Sunday, February 28, 2016

2 pianos 4 hands brings back musical memories

No matter how hard I try, I can't seem to get out of the habit of doing a roast for Sunday dinner. The only difference is that nowadays, I usually serve Sunday dinner on Saturday. William works the overnight shift every Saturday night – his shift starts at 11:00 p.m. – so I like to serve a late dinner which is both substantial and a little special.

This past weekend, I did a lovely pork tenderloin. Here it is:

For a little change and to add some extra pizzazz, I opened it up and added stuffing. That stuffing was the highlight of the meal. I made it by finely chopping celery, red onion, garlic, black and green olives and capers. I mixed all that with some bread crumbs and to hold it all together and add another layer of flavour, I added some olive oil and a dollop of moutarde avec figues (oui, mustard with figs.)

It was very well-received. I served it with green beans and carrots and rice cooked in a herby vegetable stock.

There was enough left over for a second meal so it turned out there was Sunday dinner on Sunday after all. For its second go-round, we had it with noodles tossed with tomatoes, garlic, basil, olive oil and cheese – just as I described right here. We also had Caesar Salad and fresh biscuits.

On Sunday afternoon, we went to the theatre to see 2 pianos 4 hands. It's a play that's been around since 1994 but somehow, I've never been in the right place at the right time to see it and it's always been one of my theatrical regrets.

Ted Dykstra and Richard Greenblatt wrote the play and are also the names of the characters, even though they're now played by different actors. In the production we saw, Ted and Richard were played by Richard Todd Adams and Bryce Kulak.

It's an account of what both fellows went through from childhood through young adulthood in their experiences with piano lessons and their piano teachers. It's very funny and there's lots of nice piano music too.

Some of their experiences took me back to my own piano lessons in Chatham, NB. I wrote about them here and of course, I'd be delighted if you dropped over and had a look.

Saturday, February 27, 2016

The morning after makes it all worthwhile

I could just leave it at that — a photo of a bottle of marmalade, gleaming in the sun, the finished product of a satisfying kitchen task.

It would send the wrong message though. Making marmalade is a big, time-consuming job, hardly worth doing if it wasn't so delicious spread on your toast the morning after.

Marmalade is made with Seville oranges which aren't always readily available. There's usually a fairly short window of opportunity for snagging them and sometimes, it involves stalking the stores so you don't miss them if it happens to be a small shipment. Dan found them this year at Pete's Frootique, the lovely market in downtown Halifax (also in Bedford) where you can often find unique and unusual fruits and vegetables.

Seville oranges have tough, usually quite nubbly, thick skin and they're chock-full of seeds. They're bitter. They look like other oranges but they're not.

Marmalade is bitter by nature but even still, you don't want the bitterness of pith. I use a vegetable peeler to strip the orange zest — and the zest of one lemon. Try to get as little of the white as possible

After the peeling comes the juicing. You'll be struck when you open a Seville orange by how ugly it is. All seeds and membrane and unpleasant colour. In spite of that, there's lots of juice. You strain the juice through a sieve to catch all the seeds and pulp and then you pull out all the membranes and put them with seeds and pulp in a square of cheesecloth and make a little bag.

The bag goes into the pot of juice with the chopped peel. The seeds, membranes and pulp contain a lot of the natural pectin and that's what will thicken your marmalade.

You have to boil this until the peel becomes squishy; meanwhile, you're pressing on the cheesecloth to get as much pectin out of that stuff as possible. You'll know when it's time to add your sugar and begin the serious cooking.

I did everything right (pretty sure) but in spite of my best efforts, the mixture didn't gel. I tried the trick (at Dan's gentle suggestion) of putting the small plate in the freezer, then dropping some of the hot mixture on its coldness to see what would happen. As the cooking progressed, the mixture seemed to get a little thicker but when I poured some into a prepared bottle, it was way too liquid.

I was still cooking and stirring, way after midnight.

Finally, running out of time and energy and with no one around to sit in judgment, I went to the pickling and preserving drawer and found a small box of Cert-o with a package inside that had only been partly used. I felt vindicated because once I had done it, it wasn't as if I'd used a whole box of Cert-o. I used only a small part of a package! I stirred it in and within minutes, I was — with some relief — filling my bottles.

And here they are:

They're quite different from the last batch I made, in 2014. This year's batch is darker. Maybe the oranges were different; maybe the longer cooking time darkened the sugar; maybe the sugar itself — an organic unrefined sugar which is a little darker than the usual refined sugar — made the difference.

It's lovely though. There was a little bowl left as a taster. . .

. . .and I had it on my toast this morning.

Very good. I'm giving it a passing grade.

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Art: reminding us of Life

I've seen a lot of movies in the last several months. I assumed by the time the Oscars came around, I'd have seen most of the ones that matter.

Not so though. The Oscars will be handed out this coming weekend and even though they nominate more films than they used to, I still fall short.

Of the eight films nominated for best picture, I've seen three.

The eight are:

The Big Short

Bridge of Spies

Brooklyn

Mad Max: Fury Road

The Martian

The Revenant

Room

Spotlight

The three are:

Brooklyn

Spotlight

And The Big Short

I'm not sure any of it matters any more as The Revenent is, apparently, going to clean up.

I didn't see The Revenent by choice. I had read and heard too much about it. It's grisly; it's brutal, unflinching, raw. It didn't sound as if it were made for me.

One of the most powerful pieces I read about it was written by an Indigenous woman, Sasha LaPointe, Coast Salish/Nooksack, and was titled ‘Bring Me The Girl’: Why ‘The Revenant’ was Hard for My Friends and Me.

Powaqa’s face is empty as she is violated, as the French captain stands behind her, as she is shoved against the tree. Her face is wiped of any emotion. I have goosebumps and feel lightheaded when I think of it, the absence of fantasy. There is no Hollywood, choreographed rape scene. No big fight, no shrieking, no scratching, no scrambling to get free. There is only the reality of that expression. Those dead and empty eyes. The face of a woman taken over, defeated, if only for a moment.

I hope The Revenent is worthy as it seems likely it will win best picture, best actor (Leonardo DiCaprio), best director (Alejandro G. Iñárritu), best cinematography, costumes, hair-styling and makeup, production design. . . (I'm just going through the list of everything it's nominated for.)

And if it does win everything in sight, I hope everyone who goes to see it will begin to see the world in a different way. That's one of the purposes of Art.

Her face reminds us that there is a highway in Canada known as the Highway of Tears, named after the many disappearances of women (mostly indigenous) reported along its vast expanse. It reminds us of the large numbers, the cases of assault against Native women. It is facing generations of surviving, of historical trauma, of memory distilled into a short scene and watching it release from within our bodies and float out into the world.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

The enchanting story of The Enchanted Broccoli Forest

Many cookbooks come with their own history. I've told you about the little set of books that first introduced me to cooking from around the world.

In passing, I mentioned the Oil and Vinegar cookbook, that I love.

I have other cookbooks with stories.

When I first moved to Halifax, I was Dan's tenant; I rented the little apartment in the lowest level of the house he owned. (That's a whole other story, which I'll probably tell you sometime.) We became friends very soon after we met and enjoyed spending time together. We both worked downtown and although I can't remember that we ever walked to work together (he left much earlier than I did), we occasionally met after work and walked home together.

At the time, we were both members of a co-op bookstore called Red Herring. It was on the route home and, whether together or separately, we often dropped in to see what was new.

One day, on my own, I was browsing the shelves in the cookbook section. It was getting close to Christmas and I knew Dan liked to cook — as I did. We cooked for each other from time to time, both upstairs at his place and downstairs at my place.

That day, I saw the book that I knew was the perfect Christmas gift.

Talk about enchanted. I was enchanted.

This was not a book I was familiar with but the very idea of the beautiful little stalks of broccoli that look like little trees anyway being described this way made the book irresistible before I even read the recipes.

As luck would have it, Dan arrived at the store while I was still browsing but I managed to tuck the book away with other stuff I was carrying and I paid and smuggled it out of the store without him seeing it.

The day before he was leaving to visit his mother over Christmas, we exchanged gifts. I was so happy with my choice but I could tell by his face when he opened it that he was uncomfortable. Sure enough, he already had the book. There it was, on his shelf, where I had never noticed it. Boo hoo.

I kept the book for myself. Either his or mine is still on our shelf today — but yes, we only have one. The other is long gone, into a yard sale or sold off for some good cause. Of course, I've happily used the book over the years for its intended purpose but when I look at it, I can still get that sweet almost-romantic feeling I had that day in the Red Herring bookstore, when I really thought I had found the perfect gift.

The Enchanted Broccoli Forest is where I first discovered a very simple but delicious dish that remains, to this day, one of our favourites — especially when the tomatoes are just picked, sun-warmed from the garden. William would eat this every day:

MARINATED TOMATO SAUCE

Adapted from Enchanted Broccoli Forest

Preparation time: 15 minutes to prepare, plus at least 30 minutes to rest before serving

Yield: 5 or 6 servings (plenty for 3/4 pound dried pasta after it is cooked)

This is a simple uncooked tomato sauce to make in the heart of the tomato season. Use it for pasta or rice, or just serve it as an appetizer with some fresh, crusty bread to mop up the juices. (It's really that good!)

BASIC SAUCE:

2 to 3 pounds ripe tomatoes, peeled and seeded

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 large clove of garlic, minced

3 to 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 to 2 tablespoons red wine or balsamic vinegar

About 12 to 15 leaves fresh basil, minced

freshly ground black pepper to taste

MANY OPTIONAL ADDITIONS AND EMBELLISHMENTS

(Use some or all — or none):

1/2 pound fresh mozzarella cheese, in small cubes

1/2 cup Nicoise olives

1/2 cup minced red onion

1/2 cup minced fresh parsley

1 to 2 tablespoons minced anchovies

1 to 2 tablespoons capers

3 to 4 tablespoons lightly toasted pine nuts

We pretty much stick with the basic recipe and we don't usually add the vinegar to this one. Just lots of minced garlic, chopped tomatoes, basil leaves, s&p and cubed mozzarella cheese. And so we'll have something green we often have a Caesar Salad on the side.

Tastes like summer.

Monday, February 22, 2016

A sculpture garden with both bronze and wood

A few days ago, one of my Facebook friends posted a photo she had taken at the University of Arkansas which she was touring with her college-bound son. The photo was a sculpture made of wood, twisted into cone shapes with doors and windows, about 12 feet high. I recognized these sculptures although I had never seen them before.

In the summer of 2013, our family was in Springfield, Massachusetts, one of the stops on a meandering road trip. Our prime reason for being there was the Basketball Hall of Fame, our second Hall of Fame in as many days. Yes, we had come from Cooperstown, NY, where we enjoyed a visit to the Baseball Hall of Fame. Both were fun in different ways. The Basketball Hall was much more interactive and William got to work off some energy there and have lots of pictures taken.

William keeping the great rivals Michael Jordan and Larry Bird separated.

When we left the Hall of Fame, we were walking on a quiet street in Springfield when Dan led us into a pretty park/courtyard. We discovered we were in the company of some old friends. We were in the Dr. Seuss National Memorial Garden at the Springfield Museums. Dr. Seuss (Theodor Seuss Geisel) was born in Springfield.

Sculptor Lark Grey Dimond-Cates, who is also Geisel's step-daughter, created the endearing bronze sculptures of Dr. Seuss and his most beloved characters for the Springfield Library & Museums Association, located in the heart of this city which is on the Connecticut River in Western Massachusetts.

Here's Dr. Seuss with The Cat in the Hat and other characters in the background and below.

"You're a mean one, Mr. Grinch."

As we stopped to look at The Lorax and to read the inspiring inscription that accompanies him, we got our first good look at the large sculpture made of twisted wood that was behind him.

When we did our research on the sculptor, we found he was Patrick Dougherty and that he's made these wood sculptures all over the world. I can't begin to describe them all so please go have a look at them. They're really interesting!

This is the one at the University of Arkansas – this photo is from the website:

I'm glad to have a chance to look back at another of our enjoyable trips but I also appreciate how it came about. I liked that Kyran Pittman – from Newfoundland but now from Arkansas – posted a photo with some sculptures that I, here in Nova Scotia, recognized because I'd seen his work in Springfield, MA.

There's an interconnectedness – a small-world-ness – that I find very enjoyable.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

'. . .grandiose, tender, stormy, graceful and explosive'

I started this blog – Each New Day – on September 8, 2015. One of the things I said in my opening post was:

. . .I plan to write here often (I almost said “every day” but that puts a lot of pressure on me) so it’s a way for me to practice self-discipline. I preach self-discipline a lot so it’s good for me to practice what I preach.

I remembered having written something like that so I looked back to get the exact quote.

When I make a commitment to do something – like write every day – I take it very seriously. Of course the commitment is only to myself but that doesn't diminish it. I feel kind of bad if I get up in the morning and I haven't put up a new post the day before. I've become attached to the feeling of satisfaction and accomplishment.

I never run out of subject matter but occasionally, I have a number of posts that want to be written but they require more work, more research, more thinking-through so I put them aside. It's times like that when I go to my archives or do a repeat from this very blog. That works too.

Having said that: we enjoyed a splendid concert this evening with Symphony Nova Scotia and a guest conductor, Jean-Marie Zeitouni.

It was Russian night and featured music by Alexander Borodin, Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov and Igor Stravinsky. The highlight though was Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky's Concerto for Piano no. 1 in B-flat minor played by guest artist, André Laplante.

Our program pointed out that if anyone in the auditorium were asked to hum a tune from any piano concerto, chances are they'd come up with the opening bars of this concerto, "one of the most memorable melodies ever composed." It's true, it's very familiar. You could hum along almost throughout.

But no matter how many times you've heard it, nothing could compare with the experience of seeing/hearing a pianist like André Laplante performing it just a few metres away. I could quite literally feel my heartbeat speeding up during certain parts. He projected the intensity that he was feeling as he played.

By turns grandiose, tender, stormy, graceful, and explosive, this masterwork remains one of the best-known and best-loved piano concertos of all time.

It was also considered so difficult when first written that Tchaikovsky eventually made some changes that made it more playable. It's still considered technically challenging. André Laplante did a masterful job so much so that the usually proper Halifax audience applauded after the first movement, unable to restrain itself. (I've only seen that once before during a performance by the irresistible violinist, Giora Schmidt.)

Once again, we were uplifted and educated by an evening of fine music and I enjoyed writing this even though it might have seemed that I was making excuses when I began. Not at all. I was just talking myself into it.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

The poet from Desolation Creek, Nova Scotia

I was thinking about an old friend, Alden Nowlan, earlier today when Dan and I were recalling a drive in rural Nova Scotia where we came across his birthplace. We reminisced a bit about his memories of the place. The conversation reminded me of a column I'd once written about him and I decided to share it.

We'd also been talking earlier in the week about rural poverty and I've written recently about vinegar and about molasses – so this column touches on a number of recent references.

It was written for The Daily News in 1990 and some of it is dated because it's about summer theatre productions way back then. I enjoyed remembering them anyway. Maybe you saw those productions also and if so, maybe you'll enjoy this too.


Whenever poet Alden Nowlan was asked where he came from, he would answer – his gravelly voice booming – “I am from Desolation Creek, Nova Scotia.” There were people who believed him and went home to look it up on their maps, but mostly, people understood that he was speaking metaphorically and in general, they didn't really care much where he came from. The question was polite, a form of small talk.

Alden came from an area of rural Nova Scotia that was hopelessly poor. It was something he talked about often, the brutalizing effects of such poverty, the despair of the people who saw no way out. His friends heard many times about childhood winters when his family had only potatoes to eat, seasoned today with vinegar, tomorrow with molasses, the next day with simple salt and pepper. Served with tea. People loved to be shocked by the realization that one of Canada's most distinguished poets had left school in grade five to work in the woods and in the mill.

During the '70s, Alden published his only novel, Various Persons Named Kevin O'Brien.

It was the story of a young man growing up in rural Nova Scotia, dealing with a brutal father, understanding that he, Kevin, would have to escape from the life he was expected to live. As all writers do, he insisted that the book was fiction, based on some actual incidents and characters from his own life. Most people who had talked to him and listened to his stories believed, however, that Kevin O'Brien was Alden Nowlan and that this was the story of his own life.

When the book was published, I think he had long since come to understand, to sympathize with, and to have forgiven his father – “poor old bugger,” he used to call him. Alden had no fewer human failings than anyone else but he was a compassionate person, knowing that extreme poverty sours the soul, able to exorcise the bitterness he had carried because of the harshness of his own deprived past. He had made his peace with his father and through that, had made a start on making peace with himself.

Alden died in the early '80s. By the mid-'80s, Paul Hanna, a “theatre person” who had been active with TNB for a number of years, had completed a first draft of a play called Lockhartville (the fictional community where the fictional Kevin O'Brien was from), based on Various Persons Named Kevin O'Brien and incorporating some of Alden's poems. Tragically, Paul died very suddenly at the age of 37. The play was taken over by Terry Tweed who workshopped it with six actors provided by TNB. It was produced for the first time in New Brunswick in 1988.

This month, it's playing in Parrsboro at The Ship's Company Theatre. It's a wonderful piece of work. Acting, direction, set design – all are superior but, as everyone knows, the best actors in the world can't save a production if the writing is poor. This is Lockhartville's major strength.

The play is stylistically unconventional – the young Kevin O'Brien and the adult Kevin appear together, for instance – but it's also realistic and rings true. The poems, including two of Alden's best known – Ypres 1915 (pronounced “Wipers” as Alden's father pronounced it) and The Bull Moose – are incorporated with a naturalness that is nevertheless dramatic.

This is the second summer in a row that my best theatre experiences of the season have happened in Parrsboro. (Last year, it was To Far Away Places, the story of Joshua Slocum's round-the-world journey.) Of course, it's a novelty to go to the theatre in a beached, restored ferry – the Kipawo – but without a good production, that novelty would soon wear off.

It's no accident that the best theatre in Nova Scotia is being presented by the smaller companies. Nova Scotia is not unlike other centres around the country, where the larger theatres are floundering for lack of money, are at the mercy of board members whose first concern is the bottom line, and are forced into producing conventional, recognizable comedies and musicals, seen to be guaranteed moneymakers.

But both the Parrsboro plays I've mentioned, as well as a couple of others, are more than worthy of Neptune's main stage and I'd love to see them there. I won't hold my breath though.

Meanwhile, Lockhartville will play in Parrsboro until the end of this month. It's worth the trip.

Monday, February 15, 2016

A sweet taste of our history

When we were eating the Valentine's Day dinner earlier this week, William, who's 21, said — as he was dipping fresh biscuits into a small bowl of molasses — "I don't know why people complain that they had to eat molasses as children because they were poor. Molasses is awesome!"

We all agreed because the biscuits and molasses were one of the highlights of the meal.

Later, William asked where molasses comes from and we talked about that a bit. But today, I looked up a few more details.

Of course, being Maritimers, we've always insisted on Crosby's molasses:

In 1879, at the tender age of 20, Lorenzo George Crosby opened a grocery business in the bustling port town of Yarmouth, Nova Scotia. An enterprising youth, L.G. quickly established himself as an entrepreneur in the import/export trade industry, transporting Maritime fish and lumber to the West Indies and returning with puncheons filled with that “liquid gold” known as fancy molasses. And so the Crosby Molasses Company was born. The rest, as they say, is sweet history. In 1897, Crosby Molasses relocated to Saint John, New Brunswick—a larger, more centrally-located harbour town.

Molasses was a staple in our house growing up. Dad always liked a sweet after dinner and if there were no cookies or cake or a piece of pie, he would have a slice of bread (homemade, of course) and a small bowl of molasses and he considered that a dessert fit for a King.

Dan's brother John also enjoys biscuits in a bowl with some molasses poured over as a sweet treat. In fact, when we go to Chives where Chef Craig Flinn has popularized fresh biscuits with molasses, John always saves his until the end of the meal and woe to the server who tries to take it away in a regular table-clearing move.

In many houses — including my Auntie Blanche's, where we always ate so well — molasses was on the table with the salt and pepper, a bowl of sugar, maybe a small pot of mustard. I remember it on the table in some restaurants also in this kind of dispenser:

We always have a carton of molasses in our cupboard. It's mostly used for the Christmas baking — dark fruitcake, the fruchtplätzchen cookies I make every year. My mother always used it when she was making baked beans from scratch, in a crock like this:

I've made baked beans in a crock but, like Mum, I discovered it's a lot easier and less time-consuming to open a can. Even with the can though, I sometimes fry some onions and bacon, add a little mustard, tomato sauce and molasses and stir that into beans from a can. It surely tarts them up and makes them much more exciting.

I didn't used to be good baking biscuits. I envied those people who could bake them so they'd rise nice and high and be nice and light. Mine weren't. Dan's late Mom told me I probably didn't have my oven hot enough. But I've stopped making the kind that you roll and cut out into circles. The ones I make now are dropped from a spoon on to the baking sheet and the bumpy irregular tops get nice and brown and crunchy. They seem to rise just fine. Sometimes I put cheese and/or herbs into them and sometimes I don't.

Oh yes, to answer William's original question:

Molasses is made from the juice extracted from mature sugar cane. It is then clarified and evaporated to the consistency of a syrup, possessing a rich colour and a sweet-tart taste. The molasses is then fine-filtered and pasteurized resulting in a pure, sweet product.

There is only one ingredient listed on the Crosby’s Molasses carton: molasses. That’s because molasses is a pure product with absolutely no additives or preservatives. Molasses is a source of many minerals. It is a natural, wholesome sweetener and is a delicious addition to sweet and savoury recipes.

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Celebrating the special days

We never need to be persuaded to celebrate special days at our house. Our mantle always has a display of beautiful greeting cards, OpenTable emails us regularly warning us that if we don't make a reservation immediately, we'll be out of luck, and we often have a lovely show of flowers on our kitchen table.

Valentine's Day is no exception.

(From 2013.)

I don't have a photo of us from today but here's one from last Valentine's Day. I was wearing a different top today but the very same jewellery. How often can you wear your pretty heart-shaped jewellery?

(From 2015.)

William took the photo. We were obviously heading out for dinner. I remember that we had tried very early on to get a reservation at Da Maurizio, one of my favourites, but they had been fully booked by mid-January and we're not that organized. We went to a restaurant called Fiasco which was lovely and where we'd been many times — and, sadly, it no longer exists. Its chef has moved to a newly-opened restaurant so that's something to look forward to.

We had, in fact, gone to Da Maurizio the year before, 2014. The photos weren't very good — it was romantically (dimly)-lit and Dan was using his phone — but you may infer from my expression in this one that the dessert took me by surprise.

This year, when I came downstairs, there was a bouquet of truly magnificent red roses — as only red roses can be, when they're good ones. I was delighted because they were from my son who had worked the overnight shift and brought them home with him at 7:00 a.m.

From my husband, lovely little earrings from the artist Michael Vincent Michaud who works in glass.

My new earrings are made of flowers like these but mine are put together in a cluster, not a dangling line. They're very sweet.

(My contribution, every year, is a handmade card. I take pride in my card which I usually make in the middle of the night, after everyone else is in bed. I save pretty things during the year; this year, from somewhere, I had a lovely piece of golden heavy paper — almost a light box-board. I also cut pictures out of magazines, trim pictures of flowers off little address labels, and usually manage to use a lacy paper doily. I sometimes get carried away.)

In the afternoon, we went to see Daniel MacIvor's acclaimed play, Marion Bridge. The Chronicle-Herald said of it:

“The production is honest in every sense, the comedy never forced, the frequent bickering and reconciliation natural, and the torment never deliberately melodramatic... don’t miss this delightful slice of Cape Breton Life.”

That seems accurate to me.

Because we went to the matinee and got out at 4:00 p.m., we had decided to have dinner at home. As usual (because we're secret Spaniards, apparently), we sat down to eat around 9:30 p.m. We had gorgeous steaks (medium rare) with potato salad and creamy cole slaw. I made biscuits and served them with small bowls of molasses, just the way Chef Craig Flinn does at Chives. William was with us for dinner and then left to see his girlfriend.

It's very cold out and the cats both snuggled here by the fire, near where Dan is working on a jigsaw puzzle and I'm at my computer.

So that was today. I hope you've had a good day too.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

It's that time of year

The rose arbour. It doesn't always look like this (above). There are times it looks like this (below):

























Do you see that furry ball? That's a brave cat who forged a path through the snow down the steps and is about to disappear under the deck. It's this cat:

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Pass the maple syrup, please, it's pancakes

We observed the movable feast known as Shrove Tuesday with a modest repast.

Shrove Tuesday is the day we eat pancakes on the eve of Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent. Lent? Wasn't it just Christmas? It's an early Lent this year so we can almost guarantee a snowy Easter after 40 days of Lenten penitence.

The tradition of pancakes comes from the necessity of using up eggs, sugar, milk, fats — all of which, added to some flour (don't forget salt and baking powder) is the recipe for a nice plain pancake.

I usually try to make some different pancakes each year also. These ones are made with ricotta cheese, some lemon zest and lemon juice.

Their texture is different because the eggs are separated; the whites are whipped to stiff peaks and folded into the batter. This makes a lovely light pancake.

Ready to be served: Bon appetit!