Saturday, July 31, 2010

Living La Vida Folklorama - Being 60 (week 13 - by Margaret Ullrich)

Winnipeg's 41st Folklorama is starting tomorrow.

If you haven't been to Folklorama, it's a made-in-Manitoba celebration of all the different nationalities that make up Winnipeg.  For 2 weeks Winnipeggers can visit 45 different pavilions and travel the world, while still being able to sleep in their own beds.  

Some of the pavilions are in our neighborhood, in walking distance from our house.  The north end is the most culturally diverse area of Winnipeg.  All we have to do is go for a walk to meet folks from around the world.  

Of course everyone's proud of his own country's culture, food and history.  But, in the day to day life of an immigrant, there are certain problems nobody ever thinks about when he gets on the boat or plane for the big trip.

Canada really tries to respect ethnic origins.  Officially that's no problem.  The problem comes when the immigrant's kids go to school.  Boom.  The Big Bang.   

Kids, no matter where they came from, are desperate to fit in with the other kids.  And parents, no matter where they came from, are sure their kids will be destroyed if they fit in with the other kids. 

The higher standard of living attracts many immigrants.  Food and shelter are no longer enough.  Then there's the bill for the higher standard of living.  Everybody has to help.  A Greek-Canadian comedienne once said Greek families have children to staff the family restaurant. 

A couple of days ago I saw an Indian mom, in a lovely butter yellow sari, delivering flyers.  Her daughter was helping her.  

It brought back memories.  

When I was a kid I helped Pop pour concrete on a new driveway and paint apartments.  I also did my homework in the TV repair shop Pop had in the storefront of his first duplex.  I was there to greet customers, while Ma ran in from our apartment behind the shop.  She was busy taking care of my sister and brother.  Pop was at his day job at Lily Tulip.

Funny, they only show kids dancing and singing in the pavilions.

That ain't the half of it. 

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Carmela Soprano's Sausage, Pepper and Onion Hero and Anna Sultana's Heroes (Cold Cut Sandwiches, Maltese Style)

Summer's in full swing in Manitoba.  Time for picnics.

Carmela didn't have any picnic menus in Entertaining with The Sopranos, but there's a nice collection of potential picnic fare in her Small Events for Men Only chapter.  Heroes along with vegetable and cheese side dishes.

No.  I learned my lesson.  I have nothing to say about anybody's cheesecake.  Put whatever you want in yours.  It's all good.

Back to the heroes.  Thought I'd try Carmela's Sausage, Pepper and Onion Hero.  

Carmela really knows how to pack her rolls.  Let's put it this way - they're as filled as the sandwiches Subway shows in their commercials.  Yeah.  Thick with fillings.  Not like the ones you actually get.

Each Italian-style sausage gets served with a quarter of an onion and half a bell pepper on a crusty hero roll.  I like her using both a red and a green pepper.  Makes it more attractive.

Carmela's recipe sounds pretty official.  Relax.  If onions give you gas, skip them.  If you prefer red peppers, just use them.  The boys won't come visiting if you personalize the recipe.

Ma wasn't big on fully loaded sausage sandwiches.  Cold cuts were more her style.  The vegetables would have been served on the side.  I checked my Maltese cook books.  Meat pies were more popular.  Maybe it was the British influence.  They're big on meat pies, pasties, too.  

I have nothing to say about what anybody puts in their pies.  Put whatever you want in yours.  It's all good.

Next time I make spaghetti sauce I'll fry some extra sausages, peppers and onions and set them aside for a few sandwiches.

A bit of leftover sauce wouldn't hurt, either. 

Another recipe down.  Fifty-two more to go.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Films, Films, Films - Being 60 (week 12 - by Margaret Ullrich)

This is the weekend of the 'Gimli Film Festival'.  It's been going on for 10 years and includes everything : features, shorts and documentaries.  There are guest filmmakers, industry events and parties.  

It also has a free nightly beach screening.  After sunset - 10:00 p. m. for those not familiar with Manitoba's long summer days - they show regular feature films on an 11 metre outdoor screen on the shores of Lake Winnipeg.

If you've ever gone to a drive-in, you have the general idea.

Gimli is one of our favorite local towns, so we went there yesterday.  We went to walk on the beach and check out the paintings, both in the art gallery and on the beach front wall.  We also dropped by our favorite shops and walked on the beach.

But, we didn't stay for the late show.

Paul and I used to go to drive-ins regularly.  We even went to a few dusk-to-dawn specials.  Picture it - a night filled with 4 movies, with a few bathroom and snack breaks - all for the price of 1 movie.  For a while we owned a truck which we also used for camping.  We'd just back into our spot and stretch out on the sleeping bags which were on the foam mattress on the board.  Our dogs curled up beside us.  Our son slept beside us in his own sleeping bag. 

No problem staying awake through the night.

No problem being alert enough to drive home.

That was then.  This is now.

Lately we've become big fans of the Turner Classic Movies channel.  On Thursday night they showed an old favorite of mine - Tammy and the Bachelor.  Debbie Reynolds, Leslie Nielson, 1957.  It started at 9:00 p.m. and ended at 10:45 p.m.  

We enjoyed it.  By 10:50 we were in bed.  The next morning we staggered around, tired out from our "late night".  

Dusk to dawn?  I don't think so.

The Icelandic Festival - Islendingadagurinn - is happening next weekend.

No, I can't pronounce it.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Carmela Soprano's Roasted Cherry Tomatoes with Basil and Anna Sultana's Hobz Biz-Zejt (bread with oil, Maltese Style)

Last week I made Carmela Soprano's Spaghetti with Red Clam Sauce.  I had some grape tomatoes left over.  This weekend Sobeys had grape tomatoes on sale - plus I got 35 bonus points since I bought 2 pints.

It was a sign.

Back to Entertaining with The Sopranos.  

Yippee!!  Found this quickie.

Carmela's Roasted Cherry Tomatoes with Basil is easy.
In a large roasting pan, toss
3 pints cherry or grape tomatoes
1/4 cup olive oil
season with salt and pepper
Roast 8 to 10 minutes in a 425º oven.
Remove to serving bowl and sprinke with
2 Tablespoons chopped fresh basil
Serve hot. 

Ma served lots of tomatoes.  Especially in the summer.  Pop had a garden and, once the tomatoes were ripe, we had them with everything.

In Malta a popular snack is Hobz Biz-Zejt - bread with oil.  Maltese bread is very crusty.  In New York, we substituted the Italian bread we bought at the local Italian bakery.  Not as crusty, but what can you do?  In summer Ma would drizzle some olive oil over the bread slices, top them with slices of tomatoes, then add some salt and pepper.  

For a little variety, Ma would slice some tomatoes in half and rub the halves on the bread slices.  She'd put the squeezed tomato halves on a plate.  Then she'd pour some olive oil in a pyrex custard cup and season the oil with salt and pepper.  We would dip the bread in the olive oil and eat the bread with the tomatoes.  There'd also be some capers, chopped olives and anchovies, if anyone wanted them with the oily bread.   

Carmela's Roasted Cherry Tomatoes with Basil could go on some Italian bread.

Sure, I'd make it again.  Especially when I get bonus points.

I'd also serve the leftovers cold.

Another recipe down.  Fifty-three more to go. 

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Folks on the Fringe of Folklorama - Being 60 (week 11 - by Margaret Ullrich)

We've just had the Folk Festival.  The Fringe Festival is in full swing and, in a couple of weeks, we'll have Folklorama.  

Just another Effin Manitoba summer.

When Paul and I first arrived here in '75 we really got into all the festivals in Manitoba.  Didn't matter if we had any genetic connection to an ethnic celebration or not.  Give us an address and we were there.  We felt it was our duty as new Manitobans to take part in any and every celebration.

Okay.  We were 25.  
Okay.  We had more energy than sense.  
Okay.  We were dumb.

We had our reasons.  We'd grown up in New York.  The Big Apple.  To our shame, whenever someone mentioned a popular tourist trap... uh, attraction... we had to admit we hadn't seen it.  Then we moved to British Columbia.  Lived there a couple of years.  Always meant to see the touristy places.  Never got around to them.  Then we left.

Well.  We weren't going to make that mistake again.  We were going to see everything.  In one year.

Our first year was a blur.  We had to see all the Folklorama pavilions.  Back then they crammed the whole world into 1 week.  Saw lots of embroidery.  All I remember was the time we were stopped by a cop.  We were on Main Street.  We weren't drunk.  I had the Folklorama passport in my hand.  Paul was driving and, as he explained to the officer, we were looking for Poland and hadn't noticed that we'd gone past an intersection.

Cops have heard it all. 

Now we're older.  We've seen - and enjoyed - most of Manitoba's attractions over the past 35 years.  We've seen the Queen.  Twice.  

We stayed home when Queen Elizabeth came to town 2 weeks ago.  While we're not as old she is, we didn't think we'd do too well standing outdoors for 10 hours in the heat wave we were having.  And there was a threat of a thunderstorm.       

Back in '75 we'd have been there.  We'd have stood in hail for 10 hours.  Without an umbrella.  

Not no more. 

Been there, done that.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Carmela Soprano's Spaghetti with Red Clam Sauce, Anna Sultana's Fish

We don't live like Tony and Carmela Soprano.  

In addition to not having a big house on a hill and not having people shooting at us, we don't live on the east coast.  Not even close.  We live in Manitoba.  That's in the middle of North America.  We're in the prairies.  Not like Tony and Carmela in New Jersey, near the ocean.

Carmela has her pick of seafood.  She probably used to send her nephew Christopher, before Tony whacked him, to Fulton's Fish Market to get fish fresh off the boat.  

Carmela has a recipe for Spaghetti with Red Clam Sauce in Entertaining with The Sopranos.  She gets a little picky in this recipe: "3 pounds very small clams, such as Manila or mahogany clams, or New Zealand cockles (or mussels)".

She just takes for granted everybody waltzes past barrels of fresh seafood every day.

Some girls have it all.

Okay.  This week, as part of Dollar Days, Sobeys is taking a buck off their 2 pound package of live P. E. I. mussels.  This is important because normally our local Sobeys doesn't carry mussels, dead or alive.  They make an effort to get some when mussels are mentioned in the flyer.  Ladies in my neighborhood can get a little ticked off at the "Our supplier didn't send us any" line when there's a sale.  I mean, we're not second class citizens. 

So, I made Spaghetti with Red Clam Sauce using P. E. I. mussels.

Like I had a choice.

Once you get the mussels, the recipe is pretty easy.  Clean the mussels and throw away the broken or dead ones.  Cook 2 pints of halved cherry (or grape) tomatoes with the mussels and some olive oil, garlic, crushed red pepper, parsley and salt.  Save some of the pasta's cooking water if the mixture seems a little dry.

It's a bit of a hassle eating clams.  Maybe that's why we didn't have any at Ma's house.  We had fish.  Sometimes it was fresh bluefish which was bought from the fellows at Sheepshead Bay.  I also remember Pop bringing home some clams from Oyster Bay.  

But, we kids never ate them.  Maybe we made a scene or a mess when we were little and Ma figured it wasn't worth the bother.  
I'd make Red Clam Sauce - with mussels - again.  Just have to wait for another Dollar Day. 

Another recipe down.  Fifty-four more to go. 

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Eclipse that, Kristen Stewart - Being 60 (week 10 - by Margaret Ullrich)

Usually, when we go for our annual chat with our financial advisor, it's a pretty ho hum affair.  She checks off a bunch of stats just to make sure we're 'on target' for our 'future needs'.  

To be honest, who the hell knows?  I mean, we could win a lottery or we could suddenly have a honking big medical bill.  Either of these would make hash out of all those pie charts financial advisors love.

She's a nice lady, so we humor her.

This year when she asked how old I am, I said 60.

Did that ever put a gleam in her eye!

She told me I qualify for their super duper Plan 60 account, which is way, way better than the god awful joint account we'd been using for the past 40 years.  I said I had received a letter around the time of my birthday.  But since Paul doesn't turn 60 until December, I thought we had to wait until we were both 60.

Financial advisors live for moments like that.

Quicker than you could say 60, she called up the product comparison info on her computer while explaining that only one of us has to be 60.  She casually mentioned it's the same for seniors' discounts for shopping and travelling.

At that, I saw a gleam in my husband's eye. 

I have to admit that at 60, I don't quite look the same as I did at 18.  A sag here, a wrinkle there.  So it goes.  Young women do have a certain oomph that fades with time.  But, what time taketh away, banks and businesses giveth.

I qualify for senior discounts.  Now.

A hottie like Kristen Stewart is the stuff of dreams.  Sure.  But we older gals have something she doesn't.  We are an instant discount for everything near and dear to our husbands' hearts.  

And that's something they can take to the bank. 

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Carmela Soprano's Chocolate Fudge Sheet Cake and Anna Sultana's Cake

This has been a rang dang do week.  It was an anniversary for us - 38 years ago we left New York and crossed through Niagara Falls into Canada.  It was the first time we saw Canadian money.  It was the last time we thought someone was trying to pull a fast one with the multi-colored bills.

It was also a week with big days for Canada and the U. S. - July 1st and 4th.  
And the Queen is in town!!!

Yippee!!!!  Time to party hearty!!! 

Found just the thing in Entertaining with The Sopranos - Chocolate Fudge Sheet Cake.  I was relieved to see it's not as big as the Safeway sheet cake.  I usually bake a 9 x 13-inch cake and it goes quickly enough.

The cake itself is no big whoop.  The secret ingredient is a touch of instant espresso powder.  If you're really antsy about the caffeine, decaf should be okay.  Although the chocolate will give you a big enough buzz.

The mocha fudge frosting is something else: 8 ounces bittersweet chocolate, 1/2 cup heavy cream, 1/2 stick unsalted butter, 2 tablespoons light corn syrup and a dash of espresso powder.  Good enough to eat by the bowl.

My Ma was not a baker.  I don't know if she'd been discouraged by a few flops or just didn't like doing the deed.  She just didn't bake.  That doesn't mean we missed out on chocolate cake.  Every Sunday, after Mass, Pop would go to a local Italian bakery.  They had a standing order for him - a half dozen long loaves of Italian bread and 2 iced layer cakes.  Each cake had a maraschino cherry on top, in the center.  We took turns getting the cherries.

After we got home, Pop would slice a loaf horizontally and butter each half.  He'd eat both halves and have a few cups of tea.  We'd all have buttered bread while we waited for Ma to serve Sunday dinner.  That started with broth, to settle the stomach, followed by lasagna and then the main course.  Then we'd have the iced layer cake - 2 out of the 3 of us kids got cherried that Sunday.   

Sedated by the carbs, Pop took a nap after dinner.  A couple of hours later we'd walk to the park, check out the swings and slides, pick up some ice cream cones and walk home.  Then we'd pick at the leftovers before settling down to Ed Sullivan.
Ah, Sunday.

Would I make Chocolate Fudge Sheet Cake again?  Oh, yeah.

Another recipe down.  Fifty-five more to go. 

Saturday, July 3, 2010

We're Not in Debrett's, Either - Being 60 (week 9 - by Margaret Ullrich)

Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip are in Winnipeg today.  No, they're not going for another water taxi ride.  That trip they took in 2002 was enough.  In case you weren't here, that boat broke down mid-river and had to be towed by another boat which was carrying her security detail.  

Paul and I, along with a few hundred people, were waiting for her on the St. Boniface shore.  Some of the youngsters were in their Folklorama costumes.  We were witnesses to History, more or less.  Since there wasn't any real danger, we just watched and, truth be known, giggled a bit about how the best laid plans often go awry. 

She was a good sport about it.  All she said was "That was interesting," as she was helped from one boat into the other to reach shore.

I've always admired Queen Elizabeth.  She's like the Energizer bunny - she just keeps going.  Nothing gets her down.  

Long Live the Queen!!!  

I've been reading Philippa Gregory's books about the Tudors and their extended family.  I've also borrowed a few other books about the Royals from the library, just to get the names and facts straight.  What a bunch!! 

I wonder what it's like to go to a library and see your whole family's history, warts and all, filling the shelves.  No need to bother with for that family.

A few years ago my Pop got interested in our family tree.  He had received a letter telling him that, for a mere $35, he could receive a hard-cover book which was just jam-packed with all the exciting things his family, the Sultanas, had done after they'd arrived in the good old U. S. of A.  

The publishers promised the book would be something we'd treasure and spend many happy hours reading.

Yeah, right.

The thing is, our family hasn't been in America all that long.  Pop's brothers had come over about 10 years before we did.  They hadn't done anything famous or notorious.  After a few glasses of wines, all their tales were told, twice.

I don't know what Pop expected to find in that book. 

What he got was a phone book listing of all the Sultanas in America.  No mention if any were our third cousins or shared any of our great, great, great-grandparents.     

After reading about everything the Plantagenets and the Tudors had done to each other according to the Gregory books and the History books, I came to a conclusion.

Maybe it's best not to know.