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Happy-Gourmand

Breakfast of champions

Those of you who are in my age bracket will remember this title as a slogan for a brand of breakfast cereal.

Nowadays, breakfast cereal is hardly even a topic of conversation, but back then it was iconic food.

Wheaties was the breakfast of champions. I remember it because it had many famous athletes on the box, like Rusty Staub (he played for the Montreal Expos).

There was an expression in those days, used for when people gave a special effort in something. You said to them, “Wow, you must have had your Wheaties this morning!”

I did not like Wheaties. They went soggy almost immediately after you added the milk to the bowl. In my humble young opinion, they were not worth buying.

I could cheer for those champions without eating soggy cereal.

I was more of a Grape Nuts girl, or maybe Shreddies. Spoon Size was pretty tasty, too, with a bit of brown sugar on top – and slices of banana, or berries if they were in season.

For the most part, my parents weren’t keen to buy sugary cereals. The one exception was when we went camping for summer holidays.

Then, my mom bought those assorted mini boxes of cereal that you could open from the side to make a bowl.

My brother and I would divvy up the Fun Pak, as they called it. We would hope our parents would want the Rice Krispies and Corn Flakes. He loved Fruit Loops, so then I got the Apple Jacks. The Corn Pops we sometimes played rock-scissors-paper for.

There was one novelty cereal that became a treat in our house, and although it did taste great, I do believe it was ingenious marketing that sucked in not only us kids but my parents, too. That was Hunny Munch, a cereal that had Winnie the Pooh on the box.

Christopher Robin and his “silly old Bear” were childhood icons in our household. In the days before Elmo, Teletubbies, Barney, Dora and all the rest, book characters had far more clout.

Pooh and his friends were charming and believable as characters (they weren’t too cool, like that Tony Tiger guy). They had fun adventures, and they stuck together.

Maybe Pooh’s gourmand nature was part of the attraction, too. A honey-glazed cereal sounded like the definition of decadence in my little mind. A

nd for a while, there was even a little friend in the box too – a plastic character, one for each of the gang. I still have a few of them in my shadow box of keepsakes.

We called Hunny Munch “Pooh cereal” at our house. It was uniquely available in Canada, made by Quaker Oats Company (they had exclusive rights to the story characters in Canada).

It was not in the stores long where I grew up, and I was sad when it disappeared. I have had Corn Pops, which look and taste similar, but they are not the same.

Nostalgia has a special flavour to it, and it is not just about the experience of our taste buds. The wonderful part of it is the memories connected to it, which lingers even if we never get to taste the flavour again. Did you know taste and memory are connected?

I will never eat Hunny Munch cereal again. I may buy a Fun Pak this summer when my hubby and I go camping. And I will most certainly read the tales of Pooh and his charming friends to our granddaughter. That even beats getting a prize in the box.

Remember to eat your breakfast. It is the most important meal of the day.



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How do I thank my mom?

Mother’s Day is fast approaching. The pressure is on from the marketers to recognize those women in our lives who nurture us. But how does one properly do that?

I send my mom a card every year at Mother’s Day, saying how happy I am for the times we have shared and the many important things she has taught me.

It doesn’t do more than cover the tip of the iceberg, however. How does one say that the best thing someone else did for them was let them be themselves?

This year, instead of getting messages in my Inbox about where to take my mom for brunch, I am getting emails about how to send her something from Etsy or suggestions of virtual classes we could take together.

It all sounds lovely, but not nearly enough.

One of the things my mom taught me early on was that personalizing a gift is what makes it special. Going for brunch or dinner was delightful, but she loved it even more when we cooked something ourselves.

I have written before about the chocolate mousse my brother and I made that had a teaspoon of “strong coffee.” In our childhood wisdom, we thought that meant a heaping spoon of coffee grounds. Mom told us she liked the extra crunch.

I love you, Mom.

When we made our first crescent rolls, she admired our rolling skills. Thankfully, she hadn’t been to Paris yet to have a real croissant for comparison.

I was so glad when I got to share my love of French food with her on a spring trip to Europe when I was 19. It felt like I was making up for past sins of the palate.

To this day, we share happy memories of fresh strawberry tarts, crêpes from street vendors and the hole-in-the-wall cafés of the Left Bank.

We have shared many food-and-drink events together over the years:

  • A champagne tasting at the Vancouver Playhouse Wine Festival (we learned how to open a bottle with a saber)
  • Spanish tapas and wine in the basement of a tiny Seattle bar we found long before there was Google and Trip Advisor
  • Delectable fresh sourdough and seafood chowder (and wonderful shopping, too) at the Pier in San Francisco
  • Amazing barbecue at a place in New York City that was so small it was only known by the name of the street, Great Jones Street
  • Paella at a summer long table dinner at Miradoro restaurant in Oliver.

This year, as it was last year, our celebrations will be virtual. We will take turns describing the delicacies we have prepared with each other in mind, looking forward to when we can share them again at the same table. We will clink glasses through the screen.

We will probably send recipes via email. Some of hers are posted on my blog — just look for “Nancy” or “Mom” in the title.

Since last March, Mom and I have been meeting on WhatsApp for a video call once a week. Many times, it has been the highlight of my week, getting to chat with her.

I took her on tours in the garden during the summer and showed her my Christmas decorations in the winter. She oohed and aahed and applauded my efforts, and it was almost as good as a hug.

My mom has always been a good listener, and she loves a good debate. We have worked toward solving the problems of the world many times. If only we had taken notes, things might be different in the world (or so I thought after a few glasses of wine.)

Maybe to thank her for Mother’s Day, I should just send Mom this column. Perhaps if she knows how much the memories have meant to me, how important it was to learn the magic of appreciating every moment…

Or I might just need to recreate an early card I gave her. Even though I didn’t know it then, it encompassed my character. It said, “To Mumsy, from Clumsy — Happy Mother’s Day!”

I asked her once in my teen years if being clumsy was just a phase. “I’ll grow out of it, right?”

She replied, “No, dear, it’s a lifelong state of being. You will just have to learn to live with it.” And she smiled. So, I knew I would be alright. Thanks, Mom.



A bit of pomp, ceremony

My hubby, Martin, and I have always made a big deal about Oscar night.

We do much planning and research, culminating in a celebration with close friends and festive food.

You are probably thinking we are a bit nuts. Why would we want to make a big deal about the Oscars, another award show in a whole season of them, like another silly not-so-real reality show.

Well, perhaps if I give you some background, you can better understand our point of view…

I grew up in the film business. Most of the sets I visited over the years were for the small screen, but my Dad did work on a few feature films.

I loved the “smoke and mirrors” – the magic of how a story came together and was conveyed onto the screen.

I used to dream of seeing my father accept an Oscar when I was little. The crews of people I got to know over the years were like family, all helping to make the magic of movies happen.

Recognizing those people was important; it made the magic even more real.

Martin and I share another link to the world of film: we met in the movie business. We were both cooking for film crews when we first dated, and we quickly learned a common interest was seeing movies as well as helping to make them.

Over the years, we have seen films on birthdays, on vacation, on the night we got engaged, and even on our first night of married life. So, to say that movies hold a fond spot in our hearts is certainly not a stretch.

This year the movies we have seen have been at home, just the two of us. The last time we were in a theatre was March 12, 2020. The Oscars will not be the same show, but we will still be celebrating another year of magic on the screen and another year together.

In the spirit of keeping some traditions alive, I offer up some tips my wonderful chef hubby included when we wrote about our Oscar festivities way back in 2007.

He Says:

This weekend we will drive to Calgary to visit some friends and enjoy the Oscars with them. Just like the big movie stars in California, we will dress up, kick back and cheer for our favourite movies, congratulating the winners and celebrating so many great memories.

I thought I would give you recipes for a few simple appies, in case you are planning to watch the show, too.

Stuffed Mushrooms:

Take a white mushroom, remove the foot with a melon baller and stuff it with a mixture of crab meat, mayonnaise, and Cajun spices. Bake on a tray in a 350F oven, around 20 minutes.

Sausages on a Crouton

Grill some nice Hungarian sausages (in Kelowna, Illichman’s Deli has tasty ones). Slice them thin and place them on a piece of fresh baguette with a chipotle mayonnaise or horseradish mustard.

Citrus Thai Prawns

Choose medium prawns (21/25 per pound, 3-4 prawns per person.) Grate the rind of 1 lemon and 1 lime on raw, peeled prawns, four hours ahead of time to marinate them. In a large pan, start cooking your prawns.

Once they are almost finished cooking, add some green curry paste, the juice of a lime and a few handfuls of cilantro.

Smoked Salmon Tarts

Buy some mini tart shells and fill them up with some cooked shredded smoked salmon. Add some fresh whipping cream mixed with a bit of Parmesan on the salmon, and top the whole thing with some more parmesan cheese.

Bake in a 375F oven until done, around 12 minutes (pastry should be golden and filling bubbling).





Green with ambition

Little Jack would have been envious of the package I got in the mail this week.

I might not have a chance at the golden goose, but I am one happy gardening gourmand now that my seeds have arrived for the season.

We have our trusty vertical garden indoors during winter, so we have had a winter taste of home-grown lettuce and a few herbs.

Now, things kick into high gear though; I get the greenhouse dusted off and set up, till the vegetable garden and start to plant my herb seeds.

I am fortunate to have plenty of garden space here at Rabbit Hollow. I have raised boxes for my perennial herbs and edible flowers, and two small plots for some quirky plants like chervil, ginger mint, Queen Anne’s lace and edelweiss.

Then, there is the greenhouse for peppers, and the veggie garden for oddities such as black carrots and cucamelons and rainbow tomatoes.

Oh, and we have our edible fence of berries and stone fruit.

Hobbies can often get obsessive. Once we get enthusiastic about something we love, we want to learn more, do more with our skills and try whatever is new.

For me, that means planting unusual vegetables and lesser-known herbs and edible flowers. I fill all the spaces with my new finds each year; my enthusiasm knows no bounds.

There is a saying, “a man should never plant a garden larger than his wife can take care of.” When I stroll through the gardens on summer mornings and enjoy the many colours and aromas, I love all the bounty.

At the end of the day, though, when my back is aching and I look up knowing I’ve only made it halfway through the weeds, then I wonder if my wonderful hubby might have overestimated my ability.

My main problem is that I am a wimp when it comes to plants. Much of what I plant are old varieties, often heirlooms, which means their seeds can sprout freely, growing volunteer seedlings.

In the spring, when I see the new shoots that have managed to get through the composted winter leaves, I want to give them the benefit of the doubt.

It takes all my inner strength to channel more of a practical attitude and remember they are not part of my original plan.

(Our farmer neighbour told me once that a weed is a plant growing where you don’t want it. She is right, I must stay strong.)

For those of you who shudder at the thought of maintaining more than a few window boxes, I am here to tell you that satisfaction is possible without obsession.

Gardening uses all our senses, making us focus on being in the moment without other distractions.

Even a little bit of time spent digging in the dirt is a great way to find moments of inner calm. Growing things also gives us a sense of accomplishment, and a chance to connect with Nature.

Maybe you like rewards for your work. If you want to add in the component of harvesting what you grow, those window boxes can be lovely with lettuces or herbs instead of flowers.. Or, you can look for edible blossoms to add in salads or use for garnishes.

(NOTE: These are best planted by seed unless your nursery bedding plant mentions it is edible.)

I know there are those who have no interest in getting their hands dirty or worrying about tending to plants. But what if I told you I can offer you a wee taste of what it’s like to be in the garden, or eat fresh produce, maybe venture out to a quaint village market with garden stalls?

From Here You Can’t See Paris by Michael Sanders is a delightful tale of a family that spends a year living in a rural French village. It will give you a dose of gardening, cooking, culture, history and beautiful views – all from the comfort of your patio chair.

I know not all of us are destined to be gardeners like Jack with his beanstalk. But everyone can enjoy the benefits in their own way.

As all those volunteer plants have taught me over the years, there is always room for one more to enjoy the space.



More Happy Gourmand articles

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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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