Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Shriiink-wrapping culture & all about oats

So, the latest word is that the Cultural Section at Canada House is being 'restructured'; our previous five representatives in performing arts and music, film and television, the visual arts and literature, have all been made redundant. Two new appointments will be made in Public Affairs, with responsibility for the entire cultural program.

On the one hand it's a relief to know the program is not gone, but on the other hand, five experienced, well-connected and knowledgeable people have been jettisoned in favour of two new generalists. These are not interchangeable bolts that can be plugged in and out of a program, but dedicated employees taking their years of collective experience out the door with them. What a shocking waste.

Taking comfort in food and poetry then.

Madeleine sent me a stunning wee poem by Alden Nowlan, after we talked about the difficulties of making meaningful lives for our aged relatives. It's called Aunt Jane, and it begins…

Aunt Jane of whom I dreamed the nights it thundered,
was dead at ninety, buried at a hundred.
We kept her corpse a decade, hid upstairs,
where it ate porridge, slept and said its prayers.
Speaking of porridge, I was interested to learn when I lived in Britain that there the word is used to mean any hot cereal, almost always oatmeal. But here in Canada, or at least as I understand it, porridge means hot cereal made of rolled oats. Our understanding of oatmeal is different too: what Brits call oatmeal we might mistake for oat bran, as it's more finely ground than ours. And our distinction over use of the word porridge itself may be because we have so many commercially available hot cereals to choose from: Cream of Wheat, Sunny Boy, and my personal favourite Red River Cereal. Not to mention variations made with cornmeal, semolina and any combination of dried grains.

Continuing in this starchy vein, here's an easy and simple sauce for pasta or better yet gnocchi, my current favourite comfort food. In a roasting pan, drizzle 3 garlic cloves (not peeled) and 2 large shallots, peeled and halved or quartered, with a tbsp of olive oil and salt and pepper and then roast for 20-25 minutes at 400, turning often, till golden brown. While you're waiting, pan fry half a diced zucchini in olive oil till golden and set aside. Squeeze out the garlic and pop it with the shallots into a blender or food processor; whizz together with 1 large tin tomatoes with juices, 6 chopped basil leaves or 1/2 tsp dried basil, and 1 tsp balsamic vinegar. Sieve it so it's smooth, and heat gently in a saucepan for about 10 minutes, until slightly thickened. Add the zucchini; heat through, season to taste, add 1 tbsp olive oil and serve over hot cooked gnocchi or pasta.



Anonymous Anonymous said...

My maternal great-grandma used to make gnocchi filled with a cottage cheese concoction that was wonderful! She'd serve them with butter and corn syrup. Yum!!!


7:56 a.m.  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

My vote is for Red River also. Oatmeal was what we subsisted on for a few tight years. Several of my children will have absolutely nothing to do with it as adults. And there is the eternal debate, to salt or not to salt. My mom learned from her parents (Scots) to salt but I don't condone it.

7:58 p.m.  
Blogger Rhona McAdam said...

Wow, I've never heard of stuffed gnocchi, but it makes sense and sounds amazing. Was that dessert or.. breakfast?

I'm with you on the salt question Carla. Crunchy brown sugar and lovely cold milk is all I want on my porridge.

11:18 a.m.  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The cheese-filled gnocchi were for mealtimes, but if there'd happen to be some leftovers in the fridge, well, you never know when they'd be eaten...


8:47 p.m.  

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