My Culinary Relationship with Mother Earth – We Be Jammin’

rearviewmirroI remember the year the apple blossoms froze on the trees. It was 2012. We didn’t have fresh Ontario apples that year, and the prices sky-rocketed.

That was also the year I stopped making apple juice.

So what?

Well darlings, I’m a country girl at heart, and a big part of enjoying the seasons is enjoying whatever our harvest yields. A big part of showing love and coming together as friends and family is sharing a meal together.

The lack of apples impacted a generations long tradition of baking apple crisp, apple pie, applesauce and apple juice.While I live within the rushed pace of the city for now, I stay connected to the seasons and to what matters most by enjoying the tradition of preserving. Apples are the end of the summer fruits, and it was a strange feeling knowing that something as stable as our seasons and harvest were being affected by the impact of consumerism (aka global warming). Our harvest seasons are part of the essence of who we are and the organic rhythm of life.

flat of berriesStrawberry season signals for me the start of true summer. Rhubarb is spring. Of course you can’t forget asparagus and radishes. With the appearance of little white blossoms and bright, juicy, red fruit, I know that the strawberries cometh and that it’s time to enjoy in abundance what the earth provides, and squirrel away the rest for winter.

Yesterday I took a beautiful drive out into the country, got a flat of strawberries, and came home to make my first batch of jam. Next will be raspberries, and this year there will be beets, peaches, pears, tomatoes, and salsa.

 

 

pouring jamEvery year, I think of my grandmothers and my mother, who carried the tradition and taught me how to do these things.  I remember standing on a stool to stir the jam as it cooked, and when we used to use wax to seal the jars.

I remember hot jam slathered on homemade bread. The smell of granny’s kitchen when she made her chili sauce with the cheesecloth sachet of spices simmering in the pot, and being told countless times to go get another jar of this or that for whatever was on the stove. We used to count the number of jars of jam, tomatoes, beets, etcetera in order to ration them until the summer came again. It was never because we couldn’t afford to go to the store to buy more, it was because we subscribed to the rationale; who the hell would eat a can of fruit or vegetables plied with preservatives and chemicals that tasted second rate at best, when you could eat something that tasted good and wasn’t laden with other goop? It just didn’t make sense. And it still doesn’t to me.

There are few people my age who know how to do these things anymore, and I wonder what they must be missing out on, counting summer by work-weeks instead of by the season; strawberry season, raspberry season, plums, pears, apples, squash, tomatoes, cucumbers…

This might even be the year that I get back to making apple juice. Just the thought of hot cider by the fireplace makes me want to cuddle with someone. During the winter months, there’s nothing like opening a jar of peach jam to remind you that soon, summer will be upon us again. Or maybe it’s a jar of tomatoes for a rich, hearty stew.

jam 1Living in the city for the past 16 years, you’d think I’d prefer the convenience of buying something off the shelf, but I don’t.

I love the slow process of gathering, preparing and preserving my own food, knowing that it’s fresh and wholesome. Knowing that what I’m eating and what I’m sharing with the people I love is the best that I can give them.

Wishing you a bountiful summer, and an extra pair of hands in the kitchen.

 

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Misfit Thanksgiving – Getting to Know You

give thanksI had the pleasure of getting to know an acquaintance much better last night as our Thanksgiving celebration wound down into the quiet evening hours.

I had known this gentleman and his wife for years, but never really had an opportunity to speak to him. He discussed community, politics, religion and generally, the stuff that makes the world go ’round.

This is the beauty of what I have come to call our, “Misfit” get-togethers; gathering people together who are kind and intelligent to share an evening of, well, true sharing.

The definition of Misfit is; One who is unable to adjust to one’s environment or circumstances or is considered to be awkwardly different from others.

As we age, being around people we actually like is a big deal. It’s rejuvenating, fun, and renews our belief that good triumphs over evil. Being surrounded by thoughtful (as in they think independently, and care about how they impact others), intelligent people with a true sense of who they are and how they show up in the world every day is something that I am thankful for.

Most people define themselves against their first experience of ‘them’ and ‘us’, basically, how and where they fit into the family unit.

For some, family gatherings are just another uncomfortable event they feel they have no choice but to attend. Others have tossed decorum and bunk to the side, and have decided to live a life less complicated and simply spend time with people they actually like.

As we charge full-steam ahead into the season of holidays that seem to be tied to family tradition and sanguineous relationships, don’t forget that it’s all a load of crappola.

These traditions of gathering are an opportunity to spend time with the like-minded, differently-minded or whatever-mined, kind, loving, wonderfully diverse people whom you call friends. If you have been invited to our home to share a ‘misfit’ holiday with us, know that you have my respect, and that I like you.

The good people whom I like; they are my family of friends, and for them, I am truly thankful.

A Good Excuse for Ladies Who Lunch

clunyFrom the beginning of time human beings have gathered around food; hunted, gathered and prepared as a community while sharing stories, passing down wisdom, and nurturing the divine within each person.

Food then, is not just nutritional sustenance, it is a tangible vehicle through which we come to know and care for one another.

Our lives have become so busy that the cultivation, preparation and intake of food has been condensed to a faceless speaker and drive-thru window. Not good.

I work too much. I rush too much. I eat too much pre-packaged, prepared, processed food, and it makes me sad.

For the “Ladies Who Lunch”,  it’s been ten years, maybe twelve. We’re not really quite sure, and we don’t really care darlings.  What we know is that every year we can count on Summerlicious and Winterlicious to encourage a ‘Ladies Who Lunch’ afternoon of catching up with one another over a slow, delicious meal.

You see, sometimes a gal just has to get together with her pack of women. You know, the intelligent, beautiful gals who raise her up when she can barely lift her own head and who raise a glass to her every success, even if that success is just making it through the day without flipping the bird with her well-manicured hands.

We take time out of our busy lives to connect  with other intelligent, compassionate and kind women who know the same joy, pain, frustration and daily triumphs that women feel deep down in their bones.

Lately I’ve been neglecting moi. Yes, I’ve been time-starved. It’s made the-little-old-laid-back-lush that is yours truly, anxious and neurotic. The freak show that is currently performing in the three-ringed circus of my mind is a shit-show of the most grand order, requiring pharmaceuticals, but settling for the odd gin and tonic after a long day of being held hostage by the nine-to-five grind.

Summerlicious with the girls is something which requires planning, research, multiple telephone calls, and always last-minute-begging to change reservation numbers and times. It’s the event-planning equivalent of herding horny cats during a midnight rainstorm. But we’re fabulous cats, and it’s always worth the effort. Besides, it’s a wonderful opportunity to practice patience and not-being-attached to outcome.

Given my state of mind this year, I was pretty sure that I was going to forgo the event unless someone else picked up the ball and organized the event. Alas, I decided at the last-minute to create the event in the most simple way possible. Choose the venue, make a reservation for six, and go forward. Usually I take requests for locations on a first-come-first-to-be-called basis, and then dial a zillion numbers until I find a place which will take a Saturday Summerlicious reservation for a dozen or so. Not easy.

We started with a reservation for six and ended up with eleven ladies at our table. Cluny Bistro was more than gracious accommodating our group (We will all be back, and appreciate your patience). Some arrived early, some arrived late, but in the end, we all managed to take a few hours out of our busy lives to connect and share that face-to-face interaction that I’ve been so starved for, for so long.

Lunch with the ladies is something we say we’re going to do, but never get around to doing it. One of my friends and I have been planning lunch together, and had to think back almost four months since our last visit. Four months is pretty darn good. This year I’ve had multiple reminders that taking time to spend with friends who nurture me is something I’ve neglected for far too long. Months turn into years, and years and years…

Summerlicious may be a marketing ploy to open our wallets and spend more money, but we’ve used it as the excuse we need to come together, try a new restaurant and remind ourselves that our friendships matter, that we do not need to exist as solitary, stone angels who do it all.

Whining – Just Part of the Service We Offer

margarita

“Realize deeply that the present moment is all you ever have.” ~Eckart Tolle~

For two days I’ve walked past a Mexican restaurant in Montreal, and craved one of the deliciously boozy looking margaritas.

Yesterday we stopped, a little detour on our way home to a planned wine and cheese picnic in the park. We spotted a cute place on the crowded patio, and made our way over to a street-side, table-for-two.

That’s when the whining started.

I’m going to try and be crystal clear with regard to my description of the little prick who ignorantly tried to dissuade me from sitting at my preferred table.

Tisk, tisk, tisk, he said, shaking his man-bunned head back and forth and eyeing me up like I’d just dropped my drawers. “We hate it when you sit at a table that hasn’t been cleared.”

“Funny,” I said with my signature sweet-smile plastered on my face, and my eyes locked to his, “As a paying customer, I don’t mind at all.” Followed by an unsolicited, ” Dirty. Wiped with a dirty cloth,” from Mr.-Nobody-Likes-Me-Everybody-Hates-Me-I’m-Pissed-At-The-World-Because-I-Must-Be-A-Grown-Up.

First of all, to all of you bearded and non-bearded, man-bunned, hipster, fucking beatnik wanna-be twenty somethings out there who think that the world owes you something – get real darlings. That doesn’t just go out to the young folks, I’ve encountered people of all ages who adore carrying a chip on their shoulder. It’s their preferred accessory, but it ruins an entire wardrobe.

To the whiners: Upon careful consideration from eons of generations who have come before you through hardship, and 1980’s neon, you are owed sweet-screw-all.

Your condescending manner is a flashing sign advertising your lack of authenticity in a world you presume to know. Because you had to pay for your own education? Because mommy or daddy didn’t love you enough? Because no one gave you a hand-out? Well sweetie, join the club. It’s called adulthood. You know what makes it better? Margaritas. On a patio.

How you participate in the land of the real world determines the quality of your character. This little connoisseur of two-star restaurants clearly held a much higher opinion of his limited practical and spiritual experience of the world than anyone else on the planet. The same goes for his pal who served us.

After Mr. I-think-I’m-worldly-and-all-knowing tisked his opinion out loud, and I smiled a saccharine smile, he murmured an opinion to his waiter-buddy (in french no less, assuming I couldn’t grasp the not-so-subtle innuendo that I was a supreme douchebag), and then we were left to wait, and wait and wait for our order to be taken.

That’s ok though. You know why? I’ve been a server before too. I know what it’s like to work for a paltry wage, and make the rest up with tips. I know that it sucks. Been there, done that, clawed my way through school, jobs and life. What I learned very quickly was that being a miserable twatcycle didn’t make it any easier.

After two hours we had been served an appetizer and with three ignored attempts by my partner, we finally had our second round of drinks. Oh, and the taps weren’t working, which made the cerveza selection less than titillating. The food was mediocre, the margaritas however, satisfied my craving, and my choice of partner, well darlings, you know I only accept the very best.

My happy hour was not ruined, but the waiter’s attitude was. You see, it takes awhile to realize your self-worth, and these two young gentlemen had yet to discover their own. Self-worth means showing up for your job, whether it’s serving tourists margaritas, or leading a country, determined to have a positive impact. To engage with another human being is sacred work, and each of us have that opportunity every day.

When you connect, instead of whine, you offer so much more than a product or service. You offer a caring piece of yourself to another human being. To these young men, the only thing that mattered was a bizarre power-play of master and servant, and collecting a pay cheque.

I stopped for a margarita. It sated my craving. I enjoyed the relaxing atmosphere of people-watching on a street that was new to me.

I did not leave a tip. The only tip I may have considered leaving was a well-written diatribe on how not to be an asshole. Whether it would have been written in French, English, or illustrated Sesame-Street style, I doubt the message would have been understood.

A missed opportunity to connect was not on the radar of this poor-me-tag-team. No tip though, ah, there’s the rub.

Why Your Terrible Breakfast Offends Me

"Let them eat cake." ~Marie Antoinette before the French Revolution~

“Let them eat cake.”
~Marie Antoinette before the French Revolution~

Not you, dish-rag of a girl behind the counter, nor you, 65ish waitress with the second-hand Target sweater and hair clip.

Nope, you two have my respect. You’ve earned it. Over and over, you’ve earned it. Day in, and day out, you’ve earned it.

Say what you like about what money can’t buy, it can buy a whole lot of peace of mind and privilege. That’s why it’s so coveted, and so hoarded by those who have it. If it was as worthless as all the popular memes want us to believe, people would be way, way, way more generous.

Why your terrible breakfast offends me is because YOU are likely a greedy-money-hording employer from hell. I’m guessing, but it’s an educated guess.

More than once favourite restaurants have changed hands, and I believe that one of my favourite breakfast spots, Artisano’s may have also changed ownership, or perhaps the management has just dumped the concept of customer service? I’m not sure. I am sure that I will not be going back, nor recommending it based on my own personal experience.

Any time front-line staff don’t produce excellent products or customer service, it’s likely because they don’t have the tools or energy to do it. After all, who likes to feel second-best after a long day at work? When I say tools, in this case I mean decent food to use and enough staff. When I say energy, I mean; the staff likely get treated and paid like hell.

Yah, a bad breakfast is a first world problem, but it’s the symptom of a larger problem. First of all, if you’re raising kids, and working, you likely have to stop somewhere to eat at least once or even twice a week, simply because the demands of work and the demands of trying to have your kids get ahead mean you have no time and a whole whack of  extra blood pressure. Why? Simply put; the Have’s now have more, and the Have-Nots have even less. And yet we’re not protesting in Canadian streets. This both intrigues and frightens me.

ewwwSo, when I get a chance to actually enjoy a meal, and I’m paying YOU for it, I’d like it to be well-cooked, fresh and hot. That’s the least someone should expect. Your burned bacon and rubbery-older-than-dirt sausage and cold as hell eggs suck. No salt or pepper. Clearly those are extravagances.  Besides, when the food is burned, old and cold, salt and pepper are really just putting lipstick on the pig aren’t they darlings?  And if you’re looking at the photo, that’s not pepper, it’s grit from the grill. Ewww.

Staff to bring you those things after you ask? Can’t be bothered. Breakfast is a completely indulgent meal to enjoy on a Sunday morning; with hot coffee and a newspaper, there are few things that make me happier.

I do not blame the all too commonly underpaid staff who are working their buns off to pay the bills. I do blame employers who skimp, penny-pinch and do so at the cost of the health of employees and customers.  This is why your terrible breakfast offends me. This is why I will not be back.

When Nothing Matters, It Matters Most

Toast 1Despite having a career which could easily see me lost day and night in the good and meaningful work I am blessed to be able to do, the energy I have to do that work comes from making time for rejuvenation, shenanigans, and spending time being nurtured by the people who love me.

Stirring honey into my tea today, I overheard a woman exclaim that she was feeling overwhelmed, and complaining that going away for a holiday just made it harder to come back and get up every day to get back to work.

I slipped my wooden stir-stick into the trash and stole a quick peak at her from under my luscious locks. She was a bit younger than me, and clearly, unbalanced.

That’s not a cynical observation.

She looked to be carrying the weight of the world even though she was sipping a gourmet beverage in an upscale coffee shop with a friend willing to listen. “Why is life so difficult“, her high shoulders seemed to be whimpering. I know shoulder language, because more often than not, my own shoulders are tensed right up to my ear lobes, and the margins in my life are tighter than cycling shorts on a man smack dab in the middle of a mid-life crisis.

You read that right. Men in cycling shorts should never happen. Ever.

Anyway…

Balance; the-shoulds-of-a capitalistic-society verses the shoulds of, Deep-down-I-am-a-free-thinking-spiritual-lush. Recently I’ve been up to a little ‘make herself happy’  balance plan.

laughingwomenFood, wine and friendship, the great triumvirate of happiness. Combine those three, and I’m a happy woman.

Before I allowed my joy to be stolen by a grand conspiracy of single-parenthood, economic necessity, and surrender, I was the queen of food, wine and friendship, the duchess of do-it-all-and-then-some, the grand-dame-of-damn-that-woman-can-dance. Oh yah, I lived in and for the moment.

That was long ago and far away, but not an impossible attitude to resurrect.

Trying to be a responsible-adult-woman, the final strike was entering into a relationship with a man who ruined all three for me; food, wine AND friendship.  I carried on in the relationship because that’s what I thought I was supposed to be doing when in fact, I was supposed to be doing whatever the hell I felt like.

Life as I knew it and dreamed it was over when that relationships ended. It was both heartbreaking (there would be no big, happy family or new babies) and emancipating. Turns out, I’m not sure I was ever convinced, other than the apparent security, that a traditional relationship was best for me after so many years of doing everything on my own.

More than a man who needed to lead, it turns out I need a man who values laughter, discovering new food, wine and ways of making sure moments matter even if it’s just sitting in companionable silence. I thought I had  someone like that making a place in my life this summer, but I was mistaken. Must have been the wine.

On my way home from the office I stopped on a whim and picked up a couple of bottles of wine to hold me over until the vintage release this weekend. I found a much coveted Italian varietal, and another which conjures a warm, no.  Wait. Not warm. It conjures memories of an electrically charged, white-hot  and carefree love-affair, aptly birthed in Sonoma, California and named Folies a Deux.

I will take my charming new find to be uncorked at a French restaurant tomorrow evening to share over a meal and wonderful conversation.

Being excited to try new wine, try new recipes, make time for friends, writing, and maybe a little tryst in a land far-far-away means I’ve got the groove back I thought I had lost.

"We all begin as stringers..."  ~ANDSHELAUGHS~

“We all begin as strangers…”
~ANDSHELAUGHS~

What on earth was I thinking? When you’ve got it, you can never lose it.

Get out there and be fabulous darlings. There is exquisite wine held hostage in bottles just waiting to be emancipated. There is savoury food waiting to dance on your palate, and friendships that need rekindling.

I also have a suspicion that there are delectable men who are worthy of wooing us, just waiting for our school-girl hearts to bow to the sage wisdom of serendipity.

 

 

 

 

So She Drove, So She Drove, So She Drove

wildandsingleOh, the weather outside was mild

And she was feelin’ kinda wild

So she drove, so she drove, so she drove…

It’s been unseasonably mild here, with nary a tiny pile of white, fluffy, hideous snow or ice to be found. Although it makes for romantic scenery to snuggle up by the fire with, while the snow falls outside, snow sucks.

Let me clarify; Driving in the snow sucks, walking in the snow sucks, and shoveling the snow sucks.

Yesterday, as I bee-bopped along the top of the GTA, being tailgated by Rudolph, I was pretty happy. No, wait, it wasn’t Rudolph, it was a mini-van duded up with a fuzzy red nose and antlers. Get off my ass Rudolph, you mini-van driving boxing-day hording freak, it’s Christmas!

Besides the load of work I do leading up to the holiday for our annual dinner, and get-togethers, the December 26- January 1 days are a major part of my holiday celebrations.

Off I trotted to an annual out-of-town open house and traditional too-much-Christmas-cheer overnighter. It took me an hour to get there. Record time, but during that blissfully peaceful hour on the highway I could feel the stress and fatigue get up and start gathering their holiday luggage. Whew. It was delightful and an absolute gift to be a guest in someone else’s home.

In the morning, I woke with a slight twinge of regret, and a bit of optimism. After all, I was off next to lunch at the home of dear friends. After popping into my favourite shops, The Gentle Rain,  for some local honey and Rheo Thompson Candies for the best chocolate dipped cherries in the entire universe, I was back on the road.

I was once again tailgated by  another mini-van driving Rudolph wanna be. I’m sure that the ‘Rudolph’ mini-van  is the preferred vehicle of all of the Cousin Eddie’s in our lives.

Off to lunch with friends who understood  my red-wine Christmas themed over-indulgence from the night before. They once again opened their home to me, and set out a fine and delicious selection, “Please, have some more salmon, it’s good for a hangover,” the host offered.  Artichokes, olives, lox, handmade quiche and a little, white, hair-of-the-dog-that-bit-me.

These visits are what Christmas is about; connecting with the wonderful people in your life whom you see far too little of, but think about daily, and miss like crazy.  The company of kindred spirits is sometimes hard to find in a life of work and single-sports-momming, but during these days I find it and savor the moments.

Today, it’s off to lunch at a small airport just north of the city with another wonderful friend. I’m so happy to be able to travel on clear roads and do all of my catching up with so many of the people in my life I feel blessed to count as friends.

Life is good when we slow down and enjoy the friendships that buoy us up, and make life worth living. For the time to do that, I am truly grateful.

 

Santa Strike: Stuff That Won’t Get Done This Christmas

"Within you there is a stillness and sanctuary to which you can retreat at any time and be yourself." ~Hermann Hesse~

“Within you there is a stillness and sanctuary to which you can retreat at any time and be yourself.”
~Hermann Hesse~

This is one of those Christmases. I’ve had very few of them, but this is going to be counted as one.

It’s 11:25 am, and I am still in my nightgown, staring out at a beautiful sunny sky, thinking of my to-do list, and giving myself permission to mentally rip it up and set it on the Christmas fire.

Having been an eager little elf in years past, people expect my bounding red, green and jingling-bell joy every year; the cards, sweets, treats, carols, and extra little gifties. They expect my home to be clean, neat, decorated and the door to be open. There is always wine and coffee and tea, and time to sit and visit in the midst of the lights on the tree and mantle.

This year, is not one of those years. Sure, the lights are up, there is definitely wine available, and tea or coffee if you prefer, but you’re likely to find me wandering around with a book of Rumi’s brilliance and braless until noon, and I’m ok with that.

You know what that means? That means you have to be ok with it too. Yep.

Instead of good old Bing and Ella belting out classic Christmas tunes, I’ve got Hozier on high, and Sam Smith. If you want treats, the ingredients are in the cupboard, and you can help yourself to my kitchen. While you’re at it, mama would like some Scottish shortbread and some macaroons. The floor could really use a scrub and the dishwasher needs unloading. Too much bother you say? I totally get it.

Sometimes you just have to take a break from being everyone else’s jolly elf. Sometimes you need to just forget about what you think you have to do, and do what your soul is telling you that you ought to do for your own well-being. I’m going to pioneer a new field of study; The Ethics of Self-Care.

Take it from the master of flipping-off-elf-class-101. I’m headed to the tub now for a long soak with my coffee, Patti Smith art book and Eminem. If you need me, you’ll have to drag my pudgy,wet, steamy body from the bathtub, and that won’t be pretty.

The Elusive Christmas Rutabaga

rutabaga

“No Christmas dinner is complete without rutabaga.” ~Andshelaughs~

At 11:30 p.m. one Christmas eve, long, long ago, and about ten kilometers away, I almost tossed away one of the most cherished traditional foods to grace our Christmas table; the elusive Southwestern Ontario Rutabaga.

Had it not been for a squash turned bitter-el-yucko from being grown too close to the gourd patch, I may not be telling you this story.

That evening I had given in to my lovely British boyfriend’s aversion to turnip in favour of squash. I had also ensured that we had his cherished brussel sprouts and enough potatoes to make our mashed and his roasted, along with a sure-thing bread sauce mix for the turkey. Anyway, the squash tasted like bitter-el-yucko (that’s Spanish slang for; it-tasted-like-shit).

So, literally at the eleventh hour, I hustled my chubby bustle to the twenty-four-hour grocer across the street, who would be closing at midnight for Christmas. What was I hoping to find? Not a squash which may have also been contaminated, but  the elusive Christmas Rutabaga. I learned my lesson that year; stick with rutabaga, because it never let’s you down.

You may have read my last post, Caring Less That It’s Christmas. To say I’m not in the Christmas spirit is putting things mildly. So, tonight, unlike most years, I ran out to get the Christmas groceries before the parking-lots become a UFC event tomorrow.

This is not like me. I’m usually el-finito with the Christmas groceries at least two weeks in advance, except for staples like milk and red wine, our pantry is decked out like we’re ready for nuclear holocaust by November 30th.

This year the only items I had stocked up on were sour cream and coloured mini-marshmallows (for my retro 70’s squares). Those darn marshmallows sit on the shelf all year, and then go MIA every year right after Thanksgiving.

I had everything I needed paid for and packed carefully in shopping bags; the orange jello for our tacky jello dish, the pineapple and mandarin oranges for the traditional ambrosia, a thousand pounds of butter for our thousand pounds of sweet treats, five cases of soda, bags of chips, frozen pizza for the teenagers to eat during their lazy days at home, cat food so little Willie Nelson doesn’t starve, tangerines, brown sugar, icing sugar, white sugar, flour, not to mention our every-day groceries that have nutritional value.  But I did not have the rutabaga.

So I stopped at the next store over. No rutabaga.

It took me three stops before I finally got my gnarled up little paws on a rutabaga. Three stores!!!

I like to think that it’s worth the effort. That my son will remember our traditional Canadian food, and that our guests feel like it’s Christmas when they join us on Christmas day. So tonight, I can put my feed up safe in the knowledge that everything I need for our Christmas dinner, and my Christmas baking trays is ready to go.

Once I had successfully captured the elusive Christmas rutabaga, I could cross the last thing off my Christmas shopping list, and there’s no greater feeling. Well, maybe a pedicure and the undivided thorough and proper attention of a good man, but I digress.

Tomorrow is baking day; snickerdoodles, gingersnaps, shortbread, whipped shortbread with chocolate nougat, my 70’s retro squares, a batch of fudge, pineapple squares, biscotti, maybe some caramel corn, and the last drenching of the fruitcake with rum.

Now I bet you’re wishing that bitter-el-yucko squash hadn’t been grown so close to the gourd patch aren’t you? You’re kinda wishing I kept my trap shut and switched to common squash. But I’m not common my darlings. I’m a country girl at heart who loves tradition even more than she actually enjoys the rutabaga.  Go figure.

Wishing you a peaceful and relaxing weekend before the fat-man in the red-suit shimmies down your chimney next week.

 

Ritual, Devotion, Faith & Fruitcakes

monkcakeI’m very fortunate to have the ear of clergy representing many faith groups at many levels. Recently, during a conversation we discussed the idea of ritual in opposition to devotion.

Raised Christian, with a background rooted in the rich and terrifying land of Religious Studies in combination with being a present-day-barely-practicing-Buddhist, I must admit that I  equally find comfort in the ritual of a Protestant service,  Catholic mass and chanting of the Sutras.

I’m one of those heathen hybrids that most faith leaders find irresistible when it comes to their calling to convert. That I can somewhat intelligently discuss a vast variety of religious dogma and texts makes me somewhat slippery when it comes to devotion, and a ritual junkie. My values of honouring the human spirit, practice of kindness and stripping interpretation of sacred text of its ancient and oppressive cultural superstition also makes me a bit of a pariah.

The idea that devotion and ritual can even be opposed left me gob-smacked.

 

devotion; noun (pr. dee-vo-shuh-n)
1. profound dedication; consecration.
2. earnest attachment to a cause, person, etc.
3. an assignment or appropriation to any purpose, cause, etc.:

the devotion of one’s wealth and time to scientific advancement.

4. Often, devotions. Ecclesiastical. religious observance or worship; a form of prayer or worship for special use.

Devotion embraces elements of ritual, often as prescribed by religious texts and demanded by rites of passage.

I do believe that perhaps the faith leader I was speaking with perhaps intended to say that people often go through rituals without understanding the intended meaning within the faith. Ritual is a step on the pathway of devotion.

Ritual often reveals itself in real-life-every-day habitual activities. Think about our rituals around food.

Today, for instance, I spent  some time preparing a fruitcake recipe that has been handed down for generations. ‘What does fruitcake have to do with ritual and devotion‘, you might be asking yourself right now. Everything.

The ritual reminds me of my grannies, and all of the lessons about life I  learned at their apron strings; patience, planning, generosity, the value of work, taking time to teach, listening, and even the value of humour.

You see, it’s not about the fruitcake. It’s about what you do with it. Your fruitcake might be wine, or cabbage rolls, easter ham, serving tea or technical skills. It’s about whatever it is that helps you create something to be shared with your community.

After all, isn’t a life of faith, devotion and practice about creating a more compassionate, loving world? Religious scripture, ritual, and organization are creations of our own, intended  to guide us on a path of living a life of purpose, meaning and compassion.

Whatever your creations (even if it’s a controversial culinary masterpiece like the oft-debated value of fruitcake), they are  your gift to share.

Small,  daily rituals such as opening a door for someone, shaking hands or  sharing food are all stepping-stones of devotion. That we don’t recognize them in such a busy world, where the human spirit often struggles to shine,  does not diminish their value .

Your small gestures  in this big machine of North-American life do matter.

Celebrate your mundane creations, and the people who share them with you. Faith has such vast connotations, but why don’t you try to think of faith as  the ability of the human spirit to shine through our every-day-existence.

Whatever your particular faith, ritual or devotion, please share your own fruitcake with the world.