Sunday, December 6, 2009

It always comes back to food

As newlyweds in the Depression, my great-aunt Mary and her husband packed supplies along what is now the West Coast Trail to her new brother-in-law’s gold-mining claim, sleeping on fir and cedar boughs, wrapped in quilts.

During the Dirty Thirties, my grandfather used to load his truck with the produce of his fields and rumble around the Fraser River delta, visiting friends and relatives and dropping off sacks of vegetables at each stop.

I grew up listening to dozens of these tales as my elders reminisced over Nabob tea or Canadian Club and ginger ale. None of them were money-rich but they were loaded with stories, generosity and adventurous spirits.

Almost all of those old storytellers are gone now but we still nurture those roots, me and my cousins and their children and grandchildren. Every year (like salmon but without the imminent mortality), my family is drawn back to the delta. For a while our numbers were down, but they’ve crept back up again to seventy or eighty: there’s been a steady decade and a half of marriages and babies; people move away and others move closer; teenagers drift off for a while and reappear with new girlfriends – or without the old ones. And if we’re lucky, we hear about it over tea or rye, lasagne or ham.

Oh who am I kidding? Lasagne and ham.

I honed my all-too-tame tales and made Auntie Mary’s No-Cook Brownies as my contribution to the potluck meal this year. I do love a recipe that begins “Melt chocolate chips in cream…”

4 cups graham crumbs

1 cup half & half or light cream

1 cup chopped walnuts

½ cup icing sugar

2 cups chocolate chips

1 teaspoon vanilla

Melt chocolate chips in cream over low heat, stirring to blend. When melted, stir in vanilla. Reserve 2/3 cup of the mixture.

Mix remainder with crumbs, sugar and walnuts in a big bowl. Pat into an eight- or nine-inch square pan and frost with the reserved 2/3 cup.

Straightforward, travels well, and rich in all the right ways. Just like Auntie Mary.


  1. oh i am SO making that recipe! thanks for sharing :)

  2. You're welcome, Micah.
    I must admit it's my all-time favourite, even without the sentimental attachment!

  3. You are SO going to look like Aunty Mary in about 40 years.

  4. LOL Laura.

    We didn't actually look all that much alike most of the time, but there's one photo of her taken when she was about nineteen that could have been me if I had a slightly nicer nose. It's spooky.

    Anyway, I'll be thrilled to look like her in 40 years because she had more joie de vivre than anybody I've ever known and I think it shows on her face.