On days like that, the big kitchen is not warm unless I keep the fire bustling in the wood stove and have pots on all four burners of the gas stove, located at opposing ends of the kitchen’s long acreage. My upstairs studio can be hot in summer and chilly in winter, with its south-facing wall of glass. So too the sunroom, faced on three sides with glass windows, but busy nonetheless, containing Dave’s office, our dining table, my orchids, herbs, fig tree and desert succulents, but it’s made bearable in deepest winter by a little gas fireplace that the cat loves. My studio and kitchen are my favourite rooms all the same. The warmest room, to my surprise, is often the centrally located living room, where the internal conversations of thousands of books on our shelves generate sparks and fire.
Of course another good way to survive the cold is to cook. I’ve been spending a lot of time in the kitchen, and I recently asked Dave to give me a list of what he’d like to eat. Generous man, he immediately asked why. “I love all your cooking, sweetie,” he said. “I want to stay out of the rut,” I said. “If I keep track of what I’ve made and you give me that list, I’ll be less likely to repeat myself.”
This of course triggered a long conversation about the joy of leftovers and of eating favourite dishes regularly. But the truth is that every cook falls into a rut. Having a list of ideas to offset creative dry spells, as I used to when I ran my Calgary restaurant several lifetimes ago, is like walking from one room into another, a pandemic-sized metaphor for travel. Dave asks for Japanese ramen and curry bread, pad thai, Korean fried chicken, a swathe of Italian pasta, French classics like duck confit, bouillabaisse, and leek and potato soup. But he asks for the cold version – vichyssoise – ignoring the fact that leek
Leek and potato soup is the mother soup of all soups. (Find it in the Recipes archive!) And on this bitterly cold day, I want all the calories I can cram into the pot, so I add grated cheese, chopped roasted cauliflower, leftover roast chicken, and a drizzle of cream to the pot. Antidote to the polar vortex? Maybe not. But it fuels us, and brings pleasure to a bitter day. First we eat, then we plan a post-pandemic vacation somewhere warm, with rattan fans, drinks garnished with tiny paper umbrellas, and sand.
“If I keep track of what I’ve made and you give me that list, I’ll be less likely to repeat myself.”
“Bread & Water is an emotionally arresting, beautifully written series of essays.”
~ Jurors’ Citation, Saskatchewan Book Awards, University of Saskatchewan President’s Office Nonfiction Award
“Food is a wonderful agent for storytelling... and Bread & Water demonstrates this brilliantly.”
~ Sarah Ramsey, starred review, Quill & Quire
“[Bread & Water is] An amazing feast... riveting... eloquent.”
~ Patricia D. Robertson, Winnipeg Free Press
“[Bread & Water is a] sensuous experience; she brings her poet’s eye and ear to everything within her purview.”
~ Professor emerita Kathleen Wall, Blue Duets
“A deep love of the art of cooking that includes the language of fine dining (cassoulet, confit) even if the lamb was raised in Olds and she picked the rhubarb herself... she impressively manages this collision of worlds with a wholesome, approachable style.”
~ Megan Clark, Alberta Views
“These finely focussed poems [in Wildness Rushing In] invite us into a sensuous and emotionally rich landscape.”
~ Don McKay, winner of the Griffin Poetry Prize
“The writing [in Wildness Rushing In] is honed and textured, the senses so alive that you can practically taste the language. There are moments of brilliance rare in a first book.”
~ Jurors’ Citation, Saskatchewan Book Awards
“dee Hobsbawn-Smith’s stories [in What Can’t Be Undone] are written with a poetic edge. Her descriptions, particularly western landscapes, are often luxurious, lending themselves a kind of nuanced impression, a delicate fingerprint on the reader’s mind. "
~ Lee Kvern, Alberta Views
“[Foodshed is] A rich encyclopedia of facts, farm-gate lore and original recipes... a politically engaging narrative in which Hobsbawn-Smith articulates the challenges and joys faced by small-scale producers... don’ t let the alphabet theme fool you. This is no tame nursery rhyme; it is a locavore call to arms.”
~ P.D. Robertson, The Globe & Mail