Thursday, October 28, 2010


…is waiting for me upstairs. Quite frankly, seeing as how much I ADORE The Barefoot Contessa, I’m surprised that I’ve been able to restrain myself from diving right in after I bought it today.

But I want to enjoy it, savour it. Very much like I do with her amazing recipes.

I will take in every recipe, every description, every picture. I want to do this slowly and take my time. After all, it has been two years since her last cookbook was published and to rush through this new one would just be wrong.

Favourite TV shows will be missed, other books will be temporarily tossed aside, housework will be ignored, kids may or may not get bathed while I read this cover to cover. Such is the power of The Barefoot Contessa.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Well So Much For That

Four years ago when I found out I was pregnant with Big D, Mike and I bought our current home. I love our place. I love its proximity to downtown. I love that shopping and some great restaurants are nearby. I love that the neighbourhood is safe and quiet. I love that we get along with the neighbours on either side of us.

What I don’t love is the overall lack of neighbourhood spirit that I see present in other places. In fact, there appears to be a resistance to making this a friendlier neighbourhood.

Take, for example, a friend of mine who lives in Oakville, Ontario. Her, her husband, and their two girls moved there almost three years ago. Immediately someone on their street threw them a welcome party so they could get to know everyone. They are never without a standing invitation to head over to a neighbour’s house for a barbeque. The neighbours hold a block party every year where they close off the street and where adults and kids alike have a great time. It goes on and on.

Last year this friend told me about having “Been Booed.” I had no idea what she was talking about. It is like a Secret Santa for Halloween where neighbours secretly send candy and treats to two people and then those two people do the same, and so on. By Halloween almost her entire neighbourhood had “Been Booed” by someone.

I thought it was a terrific idea and one this neighbourhood could really use. It isn’t expensive or time consuming, it is just meant to be a lot of fun and perhaps, just perhaps, get people to be friendlier and more open to talking to their neighbours. And I shall be the one to make this happen!

Ha! Guess again.

I did up six bags of treats (if I was going to get this going I had better start out with more than the suggested two. As it happened I could only deliver three bags due to an unusually active neighbourhood the night I did my secret deliveries.) You need to attach the message from the website to explain the concept of “Getting Booed” so people don’t freak out when a bag of random candy shows up on their doorstep. Attached to the message was a sign that you are supposed to put on your front door indicating to any other would-be “Booers” that they should move on to someone else since you were already a recipient.

So out of those three homes, only one has put their sign up in the door indicating that they were getting into the spirit of the thing. The other two? Nothing. I mean, it is clear that it isn’t mandatory to participate in this but they could at least, at the very least, put up the sign that came with the treats to ward off anyone else who may have the same idea of trying to spread some seasonal good cheer.

If there is a Halloween equivalent of Bah Humbug, I would like to know because it certainly applies to my neighbourhood.

Friday, October 8, 2010

In Search of the Holy Perogy

It is Canadian Thanksgiving this weekend and my week has been consumed by menu planning and thinking A LOT about food. And while we are having the traditional turkey, all these thoughts about yummy eats gets me thinking about my favourite comfort food of all time – cabbage rolls and perogies.

I grew up in Alberta where there is a large Ukrainian population. Cabbage rolls, perogies, kielbasa, and nalysnyky were common dinner-time items at our house even though my family isn’t Ukrainian.

When I was 18 my dad got transferred to Vancouver and finding proper Ukrainian food became a BIG problem. In fact, the lengths to which we went to find some took us to some, umm, interesting places.

We had been living in the Lower Mainland of British Columbia for a few months and could not get a lead on any restaurants that served the traditional food (such restaurants were easy to find in Calgary). Finally, we heard of a place near one of the Canada-America border crossings where we could get our fix – huzzah!

After my mom, dad, brother, and I got out of the car and into the restaurant it readily became clear why hardly anyone knew (or admitted to knowing) this place existed: it was attached to a peeler bar. And while the ambiance left A LOT to be desired, the food was amazing! While we (thankfully) couldn’t see the ‘entertainment’ from inside the restaurant we were treated to all the music and announcements and, shall we say, sounds of crowd appreciation.

Still, our desperate need for Ukrainian food drew us back again and again until it finally closed its doors.

Yikes – we were back where we started.

Then, by happenstance, I was reading the local community paper and saw an ad in the classifieds for the local Ukrainian church holding its MONTHLY dinner where you could gorge yourself eating-in or taking out. We were saved! How did we not hear of this before??

So the day rolled around where they were having their parish dinner and Dad and I got there to get some take out. We found it a bit odd that the “dinner” was from 4 p.m. – 7 p.m. A bit early, no?

When we got closer to the church we quickly realized why it was so early. It was smack dab in the middle of skid-row. Going there anytime after 7 p.m. would have been very dangerous indeed. Hell, going in the middle of the day was dangerous.

The church was beautiful and, at one time long ago, was in a good area. All the power to the parishioners for not boarding up the beautiful building and abonding it for a better neighborhood when it started to change for the worse (think terrible drug problems and all the other societal-ills that go along with that).

Dad and I had a tough decision to make. Even though it was daytime, the area was such that you just wouldn’t feel safe at any time of day. We always had the clubs on our cars that deterred theft and we wondered if we should put it on the car we were driving (because if there ever was an area where your car would be boosted – that was it) or bring it with us to swing it at anyone approaching us. We laugh about it now, but it was a real consideration.

Anyhow, all the Babas in the kitchen making this delicious food by scratch made it all worth it. Every month we would get down there as early as possible to get our fix (and not the kind of fix others in the neighbourhood were getting if you know what I mean).

Nine years ago I moved to Ottawa and have been searching ever since for decent Ukrainian food, to no avail. Knowing this, whenever I visited my parents, they made sure they had bought extra perogies and cabbage rolls at the monthly church dinner to freeze for my arrival.

Sadly, my dad tells me, that the church ceased doing their dinners a few months ago. I guess as the Babas got older it became more of a chore to prepare all this food and the younger generations weren’t taking up the tradition in the numbers needed to maintain the monthly feasts.

So I am back to searching for my favourite comfort food.

I just need a lead. After all, I am willing to go pretty much ANYWHERE for it.