Neglected… that’s how my little blog has been feeling. No “stories” since August and the last new recipe was in November! Most readers will know that is because of my new gig as restaurant reviewer for The Hamilton Spectator.
I’m determined to get back to blogging and this entry is prompted by a special occasion. February 7 – Kitchen Bliss is 4 years old!
In four years Kitchen Bliss has shared 162 recipes and 51 stories. A year ago many of you had great comments on my Dinner Party reflections. Two years ago it was all about the secrets to happiness with reference to social media being dominated by the hashtag #f*ck2016. (Really!? We thought 2016 was a bad year?)
This is a terrible time to be a political junkie. Humour may be the best antidote.
This post will also have to serve as a (belated) Happy New Year greeting. The year flew by – they all fly by. 2019 will mark seven years since I retired – not hard to remember that number - it has also been seven years since my Dad died. He’d be 92. He always liked “a good feed” and it would have been fun if he could have been my dining date for a restaurant review!
Resto reviewer sounds like a dream job – the fun of eating out and reconnecting with friends who offer to be dining partners. But, true to form, I have stepped up to the plate and proved that for each weekly review I can make the work expand to fill more time than one would imagine, or hope for.
I have to figure out where to go – aiming for some balance of resto type and location. Do some research on the resto and the chef or owner. Drive and dine. Do a post-dining interview, and then write. In the words of the Food Editor – “Just barf out the first draft and go from there.” So, that’s kind of what I do and I always end up with 1200-1400 words which must then be cut back to 800. All those lovely words falling to the floor… I’m learning to not become too attached to any of them. Then there’s photo editing and the paper trail to keep myself organized. It’s been a “full circle” life activity. I am back to earning 75 cents per hour – my wage when at age 15 I first began working as a “duster” in Sherwood Drugstore. (Do they even hire people to be dusters anymore??)
I have passed my probation period and have no idea how long this will last. I already know that once it’s over the best part will have been the people. It is startling and heartwarming, week after week, chatting with young entrepreneurs who love Hamilton and see it as a thriving, happening kind of place. So much of my life has focused on Burlington, Oakville, Toronto and New York. Now I am re-discovering my hometown at a time when there are exciting changes.
If you’ve read any of my reviews you’ll know that each week I hunt for the story behind the restaurant. I love stories, and story-telling. In The Faraway Nearby, Rebecca Solnit says “We tell ourselves stories in order to live… We think we tell stories but stories often tell us, tell us to love or to hate, to see or to be blind.” Telling stories about food - and those who passionately prepare it - is often about love and seeing things anew.
The unexpected resto gig has helped me keep on track with many of the so-called secrets to successful retirement. Stay busy, be a lifelong learner, give back, get social. A world that was shrinking has suddenly become bigger – eating out weekly, exploring new places and cuisines, sometimes re-connecting with people I’ve not seen in years, and forging new relationships with people of varying ages. Inter-generational experiences are, as promised, good for you. Researching for some reviews sends me down rabbit holes learning new things. And opportunities for giving back pop up. Just this week I was a judge for Hamilton’s 17th fundraising SoupFest. Fun – but after tasting 20 soups I don’t want to see soup for a wee bit.
I remain humble about this role as a reviewer, and hold no illusions that I personally am “an influencer”. But people do seem to read the GO section of the paper and more than one resto has been in touch with me saying that they have had their best day, or best month ever of sales. That’s got to be a good thing, right?
Let me take this opportunity to thank all who have sent along kind words about the reviews. That’s always appreciated – though never consider it a compulsory reading assignment!
One last bit of trivia. There is little room in this house for another kitchen toy, but… we just got one. No, not an Instant Pot – so far, resistance on that front has not been futile. With our annual sausage making day coming up, we got a vacuum sealer to prevent freezer burn on the frozen sausages - or any frozen thing - because… well… check out the cartoon. Say no more.
I always end a blog with a recipe. Here’s my recipe for the famous, iconic Hungarian confection – Zserbó Szelet. In all honesty, I suspect few of you will make it, but it will be waiting online for the day that someone else in the family wants to re-create this sweet that has been part of Xmas memories.
[PS. I have been sharing links to the resto reviews via my newsletters. Subscribe to them here. I promise one day soon I’ll add links to the Resto Page in my site – another section that has been neglected.]
There are blossoms on the west coast – 40 days to Spring!