I apologize in advance that this newsletter won’t have has much interesting food as usual— I’ve been on autopilot, just throwing things together once 6pm hits and I realize I’m starting to get hungry. It’s probably no surprise that I’ve been out of sorts this week, as historic rainfall and flooding battered the south coast and interior of BC from Saturday through Monday. A storm drain on the street just up from us overflowed for hours and gushed water down the hill, flooding a community garden and the bike route on the street below, as well as giving us an unplanned water feature in our back garden, which found its way through the wall of the ground floor bedroom of one of our neighbours in the upstairs suite. She’s ok, but she’s doing 10 loads of laundry and sleeping in their living room for a week while the dehumidifiers try to mitigate the damage.
But this is nothing compared to the wreckage we’ve been seeing in other parts of the province. Hundreds of people were trapped between two slides on Highway 7, not knowing when help would arrive. My uncle was caught in the slide near Pemberton on Highway 99 and was lucky to emerge alive and unhurt, although he’s still stuck in Lillooett and will need to replace his vehicle. Huge chunks of the Trans-Canada and the Coquihalla as well as rail lines through the interior have been completely destroyed, leaving the Lower Mainland mostly cut off from the rest of the country by road, and many people stranded. And the flooding in Princeton, Abbotsford, Merritt, and other communities is absolutely devastating. If you or someone you know has been affected, my thoughts are with you. In addition to all the families that had to evacuate, I keep thinking about the farming community, and the animals that weren’t able to be brought to safety…
Meanwhile some people (who have apparently learned nothing from the past 20 months) are buying up stocks of gas and meat and toilet paper and diapers without a thought for people who have lost everything, without considering that supplies may be needed for hundreds of displaced people, and that panic-buying helps create the very shortages these hoarders are fearing. There’s so much to be upset and worried about right now; I didn’t also want to have to waste my anger on selfish fools. And speaking of supplies, just a reminder that while donating physical goods in an emergency feels helpful, it’s not useful and can actually make things more difficult for organizers. Please just donate money unless you have been mobilized to collect physical items by first responders. There will be links to help at the bottom of this newsletter.
On a lighter note, strong winds combined with high tides managed to unmoor an empty barge and beach it at English Bay, creating some of the best public art this city has seen in years. I honestly hope they’re never able to pull it free.
On Saturday, the start of the storm, we cautiously drove to a friend’s place to celebrate his birthday with a couple of other friends, a silly board game, pizzas from La Ruota, and a lot of delicious and extravagant vegan cupcakes made by his wife (chocolate with mocha filling and espresso icing, and vanilla with whiskey icing). There is something, or rather, multiple things, about the natural ease and companionship of in-person get-togethers that can’t be replicated in video calls. It feels good to laugh in the same room as people, and see the minutiae of the ways they express themselves using their bodies, and talk at the same time without the awkwardness of, “oh, sorry, you go”, “no no, you go”.
Other than that though, I’ve been spending a lot of time on my own, reading or working on a very difficult two-sided puzzle, or just knitting and watching television. I finished season 2 of Locke & Key after rewatching the first season, and Jeff and I are working our way through Castlevania. I just completed my very first test knit; I’d never applied to calls for them before because I was too new at knitting and worried my knowledge of techniques was too limited or my knitting too slow, but this was for a hat so I wasn’t concerned. I’ll share it in a couple of weeks once the pattern is released. Otherwise I’m just working on holiday gifts and trying to remind myself that a slowdown is natural with darker and colder weather.
On Monday, after the rains had stopped and the wind picked up, I cobbled together a spicy ramen from some chicken pieces I pulled out of the freezer and some instant noodles (the chicken was originally from the Peruvian chicken I wrote about here). I added dashi powder, sesame oil, and chili paste to the broth, and served it with some radishes, chopped black garlic, shiso furikake, and a soft-boiled egg. It wasn’t as good as the spectacularly delicious tantanmen I’ve made a few times before, but it was pretty good for something made in about twenty minutes. And even though Jeff and I both felt somewhat tired of soup after the bounty of last week’s soup swap, ramen only kind of counts as soup, right?
There was a bit of the chicken and black garlic left over, so the next day I made them into fried rice for lunch with some carrot, celery, and mushrooms, plus radishes and furikake for garnish. I was expecting it to be merely edible because the rice had been in the fridge for a week so it was kind of old and dried out, but it was actually very tasty, and the crunchy bits of cool radish really added to it. My hypothesis that throwing enough soy sauce and sriracha at a problem can fix it proves correct once again.
The butternut squash risotto from last week only used half the squash, so I roasted the other half to make squash and black bean burritos this week, a fall favourite. I first started making these based on this recipe, but over the years they’ve evolved into their own thing. I (maybe obviously) use real cheddar, I sometimes add kale or another vegetable I have around, and I definitely use my own choice of spices— usually a mix of cumin, coriander, oregano, and ancho chili powder. The squash adds a light level of sweetness, the spices create depth, and a half cup or so of vegetable broth keeps the beans from getting too dried out in the pan. I like brown rice in the filling for texture and to help hold things together, but I didn’t make rice this time and they were still really nice, if a bit softer.
There were some sprouts in the fridge that needed to be used up, which are kind of an odd choice for a burrito, but nevertheless, those went on top along with a bit of cilantro-lime red cabbage slaw, fresh salsa, avocado, and hot sauce. Similar to how you can never eat just the right amount of Indian takeout, only too much or not quite enough, burritos are never exactly the right size. They are always either too small to stop you from wishing you had another, or so large that you feel full just looking at it. This one was the latter.
I came home after work on Wednesday with big plans for the dinner I was going to make, only to discover I’d forgotten to take a key component out of the freezer. So I fell back on these creamed mushrooms on toast, since I had a fresh loaf of sourdough from the day before. Jeff was working late so this was basically the Ladydinner™ equivalent of beans on toast.
Mixing chives and garlic with the butter before spreading it onto the toast adds a bit of punch to the creaminess of the mushrooms, which I love, but I’m sure it’s still delicious as written because you can’t go wrong with fried mushrooms. And of course if you don’t have cream you can use whatever milk or equivalent is hanging out in the fridge (I used oat milk). If you want to replicate my experience, you can pour a glass of syrah and enjoy this upscale bachelor chow with a side of potato chips, in front of the television.
I have a hard time caring about salad in the winter, but I still liked reading this piece about what can make or break a green salad. It perfectly captures the feeling of risk involved in ordered the side salad at a restaurant you haven’t eaten at before, and the experience of receiving something that is little more than a bowl of disappointment. There are restaurants where I never order fries because I’m always so excited to eat their side salad, and places where I’ve disgustedly picked a whole ring of raw red onion out of a bowl of iceberg chunks doused in red wine vinegar. Creating a green salad should not be an afterthought, but given the same level of care and attention as every other item on the menu.
On a more introspective note, this essay by Virginia Sole-Smith, about the problems with the Michael Pollan quote, “Don’t eat anything your great-grandmother wouldn’t recognize as food”, was excellent. On the surface, the words seem mostly harmless in their assertion: eat more whole foods. Who would have a problem with that? But the deeper implication is that if we all ate this way, no one would be fat or unhealthy, and our food systems would be better, which is both fatphobic and untrue.
Moreover, the ways “our” (noting that this means something different for Pollan’s generation than for Millennials and Gen Z) great-grandparents ate wasn’t necessarily so great, either. Or else, it still relied on the adherence to class structures, women’s unpaid labour (disproportionately that of Black women and other women of colour), and diet culture. This is a longer piece but I highly recommend it. The conclusion is that we can’t fix what is broken about our society’s treatment and consumption of food by simply changing how we as individuals eat— we have to change our food systems, too.
Thanks for reading— if you enjoyed this newsletter, please share it with someone new! I like providing this to you for free, but it does still involve time and effort, and this week, I urge you to donate to any of the verified fundraisers here for BC flood victims, with focus on those that have not yet met their goal. Finally, here is some sage advice to follow after the week we’ve had.