When I started this blog a little over 6 months ago, I was excited to write about food in the context of family life. I’ve been an avid cook for years, and in learning to cook, I amassed a solid collection of cookbooks– several hundred in total. I’m a nerd like that. I love nothing more than to hole up with a good book, and could in fact spend decades in a remote cave doing just that. As long as that cave came with nice wine and some fancy French cheeses.

When we moved to our NYC apartment in May 2005, one of the first things I did was have our contractor build a gigantic bookcase so that I could collect to my heart’s content.

I’m somewhat ashamed to admit that the lower two shelves and part of the third are all cookbooks. It’s an illness really, and I’m aware of it. I do want to clarify, however, that most of the books were bought before I had kids. Because these days it’s hard to find the time to sit around with a mug of steaming hot cider in my lap, casually flipping through a pile of cookbooks. That’s what retirement is for. Cookbooks, and yoga. That’s the dream at least.

Lucky for me, even my kids are getting into books. Here’s Sam, learning about biology.

Sam_biology 050

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Stay in Touch



bitter melon 034A few weeks ago I mentioned that there wouldn’t be any more melon on our 52-week Challenge. Yet I bring you this.

But it’s not really a melon, more like the most bitter cucumber you could possibly imagine. One of those foods where you taste it and wonder “did the first people who ate this food think they might die?” Because we weren’t completely sure if we were dealing with a vegetable or poison.

I did do my research, and know that most people cook bitter melon into heavily-seasoned dishes like stews, but there were some people eating it raw. So we gave it a chance…and paid the price. I was tempted to drink a Clorox chaser after eating it. Anything to wash the taste out of my mouth. 

ME: This one is called a….sour melon? A bitter melon.

ME: What does it smell like?


ME: Let me smell it….it smells a little bit like  cucumber to me.

LAUREN: Definitely.

ME: What does it look like?

LAUREN: A curly corn. A really curly piece of corn. And it looks like a roly poly but it’s a little bit green. One more thing….it looks like spinach.

ME: Emma what does it look like?

EMMA: It looks like meat.

ME: That’s actually a good description, it looks like squirrely raw meat.

ME: Sam, what does it look like?

SAM: Um, old beef.

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If you’ve read The Corrections by Jonathan Franzen and enjoyed the dysfunctional banter between family members, you’d have thoroughly enjoyed a visit to our family farm over Thanksgiving weekend.

We left New York last Thursday, Ontario-bound on our favorite mini airline, Porter. Settling into the plane, we found ourselves in the usual seats. Me and my three kids occupying all four seats across, with Rodney in the luxury seat behind.


In all fairness, he does end up with his share of work when we travel but I definitely got the short end of the stick on this leg. Fortunately the beverage cart came quickly, giving me some liquid stamina for the ride.


At long last, we arrived at the farm in Caledon, an hour north of Toronto. The sun was setting, and after a late dinner, we settled in for the night.

The next morning, my Dad got the tractor out of the barn to give the kids a tour of  the property. I’m not sure what my Dad was thinking when he set up the scarecrow over the vegetable patch (top right), but to me it bears an uncanny resemblance to Michael Myers from the Halloween movies.


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Farm Collage

This weekend we celebrated Canadian Thanksgiving and for the first time in 10 years, I headed home for the holiday. Our family farm has been a part of my life for over 30 years. It’s hard to believe that I was about Lauren’s age when my parents bought it. Some things are still the same – the pond, the forest, the vegetable patch, the old meandering creek.

And some things are new – the renovated kitchen with the long-awaited gas stove, the screened in porch with a view of the pond, and most important, the coyotes who have built a home for themselves near the barn.

Travel is tough when you have young kids, so we don’t get up to the farm often. And I’m lucky enough to have my family visit me in New York. Particularly for American Thanksgiving every November.

Learning to cook Thanksgiving dinner was a turning point in my cooking career. It goes without saying – this dinner is a beast, the most fearful night of cooking for many a home cook. There are high expectations, loads of prep work, and biggest source of angst – the turkey itself.

If you’ve ever dealt with a raw turkey before, you’ll know what I’m talking about. Forgive me for being blunt, but it’s not often that most people need to handle an 18-lb dead animal.

Prepping a raw turkey can make even most die hard carnivore squeamish. Lifting it up is strenuous, and that wingspan! It’s impressive and horrifying all at the same time.

To this day, prepping the turkey is one of my least favorite activities in the kitchen. But I buy organic, sustainably-raised birds to ease the guilt factor, and handle it with care, brining it and layering it with butter and herbs. It’s cooking as spectacle to some degree, but it’s tradition, and Thanksgiving dinner wouldn’t be the same without it.

In 2003 I cooked my first Thanksgiving dinner. I’d been cooking actively for a few years at that point, but had yet to venture into Thanksgivingdinnerland. 

Fruit and veg

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guineps 035

I don’t know how to describe this fruit other than it tastes sweet and slightly lycheeish, but has the strangest texture. It’s like a hard nut, covered in the softest, cashmere-like fur. We discovered that there isn’t much to eat in the way of fruit, but it’s lots of fun to let it roll around in your mouth. The kids LOVED these things.

ME: These are called Guineps

LAUREN: Ha, ginneps! They look like a big olive. But they kind of look like a tiny avocado too.

ME: That’s kind of true.

SAM: This looks like a grape.

ME: Yeah, it does look like a grape!

LAUREN: Just a little.

EMMA: I don’t want this!

LAUREN: A little bit bigger. And a little rounder. And it’s like a Bay Blade!

ME: Does anyone want to open theirs up?

ME: What does it look like on the inside?

SAM: A lychee.

ME: It does look a bit like a lychee on the inside.

LAUREN: Can you open mine?

ME: Does it look an eyeball?

EMMA: Let me see it. It looks like a bode-E.

ME: A bode-E? Like a body? Like a body part?

EMMA: Yeah.

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