Find­ing plea­sure in the kitchen

Whether it’s sip­ping the first cup of cof­fee in a special mug or chop­ping green onions fresh from the gar­den, mind­ful­ness en­hances day-to-day culi­nary ac­tiv­i­ties

The Guardian (Charlottetown) - - FOOD & DRINK/COMMUNITY - Mar­garet Prouse Mar­garet Prouse, a home econ­o­mist, can be reached by writ­ing her at RR#2, North Wilt­shire, P.E.I., C0A 1Y0, or by email at prouse@pei.sym­pa­

We are into the sec­ond half of 2017.

One of my res­o­lu­tions, back in Jan­uary, was to be more present this year. By be­ing present I mean pay­ing at­ten­tion to what is go­ing on at any given mo­ment rather than let­ting my thoughts wan­der to some­thing that’s go­ing to hap­pen later or re­view­ing things that went on ear­lier.

My goal is to no­tice and ap­pre­ci­ate the mo­ments of life, good or bad, as they oc­cur. This doesn’t mean that I can’t look back to re­flect on what went on or what I did and it doesn’t mean that I shouldn’t plan for the fu­ture.

It does mean that I pre­fer nei­ther to stew about how things might have been dif­fer­ent or live in an­tic­i­pa­tion of some per­fect imag­i­nary fu­ture or in dread of an apoc­a­lyp­tic one, while miss­ing out on what’s go­ing on here and now.

I sup­pose there aren’t many truly new ideas. This is one that’s been around for cen­turies, and I don’t know enough about phi­los­o­phy to trace its ori­gins. It can intensify ex­pe­ri­ence, good or bad.

One of the ben­e­fits is find­ing plea­sure in the ev­ery­day events and ob­ser­va­tions that fill the months and years. I have no­ticed some fine mo­ments. And be­cause I spend a lot of time in the kitchen, many of them are re­lated to prepar­ing and con­sum­ing food.

The first taste of cof­fee in the morn­ing, steamy and de­li­cious, is one worth notic­ing and I en­joy it more when I like the mug it’s in: Is­land pot­tery in soft green and creamy white, with slightly rough ridges, or white china dec­o­rated with lilies of the val­ley or tall and turquoise, a gift from my daugh­ter’s Cape Bre­ton va­ca­tion.

There is the de­light in the fresh per­fec­tion of the first green onions from our gar­den, pulled and put to use less than 5 min­utes later. No bruis­ing, no wilt­ing, no dis­coloura­tion, these are at their peak and de­serve to be ap­pre­ci­ated.

A per­fect set­ting en­hances a meal. Sit­ting in the warmth ra­di­at­ing from a wood­stove when the snow is blow­ing hor­i­zon­tally on the other side of the win­dow makes a sim­ple bowl of soup all the more en­joy­able. On a warm sum­mer day, a salad and sand­wich on the deck is a treat, made bet­ter by gar­den bright colours, an easy breeze, a bird’s song and wa­ter gur­gling in my hus­band’s lat­est back yard pond.

At the Di­verseCity Mul­ti­cul­tural Fes­ti­val a few weeks ago, it made me happy to re­al­ize that, in spite of us­ing knife and fork for my daily meals, I could still man­age quite well with chop­sticks.

These, and other small plea­sures, like a cen­ter­piece of fresh flow­ers, a per­fectly poached egg, din­ner with old friends from a long-ago work­place and an ice cream cone on a hot af­ter­noon are mo­ments in my life that I don’t want to miss.

A dessert I en­joy in early July is straw­berry short­cake, light bis­cuit drenched in red juice from crushed berries, topped with real whipped cream. I doc­tored up my mom’s recipe last week, and think the but­ter­milk makes it even bet­ter. Here’s the recipe.

But­ter­milk Short­cake

500 mL all pur­pose flour, 2 C

10 mL bak­ing power, 2 tsp

2 mL bak­ing soda, ½ tsp

25 mL sugar, 2 tbsp

100 mL but­ter, 6 tbsp

1 egg, well-beaten

175 mL but­ter­milk, ¾ cup

Sliced al­monds, pump­kin seeds, or any chopped nuts for top­ping

Pre­heat oven to 220 de­grees C (425 de­grees F). Lightly grease a 22 cm (8 inch) pie plate. Whisk to­gether flour, bak­ing pow­der and soda and sugar in a large bowl. Cut in but­ter us­ing a pastry blender or two knives.

Whisk the beaten egg into the but­ter­milk and stir into the flour-but­ter mix­ture with a fork, mix­ing un­til soft dough is formed. Spoon the dough into pre­pared pie plate, and pat into place.

Scat­ter a crisp top­ping over the sur­face. I used pepitas (pump­kin seeds) last time, but just about any nuts or seeds are good. Or brush sur­face with egg white or milk if you don’t want the crunch. Bake for 20-25 min­utes, un­til lightly browned and cooked through. Serve wedges, warm from the oven, with sweet­ened straw­ber­ries, or any other juicy fruit or berries.

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