Sunday, October 23, 2011

Food, Fun and Pumpkins!

It's another Sunday evening with the start of the work week looming closer. It has also been another great weekend.

I spent the weekend at my parents. It was a beautiful autumnal weekend with only a minor chill in the air. The pups had a great time hunting grasshoppers and crickets. I haven't quite figured out if they actually eat the insects or they just like the stalking and hunting part. I've seen them..sort of chew on them but I don't think they actually eat them. I'd prefer to think they don't anyway.

One of the other things I got to do with my parents is go to a local-ish butcher shop. I say local-ish because it's not in their town but is only abour 25 minutes away. It's sort of in the middle of nowhere but it's immensely popular and the meat is great. It's all fresh and butchered in-house. It's also very reasonably priced. It gave me a chance to stock up my little chest freezer with meat that will last several months. I like doing that- it makes cooking fun because there are so many options and I always have meat on hand with which to make something interesting. I'm a big fan of stocking up, especially when I ended up buying probably 20 meals worth of meat for less than $30.

It's fun to go to the butchers and select my purchases. When I was a child in England, we had a local butcher that was at the end of a parade of shops which also featured a greengrocer, post office, newsagent and small grocery store. Back then, while there were big grocery shops, people still went to specialty shops for most of their daily purchases. There was still a milk man who delivered the milk.

It wasn't that long ago, honestly but times have changed. Nowadays both in England and the states, the specialty stores don't exist the same way anymore. If they do, they're novelties. In my opinion, it's a shame. While it's way easier to go to the local supermarket for one-stop grocery shopping, it's just not the same. Bread from the bakery in England was so fresh, it was often still a little warm when you got it and it was so crusty, it was flaky. The fresh cream cakes such as chocolate eclairs and filled buns were fresh and unique. The produce from the greengrocer was better than supermarket fruits and vegetables because that's what the greengrocer did. He didn't try to sell produce AND dairy or meat or cheese...he specialized in fresh veggies and fruits.

The world moves faster now. We want to go to one place and get everything we need. We don't want to spend hours running around to butchers, to bakers, to candlestick makers to complete a list.

Yet...something has been lost in our need for convenience and speed. I miss the smell of the old butcher shops, their floors covered in sawdust. I miss the bakers where the fresh smell of crusty bread called you inside before you even got to the store. Sure, there are still speciality shops around. I mean, the farmers market is, essentially and outdoor greengrocers.'s not quite the same. I think that's why I'm so drawn to markets in general- Findlay Market here in Cincinnati is one of my favourite places because it's essentially a series of specialty stores all under one roof. In New York, I instantly loved Chelsea Market for the same reason. It's the same reason I loved the butchers shop I went to with my parents. Speciality stores do still exist- it's just not quite as easy to get to them.

I'm partial to butchers shops. I know that's probably not very politically correct to vegetarians and I know that Peta would probably have something to say to me about it but, well, I'm a foodie. I adore vegetables and making vegetable dishes but it's hard to be a real foodie without eating meat. There are so many possibilities when you have different meat on hand- it allows creativity to shine through and to just have fun in both the planning and preparation of a meal.

So, even though it sounds a little odd, going to the butchers with my parents was just a great way to spend time with them and it was just plain fun.

Of course, I didn't just spend the weekend in a butchers shop and watching my dogs chase crickets. I also got to spend some quality time with my sister and my niece. We carved pumpkins. Well, that is to say, I carved, they painted. My niece is an abstract artist and I've never seen such a colourful pumpkin in all my life. I think Jackson Pollock would have been impressed. My sister is a far more disciplined artist and she adorned her pumpkin with a rather impressive Halloween collage of witches and ghosts. My pumpkin turned out rather well- it turns out that there is a reason that they sell pumpkin carving kits. They're great! All this time, I've made do with a selection of knives and trying to draw on a design. However, with the right tools, carving is much easier! Since I gave my pumpkin to my niece for her Halloween display, I'll be carving more of my own next weekend. It's one of my favourite Halloween traditions- I always watch "Harry Potter" while I carve and then roast the seeds. It's a lovely autumn tradition.

All in all, this has been the best kind of autumn weekend- family, fun and's a shame as always that the weekend is ending but when it's been as good as this one, I don't mind as much.

I hope you had a great weekend too. Happy Monday!

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