Posted: Sunday, May 13, 2018
So what is special about mothers day- you have to ask? We may not all have had fathers but we all have had mothers. They are the ones who traditionally made the family a unit, and in bad families were the ones who held it together.
The notion of “Mothers Day” I have always found a bit strange, however. There should be an acknowledgment of these wonderful creatures but it almost cheapens it to make it just one day.
I am not going to go on about my mom. She was a good mom and I loved her and I regret that for too many years I was just thinking about my own life, not coming home to visit. I think about this a fair bit, but I can’t change it, I can only remember her and my dad and try to learn from my experience of not being a better kid.
What I am going to do is tell you about a poem Jim wrote. He is not the best poet as you know but I particularly like this one. It’s about his Nana. Like me, he had a great relationship with his paternal grandmother. Her real name was Hannah but Nana is what he called her. During those years in high school when most of us were somewhat alienated from our parents and vice/versa the relationship we had with an aunt or uncle, grandparent or even an older cousin is what got some of us through. They can bring a perspective that may not be the same as ours but might be somewhat different than our parents – and they bring it with love and no expectations.
So during his late years in elementary school and through high school, Jim and his dad would drive up the Ottawa valley from their home in Ottawa one evening a week to a little village where his Nanas house was. This hadn’t been her lifetime house or even a place she had lived in for a substantial time. It was a house that she had bought in later life just to get back to living in a smaller community, having a garden and being out with nature. It would be followed by the reality of having to move into an apartment in Ottawa closer to Jim’s parents but for about a decade, she enjoyed her small-town life in her little place, where she could walk to the village shops for groceries, or the post office or to get her hair done.
So on Tuesday nights from May until September Jim and his dad would drive there. Jim’s dad would usually work on repairs of some kind, while Jim would cut the grass, and do some weeding in the garden. They would all then have dinner together and before it was too late in the evening (as Jim would have to go to school the next day to fail Math, Science or French) Jim and his dad would drive back to Ottawa. Sometimes he would complain about it as he would miss something that a bunch of us were doing, or a TV show he wanted to see but for the most part he looked forward to his Tuesday nights both for seeing his Nana and for having some time with his dad that was not focused on how badly he was doing in school or what mischief he had gotten into that week.
This is his poem and as I said above I do like this one as it reminds me of times with my grandmother. Jim has really been opening up over the last few years and I think he is better for it.
NANA’S TUESDAY NIGHT
Every Tuesday night,
My dad and I would drive
To the country to see my Nana.
I would cut the grass,
Dad would repair something
Or weed the garden.
Nana would make us dinner
Of fresh vegetables and meat,
Roast potatoes and pie.
I never liked
Beets, green beans or brussels sprouts,
Except at my Nanas.
My Nana is gone, my dad is gone,
But as often as I can
I eat beets, Green beans, and brussels sprouts.
So that’s the poem. He is getting better at this poetry business I think. I don’t yet have a picture of Jim with his Nana but I am trying to track one down. I do have her recipe for apple pie and a picture of Janice and the first pie she made for Jim when they were living at their first apartment in Kingston. Janice had finished her program in fashion design and was working as a fashion designer at that point and Jim was doing graduate work in Urban Planning and Development.
NANAS CLASSIC APPLE PIE RECIPE
Jim’s Nana seemed to like to work with really big pie plates – about 30cm so almost one foot. For some of us, that is just one big unwieldy pie, especially if you are working in a small space like the galley of an old boat like mine so I have scaled the recipe he gave me down to a 23 cm size (9 inches) pie. Even when I am making a pie for a larger group I prefer to make two smaller ones and then do one as a bit of a variation in look or taste or to make one as a pie and a few tarts as well.
Ingredient list: Pastry – 2 pieces as its double crust for the 9-inch pie if you are buying pastry.
Of course nothing duplicates a pastry you make yourself. If you have not done so before this adds quite a bit to the exercise so for the first time I would just buy the dough. Once you are comfortable with making pies move on to making the pastry yourself. Most recipes for dough don’t really tell the story of the tricks or rules to make a good pie crust but one that I really like is https://www.canadianliving.com/food/food-tips/article/pie-crust-101
Peeled & sliced apples 5 cups (1.25L)
Sugar * 3/4 cup (175 ml)
Flour 1 tbsp (15 ml)
Cinnamon 1/2 tsp ( 2 ml)
Lemon Juice 1 tbsp (15 ml)
Butter (unsalted) 1 tbsp (15 ml) cut cold butter into little pieces to distribute
Egg 1 egg for eggwash
* Now I have tried to make this faithfully to the original recipe but Jim tells me that pretty regularly his Nana would claim to be low in sugar and would “substitute” with some rum or with a fruit liqueur or with maple syrup. His recollection, however, is that there actually was no substitution just “supplement” of these items at times. I have experimented with each of the products and found that up to a half tablespoon of rum or up to a full tablespoon of maple syrup or liqueur such as Grand Marnier can add some sweetness and depth to the flavour.
To make the pie:
1. Preheat the oven to 220C (425f)
2. Line the pie plate with the lower pastry piece
3. mix the cut apple slices, flour and sugar*, lemon juice and cinnamon then gently pour the mixture onto the pastry
4. put the little butter pieces around the top of the mixture
5. drizzle the rum/ liqueur etc. around the mixture if substituting/ supplementing
6. cover with the top crust, then seal and pinch (flute) the edges
7. You need to put in a few slits for the steam to be released. Jim would chatter on about how his Nana would not just cut little slits for the pie to release steam but instead would do a little shape – a few slits to look like a conifer tree or a little rabbit or acorn.
8. a little brushing of an egg wash and a bit of a sugar sprinkle and its ready for the oven for 30 minutes then watch it for the next five to ten minutes after that to take the crust to the way you like it.
While some weeks Jims Nana would do cookies or cake, most weeks it would be a pie dessert and Jim, who has a whole mouthful of sweet teeth would tell me about the one that week – Wild Blueberry Pie, Maple Syrup Pie, Buttertart Pie, Fresh Rasberry Pie ….
Come to think of it, on the vegetable front today he does eat a lot of brussels sprouts, and green beans and even more beets than the average person.
And I would be remiss to not wish Janice a happy mothers day. She got cheated out of experiencing her mother during her adult years as her mom passed when Janice was in her early twenties. I think she is making up for that missing experience by being so good a mom to Jade and Jason.