Being A Little Overwhelmed by Achieving a Goal

I am an author.

I have been saying for several years now, when asked what I do, “I’m a writer”.  It’s an easy phrase to toss off, until the inevitable follow-up question arrives.  “Oh, what do you write? Would I have read anything of yours?”  Fortunately for my ego, I can respond by saying I have been a magazine writer and editor, I wrote opinion pieces for my local newspaper, I was a radio journalist for a while, but now I’m trying my hand at both fiction and a memoir.

It is the memoir that was finished first, and it is the memoir that will be published and launched in just a couple of days. I chose October 1st because it would have been my parents’ 61st wedding anniversary and this book is so much about them.  And about my siblings and their families, and my extended, and so many friends, so many meals.  It was a work of love in very many ways to write.  Now it’s a work of faith to present it to the public and see what they have to say.

Oh, my friends and my family have been supportive in ways I truly was not expecting.  And that is both gratifying and humbling. What will be interesting is to see who else buys the book, who are the people I don’t know who might want to read my stories, cook my food.

Given the tiny sliver of success this first book has provided me, I am already considering how to follow up the experience, how to broaden the experience, so that not only do I continue to tell stories and share food, but create opportunities that will lead to stories and meals I cannot even imagine right now.

I have begun the process with the tentative step of a new blog (not that I’m giving up this one — that would be silly. And I need it!) and we’ll see how things develop over the next few weeks.

I’ll be back after the weekend after the launch (what a full first four days of October we have!!) with photos and stories and I expect a great deal more gratitude.  And somewhat calmer nerves.

The illustration commissioned for the front cover of GOOF, CARPETBAG STEAK & DIVINITY: A Memoir With Recipes.  The artist is named Kaoru Shimada or KART.

The illustration commissioned for the front cover of GOOF, CARPETBAG STEAK & DIVINITY: A Memoir With Recipes. The artist is named Kaoru Shimada or KART.

Summer Wanes…

This summer has been filled with so much and yet at the same time, I feel as if nothing has happened except the rush of time.  Can both things be true?  Perhaps.

I have been so fortunate to have had time with family and friends this summer.  It started in May, really, with a work reunion of sorts.  How wonderful to see so many people with whom I had enjoyed working at the radio station, and meeting so people who still remembered me!  That was a shock – pleasant, but still a shock.  That same weekend, we were entertained by someone who really didn’t know me, only in a few passing meetings of a book club I helped organize several years ago and of which i was a member just a year.  That was a lovely afternoon and early evening, drinks and nibbles and lots of “remember??”.  I treasure time spent with old friends, re-inforcing bonds with new ones.

Time at the “cottage-on-wheels”, at Oliphant, followed over several weekends. So wonderful to see all my brothers, never together sadly, but one by one, sharing food and drink and much laughter, all in pretty much equal measure I think.  I love my brothers who could not be more dissimilar in so many ways and yet they are all fierce in their family ties.  They show it differently and they may sometimes resent it, but the bonds are there.

Labour Day weekend, still more family.  My cousin Judith and her husband Ross, her brother Stewart and his wife Mary — family I hadn’t seen in so long I am embarrassed.  All of them were exactly as they have always been — do I seem so to them? I’m not sure if I want it to be so or not!  We were at Michael & Rita’s cottage, “The Point”, the cabin that once was our grandparents, and then our parents, and now belongs to them (and Michael’s siblings’ hearts too, I think).  It was the first time Judith had been back there since our father’s death and she was a little teary, a lifetime’s worth of memories of that place flooding her heart.  I so understand.

This place is magic.  Judith and Stewart’s cottage is just up the beach from The Point, and From WhiteCaps, brother Max’s place, and a little further away from Belle Mer, which will be our cottage name when we finish building.  We were children together who had golden summers of sunshine and fun.  We were let loose onto the beach and into the water from sunrise to sunset and we flourished in it.  I know bad things happened then, accidents and illnesses, difficulties for our parents, periods of boredom for us when the sun would give way to rain, but I don’t remember those things, not the way I do the joy.

And once more we were at The Point for a couple of days, invited by Michael & Rita to enjoy a couple of days quiet and work, a place to stay that had running water (not the cottage-on-wheels, that’s for sure!) while Jeff worked out taking out trees and putting in more gravel.  It was so perfect… so… well there are no other words.  In the afternoons, I sat on the dock and I listened to the water and I let some tears flow in both remembrance and pleasure.  In the evenings, we drank wine with supper and watched the moon dance on the waves.  I lived again a whole lifetime of summers these past few days, as a very full, very sweet, summer rushed to a close.

The last afternoon of summer... the clear blue of sky and lake, the warmth of sunshine, the call of... childhood one more time.

The last afternoon of summer… the clear blue of sky and lake, the warmth of sunshine, the call of… childhood one more time.

Reflected light reflected back on the gently dancing waves... Such peace...

Reflected light reflected back on the gently dancing waves… Such peace…

DWTS – or – how to use a box of tissue in one evening

I do not watch reality television as a general rule.  I’m a writer.  I like my television (and movies) to have story lines that are performed into something interesting, not edited into highly manipulative states.

That being said, I am addicted to Dancing With The Stars most seasons.  I add “most” because there have been two or three celebrity contestants who simply by breathing made me crazy-itchy-nutso and I couldn’t watch for fear I’d see them or, in one instance, hear her speak.  With that contestant, as bad as her so-called dancing was, her speaking voice was worse. Blech.

Sometimes, the complete opposite happens and every one of the contestants thrills me with their background stories and their hard work, the bond they develop with their pro- partner, even how the goofiness of Tom Bergeron plays off them.  This season, DWTS’ 20th season, is one of those ‘must-watch’ ones for me.

Tonight, one of the four semi-finalists will be eliminated.  This after a show last night that brought out great dancing (even a two-left footed bumbling boob like me could see the dancing was superior) and more heartfelt, heartwarming stories, not to mention a very simple and sweet marriage proposal!  The four celebrities remaining are Nastia (a former Olympic gymnast), a pop singer named Riker, a war veteran-model-motivational speaker named Noah and Rumer Willis, the daughter of Demi Moore & Bruce Willis.  Rumer, Ryker and Nastia came into the competition with performance backgrounds of one sort or another, an understanding of how to create an atmosphere, a story in the dancing.  They also started out a pretty good amateur dancers and have become much, much better as the weeks have gone by.

Noah is a different story because he’s not just a war veteran, he’s a double-amputee.

He lost is left arm from just below the shoulder and his left leg above the knee in an IED explosion.  He wears a prosthetic leg and foot, but not an arm.  His partner, Sharna Burgess, has had to choreograph to his skills, his desires, his challenges and still make us think, make us see that Noah is a dancer.  That Noah deserves to be a semi-finalist in this competition. Honestly, I’m not sure who is the braver one of this partnership — Noah for exposing himself to a world he never knew before his injuries and then needing to work around and with them to succeed in that world, or Sharna for going into a whole new place in dance to make it work.

Carrie Ann Inaba, who is one of the judges, said the first week, amongst her tears after watching him dance, that Noah had helped her see beyond her own images, her ideas of what dance is, what dance should be.  Not that she marked  him that way often but at least she was moving forward.

Without a knee, Noah cannot be as fluid in his movements as he might like, indeed as he should be, in dance.  It’s bloody close to impossible for him to do “rounded” floor movements although the choreography in both routines he did last night were so mesmerizing, so true to his strengths, so close to ’round’, they were brilliant.  There was one moment, at the end of one of the routines, I hoped everyone who was watching noted and remembered as they were voting — Sharna and Noah walked up the stairs together using his gait, where his left leg swings out a little to compensate for not having a bendable knee.  Matching his step in every way, from exactly how high his left leg swings up to how much bounce gets from his “good” leg, Sharna made that could-have-been-awkward walk up the stairs completely, utterly beautiful.  They made it a dance….

If I’m honest, Noah probably shouldn’t win this competition because he is not, yet, the dancer that Riker and Rumer and Nastia are, but I still gave him every one of my votes last night (and he’ll get them next week if he moves on). I gave him those votes not because I feel sorry for him, and not because he proposed to his girlfriend (who said ‘yes’, btw), and not because he’s a drop-dead gorgeous war hero.

I voted for Noah Galloway because he really has opened up the world of what dance is and should be.  He is a walking, breathing, strong reminder of why we all need dance and music and art and theatre in our lives.  We are enriched by the arts.  We are humbled, stretched, encouraged, enlightened, saved by the arts.  We are better for dancing, we are smarter for music, we are more aware for theatre, we are educated by art.

Thank you Sharna, for helping to make that happen with such brilliant routines.

Good luck Noah. I hope the journey continues in the world of dance for you forever…

Happy Birthday

Today is my husband’s birthday.

(I would like to say it’s also our niece, Betsy’s birthday.  She’s celebrating with her husband, children and mother this evening and I know they’ll have a wonderful time.  Happiest Day Betsy!!  But this is another story…)

This is not one of the “big” birthdays, ending in a zero or a five but it’s still significant.  It’s his birthday! and that, to me, means a little celebration and a little contemplation.

The celebrating comes this evening when we go out for dinner at a restaurant we’re both keen to try… a little red meat, a little seafood, a little wine, it’s going to be nice.  And it’s going to be romantic.  ’cause he’s still a very romantic man.

He’s also a very dependable man.  He does what he says he’s going to do and he does it to the best of his ability.  He’s accomplished around the house; he’s a very good musician and music teacher; he loves to ski and play golf and fish for trout; he loves The Grey Cat and me in pretty equal measure; and every day, at least once a day, he makes me laugh and that is priceless.

He’s a wonderful son and a very good brother, a fun uncle, a great friend, and the best kind of partner in crime for me.  (Almost) all the things I am not, he is.  (Almost) all the things I wish I knew or understood, he does.  Goodness knows he has his quirks and more than a few things that he does or says that drive me nuts… but I have more than my share of peculiarities which make him just as crazy so we’re probably even on that.

What makes me know that he is very special is that we married on faith.  We didn’t date, really, before we were married.  In the five years we knew each other before we married, we spent 16 days together… including the day (night) of our wedding rehearsal.  The day part, I should say, was for me a mess (although not nearly as much so as the day of our evening wedding; now that was a mess!!)  We married knowing each other through letters and stories exchanged and stolen time spent alone amongst my younger brothers and his recovery from an airplane crash.  He surprised me, surprised me very very much, when he asked me to marry him but he had faith we could make it work.  I believed him. I said yes.

So celebrating the moments and days in our lives which should be celebrated — his birthday and mine, our anniversary, Family Day, getting good news about work projects, and so on — all of those things are even sweeter because I’m celebrating with him

Tomorrow, he celebrates with friends and a couple of my brothers, his brother, with the annual poker game, pool tournament and pork fest.  Tonight, it’s just us.  Marking another milestone, grateful for our time together, growing older together, looking forward to saying, many more times:


chocolate_cakeLove you Bunky…

A Moment on Appreciation

You will notice I did not title this “A Moment FOR Appreciation”.  No, this is about appreciation itself. Because I believe we do not, generally speaking, appreciate enough.

We don’t appreciate the things, the experiences, the tastes and textures which all enrich our lives.  And for sure we don’t appreciate the people in our lives – certainly not as we should, on a regular, warm, expressed basis.

I bring this up because I stuck another note in my (sort of) daily appreciation jar this morning – two days late – about the platform Jeff built for me, for the front-loading washer and dryer.  He bought a couple of sheets of plywood, scrounged around the workshop for still more leftovers from his dad, put in a few hours, and ta-da… the machines are up off the floor and doing laundry is just that much easier. I mean, I giggled pulling clothes and towels in and out of the machines, that’s how much easier it was.

I appreciate the time and love that went into building the platform and how such a simple thing has made one of my chores almost fun to do.  And I have told Jeff so.

But I haven’t always told him how much appreciate the little things he does.  The big things, yes, always, but the  little things? Not so much.  For example, he always brings me coffee in the morning.  Wherever I’m standing, trying to break through the haze of the first of the day, there’s coffee in hand. And he’s the one who remembers to put the winter-time washer fluid in the car.  And he’s always there to help me put on my left boot.  (Yes, just the left boot. The right one slips right on but apparently I have a vastly different left than right foot.  Sigh.)  I appreciate all those things and more, and I’m making an effort to keep the memory of them alive in my jar.

So what else do I appreciate and need to express?

I appreciate the family I married and the family into which I was born.  They’re quite different from each other in many ways but there are essentials which are alike.  They are fierce in their love for each other, quick to point out the others’ flaws but willing to live with them, keen to spend what precious time can be carved out of busy individual lives for a few hours’ family companionship. I must tell them all, tell them each, I appreciate their love, time and support.

Just a few days ago I was reminded of why I appreciate my sister-in-law Karen who makes her own greeting cards for all occasions and skews them for the recipients.  Our Valentine’s card had symbols of Paris on it because she knows I’m stalking Paris.  I must tell her I appreciate that thoughtfulness.

I appreciate my writers’ group because they are helping me keep my nose to the grindstone, more than they might think, although perhaps not as much as it should be kept.  They’re smart, funny, good writers, and I appreciate their support, their critiques, their writing and their friendship.  I must tell them that.

I appreciate my Facebook friends.  Of course, I appreciate all my friendships, but when one is far from home, or where home used to be, and far from many of the circles of friends made over the years, having Facebook as another way – a quick, witty, silly way – to keep the friendships warm, that must be appreciated.

One of my friends – on fb but also in real life – posted something the other day that made me feel just so much… warmth.  We had worked together briefly, gotten to know each other fairly well in just a few months, and when I left our place of employment, I wasn’t sure that anything I had done there would be remembered well.  He told me at least one thing was, so now I need to tell him I appreciate that remembrance.

I appreciate the kindness of strangers.  I was leaving the library last Tuesday night and felt a back cramp start.  I bent over, holding on to a tiny tree in the tiny front plaza of the building and this kind man stopped and asked me if I was alright.  I told him I had gotten up from two hours sitting at a desk and moved too quickly out into the cold without doing any stretching and my back was reminding me it wasn’t as young as once we were, but I was fine.  He asked again, just to be sure, and then went on.  I should have told him I appreciated his stopping to ask; I will next time a stranger is kind.

On a physical level, I appreciate the smell of fresh spring flowers, especially lilacs, because they are smell of renewal; I appreciate the bittersweet taste of a really fine dark chocolate for the pure pleasure it offers; I appreciate the sparky bubbles of an ice cold champagne for delight of tickles in my nose; I appreciate the infinite soft warmth of a mohair blanket on my naked toes; I appreciate the beauty and skill in the painting hanging in my house (and try not to envy the artists’ talent) because they enrich me every time I stop to really see them; I appreciate hearing Jeff practise violin because it gives him pleasure and makes me feel “homey” inside; I appreciate the memories of past loves because they helped me become who I am at heart.



I think my Appreciation Jar will fill up faster now.  And I can appreciate that, too.





Six Months… What Goes Through My Mind in Six Months…

I should kick myself in the arse for being so… well, indecisive about continuing this blog.  Not because I don’t enjoy writing, because I do.  And not because I don’t appreciate the generally positive feedback I get from it, because I do.  But maybe because of two people and one idea.

The two people are ghosts from my life and while I try to ignore them or pretend they have little, if anything, to do with my present, they always seem to just pop up and annoy me with their ghostly presence.  They are likely see this post and knowing that – again –  I’m sharing something of myself with them is, well, icky.  But the reason for even establishing this blog was to bust some ghosts and mostly, I’ve done that.  Mostly, I’ve learned to step back and breathe, to take a second or third or tenth look at a problem and then either write about it OR accept the fact that some things in life, baby, you just can’t change.

The idea is different.  The idea was that maybe now I’ve busted those ghosts I can move in another direction.  What that would be, I wasn’t not sure but still….

But there’s more to writing this blog than just exorcising some bad ideas, some bad relationships. I write because I seek inner clarity.  I write as a way to express myself, and find myself, and be myself in a world where sometimes the masks are pretty heavy, stuck in place.  Of course, sometimes I write just pap and crap, and that’s okay!!  I love a good gossip or picture magazine at times.  But sometimes, I need to find words to figure out what the hell I’m feeling, and to get rid of the bad ones, and snuggle up to the good ones.

I’m keep a gratitude jar this year.  The idea is to jot down one small thing every day that’s made you feel grateful or happy or some other positive crap, put the notes in a jar, and at the end of the year, count ’em all up.  Well,  30 days does not make 30 notes but there are some in the jar, and there will be more than 185 by the end of the year (that’s more than 1 every other day, fyi for my arithmetically challenged friends!)

Maybe it’s been the jar, maybe it was getting a letter today from someone I did NOT expect to hear from, maybe it was a lot of PMing with a long-time colleague that just turned into silly fun… but I’m feeling really positive and lucky and peaceful this week.  A feeling which will last if the Seahawks win on Sunday.

Anyway, I’m back. I’ll be here a lot.  I hope to hear from you soon.  And I hope all the monsters under your bed are gone!

Here’s The Thing We’re Not Prepared For…

We’re prepared for a lot of things as we roll through middle age.

Thanks to Madison Avenue, we have our wrinkle creams, our hair dyes, our botox injections, our medicines for things that can’t get up and things that won’t go down.  We take longer vacations to Florida or Arizona in the winter and spend more time in the summer at the cottage.  We don’t camp in tents anymore, but we love to have the grandchildren or great-nephews in pup tents in the backyard.  We go to 35th high school reunions and 40th university reunions and remark on how great everyone looks!  We gather for the weddings of our best friends’ children and send christening gifts when we become honourary grandparents, kidding our friends about being “Grandma and Papa” now.

And  yes, we think about our mortality a little, just enough to do some estate planning maybe, certainly write a will, definitely think about how long those retirement dollars will last.  But what we’re really not prepared for is other people dying.

It’s the natural order of things that our parents die before we do – at least, that’s what parents want, to go before their kids.  Of course we know that that’s what’s going to happen.  But when it does, we’re still shell-shocked.  And then, slowly but surely it’s not just our parents, but our godfather and our uncle and our cousins who are dying, and suddenly that close, expansive, joyful world of family and friends-who-might-as-well-be-family is smaller, tighter, sadder because people are dying.

And it’s not just that we’re aging: our children and nieces & nephews are growing up and bringing new partners into the circle and it’s not what it was.  It’s not who we are any more… it’s who we were.

I’ve been thinking about this a lot through the winter.  My cousin Jeff died just over a year ago, my dear father-in-law died late last fall, and just a couple of months later, my cousin, my father’s much-loved cousin, Janet Stewart Prince, died from the complications of Parkinson’s.  Ross would have been the first one to mourn her, after her children, Judith & Stewart, of course.  They were buddies all their lives and I know she felt his loss deeply when he died 11 some years ago.


Uncle Walter & Aunt Janet with my father, Ross

Uncle Walter & Aunt Janet with my father, Ross


Aunt Janet, as we called her, and Uncle Walter are woven into the fabric of my life.  They dominate memories of my childhood at the cottage in Oliphant, along with Uncle Walter’s brother’s family (Uncle Jack & Aunt Elaine and their boys, including my first ‘fiancee’, Cam), Aunt Janet’s sister, another cousin, Aunt Margery & Uncle Jack and their boys, and the Bennett families (Uncle Cam & Aunt Mary and their children, Uncle Jim & Aunt Patsy and their children), and in later years, we were thrilled to also welcome to every day life at Oliphant my Uncle Bruce (Dad’s ‘baby’ brother) and Aunt Patty.  When I think of beaches and swimming and fishing and sailing and boating and water-skiing and softball and picnics in the dunes behind the cottage, I think of these people and the Dixon boys and Dougal Robertson (another cousin!).  Eating wieners on a stick and burnt marshmallows and I think of them.  Playing games of Red Rover and British Bulldog and I think of them.  Biking down to the general store for ice cream cones and I think of them.

Just as a little aside, I have story Aunt Janet used to tell on herself which I never fail to think of when baking.  She didn’t. Bake, that is, but some occasion called for her to do so, probably a tea, or maybe a funeral.  In any case, she bought a box mix for brownies, thinking that these had to be easy to do.  And they were!  She followed the instructions for pre-heating the oven and prepping the baking pan, and then adding eggs and oil to the brownie mix.  Then she got to the next part.  Which she read twice and said, “Oh well….” and went to roll up her sleeves and wash her hands thoroughly because the instructions said: MIX BY HAND.  It took her a sticky, chocolatey moment or two to realize that perhaps they meant stir, WITH A SPOON, by hand and not a mixer.

They were all of a kind, these adults who filled my childhood.  They worked hard and contributed much.  They raised pretty large and fairly happy families for the most part, they loved good martinis & Oliphant just about equally, and they asked for very little back except to enjoy a good life.  I think most of them got it, most of the time, and if things didn’t always turn out the way they might have hoped when they were children and teenagers, I hope with all my heart that they know that the one thing that did turn out was giving us the very best of childhoods.

There will be a memorial service for Aunt Janet on Saturday, the day before Stewart celebrates his birthday, the day before what would have been my father’s 82nd birthday!  My joyful heart is aching that I cannot be there — sad to miss the people I love, happy to share in heart and mind so many, many wonderful memories.

Dear Judith & Ross, Dear Stewart & Mary… I hope your hearts and those of  your children are also joyful this weekend especially, even as they ache.

in the front, Aunt Janet, Aunt Elaine, my mother Joy (being squeezed by Uncle Jack P); second row Uncle Jack C, Uncle Jim, my father Ross, Aunt Patsy; back row Aunt Margery (partially hidden), Aunt Patty, Uncle Bruce. Uncle Walter is the photographer.

in the front, Aunt Janet, Aunt Elaine, my mother Joy (being squeezed by Uncle Jack P); second row Uncle Jack C, Uncle Jim, my father Ross, Aunt Patsy; back row Aunt Margery (partially hidden), Aunt Patty, Uncle Bruce. Uncle Walter is the photographer.








I’m The Reasonable One

He said before we moved in “That guy is a lunatic.  Are you sure you want to do this?”  Well, of course I was sure.  I wanted my dining room out of storage and more closet space and yet still be in the same neighbourhood.  What was one lunatic landlord, more or less???

Apparently, a lot.

Everything was an argument about how broke he was, how he couldn’t fix things properly, how stuff that happened was our fault.  And now he’s refusing to return our security deposits, yes, depositS as in two of them.  One for the apartment, based on the monthly rent of course, and one for $400 for The Grey Cat because,  I don’t know, he’s a lunatic.  And something about fleas which made no sense whatsoever but what the hell, I’m the reasonable one.

So now we’re off to Small Claims Court.  Not because we want to go (well, the Reasonable One doesn’t; her spouse is getting all Perry Mason-y. Sigh.) but because the landlord thinks that this is the way to solve problems.  Not by talking them out, coming to an agreement.  We would take an offer from him, something better than deducting the $650 he wants to deduct from the deposits, something more than the $50 we’ve offered for the two legitimate complaints he has, but he just wants to dick around with us because, I don’t know, he’s a canny lunatic.  And they’re the worst kind.


All I can hope is that we don’t get Judge Judy.



It’s That Time of Year

For those of you who follow my blog (and bless you for hanging in there during my long, long winter of discombobulation) or know me personally, you will know that summer & I are not the best of friends.

I do not like being hot.  I never have.  My mother used to say that I kicked off my blankets at three weeks and, as a summer baby who doesn’t like being hot, I always believed her!  There are two good things about summer: going to the cottage and lots & lots & lots of fresh, local fruits and veg.

These are two very good things indeed, so unless sweat is actually rolling off my forehead and stinging my eyes, I try very hard not to complain too much when the temperature rises above 26/78 degrees.  Seriously.  Hotter than that and I do have a tendency to slide into Miss Cranky Pants mode.

Until I get out the canning pot.


canning pot


and I go to the market and buy berries




which is not to say that I’m no longer hot.  In fact, standing in front of a hot stove, over a hot canning pot, stirring berries and sugar and lemon for quite a few minutes, I am quite hot.  But I’m also deep into a fantasy about a mid-December morning and looking out at a grey, cold, damp start to the day, thinking what can I do to brighten things up a little??  And then it comes to me:  Fresh popovers and homemade strawberry jam!!

Making jams and jellies, canning fruit, processing tomatoes, making chutneys and relishes… this all about capturing the fleeting goodness of our summer weeks (not even months!!) and keeping them close to us in some fashion.  I can’t do much about capturing the beach to help get us through a long, dark, cold winter (other than a trip to Indian Rocks, maybe) but this, this good food from our neighbourhood and from my hands, this I can do.




So this week there will be strawberry jams — at least two kinds — and blueberry jams — at least two kinds — and I’m thinking about making some raspberry-lemonade concentrate.  Found a great recipe for this stuff that you freeze and then pull out when you need a little sunshine… with or without vodka!!

And I’m seriously considering making brandied cherries when the local cherries pop up.  What do you think?

Mmmm.  Summer goodness.




The Root of It All…

Root vegetables.  The staple of the winter dinner table.  Those vegetables which grow late in the season and keep well in the root cellar.  Those vegetables with the best price at this time of year, as hot house or tropical vegetables command prices well above their taste.

Carrots, parsnips, potatoes, onions, turnips, beets, squash after squash variety.  And let’s add cauliflower and cabbage into the mix as well, even though strictly speaking they’re not ‘root’ vegetables.    Vegetables that roast well and enrich stews and make hearty soups.  Still, by the time you get to the end of February… aren’t you just the tiniest bit anxious for spring and summer vegetables fill up your plate?

Asparagus!  Snappy thin stalks of emerald green asparagus with their purple tips.  Barely steamed, drenched in lemon butter served hot, or dressed with a balsamic vinaigrette served cold, either way reminding us that, oh thank god, spring is fully here.

Lettuce!  Soft, tender leaves support a dash of lemon juice, a swish of olive oil, and enliven a slice of roast chicken in a most temperate way, another gift of spring.

Tomatoes!  I want tomatoes that are heavy and sweet and make juice run down my chin when I bite into them.  The best of the locally-grown tomatoes is months away but they’re not the only, local, fresh vegetables for which I long.

Sparky scallions, crunchy pea pods and tender peas, the first crop of radishes, the first burst of spinach, tender baby spinach meant for salads, not older spinach in bags perfect for creaming and serving with (again!) root vegetables.

Even potatoes taste different in spring and early summer, when they are those lovely little nubs of tiny new potatoes, potatoes that are perfect for a pot of salty boiling water, cooked to tenderness, squashed open for a pour of parsley butter, a twist of fresh ground pepper.  These are not merely spuds, they are the taste of spring!

All this ruminating about root vegetables is a sign, I think, of how long this winter has been.  How long and cold and snowy, with little sunshine and seemingly no hope that we will ever see grass, or asparagus, again.  I pull dirt encrusted potatoes and parsnips out of burlap bags.  I go through my cookbooks once again, seeking another way to make a silk purse out of sow’s ear or, in this case, a delicious gratin of carrots and parsnips.  There is borscht one more time this winter, an excellent soup the first three or four times we slurped it down this season.  Roast cauliflower is coming to the dinner table this week, perhaps dusted with cumin and turmeric again.  Or perhaps smothered in a cheese sauce because everything, even root vegetables in March, taste better in a cheese sauce.


Cooking inventively is the definition of cooking well with root vegetables, and certainly in the winter months, I think it’s definition of cooking inexpensively. Perhaps our mothers, definitely our grandmothers, knew this sort of cooking, in an age when there were few hot houses, little transportation from Florida or California, and really no food coming from Chile or Israel or Australia.  So perhaps, because they were not tempted by tomatoes both over-priced and also, sadly, mealy, or thick stalks of Mexican asparagus that has woody ends and the lingering hint of illegal pesticides, or bags of baby lettuce for seven dollars and no guarantee it would not wilt before you got home, perhaps without those temptations, they would continue to cook and enjoy root vegetables.  Perhaps it all comes down to the fact that our mothers and grandmothers understood and lived better with the cycle of food that our four season climate gives us.

Whatever this malaise that might affect my taste buds by mid-March, I will rally.  I will roast beets and roast onions to go with the pork chops and sauerkraut for supper. I will make another batch of carrot-ginger soup. And I just might “borrow” Neil Perry’s idea for squash pancakes and try a version of these unctuous and savoury treats for myself.  All of these choices will be delicious and nutritious, and because they are seasonal also inexpensives.  And I will try to remember that last summer, in the middle of corn and tomato and watermelon season, I scrubbed some new beets and roasted them, along with the some potatoes, to round out a barbecue meal because, as I said, “roasted beets are so yummy!”