Inspiring Women, Part 1

“Already they were conscious that the nature of women’s close friendships would shield them in the weeks to come, and that the men, on the other side of the fort, were often not bound to each other by similar ties. ‘We did not need to “make friends”’ Madeleine would say, ‘we were solidly together already. ‘We were,’ Betty said, ‘a team’.” (Moorehead, 2011)

A blog post has been slowly developing in me over the past several months; thoughts coming together gradually, inspired by both literary and real-life sources. A combination of two literary works in fact, and my own life circumstances in which I have seen friendships blossom and support come from some amazing women in my life. Not that this is an entirely new revelation, but I have recognized just how important women are in each other’s lives and how unique and special women’s relationships are. I’ve always gotten along very well with men; I can easily be ‘one of the guys’ because I have always been a bit of a tomboy, I like to joke with the boys and I’m not generally offended by crude stories. But, the older I’ve gotten, the more I’ve connected with my femininity, and the more my friendships with other women have grown to become an essential and marvelous part of my life. The nature and depth of relationship that women have is unlike a mixed-gender relationship. That’s not to say there isn’t value in friendships with men; indeed I’ve had and have some very close male friends who have contributed great insights, wisdom and companionship, but it is different.

I have reflected, too, on how different a conversation between two women is versus one between men or between a man and woman. The way that my female friends and I interact is centered on open communication, understanding, compassion, emotion. Of course we have fun and joke and converse about unemotional topics, but still we really care about one another. The women I’ve had in my life will go out of their way to assist in tangible and intangible ways when another friend is going through difficult circumstances. They are thoughtful and considerate of what they might do to ease a burden, bring a smile or engage in practical or symbolic acts of kindness. They will go out of their way and even compromise their own comfort in order to comfort another. Perhaps this analysis is biased quite simply by the kind of company I keep, but nonetheless, I think the potential for such relationships is universally existent.

Arguably, being of the same gender would bring about obvious similarities that would create comraderie: analogous challenges, parallel experiences, an understanding of what it means to be a woman. I will contend that the depth of relationship that can form between women goes beyond mere chromosomal structure and the resultant biological or social consequences that follow. Most women have an inborn inclination towards nurturing. Partly a biological imperative of childrearing, this may have been altered over the years as women’s roles in society have changed. However, in my experience, there is an innate empathy that exists and develops inside a woman if she chooses to cherish it.

The excerpt above comes from a wonderful piece of historical non-fiction I’m reading, entitled A Train in Winter and written by Caroline Moorehead. It chronicles the lives and experiences of the women of the French resistance during World War II. The other day, I read the above passage, which quotes imprisoned women resistors in France living under arduous and enfeebling conditions. They endured famine, cold, loneliness, fear, and widowhood. They wondered when their next meal would arrive. And still, these women banded together and loved and cared for one another. Older women acted like mothers to the young girls who had lost theirs. Creative energies continued to flow and the women entertained themselves and the others by putting on dramatic productions. They equitably shared what little food they had, giving more to the women who were weakest. Through onerous times, they grew closer. Each knew that the relationships they developed in prison would be the only source of comfort they would receive for many months.

Thankfully, I’ve never lived through such types of grueling circumstances as this, however some of my family have, as I’ve written about before. I imagine my Granny helping to take care of others in Auschwitz; I do know she made friends there, my other grandmother being one of them. I only wish she were still alive and well so I could ask her about this facet of life in the concentration camps as a woman. Nonetheless, I have been blessed with a few extremely profound friendships with women in my life, where there was mutual understanding, trust, respect, fondness and a desire to care for one another. These trusting relationships have meant outlets for sharing life’s most precious and most troubling situations, and for giving and receiving empathy and sometimes advice of great value. These friendships have proven to be a great source of reciprocal comfort, because knowing that a person is listening without judgement and with compassion, sharing their experiences and providing insights with your best interests at heart is invaluable. Indeed, I have loved a few formidable women with whom I’ve had remarkable friendships. Now more than ever, my life’s door seems to be wide open to new and brilliant relationships, and because of that, I feel very wealthy. I only hope I provide them with the same kind of comfort, joy and companionship they bestow to me.

“But most important of all was the fact that the women, despite differences of age, background, education and wealth, were friends. They had spent the months in Romainville very close together and it was as a train full of friends, who knew each other’s strengths and frailties, who had kept each other company at moments of terrible anguish, and who had fallen into a pattern of looking after each other, that they set out for the unknown.” (Moorehead, 2011)

Moorehead, C. (2011). A train in winter. Vintage Canada: Toronto.

Inimitable, friendship.

Across vast expanses of time and space

You occupy my heart, friend.

Life transpires, sending us on convoluted paths,

And diverts attention from our friendship.

But even as weeks and months elapse,

Our bond remains unshakeable.

Our poignant exchanges feign as if uninterrupted.

The love of veritable friends, inimitable.

Local Deliciousness

It’s April. I can’t believe it’s already April. I’m glad it’s April, but my goodness, how time flies.

 
I hate to disappoint or to be unable to follow through on something I’ve committed to. In joining the Canadian Food Experience Project, the task was relatively simple from the start. Every month, tackle a previously established challenge involving a food-related theme, write about it and post a recipe. With a month between challenges, such a task should be very achievable. But, as those who know me can attest to, I often take on too much, which sometimes leaves the simplest tasks to be accomplished at the very last minute. And while I’m pretty adept at multi-tasking and accomplishing said tasks at the last minute, throw a nasty virus my way, and my procrastination-based plan is thoroughly foiled.

 
This month’s challenge was to write about a local producer or grower. Again, I found myself a week before the post was due, wondering who I should write about. I immediately came up with an answer and an inspired idea. However, the local grower I wished to interview wasn’t able to honour such a short notice request to visit, and so I had left myself with nothing to write about. And, being quite ill at present, I’m sorry to say I don’t have the energy or creativity to come up with something new and do the leg work involved.

 
I thought about what could inspire me to write and also lead to a fairly low-effort recipe. I considered two of the most important things in my life: my son, and my friends. Both of those ideas also lead me to think about comfort.

 
It seems a lot of my CFEP posts have ended up being sweet, baked recipes, and this month’s is no different. I swear to my readers that I really can cook too, but I suppose in some ways I get a tad more personal enjoyment out of baking and sharing desserts or sweet treats. I’m aware that it’s a bit of a cop-out to use the same key ingredient this month as I did last month, but it fits the bill for both a seasonal, locally produced ingredient and a comfort food: maple syrup. I am also happy to share the local maple producer whose farm we have visited every year since moving to the Ottawa area, and where we have enjoyed many a pancake breakfast and walk amongst the maple trees: http://www.sandroadsugarcamp.com/

 
I have made some wonderful friends since coming to Ottawa. I don’t have a large group of friends, but I have been blessed with a few, very close and trusted friends in my life. I have always believed in quality over quantity, especially as life gets fuller and one can only share time with a finite number of people. One of the key ingredients in a strong and lasting friendship is comfort; the ability to be oneself, authentic, without judgment, and also knowing our friends are truly there for us.

 
This past Saturday, I spent the evening with a wonderful girlfriend, enjoying intimate conversation over beautiful food and wine, and all with great ease. Then, Sunday morning, I was fortunate to spend the morning with another close friend of mine, having breakfast and walking along the Rideau river, watching the spring ice flows. During our walk, I remarked to him just how nice it was to have such a comfortable friendship. Both of these friends left me with a real feeling of contentedness, and I left them with a jar full of the treat described below.

 
The recipe I am sharing this month is one that I would consider comfort food, for a few reasons. First, it is naturally sweet. Second, it is high in good fats. Third it is high in protein and fibre. Fourth, it smells wonderful when baked and fills your home with a hearty, nutty and spicy aroma. Fifth, it can be eaten plain or accompanied by a number of other comfort foods. Sixth, it can be easily shared with friends. And finally, and most importantly, it tastes delicious!

 

This month, I give you my recipe for homemade granola.

 

Notes:
• This recipe is also vegan and gluten-free.
• This recipe can be easily multiplied to make large batches which store well in air-tight containers.
• You can substitute or add other nuts, seeds and dried fruit as desired, but keep the ratio of oats to additional ingredients relatively the same.

 

Maple-Almond-Cranberry Granola

 
2 cups large-flake oats
½ cup chopped almonds
½ cup dried cranberries
½ cup shredded, unsweetened coconut
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 ½ teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/8th teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons melted coconut oil (or avocado oil – this worked well in my latest experiment)
½ cup pure maple syrup
1 ½ teaspoons pure vanilla extract

 

Directions:
-Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
-Cover cookie sheet with parchment paper.
-Mix dry ingredients in large bowl.
-Mix wet ingredients in small bowl and whisk until well combined. Pour into dry ingredients and mix well.
-Spread evenly onto cookie sheet.
-Bake until golden brown, approximately 35 minutes. Check every 10 minutes to prevent burning.
-Remove from oven and allow to cool and harden completely.
-Break up into desired size granola. Store in airtight containers or jars.
-Eat plain by the handful, or with milk, yogourt, ice cream, fruit compote, or any other way your creative mind desires!

granola pic

 

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The Canadian Food Experience Project is Valerie Lugonja’s call to Canadian Foodies and Bloggers alike to unite on the 7th day of each month and creatively discover and share Canada’s unique culinary voice. You can read more about this exciting project <a href=”http://www.acanadianfoodie.com/the-canadian-food-experience-project/the-candian-food-experience-project/”>here</a&gt;.

Better than Myself

(Note: this is the first “song” I have ever written. There is no music for it, just that the process and structure is more song-like and the styling a bit different than I normally write with – such is the reality of momentary inspiration)

You walked into my life, unexpected,
And made my insides feel like dancing.
Your eyes were like looking in a mirror;
Felt like running from my reflection.

How can you know me?
Where have you been?
How did you find me?
I found you within.

Sometimes you know me better than myself.
See my fears and hear my excuses.
It scares me the way you know what I need;
Know the lessons I haven’t learned yet.

How can you know me?
Where have you been?
How did you find me?
I found you within.

A moment in time so blissful today,
The future is but a great mystery.
Whatever may come, I’m thankful for us,
This connection so few get to share.

How can you know me?
Where have you been?
How did you find me?
I found you within.

Distant Friend (For Deanne)

Hearts reconnect in friendships sound.
Evoke memories, reminiscent of days passed.
Rouse laughter, camaraderie in earnest.
Full bellies and raised glasses
Further join the love of faithful friends.

Tears of mixed emotions:
Sincere fondness and joy in reunion,
Heartfelt sorrow in parting.
The strange space of time and distance
Detracts not from the true bond of friends.