“I am grateful for what I am and have. My thanksgiving is perpetual.“ Henry David Thoreau

Another year, another Turkey Shoot. If your counting that makes 27 in a row.

As a family we value Thanksgiving more than Christmas. Ours is a weekend long festival of togetherness and love. Souls and loved ones have passed and new blood has joined in to keep us passionate about life and resilient to the scars that the years can create.

My children have never known a year without this gathering and hopefully never will. Time spent in front of the fire talking about what has transpired in our separate worlds and gathering strength from sharing thoughts and stories.

This year a new soul graced us with his presence. Asa, the happiest baby in the world brought his smiles and laughter to the table while Alex and Nicole shared their engagement news with the family. Love reigned abundant as always.

Thanksgiving is always a gift we treasure. Thank you everybody for standing against the tides of time in which we could have lost this experience. Be well for 365 days till the next one.

 

Papa Tait

 

 

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Not about food. This is about ankle hair?

Where did all my ankle hair go?

As you grow, um, older, you find that there is hair where you never had hair and hair missing in places where it used to be abundant. The top of the head seems to fall short of its required allotment and there is a crop growing, unfortunately from your nostrils, ear lobes, and that one rampant six incher that sprouted up overnight from your eyebrow.

But for me, I seemed to lose a crop that I had never really noticed, until now.

For the past, I don’t know how long, I’ve worn socks. You dress for work, living in Canada most of the time it’s for warmth, or you just have the routine drilled into you from your parents that you need to wear socks. Civilized people wear socks!

Then one day in your fifties you look down and realize that you have these bizarrely naked ankles. Your leg hair stops at the spot where your socks begin. What happened to my ankle hair? Was it the rubbing of the tight fitting socks? Was it the absence of oxygen getting to the area, or was I born with a natural barren area of hair follicles? I have a little hair on my toes (not in the sasquatch sense) but nothing for a six-inch area above my ankle.

But that has changed.

I’ve been out of the corporate world for some time now and my suits are collecting dust in the closet as well as my excessive assortment of business wear. My sock collection has reduced into a few and far between assortment of mismatched and one offs.

Since socks are not a mainstay of my daily existence anymore a curious thing has happened to my ankles. I’m growing hair back there! This has turned out to be an exciting experience for me. Daily now I check the progress of the filament development. Is there more than yesterday? Is there less? Is the once barren patch now a developing thatch? Will it grow in thicker and resemble hamsters mounting my legs in a questionable embrace? What will become of this?

Why am I so focused on my ankle hair?

Being of Scottish heritage, for me tanning is not an option. It’s not that I don’t want to or like to, it just doesn’t happen. My leg hair is the only thing that gives the illusion that I have any melanin in my body. The absence of ankle hair makes it appear that I have never exposed my feet to sunlight let alone been wearing wellingtons all my life. I’m not vain, it just looks funny.

So I welcome the new crop and hope it fills in faster than it took to disappear. Growing new ankle hair in your fifties is, well, exciting. The ear hair I can do without.

Be well and eat (and grow ankle hair) well.

Scott

“It’s a magical world, Hobbes, ol’ buddy…Let’s go exploring!” Calvin & Hobbes

Spring is here. I have never wanted a winter to end so badly! When you were a kid you waited in anticipation for the first snow so you could play outside. You yearned for summer to end the school year and start those late night games of hide and seek. You had dread and fear in your heart as autumn approached and you were back in school and breaking in a new teacher. But I never remember wanting spring to arrive so quickly as I did this year.

2014-12-07 09.15.19

Looking outside and staring at the snow mounted on my BGE and BBQ’s has been the most depressing sight for me over these past few months. I have been vigilant and dusted them off from time to time, but the cold and the snow seemed to keep pushing me indoors.

But that’s over now! The Equinox has arrived with a fury breaching this dull gray world back into the light! It’s doubly blessed us with a solar eclipse and an extended view of the Northern Lights. I’m not much for the holistic view of the universe but all these events must mean something.

Speaking of meaning something, I have a Bodhi tree. It’s the tree that Buddha supposedly found enlightenment under as he meditated. When I found it it was reminiscent of the Christmas tree in A Charlie Brown Christmas. Two sticks placed in a pot that needed support. I gave it a new home, water, some nourishment and a home. It flourished under my care and grew. But somehow I forgot that I had left it outside and it experienced the first frost. In my mind I heard Charlie Brown say “Rats! I killed it!” But being determined I brought it inside and left it in the corner for the winter. Every now and then I would see it and offer it some water. Every leaf fell of it and it was back to its original two sticks.

Then, if like an omen of spring a bud would appear and it would show me that it was back. Not dead, just dormant for a while needing a rest and then back with foliage abundant.

I didn’t hold much hope for it this year. I poured my glasses of water on it from the night before sleep and just had a little faith that it was still in there.

You get to an age and wonder in small miracles. Last week Bodhi came back to me. This time with passion and fury! By this the first day of spring, he’s made a complete comeback from his winter hibernation to stand before the world and claim “I AM BODHI! HERE ME ROAR!”

Ok that’s a little over the top but it’s the worlds way of telling me that we all need a little withdrawal and hibernation for a few weeks or months to recharge our batteries before we can once again take life for a ride.

I ‘ve spent some time in humble consideration of who I am and where I’m going. My life has changed drastically over the past year and I am in no way reflective of where I thought I would be at this point in my life. It’s been disheartening and yes depressing. But what I see each spring in that silly little tree is new growth and new opportunity to become something new again. This year it hits a little more to the soul than before. I’ve been through changes, heart wrenching, and soul breaking changes and have come through on the other side. This year they seemed to take a little more out of me. Maybe it’s my age, maybe it’s the lack of vitamin D, or maybe, like my Bodhi, I needed to hibernate for a while. I blame the weather.

Whatever it was it’s done! The leaves have broken through and the branch and are once again reaching for the sunlight. Ideas are flowing and the smoke is billowing from the gray matter.

Spring is here and I’ve never been so ready to welcome the path in front of me.

Life is good!

So the food? After all this is all about the food.

I’ve been thinking about food and writing things down for this and other considerations. I have once again found my mojo.

So here are some of the things to be ready for.

Bacon Sushi

Stuffed Bacon

Candied Bacon

Maybe a little to bacon focused so there are new recipes and ideas for

Pork

Beef

Chicken

Fish

Shellfish

Breads

Soups

Stews

And words about life

Oh and there were those Smoked Boneless Beef Ribs I stuffed into Yorkshire Puddings.

Talk soon. Actually, I’ll talk and you can read.

Be well and eat well

Scott Tait

The Artisanal Grill

“Imagination is everything. It is the preview of life’s coming attractions.” Albert Einstein

I’ve spent the last few times with my Big Green Egg #BGE playing with versions of roasted chicken. Spatchcock is the style but the flavours have moved from tequila lime and paprika garlic to the classic BBQ sauced.

BBQ Chicken and Jalapeno PizzaTwo things I have found out. The best,  juiciest chicken comes out when cooked on a stone, and second the quick sear before serving gives you the crispness that you’re looking for when you steal that piece of skin.

So why you ask is there a picture of a pizza here? The chicken was Monday night; the pizza was the leftover night! I have a tendency to cook past the serving requirements but I hate waste. So the experimentations have resulted in soups, wraps, salads, sandwiches and the best of all, pizza.

I have a wonderful bread dough recipe. Easy, tasty and works well as the crust on a pizza, so I thought I would share. This makes 2

4 cups All Purpose flour (keep extra for dusting)

4 cups Semolina flour

2 packages traditional yeast

3 tbsp. Honey

2 tbsp. fine salt

2 tbsp. garlic powder

3 tbsp. dried chopped onions

3 cups tepid water (note: if the water is too hot it will kill the yeast. It should be around body temperature.)

Measure out water and add honey to it and stir. Add yeast and wait till it foams.

Mix all the dry ingredients in a large bowl and make sure they are well incorporated.

Slowly work in your water and yeast combination with your hands. Judge the consistency. If it’s too sticky dust in some more flour, too dry add a little extra water. Work it till you have a smooth cohesive very large ball.

Sprinkle flour on your work surface and kneed the dough for 4 to 5 minutes.

At this point I divide the dough in two and place each in an oiled and floured bowl to rise.

Here’s a trick. Take plastic wrap, spray one side with cooking spray or just oil it with a brush. Put that side against towards the dough to cover. Then cover with a cloth. This way the dough wont sticks to the plastic when it rises and protects the cloth.

Place the covered bowl in a draft free area. I use my cold oven. It’s warm in there and the dough won’t be disturbed.

Wait an hour to an hour and a half for the rise.

Take out the dough, dust your work surface with flour, and kneed it again. Maybe a minute then back in the bowl covered for a second rise. Another hour or so.

When done for can either make bread, focaccia, or pizza with what you have created.

And if you have left over BBQ’d chicken, all the better.

Mine has a homemade tomato base, Gouda, bocconcini, jalapenos, red onion and the pulled remnants of the chicken from the night before.

I have baked this bread inside and outside. Same with the pizza. If you can do it on your grill or #BGE all the better to add a little smoke because we all know, a little smoke and fire makes everything better!

Be well and eat well

Scott

“Know what’s weird? Day by day, nothing seems to change. But pretty soon, everything is different.” Bill Watterson

What do you do when you’re tired of the same old but everyone around you still insist on it. Make it different and wait for the backlash, or make it the same in a new way? After a summer of BBQ, (actually it’s a way of life around here), I get bored of the classic baked potato yet everyone still expects it to make a showing on the table.

Loaded Baked Potato SoupFall has hit quickly in Toronto and the chill is on us. The baseball season is at end and the playoffs are in sight. So using a ball euphemism, I decided to develop a baked potato curve ball.

Taking the task partially outside I created a Full Loaded Baked Potato Soup. Yes extreme, yes filling, and yes wonderfully satisfying. Each year we celebrate a Canadian Thanksgiving outside and on a farm in Northern Ontario. My responsibility, the tailgate! With the temperature dropping I think that this will make a good addition to the food so I decided to experiment first.

When making soup, I prefer to roast off my vegetables first instead of just sticking them in the stock to cook. To me it brings out more of the natural sugars and taste in the base flavour. So not to break my tradition, I roasted off 6 Russets and the carrots for my stock first. When they were soft and ready, I sautéed half an onion and celery in a large stock pot with olive oil until they were soft and translucent. Rough chopped 4 of the potatoes and the carrots and Added them to the pot with, garlic, salt and pepper and 3 bay leaves. Topped the whole thing off with 2 liters of chicken stock and let it simmer for an hour. I threw in two tablespoons of a BBQ rub that I had made to bring some of the outdoor spice and aroma to the soup.

After the hour the stock was blended down to a smooth consistency ( after taking out the bay leaves), placed back in the stock pot and put on low.  The remaining two potatoes were rough chopped into bit size pieces and joined the other happy elements in the soup.  Keep extra chicken stock around and if it’s too thick for you, thin it out to your liking with some extra.

Finished with sour cream, crisp fried bacon, chopped green onion, and shredded cheddar for the fully loaded part.  Take a look. It feels like soup to the mouth but tastes like a baked potato.

Putting a different spin or preparation on an old favourite is a way to break from the norm but still fill the need of the comfort you and your family get from the staple.

I remember a teacher from high school giving me instruction on how to look at a situation.

  1. Leave it the same.
  2. Remove it completely.
  3. Rearrange it.
  4. Take away from it.
  5. Add to it.

That’s how to keep an old favourite from creeping into mundane territory.

What can you do to your standard and give it new life?

Be well and eat well

Scott

PS. I think the family will like this at Thanksgiving!

 

 

 

 

10 Great Quotations for International Literacy Day

Finishing a good book is more satisfying than finishing a good bottle of wine. You can always read a book again. You can’t re-drink the wine. Thanks for the great post.

Interesting Literature

Today is International Literacy Day! What better time, then, to celebrate some of the wisest, wittiest, pithiest, silliest, and most profound things that writers have ever said about literature and reading? The following are 10 of our personal favourites from the last 21 months of Interesting Literature.

‘A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies,’ said Jojen. ‘The man who never reads lives only one.’

– George R. R. Martin

Parents should leave books lying around marked ‘forbidden’ if they want their children to read.

– Doris Lessing

There is no surer foundation for a beautiful friendship than a mutual taste in literature.

– P. G. Wodehouse

Cat with book

There are books of which the backs and covers are by far the best parts.

– Charles Dickens

No entertainment is so cheap as reading, nor any pleasure so lasting.

– Lady Mary Wortley Montagu

One always tends to overpraise a long…

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The broccoli says ‘I look like a small tree’, the mushroom says ‘I look like an umbrella’, the walnut says ‘I look like a brain’, and the banana says ‘Can we please change the subject?’ Anonymous

We are a comparing society. Coke verses Pepsi, Cascade verses Finish, Ford verses Dodge? We compare politicians, actors, restaurants, even bottled water? My parents, well really my mother always compared things in Canada to how they were in Scotland. “It’s not like it was back home”, or “The ones I grew up were much better than these ones.” There are few things in this world that are unique anymore and when one does surface, there are like products within weeks that we can offer up comparisons to.

Smoked lambWe do the same thing with food. Actually you have to admit these words have come out of your mouth or someone you know more than once. “It tastes like chicken to me.” You know you have. Chicken is like a blank canvas. It takes on the tastes and the profile of what and how we prepare it. Beef and pork can follow suit. Cooking is creative and flows with the artists, or chef’s hand, eye, and palate.

So here is my big caveat. Lamb! No matter how you prepare it, no matter what you enhance it with, the natural flavour of lamb always comes through. That why it’s my favourite protein. From curried to roasted, braised to stew, grilled or smoked you always know its lamb.

Some consider the flavour too strong, others consider it too earthy but I consider it unique and wonderful.

So today I offer you a slow smoked butterflied leg of lamb with roasted beets, Home grown beans with toasted almonds, and a kale and feta salad.

The lamb was rubbed with a mixture of olive oil, garlic, black pepper, Dijon mustard, rosemary, sage, mint and one anchovy. It was left in a re-sealable bag for 5 hours in the fridge and brought to room temperature before it hit the grill.

The Big Green Egg had the beets on to roast over pecan wood for 4 hours at 300f before the lamb hit the smoker. I placed a tin pan of water below the lamb and filled it with the same fresh herbs that were in the rub to give an aromatic moistness to the smoke. When it reached an internal of 150f I switched it to the hot gas grill for a quick sear on the outside for some charring. Left to sit wrapped in foil for 15 minutes and it was ready to devour.

I love lamb. It’s bold and subtle at the same time. Kind of like me : )

Be well and eat well.

Scott