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Have you ever played the game where you have to pick your favourite food to take with you to a desert island?

Okay fine, maybe you didn’t have to play these games because you weren’t born in the dark ages before en-route entertainment systems, like I was. Even though they were ubiquitous, we didn’t get a colour TV in our house until I was 17 because my parents were anti-TV before being anti-TV was a hipster parenting trend. No way would we have been allowed to “rot our brains” in the car, too!

Anyhoo, on road trips my sister and I grew up forced to count cows, play memory games like, “I took a trip…”, sing campfire songs, and when desperation really took hold, actually talk to our parents in the front seat.

It was Ye Olden Days.

I can’t remember if we ever played The Desert Island game in the car, but I had my answer ready, just in case. Were I to be marooned on a desert island and could only take one food, it would definitely be: TOMATOES.

Or CHOCOLATE, of course.


I can’t make major decisions, but if I were allowed to take both, it would make a balanced diet, right?

It was like a desert island dream (the “desert island” being Practical Man’s second cancer diagnosis and more-important-than-average covid self-isolation).

Unfortunately, the bonanza (that’s a Ye Olden Time word, by the way) was itty bitty cherry tomatoes and completely green. Even if we could have ripened them on a thousand window sills that we don’t possess, Practical Man told me that unless they have a tiny bit of colour on them, they won’t ripen from completely green.

two giant bowls full of green cherry tomatoes

He’s from even older Ye Olden Days than I am. He actually SAW a TV show called Bonanza when it was airing. He knows stuff.

Last year, we made an icky green tomato salsa that had waaaaaay too much cumin (“too much cumin” should be the slogan for 2020) and that turned us off anything that had “salsa” in the recipe title, for this year’s rescue crop. Fried green tomatoes is what everyone thinks of as soon as they hear “green tomatoes”, but we would have had enough for the whole county (and since we are hunkered in our aforementioned cancer/covid cocoon, hosting a Fried Green Tomato Open House isn’t really an option).

So, Practical Man put the thousands of small, green tomatoes in a big box and proceeded to invoke some kind of plant-savant-wizardy where he turned them a bit red using a combination of bananas and newspaper.

Betcha never saw that wizard trick in a Disney movie, Harry Potter, or Lord of the Rings, did you?

Every couple of days, a few handfuls get pulled out of the magic box to ripen the rest of the way on the windowsills we DO possess. Abracadabra, we have ripe tomatoes. Be careful what you wish for.

Even with my eat-my-weight-in-tomatoes practices and desert island affection for what Italians called Love Apples, we needed to do something with the abundance.

“No tomato left behind” is our motto!

Enter, Roasted Tomato Sauce (or if you’d prefer to sound more foodie: Roasted Tomato Confit).

First off, you should know that anything with “confit” in the title makes you sound a bit pretentious, unless “confit” is part of your lexicon of origin or you are trying to charge money for it.

On the other hand, “roasted” in the title is an automatic win. It takes bitter things and makes them sweet. It takes veggie things and makes them candy. And, it’s so easy, any fool can do it (i.e.: me). Here’s how:

  • cookie sheets/roasting pans
  • parchment paper to put on said pans
  • cut tomatoes in half in a bowl
  • add 6 cloves garlic for every 1kg of tomatoes (or 3 mutant cloves that PM grew in our garden)
  • add any desired spices (we advise against cumin–yuck!). We used oregano this time, but you could use basil or thyme or a combination.
  • salt, pepper, olive oil to coat
cooke sheet full of roasted red cherry tomatoes

Put in a 425F degree oven for around 40-45 minutes until bubbling and starting to caramelize.

Using an immersion blender, we carefully (HOT!) pulsed all the juices and yummy roasted tomatoes and roasted garlic into a goo that REALLY needs to come with me to my desert island.

mason jar with burnt orange goo inside (roasted tomato sauce)

We had it on pizza tonight. Homemade pizza dough (made with PM’s 8-9 year-old sourdough starter), homemade roasted tomato goo made with home-grown PM tomatoes and home-grown PM garlic, homemade sausage made with PM-made sausage.

Uh…YUM. Practical Man didn’t charge me money, but he should definitely get to use the word “confit”.

We froze the rest for pasta, soups, to smear on chicken or in my case, to just sit and lick off a spoon for self-soothing purposes, in case there’s another US election anytime soon.

We finished with two-bite brownies made with my world-famous recipe.

Three two-bite brownies on a colourful (red/blue/yellow) plate

On the weighty matter of chocolate versus tomatoes during a pandemic, an election with world-wide implications, and cancer in the house:

This desert island is allowed to break all the rules.

Christine Fader is the author of two published books and loves tomatoes and chocolate (not together though, ewwwwww). Find her at


Christine & Michael smiling together in front of a lake

“Boing!” said Zebbidy.

“Boing, boing!” said Florence.

I never saw The Magic Roundabout, but my long-ago English boyfriend used to quote from it, sometimes.

These two short lines from a cartoon I’ve never seen feel like an anthem for 2020. I don’t know about you, but I’ve felt a lot like life has been going “boing”, these past months from one scary, uncertain, or sucky scenario to another, at the mercy of a pandemic that shows no signs of releasing its hold on Canada/the world for at least another year.

I’ve been missing a lot of my usual tra-la-la, even though I am one of the lucky ones who is safe and loved at home. I have lots of toilet paper (my Practical Man already had Survivalist tendencies) and a large property to wander (were I inclined to go outside). I have a small, steady pension income and too much fresh bread (Practical Man has had a sourdough starter in use for 8+ years).

I am very lucky and I try to focus on that while I’m wandering around in my fetching combo of productivity paralysis and pajama pants.

We were fairly pandemically prepared (all credit: Practical Man) to begin with, so the transition to DEFCON-5 Safety State has perhaps not been as traumatic for us as it has been for others. Practical Man finished treatment for throat cancer 18 months ago and has chronic asthma, so we were already being extra cautious about germs. Covid-19 versus our household has merely meant dialing up the germ-a-phobia a further notch and sinking even deeper into our hermit-like habits (all credit: pajama pants). I got to sew masks like the obsessive project-person I am (without ever having to shop – haha take that, minimalists!), and he got to feel smug about his well-stocked cold cellar and thriving sourdough starter.

Even so, I’ve felt very much like Florence and Zebbidy.

“So fortunate” – BOING! 

“So nervous” – BOING, BOING!

“So comfortable” – BOING!

“So squirmy” – BOING, BOING!

I struggle with guilt amongst the BOING-ing because others are dealing with living in a big-city apartment, not seeing a tree for the three months of Spring. Or, “working at home”, not to mention home-schooling their kid(s) in French Immersion when they only took high-school French and their seven year-old gets mildly electrocuted while they’re on a conference call because multi-tasking is the great 21st century myth. Many are trying to make the impossible decision about school or don’t even get a decision because their family has no financial/parenting choices.

Still others deal with even more complicated situations. #BLM, #wildfires, #Brexit, #explosions #racism #refugeestatus #poverty, #foodinsecurity, #unemployment, #acutecovid, #chroniccovid, #frontlinework #cancertreatmentdelays #justtonameafew.

If, like me, you’re incredibly privileged overall, but you still need a new (and definitely ridiculous) way to express what it feels like to live in this year and you’re inclined to the quirky and geeky and several other of the seven dwarfs of High School Siberia like me, feel free to borrow the lines from that vintage, British cartoon.

“Boing!” said Zebbidy.

“Boing, boing!” said Florence.

I know it seems ridiculous. Hey, I’m just trying to match the unprecedented (do you hate that word as much as I hate it now?) situation over here.

You could try yelling, “Schlagzeuger!” (pronounced: Shlahg Tsoiger)

That means “drummer” in German, but I have been flinging it at other drivers under my breath for 35 years, because it’s both harmless and intensely satisfying, especially when you growl it with all the Arnold Schwarzenegger you can muster.

Now, Practical Man has lung cancer. The “very curable” throat cancer 1.5 years ago was cured. This is a shiny, new cancer.

How very 2020.

He went to urgent care for sharp chest pain. An x-ray showed a mass and so did the CT scan. Our region allows a 10-person social bubble, but from that day on, I haven’t felt like seeing anyone else but my Practical Man.

Take that, Covid!

Since June 8, it’s been an ever-more frenetic Zebbidy and Florence extravaganza of BOINGS.

Two biopsies through his chest wall plus considerable pain, internal bleeding and partial lung collapse. BOING!
Seizing summer on our little pontoon boat and in our pool, which we are so fortunate to have, while he is feeling okay. BOING, BOING!

Playing “find an open washroom during Covid, before you burst”, as I waited in the park during all his procedures and appointments (Covid rules). BOING!
Soaking up the waterfront breeze and and sunshine with physically-distant caring friends and family, as I waited. BOING, BOING!

Brain MRI, PET scan, bronchoscopy, and doctor’s appointments to hear results all by himself (Covid rules). BOING!
Physically-distant visits, outside, with small numbers of family and friends. BOING, BOING!

Upcoming surgery (hopefully, it happens before a next wave of Covid restricts hospitals again) to remove two tumours, lymph nodes, half his left lung, and a partridge in a pear tree, because that’s the “best chance for a cure.” What happened to “very curable”?? BOING!
Lung cancer would not have been found until much later and been inoperable, if it wasn’t for his chest injury. BOING, BOING!

We are sad and brave (him) and hormonally weepy and anti-social (me) and we look for the good news everywhere. So far, we have not been one of the incredibly heartbreaking people whose cancer treatment hasn’t even started, due to Covid.  But, I also need to paraphrase Dickens:

“it was the suckiest of times, it was the even suckier, suckiest of times”.

Do you agree?

That doesn’t mean we don’t see the blessings. It doesn’t mean we’re not grateful for the good stuff.  It doesn’t mean we don’t have hope for the future. But, whatever space you’re in and before your next Zoom call, I hope you’ll give yourself permission to wallow with me for a minute, an hour, or however long you can spare and need. Then, say it loud and in your best Arnold growl: