Mex I Can

I feel like for my entire childhood, my mother was in the kitchen.

When we got home at four, we dropped our knapsacks at the door and plopped down on the couch, brain dead from a long day at school.  This was before remote controls, so one of us would squat with our face two inches from the screen and turn the dial while the other would whine, " No, go back! That one". Mom didn't interfere or take sides. She let us sort it out, but we both knew she was she was there, in the kitchen, listening.

Most days, Mom would bring us an after school snack. It was usually 'soldiers' (a peanut butter and jam sandwich cut into four long rectangles) or cheese and crackers. She probably put cucumber and carrot sticks on the plate too...but I don't remember. 

When we spread out our books and paper on the dining room table, Mom was cooking dinner in the next room. We would holler our questions and she would holler back answers. If we called her ("mmmaaaaaaaam"), she would leave her cooking and come help. 

Dinner was difficult for Mom. My sister liked cheese and hot dogs and was pretty fussy. I was a self-declared vegetarian from the age of seven, and my dad was the pickiest. I don't remember watching him eat. I remember my mom having small portions. I remember sitting across from my sister and making faces. The big square table where we sat down to dinner was too big to kick my sister under the table (though I'm sure we tried). 

If we had food left on our pates, Mom would divide the plate and tell us to choose a side and eat it. If we still couldn't, Dad would tell us we were not allowed any cereal or snacks later and that if we were hungry, we would have to finish our plate. 

When we had finished, it was custom (and required of us) to say, " Thank you for the lovely meal. May I please be excused?". We said it every night for my entire childhood and into my teens. 

In high school, Mom worked, so we got home before her. We'd drop our knapsacks with a thud and plop in front of the TV. She would get home, take off her coat and march on ahead to the kitchen. I remember being upset that she didn't take off her shoes when she got home. It never occurred to me she was in a hurry because she was racing against the clock of hungry growing hormonal teens.  It never occurred to me to get dinner started. I would look in the fridge and there would be "nothing to eat" and she'd open it up, spend an hour cooking/pulling rabbits out of hats and would always offer us a (healthy and satisfying) feast. 

Towards the end of high school, I would sit on the barstool at the end of the kitchen counter and watch her cook. 

When we had eaten everything on our plates and were ready to leave the table, we would thank our mom for dinner - often in unison. 

Now, in my 30s, I live alone. I work during the day and when I get home I'm exhausted. But what do I do? I march on ahead to the kitchen with my shoes still on and dive into making dinner.  

Cooking for one is hard. It's hard to tell yourself you are special enough to fuss over. But you are. I am.

I have been craving Mexican. I can't eat onions, garlic, wheat tortillas, beans or dairy, so you can imagine making Mexican seem authentic and satisfying is a challenge. But I did it. 

Because of Mama.

She taught me that it is possible to whip something up from nothing if you're got the right momentum, vision and chutzpah. 

 

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P.S.

I did go to cooking school. Cooking school taught me the rules and techniques. Mama taught me how to love to cook, how to show others you care by cooking for them, how feeding people creates a deep bond, and that sharing food can be the greatest gift given or received. 

 

 

Two Sheds, Bread and Chocolate Truffle Pie

I painted two small sheds yesterday. I had been hired to do this project a month back but I am a novice and went too slow. The weather changed before I could finish painting all the grooves. Yesterday was warm, possibly 15 degrees Celsius, and I finished painting after 4 hours. 

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It was windy when I walked home. It seems my days usually end around 3pm; That's when the sun starts going down. That's when the weather changes. I realized I hadn't been thinking about anything all day. I was focused on painting and my mind was blank. It felt like my brain was calm water lapping inside my head. 

I slept at 9 and woke at midnight to start the arduous but incredibly pleasurable task of making a mass batch of bread. It doesn't take too much effort, but it does take time and attention. I talk to the dough. It helps. I'm sure of it. 

By 7 in the morning, the bread was out and cooling and I crept back upstairs to bed for a few hours.

Just after 11, I flew out the door, late for work, holding the earrings I intended on wearing. As I descended the stairs, I prodded my ear lobe with the hook and hit something. I was already wearing earrings.  

This evening, I made a chocolate pie from scratch and with no recipe. I am mourning the closure of Bar Italia. It was a restaurant - until a few months ago - on College Street in Toronto. My parents took us there before they divorced. It was simply where our family went if we were going out for supper.  Everyone always got the same thing except Mom, who always had a hard time deciding.  

There was a chocolate truffle cake on the menu. It could hardly be called a cake. I don't think it was baked and I don't think it had flour or leavening agents. It was always the same: perfect and insanely rich. The slice was only an inch thick and maybe 5 inches long. It sat on a plate alone or there may have been a raspberry coulis underneath. Our family shared that one dessert every time. 

I went on my first date there, with a guy who would eventually propose to me when I was 16. We both used fake i.d. I don't remember what I ate, but I know where we sat and the view I had of that room. That room is etched in my memory forever. 

Later, I got a job as a cook there. It was my third job ever. I never saw anyone make the chocolate truffle cake. Someone did it upstairs but I never saw who or when they made it. 

Tonight, I channelled Bar Italia and what I have learned about cooking since and I prepared two mini chocolate truffle pies. They are in a pie shells only because I had left over pie pastry. 

I cannot eat this pie, but I will savour the memories it holds. Tomorrow, I will give it to my mom and her partner, my stepdad, Trevor. 

Sleepover at Mom's

I was invited to my mom's house up the road for supper last night.

I eagerly accepted the invitation as I had planned on eating tuna with rice for dinner. I mean, I probably would have mixed the tuna with mayo and added some hot peppers and made some sort of slacker's spicy tuna hand roll - but nonetheless: nothing beats mom's cooking. 

She made a cottage pie. She called it, "Shepherd's pie" but I'm a snob like that and like I told her, " shepherds don't heard cows" . It was good. It had peas in it and I'm not allowed peas so I got heartburn after. 

I had brought dessert: a lemon lime custard pie. I'm not supposed to eat sugar. I asked Mom if she knew what "yolo" meant. She did. 

I'm not supposed to drink alcohol but I had some Glenfiddich with Mom while we played scrabble. She won by 20 points (a score of 282 for your nerds out there).  

I've been up since 5:30. There was no sunrise; it just got greyer then bright. 

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Because it is going above 5 degrees today, I have been commissioned to paint a shed I started painting a month ago but had to put on pause because of weather.

Mom is outside talking to the dogs. I have seen some birds - mostly black capped chickadees and slate juncos-  and I read that they need water in the winter so I'm waiting to see if they use the bath I just filled for them. 

I tried to instagram the birds but they fly away too fast. C'est la vie. 

Oh - and I put shaved truffles on my eggs this morning. I know you jelly.