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Happy-Gourmand

A recipe for friendship

I am off to Vancouver this week to see a friend who lives across the world. We've been friends since I was 19 years old. I am a godmother to her daughter; she and her daughter were in my bridal party. 

Martin cooked some of the food for her 25th wedding anniversary. We have visited on three continents and even after years of not seeing each other in person, it feels like I just had tea and biscuits with her yesterday when I do see her.

My girlfriend and I met on a bus tour in Europe. We made friends the first night, in Paris. All of us were sent out to the Left Bank to find somewhere to enjoy a French coffee. We were informed of the way things work: you will pay more if you sit at a table, and more still if you choose the patio. Well, the two of us came back quite "chuffed" (her South African expression, meaning "pumped," or "pleased with oneself or the situation"). We had managed to not only have a delicious cappuccino, but also spend more than anyone else, as we wanted to watch the people go by and enjoy the view.

Maybe you have a friend like this... Is your friendship linked in part by the food you've shared? Are there recipes that connect you with that person? Way back before there was the Internet, my first exposure to South African cooking was when I received a missive from my girlfriend with hand-copied recipes — some of her favourites. They are now some of mine, and every time I pull out the stationery with her beautiful notes I think of memories we have shared.

Now, we find new recipes all over, with magazines and apps and the infamous Google search. It's fun to have so much information at my fingertips, but I must admit, I especially adore the recipes that have been passed to me by someone I know. I consider it an act of faith that they share something they enjoy and that they trust me to recreate. It brings friends closer together.

My girlfriend and I have shared foods as well as recipes. Some things were more exotic years ago, before the world was smaller and every town had a shop with specialty food from all over. I discovered Roobois tea, and she discovered maple syrup. We traded favourite cookies and chocolate and candies. Different spice blends were exciting to try. She likes using Martin's barbecue spice rub and I have a cook's spice blend she sent that is delicious. We broadened our horizons together.

Of course, we have beautiful shared memories of meals together too. One of my favourite Christmases was with them in Vancouver. Martin cooked the turkey on the barbecue, which they had never seen, and, just to make it magical, it snowed on Christmas night while he was cooking.


While visiting them in England a few years ago, we drove up the lane to the farmhouse and saw pheasants in the field, the picture of English country living. Sitting in the kitchen with the large hearth and stone walls, we were only a bit surprised to find out it was pheasant for dinner (not the one we saw; they can be bought at the butcher). It was a delicious Sunday dinner that felt like something out of a BBC drama :)


On my trip to South Africa to visit her in 1995, we had a most memorable day in wine country. I'll never forget the picnic lunch at Blaauwklippen Wine Estate, and pizza on the beach at Gordon's Bay. They were both quintessential examples of South African hospitality and joie de vivre;

 After 30 years of friendship, coffee and tea are still a staples of our visits. Sometimes they are a simple cup in the kitchen, and other times they are still a search for something exotic and special. The crumbs of cookies shared has made part of the fabric of our friendship over the years, and the recipes we use while apart help hold the links together. Every morsel of time we share adds to the meal that makes up our relationship.

So this week.I offer up a classic South African recipe that I got in a letter many years ago. It's still one of my faves. In winter, I like it with a cup of tea, and in summer I add a bit of fresh fruit. I hope you can enjoy it with one of your friends.

MERLE'S MILK TART
I write the recipe as she did...

  • 1. Make the biscuit base:
  • 250 g / 1 cup graham wafer crumbs
  • 80 g / 1/3 cup shredded unsweetened coconut
  • 30 g / 2 tbsp sugar
  • 80 g / 1/3 cup butter or margarine, melted
  • Mix ingredients in a bowl till well mixed. Spread into bottom of a pie plate or small rectangular baking dish. Refrigerate.
  • 2. Boil together (bring to a boil, then remove from heat and stir):
  • 500 mL / 2 cups milk
  • 125 g  1/2 cup margarine or butter
  • 3. Beat in a medium bowl:
  • 2 egg yolks (save whites)
  • 190 g / 3/4 cup sugar
  • 4. Mix to a paste:
  • 65 g/1/4 cup milk
  • 125 g/1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3 mL/1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 5. Add paste to egg and sugar mixture.
  • 6. Add paste mixture to boiled milk mixture. Cook over medium heat until thick, stirring constantly. Bring to a slow boil, then set aside to cool.
  • 7. Beat egg whites till stiff (the two whites you saved). Fold into cooled custard.
  • 8. Pour custard over biscuit base. Refrigerated till firm — at least two hours, preferably overnight.
  • 9. Sprinkle tart with 2 mL/1/4 tsp cinnamon before serving. Serve with tea.


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About the Author

Kristin Peturson-Laprise is a customer experience specialist by trade, which means she is someone passionate about people having a good time. 

Her company, Wow Service Mentor, helps businesses enhance their customer experience through hands-on training, service programs, and special event coordination.

Kristin enjoys her own experiences too, and that is what she writes about in this column. She and her husband Martin Laprise (also known as Chef Martin, of The Chef Instead) love to share their passion for food and entertaining.  

Kristin says:

"Wikipedia lists a gourmand as a person who takes great pleasure in food. I have taken the concept of gourmandise, or enjoying something to the fullest, in all parts of my life. I love to grow and cook food, and I loved wine enough to become a Sommelier. I call a meal a success when I can convey that 'sense of place' from where the food has come . . . the French call that terroir, but I just call it the full experience. It might mean tasting the flavours of my own garden, or transporting everyone at the table to a faraway place, reminiscent of travels or dreams we have had."

 

E-mail Kristin at:  [email protected]

Check out her website here:  www.wowservicementor.com

 



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The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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