I’m on the road again, waking up and marveling at the different light and sounds and smells of a room in a city not my own. [ and please note that I haven’t yet figured out how to post photos on someone else’s computer, but I will soon!]
First stop of my book tour is Edmonton, my home town. My mom and my sister Jeannie pick me up at the airport, and not some fancy-pants publicist. Still, they’re as pro-Comfort-Food-for-Breakups as any promoter could be. “I read the book three times,” says Jeannie, with whom I’ve had little or no contact with for years. “I even highlighted parts I liked.”
As soon as we arrive at my mother’s condo, I’m handed a baby: one-year-old Peyton, my niece’ Krissy’s daughter. She’s as smooth and fresh and delicious as a nectarine in August. She sports a tiny red bow holding up a meagre tuft of hair. With her big eyes and bemused expression she looks like one of Dr Seuss’s Whos from Whoville.
My mother serves up dinner, though it’s only 5:30 p.m. It’s the same thing she makes every time I come to visit, and it’s always the very first thing she feeds me: perogies with chicken stew, Baba’s sacred recipe. The Guitar Player tried to reproduce it once, and it was a pretty good attempt. But the real thing is a no-holds-barred festival of fat and starch. The textures are luscious: soft dumpling dough, moist, slightly chewy chicken, silky sauce.
We pass the baby back and forth as we eat; she floats serenely one woman’s crook of arm to another. (“She’s a daycare baby,” says Krissy, by way of explanation). Peyton is rather disinterested in dinner until my mother takes her into her lap and feeds her tiny morsels of gravy-soaked perogy, one at a time. She looks up into her great-grandmother’s eyes with trust and regal, benign appreciation.
Four generations of women, food, and eating, at one table. Outside, a great big Alberta sky.
Baba’s Chicken Stew
I finally got my mother to write down the ingredients for this simple but delicious stew, in her beautiful old-fashioned handwriting. It is, of course, traditionally eaten with perogies, but I do suppose you could try it with, say, egg noodles instead – if it’s absolutely impossible for you to find or make perogies. Btw, there’s a recipe for perogies (aka varennyky) in my book, and you can also purchase them at any fine Ukrainian, Polish or Russian deli near you. (Note to those living in Toronto: Sosnicki’s organic perogies, sold only at Dufferin Grove Farmers Market, Thursdays 3-7pm, are the finest I’ve ever tasted – besides my mom’s of course!)
4-6 chicken thighs, skin removed
1 tblspn. vegetable oil or butter
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
11/2 cups low-sodium chicken stock
In medium saucepan, fry chicken thighs in oil until well-browned, about 5-10 minutes. Add flour, mixing in well, until lightly browned. Add chicken stock and minced garlic, mixing well. Let this mixture come to a slow boil until thickened, stirring all the while. Cover and simmer for about 1 hour until chicken is soft.
Let me know how this recipe turns out! – and what you ate it with…