It is always great showing close family and friends around where we live – letting them see all the places we have talked about on the phone or email, showing them the quirks and characteristics of the country, introducing them to tastes of the nation. Not only is it lovely to show them and share with them all these things, but I think it also helps when they can visualize where we live, and then when we are talking about what we have been doing they can picture it in their mind rather than there being a blank space. So wether T or I are talking about the walk to the metro stop when it's minus 20 outside which they walked when it was plus 20 degrees; finding some exotic vegetable in the local market they visited; or treating ourselves to a slice of that morish cake from the bakery around the corner they have sampled, it brings us closer to them in a way I think.
Skype, email and other communication apps are great for providing snapshots, but as of yet they can’t transport the smells and the feeling of a place.
So as pleased as I am to see mum and her friend, I am glad to have her out here in Canada for the above reason as well.
They arrived last Thursday, the hottest day of the year so far, a huge contrast to the temperatures they had been experiencing in the north of England of late. On Friday as they struggled with the cloud of fatigue that is jet lag, they also had to cope with temperatures of 30 degrees which felt like 38 with the humidity.
They kindly bought along some presents with an English flavour:
- A bottle of our favourite brand of whiskey, which we cannot find out here.
- Polos! Poor Mum had an issue of crossed wires with the customs lady upon arriving in Canada who, when mum declared the mints at border control, thought she meant polo shirts, and so then instructed mum to declare the value in Canadian Dollars. This then confused mum as she didn't think she would have to declare the cost of a couple of packets of polos...
Drum roll please...
- Branston Pickle! (It's the simple things!)
This leads me nicely on to the topic of chutney, whilst I go and show our visitors the great sights of Montreal and the surrounding area over the next few days:
You can get a chutney out here, in the form of mango chutney. Apart from that, it seems to be all about the relish, predominantly hot dog relish or burger relishes, and the ones I have tried so far have been too sweet and not packing enough punch for my taste.
Of course, the spicy condiment is available in the shops specializing in English delicacies, but at over CAN$8 for a small jar of chutney; I just cannot bring myself to justify the price.
As a result, sandwiches were looking as though they would be bare during our stint in Montreal.
I remember helping my gran make it every year in an effort to use up the windfall apples which had fallen from the apple trees in her orchard. She would root around her kitchen cupboards and whatever she found lurking behind the OXO cubes and crumbling box of baking powder would go into the preserving pan (which was nearly as big as she was). Sprinkling in a various assortment of her finds of spices and herbs, in addition to raisins, brown sugar, the apples and of course, vinegar, it would then bubble away for hours, the pungent smell making everyone’s eyes water. Days after it had been put and sealed in jam jars the house would still smell of vinegar, but we were left with delicious chutney for the rest of the year.
Mum also makes her own chutneys, so I have no excuse not to carry on the family tradition...
All that, and the chutney was OK, but it wasn’t the tastiest I have eaten so I had to find a new recipe this time around.
I found not one, but two recipes in the end: beetroot and orange, and courgette (zucchini) and red pepper. I couldn’t pick which to make first, so I decided to make them both rather than prolong the whole house smelling experience.
Venturing down to the store which sells cheap vegetables, I regretted not waiting for a day where I have T and the car; as my arms were stretched from the weight of all the vegetables, in addition to two bottles of vinegar. That was one very long twenty minute walk back home! Once I had recovered from the trek, with a coffee, I set to work.
I dyed my hands red whilst cutting the beetroot – the recipe suggested using rubber gloves but I didn’t have any. I tried putting a plastic food bag over my hands but it proved to be more cumbersome and made it harder to work, so I got frustrated and chucked it away.With the beetroot bubbling away, I prepared the ingredients for the other chutney.
I had been thinking about making it for a while, so I was therefore prepared; and I had an array of empty jam and coffee jars in which to pour my condiments. I had started to wonder if I was becoming a hoarder as I filled the drawer with these vessels ‘for a rainy day’ but no, they came in very useful.
WIth it poured into the jars, I had to make an emergency phone call to England. I was used to using the plastic wrapping from cereal packets, but I had none. The cereal container was full, and there were no new boxes of cereal in the apartment. I didn’t want to venture outside again…
I did have a roll of baking parchment and wondered if it would it be OK. I was reassured by mum it would be OK. Phew.
Four hours later, complete with sore arms, purple hands and an apartment smelling of vinegar – a cold apartment, as I had opened the windows to try and get the smell out – I had six jars of colourful looking stuff.
But finally six weeks passed, and the jars were ready.
I carefully peeled away the greaseproof layer.
No mould, which is always a good start! It smelt OK, and tasted good too – result! The courgette and red pepper one was especially popular, and T and M managed to get through half a jar in a day…
Better get back to making another batch…