February 12, 2012

I am a picky eater.  I don’t like alot of things:  mushrooms, tomatoes, liquid yogurt drinks, fla (Dutch pudding my in-laws introduced me to), meat eaten off the bone, Vienna Sausages, coffee, mashed potatoes, strong curry, fettuccine Alfredo, dairy products that the run off gets stirred back into (you know, when you open a tub of sour cream and that clear liquid is sitting on the top, and some people stir it back in and it gets all runny..  Ewww), grapefruit juice, olives, jasmine tea and strawberry or peach or blueberry yogurt. (this is not an exhaustive list).  It does present challenges in feeding me, I know.
I was at my friend Nancy’s house for breakfast this morning and she – being a hostess until the end (she will be refilling drinks at her own funeral) – has learned my palate, preferences and caters to them.  This is why I eat at her house as much as possible.  This includes dropping by on Saturday nights at 4:30 just to “check on the mail” or perhaps swinging by just to say hi on a Tuesday afternoon (when she was unemployed like me) just when her husband Rob was coming in for lunch.  “Oh, dear, don’t let me interrupt.  What’s that?  You have extra??  Well, in that case. . ”  Anyways, Nancy’s kitchen is extraordinary in its self, but this is an email about my Extra-Ordinary.  It’s full of every bottled condiment you can imagine, spices and rubs and sauces spilling from all sorts of drawers and cupboards.  At any given time, she’ll pull some seemingly random bunch of ingredients out some where and have dinner for her family of 5 (and guests?) on the table in 1/2 hour.
Back on track now. . This morning’s breakfast was traditional – eggs, bacon, toast, juice and tea (fortunately, not jasmine tea).  I nibbled at the eggs my husband had made (extra salt), limited myself to 2 pieces of bacon and savoured the hot, creamy sweet tea I had made with brown sugar because I can never remember where Nancy keeps her white sugar (and artificial sweeteners have no place in her kitchen).   The toast was made with whole grains and you could actually see the seeds and grains in the loaf and on the crust.  I could already see it was Perfectly toasted – no dark edges, no “top brown, bottom soft” issues seen sometimes.  And soft butter smeared into it just after coming out of the toaster.   Where it doesn’t sog the – centre, but simply softens and flavors it.  I got up to peer into the fridge for a topping for that toast.  I stared vainly into the shelves on the door, finding all sorts condiments that I didn’t know existed.  “Nancy, where is your jam?”, hoping amongst all of her treasures there would be some raspberry jam for me.  Perfect.  She showed me two jars “Blueberry, made by Megan (her daughter, of whom I didn’t know was a jam-maker)” and “Strawberry”.   Sigh.  Gloobs.
The problem with alot of the foods listed above is texture and especially inconsistent texture.  It can’t too thin, too thick, or most important – too inconsistent.  And hence my problem with Strawberry Jam, Strawberry Yogurt, Strawberry Rhubarb Pie, and all of the other products available with cooked or processed strawberries.  Gloobs.  Strawberries that are mushy, but not mushy enough to collapse completely like Raspberries are polite enough to do so.  And that is the problem.  Strawberries are one of my favourite fruits when fresh, but turn into a long overstayed, unwelcome house guest after cooking.    I have made Strawberry freezer jam (I learned it at my mother’s knee – she likes me to say things like that) and I love the flavour.  It’s like biting into summer.  When I make the jam, I tend to over mash and have even been known to puree it with a stick blender to avoid the Gloobs.  But then it is too smooth, like some kind of weird strawberry jelly.   I have never been able to get the texture just right.
I eyed the Strawberry jam suspiciously.  It was in a mason jar, and not a commercial product.  Ok, that is a plus.  I could not discern gloobs through the jar, but it was not clear like jelly.  Hmmm.  Perhaps I could dig around the gloobs.  Yes, that will work.  I returned to the table and picked up that perfect piece of toast, Opened the jar, and began to look for a gloob free strategy.  And kept looking – no gloobs. Spread it on my toast.  It didn’t need to melt like jelly, and no gloobs.  NO Gloobs!!  None, but yet some texture.  And the first bite was home, summer and love.  And so was the second.  Perfect.
February 12th, 2012 Extra-Ordinary Event:  The Gloob free, texture perfect Homemade Strawberry Jam on creamy buttery perfectly toasted whole grain bread.  With Sweet Hot Creamy caffeinated Brown Sugar Tea.