Friday, 27 January 2012

Junior High & Snail Mail: An Exposé

Anyone who knew me in Junior High has a decent arsenal of embarrassing and funny stories to tell. (Heck, the same could be said for anyone who has known me from birth to present). It's a well-known fact that Junior High is the absolute most awkward time in any human being's life, and I was certainly no exception to that rule. It's an age that makes most adults cringe, and for whom no amount of money would be worth going back in time for a visit. If you were among the 2% of teens who weren't awkward back then? Well, lucky you. I bet 1% of you are awkward as adults.

Starting in Elementary School, I wrote poems about horses and ballet. Did I ride horses or do ballet? Of course not. From my suburban bedroom, I would lock myself away for hours retracing bridle, tack kits, and ballerinas from books borrowed from the library. I read The Saddle Club like it was my last day on Earth. By the time I got to 7th grade (Junior High, around here), I thought it was a great idea to wear my favourite horse t-shirt (4 of the beauties pictured, galloping through a stream) with my favourite brown jeans, and at least twice a week. While the brown jeans were definitely in style back then, the horse t-shirt, I'm afraid, never was and likely never will be. 

After several weeks of examining my peers, it was time for horses and ballerinas to move aside. Boys were now on the radar and the subject of my intrigue! But not any boys at school, who may (or may not) have been attainable. No, no, the boys of my heart were the boys of TV. Forbidden from putting too many holes in my heart-covered, wall-papered bedroom walls, I plastered my closet with pictures of the one and only, the handsome, Jonathan Taylor Thomas. (Collective sigh? Anyone?) That sandy, floppy hair. Those doey brown eyes. Yes, friends, he was the one for me. He just didn't know it yet.

We had the same birthday forgodsakes; same day, same month, same year. Wasn't that at least a basis for friendship? Some common ground? A reason to respond to my fan mail? I had carefully crafted a letter to him, written on some safari stationery I had bought at the Hallmark store with my allowance and savings. I lost track of the letter after a while, but could have sworn I'd sent it. Why did he never reply?

It was years later, when home for a summer in university, that I discovered the envelope, buried under layers of old schoolwork, scrapbooks, and other teenage treasures. I could see that I had carefully torn the side of the envelope open and it was this that jogged the memory: ever the editor, even at that age, I nearly went crazy thinking about the possibility of spelling something wrong in the letter to my beloved "JTT". I had opened it just to be sure, vowing to buy more stationery to replace the torn envelope, but in the classic sea of teenage angst and forgetfulness, I never did get around to sending it. The tragedy! JTT will never, ever know that we share the same birthday and were, at the age of 14, destined to grow old together.

It was this teenage crush that led me to covet those teenie-bopper magazines. You know the ones. I'd beg my mom to get me one at the grocery store, and every once in a while she'd humour me and grab a copy. Maybe some of you late 1970s/early 1980s kids remember this, but there was a section in the back of Tiger Beat (or was it Teen Beat?) where you could submit a write-up about yourself and ask for penpals.

This was nerdiness at its finest, folks! I submitted my horrendous 8th-grade photo, in my big, flowery, Sunday dress and my awkward attempt at bangs (an attempt I've only revisited this year - still awkward), claiming to " JTT, Home Improvement and soccer!" Soccer? Really, Aimée? I hadn't played a game of soccer in my life, unless you counted gym class, which was never really my forté. I liked the idea of soccer, however, and I admired my friends who were on the soccer team. I suppose that was my basis for the claim?

Penpals I asked for; penpals I received! Hundreds upon hundreds of envelopes came in over a period of weeks and months. Mom would buy me bankers' boxes just to keep track of them all, and I would make homemade dividers to separate the envelopes by country and mostly, by US State. I'd go home every day at lunch time to check the mail, and I'd get so many that kids in my class would start leaning over my shoulder after lunch to see where my latest bundle of envelopes had come from. 

People came out of the woodwork. I had grown men writing me letters from faraway lands, asking me for Toronto Blue Jays paraphernalia, telling me their t-shirt sizes and which size coffee cup they really wanted (though they'd be ok with the smaller one, in a pinch). I had kids much younger than me writing, kids much older than me writing, some practical jokes, and, by and large, I had a ton of kids my own age, from around the world, just as nerdy as me, who wanted to be friends. 

Kind of sweet, right? (Aside from the creepy, older men!)

If nothing else, it really egged on my interests in maps and geography. But if only I knew then how much more fun adult penpals would be! And how much more delicious and exciting their snail mail! 

Wednesday, 18 January 2012

Food & Wine Magazine: January Cover Recipe

This month's F&W cover recipe test was wildly anticipated in our household. F.'s eyes went wide the instant he saw the cover, then began peppering me with, "You are going to make this one, right?" "When are we making the cover recipe?" "We should really think about making that cover recipe soon." It's safe to say that those comments encapsulate our initial thoughts on the recipe. Never before has F. expressed such an interest in a cover recipe test, so there was no way I could lose track of time this month! This recipe was going to be experimented with, and ASAP.

Moreover, Jasmine and I have been giddily writing back and forth about this cover ever since it landed on our doorsteps last month, so I suspect it was a huge hit at casa CookThatBook, as well. Don't forget to pop by to read her review, too!

Bobby Flay's Nacho Burger
Rating: 5 out of 5. Spicy, packed with flavour, and that crunch! Perfection.


Just like last month's recipe, I had the fun excuse to go out and buy an ingredient new to me. This month, it was chipotle chile in adobo. In this case, adobo means a sauce or marinade that is used in many Mexican and Southwestern US dishes. They were easy enough to find at the grocery store, I had just never noticed them on the shelf before. (And, truth be told, the only time I'd heard the word in the past was with regard to the popular Filipino dish called Adobo, such as this one here on my friend Elizabeth's blog, The Queen's Notebook. I didn't realize the (perhaps obvious) Spanish connection there!) Seeing as I just needed one chile, I emptied the rest of the can into a mason jar so that I could use these fiery, flavourful chiles to jazz up another dish soon.

Chile in Adobo

Monday, 16 January 2012

Meet the EatWild Explorers!

It's been a little quiet around Food, Je t'Aimée lately, but not for lack of material! There are actually many fun things happening in real time - such as the below - I just haven't been able to post about any of them until now!

The EatWild Project

About a month ago, the fantastic duo behind the EatWild Project - Bronwen and Noah - got in touch with me. Bronwen, a Victoria (BC) native, and Noah, a Chef from London (UK), have had their fingers in several interesting pots over the past year: The EatWild Project, namely, but also and their pop-up dinner clubs. 

It is under the umbrella of the EatWild Project, however, that they are retracing the steps of Samuel de Champlain - starting in Nova Scotia and heading inland to Ontario - in order to uncover the first traces of Canadian food culture and tradition, which will all be captured on videoblog. Naturally, I was completely enthralled with their idea and was excited to help them on their way, in any way I could. The pair arrived in Nova Scotia late last week and then traveled onward to Port Royal (via Annapolis Royal, NS) to learn more about The Order of Good Cheer and stay with local producers within the Valley, such as Whippletree Farm and Sissiboo Coffee.

Bronwen and Noah trying Lobster Poutine in Halifax - a first!

Thursday, 5 January 2012

You Are Invited To Tea

A friend of mine once said that Facebook is for people who are friends but don't necessarily like each other, whereas Twitter is for people who aren't necessarily friends but should be. (Mr. Kincade, you are a wise man!) There's a little bit of truth to that, don't you think? 

This was before I ever joined Twitter, and to be honest, I had no idea what he was talking about. I always thought Twitter was even more self-indulgent than Facebook, so I really wanted nothing to do with it. Wrong I most certainly was! 

Twitter has revolutionized the way I connect with my communities - plural - both at home and around the world*. F. teases me constantly about my troop of online friends who I speak about as if I see them every day. Truth be told, I kind of do! We're a diverse lot of people who share similar passions and it builds an amazing sense of community between and among us, even if that community only exists on the internet. Many of us make a point of connecting - within those 140 characters that Twitter allows - every day. That support network has been absolutely invaluable to me, and it's often what encourages me to keep going in this blogging venture, no matter how busy life gets.

Some of those people live in my very own city, but sometimes it takes a specific event or excuse to bring that online 'friendship' into real time. I've tried my best to reach out and meet many people in real life over the past several months, and when I have, it's always been immensely rewarding (Jenny Osburn, I'm looking at you!). These are people I think I should be friends with, because we get excited and inspired about so many of the same things. Whether or not we feel the same way (ha!), remains to be seen.

So, in the face of many debates over whether or not the internet isolates us and breaks down community, I'm going to say that it has done the opposite for me. It has connected me with wonderful people who I may not have met any other way. I want to use the internet to make more meaningful connections in real life, and I want to do my part to build a strong sense of community among those who are doing creative things in and around Halifax.

How? Well, an idea came to me after bumping into (the wonderful and talented artist) Shelagh Duffett at the grocery store this week. We had the best, most refreshing conversation, and I thought how nice it would be to invite Shelagh over for tea.

So I am going to invite her, but I'm also going to invite several other people to my house for Afternoon Tea. Food Bloggers, Non-profit Heroines, Restauranteurs, Chefs, and enviable DIY Types. Because we are all passionate about the same thing: Creating. We've all had varying degrees of success with our varying levels of creativity, so I think we have a lot to offer each other. Support, fresh ideas, or, at the very least, good conversation. Some of you I've met, many of you I haven't. But if I haven't, I've been really wanting to!

Creative women of Halifax (for now - sorry, boys), you're invited to tea. I'll send out some initial, individual invites over the next couple of days, but if this is something you're interested in, please do drop me a line for more details and join us!** 

Earl Grey at Ma Belle's Cafe in Dartmouth.

* Friends in other cities and countries, please know you have an open invitation to tea - anytime - if you are ever in the area!

**Depending on numbers, I may have to put a cap on the event at some point (based on the size of my dining room) but nothing about this tea is meant to be exclusive!