Sunday, February 15, 2009

A pleasant Sunday stroll . . .

Okay, I really don't make this stuff up.

Here's my neighbours out for a Sunday stroll . . . complete with Arabian, two llamas and two dogs.

Never let it be said that life in Port Alberni isn't exotic!

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Dutch treat on a hutsput . . .

The vicissitudes of fortune are front and center on the news. Each day, we read more and more about the similarities between the onset of the Great Depression and what’s happening to our collective national economies today. Now, if ever there was a force of change beyond our control, this is it.

But, dwelling on that would mean a quick trip down the slick slope of small ‘d’ depression for me. Been there, not going back. Instead, I’m inclined to focus on the little victories. Yesterday’s was a double Dutch treat.

Our former neighbours who moved into town a couple of years ago often stop by to share a cup of coffee and chat. They’re adjusting well to their smaller town property and they’ve finally completed the renovations needed to make their new home feel like theirs.

On Sunday, they stopped by and over coffee and talk about gardens and such, the husband asked if I would be putting in carrots this year. Since carrots are so plentiful and readily available all year long, I don’t plant them. But my neighbours always did, and again they reminded me that you can’t make hutsput without them.

What they didn’t know is that over time, I’ve tried making hutsput from their description of what this mysterious (to me) Dutch dish might be. Somehow, I’ve always known I was getting it wrong. Even the name. When the topic came up, I pounced.

“Aha! Chutzpah! Let me get a pen and paper. This time, I’m going to write it down.”

And so the adventure began. First, I got the spelling h-u-t-s-p-u-t; at least how her mother used to say it. Then, both spoke at once, as they often do. Confusing me yet again, as they often do. Finally, the wife made a fatal slip. “Oh, come on over and I’ll cook you hutsput one day.”

“Great!” I countered. “And I’ll bring a pie.”

“What kind of pie,” asked the husband, eyes twinkling.

“Rhubarb? Apple? Lemon meringue? You name it. Raisin, even,” I said. “Just say when and we’ll be there.”

“Uh, did I hear raisin in that list,” he asked, knowing full well I’d not have missed his favorite.

“Absolutely. When do you want us to come?”

We all laughed and agreed Tuesday was best.

So yesterday, armed with a fresh warm raisin pie and a nice cool can of real whipped cream, off we went for our baptismal hutsput. OMG. It was divine! Orange mashed potatoes, laced with bacon and onions heaped in a big bowl and indescribably delicious. Real, honest-to-goodness comfort food.

Alongside was a bowl of sausage and more bacon, and a batch of fresh baked dinner buns. Had anyone ever told me such a simple dinner could fill your soul, I would have sought out hutsput decades ago.

To complete the motif, the raisin pie may have been my best ever, served gasping under clouds of cream.

Okay, I know. The price of bacon is nothing to sneeze at. And raisins are becoming worth their weight in platinum. So going ‘Dutch treat’ on a simple dinner strikes me as a pretty nifty way to weather tough times.

Take that, winter blues! Anyone want to share their meatloaf and mashed spuds for a lemon meringue dessert? Have pie pan, will travel.

Photo credit: here

Sunday, February 8, 2009

The irony of doing better for our kids

I heard a small news item on the radio today. It seems in these days of economic uncertainty; some trades are doing rather well. Had I but known, I might not have shot the wad on political science, linguistics and the art of teaching English.

Heck no! It’s the shoe repair guy, the seamstress and the mechanic who are back in the money. Ah, change beyond our control – and life unravels our best intentions.

Now, as I remember there was a period of recession back in the early 1950s. It was so dismal my dad went back into the Air Force to support the family. When he first re-enlisted, he received only ‘subsistence allowance’ which basically kept a single fella in cigarettes and the occasional movie with his best girl.

My mother, a child of the Great Depression, had learned at her mother’s knee all the small economies to keep a family going when money was scarce. So getting through those six months or so was taken as a challenge rather than a major stumbling block.

Somehow, she stretched one pound of ground round into two nourishing meals for us three kids and herself. She tricked powdered milk into a palatable drink and found ways to make cabbage not only agreeable, but downright yummy. She made the dour surround of an apartment above a hardware store feel comfortable and secure even without a dad there to lean on. Because she’d learned all this from a veteran of longer, deeper, meaner times.

Soon thereafter, the 50s boomed. Big Time. Money flowed, business flourished and by the mid 60s when I started working, there was never a fear of doing without. It’s true what they say. If you didn’t like the way your boss looked at you one morning, you just quit on the spot, walked down the street and started a new job at a better place the next morning.

Unions grew strong and folks got used to the idea that a king’s ransom was the going rate for punching in. Labor was premium and a strike struck fear in the hearts of the company, not the worker. The dawn of the culture of entitlement. Plain folk could look at their kids and know they had provided better than their own parents had been able to do for them. And taught them to expect it would always be so.

But it’s a funny thing. The early tougher times that drove our generation to do better, is also what taught our generation how to cope with downturns. Now I understand why my parents spoke so nostalgically about the Great Depression.

I’m wondering what younger generations have in memory to draw on to help them get through. Maybe ours missed the boat by not keeping those early lessons in mind. I’m sure the younger ones will manage (and do it in ways we may come to admire) no matter how hard the struggle.

But the irony of generations striving to make life better for the next is inescapable. Maybe ‘doing better’ is not all there is to ‘doing well’ by our kids. Photo credit: here