Sunday, August 28, 2005

More butter chicken than you can shake an aloo tikki at.

WOW! I went to the most amazing wedding on the weekend. Over 600 people!!!! Us mangia cakes have a wedding of 140 and we think it is “excessive.” As I sat, danced, drank and celebrated in that sea of people, I kept wondering “how and what are they going to feed the masses?” and “thank God I don’t have to make pie for this many.” As it turns out, you feed them a variety of Indian dishes like chaat papri, pakoras and chicken tikka. I was so full after dinner that I didn’t even notice there was nothing with pastry on it. As we were entertained with the bhangra dancers, I had flashbacks of my trip to India. Now there were MANY light and flaky moments on that trip and loads of smiles.

For example, no matter how much you want it, “fresh” orange juice for breakfast is a BAD idea. If it comes out of a can or sealed carton then proceed with caution. But if you see anything mixed with water, listen to your friend Liz and don’t drink it. Unless, that is, you are REALLY fond of your toilet. Ugh.

Also, keep in mind that India is not Spain and kids you meet in the desert 6 hours out (by camel) of Jaisalmer likely don’t speak Spanish no matter how tired you are or how much goat you’ve had to eat. Liz and I were on an overnight trek into the desert and after feasting on somewhat raw goat decided to watch the sunset atop a sand dune. Once perched on said dune, two adorable kids came out of nowhere to join us. To this day I am convinced one of them said “buenas noches” so I replied back and proceeded to chit-chat (apparently to myself) in my broken Spanish. Liz finally asked me what I was doing and I noticed the stunned looks on the kid’s faces. Now, they didn’t speak English either, so they were none the wiser. Liz had a good laugh and so did I once I remembered where I was and what I was doing. That night we also saw huge beetles (bit crunchy but good) sneaking up to our sleeping bags as our fire died. As we were sleeping al fresco, we covered ourselves as well as we could and hunkered down for the night and were none-the-worse-for-wear the next morning. Ahhhhhhhhh. Good times.

Side bar – if you ever get the chance to see Jaisalmer, do it. Absolutely breath-taking! Our room in the old walled city was like something out of an Indiana Jones film. Bloody freezing at night, but fabulous during the day.

Biggest smile on the trip though - being swarmed by kids at dusk as I handed out pens, pencils, little colouring books and candy. I had to keep moving for fear of becoming human monkey bars. In that same village I developed my fondness for pants. No matter how unfair I think life is, or how badly I want a pity party, I think “hey, at least I have pants and was not caught picking my nose on camera.” Life is good.

Saturday, August 27, 2005

From raisin to grape in four days

I promised pastry recipes and, just having made the most buttery butter tarts, here is the first one. For the pastry anyway. Fool-proof! In a large bowl mix 2 ½ cups flour and 1 tsp of white sugar and a teaspoon of salt. Cut in 1 cup of solid vegetable shortening. It should have the texture of cornmeal once done. And now for the secret of REALLY flaky pastry – beat one egg in a small bowl. Place half of this in a measuring cup and add enough ICE water to make 1/3 cup in total. Add two ice cubes and let them melt. Drizzle this over your flour mixture and cut it in with a spatula. If the balls of dough stick together, it is good to go. If it is too dry you can add 1-2 tablespoons of ice water until it is the right consistency. This is great for pies or tarts. Enjoy.

Some of the butter tarts have raisins and some have pecans. Now if you like raisins and are happy with the above pastry recipe, STOP READING NOW. But if you want a light and flaky story about a raisin that will either make you laugh or gross you out (or both) read on.

A while ago I was enjoying a bowl of raisin bran when a mouthful went down the wrong pipe. I started to choke and cough a bit, but nothing out of the ordinary happened. Things righted themselves and I went on eating. The back of my throat was sore for a few days though and I thought I must have scratched myself with a rather hard, sharp bran flake. I did not think anything of it. At the gym 3 days later, I was doing seated arm curls, huffing and puffing a good deal. Not grunting out loud or anything – is that really necessary? -but was exhaling with a good deal of force through my nose. Well, on one such exhale a rather large object flew out of my nose and landed on my shoe. I was shocked that I had such a large booger up my nose and was none the wiser. However, it was no booger, it was a raisin. Actually, it had re-hydrated into a grape. The feeling I experienced of having my “scratch” instantaneously removed was wonderful. I equate it to the feeling Arnold Schwarzenegger must have had when he pulled the tracking device out of his nose in Total Recall. I had to laugh but was grateful no one was around to see the offending piece of fruit perched on my toe. The raisin to grape experience got me to thinking and I have now taught myself the wonderful party trick of being able to suck my necklace up my nose and pull it out my mouth. People think it is disgusting but my niece and nephew love it!
They squeal with glee each time I do it.

Monday, August 22, 2005

A funny thing happened on the way to la la land.....

I had just crawled into bed for a good nights sleep when I was overcome with the urge to share a feeling - one of utter contentment. It came in the form of sheets dried on a line outdoors. The opportunity of drying things on a line does not come up in an apartment. This weekend however my Auntie Sheila and Uncle Duke (known as Aunt Shyla and Uncle Duck ever since I misspelled their names in a letter from Cub Camp when I was 8 – light and flaky way back then too) were kind enough to host a BBQ for our family. I was going for a visit at my parent’s first, and then we were to head off together. Now, like all good mothers, mine was glad to see me move out (that is to say, she used to circle apartment listings, in red ink I might add, that she thought “would be of interest” to you and leave them on your bed) but is equally happy see me with laundry and send me on my way with a care package. Usually, I would have one or two loads of laundry but I was in no desperate need so this time I took my bedding and on a whim, decided to dry it outside on the line and can I just say - OH MY! I can’t sleep for all the sniffing and smelling. As of this moment, I can’t think of a better, more comforting smell. Not even pie! For those of you who know what I am talking about, I wish you an equally peaceful sleep. For those of you who don’t, make friends with someone who has a clothes line and experience one of life’s simple pleasures. Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz………
Oh, and PS, please enjoy the pictures of my Auntie's GORGEOUS garden on the Grand River. If you can imagine the smells, you can imagine the joy of the sheets!

Saturday, August 20, 2005

And I said, let there be smiles and pie.....and there was

First things first. Why the name “Light and Flaky?” Several reasons really, but mainly because I think you only need two things to get you through life – a smile and good pastry. A smile will always make you feel better – either yours or someone else’s. And good pastry! Well! Where do I begin? From making that delicious quiche for a successful Sunday brunch to that perfect piece of cherry pie that comforts you when your blue – you simply can’t beat good pastry.

As for the smile, I hope to share with you uplifting stories and anecdotes that will do just that – make you smile. Some of these stories, I am sure, will make you think I am “light and flaky.” Goodness knows, with the benefit of hindsight, I think that.

As for the pastry, I will share with you what wisdom I have on the subject. What recipes work and what ones don’t. Tip one – keep things as cold as possible! From your rolling pin to your work surface (I have a slab of marble I keep in the fridge) the colder, the better.

My first light and flaky tale combines pastry and, I hope, a smile. Apartment dwellers will truly appreciate this one - especially if you live in a building with no garbage disposal indoors. Great for keeping bugs out of the building, pain in the ass for getting rid of garbage. As it is peach season in Ontario and I love making pies, this time of year I, well duh, make peach pies. This of course results in mounds of peach skin and pulp going in the garbage and that means fruit flies. Loads of them! Naturally, I like to keep my apartment free of such pests so take out the garbage regularly. Well, one day after making a trip out to the bin, I had a craving for a peach. So I cut into one to remove the stone only to find it rotten on the inside. Now I was in quite a pickle. I just took out the garbage – and faced with the prospect of going all the way outside AGAIN (call me lazy) I was determined to come up with an alternative. For a moment, I stepped out on the balcony, peach in hand. Now, it is ONLY seven floors and I would have been dropping it onto grass so I would have either been composting or feeding some animal that night. Not bad but I hate to litter. I just couldn’t do it. I felt bad for the peach. But what to do? I didn’t want to walk all the way to the dumpster nor did I want fruit flies. The next logical step, in my mind, was the toilet. Now let me tell you, flushing a peach down the toilet, cut in half or not, as my Italian friend Pina is fond of saying “that’s a no gooooood.” Luckily, the plunger was close at hand and I managed to help the peach on its way before the water spilled out onto the floor. As waves of euphoria swept over me – and not water over my floor – the second half of the peach soon followed. No rotten peach + no fruit flies = a good nights sleep.