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Stories and Food

Before I cooked I wrote. Poems and stories filled up my head and spilled out into, notebooks, and filing cabinets.Cafes were only ever a place to write or a waitress job to pay for a place to live and my typewriter rental. In 1982 I lived in Toronto I waitressed at a cafe and I paid $25 dollars a month to rent a large Olivetti typewriter.Cooking only used to be about writers block. In 1985 I worked in Breadspreads, a Toronto sandwich bar. I fell in love with the building next to the sandwich bar. It was an old building with wooden floors and a vintage elevator. Despite having an apartment a short subway ride away and despite not caring about the fact that it was an office building with no proper living facilities I rented a small studio in the building. I spent my nights there watching downtown Toronto being re-built. At night when I couldn’t write I opened up the sandwich bar and I cooked. I cooked for construction workers, Bike-Couriers and office workers. My food was just writers block half bitten stories. I made two soups a day and specials.Sometimes on Seafood Chowder days the whole pot would be reserved and sold before it was even fully cooked. Once two customers fought over a whole strawberry rhubarb pie and tried to outbid each other.While I was at Breadspreads an office Tower was being built across the road. I fell in love with the Tower it was sixty-eight storeys high.Elevator engineers came from Switzerland and cooked in the tiny kitchen for their co-workers. An Iron worker who was also a First Nations person would go back up to the Reservation on the weekends and come back with bison for me to cook. Toronto’s Bike Couriers fueled up on my pasta and soups.Food became more about stories and people and gatherings than writers block.Then in 1993 Eric Bow and I opened Las Margaritas a Mexican Restaurant on Poole Quay we cooked, Tamales, Mole, Texan Chillies, Mancha Mantal. We fed tourists, the locals and our neighbors. Every year to Celebrate the Mexican Day of the Dead we closed the restaurant and invited regulars and friends for our Grande Fiesta’s. On Christmas Eve we took home our staff and our friends for Midnight supper. Las Maggies traded for ten years. In those years I had a baby girl, I took writing courses. I wrote and mothered and I cooked.Now in 2011 I have found that after cooking in the basement at the glorious Cafe Boscanova for four years and now in the tiny little shack at the back of Camden that I am missing the stories and the writing and missing the people. Food has become about order sheets kitchen politics and profit. The only writing I ever do is menu’s and staff rota’s.The writing and stories have been neglected so badly that I didn’t even notice nearly all my word documents had disappeared from my computer.Luckily my computer was backed up say they have all been returned. Stories will soon be appearing here as well as recipes .My notebooks through out my life have been filled with a jumble of recipes, stories and poems. It is about time my blog reflected who I am as well.To read the Tower a peice of short  fiction about Toronto and cooking and food   http://tansystorytales.blogspot.com/

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Stories and Food

Before I cooked I wrote. Poems and stories filled up my head and spilled out into, notebooks, and filing cabinets.Cafes were only ever a place to write or a waitress job to pay for a place to live and my typewriter rental. In 1982 I lived in Toronto I waitressed at a cafe and I paid $25 dollars a month to rent a large Olivetti typewriter. Cooking only used to be about writers block. In 1985 I worked in Breadspreads, a Toronto sandwich bar. I fell in love with the building next to the sandwich bar. It was an old building with wooden floors and a vintage elevator. Despite having an apartment a short subway ride away and despite not caring about the fact that it was an office building with no proper living facilities I rented a small studio in the building. I spent my nights there watching downtown Toronto being re-built. At night when I couldn't  write I opened up the sandwich bar and I cooked. I cooked for  construction workers, Bike-Couriers and office workers. My food was just writers block  half bitten stories. I made two soups a day and specials. Sometimes on Seafood Chowder days the whole pot would be reserved and sold before it was even fully cooked. Once two customers fought over a whole strawberry rhubarb pie and tried to outbid each other. While I was at Breadspreads an office Tower was being built  across the road. I fell in love with the Tower it  was sixty-eight storeys high. Elevator engineers came from Switzerland and cooked in the tiny kitchen for their co-workers. An Iron worker who was also a First Nations person  would go back up to the Reservation on the weekends and come back with bison for me to cook. Toronto's Bike Couriers fueled up on my pasta and soups. Food became more about stories and people and gatherings than writers block. Then in 1993 Eric Bow and I opened Las Margaritas a Mexican Restaurant on Poole Quay we cooked, Tamales, Mole, Texan Chillies, Mancha Mantal. We fed  tourists, the locals and our neighbors. Every year to Celebrate the Mexican Day of the Dead we closed the restaurant and invited regulars and friends for our Grande Fiesta's. On Christmas Eve we took home our staff and our friends for Midnight supper. Las Maggies traded for ten years. In those years  I had a baby girl, I took writing courses. I wrote and mothered and I cooked. Now in 2011 I have found that after cooking in the basement at the glorious Cafe Boscanova for four years and now in the tiny little shack at the back of Camden that I am missing the stories and the writing and missing the people. Food has become about order sheets kitchen politics and profit. The only writing I ever do is menu's and staff rota's. The writing and stories have been neglected so badly that I didn't even notice nearly all my word documents had disappeared from my computer.Luckily my computer was backed up say they have all been returned. Stories will soon be appearing here as well as recipes .My notebooks through out my life have been filled with a jumble of recipes, stories and poems. It is about time my blog reflected who I am as well.

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Next Supper Club Dates

New Supper Club DatesSaturday October 8th 2011.Canadian Thanksgiving Dinner.Complete with Real Canadians.Bloody Ceasars Wild Turkey-Chilli- Baked Ham and Maple Syrup Blueberry and Pumpkin Pies.Bruce Griffin playing the Blues. Bring your own BottleSaturday November 5th 2012Mexican Fiesta A feast based on the Mexican Day of the Dead- Traditional Mexican dishes to include Empanadas,Tamales,Mancha Mantel,Carnitas - Bring your own bottle.

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Cooking Flowers In A Field

Once I cooked daisies and four leaf clovers in the garden, dishing them up in small plastic bowls for the fairies,robins, worms and whoever else came to eat. Once I grew courgettes in my garden. Courgettes have the most beautiful yellow flowers; I knew you could eat the flowers but I never had a recipe,a courgette flower and a deep fryer all at the same time. This is about to change; Stuffed Courgette Flowers are on Ms Marmite Lover's Camp Bestival Menu. http://www.ticketline.co.uk/kerstin-rodgers-ticketsThis weekend I will be cooking with Ms Marmite Lover and her team. For 16 years I have had a grape vine growing in the garden and for all those years I have thought of making Grape Jelly (a kind of North American jam). A few times I went out and bought the sugar and a jelly bag, but I never quite got around to making the jelly. Wednesday morning,before I head to Camp Bestival, I am going to pick some vine leaves and take them with me to add to Ms Marmites Lover’s stash. Vine leaves will also be on Ms Marmite Lover’s Camp Bestival Menu. Ms Marmite Lover is Kerstin Rodgers,owner of The Underground Restaurant in London and pioneer of the Supper Club movement in the UK. She is also author of "Supper Club", http://www.amazon.co.uk/Supper-Club-Recipes-underground-restauranta truly gorgeous book - quirky, down to earth,and inspirational. I am no stranger to cooking. I know it is not really a glamorous job. It's mostly hard work. I am using up some of my holiday days from my regular gig to cook at Camp Bestival. For five days I will be living in a tent. (I have bought one and have even practised putting it up). I will be cooking with people I have never met.(I love meeting people while cooking!). There will be three sittings a day:one o’clock for a long lazy lunch, seven o’clock for dinner,and midnight for the secret supper. Food will be served on lovely vintage tableware in a marquee. Waitresses will be dressed in Vintage pinnies (and other clothes of course).This is exciting for me. Last year my daughter Raven went to Camp Bestival with friends. I loaded her into the car with a stash of homemade banana bread and some baby wipes and waved goodbye. It seemed my whole street was going somewhere. My husband Bruce invited me to walk up to Lidls (Bruce love Lidls). We walked around, bought olive oil and dark chocolate and went home. This year things will be different.

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Cheap White Bread Toasties

It is such a joy to get out and about and see what the rest of the world is doing. When my daughter was a toddler a half term treat outing consisted of a short train journey to the New Forest, a look at the ponies, a walk in the woods a little picnic. Things have changed at thirteen, the Girl loves to shop and she loves Brighton. She also loves her B.F Tom. Yesterday the three of us set out on an adventure. The deal was sometimes we would hang out together and sometimes we would seperate. After a couple of hours apart we met  for lunch.The Marwood Cafe 54  Ship Street in Brighton has inspired me to never ever  give up my clutter.I just have to learn to embrace it Excentric Bohemia Cosy could be the new look. At the Marwood cafe computer towers with cushions make great chairs,doors are used to make counters tables and seats.The look is definitely not Cath Kidson , but thats ok cause I am a bit bored with that look. I  loved the bra over the lampshade, loved the art on the wall and so did the teens.The menu was perfect  because the Marwood  has no kitchen to speak of; the blackboard offering was "cheap white bread toasties" made in a cheap but very effecient toastie machine.  £2.50 per toastie. They were perfect.  I can't blog about coffee because I am not a proper coffee geek but I have worked with coffee geeks and  been served amazing coffee daily. Marwoods coffee was a joy I had a pretty little piccola.  After we had devoured out toasties we shared a slice of Victoria Sponge there was nothing cheap and white about the sponge it was £2.50 a slice and it taste as gorgous as it looked. .

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Camden Cooking

Almost a week at Camden Bar and Kitchen Ashely Cross  and I will be honest and say" Oh my Goodness Me."  I am not sure I have ever cooked in such a tiny tiny  kitchen..Much much work to do, and some serious menu tweaking. The kitchen is cozy or its a cupboard, or its like when you have a dream  that you are at work but actually you have fallen asleep in a cupboard. The said kitchen is made all the more cozy with the company of the Lovely Fiona. Not only is Fiona a great help at a million things like lighting the gas oven,the oven terrifies me and the pilot is right at the back so you have to lie down practically on the floor to get it lit. Fi is also good at showing me how to get a pan scarily hot for steak and she has been learning my recipes really quickly. We have had some  fun when I showed her how to make red onions Barbie Pink  and she has now tasted cactus for the first time. The food has all gone out looking really pretty some of it even with purple pansies on top.There has been much positive feed back. The kitchen can only get better I don't think it will get bigger but maybe more shelves. I know I can do this..and I love the walk to work and never having to take the bus. I will say though I do miss Mr Lovett and his genius skill with space and shelves and problem solving and I really miss a huge kitchen and loads of storage space. I am hoping once I get this kitchen organized I could have a few excursions perhaps do a couple of sessions with Sarah from Travels with my Aunt World Cafe,she must have some tips on cooking in a small space. I need to take another trip up to London and check out Broadway Market. How much space do those stalls have? Street food is often amazing food cooked in small spaces.I have so much to learn..

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I am on the move

After four years of taking the Yellow Bus from Parkestone to Boscombe I am leaving cafe Boscanova.Since the cafe  opened it's doors four years ago, I've cooked gallons of soup made hundreds of specials, and introduced Boscombe to Canadian Pancakes. I've cooked ribs and chicken for Brian Wison and his band, and Cuban pork for a salsa band. I have cooked curry and fajita wraps in a tent at the Boscombe community fair. I have cooked in feilds and village halls and at the Bournemouth Tatoo Festival. I  am so proud of the work I have done at Boscanova.A big Thank you  to Joe Lovett for choosing me to set up Cafe Boscanovas kitchens and trusting me with the food for so many years. Special thanks to Toyah Cannings and Sarah Farendon  my two main girls for the whole four years. It would be impossible to count how many Boscanova breakfasts and lunches  those girls have sent out. We did good girls! and we sent out some amazing food.A special  thank you to all the customers who have eaten the food over the years, and popped their head around the kitchen door and let us know how much they enjoyed it.I have not hung up my pots and pans yet . My next venture is a little closer to home. I love new places and this one is brand new. So new that it's not even open yet . I have seen the kitchen it's about as small as a caravan but it has a little window. Soon the floor will go down and the sink will be plumbed inand shelves built and cookers in place. I will keep you posted.      

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Popped up and Popped down I am feeding Blackbirds and Teenagers

Snow I love it! Someone is skiing down the middle of  my road. Most people on Palmerston Rd  have given up on going anywhere. The schools are closed and none of the cars are moving. There is an unofficial spontanious street  party across the road  in Alexander park. A lady well past 40 was sliding down a small hill on a plastic bag  the park is packed with kids and parents and whatever you can slide on. Someone should start playing Bing Crosby and take some chestnuts and hot chocolate over there. Snow makes me feel like we are all living in a musical .Raven is home and so are five of her freinds. I have a big pot of spagetti on. The hallway is full of wet bootsmittens and coats. I have just made Hot Chocolate with whipped cream Marshmallows and Candycanes.In the garden loads of blackbirds are  feasting on the grapes that I for the tenth year running have not made into grape jelly or wine.Ok this weekend was supposed to be my Pop up South American but I have decided I just have to re-schedule.I am really really sorry that it is such late notice but I have already had a few cancelations and with the weather forcast and how difficult it can be to get around I have decided this definitely is not the best weekend for it. Gatwick is closed , trains have stopped, schools are closed and tamale flour may or may not arrive. I am thinking now that some time after  Christmas may be better when there is no threat of snow or severe weather.I think this is going go to be a stay in and make popcorn and cranberry decorations and write Christmas cards kind of weekend.      

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Pop up Menu

Just four more days to go The food is ordered, the furniture is moved now the cooking starts. Hopefully if the snow is not too much of a distraction the corn husks for the tamales and the masa harina will  arrive by courier today along with cactus paddles and  some rather  pretty chillies. Bruce has already chosen his corner of the room for the piano.Raven and Ellie have  not chosen  their outfits but I know they definitely don't want to wear any of my vintage aprons.Here is a rough draft of the menu, things may change a little as I get creative Tortilla chips with Tomatilla Salsa  Empandas Picadillo with Raisin and Cranberries  Cactus Flautes with Prickly Pear JamOaxcan Turkey Mole poblanoPork and White Bean Chilli   served with Pumpkin Bean and  Cheese tamalesPlaintain Mash  and Fallen Leaf Salad.      

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