Saturday, February 12, 2011

The Garden Report #35

Sunday, January 30th, 2011

A summer view at the ranch
• Writers write: There may be revolution in the streets of Cairo but order has been restored in our house. There was no toast or porridge for brunch this morning. No, there was that golden hued piece of heavenly delight that we call Johnny Cake in the oven, baking at four hundred degrees. There was butter and real maple syrup and a fresh fruit bowl with a bit of yogurt on top and there was a big pot of black tea. It’s twenty below with snow banks four feet tall in places and nothing but Johnny Cake was designed by the good Lord for Sunday mornings. Nothing, except maybe some scratch waffles but that is another story. I understand that the Hotel Saskatchewan has a wonderful Sunday brunch, but they don’t serve Johnny Cake, and they won’t let you eat in your underwear. If I owned ‘The Sask’, I would let people eat brunch in their underwear. I would advertise that policy. “Don’t shave, don’t put on your pants…just come and eat our food!” The place would be filled, mainly with men my age. For me, it would be a chance to see all of my friends in one place, at one time. Not wearing pants ranks up there, just behind eating Johnny Cake with maple syrup.

• Readers Write: Ken McCaw writes that the baguettes at The Orange Boot Bakery are better than those baked at Koko’s. Ken thinks that Koko’s baguettes have a good taste, but The Orange Boot beats them on authenticity. Roberta Nichol wrote to let me know that my coming out as a flaming heterosexual will not impact my standing in the neighborhood. Roberta feels the community will rally around me in my time of need. Jean McKay wrote “Thanks for writing” which is short and sweet. Rex Deverell wrote into remind me that mental illness and stupidity are not the same thing. Rex was responding to my off handed comment about the callers to radio shows being psychiatric patients. I corrected that statement on the internet edition. Casey Van Vloten from Vancouver appreciated Jan Pederson’s tips on good coffee places to visit in his travels. Heather Phillips from Carman, Manitoba wrote that the Johnny Cake recipe brought back many fond memories of a childhood winter treat, served with stove top, brown sugar syrup. Marcus Fernando, who lives in England and Croatia, writes that he knows nothing about ‘Doc Martin’. I am going to assume that Marcus does not want to join my ‘Coronation Street’ support group. Cheryl Hutton writes that she has received another out of town residency (acting job). Lyn Goldman thinks misting plants is a good idea.

A lovely evening in my own garden
 • Sweet Bakery: This place at the corner of Broad and College has been open for awhile. I have heard good things about it and on two occasions, people have brought me treats purchased from there. On Sunday last, we went for a walk through the park and our half way point was this place. I had a cinnamon roll made with baking powder, something that all of us grew up eating, but is seldom seen today. Helen who owns the place and is the head baker commented, that no one else in town produces a roll similar to this one. Most places opt for the yeast risen sticky bun. Maureen had a scone and when she was not looking, I sampled a bite (alright, I had two bites). Excellent treat. Maureen’s tea was first rate but my café au lait was a little weak. Definitely will try an espresso based coffee next time. The atmosphere was lovely and the washrooms were clean, which is always important.

• Clean washrooms: Don’t you just hate a dirty washroom whether it is in a restaurant or a gas station? The Starbucks at the corner of Robson and Thurlow in Vancouver was disgusting. I complained to the manager and his response was that they were understaffed. I suggested that they place that information in the window, in large print as in “Home of the four dollar coffee and disgusting washrooms!” On the east side of Portage la Prairie, there is a small gas station. It is an independent with a Domo sign. An older couple run it. The washrooms are spotless as is the rest of the store. I complimented the owner and his response was “We try.”

Wheelchairs and Winter: Driving east along 13th Avenue, there was a fellow in a electric wheelchair coming towards me, an unsafe situation. I stopped to let him pass. I glanced over at the sidewalk and I could see why he had to be on the road. The sidewalk was impassable for a wheelchair and tricky for an ambulatory pedestrian to navigate. I have written before that Cathedral is supposed to be last, great walking neighborhood in the city and it is, until it snows. But the street was recently graded. It shows that our priority lies within car culture.

• Stop the insanity: I had to drop in to a local high school on Tuesday. Outside of the school, there were many students, 14, 15 and 16 years of age. All were smoking. I don’t know what more can be done to inform them. There are the television ads, the warnings on the cigarette packs, the posters, the seminars. It is not as if ‘the word’ is not out there. Tied into the smoking is that youthful belief that negative consequences will not catch up to them, personally. When you are fifteen, you cannot imagine fifty and emphysema.
Tulip season is only three month away for Regina gardeners

• One more reason: As regular readers know, I am hardly a fan of fast food joints. That industry has contributed to heart disease, obesity, diabetes and the decline of our quality of life. Now there is one more reason not to eat at these places. An Alabama law firm has tested Taco Bell’s ‘seasoned beef’ and found it contains only 36% meat. The rest is fillers and binders. Yum. Our oldest son who lives in Calgary, told us that a friend of his manages another fast food establishment. Bryan was visiting the store and noticed there were buckets in the kitchen with the label “Meat fit for human consumption”. Not Grade AAA or Grade AA or a single A, but “fit for human consumption”? How far down the food chain do you have to go to reach that grade?

• Times are tough: Many years ago, I was boiling the carcass of the Christmas turkey to create a soup stock. Number Three Son was about five years of age at the time and he came into the kitchen. He climbed onto his stool so he could lift the lid off of the stock pot. He saw the carcass boiling away. He turned up his nose at what he saw and complained “Oh no! Bone soup.” I tried to explain that things were a little slow at the garden center and we all have to make compromises. Since that day, whenever we have the stock pot on the stove, the family joke is that we are making ‘bone soup’.

• Salad Wars: The year before the time of the ‘bone soup’, we went through the ‘salad wars’ in our house. Well, to be honest, Patrick and I went through the ‘salad wars’, the others were merely observers. For whatever reason, Patrick decided to quit eating salad when he was four and I thought this would ruin him for life. I laid down an ultimatum, that he had to eat his salad or no dessert. Not surprisingly, it turned into an incredible power struggle with one of us throwing temper tantrums. I am almost certain that it was Patrick with the tantrums. This war raged for close to a month, with neither side willing to give on any point. “Eat your salad!” “No! I don’t like salad.” We flash forward to today. He is thirty-one, married and he eats his salad. I don’t view that as a victory. Instead, I think back and ask why I put myself through that ordeal. It seemed so important at the time. Why does it take me thirty years to figure these things out?

• Yorkshire Pudding: I wrote how easy it is to make Yorkshire Pudding and it really is easy. This week we had a beef stew on the back burner and I thought that some of this starch would make a lovely accompaniment. I decided to experiment and added in two teaspoons of dill weed to the mixture, prior to baking. It was delicious. A perfect accompaniment to the stew.

• Chick Pea Masala: This Indian dish is simple to make and it tastes fantastic. Start by chopping up an onion and placing it into a hot pot with a bit of canola oil in the bottom. Brown the onions, then add in a cup of chopped mushrooms and a cup of carrots cut into coins. Sweat those for about ten minutes. Add in a can of unsalted tomatoes and a can of washed and rinsed chick peas. Cook on a low heat with a bit of garlic and one teaspoon of masala spice for flavor. You can lightly mash any of the tomatoes that do not break down from the cooking process with a fork. The masala spice can be purchased from Tony on Victoria Avenue at his Indian food store. I let this mixture simmer all afternoon on a low heat. About half an hour before supper, I added in a cup of green beans and a half cup of green peas, along with two tablespoons of hot peppers. I added in a second teaspoon of masala spice which made it quite hot. I finished off this dish with the juice from half of a fresh lemon. If you wish, you can add in a half cup of yogurt to reduce the heat. I didn’t because I was keeping the dish vegan. I served it with raita which is nothing more than yogurt with chopped cucumber spiced with garlic, cumin and a pinch of masala and some flat bread that had been heated up in a frying pan with a touch of oil and curry. An incredible dish for a cold winter’s evening meal.

• Good concert: We attended ‘The Nylons’ concert Saturday night. Good show. They split the concert between performing with The Regina Symphony and performing by themselves. I like getting out on a cold winter’s night and sharing a musical experience with others.

• Garden Tip: If you like to grow your geraniums from seed, it is time to start. Even if they get a little tall before it is time to move them into the garden, you can pinch them back. They will just get fatter. Keep in mind that geraniums from seed are usually singles versus the cutting geraniums which are usually doubles. Also, if you like to start your begonias from tubers, February is usually the month when those are started. The key to growing good begonias is not to overwater them. They like to be kept damp, but not wet.

• Thank you for reading this week…Rod McDonald in Regina

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