memories light (like?) the corners of my mind… sing it Babs.

I’ve been flooded with waves of nostalgia for the last 24 hours — first, sorting all my worldly belongings and then cramming the stuff that made the cut (sorry, faux-suede boots from 2002) into a cargo van and trucking it for two hours, from Mtl to home sweet home in the Gatineaus. Saying goodbye to Mtl and all the memories it holds wasn’t the easiest way to spend a Saturday afternoon, but two hours in the car can do a lot to erase tension… and coming home-home can work miracles. I thought I was I was feeling pretty much fine by the time we approaching the final hill before Chelsea on the A5, but as we dipped down the last little gully and I saw the “Chelsea” sign, every muscle in my body let go just a little bit more.

After we unloaded the van, we used it to truck some family belongings from my grandfather’s house to my dad’s and then from my dad’s to my mum’s. Out it all came: photo albums (my first bike, my first ice cream, my first laugh), Barbies, Polly Pockets, Littlest Pet Shops, Playmobile, those crazy Bossons heads that always hung on my grandad’s mantle.

And then the third wave of nostalgia. My month-long orientation for this Kenya trip is being held at Carleton University. So here I am, seven years later, back in residence. Walking through the tunnel to the residence commons, the murals on the walls made me nostalgic to the point of dizziness.

So that’s what’s been going on… but enough about me. Here is some news you can use: butter, brown sugar, peaches.

peaches, butter, brown sugar. Come to mama.

Fannie Farmer’s Peach Upside-Down Cake

This is wonderfully retro, but not in the canned-fruit-whipped-cream-and-Jell-o way. It also fits with the nostalgia theme, since it was one of the few desserts my mum made as a treat. Warning: extremely sweet.

Preheat oven to 400. Get yourself a 9×9 baking pan or large cast iron frying pan. In it, place:

  • 3/4 c butter

Into the oven it goes. It doesn’t have to be preheated yet, we just want the butter to melt. Once it has (3 to 5 min), remove from oven. Pour off 1/2 c of the butter into a measuring cup to use in the cottage pudding (this will make sense in a minute). I repeat, pour off 1/2 cup and reserve — this recipe will be a heart-stopping/clogging disaster if you don’t heed my words. Now, add to your 1/4 c melted butter:

  • 1 c brown sugar
  • chopped pecans to taste (completely optional. I never do this.)

Mix it all together and spread it out evenly on the bottom of the pan. Now, lay out on top of the butter/sugar mixture, in a single layer, cut side down:

  • one 28-ish oz can (the big cans) halved peaches — about 9 halves

Try to put them as close together as possible, and let them drain at least a little bit as you go. Now you have a little landscape of peachy mountains. Sprinkle with:

  • lemon juice

Next, you need to make cottage pudding (which you can bake on its own if you want to skip the peach upside-down part, a.k.a. you are crazy). I really hate the name cottage pudding because it reminds me of the term “cottaging” — it’s not the gay part that turns me off, it’s that while I’m making dessert I don’t want to think about anyone having random sex in public washrooms. Anyway. Beat well:

  • your 1/2 c melted butter from before (you followed my directions, right?)
  • 1/2 c milk
  • 1 egg

Whisk together, in a separate bowl:

  • 1 and 1/2 c flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 c sugar

Frankencake: it all tastes the same in the end.

Stir the wet mixture into the dry one, spread it over your peachie bumps, and bake for 30-35 minutes — until golden brown on top and cooked through. Insert a knife to check for doneness. Otherwise you’ll think it’s done, start to serve, and then have to Frankencake the thing back together so it can bake longer. (See right.)

Once it cools a little, you can flip it out onto a serving platter, or just cut-and-scoop it out of the pan if it’s just you, your manfriend and a terrible movie. (The first time I made this we were watching Twilight. Didn’t even bother to pause the movie while we baked. Oh the nostalgia.)

Top with ice cream or whipped cream. Praise be to peaches.

mtl: the victory lap

this wasn't on the list. but it perfectly illustrates why mtl is numero uno.

I have a list. I am a person of many lists. When I write lists, I include things I have already done, just to cross them off. Observe…

Thing to do in this fair city one last time:

  • brunch at Bagel Etc.
  • hawaiian poutine at La Banquise
  • ridiculous Mason jar cocktails at Distillerie
  • table d’hote at Khyber Pass
  • sheesha on St. Denis
  • tour St. Joseph’s Oratory
  • picnic at Lac des Castors
  • consume the entirety of Cheskie’s
  • Burger de Ville
  • hawaiian burger and yam fries at Meat Market
  • Roquefort mussels at L’Academie
  • belvedere on Mt. Royal
  • Marché Atwater
  • Frites Alors!
  • chicken creation at Boustan
  • ask Aleana where the best Thai is, and go there
  • rice pudding at Beautys
  • tightrope walk on Mt. Royal
  • buy (and consume) all the cheese at PA
  • tam-tams!
  • bow down to the LARPers
  • eat at that amazing $5 thali Indian restaurant near the humane society that everyone keeps telling me about, even though the metro will cost as much as the meal
  • wine. park.

And then also get vaccinations, work visa and pack.

It’s a long list, which is why I got a head start on it before I actually got down to writing it out. I only have a matter of hours left as a resident of Montreal, and then it’s off to Ottawa for a month of orientation for my fellowship in Kenya. The trip itself has been delayed because of work visas, which is unfortunate in most senses, but fortunate in the sense that I will have the entire month of July to be funemployed… and therefore take extended visits to Montreal. I must finish what I started here.

Then in August, I shape up and ship out to Nairobi. I’m moving to Kenya for six months to work for the Nation Media Group. Newspaper, tv, and radio reporting, hopefully with a healthy dose of general exploring on the side. You can come, if you want. Just bookmark this blog. Or subscribe. Or send me emails begging for updates. Or actually come visit me. Flights are only about 24 hours long, and it’s trans-Atlantic so you probably get free liquor.

the day we went to the Oratory also happened to be the "Blessing of the Mustangs" -- no jokes. Fo' five dolla, a priest (?) will bless your mid-life-crisis automobile.

So that’s what I’ll be doing for the next year. And if you’re in Mtl, y’all best be checking at least some of the things off that list, because they are interesting and/or delicious. They are my favourite things. Just call me Oprah.

(And speaking of Oprah, love her or hate her, she has popularized a lot of wisdom over the last 25 years. Whether or not she came up with it in the first place, you have to admit she was a force for positivity. And Mighty Girl has gathered some of it in one place.)

ginger steak salad, emphasis on the steak

Friends, I am gorging on salad. Partly because my gym membership ran out and did bad things to my waist, but also because I’m moving to Kenya, a land where eating a salad is kind of like playing Russian roulette with your intestines. I’m not a fan of cholera, and safe salads are usually expensive or hard to come by. (That said, the peel-able produce — mango, banana, papaya — is magnificent.)

sans boeuf: waiting for its prince to come.

Hence, I am sharing with you here my favourite dinner salad, inspired by Pioneer Woman. In terms of mass it’s mostly steak, so it’s really only a salad in the sense that the basis of the dish is a load of lettuce. BUT you can say you’re having salad for dinner and feel virtuous as you tear into a pound of rib-eye. Sorry to those of you who don’t eat meat, you’ll have to sit this one out… or I bet it would be good with tofu. NOT.

First, marinate your steaks, at least 45-90 min before you want to eat. I do one whole steak per salad, but that’s because I am a greedy, greedy carnivore. You could definitely get away with half a steak per person. For one rib-eye (or something fancier if you’re not a recovering grad student), combine in a Ziploc bag:

  • 2 tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp sherry or white wine
  • 2 cloves of garlic, thinly sliced
  • 2 tsp brown sugar
  • 2 tbsp olive oil

Now toss your steak in there. If you’re using more than one steak, just use common sense to scale this up — you probably don’t need to double it for each steak, they just need to be surrounded by marinade goodness. Turn the bag over periodically to ensure an even application of flavah.

Make your salad dressing ahead. This is enough to dress two large salads. The longer it sits and the flavours bleed together, the better. Combine:

  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tbsp soy sauce
  • 2 tbsp white sugar
  • 1 tbsp lime juice*
  • 2 cloves garlic, pressed
  • 1 tbsp fresh ginger, minced
  • 1 tsp jalapeno, seeded and diced (or more if you can HANDLE IT)

For the salad, combine in individual bowls:

  • lettuce (romaine, mixed greens, whatever)
  • cherry tomatoes
  • green onions
  • soft goat cheese (that stuff that comes in a tube with herbs or black pepper all over it)

Once you have your salad assembled and your steaks have been marinating for long enough, you’re ready to cook. First, toast some sesame seeds. You can leave this part out with no grave consequences, but I think it’s worth it for the minimal effort. Toss your sesame seeds into a dry frying pan (about 1 tbsp per salad), put it on medium heat and toss them around periodically, until they go golden-y. Do not walk away. They will be fine, fine, fine and then all of a sudden BURNED. Remove from heat and set aside.

Now cook your steak. Put a frying pan on medium-high, spray it with a bit of non-stick. Put your steak(s) in there with some of the marinade juice, and cook to taste. Personally I like my steak still totally raw and bleeding and mooing in the middle, which is only about a minute (or less) of searing on each side. But we’re not all fans of raw flesh, so you do what you gotta do. This salad really does sing if you use tender, less-cooked meat though, if you think you can possibly handle it.

oh me oh my.

When the meat is done: remove from frying pan and slice into thin strips. Dress your salad(s). Slide the meat on top, and top with some of the marinade reduction (from the frying pan, NOT the Ziploc), and then sprinkle your toasted sesame seeds on top.

The first time I had this salad I actually felt the need to bring it up as a topic of conversation in the days that followed, it’s that good. I hope you feel the same way. Mail me one in Nairobi, won’t you?

P.S. Lime-related rant:

* you can substitute lemon juice for lime, but please don’t. I am huge, huge fan of lime juice. I think it’s one of those ingredients that adds a certain je ne sais quoi to a dish — it’s the same category of ingredients as cilantro or butter. You can substitute but it’s never the same.