My Dad, Me and Food

This wonderful guest post was written by David Kruger. David is an inspired teacher and food activist. Thanks so much David.

 

With certainty, there is one thing that my dad and I share, other than a last name and blood:  a deeply spiritual relationship with food.  That said, the relationship we have with food is very different, in large part having to do with our childhoods.

My dad grew up on Baldwin Street, in Kensington Market, in 1930s Toronto, and his parents had a fruit and vegetable store.  Many times he has told me anecdotes about a childhood on the street, messing with friends, having fun and being pretty care-free.  Even though he grew up in the Great Depression, he never went hungry and he never missed a meal.  Plus, he seems to have played on a black church baseball league team, and he made deliveries for his parents’ using a horse and buggy.  He can tell you about when Kensington Market was all Jewish, and every family that lived in the neighbourhood.  And they all had nicknames!

I grew up in north Willowdale/North York/Toronto in the 1970s, and my parents did a pretty awesome job of providing for all our basic needs.  We were fed, clothed and sheltered, and knew we were loved.  There weren’t a lot of frills, but life was more than good enough.  Plus, we didn’t know any better.  Sure, other families went on vacations together, but they didn’t get to explore their own city.  I spent a good deal of my time playing on the street, calling “Car!” like in “Wayne’s World”.  Playing ball hockey, Nerf football, and at the local parks playing tennis, baseball, football, or whatever seemed like fun that day.

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Fish with Butter, Fingers and Simon

This latest Apron Strings guest post was written by Chef Anthony Rose. When Anthony’s not busy cooking up awesome events and his next big move he’s dad to his son Simon.

We don’t have a boat at our cottage right now and we haven’t for many many years. My Grandfather Simon Gottlieb was the last one I can ever remember with a boat up north that was tied to our dock. He was quite famous; everyone asked him where the best fishing holes were and he always told them. No secrets with that man.

He would wake me up super early on summer mornings to come fishing with him. The fishing was good but I always found it a little tedious. Probably because of my ADD, couldn’t sit still and fishing is very much a patience kind of thing.

I went with him mostly for the after effect, the scaling, gutting and frying. We would head back to the cottage and sit around a old table in the basement covered with newspapers. Mostly small mouth bass and lots of sunfish. He would teach me to scale, gut and clean the fish. We never took the pin bones out, just spat them out later.

Esther my Grandmother would fry them up in loads of butter and we would eat away. I never remember eating the fish with anything else other than butter, fingers and Simon.

Fried Perch on bread with Lemon and bacon

Ingredients:

  • 6 perch filets boned
  • ¼ lb butter
  • 1lb bacon sliced
  • Loaf of crusty white bread
  • 2 lemons cut in wedges
  • Salt
  • Pepper

Method:

  • Sauté bacon on medium heat in pan until just a little crispy
  • Remove some, but not all of the bacon grease
  • Season the perch with salt and pepper
  • Melt some butter in the bacon pan with the bacon fat until frothy
  • Add the perch skin side down and cook 2 minutes and then flip to the other side for 2 minutes
  • Break open the bread, slather with some butter, add bacon, perch filets and squeeze some lemon.
  • Eat it up


Redbone Pancakes with Dad

This Apron Strings guest post was written by Randy Whittaker. Randy is G.M. of Ontario Natural Food Co-op (ONFC), one of Canada’s leading distributors of natural and organic foods.”

I often tell my friends and associates that there’s nothing like raising kids. It’s been a great highlight in my life and despite being grown up now, I love being with them and hanging out with them. Robin is 20 today…Happy Birthday young man!…and Sonya is 23. I remember when I was in my twenties, the possibilities were endless and the energy to pursue those possibilities seemed boundless.

We had many magical moments when the kids were in their early years and quite often it was around food. We loved to take the kids on walks in the surrounding area of Guelph where we live. One of our favourite hikes was on a trail that bypassed a dam that could be crossed by a simple footbridge. The water rushed from a large holding pond into the Eramosa River.

One chilly winter’s day, when we were all together by the bridge, I knelt down in the snow close to the rushing water’s edge and proclaimed to the kids in an excited voice; “Look! Baby turtles!“ Who could resist seeing little baby turtles despite the improbability of such an occurrence in the dead of winter.  My wife, Michele, the biologist, must have suspected something was up, but the kids scurried over to see as I clutched my hand around something that I had apparently pulled from the water’s edge. I slowly opened my hand to reveal  four chocolate “Turtles” that I had brought for the trip. I suppose that was both a disappointment and delight, but the kids were good sports and willingly took their treat.

I fondly remember our Saturday morning ritual when the kids were little: the pancake breakfast. Both kids were still in bed when good ol’ Dad was already up and about. I would turn to our favourite recipe* of Cheese Corn Pancakes from The Harrowsmith Cookbook (volume two).

Part of the preparation of the pancake breakfast tradition included the tunes of one of Canada’s fine crooners, Leon Redbone. I usually would turn up the nasal sounds of Redbone’s reclining rendition of ‘Lazy Bones’, as the kids woke from their night’s slumber.

“Lazy bones, sleepin’ in the shade, how you ‘spect to get your cornmeal made; you’ll never get your cornmeal made, sleepin’ in the evening shade”.

Sonya tells me that even now, almost twenty years later, when she hears that song she can smell pancakes cooking.

When the kids were a bit older they would help me make the pancakes from scratch while I told them stories about my own youth and the kind of meal patterns that we had in our household; pancake Mondays, spaghetti Tuesdays, casserole Wednesdays, etc. Looking back, it now seems so important to have had some patterns and traditions in our lives; it’s grounding in a way. For our family the Cheese Corn Pancake breakfast has served up lasting memories. That might just be a great Father’s Day breakfast.

Cheese Corn Pancakes (made all the better with organic ingredients)

  • 2 cups flour
  • 3 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 2 Tbsp. brown sugar
  • 2 cups milk (or soymilk)
  • 2 eggs, slightly beaten
  • ¼ cup of oil
  • 2 cups corn
  • Small cubes cheddar cheese

Method

  • Combine flour, baking powder, salt and sugar. In another bowl, combine milk, eggs, oil and corn. Pour liquid ingredients over flour mixture and combine with a few strokes – batter should be lumpy.
  • Pour ¼ cup of batter onto greased griddle.  While first side is cooking, top with 5 or 6 cheese cubes. Flip to cheese side and cook until golden brown.
  • Makes 8 to 10 pancakes.


Pancakes Revisited

This guest post is written by Donna Dooher. Donna is a celebrated chef, restaurateur, cookbook author, teacher and TV personality. She is the owner of Mildred’s Temple Kitchen where brunch is served every Sunday, including Father’s Day. If you make it, be sure to order the pancakes.

 

Growing up, my father held high court in our kitchen on Sunday mornings. He was master of the frying pan, striking the confidence of Julia Child and, of course, pancakes were his specialite de la maison. The batter was from a box – just add liquid (milk or water), crack a few eggs, mix (but not too much, “lumps are good,” he would tell us.) Maple syrup was de riguer, but likely laced with corn sugar and artificial colouring. Those were heady days – no worry of organic, sustainability or biodiversity, just a Sunday ritual that brought squeals of laughter to the brood of six and gave our mother a well-deserved sleep in.  My dad was highly animated from start to finish, with his favourite album enticing him to belt out the revered line “I am, I, Don Quixote, the Man of La Mancha.” Diligently checking the temperature of the pan, he was keen to get the sizzle just right. The anticipation ran high as he dropped the first spoonful of batter into the pan. The miracle of leavening took place, the pancakes began to bubble and rise, and at just the right colour of golden brown, we were instructed to ready ourselves with ‘fork and courage’. We held steady, knowing how important this next  step was. Continue »



A Very Dramatic Dinner

This Apron Strings guest post is from Shoshana Sperling a Toronto based writer/performer and musician. She is the frontwoman for the awesome kids’ band The Monkey Bunch creating music that appeals to kids and parents alike all the while “creating an army of children who will be the heroes of our world.”

I grew up in Regina, Saskatchewan in the 70’s. As you can imagine not a lot of dads were working on their domestic skills at this time. My father, a political science prof was black-listed and found himself at the U of R. I spent my youth at protests and marches and dinner time was a time of discussion about the latest injustice.

Maybe after all that Marx, Lenin and Trotsky he needed to relax over a new recipe from Julia Child. The day of a “Dad Creation” would begin with a visit from the Hutterites at 6am bearing a whole sheep, complete with brains, which he would put into our downstairs freezer. And then the recipe. Continue »