I am often asked how I manage to get so much done, and my answer is often an amalgamation of the following: I feel like I can’t get anything done/my life is a mess/all is chaos/high degree of tolerance for dirt & grime (I don’t know about tolerance, but it is a fact, nonetheless)/I don’t bake.
The last point is not strictly true. I do, occasionally, bake a mean grain-free banana bread, and over the past year or so, I have softened against all kinds of food indulgences, especially during holidays. Nonetheless, our diet is primarily along the “paleo” lines, which for me, is certainly about health, but is also another way in which I can spend more time on writing, reading, making art, being outside, and life.
I believe that food is very important. The food we eat speaks to culture, values, home & hearth. But it’s a funny feminist line, for me. I take great care in where our food comes from, and in what we eat, and I am even conscientious about eating our meals together, as a family, with a measure of ritual and awareness. But I’m not going to spend more than 10 minutes preparing a meal, because I do have better things to do. The food we eat day-to-day is very very simple. Eggs and greens for breakfast. A vegetable, a salad and some meat for lunch. All prepared as simply as possible. I also make several meals at once, which makes things easy.
Traditional foods appeal to me not only because they are real, and healthy, but because I like tradition. My family background is British, Irish and Scottish. Christmas is a nice opportunity to make several culinary nods in that direction.
One of my favourite Christmas foods is mincemeat, and we are having a little opening/pottery sale in our new gallery space above our pottery studio, in the ancient renovated barn next to our little 1850s era farmhouse, and a couple of days ago, the kids and I made mincemeat.
I don’t ever follow recipes, because I don’t have the patience and I like surprises, and I actually believe that cooking intuitively is a nice way to go about things. The mincemeat was actually inspired by some leftover steak, and by the fact that I have never actually made mincemeat with “meat”, which, as a child, sounded so horrifying to me, as I edged towards my rebellious teenaged years which involved vegetarianism, veganism and even frutarianism, for a little while. Silly little me. So, (aha) maybe this mincemeat is a nod to all of those life stages, as well as my ancestry, as I’m sure my forebears too, at some point, threw some old meat in a pot along with a bunch of sweet fruits and apples and spices, in hopes that this mixture would sustain them through a cold winter. I should say though, that this recipe would, I’m sure, be equally delicious *without* meat, for those who don’t thrive that way.
And that’s what happened: I “minced” approximately 2 cups of organic, grass-fed beef from Larry down the road with a sharp knife until it was essentially shredded, and popped it into a big stainless steel pot, along with about 2 pounds of raisins (I love the pale golden raisins the best), 2 pounds of dates, 10 large red apples (peeled and cubed), 3 whole organic lemons cut into small pieces (with the peel included), the juice of 5 oranges (I would have included the orange peel as well, but these oranges were not organic), 1/2 a cup of grass-fed organic butter, and about a tablespoon or so each of cinnamon, cloves, allspice and nutmeg.
I put the heat under this delectable mixture; low, for several hours, until everything was muddled and bubbly and emitting a gorgeous warm christmassy scent throughout the house. And that was that. I did not add any additional sugar, as the dates and raisins took care of the sweet just fine (and I am no fan of refined sugar). The result is a rich, complex, delicious, concoction, and no, no one would ever suspect that there is actually “meat” in the mincemeat–it’s not “meaty” at all, but I am quite thrilled to know that my mincemeat, unlike the cloyingly sweet, nutritionally devoid, and gluey stuff one finds in bakeries and shops, is actually a food, and whole and real.
I have been missing Vancouver lately. The two lovely photos at the top are of my mother’s mincemeat pies (which are, similarly, made with real foods, and *never* those maraschino peels with cancerous colour that are so prevalent..), and one of the great general-store type shops that have cropped up in Point Grey that stock the most delicious things, especially at Christmas.
To be honest, I might just break down and make a pastry, which I haven’t done in a long time. But I also might create a flour-less egg-based paleo -type pastry…in which case I’ll report back. So far, it has been delicious just eaten from a little bowl with a dollop of creme fraiche.
Isn’t Felix getting big? His smiles are heartbreakingly sweet. He is, truly a happy guy. Isn’t it interesting, the way names really mean so much? Tuturagtag Joyful!
Ok, I really should fill you in. Horus discovered a funny book with a rather jarring bright green cover, which turned out to be a wonderful collection of Korean fairy tales. In one story, a boy found himself in a tree, watching goblins with their magic mallet: With the mallet and the magic words (tuturagtag!), they could make whatever they wanted appear! Since then, our inside joke is that everytime someone wants something, we say “tuturagtag” in hopes that it will appear. Apparently, all we have to say, on Felix’s behalf when he’s hungry, is, “tuturagtag milk!” and lo and behold, here comes Mum. It’s pretty nice when the world works that way.