Well, here in Montreal, school has started up, routines are becoming more regular and it’s time for me to share some of what I’ve been up to at the start of 2018:
I was reading Wendell Berry’s “The Art of the Commonplace”, a beautiful commentary on terroir and farming, when Berry recommended the works of Wirzba, a professor at Duke Divinity, who writes on how eating is sacred. To eat is to savour and struggle with the mystery of creatureliness, he says. This book is bound to provoke more thoughtful eating.
So with a large percentage of my time spent either in the lab or the kitchen, the two start to sort of meld into one. J. Kenji is a chef-cum-scientist who breaks down what each type of food is, and how to cook it best, all through gorgeous pictures and cute anecdotes. I learned why meringues start to weep, or how baking soda initiates the Maillard reaction that browns pancakes. Shout out to Sam Kim for this recommendation 🙂 Toward more scientific (and thus better) cooking.
Another food/cooking book (see a theme? haha…) but this one’s aim is to free us from all recipes, boiling all of them down to fundamental ratios and culinary techniques, from which we can then improvise. This book is one I definitely want to have for keeps in my kitchen – I can imagine it all dogear-marked with handwritten comments in the margins on what sorts of variations worked. Alas, it’s a McGill interlibrary loan that I cannot touch…
So I wrote about hygge, previously, but this Danish concept of cosiness and good living was brought to the forefront of my mind after reading “The Year of Living Danishly” by Helen Russell. She moves to Denmark and explores why the Danes are the happiest people on the planet. Meik Wiking, on the other hand, is an ACTUAL Dane (maybe with Viking ancestry??) who explains the intricacies of hygge. A hyggekrog being a nook of a kitchen where you can have a hygge time; sondagshygge is a slow day with tea, books, music, blankets and a walk. To give you a little teaser, this is her hygge manifesto from her book:
OK. So new favorite author.
Addie Zierman is a poet, speaker, writer who feels at the same time, like a friend who somehow knows my childhood – what it was like to grow up in a Christian family with the evangelical cliches, the notion that being a missionary is the epitome of everything spiritual, the struggle of being in the dark and asking how you know God is real.
I read her first book “When we were on fire” , again highly recommended, that chronicles her journey from passionate young teen to searching, jaded adult to one with a more mature, nuanced understanding of faith. She writes in her book:
You wished for that kind of precise vision, that kind of calling. You were so afraid it would never come to you. That you would end up in what you called a ‘plastic, middle class house in the suburbs,’ that your life would become cliche.
Now you know life is too complicated to be summed up, written off, no matter where you live.
You son is sleeping in the other room, his arms raised over his head, his fingers closed tightly on his blue knit blanket. There is nothing cliche about him, nothing cliche about you as you wake up day after day in the suburbs to the sun rising over the lovely, complex world. The missionary boys know this just as well as you do.
They went out into the world and discovered that life is not so much a mission as beautiful drudgery.
I’ll never get tired of reading Sarah Bessey – here she writes about the joy of knitting. It’s an act of reclamation, she says, cooking, gardening, sewing, painting, writing, baking, quilt-making, preserving, handmade furniture: this sort of work isn’t menial or degrading but life-affirming and beautiful and necessary. Amen, sister.
So, for those who are intrigued by Addie Zierman, and want a little taste of her before you go out and read her books, start with this article from her “Ask Addie” column, where people ask her difficult questions on faith.
So super easy to whip up. I boil my lentils, and in the food processor I got for Christmas (yay for useful gifts!!) make the sauce while waiting. Combine and serve up a piping hot, and deliciously spicy lentil stew, which has now become a staple for the vegan coop.
Who knew vegan brownies could be so delicious? There are so many brownie recipes out there on the Internet – but this one, with walnuts added to it, has been a hit.
I’ve been following Minimalist Baker. She posts gorgeous photos of her vegan creations. Here is one from her Coconut Oil Blueberry Rosemary Scone recipe, which I adapted for the coop with lemon and rosemary – a lovely savoury addition to earl grey tea 🙂 I’ve been getting good feedback on this one.
What is saving my life right now
There’s something about stomping through the puddles that makes you feel invincible. And when Montreal weather turns from -10 with snow piled high to +5 the next day with now-melted snow, you really need those knee-high rainboots.
Slow cookers and immersion blenders.
They make soups and lazy cooking that much easier.
We had one 2 Saturdays ago at the Coop. People came in and brought their unwanted clothing in giant plastic bags. They dumped them out on our tables, while others swarmed around the new additions, picking out the gems. I was skeptical at first, but after only 15 minutes of picking around, managed to find 8-10 things I actually wanted to keep. All for free.
Unwanted fruits and vegetables.
As you can tell from #3, I get incredible amounts of joy from taking things other people don’t want and making them useful. My SecondLife basket delivery came in again last week, and it made me so happy getting a basketful of vegetables that would otherwise have been thrown away (why are people discriminating against ugly, slightly deformed vegetables???).
Other than a slightly unfortunate incident with trying to eat the tough, leathery leaves of an artichoke, the rest of my experiences with my vegetables (that are often are surprise) have been very pleasant.
I also saved some persimmons and apricots that were in the ‘unwanted’ section of the supermarket even though they were perfectly good. Sometimes, I like to believe I’m on a fruit and vegetable rescue mission.
The McGill library and the hold request section.
Seriously, the library is amazing. The librarians know me by now, asking me how my latest food experiments are going, because I’m perpetually at the counter checking out my new interlibrary loan. They are incredibly patient, although they must see my name pop up on multiple requests. “Oh it’s that Vivienne again, requesting a book from the Vancouver library….” But hey, I mean, that’s what library networks are for, right?
In other news…
I turned 25!
It was my Golden Birthday (25 on Jan 25th!) – even Avanti Polar Lipids knew that, and sent me a long-awaited package of amine-modified phospholipids encased in multiple boxes.
This is me getting surprised at the Coop with the Vegan Espresso Brownies I was telling you about.
25 feels like a threshold year to me, no longer in the throes of wild, reckless early 20s, but not yet in the married-and-settled late 20s.
This year has been momentous: I started stepping more into the calling to write with this blog you now read (thank you so much btw, it means the world).
I moved from China, back to Canada and started graduate school.
I’ve been thinking of how being a missionary means bringing God’s kingdom wherever you step foot, and what that looks like in a city like Montreal.
I’m finally fulfilling my dream of being a chef, baker and barista.
And I’m sharing my life with people that are close and far away, people I know dear and those I don’t know at all, which is thrilling and intimidating all the same time.
Here’s to being twenty-five.