You know… that Blog?

Guest Post: Foodies, unite!!

Written By: Jenn - Oct• 04•09

Okay, I admit it: I’m a foodie. I know this doesn’t come as a shock to Jenn or DoodleCakes but for those of you who don’t know me, I can be motivated to do almost anything if the right food is involved (and God only knows what I’d do for one of DoodleCakes’ creations…) Although we’d been singing together for months, Jenn and I actually hit it off at a concert we were in that was all about, you guessed it, food; when we weren’t singing about food we were swapping recipes and cooking techniques. Thinking back, I don’t think I could have avoided this fate even if I tried (although there are worse lots to have in life, I suppose). My mom is of Ukrainian descent and grew up learning the tricks of “cooking sans cook book” with the barest of essentials, having been born to very poor immigrants shortly after the Depression started. Having never met my Baba (my mom’s mom), I can only imagine what an amazing cook she was, since my mom says that her own cooking “still doesn’t taste anything like Baba’s”. My dad is of German descent and used to make sauerkraut from scratch, a skill gleaned from his own Depression-era upbringing. It would stink up the garage for weeks on end while it fermented in the huge crock but when it was done it was like a work of art… well, as much as shredded, fermented cabbage can be.

So, growing up in a house where big, huge, flavourful meals were the norm, you can imagine that I acquired a taste for the tasty. Now, I’m not a food snob, by any stretch of the imagination. I do enjoy a fancy-pants dinner out every now and then (Shmenkman, are you listening?!?), however I’d pick a big ol’, down home Sunday dinner with all the fixings over fancy-pants any day. My foodiness doesn’t just extend to dinner… there are so many layers. Does that make me an onion?? Hmmmm, okay, but just as long as it’s a Vidalia… But I digress ;)

I do love to eat, and being invited to someone’s house for dinner is, in my mind, a huge honour. The fact that someone would like to spend their time and money to prepare a meal for my family is something I don’t take lightly. The reverse is true as well. When we plan to have dinner guests, I usually spend at least a week agonizing over the menu, just to make sure that I’ve got all the bases covered as well as enough food. In typical Ukrainian style, I usually prepare WAAAAAY too much, but that’s generally because I’m horrible at judging amounts. Part of this stress also stems from the fact that, unlike my mother, I am an utter slave to cookbooks and following recipes to the “T”. If I don’t have every single ingredient on the page, I don’t make it, plain and simple. This fact absolutely mystifies Shmenkman who always says to me “So what do you think will really happen if you don’t add the ‘eye of newt’ or ‘wing of bat’?” Um, I don’t know… maybe the house would explode?? Do I really want to take that chance?? Better to just go by the book, right?!?

When Shmenkman and I moved from Alberta to Boston in 2002, I was about 20 weeks pregnant with Frank #1. Strangely, I had very few food cravings while pregnant with him, but the one I did have was Cheez Whiz on toast. Don’t judge me, I already told you that I’m not a food snob and this should pretty much cement that statement. So, after nearly a week on the road to get to our new home, all I could think about was how good that first piece of Cheez Whiz toast was going to be as soon as we got unpacked. There was only one problem. We couldn’t get Cheez Whiz in the greater Boston area (and believe me, I looked everywhere; there’s no determination like a pregnant woman with a craving). So, when my good friend Dave came to visit us a few weeks later from Ottawa, it was like the angels united and rejoiced when he popped open his trunk and there sat a gleaming, 2 Kg jar of Cheez Whiz. I nearly cried. In fact, I probably did… I rationed that puppy like there was no tomorrow, and whenever we had family come to visit, the standing request was for them to bring me Cheez Whiz. I completely overdosed on the stuff, and now I can barely look at the jars in the grocery store without gagging, but at the time it was such a comfort and reminder of home.

This “comfort-food” theme kept up while we lived in Boston. When we did get back to Alberta to visit family, we’d schedule time to see people only if they could meet us at our favourite restaurants. I’d also call my mom months in advance and casually (okay, repeatedly) throw out dinner menu requests, which she was always all too eager to fulfill. Due to the ridiculously high cost of living in Boston at that time, we really couldn’t afford to eat out very much, so our favourite restaurant became “Friendly’s”, which was especially fitting since they were great with kids, and Frank #1 was great with French fries. There was one fancy-pants place downtown that we went to once with Shmenkman’s old boss and her hubby, who were visiting from Alberta. It’s an Italian restaurant, and the name escapes me, but it was one of those multi-course extravaganzas where you eat until you hurt and pray that the button on your pants holds out… Believe me, we’ll go back there for sure some day (in elastic waist-band pants, though).

The other shining food moment that I can remember from the Boston years, was when I found out that Tim Horton’s had expanded into Rhode Island and upstate New York. Are you kidding me? I know that the Americans in the audience are likely Dunkin’ Donuts diehards, but opening a Timmy’s a mere 1.5 hour drive from an “Iced Cap”-starved Canadian girl is like presenting a swimming pool of drinkable water to one dying of thirst.

So, despite the fact that we’ve now moved back to Canada and I can get all of the Cheez Whiz and Iced Caps I want, there are still some foodie items that one just can’t get in the greater Toronto area. Shmenkman has a standing order to bring me a HUGE box of chocolate from “Chocolate Arts” in Vancouver, whenever he’s there on business. If you’re ever there, DON’T miss this place; they make the best chocolate in the world. My mom spends hours whipping up Ukrainian delights for our freezer when she comes to visit: perogies, cabbage rolls, crepes, etc. We usually also whip up a batch or two of borscht, although the kids won’t touch it with a ten foot pole; pshaw, what do kids know?!? My in-laws just spent a week visiting us and, prior to their trip, they had called to ask me if there was anything they could bring me from Alberta. They also casually mentioned that they’d be driving through Mundare on the way here… OH. MY. GAWD. Mundare is a teeny tiny Alberta town that is very well known for its Ukrainian garlic sausage. I’ve tried to find its equivalent out here, but it’s like that Cheez Whiz hunt in Boston; not gonna happen. So despite the fact that we haven’t seen my in-laws for months, and the fact that they came bearing many other gifts for my family and I, what was I most excited to see?? Yep, you guessed it: two glorious rings of Ukrainian garlic sausage. My cholesterol has, I’m sure, spiked a few notches, but I know that somewhere up there my Baba is looking down and smiling at her foodie grand-daughter who will, happily, pass the food obsession torch on to another generation. In fact, the process is already well under way… My youngest child, “Little Bit”, recently took her first steps. Despite months of all sorts of motivating techniques and words we had used like “Come to Mommy”, or “Go walk to Daddy”… she just wouldn’t do it. However, the first night my in-laws arrived, she took her first steps, from Shmenkman to his Dad. The motivator? A homemade chocolate chip cookie. Being a mom I got teary, of course. Being a foodie? Well, kids, some things you just can’t teach… and I nearly exploded with pride :)



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  1. Lola says:

    Love the guest post as I always love hearing from my friend ‘shamoo’.
    Not sure when I’ll be out east again but I’ll bring you anything you want!
    Have you ever tried the Chocolate from Rheo Thompsons in Stratford. That’s not too far from you. The mint smoothies are awesome!

    • Jenn says:

      Well now I know where she’ll be if she goes AWOL… you had to tell her about that chocolate shop, Lola?? ;)

    • ShaMoo says:

      OMG, I forgot about that!! Is that the chocolate you gave us when you were here in July? Mmmmm, I see a road trip in my future!!

  2. Melissa B. says:

    You know, kids are all like that. And wait ’til she gets older. They’re gonna do what they’re gonna do, when they wanna do it, you know? Enjoyed the guest post…say “Hi!” to Jenn for moi…
    .-= Melissa B.´s last blog ..Silly Sunday Sweepstakes: Up on the Roof =-.

  3. Frank W says:

    Incredible! Fascinating! even inspiring!… adjectives/adverbs keep running through the windmills of my mind. I stand in awe…nay.. I bow to the Foodie Goddess who can remain slim and vivacious… and still eat or crave certain foods with glee. I can only guess, along with Motherhood, that an incredible metabolism or nervous energy keeps her so slender. As for me, I do love rich foods. I mean I use 18% cream in my morning coffee, the same cream in a bowl of blue berries and ‘sweetened with sugar’…, I make smoothies using Balkan style Natural Yogourt (6% M.F.)…and whip cream instead of cool whip for dessert topping… (I have to let you know that while I’m typing this I’m eating a piece of pumpkin pie topped with whipped cream).
    I know before eating such things or to continue eating the things I like I need to have done something very very physical or hiked or walked for more than an hour or so (in fact, that’s why I got Zack). If I don’t do something physical I Know I would inevitably balloon so much that I’m sure flowers would wilt under the shadow of my bulk (one of the reasons I became so concern about my knee…would mean a severe life change).

    Anyway good on you girl. To repeat, I enjoyed reading your ‘blog. :)

    • Jenn says:

      Geez Frank, you never comment on my posts, and you’re all gushy over ShaMoo’s? Feel the love! Sheeeesh. ;) Thats ok, I still love ya.

  4. Doodle Cakes says:

    Awesome Guest Post, ShaMoo… :) And yes… your little one is on the way to becoming JUST LIKE YOU…the way she goes towards food is fascinating to say the least.. THAT is her motivation!!!!

    That being said..I am a Foodie as well… growing up in Montreal..where all the multi-cultural food is available…and TO DIE for..I miss it TERRIBLY… BUT…Spud and I have mangled our own recipes… since we missed our food SOOOO much…!!! Shish Taouk… I am A MASTER… if you like Lebanese cooking my dear, head over this way.. ;) Hot and Sour soup??? AH Ha! I am again… a self proclaimed MASTER of that soup… no one’s comes even close..!

    An up side to all this…?? I do not have picky eaters…Have Ox Tail stew (Last night’s dinner) Seafood salad… kids eat it all..I am so proud! :)I just feel bad for their friends that get roped in to eating at our house…this poor kid last night left with an empty stomach after finding out what she would be eating for dinner.. I guess Jay’s comment of “you don’t have to eat the monkey brains” didn’t help…(No… I WILL NOT EAT THAT… I draw the line!)

    Again… VERY witty and fun post to read! :)

    Just the end of October (hopefully before..but schedules suck right now) You will get to have CAKE.. :)

    .-= Doodle Cakes´s last blog ..1964 Chevy Impala Cake =-.

    • Jenn says:

      Wow, and I thought MY kids were great eaters… no way they’d touch ox tail soup or octopus though!

      Woot! Cake for my BBQ/kid birthday party! Can’t wait :D

  5. ShaMoo says:

    Okay, Doodle Cakes, I love love LOVE hot and sour soup!! I haven’t had it in years, though… I don’t think I’ve ever had Lebanese food! Sigh, where have I been?!? Can’t wait for the cake :)

  6. JennyMac says:

    ShaMoo…please tell me how to get my child to be such an open minded nibbler? It is amazing that he will eat ribs, plantains, mango and guacomole but no longer will touch peaches. Pray tell. :)

    Love the guest post Jen.
    .-= JennyMac´s last blog ..Dazed and confused =-.

  7. ShaMoo says:

    JennyMac, I wish I knew. Of my three kids, only the youngest is a great eater, and I’m afraid she’ll grow out of that too, soon! Sigh….ask DoodleCakes! She seems to have the trick :)