Compote de pommes et cultures

Hiking trail toward Dieppe summit at Gault Nature ReserveIt occurred to me this morning while I was sitting at breakfast enjoying the “compote de pommes” that I had just “confectionné” that the annual pilgrimage that Carol and I made to the Gault Nature Reserve in St. Hilaire on Tuesday this week really made a nice melding of our parents family culture / the Ted Carol family culture / and the Québec culture.  If you like a good hike I encourage you to plan an outing to the Gault Nature reserve.  “Plan” this year means buying your tickets online before you get in your car and go as they are limiting the number of people in this large park known for its hiking trails by only allowing entry by reservation.  We arrived on a Tuesday at about 12:45pm and learned of this new policy but, fortunately there were still openings in the online ticket availability at 2pm.  So, I suggested to Carol that we take a leisurely lunch (I packed one to eat at the Dieppe trail summit) and return to do our hike at 2pm.   Pulling out of the entry to Gault, I turned left (not the usual right) and was happy to re-find my favourite spot for a “cueillette des pommes” on the side of the road with the orchards and only an apple’s throw away from Gault.  There, lined up against the driving shed wall were a half-dozen crates (bushel-size) of apples that had fallen to the grass-carpeted ground in perfect ripeness and were ready to be sold to country boys like me for $8.  The owner was busy somewhere else so I laid out my 10 $ bill inside the shed and took to gathering my crate’s worth into bags. Before I had much more than a large bag’s worth socked away in the car trunk the “vergière ” showed up and verified that, yes these apples were almost all Macintosh, because they mature earliest and her orchard is made up mostly of Macs and, no, it isn’t the best apple-pie apple because, well, they rather melt down into a compote texture with very little cooking.  But two things in my philosophy kept me gathering my bushel into bags: $8 for a bushel is a very good deal and the maxim, when life gives you lemons… yes, in this case make compote de pommes (apple sauce).

We had an apple tree in our backyard that snuggled in close behind the garage and every second year produced rather early in the summer an abundance of apples that were only good for applesauce .  So, before much of anything but strawberries were ready for harvesting our household set to work making applesauce.  Mom had an applesauce colander which allowed her to just quarter the apples, boil them skin on, seeds, cores and all and then run them through this colander, reversing the direction of the crank when the waste matter had built up too thickly, throwing the waste away allowing the sauce to continue flowing unimpeded by the skins.  When I got home from the hike at St. Hilaire I looked for this colander but it had been stored elsewhere as I had last used it 20 years ago.  So I peeled the apples with bruises (the ones that will be first to go bad), removed cores and set the fruit to steaming.  As my vergière friend had suggested, it only takes 3 or 4 minutes of good steam to soften a Mac to optimum compote conditions.  Compotedepommes_fabriqueI dumped the steamer basket into a flat bottomed bowl and mashed the apples with my potato masher, sprinkling in a modicum of cinnamon.  Result: best applesauce that I have ever tasted!  The Macs are more tangy than my parent’s apples (which never pretended to be anything but an applesauce apple) and with the simplicity of making it, and the lack of hockey these days to make the first slice of apple pie special I may take my apple fix in a new way.

While I remember that my father had a sweet tooth that he indulged with candy in my childhood years, in his retirement years the candy dish was always ready to offer to the grandkids, but Dad’s nightly snack was nothing but an apple, and he took great pleasure in these.  My brother, Greg and I, when we had the occasion to be in Kitchener of a Saturday morning would encourage my father in his apple-love by going to market early, while the selection was at its best and choose a bushel of apples to split with Dad.  My father-in-law, in his Jamaica Mandeville home, was pleased that his daughter, Carol, had found a good-hearted, sensible man who knew that the only thing that Mr. Bernard really desired that his Jamaican soil could not produce for him was an apple pie made from good Canadian apples.  One of the only times I have ever fudged a customs declaration upon entry to Jamaica was when I imported a ready-made pie and the apples with which to make another.  In the days to come, when God brings forth a new heaven and a new earth I shall hike to the Dieppe summit at Gault with my two fathers and tell stories of the roads we have walked in this world.  As we sit down on the rock face overlooking a re-created Beloeil and watch the mist rise from the Richelieu river we will, the three of us – father, son and beau-père crunch down on a tangy Macintosh.  God is good!

Competent

Sun..wind..sail
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Recently I was thinking about how I felt somewhat fearful, intimidated by the otherwise friendly and warm sea surrounding me the first time I headed out on my own in a Hobie catamaran onto the Atlantic ocean. Granted I was fully intending to stay in the narrow band of water between the marked out swimming area and the reefs indicated by crashing waves, but I felt fear, notwithstanding more than 40 years sailing experience on similar small craft. For this was the proverbial bigger pond, the Atlantic. Was I up to it?

sailingHobieinsurf

My brother Mark is enjoying sailing today also on a similar craft in the same Atlantic ocean but off the coast of Jamaica. So I wonder if he feels the same thing I did when I ventured out for the first time. I think of the bigger pond he is taking on in his career which, when I think of the scope of this job, is like an Atlantic ocean to me. I can’t think but he feels a similar-to-sailing-in-the-ocean fear as he soon will assume supervising a larger staff and larger responsibilities than he previously had in a similar position in a smaller pond.

But just as I was confident, in spite of the feeling of fear, that I would come back to the beach safely and live to taste another buffet supper on that first Atlantic sail, we all fully expect that Mark will be fully capable of the challenge he will begin facing in the next month and will soon be going to his Toronto job with the same expectation that he will not be overcome but will return to eat another meal at the close of the day at home in Kitchener. Because we all feel that Mark is competent in this big task, and we are so very proud of him that he hasn’t buried his biblical “talent” but has improved upon it and is now worthy of the trust of others that he can take on more.

When I think of the experiences that I have ventured into in my adult years, not without fear, but with an excitement and sense that I had enough background to succeed, or failing that, the sense of when I needed to signal a rescue and bail out, I feel accomplished.  Marriage is one of those ventures that you can never be sure of when you embark, but now after more than 20 years I have developed some competency in living with another person who is not the same as me.  And since my wife, Carol, reaches high, I’ve developed some competency in music performance that no one could have dreamed of, let alone me.  And we can increase our abilities this way and succeed and develop competency.  And then… come home to supper!  What a wonderful world!

PK Subban

PK_comedy_gala

Going to the Just for Laughs comedy gala hosted by PK on August 1.  This trade is a tragedy, but if PK and the comedians play it right it will make for great comedy.  Skewer all those that think Montreal hockey is better without Subban, please!

Favourite breakfast seventeen

The favourite breakfast that will finish my seventeen favourite breakfasts series is particularly well associated with Christmas for me. It’s not a breakfast that brings back fond memories from my youth – it only began for me as a newly-married man, so it is a breakfast that comes from Carol’s rich culinary tradition – corn porridge.

This Christmas morning, 2014, in Mississauga, Marilyn cooked up the white corn to make a most delicious corn porridge. For want of corn porridge in these recent years, I was looking around for milk for my porridge to swim in while everyone else had proceeded to the table with their bowls. Part of the richness of corn porridge is that it is made with con-densed milk, so no 1 or 2%, skim or homogenized need be applied.

Perfect start for this perfect Christmas with family.

Corn Porridge

Step of Faith

Ted_Carol_withbananatree_croppedI love this picture from June of 1997 because I love the woman next to me, who, inconceivable to her as this photo was taken, would become my wife within 6 months time.

Marriage might be the biggest step of faith that a human-being takes.  Compared to the step of faith of believing in God, marriage is deciding that you are going to link your future to a person that you have only recently become acquainted with. God, on the other hand, if you believe what I believe, had initiated a relationship with you and was absolutely committed to you from the moment you were conceived.  You became aware of his existence years after God knew about you and then you decided for any one of many great reasons that you would link your future to God.  It’s one small step for man, but it seems to me to be a perfectly reasonable step to take to commit to someone who has known you as long as you were.

Even if you married the girl next door, at some point you took a risk in thinking that if you lived a little closer together it would make for a better relationship.

For my beautiful Carol, the man with the perfectly contented grin next to her might turn out to be so perfectly full of himself that he wouldn’t give the appropriate time-of-day every day to developing his relationship with her.  That happens in marriage.  Marriage relationships are work – who is to say that this grinning man wouldn’t turn out to be too lazy to do that work?

I love this picture because that girl with her both feet standing on a hot driveway next to me took that step of faith in me and it is turning out fine.  So fine!

One two:17 favourite breakfasts series

In the summer of 2014, I began my 17 favourite breakfasts postings on Facebook.  I posted them 1-at-a-time as Facebook status updates.  I think this series (still on-going as of August 18, 2014) was the main impetus for starting this “Ted’s ideas on Food and more” blog.  I created material that is original and I think “yummy and nutritious” – why not post it on a blog so that it is easier to access with Permalinks and the like. This isn’t a list of breakfast recipes.  Some of them describe an environment where a breakfast was just perfect-for-me.  Others describe a regular routine that I’ve maintained most of my life – like sabbath-respecting favourite #5.  Feel free to post your comments on any of these “17 favourite breakfasts postings” or better yet, start your own breakfast postings and I’ll post the link to your show.


Some of the initial 17 favourite series are short (like Status updates ; ) ) so I’m listing one and two here together in this one post:

ONE:  My 17 favourite breakfasts list begins today with perhaps the simplest one: a crusty roll, the ones the Portuguese bakeries in my neighbourhood make, along with marmalade and a café allongé (make mine Nespresso). This breakfast inspired by a first “continental breakfastexperience when I was age 16 and my high school band traveled to West Germany and Austria.  Since then I have come to appreciate both coffee and the simplicity of marmalade on a bun.

TWO:   Second in the 17 favourite breakfast series: Ackee and saltfish. This is not one I’m going to fix up in my own kitchen. I miss my mother-in-law’s great breakfasts but if I am in Montego Bay, you can find me at the Pelican in the morning eating ackee and saltfish.