[How to indulge on a Sunday morning.]
Recently, a friend emailed me a link to this interview with Bel Kaufman (author of the legendary novel Up the Down Staircase). What struck me most about Kaufman (apart from the fact that she’s still vibrant and joking at 100), was her comment about growing up in Russia during the revolution. At the time, she said, “Dead bodies were frozen in peculiar positions on the street. . . . But a child has no basis for comparison. Doesn’t every child step over dead bodies? I didn’t know any different.”
In the home where I grew up, my father’s near-ascetic approach to life (after surviving both the Depression and World War II) colored everything we did; we kids just accepted it as part of life. Our family feasted daily on odd cuts of meat (sweetbreads, anyone?), the hard ends of cheese blocks and other atypical fare (my mother became adept at baking with dozens of cracked eggs at one time) because those were the foods that his butcher-shop customers rejected, and of course “food can’t just go to waste.” My sisters and I learned quickly to amass factual evidence and then present a detailed, point-by-point argument to support every request we had because Dad would not permit any new purchases if we couldn’t first convince him that they were absolutely necessary (new boots: yes; bicycle: no; pencil case, yes; Spirograph set: unequivocally no).**
Sunday was established as “family time,” since it was the only day my father didn’t work. Ironically, on those days (after we all had brunch), he chose to drive back to his butcher shop where he’d spent the previous six days, toting all three of us kids, so that our mother could conduct her weekly grocery shopping (in addition to meat, dairy and eggs, his store also carried a few European canned or packaged goods, which made up the bulk of our meals during the week. We grew up snacking on Kosher dill pickles, munching on dense, dark rye bread, spooning out cherries in light syrup straight from the jar or eating chunks of polenta for breakfast).
On the way home from the store, we’d invariably drive through the Town of Mount Royal (one of the nouveau riche areas of town) to admire the houses and then stop at the Mount Royal Cemetery, the three of us wedged into the station wagon’s back seat (the cargo area was, by then, replete with groceries), for our gratis entertainment. My father would inch along so that we could leisurely admire the myriad floral arrangements, stopping occasionally so we could exit the car and examine various headstones (“Hey, look, Mom, this guy’s last name is ‘Outhouse’!!”–“Ricki, this one is called ‘Vowels! Eh, Eeee! Aye, Oh, You. . . ha ha ha!“) or inhale the chaotic perfume from the variegated mounds of blossoms piled here and there. When I was seven or eight, I once plucked a tulip from the mass of petals and leaves, thinking I’d preserve it in a vase once we got home. One of the groundskeepers suddenly appeared, arms flailing, to warn me, “No touch! Belong to family! Big family!” and I immediately understood that we had been impinging on a private plot, and dropped the stem back down as if it had bitten me.
What? Doesn’t every child wander through the cemetery for fun on Sunday afternoons?
[Porridge, fully loaded: here topped with spiced almond butter and goji berries.]
Despite my best efforts, it seems I’ve either inherited or adopted some of my father’s parsimonious ways. When shopping, I can rarely bring myself to spend money on what I consider frivolous expenses (why pay for prepared foods when you can usually make your own? Why pay for patterns on your paper napkins when white ones are perfectly serviceable? Why pay for brand name plastic wrap when generic is just as good?).
As a result, even small indulgences feel really big to me, and what I consider “indulgent” doesn’t necessarily require spending money. To me,”indulgent” is buying canned beans (for the occasional bean butter) rather than soaking my own; or jarred organic applesauce for baking rather than cooking up a homemade batch. It means purchasing a copy of a novel rather than borrowing it from the library. It means lounging in PJs on a Sunday morning to read the paper with the HH–while sipping on Matcha Tea (huge indulgence!) instead of getting to work at the computer.
And it means taking time to bake my porridge rather than simmering it on the stovetop.
Over the past few weeks, I’ve enjoyed several forms of grain-free porridge, after spying this recipe on Brittany’s site and then this one on Gretchen’s. Both dishes rely on squash or pumpkin as their base. I loved the idea, but wanted to include grains (especially when I landed on Day Two of the Fab Detox, focusing on whole, gluten-free grains). My version here used acorn squash, but any kind will do; and more often than not, I enlist my beloved kabocha for the task. Of course, my baked porridge is no longer grain-free, but its luxurious, coconut milk richness and nubby texture works perfectly in tandem with the fragrant spices, and the natural sweetness of the squash makes it a perfect sugar-free treat. Eating a bowlful of this will make you feel very spoiled indeed.
So go ahead, indulge. (What? Doesn’t everyone eat squash-based porridge for breakfast?).
(“Mum, we’d be happy to eat a bowlful of this porridge for breakfast–or any time! And I don’t know about you, but romping through a cemetery sounds pretty normal to us.”)
** Whenever we have an argument (shocking, I know–but it does happen), the HH inevitably tells me I should have been a lawyer given how I can debate an issue to the bitter end. Thanks, Dad.
Millet and Squash Baked Porridge
Suitable for the Anti-Candida Diet, All Stages
Millet is one of the healthiest gluten-free grains, possessing alkalizing qualities as well as whole-grain fiber and antioxidants. Combined with squash, the result is a winning combination both in the taste and health-promoting categories. This would make a lovely warm pudding for dessert, too.
2/3 cup (135 g) dry millet
3/4 cup (180 ml) rice milk
3/4 cup (180 ml) water
1 cup (240 ml) squash purée (Acorn, Butternut, Kabocha or Buttercup all work well)
1 cup (240 ml) full fat, canned coconut milk (I use Thai Kitchen)
1/4 tsp ( 1 ml) pure stevia powder
1/2 tsp (2.5 ml) ginger
1 tsp (5 ml) cinnamon
1/4 tsp (1 ml) nutmeg
Preheat oven to 350F (180C). Grease a covered casserole dish with coconut oil or spray with nonstick spray.
Place the millet, rice milk and water in a medium pot and bring to the boil. Turn off heat and add the squash, then whisk to combine well. Add remaining ingredients and stir well. Turn into the prepared casserole dish.
Cover the casserole and bake in preheated oven for 55-65 minutes, stirring once every 20 minutes or so, until most of the liquid is absorbed and the millet is very soft (if the mixture appears too dry before the millet is cooked, add a bit more rice milk and return to the oven). Stir again before serving. Makes four servings. May be frozen.
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