Friday, November 27, 2009

Saint Chef?

I was curious, having asked myself an obscure yet burning question.... who is the patron saint of chefs? Afterall, Saint Isidore is the saint of farmers, Saint Honoratus, for whom the spectacular French dessert known as a Saint-Honoré is named, is patron saint of pastry chefs. It turns out that it is St.Lawrence, and he watches over chefs but more specifically, he watches out for the chefs at the 'Q and for gruesome reasons.
Lawrence lived in the Roman times, more than 1800 years ago. According to legend, when Lawrence was asked by Emperor Valerian, who ruled from 253 - 260 AD, to bring forth the Church's treasures he brought forth the orphaned, crippled and diseased of the kingdom and announced that "These are the treasures of the Church!" This act of defiance resulted in the public torture and execution of Lawrence on the site of the Basilica di San Lorenzo in Rome by means of "grilling to death." Legend says that he was so strong-willed that instead of giving in to the Romans and releasing information about the Church, at the point of death he exclaimed "Turn me over. I am done on this side!" For this reason Saint Lawrence has been deemed the Patron Saint of Chefs and specifically those who cook on barbeques. In religious art he is often depicted holding a metal grill to memorialize his martyrdom.
It has been an unusually mild November, we've really been blessed with the weather in fact. I do BBQ year round, never putting the grill away and often having an uneasy feeling that I am somehow single-handedly responsible for global warming. The next time you find yourself releasing extreme heat, smoke and delicious aromas directly into the atmosphere, raise your glass in honour to St.Lawrence and be thankful that the biggest threat of our day is
only climate change. Photo by

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Something from Nothing

Between shopping for shoots and shopping for a family with three kids, a dog and two parents - I find myself in grocery stores frequently, very frequently.  It has certainly happened that after a day in a studio working certain foods, I never want to see them again.  OK, maybe not never ever but just not for a long time. There is a correlation between the time spent with the said food and the amount of time that can pass before you might consider eating it again. I estimate that it is about one month for every day of working intensely with that food.  I remember working on a TV commercial for five days, and for five days I made lasagna.  I did not want to see, smell or eat lasagna for six months. When work is busy, and the food diversified - my personal menu options get drastically reduced.  
Sometimes shoots have good leftovers, and if they are food-safe and not in twenty kilo packs I am usually game. I might MacGyver some of these items into a week night family meal, when time is of the essence and short cuts are appreciated.  A friend of mine once called me "Kitchen MacGyver", a compliment I think, in the fact that I could conjure up a meal from relatively slim pickings.  This skill came from passing summers at a log cabin with no electricity, a hand pump and very basic propane appliances. This talent has come in handy as a parent and has proved very helpful as a food stylist. Being able to deconstruct and rebuild on set is essential, and sometimes the craziest solutions yield the best results.

I came across a food quote worthy of sharing the other day and it is credited to the Duchess of Windsor: "If you accept a dinner invitation, you have a moral obligation to be amusing."

Bon appétit tout le monde!      

Photo credits: roasted chicken leg by, shrimp & mushrooms by

Friday, November 13, 2009

Genus Allium (a.k.a Garlic!)

Garlic has always been one of my favorite food groups, a fact that has been known about me for quite a while. Before getting married, friends and family got together and threw a surprise bridal shower in my honour, and the cake was in the shape of a gigantic head of garlic!  I have incorporated garlic into all kinds of food, you name - I tried it: the 40 clove garlic chicken, roasted heads as individual appetizers, soup and so much more.  I love it roasted, fried, raw and caramelized.  Friends were recently telling me how they have breaded and deep fried some cloves and the results were outstanding.
I have decided to take some kind of control and ownership of my garlic habit and plant some now, in November, and await the pungent but tender green shoots come Spring and the gorgeous full heads in the Fall.  Reputable sources are saying that it is not too late nor too cold.  I have some tasty Ontario garlic that I plan to put to the test. 
In ancient times, Virgil declared garlic to be "essential to maintain the strength of the harvesters."  The great pyramid at Giza is inscribed with words of wisdom regarding the garlic ingested for extra strength and good health by the men who built it.   I can vouch for the fact that I am healthy and strong and have never had an encounter with a vampire, thanks garlic.

Monday, November 2, 2009


Another All Hallow's Eve has come and gone, and surprisingly enough - without tears!  Maybe it is because the kids are just that much older, maybe it was because school and Halloween did take place on the same day - but whatever the reason, I was relieved.

We live in a neighbourhood that LOVES Halloween, houses go all out in terms of decor and the kids are really well received.  We had a few people over, the youngest was a seven month old bumble bee - though she was sleeping during prime trick or treating time.  

Of the kids who did go out we had a too-shy-to-wear-a-costume two year old, a 3 year old Spiderman, an eight year Indiana Jones-ish man, two eleven year olds - an Al Capone look alike and a camo SWAT soldier, and finally two thirteen year olds in bright pink Indian Princess get-up.   They actually gave out much more that they collected.
My husband started a tradition a few years ago with turning the pumpkins into tiki-torches.  A roll of toilet paper soaked in kerosene for twenty-fours hours provides the wick, and the carved pumpkin - the venue.  It is quite something to see.
I had fun coming up with a few Halloween themed treats for our gang.  I happened upon a bat-shaped cookie cutter at the Shoppe At The (Riverdale) Farm, and knew that I had to have it.  I made a chocolate sugar cookie dough and pressed in black granulated sugar and those tiny coloured sugar ball for eyes prior to baking.  I also made some severed fingers and decorated them with black nail polish, which was a runny royal icing coloured with black food paste. 
Our youngest told his father that he should really start thinking now about a better costume for next year because he has worn the same false teeth and wig for four years running.  Another Halloween has come and gone and fun was had by all.     
Thanks to Brian Summers, for the photos.