Monday, June 20, 2011
Welcome to Bruce's Pantry, the well-stocked cupboard behind the culinary magic of Bruce's Kitchen. There's lots of fresh, local food here, sure, but poetry, music, art, and food activism are also some of the ingredients that go into my recipes.
Recently, a young apprentice who worked for me when I first opened Bruce's Kitchen graduated from high school. Watching him receive his diploma made me reflect on when I started in the trade. In 1981, as I dragged my tired, overwhelmed body home from my first night in the kitchen, I had two thoughts. The first was "These people are lunatics!" considering the frenetic pace and trying to juggle a million things simultaneously.
The second was "I want to be part of this lunacy!" It was like seeing the world in colour - a world of creativity, adrenaline and camaraderie.
What led me to become a chef? The ambrosia salads and sausage rolls of the 1960's Toronto of my childhood were hardly inspiring. One of my earliest food epiphanies involved going to my Aunt Joyce's for family dinner. My Dad had 10 brothers & sisters so family gatherings were generally huge, rambling affairs with predictable menus.
However, my Aunt Joyce had married a Ukranian man and so when the plywood went down on top of the pool table, and the table cloth was unrolled there was this sort of food dichotomy going on. On one side of the table were salads which jiggled luridly when the table was bumped, along with devilled eggs and other delights of the suburban 60's.
However, on the other side were savoury pierogies, earthy mushroom salads and garlic redolent cabbage rolls. I recall thinking "What's going on here? Why is this side so good and the other so...well, boring."
This early question started me on the road to embracing a love of good, well-prepared food which has continued to this day. Food does not have to be fancy, it simply has to have good ingredients chosen with care and reflect love in its preparation.
Next, I will delve into another food epiphany and share a great tourtiere recipe and the recipe for my Mom's catsup.