‘Tis the season, for... Well, baking and cooking, and cooking and baking, may well top the list.
We pretty much love all kinds of homemade goodies this time of year, and unless you’re the staunchest of Zen Buddhists or simply let everyone else knock their socks off and do the work, you might find yourself getting a little worked up this time of year.
My advice: Don’t. Don’t fuss, don’t fret, and especially don’t get all steamed up if you make a mistake or run out of time and the guests are knocking on the door.
If the tales below are any indication, chances are it will all turn out better than ever. Even if it doesn’t, remember—the age of Perfect Polly Homemaker is long gone and you’ll have a good laugh or, as Max points out, below, just head out for dinner. (We’re apparently still working on the Perfect Paul trope, but I’m hoping this is one worn-out cultural stereotype that doesn’t transfer any further down the line.)
The idea for this column lies squarely at the feet of one of my best pals from Whistler. We stopped by for a cosy afternoon visit not long ago, and she’d whipped up a pumpkin loaf to use up that last bit of pumpkin left over from Thanksgiving.
The house smelled delicious, and as we all dove in she cautioned she’d accidentally grabbed both baking powder and baking soda from the pantry in a moment of distraction. (“I was talking or listening to the radio at the same time.”) In went the baking soda, but once she realized it should have been baking powder (or vice versa, life’s too short to dig out the recipe and check) she put that in, too, effectively doubling the leavening.
The result? One of the best pumpkin loaves ever! Nice and light; a beautiful texture packed with flavour.
On that encouraging note, here are a few more “happy accidents” and ideas on how to deal with them, all from locals and all of them authentic, to use Merriam-Webster Dictionary’s word of the year for 2023—no doubt in light of A.I. and all the other sub-par entities trying to write and create.
HERE’S TO PIE IN YOUR EYE!
“As a pie lover, I’m always pretty amped on autumn because it’s a chance to dust off my old pumpkin pie recipe. I remember a few years ago I was in a rush (surprise, surprise) and bought condensed milk instead of evaporated milk, so of course the four pies I made were waaaaayyyy too sweet—diabetic levels of sweet. The silver lining (and there almost always is one if you aren’t afraid to look) was that this meant my eight-year-old son and I got to go out into the yard and have a legitimate pie fight.
“Few things get a kid amped like smashing a full, warm pie into his father’s face. I had to redo all the pies, but we built some core memories that would never have happened otherwise.”
-Feet Banks: ex-hay farmer, longtime local and one of my favourite film reviewers/makers and writers, and not only because he doesn’t believe in social media. Feet is also the creator of the online zine Pie Quarterly. (Definitely “not for minors, pearl-clutchers, or the weak-willed and easily offended,” so sign up for it now!) His pumpkin pie recipe is first in the list of recipes. Feet also had a not-so-happy accident once while trying to elevate the crust for same to a butter lemon cardamom one, but messed up converting Imperial measurements to metric, effectively doubling the butter. Oops… crust soup.
WHEN IN DOUBT, DOUBLE DOWN
“Not too long ago, an older ‘friend’ of a certain vintage presented a lovely looking bocconcini salad to her guests. Everyone dug in only to find out that she had substituted the balsamic vinegar with soy sauce because, quote, she was out of vinegar and they look the same. When one guest seriously balked at the taste and the generally dubious thinking, the hostess fired back, ‘Ya, well, I prefer it this way.’ She’s an awesome but stubborn lady—the bocconcini soy sauce special still shows up.”
-Mo Douglas: longtime supporter of arts, culture and tourism at Whistler and current executive director of Arts Whistler at the Maury Young Arts Centre.
DECADENCE BY A DESPERADO
“It was late, I was alone, jonesing, no—willing to kill for chocolate. The only thing I could find was a handful of chocolate chips, not particularly appealing, although it wouldn’t have been the first time I’d resorted to that option. Staring into the fridge, as though by staring I’d conjure up something, I spotted an aerosol container of whipped cream someone had brought over for a dessert and left behind.
“I put the chocolate chips in a coffee mug, added a few drops of milk and nuked ‘em for 30 seconds. Stirred, added a few more drops of milk, nuked it for another 15 seconds. Stirred until smooth, adding a bit more milk to the point it was still thick but a bit fluid, then popped it into the freezer for about six minutes to cool it down a little. Shot some of the whipped cream in, stirred frantically, added more whipped cream, more stirring, more cream, more stirring until I had about half a mug of semi-solid, chocolatey-looking stuff. Back in the freezer for five minutes. Took it out and tried it.
“Heavenly. Instant chocolate mousse. Or, if you prefer, Desperation Chocolate Mousse.”
-G.D. “Max” Maxwell: Pique’s inimitable columnist who always has the last word, and once so over-salted a one-pot “put the paper to bed” meal for Bob Barnett and other Piquers of the day that, after two bites, they just went out for dinner.
Glenda Bartosh is an award-winning journalist who bids a fond farewell to another longtime Piquer, Brandon Barrett—who’s happily been a part of this newsmagazine for years, and whose talent is no accident.