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This Mother’s Day, I thought I’d do a lil roundup of Mom-focused songs – I love crafting a good party playlist, and while this isn’t exactly the same task, I also love the challenge of thematically-linked playlists. This is a short one, and it is not at all food-related, but it is topical.  You can also read an edited version of this post over at The LRMC, a great ladies bartering collective that I’ve contributed blog posts to before.

Where You Lead – Carole King 

Admittedly, I am compelled to include this song because I have been watching a lot of Gabmore Girls lately, and I really like the story behind this song’s association with the show.  When Carole King recorded this song, it was meant to be about her (male) love interest; with the rise of second-wave feminism, King decided that she felt uncomfortable with the message of the song, and stopped performing it live shortly after its release. Decades later, she re-recorded the song for Gilmore Girls, and this time re-imagined it slightly and recorded it with her daughter, Louise Goffin. And so, the song was renewed as a song about a caring and supportive mother-daughter relationship.

Dear Mama – 2Pac

This is a song that my brother often uses to try and convince his mother (and my stepmother) that just maybe she might like hip-hop. With the spoken refrain “You are appreciated”, this song is one of 2Pac’s more sentimental songs – a presumably auto-biographical song where 2pac reflects on the challenges his mother faced raising Tupac and his sister. This song is not all sentimental sap though, there’s a fair bit of social commentary embedded within it as well – while Tupac does describe some of his own disobedience and the pain it may have caused his mom, most of the challenges described have a lot to do with systemic and systematic barriers that effect racialized, low-income families and single parents in North America.

Mother and Child Reunion – Paul Simon

Catchy as hell, this song is also star-studded; Paul Simon recorded it in Jamaica accompanied by members of Jimmy Cliff’s band (who also played with Toots & the Maytals) and with backing vocals provided by Cissy Houston, the mother of recently-deceased and much-beloved Whitney Houston. A quick google search tells us that Paul Simon wrote this song after the death of his family dog (presumably then, the mother and child reunion is his family dog reuniting with its mother in your chosen afterlife scenario) but also that he was inspired by a dish in a Chinese restaurant. “A dish in a Chinese restaurant?! Huh?” you say? Apparently Paul saw a menu item in said restaurant that was called “Mother and Child Reunion” and was made up of Chicken and Eggs. If that’s not one of the most clever-yet-macabre jokes you’ve ever heard of being on a restaurant’s menu, I don’t know what is.

Stacy’s Mom – Fountains of Wayne

I don’t care for this song very much, actually, though I think it’s mostly the chorus that irks me. That said, I thought that perhaps I would be remiss if I didn’t include a shout-out to all the bodacious mom-babes out there. After all, a mere 15 years ago nobody had ever heard or used the term “MILF” and now, like “cougar”, it’s common parlance. Most of us have known at least one Julie Cooper-style mom in our lives, and I think that these women are often treated/portrayed in the media as bad moms. As if being an attractive, single, and sexually active woman and being a good mother are mutually exclusive?! Damn, patriarchy’s the worst, amiright?!

Good Mother – Jann Arden

I’m ending with this one because this is the song that, for me, is the perfect Mother’s Day tribute song. I do have a good mother – a great mother – and I think that Jann’s lyrics sum up how simple really good advice can actually be – “Feet on ground, heart in hand, facing forward, be yourself.”  I saw Jann Arden live in the early 2000s with some of the best friends a girl could ask for (“I’ve got a friend who loves me”) and I often remember that concert when I hear this song in particular. Those friends are still a big part of my life, and while we have all been lucky enough to have some seriously bad-ass damn Good Mothers, we’ve lost a few of those moms over the years. Mother’s Day is not an easy day for everyone. So folks, honour your Moms year-round, not just this Sunday – and take care of yourselves, your friends, and the rest of your family too.

And if all else fails, listen to Jann.

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My So-Called Life…

Folks, this is an apology – it’s not my first one, and I feel certain that it won’t be my last, but here it is nonetheless. My life has felt crazy lately.  If you didn’t already know, I’m in teachers’ college this year, and it has been kind of a rollercoaster of stress – calm moments, vacation-y moments, followed by all-consuming stressful moments that seem to last much longer than the easy times. I just finished my second round of practice teaching, and it was fantastic, it really was. I had an a great experience, met some amazing teachers, had wonderful classes of kids who worked brilliantly at reading, understanding, and making meaning out of Shakespeare’s Othello. It was really great. It was also exhausting. I was at school most days by 7:30am, which meant getting up around 6:15 Monday-Friday. That kind of early is not for me. Now I’m back to my regular university classes for a few weeks, and then an internship. I’m also moving again at the end of this month. Before you say something like “you move a lot!” just know that I HATE moving, that my housing has been precarious for the last couple of years because of my finances, and because of apartments that were not what they seemed, and turned out to have irreparable problems that were deal-breakers for me. I am very, very much hoping that this move will be my last for some time. I have a crazy next few weeks, finishing classes and assignments, packing and moving, starting a month-long internship, job-hunting, all while also working at my old job at the restaurant, trying to bring some money in rather than just have it fly out of my bank account faster and faster. Perhaps you think this is too much information – a lot of people don’t like to talk about money.  I think we should talk about money more, but I also think we should talk about most things more.

Anyways, this is to say that I’m sorry that I haven’t been posting much lately, but also to say that I can’t make any promises for the next bundle of weeks, that until at least May (or maybe June) rolls around, my life is chaotic, and I have very often failed at even making good meals for myself, let alone remembered to photograph them or have the time or energy to write about them afterwards.  I have struggled with the fact that I try to eat well and that I often preach things like “it’s easy!” and “it doesn’t have to take much time!” but when it comes down to crunch time for me, I don’t always follow through. I have eaten frozen pizzas and fish sticks and a lot, A LOT of take-out.  I feel no shame, but I do find it tiresome, and I am very much looking forward to a time when my life feels a little more normal again. Fortunately, the end of my school year will coincide closely with the start of my CSA again, and I look forward to that shaping my meals each week. In the meantime, I will share some photos of the few things I’ve made for myself in the last couple months. I hope to see you all again soon!

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Witch’s Brew

Normally I would start out with a lot of apologies and explanations for why I haven’t posted in so long.  But you know, bygones. It’s a new year, and does it really matter? I’m here now. I will try and post a bunch in the next few days, because I made a lot of homemade gifts this Christmas season, and now that they’ve all been received by their recipients I can post about them without ruining any surprises.  In the meantime, though, I’m here to tell you about making beer. BEER.

When I was really young, my dad used to homebrew beer.  I only have vague recollections of his equipment, and of course I was too young to sample it.  When my little brother was born, he stopped brewing, but since my brother is now away at university, he’s started up again, and this time he’s delving even deeper into the art and science of brewing beer.  He tells me that back in the day he brewed from malt extract, rather than from the malted barley itself.  I gather that using malt extract would be like making lemonade from a frozen can of lemonade concentrate, whereas working from the barley itself is more like squeezing all those lemons yourself and making simple syrup, etc. When you brew from the barley rather than the extract, you also have way more freedom in terms of how you want your beer to end up tasting – just like cooking things from scratch affords you more control with your food.  So this Christmas, when I was at my dad’s house, we spent a day brewing beer.  He had asked me in advance what kind of beer I’d like to make, and I decided on a coffee porter.

Mixing up the barley mash.

The basic procedure, as far as I can remember, goes like this. You start with your big sack of malted roasted barley.  My dad gets his from a guy in Windsor, Ontario.  Depending on what you are making, you may have a mix of barley that is more darkly roasted with lighter roasted, etc. In this case, my dad got a bag of barley that was kind of pre-mixed for making porter.  So you heat some water, you mix it with the barley, you really smash it around and mix it, there’s a bunch of stuff with adding water and taking temperatures that I don’t remember really.  Eventually you start draining the liquid out into a big pot.  My dad crafted his equipment himself, and so he used this big yellow water cooler for mashing the barley, and he put a false bottom in it that strains out the big barley pieces as it drains through the nozzle thing. Very technical terms I’ve got here, eh?

I keep forgetting what this mixing wand tool thing is called. I prefer to call it the Mash Tongue.

So you drain it out, and you do it slowly through a hose and try to avoid getting any big chunks of barley in your pot.  This whole process takes longer than it sounds – around an hour or so just to mash and drain it usually.  Then you heat that brew up.  My dad has a big propane burner that he sets up in the garage (where he does all his brewing so that his house doesn’t smell like hops all the time).  You let it come to a boil, and you boil it for an hour.  In the last 15 minutes you add your hops.  For porter, we had two different kinds of hops to add.  One was added at the 15 minute mark, and one was added a little closer to the end – the hops added at the end will not get cooked as much and will thus offer more hoppy flavour to the finished product (i love hops).

Homebrew station setup.

After boiling it, you drain it out of the pot into the receptacle that it will ferment in (in this case a sterilized bucket).  You have to drain it nice and slowly again, and you want a lot of air to get in there, because air is good to feed the yeast.  Then you add the yeast, which my dad had already been brewing up since the day before, in a fruit jar on the counter. It was extra oozy!

Draining out the barley mash into the pot for boiling.

Basically then you let it ferment for 10 days or so.  If you know anything about yeast, then you know that it has to be warm for yeast to do its work, so you ferment in a warm place.  Then you start to chill it and age it.  Then you drink it! In this case, since we were making coffee porter and not just regular porter, you add a cup of espresso after it ferments.

Relaxing in lawn chairs and watching a pot boil.

I haven’t tasted this beer yet, but my dad is going to try and bottle some and send it to me somehow.  He tasted it when it was done fermenting, and said that even when it was warm that it tasted great.  I will let you know how it turns out! Brewing beer was fun, though really cold when you’re spending a number of hours in a garage in the winter.  I kept putting my face over the boiling pot of beer to warm up, and I’m pretty sure my face was all burnt in the days after, because I was rosy cheeked for a few days.  There are a lot worse things, lemme tell you.

Into the bucket for fermenting!

ADDENDUM – courtesy of my Dad, some of the more scientific stuff that I forgot:

The grain blend that the guy in Windsor sell and grinds was my recipe for Porter. He weighs it out and grinds it cause his grinder rocks!

The yellow cooler itself is called the “Mash Tun”, the process of steeping the grains to change the starch to sugar being called “mashing”.  The wooden tool is called the “Mixing Wand Tool Thing”

and

There were some hops added right when it started to boil, these are the ones that will contribute bitterness but no flavor. Boiling for a long time means that you extract the bittering compounds but boil off the flavor compounds. Adding hops near the end has an opposite effect, not much bitterness and hopefully you keep the flavor.

I can tell you that I think it tastes great. It’s just about fully carbonated. I think I’ll be bottling soon.

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This is a food blog.  It is not a blog about the news or about politics.  But today, I can’t talk about summer berry cakes or peach salsa or yellow dahl or homemade ricotta cheese.  Today, I can only talk about Jack Layton.  I won’t say too much, because there are many people who will or have already said things better than I probably could (including Jack himself).  I will say, though, that I have never felt the loss of such a public person in such a personal way.  I never had the opportunity to actually meet Jack – and my thoughts are very much with those who did know him personally, because your loss is surely greater than the rest of ours – but his death still feels momentous in my own life.  I do not believe that Canadians have had a political leader (of any party) who has had the dedication, the charisma, the integrity, and the courage that Jack Layton had, and I am immensely grateful for all of his hard work.  Everyone should read his letter to Canadians, and we should absolutely not forget that while we have lost an amazing political leader, everything we voted for in May still holds true, and we should not let anybody tell us differently.  Keep voting, and keep fighting – I don’t think there is any better way to honour Jack.  May he rest peacefully.

Photo credit to Jenna Marie Wakani, who worked with Jack and who lost a friend today.

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Apology!

I’m sorry friends! I haven’t been posting because my camera has officially bitten the dust. I suppose 4.75 years isn’t too shabby for a digital camera to last? I don’t know. Anyways, I’m sorry but I just can’t bring myself to write about food WITHOUT photos! It doesn’t seem to satisfy me.  And actually I’ve been making a lot of things that may be given out as gifts this holiday season, so I wouldn’t want to spoil the surprises for any readers, right?  I will work on getting myself a new working camera – possibly with more control over light settings or one of those new-fangled ones with an actual “food” setting for all of us burgeoning foodie bloggers out there!

In the meantime, go eat, drink and be merry! ‘Tis the season, and you don’t need a blog to tell you that!

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