Archive for the ‘Nostalgia’ Category

For the fall equinox I made my mum Sher’s famous Autumn Soup recipe, and I also made a Mennonite favourite for dessert, Plum Platz. I’ll share that recipe next week.

The making of a big, steaming pot of this delicious soup was always a glorious herald of fall in the Goerzen house when I was growing up. I hadn’t had it probably since I was a young teenager, before I went vegetarian and then pescavorian (is that a word?) for fifteen years. But now that I’m eating meat again… well, with the coming of fall I knew I had to call up dear ol’ mum for her Autumn Soup recipe. I made it for Equinox Dinner, and my god, the memories that came flooding back.

I remember sitting at the table in our house on Camwood Avenue, putting an ice cube in the soup to cool it (I remember doing that a lot with soup), then dipping a slice of buttered bread into it. I remember running off to watch Punky Brewster or Silver Spoons after said dipping. I also remember riding my bike home from school for lunch, and having a nice steaming bowl of this comforting soup on the table to greet me. (Which I would then promptly put an ice cube into.) Food memories are so strong, aren’t they?

I’m happy to share my mum’s recipe with you, and I’ve cut and pasted it right from her email, exactly as she so adorably typed it out. (BTW, I used the canned tomatoes method.)

Autumn Soup

1 lb.    ground beef
1 c.      chopped onion
4 c.      water
1 c.       cut-up carrots
1 c.       diced celery
1 c.       cubed-pared potatoes
2 tsp.     salt
1 tsp      bottled brown bouquet sauce
1/4 tsp.  pepper
1           bay leaf
1/8 tsp. basil
6          tomatoes**

In a large saucepan, cook and stir meat until brown. Drain off fat.  Cook and stir onions with meat until onions are tender, about 5 minutes.  Stir in remaining ingredients, except tomatoes; heat to boiling.  reduce heat; cover and simmer 20 minutes.  Add tomatoes; cover and simmer 10 minutes longer or until vegetables are tender.  Makes 6 servings.
**One can (28 ounces) tomatoes (with liquid) can be substituted for the fresh tomatoes (this is what I usually do).  Reduce water to 3 cups. Stir in tomatoes with remaining ingredients; heat to boiling. Reduce heat; cover and simmer 20 minutes.  The canned tomatoes break apart and give a rosy colour (ahhhh).

Bon appetit!


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I recently took my prized childhood sticker book off the shelf, dusted it off, and flipped through it. There were the shinies, the small scratch ‘n sniffs, the large scratch ‘n sniffs, the fuzzies, the puffies, the googly-eyed puffies, the fuzzy puffies… I remember so carefully organizing them into this archived hierarchy of stickers. When I got to the end of the book, there they were. My pride and joy – the Wacky Pack section. Save the best for last, I always say.

Remember these? My friends and I were totally obsessed with ’em back in the day (the mid-1980s). News would spread around school that a new Wacky Packs set was out. Squeals rang out around the playground. Then, after school, with adrenaline racing through our veins, we’d gather up our sweaty handfuls of change and run to the Husky before they all sold out. We’d tear open the waxy little packages of rectangular stickers, and maybe stuff that cardboardy pink stick of gum in our mouths. We would pour over each and every Wacky Pack sticker. And we were never disappointed.

Here was my absolute, absolute favourite one:

Brilliant, right? Like seriously, how do they come up with this stuff? Black leather diapers for the newborn delinquent? Hardy har har! I imagine a bunch of bored, middle-aged coywriters at the Topps Corporation trying come up with this stuff.

“Okay, People Magazine… what can we do with that… what did you say, Stan? Pimple Magazine? Good, good, let’s brainstorm on that a little…”

Anyway, I found this lil’ Wacky Packs history quite interesting:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wacky_Packages

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Okay, so let’s discuss. Like I mentioned in my first post about my recently rediscovered age fifteen journal, I was a superior, stuck-up little snot who disliked pretty much anything popular or mainstream. I prided myself on being so different from other kids my age, and liking exotic things like Woody Allen movies, e.e. cummings’ poetry and African music while they were all watching Wayne’s World and listening to New Kids on the Block. (I probably would have had more fun if I had just gone with the flow, but alas.)

Inspired by Lois Lowry’s Anastasia Krupnik books, I was a big fan of making these “Things I Like/Things I Dislike” lists. Let’s face it, I still make these lists in my notebook. Lists are so much fun, n’est-ce pas? So, as you can see, the #1 disliked thing is diseases. I am, and have been as long as I can remember (hence the childhood visits to various psychologists), a complete and total hypochondriac. This is followed by two pretty commonly disliked things, spiders and liver. No big surprise. Not sure why I disliked avocados so much (shockingly misspelled on the list… I never wanted to be caught misspelling anything – I was supposed to be a “smart kid” after all!), but I sure do like ’em now!

And then for much of the remainder of the list we see a pattern of what I was so opinionated about back in the day – popular things. “Airheady” and “cheerleadery” things, apparently. Also, “sleazy.” It’s interesting to analyze exactly why I felt this way. I had this need to disassociate myself from the rest of my peer group, but at the same time, I wanted to be pretty, wear Benetton or Esprit clothes, and be cool. I was always too shy and socially awkward, though, so I cultivated a “quirky girl” persona that seemed to work pretty well for me.  In case you’re wondering, the “Jim” mentioned here is my stepdad Jimbo – a very cool guy who for some reason at the time I didn’t like his macho talk. Probably went with the whole dislike of the mainstream thing.

And then on the next page of my “Things I Dislike” list we have the classic pineapples on pizza, more hatred of the mainstream, and also commercialism and materialism. I was clearly on a warpath, wasn’t I? Oh, and then there’s “boys my age” underlined. Hoowee, I wonder what happened that made me feel so strongly about that! Can’t remember.

In case you’re wondering what was on the “Things I Like” list (just a wee bit too embarrassing to print, and too many insider/family details to attempt to explain), here’s a selection: my family, Spud (our now dearly departed, somewhat vicious family dog), Woody Allen movies, folky things, long hair (not on men), country-style houses, Simon & Garfunkel, doggies (I seriously wrote “doggies” – WTF?), acoustic guitars, sandwiches, comfy hand sewn quilts, peaches, naming babies, antiques, Greenwich Village (not that I’d ever been there), bohemian clothes, classical music, the word “groovy,” Diane Keaton and Star Trek: The Next Generation. Was I a fifty-year-old trapped in the body of a fifteen-year-old, or what? Antiques? Quilts? Country houses? Oh, it’s all very, very funny to revisit this stuff. Stay tuned for more!

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The first page of my “Thoughts Book #3” (AKA my journal), 1991, age 15 – gad, what a stuck-up, pretentious, superior little snot I was.

Me, age 15 – this was my extremely cultivated ‘Annie Hall’ look – of course none of the teenyboppers and idiots at my junior high got it.

Am I really going to do this? Am I really going to share parts of what really should be kept locked away in a dusty storage box, or possibly burned? Yes, I am going to share parts of my journal, age 15 (recently unearthed from my childhood stuff in my mum’s basement), cringing all the way, for your reading pleasure and possibly (I hope) just a little flicker of recognition of yourself at this age.

Flipping through the book, I see that I very organized-ly divided it up into sections and articles, including such gems as “Things I Like,” Things I Hate,” “My Favourite Kid’s Names,”  “How I’m Going to Raise My Kids,” “Special Section: All the Songs I Love and Why” (all Simon & Garfunkel, by the way – I was going through a mega S & G obsession at the time), “My Future Family,” “Daydreams,” “My Studio Apartment,” “Another Special Report: Why I Personally Do Not Care for New Kids on the Block Music,” “Pros and Cons of Getting My Hair Cut Short,” “My Wedding,” “Paul Simon’s ‘Graceland’ and ‘The Rhythm of the Saints’ Discussed in Yet Another Special Section” (told you I was obsessed), “Special Section: My Dreams,” along with random thoughts, lists, play ideas, etc.

As I flipped through the book, a few pieces of scrap paper came fluttering out, with this idea for a play written on them (I’m copying this verbatim – no editing):

Setting: a New York City cafe, mid-1970s

It is a small, cozy cafe. No one is inside yet. One waitress sits in a chair, looking bored. There are three round tables.

A very intellectual-looking couple walks in (could be two women). (Hair in a bun, turtlenecks, glasses, art books, et. al.) They are discussing films all the way in. (Intellectual gibberish, difficult to understand.) They order incredibly disgusting-sounding health food.

Then, three Jewish men come in. [This was during my aforementioned Jewish obsession time.] One of the men orders: “Three bagels. Three bagels! And coffee all around.” They are funny.

As the play progresses, the two tables talk (separately, of course), and sometimes interplay subtly with each other without even noticing it. Then, after the characters are well-defined, one of the Jewish men and the intellectual woman at the other table say in unison (but without noticing it): “You know, last night I had the strangest dream. I dreamed that Groucho Marx came into this cafe for lunch one day.” Then, Groucho Marx (Tara could play him!) [Tara’s my sister] comes in. (Complete with cigar, the eyebrows, etc.) No one notices him. As the people describe their dream, he does whatever they say he’s doing.

Very funny play. [end of scrap paper]

Hmmmmmm. Could use a little work, but I think I may have a good idea going there…

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From How to Eat Like a Child: And Other Lessons in Not Being a Grown-Up by Delia Ephron:

Peas: Mash and flatten into thin sheet on plate. Press the back of the fork into the peas. Hold fork vertically, prongs up, and lick off peas.

Animal crackers: Eat each in this order – legs, head, body.

Sandwich: Leave the crusts. If your mother says you have to eat them because that’s the best part, stuff the crusts into your pants pocket or between the cushions of the couch.

French Fries: Wave one French fry in air for emphasis while you talk. Pretend to conduct orchestra. then place fries in your mouth at once and chew. Turn to your sister, open your mouth, and stick out your tongue coated with potatoes. Close your mouth and swallow. Smile.

The other day, as Keaton and I were sitting at the table and enjoying breakfast together, I was thinking about the differences in how grown-ups and children eat. Not just what they eat, but more specifically how. As I sat there chowing down on my Red River cereal (with a splash of milk and maple syrup) with a boring old tablespoon, I remembered how my sisters and I used to eat our oatmeal with big wooden spoons, just like Goldilocks. We were huge fans of the Shelley Duvall’s Faerie Tale Theatre*, and we loved how Tatum O’Neal, as a spectacularly ringlet-ed Goldilocks, ate the three bears’ oatmeal with, yes indeed, a big wooden spoon. I loved the soft clunk of the raw wood against my teeth, and how the oatmeal stuck to it. So much better than a boring old metal spoon. My sisters and I were also fans of eating with other less conventional dishes and cutlery, such as drinking iced tea out of measuring cups, orange pop out of brandy snifters (we didn’t ask our dad first), and eating our Zoodles right out of the pot with teeny tiny baby spoon. (We also sometimes ate gummy worms and Coke as cereal, but that’s a whole other story.)

When we’re kids, our imaginations rule our lives, rather than social norms. When we grow up (I’m totally generalizing here; I am very fortunate to be friends with many self-actualized people who wonderfully thumb their noses at social norms!), we tend more and more to do what’s “proper” – drink coffee out of mugs, water out of glasses, eat food off plates with forks and knives, and a napkin on our lap. For the most part, kids want to do what’s “improper.” And that’s so much more fun, isn’t it?

So, that morning as I sat eating my Red River cereal with Keaton, I put aside my boring old metal spoon, and grabbed a wooden spoon. I loved the soft clunk of the raw wood against my teeth, and how the cereal stuck to it.

Keaton, at nine months old, still has all this to discover. How cool. I can’t wait to drink chocolate milk out of wine glasses with him.

*Note on Faerie Tale Theatre: Any other children of the 80’s remember these? They were totally low-budget re-enactments of fairy tales, produced by Shelley Duvall and featuring stars of the day such as Robin Williams as the Frog Prince, Jeff Bridges as the prince in Rapunzel, Mick Jagger as the Emperor in The Nightingale, and our favourite, Tom Conti and Liza Minelli in The Princess and the Pea. Brilliant. To this day, my sisters and I still quote that one. We watched and re-watched the Faerie Tale Theatres hundreds and hundreds of times. We wore out the Beta tapes from Hammond Video, I’m sure. At one point my mum actually took them and hid them because we were so obsessed – also, she didn’t feel that they featured very good female role models. For my 30th birthday a few years ago my sisters bought me the complete DVD collection of the FTTs – a gift that I will cherish forever. And The Princess and the Pea is still my favourite. Tom Conti’s eyebrows, seriously.

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Recipe Thursday will resume next week – I’m having too much fun with this trip down memory lane!

Wow. Epic. Don’t you love the Swatch watch in page 12’s ponytail? And how the book reviews are front and centre – ’cause you gotta have your make-up essentials, but you also gotta have a good book to read, right?

Producing this was the equivalent of Vogue producing their fall issue, I tell ya. I clearly remember when I made this magazine – it was the summer before I went into Grade 8. I was stricken with a horrible case of mono that had me basically sleeping the entire summer. Absolutely no energy whatsoever. In late August when I was starting to come out of it (ie. able to sit up for a while and hold a pencil without falling asleep at the table), I decided to create my masterpiece – my very own fashion magazine.

You can tell what I was doing in between naps that summer – reading Elle, Mademoiselle, Glamour, and the like. Funny how I was totally into those magazines, but I couldn’t apply make-up worth a darn, and really wasn’t at all fashionable. I love how I was so official with listing the brand names and prices, all magazine-style. I didn’t quite get that Max Factor ad finished on the back cover, though – after all that, I couldn’t finish it? Ah well, adds to its charm.

Thanks for indulging me in this trip through my tender teenage years!

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For Part 1 and an explanation, click here.

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