  to have the entire car full of  stacked flats of berries !

Another time at another upick farm and she was in awe of the size of the operation. It was almost impossible to get her to leave the place. She seemed to feel it was her responsibility to pick over the already picked rows to glean the berries missed by others. I pointed out that other rows were untouched and just hanging with ripe fruit but she was determined to give these so called picked rows another going over just for the challenge of finding berries other people, unskilled in extreme berrypicking missed entirely. She stood by our car finally with all the berries we picked and was a bit miffed at having to pay the  required full price by the owner.She had a point. These berries were the ones left by others, under the leaves and close to the ground. They had  been picked and salvaged, saved from waste by her expertise. These berries had been given the treatment her own berry patch was used to, a thorough going over, a picked patch, a job well done.

Again I was glad to finally get her out of there and home for supper. After eating a warmed up dinner of leftovers and several cups of strong tea and a soup bowl of fresh berries with sugar and milk we would face the cleaning and snuffing of the berries. I would sometimes help for a short time and then beg off to go home with excuses of lesson planning or childcare responsibilities. Mom would spend hours cleaning, snuffing, preserving and freezing the fruit, well into the night and totally pleased with her product. These berries made their way into pies and jam for the family and anyone else who would drop in for a visit.

The work she loved on the farm was like this every single day. Involved, committed, determined it was like an industrial project yet fuelled by her love of nature, gardening, farming and family. There were many such excursions and many similar experiences with home-grown fruit and vegetables . All of them are ripe memories just bursting forth at the moment, poised and ready to be simply touched, held and admired for what they are worth. They are inspired by the one box of wild black raspberries gleaned in the bushes and brambles by my young neighbour, undaunted by mosquitoes and the heat. I think I got a deal.

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The Porthole, Melbourne, Ontario, Canada.

Simply stated,The Porthole, the little coffeeshop is right downtown in Melbourne,Ontario. Downtown is marked clearly across the street on another heritage building that appears to be quite retired at the moment. Around the intersection of downtown Melbourne, Ontario there are some business concerns and agricultural spots but as far as I can tell, The Porthole is the only place to eat. On my drive today in search of out of the way places I drove past the little place a couple of times before deciding to try it out.

Country style, no fuss, just come on in and what will you have?

Drawn to the serving counter first I was met by the nicest soul and within minutes of chatting with her I had the story of the place. While finding out about The Porthole I could also sense the connection this wonderful lady had with the folks gathered there. As a newbie on the scene amongst a table of beautiful seniors, another table of friendly locals, several weathered handsome farmers, a few younger, slightly weathered handsome farmers and another artsy looking chap in a leather cowboy hat I felt like I was just one of the gang.

Back in the kitchen a couple of young women cooked our lunches but one ( who turns out to be the owner I believe) also came out on request to banter with one of the comical regulars. The scene was fun and unscripted and as good as anything you might see at Blyth. Around the corner of the kitchen wall I think I could see an old time pie safe or icebox. In any other place it would be all tricked out as a décor touch but not in this place. It was just part of the furniture.

Some sailing décor, in keeping with the name is there. Sailing is hardly a pastime in this spot as it is just farmland for miles around. The owners had at one time had a connection with Port Stanley and so the name, The Porthole. Social doings in the community like barbeque suppers are clearly posted, Girl Guide cookies were promoted at the counter and several squirrel and birdfeeders hang jauntily from the ceiling.

My lunch was good, especially the fries. The fries made me think of the kind of fries you get at the local fair. Coffee was good and in a big mug served with extra cream right from the carton. I didn’t ask to see the menu but I bet it is a good place to get good country food any season.

I will be going back to get another helping of a good lunch, a bit of banter and the warmth of human kindness.

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Yard Work, Digging Mostly

Keeping me on my toes, the gathering of two family members, a neighbour, my librarian and  her daughters, I went ahead with my night to meet and encourage other community writers.

The sensory games and  creativity ideas were tried. Some poetry, mine and another’s ( a professional) published piece were read. A story about the influences of the neighbour attending the event, upon my writing, was pulled for my stockpile and read in it’s entirety. We ate fruit and dessert squares. Another evening, led by me, encouraging young writers was planned for the summer.

In the meantime, stories and threads of ideas were revealing themselves, The group dynamics were interesting. From the mixture of a very small gathering came ideas of reading with very young children, the trauma of  caring for elderly pets,decluttering household contents and wondering about the unforeseen future, knitting, crochet, tatting, hooked rug making, church yard sales, baking, cooking, reading cookbooks, dealing with children, throwing away blackened pots of burnt spaghetti, recalling the chores of working with father in the barn milking the cows and going to the mill and cleaning the house, despising those awful hooked rugs so heavy to drag from the upstairs bedrooms all the way downstairs to air them and clean them while sister baked, studying French and setting up a writing blog …. one that the mom , the librarian, can’t read because it will be all about her according to one of the young daughters.

At the conclusion of the evening another neighbour arrived. A young mother returning her library books, noticing us finishing up the brownies and the fruit tray, realizing we were a bit over the closing hour at the library. Familiar to me, a neighbour, we often say hello. I knew she was a fellow teaching colleague on maternity leave and an artist. Now I know she writes a blog. From just skimming through some of her blog posts I’ve also discovered that her husband is a poet.

All in all, a successful gathering . A very small community gathering of supportive people just planting the seed and nudging together the warming circle of stories, ideas and creativity.Tending a word garden takes effort and patience and with a sprinkle or two of interest it might even take root.

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Pretty Much It

Neck high in the snow drifts is just one problem for a short and stocky bulldog. Over the head scary snowdrifts bank the roadway but smell very nice due to high squirrel traffic. The laneway is short and filled with two cars but it has a build up of ice that slows grandma down when she agrees to a outdoors session. At the end of the lane is a nice little brown collie and shepherd mix dog that has the privilege of sometimes running around loose to play and provides a fun break from the day to day short walks. The rest of the day is a bowl in the morning and one at night, Sleep periods in the sun on the old brown chair, play with the treat kong for a few minutes, brief business trips out the door, sleep periods on the warm floor intermixed with sleep periods on the soft white blanket on the couch and sleep periods on the wooly blue blanket on the best recliner. Spurts of sudden activity randomly engage the little bulldog girl when the ninja cat appears from behind the bedroom door. Grandma is close by, cooking things, doing laundry, tapping on the keyboard of her computer at all hours or sitting, resting, reading and drinking tea.Life in the country is pretty much as expected.

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Creative Recovery

Sleeping arrangements are fluid and depends on who gets the bed or basket or recliner

there will be

no television

when there isn’t enough

room

for both on the recliner so

pretending

to work at the computer is so boring and yet

comforting

it fakes

enough

that sleeping resumes and then television and a cup of tea is manageable

a constant supply of cheap food with pull

back lids set upon

a tea

towel on

a high level is tolerable

as loads

of laundry wind down to floor

mats and duvets and random

socks

yet still there are bins and baskets and bags and general loose ends that are set aside while swollen ankles ache and frozen shoulder seizes

dishes are reasonably clean and dirty

in a cycle of day to day existence in the middle of this shift in family, possessions, luggage, pets and dreams

while here

at the centre is a maternal management

worse for wear and exhausted by worry yet hopeful and proud

ignoring winter salt stains on the boots and the grit by the door for a little while longer until the sun warms and melts and the green shows through

perhaps revealing some

solutions

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Write Now

When I see a recently retired friend, neighbour or complete stranger I rarely bring up the fact that they are retired. I don’t think I’ve really ever made much of the fact that they are retired as it really isn’t my business and there are so many more things to talk about. However ,when I am out and about and run into these folks I am almost without fail asked about how I occupy my time these days in retirement.

Answers vary. Sometimes I say I do artsy things but that really confuses people. Sometimes I list things like…I go to the theatre, visit friends, read, write, putter around, cook, take care of things, pay bills and play with my sister’s grandchildren.

This really concerns some people.

They wonder if this is enough for me considering that in the years previous to retiring from teaching elementary school, I worked non stop, raised my son as a single parent, dealt with a very difficult divorce, helped my elderly mother, lead drama workshops, gardened, walked my dog, supervised a couple of cats, had a tearoom, baked pies and tea biscuits for the tearoom, did community theatre things such as organize, write, direct and perform as well as volunteer for front of house, usher, set dressing, costumes, dresser for actors and promotion of productions, taught Sunday school, sang in the church choir, exercised with friends, fixed ( as in paid for) a never ending pile of old stuff in and around my very old house including several vehicles, rented a couple  of cottages, drove up north on adventures to entertain my young son on his summer holidays, cut grass, did yard work, took dance classes, drama and professional qualifications courses, hung out with several very good friends, tried dating again with very limited success because I am a” jerk magnet”, lost a pile of weight, gained the weight back again, worked on never ending decluttering projects, scrounged and saved to put my son through university and support him in his theatrical pursuits and generally coped with stuff.

Now I continue to do theatre things with my adult son, enjoy my extended family, visit libraries “for fun”, read obsessively, blog, write a bit here and there, go to book talks, poetry nights, theatre outings with the girls, stay up late, watch foodie programs, cook a little, go to small farmer’s markets, visit a bit with my closest friends, supervise the golden years of a very old cat, provide dog babysitting for my son’s bulldog at the drop of a hat, do errands, fix things as usual, grow a few things, sit on my recliner, my porch and my yard swing watching the world go by, cope with my arthritis issues, try to be as healthy as possible and sometimes I even make it to church.

However, I don’t make a big deal out of finding out what others do in their retirement because I am a tad sensitive to the judgement of such an inquiry.

I never ask. I just write.

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