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Hot Toddy’s and Pillar Box Red

I’m not sure what it’s like in your house right now but I have sniffly noses and coughs and a generally need to get tucked back into bed.    There is a perpetual running to the drug store, trying to find the appropriate medicine.  When really I know the thing that will get me sleep, enter the Hot Toddy.

A million years ago, in what has become family legend, my sister lay on the couch for days with what was likely bronchitis and I cured her with a Hot Toddy.  My sisters and I were always getting sick with chest colds, don’t ask me why.   It would ruin our sleep most of all, as we sat up and hacked the night through. So there Crista lay, half-dead on the couch, exhausted from coughing and lack of sleep and I wanted to help.

Not weeks before I’d been to Chez Piggy (have I mentioned that I grew up in Kingston…).   Now this was the younger version of  me, unsure of what to ‘drink’ and I was into the ‘specialty coffee’ phase of my drinking life.  The menu at the Pig has lots of warm drinks to choose from but I had decided to order the Toddy.  At the time, it was a Hot Buttered Rum Toddy, today they serve a Brandy toddy.   I completely fell for it.  It wasn’t overly sweet, it was dark, spicy and totally new.  I loved the pure Victorian charm of the Toddy, especially the hot buttered rum version placed steaming in my hands.   It was instantly put into my repertoire.

Back to Crista (still half dead on the couch)… and my effort to ‘help’ her.  Armed with my new found enthusiasm for the Toddy, I remembered something about it having healing properties and let me tell you I learned that it can be a balm when applied judiciously.  I decided to call down to Chez Piggy and I nervously asked for the bartender,

“Hello, I was wondering if you could give me the recipe for that… um, Toddy drink?”  I honestly thought that this whole transaction was illegal in some way, either for a person to be discussing alcohol on the phone or that their recipe was some deep, dark secret that in no way could be shared with the world outside that bar.

The response, “oh yeah, of course…. do you have a pen?  write it down…”

So with recipe in hand, I rifled through my parents meagre booze supply ( I swear they had a bottle of Peach Schnapps for 15 years) and found some Irish whiskey … it was not rum… but my intuition  kicked in that it might be a fair substitute and off I went.   It will be just as good I thought to myself.

And it was, in fact after two that my sister was feeling so very much better that she promptly fell asleep (read passed out) on the couch.   But when she woke up she was on the mend and neither of us has looked back – the toddy is our cure all.

Here’s the thing, at the time, Crista might have been 12.  Needless to say, my parents were mortified and yet they still ask me to make for them.

Toddy’s hit you on all kinds of levels.  The smell is perfect on a cold evening, all citrusy and spicy with the lemons, limes, cloves and cinnamon.  But I also love the heat in my hands.  And this is where mugs come into play.   I saw this mug and thought, Toddy perfection.  It’s bright red colour called out for use.

Did you know that ‘pillar box red’ is a colour?  Because I didn’t… I didn’t even know what a pillar box was.  This is in large part because I’m Canadian, not English or Scottish or Welsh… we don’t have pillar boxes here.   They just aren’t part of my inherent cultural knowledge.  So when I started looking at things I’d like to order from Falcon Enamelware (the larger’s why’s of which I will get to in another story… ) I latched on to this mug for all the reasons mentioned above and not for the reasons my friends overseas might.  So after a wee bit of research, I sent out a request for a picture of the real thing.  Guess what, it’s a post office box.

Regardless, I love a thing that has instant context in your mind.   Now while I think toddy’s, below is what Brits think.   I say, a touchstone is a touchstone.  And either way the mug a lovely piece of enamelware.  It will warm your hands on a chilly night and with a little toddy-joy, it will help heal you of the coughs and sniffles.

Pillar Box

Bourbon – It’s all in the timing with hearts and glass

Suzanne has been writing about Bourbon and Old Fashioned’s. I was lucky enough to have her make one for me last weekend – at the end of a very long week. It was perfect.

Food by the Gearhead's Wife

IMG_2053An Old Fashioned is a manly cocktail – in the courage and strength way.  When it’s properly made (the drink is bastardized far too easily these days), it’s seductive fragrance of vanilla and orange beguiles those first tentative sips before the fiery heel of alcohol kicks the back of your throat.  The drink conjures sepia images of copper stills, back roads in Kentucky and commerce between criminals. The addition of sugar in this drink evolved to increase its palatability when, arriving as it did, like moonshine, at speakeasies during prohibition.  These days, it’s not so rough and the addition of anything sweet should be kept to a minimum!  No crushed sugar cubes please!  No tablespoons of maple syrup.  Let the bourbon sing with only a drop or two of sweet syrup.  No more.  Here’s the recipe I use

Old Fashioned for 1 person 

A scant splash (really – just a…

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(The illusion of) Fame

So Suzanne is one of my oldest friends (she knows where all the bodies are buried) and I when to chef school with Stev… and here they are, together again! Watch the videos at the end… they are CLASSIC! and very good recipes to boot!

Food by the Gearhead's Wife

IMG_4244Everyone wants to be on TV don’t they?  I can answer that question honestly and say that I don’t.  Really. [wife edits: I have a fear of public speaking].  But when a lifelong friend asked me to piggyback on his cooking short spot TV gig I accepted without reservations. At first.

I grew up living next door to Stev George.  Both our families were adventurous about food, both cooking and eating.  Our collective exposure marked us as food explorers and epicures, but neither of us ever suspected how deeply.  When each of us set off to university, he to McGill and a degree with a concentration in linguistics, me to Queen’s and a science degree, neither of us expected that our love of good food would steer us so powerfully back to the kitchen, albeit in different ways.  In Stev’s case, post degree, he trained as a chef at one…

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Pancake Wars – by Suzanne Biro

Food by the Gearhead's Wife

IMG_1803I operate in a frenetic fog.  Not by choice.  It’s the nature of full time work, raising a family [wife edits: I use the verb loosely] and a commitment to feed us all well.  There are times though that my mind crystallizes and I surface with clear sight to question, “what the f*&% is going on here?”  Four days away for work – a little mini vacation from the usual mummy tasks – affords some clarity.

When I returned, entering the front hall, my first thought was, jeez the cleaning lady is doing a dreadful job, I can’t even put my suitcase down without hitting a stray stuffed animal…oh…or the dog.  She should be fired.  Oh right, I’m the cleaning lady.  The children, yes I had missed them, of course, but they clung to me like the suckers of an octopus, releasing the guilt at having been away to seep…

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What was that you wanted to do?

I am, by nature, an ‘idea’ person… I love dreaming up schemes.  Planning fantastic things, telling my friends about my ideas and if I’m really lucky, watching those ideas, schemes come to fruition.

A couple of years ago I had one of these ideas.   I was just coming out of my ‘having babies haze’ (and it is a haze …  it’s amazing what happens when your brain has had some rest; all of a sudden you have ‘ideas’ and the idea that you might have an idea is almost foreign).   I could see the horizon for the first time and I realised that I needed, really needed, something to do, that was not mummy-related; something that was mine.

I am a lover of the internet.  I know its a little obvious but I really love the places it can take me.  It was about the  time, with this idea stirring in my mind, I had fallen for a new-ish site out of New York called KaufmanMercantile.  I love their finds.  I loved their attitude, which I have subsequently adopted, the basic principle ‘things’ should last.       I was also daunted by the fact that while I could order their items online, I had to pay fees (shipping and duty) that almost doubled the cost of the thing that I wanted.  So one day I snapped, and decided to open my own online store.

It has taken time, more time than I imagined.  I’m still busy doing other things, running other projects.  I am still building up inventory, figuring out how to move that inventory, how to sell my finds.  I’ve learned that I may have A LOT TO LEARN (this runs counter to my general state that believes I know almost everything or at least pretend to).   The process has been fun though, and I’ve met great people and forged good friendships.  I now have to force myself to write; something that I love but can always find a way to set aside.  I need to write about the things that I find, the things that I’m inspired by, the things I want to tell you about, to bring to you.FB_banner2

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