Category — From Ria

Look Back, Step Forward 4

December 20, 2017

In keeping with the end of old things and start of new, we have an announcement here at Fork & Fiction. After almost six years of collaboration, inspiration and fun, our team of two will soon be one. Ria is stepping away from her part of the blog to focus on her writing, career and other mystery projects. It’s the end of an era and we’re both very sad, but also excited for what 2018 holds for both of us, and for Fork & Fiction. So here’s Ria with one last collection of thoughts to round out an eventful year and a beautiful, powerful partnership in words.

 

 

I’m going to miss you all so much. Working on the blog, creating posts, thinking about things by writing them down here, has been a blessing and a joy. We’ve had babies, bought/sold houses, moved to new cities and countries and written and published numerous books, all while recording it here. That’s no small thing.

So I thought I’d take a look back at a few of the posts I most enjoyed, whether it’s for the writing, photos, event that inspired it, or the conversation it sparked. Those are the things that matter to me most, and the things that I will carry with me forever.

Lavender Honeycake. This was such a pleasure in all ways—I was alone in the house (can’t recall why), the summer air was hot and sweet, I made this delicious cake and got to enjoy it before everyone else came home. Luxury. I can’t wait to make it again next summer.

To Life. I admit, I love an excuse to take pictures of piggies. And caterpillars. But this one was also unexpectedly sobering (which I think comes across in the post). It was that great balance of bittersweet that DH and I love so much. Which is just the way life is, right? And there were some thoughtful comments and conversations afterward that really made me think. Love that too.

Our whole How She/He Does It series was so much fun, but I especially enjoyed interviewing Hannah. It was back at the start, when we were just figuring out what we were doing (or have we ever??) and it was a way to introduce ourselves and also learn more about the other. And reading it now is also a trip because we’ve changed! Our families and locations have changed! Life has really moved on, but the foundation, the truest parts of us, are still the same. And what a great way to go forward into 2018, with a look back and an understanding of where we’ve come from.

So with that I want to send out the HUGEST hug to my fantastic collaborator and wonderful friend, Hannah, with whom I’ve been so honoured to create this blog. I know you’ll do amazing and creative things with it in the coming months and years and I look forward to seeing it evolve.

As for me, I’m off to do some scheming and planning for a new website and finish the lovely labour of my latest novel, out in 2019. I can always be found on twitter and Instagram as @riavoros and for now, through my soon-to-be-replaced website www.riavoros.com . Thank YOU, our readers, for giving us your time and thoughts and good energy. It’s been wonderful connecting with so many of you.

 

With much love and hope for 2018,

Ria

 

 

In: Food, From Ria, How She (or he) Does It, Includes a recipe!, Interviews, Kids and Parenting, Seasonal, Writing

Notes From a Writing Trip 3

November 22, 2017

Recently I got the chance to go away, as I have before, to write. Just write. (Well, maybe there was a wee bit of socializing. But not much.) I have a tight revision deadline for my latest novel, so any time I can grab to work on it, I take. And this time I had a whole weekend. 49 hours, actually. How amazing is that? Really–it’s not a rhetorical question. I’ll tell you how amazing it is:

It’s a silence-filled writing space amazing. It’s hours, back to back, to ponder the words on the page amazing. No interruptions accept for bathroom breaks that didn’t involve toilet training amazing. Just–it was sanctuary.

I took a few diary-esque notes while away, so here’s how it went.

 

 

12:41pm: Finally the ferry is leaving, late, from the berth. De-berthing? Am exhausted. Both kids were up early and I was up with them in the night for all the many reasons kids get parents up at 2am. Was going to start writing as soon as I sat down in the ferry, but am going to take a nap first.

2:14pm: Slept the entire ferry ride. No writing, but feeling more human. Now to catch buses.

 

 

3:45pm: Arrived at writing sanctuary, unpacked most important items (laptop, notes and reading material), brewed some tea and sat down. To write and write and write. This is JOY.

 

(Reading material…a bit optimistic, aren’t I?)

 

5:30pm: Meet a friend for dinner and writing talk. Love love love writing talk. And Thai curry.

7:00pm: Will now sit down to write until eyelids can no longer stay open. What started this afternoon as a shifting of a relationship between three characters is now more of a re-write of several major scenes throughout the story. Must remember not to get so excited about ‘developing’ relationships next time.

11:35pm: Eyelids heavy. Save changes. Brush teeth. Read a paragraph of Maya Angelou and pass out.

7:20am: Wake up refreshed, having slept through the night, feeling sure it must be at least 9am (with accompanying guilt at lost writing time). Nope. Have apparently lost the ability to sleep in.

8:00am: Finish breakfast of toast, tea and chocolate and reread last few pages of revisions from last night. Ugh. Fix things. Force myself not to go back to the beginning. Plough forward, into the mess. Make it better.

1:00pm: Shut laptop, get out of pyjamas (sigh) and ready to meet friend for tea and writing talk. Love love love writing talk. Afterward, walk around the streets a little and think about the lives of the people who live here. It’s not my neighbourhood, but it’s my hometown, so the familiarity is bittersweet. And bittersweet is the best kind of sweet.

 

 

4:00pm Arrive back at laptop and make a a deal: if I write for two hours, I can have ice cream for dinner.

6:00pm: Get a double scoop (cookies and cream and sticky toffee pudding) and know, to my bones, that this is the right dinner for me.

6:20pm: Change back into pyjamas, brew more tea. Sit down. Write until eyelids droop.

10:45pm: Can’t do any more. Brain overloaded. Must stop looking at words. Scroll through Instagram, fall asleep.

7:03am: Dammit! Even earlier than yesterday?!

7:35am: Tea for breakfast–not feeling the toast. Ice cream hangover? Look through only the last two pages of last night’s work. Any further back and I’ll fall into the rabbit hole of editing edits. Scribble thoughts on paper, stare into space, find the offending chapter, and GO.

 

 

11:46am: Starving. Must get lunch. Buy a wrap, scarf it down at the kitchen counter while cleaning old tea mugs and utensils. Pack bag with everything that isn’t my laptop and manuscript. Get everything ready to go, then sit down to write until my alarm says run for the bus!

3:50pm: The ferry is late leaving. Again. A wild Pacific storm is thrashing around us and the crossing will be slow. Find a carrel and set up the laptop for the last hour and a half of writing I can squeeze in. It’s not enough. I’ve made progress, but the vast majority of the book is still in need of work. I know now I’ll need way more time to revise than I will have. There’s so much work to do. It feels so good to do it, but there’s so much more. It’s exciting and scary at the same time.

Who knows where the time will come from–I might have to make it out of nothing. But this book is important, the story is valuable, and making it better is a sacred service to it. I have to find the time. Somehow.

XO

Ria

In: Books & Reading, From Ria, Travel, Writing

On Beauty 0

October 19, 2017

 

 

From where I’m sitting, October just got serious. Waves of storm fronts are sweeping down from the Gulf of Alaska and the puddles are toddler-splash-worthy on the driveway.  But the sudden shift to dark, wet, autumn weather feels a little harder to take this time. I’m not talking about the seasonal shift from summer to fall I went on about before. Apple cake fixed that right up.

I’m talking about this new, deeper, more inward shift, one that still happens every year with the rains, but feels…less stitched with hope now. Yesterday we learned that a Canadian music and culture icon died. Women everywhere are having to be brave in ways that make my heart ache. Environmental destruction seems to be so ever-present that it keeps jumping up the list of chronic stressors. I won’t go on.

I found myself staring at a spear of kale this morning. It was about to be chopped up for a soup, but the onion I’d diced had left its noxious fumes in the air and my eyes were watering, so I left the kitchen with the kale leaf in one hand and blinked away the sting by the feeble grey light of the back door.

This leaf. Dinosaur kale. Lacinato. Brassica oleracea sabellica.  Tall with a slightly sad tilt to the top. Rippling bubbles of chorophylled tissue. I held it up to the light. What a revelation, I thought. What a strange piece of matter this is.

How beautiful.

I wasn’t sure why. There was something about its absurdity, its prehistoric-ness, it’s unexpected tastiness, that made it striking. Which made me think: what is beauty? Yes, it’s personal, yes, it’s culturally seeded in us, yes, we are biologically drawn to it. But what if it’s something I never thought about before this moment with this piece of kale?

What if our perception of beauty is a kind of hope?

 

 

I thought about the reasons I found this stalk of a plant beautiful–this thing we’ve bred into existence. This leaf that looks diseased and genetically doomed. This combination of atoms from long ago stars that I will feed to my family later. There’s hope in all of that. A wish for the future.

Could that be part of why it’s beautiful to me? Its own improbable, magical existence?

Hope is something that’s been flagging in me lately. (See above non-inclusive list of this week’s terrible news.) The biggest hope machines I have are my kids, who haven’t yet learned to doubt or be cynical or let the world get them down. That’s part of their beauty too. So, hope makes me happier. It protects me from the darkness. When I think about how hope makes me feel–the warm upward tug of it in my body, it doesn’t feel very distinguishable from the experience of beauty. Maybe not at all. A field of red poppies. A puppy. A perfect story. A stack of pancakes. Beauty and hope. Hope and beauty. Maybe it’s better to talk about them both as part of the same thing. Maybe.

And the soup was delicious, by the way.

XO

Ria

In: Food, From Ria, Seasonal

A Brave Apple Cake 3

October 3, 2017

 

 

Early the other morning, Little E and The Tiger rushed into our room to report that one of the windows was broken. Broken? we asked. Yes, it’s all wet on the inside, maybe the inside-inside, they said.

 

Hmm.

 

So we dragged ourselves into the living room to find our picture window all fogged up. And it did look like it was on the inside-inside. For a moment DH and I wondered if the seal on the window had broken.  I felt a sleepy kind of pride that the kids might have got it right without any knowledge of window anatomy. So we sent Little e outside (no shoes necessary, she insisted) to check from that side, and when she couldn’t give us a satisfactory report (It still looks broken!), D went out (also barefooted) and jumped like a basketball player to reach the window with his finger.

 

Nope. Not broken. Just dewy on the outside. The outside-outside.

 

 

Just the undeniable start of autumn.

 

I have to admit I don’t love it. It’s not that it’s not gorgeous and colourful and full of a season’s worth of fruit and veggies. It’s that it’s not summer anymore. Okay, so maybe I should say, I don’t love the end of summer, and I blame autumn for it. There’s dew on the house and grass and car. It’s funny because once I get used to the idea of sweaters and cold mornings and darkness coming down swiftly after dinner, I’m alright. Autumn’s a great season, once it gets going (well, maybe until the endless rain hits…). But the start of it? Ugh, that’s tough for me. It feels a little broken on the inside-inside.

 

And what makes me feel a little less seasonally broken? Yup, baking.

 

 

I have a list of late summer/early autumn recipes I make just this time of year, and as you can probably guess by the huge number of seasonal delights on this site, those are where our hearts lie.

 

 

I’ve shamelessly tinkered with Deb Perelman’s awesome apple cake recipe because I can’t not tinker when I bake—it’s a compulsion. I used a mix of white, whole wheat and oat flour, added rolled oats, and in the one I made last week I used pecans instead of walnuts and it was GLORIOUS for all except Little e, who gives nuts a wide berth on Tuesday afternoons and Thursday mornings and any other time when you start to think she’s reverted back to liking them. I also bake the cake in a rectangular pan, not a tube pan, which the recipe calls for. It wasn’t on purpose. I just cannot find my tube pan.

 

 

Apple Cake

Adapted from Smitten Kitchen’s recipe

 

6 apples (I used macs from our tree), peeled and chopped into small bite-sized pieces

1 tbsp cinnamon

3 tbsp brown or granulated sugar

1 cup whole wheat flour

½ cup oat flour

1 ½ cups all-purpose flour

½ cup rolled oats

1 ½ tbsp. baking powder

1 tsp salt

1 cup vegetable oil

1 ½ cups granulated sugar

¼ cup orange juice or buttermilk

2 1/2 tsp vanilla

4 eggs

1 cup chopped nuts, such as walnuts or pecans

 

Preheat oven to 350. Grease a tube pan like Deb does, or a rectangular cake pan like I do. Toss the apples with the cinnamon and 3 tablespoons sugar and set this bowl aside. Combine the flours, baking powder, oats and salt together in a large bowl. In a smaller bowl or jug, whisk together oil, juice or buttermilk, remaining sugar, vanilla and eggs. Stir wet ingredients into dry, and then fold in the nuts.

 

Pour the batter into the cake pan and top with the apples, pressing them down into the batter so it rises up a little around them. Bake for 45 to 50 minutes, but do take it out when the toothpick tester is just a little damp with cake–otherwise it may be too dry when it cools. Let it cool completely in the pan and then cut into squares (I keep mine in the pan and serve from there).

 

XO

Ria

In: Food, From Ria, Includes a recipe!, Kids and Parenting, Seasonal

Baby’s First Roux 2

September 7, 2017

 

 

This is what happens when you brazenly bake and cook and concoct and discuss food around your children: they become mini foodies. They ask to take cooking classes. They announce plans to become bakers when they grow up. They want to create masterpieces in the kitchen using only water, Cheerios, salt and herbs snipped from the garden.  (I had to taste that one.)

Lately Little e’s been asking to bake things, by which she means stir some ingredients in a bowl and see what happens in the microwave. There’s been a lot of congealing and rubberiness. She’s been delighted.

 

 

So the other day I decided, when asked the same old question–can I bake something today?–to try to slot in a cooking lesson (disguised as fun, of course).

I told her we’d make a white pudding. That sounded AMAZING to her, so off we went…to make a roux.

I know one of the things she likes about cooking–that we all like, I imagine–is the magic, the alchemy of it. We take separate substances and combine them, heat them, change their structure or size, and–abracadabra!–we have a whole new substance. A combination that’s more than the sum of its parts and is, hopefully, tasty.

 

 

I never think about this anymore. I’ve made too many hundreds of dinners, lunches, cakes and puddings to think about what’s actually going on. There’s an end result to get to (before everyone gets hangry). But cooking with kids slows you down, brings you into the moment.

We forget all that we know. All that we take for granted. Butter and flour, heated together into a paste, then slurried with milk? Yeah, that’s a roux, but look what happens! The hot butter cooks the flour, coats it with fat, so that when you add the milk, the flour expands and thickens the liquid evenly, into a smooth sauce. Or in our case, with less milk, a thick pudding. It IS magic. This is wheat and animal fats combining in a way never found in nature. Some ancient human alchemist-cook stumbled upon this strange bit of edible science and we’ve been making it ever since. It’s miraculous, and to my five-year-old, it’s that and more. It’s a symbol of all that she gets to discover, these small and bright secrets of the world.

A tadpole becomes a frog, a caterpillar becomes a butterfly, teeth sprout from the smooth, pink gums of a baby. These are some of the things she’s witnessed, and now she’s seen how flour and fat can thicken into something delicious. She knows how to make a roux.

And eat it like pudding.

 

 

What recipes do (or did) your kids like to make?

XO

Ria

In: Food, From Ria, Kids and Parenting