It struck me this morning that any random cluster of three-in-a-row subject lines in your email inbox, or tweets in your Twitter feed, can make a cool, conceptual framework to jumpstart some creative fun. An art project, say, whether you’re a Whistler Secondary student gearing up for a virtual art show, or a creative soul with your eye on Arts Whistler’s popular Teeny Tiny Show—where size does matter.
Or maybe you’re part of Whistler’s writers group looking for a structural device as random as patterns in a sandbank to hang a piece of fiction on.
Either way, or both, here’s the three-in-a-row I stumbled on while snooping around for some inspiration for whatever I was going to write about this week—a week in the midst of the last lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer when all a girl, or boy, wants to do is have fun.
“Opinion Today: What happened to fun?”; “Just one more summer fling?”; and “Can you I.D. plovers on sight?”
Honestly! Those three consecutive subject lines in my inbox kicked off this column, compliments of The New York Times; Ten Thousand Villages (a great place to shop, if you must shop, as it supports craftspeople around the world); and the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, which has the best website for identifying birds. And, yes, all three were posed as rhetorical questions. How perfect is that?
But what really got me going was that all three, especially that New York Times piece, were urging me to get the hell out of my hellishly hot office and back outside to soak up more summer fun before you-know-what hits.
“In a culture that is obsessed with work, in which even the act of rest had somehow become a thing to optimize or make productive, we need fun,” writes the Times’ opinion contributing editor, Jessica Bennett. She goes on to describe how virtually every aspect of contemporary life—even supposedly relaxing or socializing—has been smothered in a blanket of achieving, hustling, making and over-achieving.
Nobody seems to be able to just hang out or veg anymore. We’re always busy “doing” not “being”—and the pandemic only made it worse as everybody wrestles to keep the black dogs of depression at bay with endless elaborate recipes and way too many, too-happy Zoom “quarantini” sessions.
It’s something Whistler naturalist Kristina Swerhun and I talked about in this column space way back in March 2020, when the pandemic was just hitting home. “Whistlerites are out in nature all the time, but so much of the time, they’re not paying attention to it, and that’s very different. They’ve got their earbuds in, and they’re running or just screaming down the trail…” she said.
So let’s all stop over-achieving in nature, and in the kitchen, especially in the middle of the dog days of summer.
No handmade soba noodles or duck pâté en croûte in this house. As for that last item, its reputation as one of the hardest things to make earned it top spot on a saveur.com list of challenging recipes, which also came out near the start of the pandemic.
To counter, here’s my list of the easiest fun meals to make, anytime: Open-face peanut butter and banana sandwiches garnished with little dollops of your favourite jams (mix them up!). Delicious ripe melon chunks with plain yogurt and/or vanilla ice cream. And in the No. 1 spot—porridge! More specifically, this gorgeous Jamaican porridge that I heard chef Adrian Forte describe on CBC radio’s The Current.
It takes only two minutes to prep! Easy to make and fragrantly delicious anytime, hot or cold. But have even more fun with it. Try listening to the segment then whipping it up from memory, like I did. Now that was cool! Adrian is so encouraging about using substitutes and being flexible, he’ll fill you with confidence (like I used very little condensed milk). But, just in case, here’s the recipe.
As for that Teeny Tiny Show, where every piece of wonderous artwork for sale is 3” x 3”, you’d better get crackin’. It’s coming up fast, Sept. 1 through Oct. 29 at the Maury Young Arts Centre in beautiful Whistler Village.
And if you’re curious, there are some rare, beautiful Pacific golden-plovers around right now, way south in Boundary Bay.
Now let’s get ourselves outside!
Adrian Forte’s amazing Jamaican porridge
1 c. fine cornmeal
1 c. full-fat coconut milk
1 c. pineapple juice
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. ground allspice
1 tsp. ground nutmeg
1 cinnamon stick
1 c. condensed milk
1 tsp. vanilla
In a medium saucepan, combine the cornmeal, coconut milk, pineapple juice, salt, allspice, nutmeg and cinnamon stick. Heat on medium, stirring with a whisk to avoid clumping. Cook until it thickens to a porridge-like consistency, about 10 minutes. Add the condensed milk and vanilla, cook for 30 seconds more, then remove from heat. Serve with fresh pineapple chunks and a sprinkle of ground cinnamon.
Glenda Bartosh is an award-winning journalist who thinks porridge is so delicious, nutritious—and cheap!—you can easily have it three meals a day.