What the fuck is actually happening. Could all the assholes step aside and let the grown ups take over, please? Could someone please feed Putin a weed brownie and have him chill the fuck out? Could someone please take Amy Coney Barrett on a girls’ night out, feed her seven margaritas, and have her ugly cry Brett Kavanaugh-style into admitting her horrendous mistake? Ooooh shit, wait, that’s right, girls’ night won’t work, she hates women! Back to the drawing board! Speaking of hating women holy SHIT, Clarence Thomas. And also could someone grab his wife Ginni by the shoulders, in manner of Trump grabbing steering wheel from Secret Service Agent, and shake her while screaming, “YOU ARE A LAWYER. THIS IS NOT HOW SHIT WORKS. DID YOU MISS THAT DAY IN LAW SCHOOL. EVEN I KNOW THIS SHIT AND I ONLY HAVE A FINE ARTS DEGREE.” And honestly, how can a white protester leisurely build a DIY hot tub on Parliament Hill and I can’t build a deck on my house without a goddamn permit from the city? WHAT THE FUCK IS ACTUALLY HAPPENING.
I know we’ve all got a lot of pent up weird shit after the pandemic (after the pandemic ahahahahaha, very cute), but can everyone just work their aggression out in a spin class, or a sourdough starter instead of invading countries and stripping away women’s rights?
Remember when ALL we had to worry about was accidentally killing the elderly members of our family? Now, to add to the ever-growing list of worries: gas prices, food insecurity, the incineration of American democracy (I meeeeeeeaaan though, was it ever, really? Reeeeeaaalllly?), guns having more rights than women, sending your kid to elementary school, Europe literally melting, nuclear armageddon because of one dude’s ego, oh yeah, and the destruction of the planet, etc etc etc. That’s all. And let’s not forget Trump getting reelected or RON FUCKING DESANTIS getting the job in 2024 hahahahahahahahahahahahaaaaaaaaa oh my sweet fucking GOD.
Alright. Feeling mildly better after that. Wasn’t it was cute how I kept making jokes in my last post about “emotional eating”? Like, oh boo-hoo I’m so sad I have to self-isolate at Christmas for five days and have someone leave turkey dinner at the bottom of the basement door while I binge-watch Money Heist and eat After Eights until I puke (Ok, it didn’t happen to me but that’s how I imagined it while standing in line at Toys R’ Us, no judgement please, because you did it too). Ohhhh nooooo, what will I do in lockdown? I’ve had no practice for two years! How do I use this Skip the Dishes Gold Member Status, what will I doooooooooo??
Anyway. Food! If you can even afford to buy it these days after you’ve filled up your car.
It’s hard to find refuge lately, even when you live far enough away from it all, or you think you do because, let’s face it, stuff seems to be creeping closer and closer no matter what corner of the world you live in. So, because it’s mostly people complaining about having to sleep on an airport floor for one night in their entire life, and/or everyone fruitlessly yelling at each other, I’m trying to stay off the socials, as the kids call it. (I’m old enough to remember when socials meant real-life people and food and three dimensional funtimes but that’s a rant for another day). Taking it a bit easy on social media is made considerably easier by the fact that Facebook is a democracy-destroying cesspool, Twitter is being bandied about by billionaires who are bored after outer space or whatever, and Instagram is just ads telling me how to lose belly fat by never eating this one food (I don’t have TikTok because are you fucking kidding me). Avoiding the socials seems to be quelling the existential dread a little bit. Not reading the news much helps, too. Now, I’m not going to do something crazy like miss the VOCM Question of the Day or anything, Jesus, I’m not that far gone yet. I mean, I take a quick look at the local news every morning and a quick peak out the window to make sure this isn’t happening. But endless scrolling isn’t the solution, at least not for me. What works for me, at the risk of sounding like an inspirational Instagram post (actually worse than belly fat ads), is throwing all my energy into the small joys. Like me and my kid taking our first pond swim of the season. Or the shocking pink of a homemade rhubarb simple syrup that I made last week. The evenings being warm enough to sit out on the deck for a chat with a neighbour, or to sleep with the window wide open and not wear pajama pants and socks when I go to bed. That’s good stuff.
I had a thought when taking a dip in Punchbowl a couple weeks ago. The water was bath-warm but the fog was coming in and the air was freezing cold. Actual tendrils of fog were coming in over the pond, and a dragonfly flew by close enough that I could hear it buzz in my ear. I had the thought that if everyone could put down their phones and pay more attention to peaceful shit like this, maybe the world would be a better place?
I don’t know, man. I just seriously used the word “tendrils” in a food blog, so I might not be the best person to ask.
But the biggest joy for me, after my fella and my kid, and the unbridled shameless pleasure of reading the new Jennifer Grey memoir on our latest baycation (b’ys, the nose job story will actually break your fucking heart), is always food. I’m fortunate enough to still be able to occasionally splurge on tasty things that I love. And listen, I don’t take this shit lightly, you know? I’m grateful for it each and every day and hope that this will always be the case, knowing full well that overnight things could change. For all of us. Even the stupid space billionaires.
So here are some things that are on my list of small summer food joys. Feel free to try them, or at least let them inspire you to cook something that makes you temporarily forget that Joe Manchin exists.
Which kind of sounds like something absolutely filthy on Urban Dictionary, or, a good name for my kid’s first punk band. First single off the album could be “This Efficiency Unit Has No Corkscrew”, followed but the surprise hit, “Why Can’t We Have More Than One Roll of Toilet Paper.”
I can’t really remember how this baycation recipe even evolved. Maybe out of the necessity of having to pare down my travel spices to make room for more dinkies or something. In addition to an obscene amount of Ms. Vickie’s sea salt and malt vinegar chips, my stove top espresso maker, Justin’s baggie full of Tetley tea and sugar, and Jude’s favourite brand of peanut butter, gochugaru always gets tossed in the travel grocery bag when we go on baycation. And we are obsessed. It’s a Korean hot pepper powder that makes things spicy, but it’s kind of a gentle hug-type spice instead of a punch in the face. Good for upping your spice tolerance bit by bit if you’re not used to heat, and, in addition to Korean food, it’s really good in Kraft Dinner, and on t-bone steaks. And if you’re confused by the appearance of Kraft Dinner and steak in the same sentence, it’s 2022! Clarence Thomas is coming after your IUDs! Literally anything goes!
Try this at home, or around the bay, or when you’re camping. I’ve never made this in my house, only in cabins and efficiency units with kind of shitty barbecues, and it’s become our baycation tradition. Get two good steaks, we like a couple of big fat t-bones from Hallidays. Toss them in a couple of tablespoons of gochugaru, a few glugs of extra virgin olive oil, and two or three cloves of sliced garlic. Don’t salt them yet! I read somewhere that seasoning meat too early draws out moisture or something. Everyone always argues about how to cook steaks, I’m just telling you what works for me, man. Massage everything in good and marinate in the fridge for a few hours. Take out an hour or so before cooking to bring to room temp. Scrape off the garlic (it’ll burn up and get bitter on the grill) and set aside. Season the steaks generously with salt, and then bbq to your liking. Medium-rare for us, or more likely medium to medium-well depending on how good we know the grill, which generally, we do not. But I find t-bones super forgiving. Like a Republican at a January 6th hearing.
You can throw out the garlic if you like, but eeeeeeek! Throwing out food, especially in 2022 is uncomfortable for me, even if it is just scraps of meat-marinated garlic. Last time around we tossed the garlic with our roast potatoes in the last ten minutes of roasting so it wouldn’t burn. Then tossed in some grated cheese for the last two or three minutes of cooking. So we had a cheesy garlicky potato side dish to go with our slightly overcooked steaks. We ate outside, only having to swat away the occasional black fly. It was heaven.
And ok, Jesus, OKAY, technically, gochugaru has salt, so maybe it draws a little moisture out, but like, who listens to science these days anyway? (Here’s looking at you, Alberta. And hey, big shout out to Florida here as well, last seen applying to change their license plate logo from “Sunshine State” to “Don’t Say Gay”.)
Beach Fire Bacon Wrapped Scallops
Don’t pretend like you haven’t been there. Crowded around the oven at a party, trying to be the first to get a crack at the bacon wrapped scallops as soon as they’re ready to come out. Party-goers fighting like gulls at the Stavanger Drive McDonald’s parking lot, pecking each other’s eyes out for what will be…you know. An overcooked scallop and underdone rubbery bacon. After you’ve finished rolling your eyes at me, just take a moment and think about it. See? You can’t straight up wrap bacon around a scallop and bake in the oven like that and expect all the components to be cooked perfectly because science works for food too, Alberta. Cook the bacon first till it’s crispy, THEN wrap the scallop, and now we’re getting somewhere. Or, cook bacon over a fire, push it to the side of the grill, and then put the scallops on the same grill, searing them over the fire and in the residual bacon fat. THEN wrap the still-opaque-in-the-middle scallop in a piece of the crispy, fire-cooked smoky bacon. I don’t have a picture of the finished product because I didn’t want to look like even more of an asshole trying to take a picture of a bacon wrapped scallop between my fingers on the beach, but you have to trust me on this one.
Nan’s Rhubarb Dessert
The only dessert I have ever eaten for supper. Haha ok, we all know that’s not true, but if I had a choice of a dessert to eat for supper, this would be it. This works great with fresh or frozen rhubarb, and is easily doubled to fit a 9×13 pan. Great for a potluck! Nan made this so much I still can’t smell rhubarb cooking on the stove without being brought right back to her kitchen…another small (big) joy!
Here’s the exact recipe as scrawled in one of my old cookbooks, but I do a few things differently so try whatever works for you. I use butter instead of margarine, and I keep the oven on after pre-baking the crust; I stick everything back in to bake the meringue a little to make it golden instead of broiling because I burn the shit out of everything when I use the broiler, no matter how closely I pay attention. You can reduce the sugar a bit in the filling or the meringue depending on your tastes, the recipe can be messed with a bit without catastrophe, it’s not finicky like a pie or anything. I wrote about a gluten-free version of this years ago, so check that out if you’re cooking for Celiac or intolerant pals, if you want to read about me and Didi stealing rhubarb from an abandoned cat pee house, or if you want to see how bad a blog can look in its infancy.
2 tbsp sugar
1 cup all-purpose flour
Dash of salt
1/2 cup maragrine
Blend till crumbly. Pack into 9×9 pan and bake 20 minutes at 350°.
Cook together and stir till thick:
2 tbsp flour
1 1/2 cups sugar
3 cups chopped rhubarb
Dash of salt
3 egg yolks
1/2 cup milk
To make the meringue, use a hand mixer to whisk 3 egg whites, 6 tbsp sugar, and 1/2 tsp vanilla into stiff peaks. Pour rhubarb filling over crust, then carefully spread meringue on top. Broil on low in oven until golden.
Found this beauty on NYT Cooking doing a random rhubarb search, along with a fairly labour intensive rhubarb upside-down cake that was the best I’ve ever had, and a chicken tagine with rhubarb that looks too weird-good not to try. Get this app! It’s so good! NYT call me anytime!
Cocktail of the summer. Sweet, sour, a little salty. Make sure the rice wine vinegar is the seasoned kind, but regular basil is ok if you can’t find Thai, which you won’t be able to if you live in NL but I had a friend give me a plant, which will die shortly after a few drinks because I am hopeless. Topping up with club soda or some kind of fizz might be nice because it’s pretty intense and a little weird, a bit like all of our first boyfriends. Woo-hoo summer lovin’! Sometimes intense and weird is good in the right doses! In your twenties, that is, not your forties, so like, mind yourself.
Ahem. I like to rim the glass with a little Thai basil sugar because who doesn’t need a bit more refined white sugar in their diet? Finely chop some basil and work it through a couple of tablespoons of sugar with your fingers until everything is a light green colour.
This makes one serving, and admittedly, they’re a bit of a pain to make, so I used a giant mason jar to make a few at a time. Adjust accordingly! And make your rhubarb syrup in advance because it’ll need time to cool.
1 cup thinly sliced rhubarb
1 cup sugar
5 Thai basil leaves; more for garnish
1 tsp seasoned rice wine vinegar
1 1/2 oz gin
3/4 oz freshly squeezed lemon juice.
Make rhubarb simple syrup. Bring 1 cup water to a boil in a medium saucepan. Add rhubarb and sugar, and stir until sugar is dissolved. Remove from heat, cover and let stand for 1 hour. Reserve a selection of rhubarb slices as cocktail garnishes (I didn’t do this, they were way too mushy, save for jam if you like) then strain syrup and store chilled for up to 7 days (mine’s been in the fridge for 3 weeks and counting tee tee).
In a mixing glass (mason jar with lid!) muddle the Thai basil leaves with the seasoned rice wine vinegar. Add gin, 1 oz of the rhubarb simple syrup and lemon juice. Fill mixing glass 2/3 full of ice and shake vigorously. Using a fine mesh strainer (too fussy, use lid to strain) pour into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with a Thai basil leaf and a slice of reserved rhubarb (or, basil sugar rim, see above).
My Birthday Cake
My birthday was a couple days ago. I turned a 46. But who cares, right?! Because after these past two years, 46 is the new 66! I kid, I kid. I’m running the Tely 10 in the morning so it’ll feel more like 76.
I remember crying on my 30th birthday. Because nooooo! My 20’s are over, I’m so OLD! Poor me! I’m in Fiji and I just spent the day scuba diving and now I’m eating cake and drinking cocktails by the pool and I don’t have neck wrinkles or any real-life responsibilities yet! That’s a true story, and wow, was I ever an idiot. Because honestly, even in this complete manic shit show, I’m delighted to be here, neck wrinkles and all. My 46th wasn’t cocktails in Fiji, but it was a swim in the ocean with my kid, followed by an Emperor’s Garden and a Dairy Queen cheeseburger on my deck with my family and our good friend who lives around the corner. And birthday cake of course. This recipe made an appearance in the last post, but who cares. The usual, but this time with the best fudge icing you will ever eat, and fresh raspberries on top.
It was a very good day.
Hang in there, chickens. If things get worse before they get better (they definitely will, hello US Midterm Elections), at least we have the small joys to see us through, however teeny tiny they may be. Small stuff adds up to the big stuff, and the big stuff eventually makes things better. I think? I totally just made that up. Anyway, be kind, take a breath, and take no shit. Until next time! xo