Safely Spring

I think we can safely say it’s spring. The snowdrops are still going strong in my garden, but daffodils, crocuses and even cherry blossoms are appearing here and there, too. More importantly, my rhubarb is starting to get going. It won’t be long before I can start using it and picking up more at the market, because I always need more than I produce.

I’m making a list of new rhubarb recipes to try, along with my perennial favourites. I’ve posted about a few on the blog, here are some highlights:

A crumb topping and a cookie crust that hold a rhubarb-lime treasure.

Who needs pineapple when there’s rhubarb around? For another take on this theme, you can try these.

Roasted rhubarb equals rhubarb in/on/instead of everything.

Incredible jam leads to even more incredible jammers.

An epic rhubarb adventure with my nieces.

In the meantime, I’m enjoying peak citrus and even the apples that are still quite good at this time of year. I managed to quell my impatience for spring by catching up on the Crumb-Topped Apple Bars that the Tuesdays with Dorie crew tackled in October. They didn’t last long, so I’m going to make some time for the spring-like meringues everyone (organized) made for this week’s recipe. Then, perhaps, it will be time to start harvesting the first stalks of rhubarb. One can hope.

2017 Shows No Signs of Slowing Down

An icy intersection

It’s been quite a year so far, hasn’t it? Vancouver came sliding into 2017 on a tide of ice, but the year seems to resemble much more dynamic weather so far. Here are some of the things contributing to the first twenty days’ whirlwind, along with a few things that may help ground you as 2017 continues to bluster.

Political Shifts

Canadians were looking south today, as a new President takes the U.S. in a drastically different direction. Canada, huge in area but small in population, is particularly dependent on trade with our next-door neighbour for much of our economic well-being. So it comes as no surprise that Canadians will be marching in solidarity with the Women’s March on Washington, including in Vancouver.

With Canada’s Conservative Party leadership contest sounding many of the notes that defined the U.S. Presidential race, it might be time to look at how our understanding of political divides needs to change. This New Statesman piece is centred on British realities, but these divisions seem to be holding true in many Western democracies.

Bloggers Get Real

I know I’m not the only one who wishes they could still run to The Toast in times like these, but sites like The Establishment and The Belle Jar are helping to salve the loss. (I’d love to hear your about your favourite feminist/literary/pop culture/smart writing sites, too, if you’d like to share.)

Speaking up has become the topic of much debate in the food-blogging sphere, as Dianne Jacob explores in a piece that uses posts by Lindsay Ostrom and Molly Wizenberg as a jumping off point for questions about the risks and benefits of radical honesty in a niche that is often constrained by a perceived need to please everyone.

Cooking It Out

As important as it is to stand up and be counted, to keep abreast of world events, and to communicate our personal realities deeply with one another, sometimes it’s good to find relief in the arts and in some more homey pursuits like cooking.

There’s a new opportunity to cook the stress away coming up next month. The fabulous Andrea of The Kitchen Lioness is reconvening The Cottage Cooking Club for a six-month journey through River Cottage Every Day and Love Your Leftovers.

Or you could drown your sorrows in indulgences like Dine Out Vancouver or the Hot Chocolate Festival, to recharge for the next round of fate’s slings and arrows.

“Line them up right here.”

East Van Foliage

It’s been quite a week, with the implications of Brexit to decipher, Vancouver developers making the most of the perfect spin on our housing crisis, and the end of that most perfect corner of the Internet looming.

East Van Flowers

Next week, it’s all cookbook clubs all the time, but I’ll have a little something more for you the week after that.

East Van Corn

In the meantime, enjoy a few photos of my neighbourhood’s gardens. I’m going to return to watching my way through the Thin Man movies. Nick and Nora’s cocktail-fuelled shenanigans are a welcome oasis in a complicated world.

A Post-Holiday Progress Report

img_6278

I’m still not back into the post-holiday swing of things, are you? So, instead of a full post, here’s a report card of sorts – what I’m reading, what’s on my radar, where I’m aiming to be.

Book Report

I don’t have the manual dexterity to qualify as a gamer, by any stretch of the imagination. But, I do find the narrative potential of the form fascinating and gaming has also become a frontier for discussions around activism, social justice, feminism, race, and more. The State of Play: Creators and Critics on Video Game Culture by Daniel Goldberg & Linus Larsson is a good place to start if you’re interested in where progressive game culture is headed.

The next book in the pile on my nightstand is Creating a Learning Society by Joseph E. Stiglitz & Bruce C. Greenwald. In a time when learning is becoming a more and more closely guarded resource, the implications of a “learning society” for a healthy economy are intriguing.

Then, I’m on to Amy Halloran’s The New Bread Basket, exploring the rise of local grain production.

There’s also one book I finished recently that’s lingering in my mind. Sally Mann’s Hold Still is a compelling exploration of an artist’s appraisal of her work and history. It’s also a book that reminds me that misgivings about an artist’s views on some subjects shouldn’t preclude admiring their take on others. Mann’s striking honesty and openness is what stays with me, along with her sharp insights into art, photography, and memory.

Lunch Hour

I like to test-drive cookbooks by taking them out of the library. I tell myself that it keeps me from buying more and taxing my groaning bookshelves. In truth, if I like what I see, the book mysteriously appears on the shelves sooner or later. Oh, well.

Here’s what I’m currently taking out for a spin:

Oodles of Noodles by Louise Pickford could be my mother’s dream cookbook. Whenever we go out for lunch, she’s angling to try another restaurant that serves one variety of noodles or another. This book does a sort of survey of East Asian cuisines.

I’m getting a head start on next year’s holiday cookie lineup with Mindy Segal’s Cookie Love. Though, who am I kidding? Cookies are welcome every day of the year.

Modern Jewish Cooking by Leah Koenig has a world focus, rather than being grounded in one tradition. So far, I’m finding her Breads and Pastries section particularly tempting.

Social Studies

Did you find yourself wishing that Tina and Amy had taken the Golden Globes’ stage one more time? I did. Here’s one of the reasons why: Ricky Gervais‘ jokes about trans people.

Ta-Nehisi Coates is one of the great essayists of our time, able to take on even the trickiest of subject matter.

Extreme weather is already becoming a factor in our lives and will affect how and what we eat in the future. Researchers are studying the impacts in order to adapt.

Jeff Wall’s body of work is celebrated world-wide. Even so, he harbours doubts about the direction of his artistic career.

Recess

If you think the holidays are the biggest reason to max out on sugar, you’re wrong. It’s nearly Hot Chocolate Festival time.

Or, if you have a more grown up palate, you could check out the Vancouver Whisky Festival.

I’ll probably spend some time at the Gluten Free Expo next weekend – when half the household has celiac disease, it’s a yearly must.

If you want to feed your mind instead of focusing on your stomach, the PuSh Festival starts next week. If you’re of a more urbanist bent, MOV‘s Your Future Home exhibit is starting soon.

That should give you enough to chew on until my next full-fledged post. Enjoy the rest of the week, even if it’s not incipiently spring-like where you are.

A Best of 2015

Bestof2015

I know it’s cliché (as I’ve said before), but I enjoy looking back over the year through the lens of the posts you liked best. When I think about my favourite posts of the year, it’s the process that stands out for me – a new skill mastered, a story shaped and re-shaped until it achieved the effect I was looking for, a photograph (for once) well-made.

The list of top posts, on the other hand, show me which ones intrigued people enough to click through to them. It’s not a perfect measure of quality, to be sure – comments may be a better guide there. Nevertheless, it’s interesting to see what brought people here this year.

It’s also interesting to see that the top posts this year are completely different from last year’s list. I think it’s encouraging to see that the blog is at least a little dynamic, though I think the end of French Fridays with Dorie was part of the shift.

12. Made with Love

We start with a post that would count as one of my own favourites from 2015, in which I share the recipe for my mother’s spicy vegetable chili. It’s a winter dish, really, full of pantry staples and vegetables that are available year-round. But, it’s so popular, that we get requests for it through all the seasons. My mother makes enormous batches of it for the church and community gatherings she organizes. I make it for co-op meetings. We both make it for Kevin, who loves it so much that he’d happily eat it weekly.

But, it’s not really the recipe that makes the post, at least for me. It’s the story of how the recipe came to be and the love it represents.

11. Sucre à la Crème

I was surprised that this one made the list, as it’s a short post that shares two French language videos of people making a classic, homey French Canadian sweet. I’m a little fond of it, though, both for the winkingly nostalgic photo and the video of the Québécoise grand-mère.

10. French Food Revolution Friday with Dorie 2015

This year’s French Fridays with Dorie edition of Food Revolution Day was a lot of fun. I made a dish I’d missed when it came up in the rotation originally, reviewed some past favorites, and connected it all to the day’s goal of promoting cooking skills and food literacy.

9. FFWD – Holiday Card and Recipe Exchange

This post is about something that’s become a yearly tradition amongst French Fridays with Dorie alumni. We exchange cards, and often recipes, at year’s end. It’s nice to have something to look forward to when checking the mailbox, isn’t it?

8. FFWD – Marengo As You Like It

I suspect people came to this post looking for a recipe, but it’s really just a recounting of my experience with Dorie’s recipe. Though many of my French Fridays posts were designed to have wider appeal, others – like this one – were really addressed to our group. Posts like these are travel diary entries for a journey through a cookbook.

7. Eastside Coffee Culture

This post was a lot of fun to research. It’s a celebration of the coffee shops in my neighbourhood and it’s meant to be the first in a series of themed explorations. More will come along, slowly, as I gather enough intelligence on each subject.

6. Baking Chez Moi – Brown Butter and Vanilla Bean Weekend Cake

A short, fun post on a delicious cake I’ve made over and over again.

5. Holiday Book Reviews – True to Your Roots

I very much enjoy writing my cookbook review series, so I was happy that one of these posts made the list. This book intrigued a number of people and the person who won it in the giveaway was thrilled. I’m very happy, myself, that it’s now on my cookbook shelf.

4. FFWD – Brioche and Nutella Tartine

Who can resist the siren call of Nutella? (Not me.) However, my favourite part of this post is the beautiful braided brioche I made.

3. FFWD – Celebration Week #1: The AHA Moment

I’m so glad I “cheated” on our assignment for this post. As a result, it’s a lovely guided tour of my French Fridays years.

2. Spring Book Reviews – Teatime in Paris!

Another book review, for a cookbook I turn to on special occasions. Thinking about Jill’s pâte sucrée makes me want to start my holiday baking all over again.

1. Eat Local: Kin Kao

The number one spot this year goes to one of my (very occasional) restaurant reviews, for one of our favourite neighbourhood spots. I’m quite pleased that reviews took three of the top five spots. I’ve been enjoying writing them this year more than almost anything else.

So, there you have a list of some of the buzziest (in the very calm, sort of backwater way that my blog can be said to generate buzz) posts on my blog. And I have food for thought about the directions I may take the blog in 2016. I hope you enjoy clicking around the list as much as I did.

You’ll hear from once more before the close of the year. I hope the dwindling days of 2015 are treating you well!

A Year-end Round-up

Favourite Posts

A round up of popular posts on the last day of the year may be a blogging cliché, but it’s nice to look back at what’s resonated with people, especially when some of the top posts of the year reach farther into my blog’s history.

It’s not a surprise that this top 16 draws primarily from my cooking community posts and from posts with a local focus. Those are the twin pillars of my blog, after all.

I’m looking forward to where this blog will take me in 2015, but looking back, I’m quite happy with where I’ve been so far. A very happy New Year to you all. I hope 2015 brings you health, happiness, and adventure.

And so to the list:

16. FFWD – Tuna Rillettes

I’m starting out at the bottom of the list, in true late December countdown fashion. Sixteenth of over 350 posts is still pretty impressive, though. This post is about one of my favourite Dorista snacks of 2014. Tuna rillettes are addictively good, whether used as a dip or a spread.

15. FFWD – Sablefish with Double Carrots

Most of the Doristas who made this came away enamoured with the carrots cooked in carrot juice that anchor the dish. This post also includes a primer on sustainable seafood and a rich, cocktail snack of a quick bread.

14. The Bounty of the Valley

The Fraser Valley isn’t just the place where chefs, bakers, and makers get their ingredients. These days, there are more and more businesses springing up that are making the Valley a destination (or keeping Valley foodies closer to home). The Fraser Valley Food Show has become a showcase for some of the best the Valley has to offer.

13. FFWD – Celery-Celery Soup

The name of this soup piqued my interest, so it makes sense that readers would be curious, too. If you don’t know what to do with the celery root you see in the markets, this would be a good place to start.

12. West Coast Christmas Show

Another event in the Fraser Valley, proving you don’t have to commute to find great, local goods.

11. FFWD – Chanterelles with Cabbage & Nuts

One of my favourite 2014 French Fridays dishes, this is going to appear on my table every fall when the wild mushrooms start showing up in the markets.

10. FFWD – Visitandine

A simple cake and a great way to use up egg whites, especially if you’re making lemon curd. I make sure there’s always one of these in my parents’ freezer in case they need a dessert on the double.

9. FFWD – Marie-Hélène’s Apple Cake

This is one of the very first posts I made on the blog and it’s been in the top ten ever since. The cake has become a favourite in my family and beyond, making rum a more prized commodity around here than it ever was before.

8. Vegetable Quinoa Soup with the Taste of Little India

The photos for this soup are about as Pinterest-y as I get, which is why I think this one made the top ten. Besides, who can resist the promise of the name?

7. Eat Local: Kingfisher’s Waterfront Bar & Grill

I love talking about the local food scene and Kingfisher’s has a great food philosophy – two of the reasons I think this post was popular. The third? You got to meet my brother, Kingfisher’s Executive Chef.

6. Patate Alpino

I’ve been experimenting with working with brands a little bit on the blog and this is a post I’m rather proud of. A recipe inspired by the Italian side of the Alps and some French Fridays leftovers, this dish could become a dangerous habit for anyone in reach of a good Italian deli.

5. Cottage Cooking Club – October 2014

The Cottage Cooking Club, organized by the wonderful Andrea of The Kitchen Lioness has become a highlight of each month for me. Cooking through River Cottage Veg by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall gets me out of the rut of my usual approach to vegetarian cooking, which is how I like to eat at least 60% of the time. I think more people are getting interested in meatless meals, so I’m not surprised this post made the top ten.

4. Happy Birthday, Dorie! A French Fridays Celebration

The French Fridays crew is in the last few months of cooking through Around My French Table, so when our fourth anniversary of cooking together lined up with the release of Dorie’s new book and her birthday, we decided to celebrate. With previews of recipes from Baking Chez Moi, birthday wishes, and fond reminiscences, this was part of a very special round up of posts.

3. Almond-Orange Tuiles – A French Fridays Fail

It’s a commonplace that we learn more from our failures than we do from our successes. I think that’s why this post climbed so high into the top ten, along with the fact that we can all relate to less-than-perfect results in the kitchen and everywhere else.

2. FFWD – Brioche and Nutella Tartine

This post from early 2012 has been consistently popular, perhaps because the word Nutella is a magnet or maybe because braided brioche is the cutest bread ever. I know I like the reminder of what a good team brioche, marmalade, and Nutella make.

1. Baking Chez Moi – We Begin!

My post on the kick off of another round of Tuesdays with Dorie was my most popular post of the year. How could it not be? Delicious cookies, a re-energized community, and a visit with Dorie Greenspan – no wonder it’s Number One.