The Trouble With Cupcakes

What? Trouble with cupcakes? Surely I must be delusional or trying to make a bad joke! How could there be anything wrong with the most perfect and wonderful food in the world?

The trouble with cupcakes is the same trouble I have with pie, cake or any other pastry that comes in a large quantity (ie. more than two servings); it’s too much for two people to eat. Now Greg and I like our pie. Cupcakes too. But a whole batch of the same type of cupcake inevitably gets boring. Just as many slices of the same kind of pie gets boring day after day. Variety is the spice of life, or so they say.

So yesterday I got stupid innovative, and turned one batch of cupcakes into six different flavours. I also learned that a lot of hours bent over fussy cupcakes while standing on a concrete floor is deadly on the back; if I recall correctly, this is why I ended up not becoming a pastry chef in the first place – because of the back problems.

However, I now have half a dozen different types of cupcakes, and a guarantee that we won’t be bored. I also have a helluva lot of dirty bowls and spoons. D’oh!

Clockwise from upper left: lemon, anise, chocolate orange, almond, chocolate mint. Centre – mocha cream.

The Roundabout Route to the Best Damned Iced Coffee

So far, we are digging apartment living. Far more than we ever thought we would.

The one thing that is mildly annoying is the door buzzer system. Like most apartments, when visitors show up, they use the phone at the front door to dial a code which rings the phone in our apartment so I can push a button and let them in. Drunk people, however, or the mildly dyslexic, can’t always operate this system efficiently, which is why I was woken up in the middle of the night to the sound of the door phone ringing (we have a phone just for the door as we use cell phones and not a landline – thus that phone is always the door). As I wasn’t expecting anyone at 2am on a Wednesday night, I didn’t bother to answer it, but it screwed up my sleep pattern all the same.

Come morning, I was in one of those unshakeable fogs, and while I managed to make coffee, the process of making breakfast was insurmountable. Greg had been out with the beer geeks last night and needed a good greasy breakfast, and so we abandoned our coffee and headed to our local greasy spoon for some eggs and pancakes (and let me just say – yay for local greasy spoons that open at 7am so you can have your fix before a busy work day!).

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Detox Day 3 – Uncle!

It was the parmesan cheese that did me in. I am sad and pathetic and weak.

I had made a quinoa and kamut pasta with sauteed rapini and without even thinking about it, sprinkled the parm across the top. D’oh! As the point of the whole exercise was to keep the body free of all foods that were potential toxins, I wasn’t quite sure what to do. In theory, I should start all over again, not just brush off what I could and not worry about it.

Then this morning, the coffee called to me. “Sheryl…” it whispered. “You know you want me. I’m a delightful dark roast of Tanzanian peaberry beans. You made me yourself in your little roaster. Did you know that organic coffee is actually an ANTIoxidant and has a plethora of healthful properties? Remember that study that showed that women who drank a cup of coffee per day had a lower rate of Alzheimers disease?” And then the coffee won. Because even greater than my fear of being fat, cancerous and full of illness is my fear of being eighty and not remembering where I left my teeth.

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Detox Day 2 – Stop Eating My Balls!

I understand now why people doing detox for drugs and alcohol get sent off to be locked up and monitored 24/7. It’s not because they might cheat, it’s not because they might hurt themselves or others. No, it’s totally to keep other people with the good shit away from them. Because there’s nothing worse than trying to break your crack habit when everyone around you has a big ol’ pipe hanging out of their mouths.

A food detox is even worse because you can’t go cold turkey and neither can anyone else. You’ve got to eat and so do the folks around you. And they just might choose to eat a big plate of cheese and crackers washed down with a tasty glass of beer, all while you sit in the corner gnawing on an apple that turns out to be half-rotten. And then, the travesty of all travesties, they take the one sweet treat you’ve made for yourself so you won’t go insane, and eat those too!

I love my husband, I really do. He’s been supportive of me in every way, no matter what cockamamie idea I come up with, no matter what scheme I develop. He is down with the detox diet, just as long as I continue to make him tasty food. Now, as I’ve mentioned elsewhere, we eat a pretty healthy diet for the most part, so the detox meals I’ve been serving up so far are not rare or unusual. So far, hubby is happy. However, he has the option of eating additional foods, or non-detox foods, whereas I don’t, at least while I’m working on this experiment. Which is why when I found him with his grubby little hand in the container of date and coconut balls this morning, I went a little ballistic. That’s my only source of sugar, yo. I have willingly given up cupcakes, candy and chocolate – unless I start mainlining maple syrup, all I’ve got are those little balls of ground-up dried fruit. Yes, they are tasty and healthy and we should have some in the house all the time, I agree. But those ones, right there, those fuckers are MINE.

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Channel Surfing

Somewhere in the transfer of cable services from home A to home B, we ended up with a bunch of cable channels we didn’t have before. Besides the fact that we are cheapasses and refuse to pay for a bunch of channels that we mostly don’t watch, we made the well-thought-out decision to cancel all but basic cable a few years back for one specific reason.

I yell at the Food Network.

Honestly, I am flabberghasted that there are unsuspecting housewives out there, tuning in to the Food Network, thinking that they’re going to get decent advice on anything to do with cooking.

(NOTE – with the possible exception of Alton Brown. He’s an alright guy.)

Of course, the extra channels that we are now burdened with include the Food Network, and I have quickly gotten sucked in again. It’s been a few years, so many of the faces are new (although I see that BAM! guy is still there, mucking things up), but it’s reassuring to see that one can get a job hosting a cooking show without any damn idea of how to cook. Note that many of the people I mention below appear on the Canadian Food Network so you US folks might not recognize everyone. [1]

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Detox Day 1 – I Dream of Cupcakes

So I turned myself into a human guinea pig and decided to go on a two-week detox diet. This was in part out of writer’s curiosity and because it would make a good topic over on FitFare, the blog that I edit and write for, but as those of you who know me IRL are aware, it’s been a damn stressful few months and I’ve been eating crap, and I just wanted a week or two to allow the crap to work its way out of my system.

So far, so good. Mind you, it’s only mid-afternoon and already I’m getting sick of brown rice. And I’ve already cheated. It’s a small technicality, because I planned to cut out processed soy products (faux sausage, ground round, soy cheese, etc), but I used soy milk to make rice pudding this morning for breakfast. I’m also not exactly sure how I’m going to live without wheat for two weeks. Flour, bread; the staff of life, yo! It’s really going to kill me to be without bread. I’ve got brown rice flour, and kamut and spelt flour (again with the cheating, as both as related to wheat), and I’ve got millet, quinoa, and oats, and well as kamut and quinoa pasta – but I just know I’m going to break down and scream for bread by Day 4. There’s also a beer geek gathering at a local pub scheduled for Thursday night. I don’t suppose one beer will kill me, but it sort of defeats the purpose, doesn’t it?

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King of Fish


As a small child I was fascinated with mimicking the mackerel man. We lived in a suburb of Halifax that verged on rural and the small fishing villages that dot the Nova Scotia coast were only a few miles away. While most of the Atlantic fishery is based on massive ships far out to sea for days or weeks on end, the area around Halifax harbour abounds with fish as well, and during mackerel season, small-scale fishermen with one small boat can make a regular month’s wages in one day simply by heading out to the mouth of the harbour in the morning to catch mackerel and then driving through the residential neighbourhoods at mid-afternoon, selling mackerel from the back of his car or truck – just in time for supper. (This is not exclusive to fish, although the mackerel man is the most memorable. It is still not uncommon to buy strawberries, corn or even lobster from the back of someone’s car in suburban Nova Scotia.)

The mackerel man who frequented my Grandmother’s neighbourhood had a distinctive nasally voice and during the last weeks of June (when the mackerel started “running”), I would wait impatiently for his wood-paneled station wagon to make its way slowly up the street. I would then run out to greet the mackerel man, following along behind him, yelling “Mackerel!” at the top of my small lungs until we got to the point on the street where I was not permitted to go beyond by myself. Then the mackerel man would wave good-bye, and I would make my way home, continuing to yell “Mackerel!” until my Grandmother stuck her head out the window, demanding that I shut the hell up.

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Don’t Eat This Book

As I mentioned a few weeks ago in my opening editorial, I firmly believe that most people who care about good food know that junk food is bad for them. How can you not know that fact? What worries me, and apparently, also worries Morgan Spurlock, is that even though we all know this to be true, people are still cruising through the drive-through and eating McJunk. Even after seeing SuperSize Me, Spurlock’s 2003 documentary, we’re still putting crap into our bodies in place of food.

Don’t Eat This Book is even more loaded with information than Spurlock’s film. In many ways, it’s easier to digest (heh!), as you can take your time, set the thing down, or go back and reread all the interesting bits. Which you need to do on occasion, because Spurlock really writes in the same way that he talks – fast and furious. This can be amusing, or a bit overwhelming, and after the fifth or sixth Simpson’s-esque “mmmmm… food reference” comment, even a bit annoying.

What he does do is give you facts. All the stuff he relays onscreen during his 30-day McDonald’s diet in SuperSize Me is right there in black and white. In fact, Don’t Eat This Book could almost be considered the literary companion to the film, as Spurlock is able to give more detail about what he went through during the 30 days of the documentary, as well as the reaction to the film after the fact, particularly the reaction by the bigwigs at McDonald’s and the various ways that company tried to control the publicity the film got, especially in countries with a smaller, more concentrated market such as Australia and Japan. The Subway chain, clearly not getting Spurlock’s message of “all junk food = bad”, and hoping to divert former McDonald’s customers to their supposedly healthier options, tried to strike a deal to give away copies of the SuperSize Me DVD to customers who purchased $15 or more of their food. Spurlock quickly put the kibosh on this deal, proving his intention to be true to his message, as the deal would have made him a cool $2.5 million. He is also particularly skeptical of the “healthy options” offered by many fast food chains in the wake of SuperSize Me’s popularity, and shows how, in many cases, they are no healthier than the deep-fried, chemical-loaded concoctions those same chains are known for.

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Living Out of Boxes (of Food)

It’s been quiet in these parts, and the food has been unexciting. Too much stuff out of packages and too much stuff out of take-out containers. There’s two more weeks of this to go, and I swear, once we get moved and settled, I never want to see another frozen pizza again.

I mean, it’s not as if we’re moving far – a whole five blocks east. But it’s still easier to weed down your kitchen cupboards and buy new, rather than moving all your groceries, particularly perishables. So we’re trying to use up and clear out, which means no trips to Whole Foods, or the markets (Kensington and St. Lawrence), or swank and lovely Pusateri’s.

Instead, we eat the crap. Salads out of tubs, the ubiquitous frozen pizzas, store-bought frozen vegetarian lasagna, and many things from soy made to resemble parts of dead critters. The plan is to eat the crap for now, and once we’re in the new place, unpacked, and have had time to hit all the grocery places for fresh grub, to do a two-week detox to clear all the gunk out of our systems.

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Lemon Merengue

No, that’s spelled right.

For all of my griping about how much smaller my new place is going to be, including the kitchen, there are a few things that actually please me a great deal. First and foremost, having a kitchen where your work triangle isn’t fifteen feet across. Getting from fridge to sink and back to stove in the apartment where I am now requires an awful lot of hoofing, and makes simple things such as draining pasta a precarious hike. I know most people want huge enormous kitchens with many bells and whistles and huge expanses of marble countertops and sinks every five feet and big bright windows, but I’ve lived with some of that and it’s not as sweet as it’s cracked up to be.

People go ga-ga over the expanse of windows in my current kitchen (it’s converted from a smallish room and an old, unheated sunporch) because it’s so bright and sunny, but the ongoing condensation from cooking constantly is causing the hundred-year-old window frames to rot and breed a weird greenish mildew. The one radiator in the room is in the far corner and doesn’t throw out enough heat to keep the area by the windows warm.

And for all of my devotion to my gas stove, it’s really reserved for the stove top. I’ve never been a fan of gas ovens, and truly can’t wait to get my hands on that brand new electric oven waiting for me at the new apartment. Oh, the things we’ll bake! Most gas ovens, you see, are incredibly uneven, making for poorly cooked baked goods. They also need re-calibration almost annually, as they tend to run either hotter or colder than where they’re set, temperature-wise. Electric ovens also have their broiler element at the top of the oven, not underneath it, as gas ovens do. Which means that this is the very last lemon meringue pie that I’m going to have to balance and juggle and *dance* with, as I get down on my knees to put in under the floor-level broiler to brown the meringue.