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Verses from my Kitchen: What A Week It Was: Food, Friends and Memories

July 12, 2011

What A Week It Was: Food, Friends and Memories

Red Plum Tart
Seventeen months. Six different changes of season. An eternity of restlessness. I was beginning to think my holidays would be limited to long weekends and national holidays, because the last time I took extended time off was for my honeymoon a year and a half ago. Forever chained to my job with a lifetime of waiting.

My wife asked me what I wanted to do for my birthday a couple of months ago. A party? Family get together? I said I wanted a break. An escape. One week at the cottage to spend time with her and relax. Finally. And because my wife moves mountains and parts the sea for me, she made it happen. One week of heaven and a destination for two.

We have a good friend Eugene. Well, Wendy has known him for over ten years and I know him because of her, but I still consider him a good friend. He has a wonderful little cottage that sits on a small property right on the lake. I've been there a couple of times before with her but this time would be different. It wasn't a two day getaway from the stress and hussle of life, it was for a week of food and relaxation.

Beef Kebabs and Cilantro-Yogurt Dipping Sauce
His holidays overlapped with ours but that was okay. He's a generous host and, more importantly, an incredibly kind person, so spending a few days with him was like spending holidays with family. He is, after all. I anticipated this time off like a little kid old enough to understand Santa Claus does.

We drove a few hours on a bright and hot day hugging the road that ran beside one body of water after another, the sun tracking our path the entire trip. When we turned onto the street that his cottage sits on, the familiar gravel road welcomed us. I pulled into the parking spot overlooking the cottage mere steps below and we could finally exhale. Life as we know it was paused.

I unloaded the trunk of the car and brought in enough luggage and bags for a large family heading away for a month. I dropped them all the minute I set foot in the living room with the dock and lake in my sight, just beyond the screened in back porch. I had to take a minute to breathe it all in. 

Two days. Two sunsets.
Eugene was on the dock in his favourite spot, enjoying the fruits of his work. We made a beeline down to him to say hi. He looked relaxed and content and happy. I wanted that look. That feeling. Real relaxation had escaped my clutch for as long as I can remember.

Caprese Salad Two Ways.

(L) Roasted Cherry Tomatoes. (R) Pasta with roasted cherry tomatoes, shrimp and basil.
The week was a piece of heaven. Each day followed the guidelines and routine of the one before. It was a domino of relaxation, food and memories. Everyday I knew a moment or comment or event would be a future flashback of my life. Happiness. On that first day sitting on the dock, I knew I never wanted it to end.

We woke up each day when we were ready. No alarm bell to seduce us from our sleep. We grabbed coffees and spent the morning on the dock watching the sun rise up. If I could start every day like this I would be happy. Content. Nothing felt better.

(L) Pork Baby Backs (R) Cilantro-Lime Slaw
I would head off to make breakfast each morning and we'd eat it on the back deck. There's something about being surrounded by good people with the lake in your sight that makes everything better. Perfect. This was our morning. For every morning.

After a couple of hours spent between the dock and the water, one of us would head in to bring out a spread of food to carry us through the day. We'd sit there wrapped in partially wet towels drinking something cold and eating tapas style. I wanted to take a mental snapshot to carry with me. Moments like this aren't created everyday.

Bruschetta: Ricotta, Prosciutto, Roasted Plum Tomatoes and Basil
The afternoons were long and hot. We'd take turns making refreshment runs to the cottage and turns in the water with a floating tube or kayak. A little swimming, an afternoon nap. If a doctor had a prescription for relaxation and rest, this was it.

When my wife told me we were going to the cottage for the week leading me up to my birthday I saw it all play out. A dock. Friends. Beer and cocktails. Cool water that refreshed you in a moment. And food. Lots of food.
I didn't one thing though. The strength of my relationships growing stronger and deeper.

Blueberry Pudding with Lemon Curd
My life these days is about family, food and friends. This trip encompassed all of those beautiful little things that complete me as a man. It was hard to say goodbye. I made excuses to stay a bit longer. Just a little bit longer. And I sat on the stairs by the cottage before we left and exhaled.

What a week it was.


At July 12, 2011 at 7:38 AM , Blogger Chef Dennis said...

simply incredible! Your images just blew me away! It sounds like you must have had a wonderful time at the cottage, I think we could all use a break like that.

At July 12, 2011 at 7:39 AM , Blogger A Thought For Food said...

I'm so glad you had such a wonderful time! Those three things are all we need... and you embrace them so beautifully and share them so stunningly in these pictures.

Also, I want to say that I have no doubt that we'd get along famously because we cook such similar foods. It would be one huge rustic meal.

At July 12, 2011 at 7:46 AM , Anonymous Elizabeth of AsianinAmericamag said...

What a beautiful post & lovely photos! I felt like I was on a vacation! I said it before, and I'll say it again, gosh, you write like a dream! Thanks for sharing.

At July 12, 2011 at 8:01 AM , Blogger Miss @ Miss in the Kitchen said...


At July 12, 2011 at 8:28 AM , Anonymous Ken│hungry rabbit said...

So glad you had a beautiful week with your wife and good friends. The food looks absolutely beautiful, yet effortless. Thanks for taking us along your journey.

At July 12, 2011 at 10:51 AM , Anonymous bellini said...

Next weekend I will be sitting at my "own" cottage relaxation destination in Southampton and then on to the justle and bustle of Toronto. I am looking forward to sunsets, cocktails and s'mores.

At July 12, 2011 at 11:32 AM , Anonymous Barbara | Creative Culinary said...

I want to go to there. With you and even your friends I don't know if necessary. But I need a similar break and yours looks like Heaven on a lake. Beautiful, beautiful food Mike.

At July 12, 2011 at 11:35 AM , Anonymous tami said...

I just posted about my weekend away and I know how theraputic time away can be. It's amazing the perspective being away gives you when you don't have it in you to make being good to yourself a priority at home. Those things are so easy to lose in the hustle and bustle..and I'm glad you got some time to yourselves. It looks like it was wonderful :)

At July 12, 2011 at 12:34 PM , Anonymous Jessica said...

This is such a great post! Beautifully taken photos and great dishes! I'm happy to hear that you had such a great time off to celebrate. I love the caprese salad and the red plum tart!

At July 12, 2011 at 2:43 PM , Blogger Satrupa said...

I just wish I could lay my hands on all those dishes ! Awesome .... Glad u had a gr8 time

At July 12, 2011 at 7:11 PM , Anonymous Mike@ The Culinary Lens said...

I am scrolling up and down these images trying to choose a favorite. Impossible but maybe the bruchetta has it by a hair. A break from te everyday is always good

At July 12, 2011 at 8:03 PM , Anonymous SMITH BITES said...

gorgeous pics Mike - and the best part for me was reading how your wife arranged the week away; i think that's the PERFECT gift!

At July 13, 2011 at 6:18 PM , Blogger Carolyn said...

Wow, what a perfect way to celebrate a birthday...a cottage, a lake, warm weather and great food. My dream birthday...problem for me is that my birthday is in March!

At July 14, 2011 at 7:43 PM , Anonymous Russell at Chasing Delicious said...

Beautiful post and what a great Bday. I feel your pain with finding time off, so it is always nice when you get a chance.

These photos are all gorgeous but that plum tart is screaming out at me. It looks incredible! Is there a recipe for this beauty?

At July 15, 2011 at 1:07 PM , Anonymous Kristen said...

This brought tears to my eyes, Mike... I'm not sure why. Maybe because I need that feeling....want that feeling so badly that you've evoked in this post. The letting go, relaxing and reconnecting. It's been too long.
Thanks for sharing it with us.

At July 15, 2011 at 1:31 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...



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