Wednesday’s Words of Wisdom (And Whimsy)

Posted on November 30, 2022 under Wednesday’s Words of Wisdom with one comment

Hot out of the oven.


“Man shall not live by bread alone.”

Old Testament – Book of Deuteronomy

One of the vagaries of living in a remote, fly-in community is that, from time to time, there are food shortages in the grocery store. Because we are totally reliant on air cargo in the winter months, when you get several days of poor weather back to back, the result is empty shelves at the grocery store. Like a good boy scout or girl guide, one always has to “be prepared” for these eventualities. Last week, there was a shortage of cash in the village for a number of days, which is in interesting story in itself for another day. The good boy scout in me took enough cash with me from Nova Scotia a few months ago to last me until Christmas. Truth be told, it wasn’t that much cash because I don’t need cash very often.

I digress.

Two events collided a few weeks ago which left the grocery store shelves bereft of many items, including bread. First was the weather. No flights arrived or left the village for four consecutive days. The local Co-op store periodically holds a “30% off everything in the store” sale. This event coincided with the bad weather and all of a sudden there was not a scrap of bread to be found in the village. Our second grocery store, The Northern, which also houses the post office and a couple of ATM machines, quickly ran out of many staples as well, including bread.

Now, I want to make it clear, that having no bread does not constitute a crisis. After all, most of us keep a supply of bread “heels” in our refrigerator freezer and once every 10 years, when the power goes out, we are forced to clean our freezers. This is when we throw out freezer burned, ice coated crusts of bread. It is a good idea not to check the “best before” date on these ancient loaves. Shaming is such an “in” things these days.

I have a very loyal following and from time to time, they take pity on me. In a recent post, I mentioned the paucity of bread. I quite like the word paucity because it kind of describes many things about my life in the north this time around. In that same post, I mentioned that when I came to the north on very short notice, I took the clothes on my back, a bit of bedding and enough ground coffee to fill Wakeham Bay. I eschewed all of the other necessities of life including most items that one might find in the kitchen of a pauper. Through some well- timed groveling, I was able to scrounge up just enough kitchen ware so as not to humiliate myself. Yes, I learned to eat with my hands in India and that was always an option, but for esthetics, I procured one knife, one fork and one spoon. It is obvious that I didn’t plan to do a whole lot of entertaining. “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner”? No one!

My lamentations about the bread crisis were not a cry for help. It was a cry for carbs. Several thousands of kilometers away, a friend heard this cry and decided to take matters into her own hands.

At the end of last week, I fell ill and spent two days at home, with most of the time spent not far from the bathroom. We all know that the only thing worse than a “man cold” is a full blown “man sickness”. As I lay writhing and moaning on my couch, watching Sons of Anarchy, there was a gentle knock on my door. Because it was recess at the school, I reckoned that it was a student coming to check on me. Hauling my sorry ass off the chesterfield, I made it to the front door (men do heroic things even in the face of life-threatening gastro sickness) and there stood my colleague, Catherine, cradling a small parcel.

Do you remember the first time you left home, when your mom would send you a care package with homemade chocolate chip cookies, a $5.00 bill and maybe some clean underwear? Sure you do. There’s nothing quite as thrilling as mail from home… even when you’re 71. Especially when you’re 71. Just being 71 is thrilling.

Despite my fragile state (you know that I’m having a bit of fun with my malady), I was able to unwrap the heavily taped box to reveal the following items: one set of bright red measuring cups, parchment paper, a very small baking sheet, a bag of premixed biscuit ingredients, baking instructions, a bag of homemade granola (man’s best friend next to a dog), and a small box filled with individually wrapped balls of chocolate.

Despite the continuous roiling in my intestines, I was able to force down a few pieces of chocolate and immediately felt better – at least psychologically.

I was far too slack (cue some pathetic music) to make the biscuits and actually, in order to complete the task, I needed to purchase exactly one ingredient: heavy cream (whipping cream). Now whipping cream sightings in the north can be as rare as sightings of the Loch Ness monster in Scotland. In previous stints in the north, I had all of my baking supplies with me and very often made cream pies. Finding whipping cream required stealth and intel. I would often ask the manager of the Co-op when he expected a new shipment of dairy products.

Last Saturday morning, I was feeling much better. The chocolates had worked their magic. I decided that I would make the biscuits. There was a blizzard howling outside but when there’s baking to be done, nothing will stop a person from getting the necessary ingredients. The bad news was that my quest that morning was made much more difficult as the bigger of the two grocery stores, the Co-op, was doing inventory and was closed for the day. My only option was The Northern Store, and their dairy section is very limited in space and scope. I was shocked, delighted, flabbergasted (insert your own descriptive word) to find one, 473 ml carton of whipping cream sitting forlornly on the shelf. My immediate reaction was to call the Vatican and report a miracle. I verily skipped through the snowdrifts knowing that hot biscuits were just a few steps away.

Before I could start preparing the recipe, I looked at the instructions. Under the headings “Things you will need”, I saw that a mixing bowl might be useful. You astute observers would know that among my prized kitchen ware, I did not have a mixing bowl. On my scavenger hunt when I arrived, I had managed to secure a small pot for boiling water for my coffee and a larger pot for everything else. I looked at the contents of the biscuit mix and quickly applied the laws of physics and realized that the small pot was not an option unless I planned to spend the rest of the weekend making biscuits one at a time. “Warm the whipping cream to body temperature and add to the mixture’. With no thermometer in sight to take my temperature, I simply gently warmed the whipping cream.

Mercifully, the recipe didn’t require a hand mixer, but I did need something to stir in the body- temperature- warmed whipping cream. I possessed exactly one spoon which made my decision somewhat academic. I cranked up Gordon Lightfoot’s Canadian Railroad Trilogy and merrily mixed the batter.

I carefully laid out the parchment paper on my teeny, tiny perfect baking sheet, and started scooping out the batter in 1/3 cup allotments. The recipe had suggested that I use Pam cooking spray in the measuring cup (one of 5 red beauties included in my care package). When I was at The Northern, I spotted a can of Pam and, with the discount, paid $11.39 for a 110 gram can. I reckoned polar bear spray was cheaper, but I wasn’t going to be a cheapskate.

Everything went swimmingly and I ended up with a lovely batch of warm biscuits. They were quite large so I decided that my lunch would be a biscuit and cheese… and a few chocolate balls.

How would I possibly manage the cleanup? After all, I had used one pot, one spoon and one measuring cup but a chef never leaves his kitchen dirty. I reckon the cleanup took all of three minutes with two of those minutes to fill the sink with warm, soapy water. I use exactly the same dishes every single day so doing dishes in the evening before going to bed is my own version of Groundhog Day.

Based on the raging success of my biscuit making, I wondered if I might become the next Mary Janet MacDonald, host of the very popular online cooking show in Nova Scotia called “Tunes and Wooden Spoons”.

I think not.

Maybe if I’m a good boy, Santa will bring me an Easy Bake Oven for Christmas.

Have a great weekend.


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