Last week, I traded maple syrup for mold.
What, what, what?
Yep. You see, around these parts, it’s maple syrup season. I wrote about the details of this rural Canadian pastime last year. Basically, it means a whole lotta:
- gathering of sap
- obsessively clicking The Weather Network’s website to see if the conditions will be right for sap flow
- collecting sap into barrels and piling snow from around the yard against them so the sap won’t spoil
- obsessively clicking The Weather Network’s website to see if the conditions will be right for sap boiling
- spending from early morning until evening standing over a giant, homemade, sap-boiling extravaganza while sticky steam gives you a sort of reverse facial and, if you’re me, you somehow get a sunburn on your legs, even though you’re not really an outdoor girl and you probably only helped for a grand total of 15 minutes AND you were wearing two layers of clothing
- skimming and scooping and skimming and scooping and thwacking the thing that you used for skimming to get the sludge off and then some more skimming and scooping
- and so on and so on…for about 4-6 weeks
Practical Man l-o-o-oves this time of year. He is in his element. That is, out in The Nature, that I love not quite so much, and making something out of mostly nothing.
What could be better?
He looks cute in his lumberjack shirt and he smells of yummy wood smoke after a day of boiling sap, so I go along with it.
What can I say? I am weak for wood smoke and plaid clothing.
Anyway, the whole maple syrup thing, while quaint and stereotypical for some of us rural Canucks, is a LOT of work. There are many more bullet points I left out of my list above, because I thought you’d get tired of reading them (and I know I get tired just writing them) and I definitely get tired doing more than a few of them, so I am pretty much only a sporadic cheerleader, inept and inconsistent skimmer, lunch runner and such.
I’m basically maple syrup middle management.
Luckily, Practical Man is not a complainer by nature. Even though he’s married to a person who is a complainer about The Nature.
During one of the sap boils this season, I realized I had a bonafide excuse for getting out of maple syrup work and I gleefully embarked on it.
Dressed to kill, as you can see:
We have recently met some new Boler Buddies–people who are in love with the cute, vintage, marshmallow-shaped trailers known as Bolers in Canada and Scamps in the US–and we have offered to fix up their trailer a little, so they could try camping in it this summer.
Having two Bolers on our property made me as giddy as a Practical Man, boiling sap.
So giddy, that I didn’t mind at all the first job involved with the little jewel: scraping the un-adhered interior paint, applied by a previous owner, where it had been disguising some fairly extensive surface mold.
And you thought my breathing apparatus getup was just for fun.
I was scraping with a cool, rounded scraper thingy that only a Practical Man would own. It didn’t damage any of the interior insulation (called Ensolite) but it niftily scraped off the loose paint.
From outside the little Boler, it sounded as if a very large rodent was trying to claw its way out. But really, it was just a very large rodent who was not helping with the sap boil, whatsoever.
Inside the Boler, there was lots of flaking paint. Lots of surface mold. But, the definite bonus was that I could pretend I was Darth Vader with a sunburn.
I do recall he was pasty like me, when they took his mask off.
Anyway, my arms jiggly from the scraping (yep, that’s why they’re jiggly), I then got to use one of my favourite tools: the shop vac.
Wee-whoo! I love me a shop vac.
Lady Gaga and I shop vac’d the flaking paint up a storm (and chipmunk droppings accumulated during the Boler’s 14 years bravely surviving The Nature). There may have been some gyrating hips, I do confess.
What happens in the Boler, stays in the Boler.
We were camping last weekend in the Boler.
It needs a paint job on the outside but we re-did the inside a few years ago.
The owner of the mega-apartment-building-sized, it’s got walk-in-closets-kind-of-slide-outs trailer parked next to us last weekend came over for a little chat. He was all “oh, isn’t that just too cute” and “you don’t see many of these anymore”.
In other words, J-E-A-L-OUS.
Even though he has a walk-in closet and on board shower and a/c facilities.
The Boler has that effect on people.
I fall hard for the Boler every time I see it, too.
I love the wind-out windows that you can keep fully open during a hot night’s rain.
Pitter patter, pitter patter.
I love the original avocado green stove.
And range hood.
Very vintage, 70s – tra, la, la!
Practical Man and my dad made the doors from ash trees on our property.
They added the flowers with a minimal amount of sighing.
Before I go to sleep in the Boler, I like to wiggle my toes while lying on the dinette/bed and stare in wonderment around the little marshmallow-shaped interior.
Y’know, just for maybe an hour or so.
Wiggle, wiggle. Giggle, giggle.
Ditto for the mornings.
Wiggle, wiggle. Giggle, giggle.
Practical Man just smiles (and sometimes rolls his eyes the teeniest bit) while I’m doing this.
But, he loves the Boler, too.
I can tell by the way he doesn’t really complain about the (optimistically-named) “double” bed being slightly squishy even though he has to share it with someone who tends towards active dreaming (about buying more Bolers) and snoring and stealing the covers.
I can tell by the way he keeps a running list of “stuff the Boler needs”.
I can tell by the way he agrees to pay for camping, even though he’s a northern Ontario boy who defines camping as “parking on Crown land because why oh why would you ever pay for camping?”
And then, when I twirl happily to the creek side on our (NOT free) campsite, wearing my snazzy new trailer/Boler pants (check out the ankle ruffles!) that my aunt, Heather-the-Feather, gave me:
Okay, there might be a little more eye rolling but that quickly turns into twinkles.
Twinkles are the universal sign for “I love you, even though you’re fairly kooky”.
Is there anything more quintessentially retro than fondue?
Of course not! No wonder it’s becoming mainstream again (you might notice, as I have, a scarcity of fondue paraphenalia in thrift stores lately. Boo hoo).
In case you’re a fondue novice (as one of our guests was) or a fondue skeptic (what, what?!), here are a few tips I came up with, based on the fondue party we had this past weekend.
FonDO break out your “heirloom”, harvest-gold fondue set from the time your parents almost set the table on fire.
I like to do this while singing songs by John Denver, Arlo Guthrie, and The Mamas and the Papas (some of the soundtrack of my childhood in the 70s) but no matter how peace-love-and-frolicky you feel, pay attention for a second because this also leads me to my next, important suggestion (actually, it’s my mother’s suggestion):
FonDO put your fondus pot(s) on a cutting board. Our two modern fondue pots actually come with this as part of the set, but in the days of hippy love and fondue mania, folks lived free and dangerously. The cutting board was the only thing that stood between my parents almost setting the table on fire and my parents actually setting the table (not to mention their 100% polyester outfits) on fire.
FonDO go overboard with the event. Why have only one fondue when you can have four? At our fondue last weekend, we had:
- oil fondue (for meat or better: dipping tempura-coated cheese, broccoli, mushrooms…)
- cheese fondue (for dipping bread, veggies, olives, let’s face it: anything tastes good when dipped in cheese!)
- broth fondue (we found this most amazingly-delicious recipe for roasted garlic broth!)
- chocolate fondue (for dipping cake, marshmallows, fruits, nuts, let’s face it: anything tastes good when dipped in chocolate!)
FonDO make things easy on yourself: buy the packaged cheese fondue. I used to be a die-hard, must-grate-my-fingers-off-while-preparing-heaps-of-expensive-and-frankly-slightly-stinky-swiss-and- gruyere-and-dithering-about-what-the-heck-to-do-with-the-rest-of-the-bottle-of-icky-kirsch kind of a girl. But, a couple of years ago, I was short on time and my sister suggested the packaged cheese fondue from a national grocery chain (find it in the cheese section, likely in a box or bag). It was divine and ready in the microwave in less than 5 minutes! Trust me, there’s enough chopping and dicing in fondue that you can forgive yourself for cheating on this one step.
Seriously, as long as there’s warm, melty cheese to dunk things in, NO ONE WILL CARE.
FonDO get creative with your dunkings. Y’know, if you just can’t bear to make things easy on yourself. Sure you can cut up a hunk of French loaf and swirl it in the cheese and it will be DIVINE, but why deprive yourself of making things complicated? Practical Man gave me this daisy pan so we made daisy-shaped mini pound cakes for dunking in the chocolate fondue. They were totally unnecessary, but they made me smile (or, maybe that was the sugar high, who can tell?)
FonDO make the leftovers into something equally yummy. I suggest caramelized onion pizza with fondue cheese and roasted red peppers (pictured below). Or re-boil and strain the roasted garlic broth and then use it to crock-pot a delicious roast.
We did both this week. Didn’t you hear the groans of delight?
FonDON’T forget to hunt in your relatives’ basements/attics and local thrift stores/garage sales for lots of fondue forks. Seriously, you can never have too many. Despite this, people will still tussle over which colour they get. Practical Man calls dibs on the reds.
FonDON’T invite too many people. Yes, you want to share the awesomeness that is fondue, but if there are too many people, you will end up with fondue pot traffic jams and some people sitting too far away from the pots. This encourages risky reaching behaviour, not to mention mounting frustration because the cheese fondue inevitably ends up farthest away from where you’re sitting, and all your peace-love-and-fondue-ing will end in tears and cheese-pot-proximity envy.
Friends don’t let friends suffer from cheese-pot-proximity envy.
For 3 fondue pots, I find six people is probably ideal. Eight, tops, if the invited tend towards self-sacrifice or are fondue Jedi masters.
FonDON’T forget to use the practical fondue plates. Even if they’re slightly chippy because your parents obviously had a lot of fun at their ’70s fondue parties. At first, I’m sure Practical Man thought I was just using these because they came in awesome vintage colours that matched the stoves and fridges we had growing up (harvest gold, fresh avocado, coppertone…) – okay, guilty.
But, it turns out that they really are very practical.
And, we need some more (but it’s winter, so no garage sales and the local thrift store have been fondue’d out on account of it was New Year’s Eve not so long ago). So, swoop in and acquire these funky, retro treasures, if you find them! It’s important to use those little divided sections to keep your raw stuff (especially meat or shrimp or scallops) away from your cooked stuff and dippy do’s. Which brings me to:
FonDON’T touch the fondue fork to your lips. Bad, bad burning sensation! Fondue is hot, hot, hot (and some people, like me, are slow learners.) Always cool your food slightly (or take off the fondu fork and transfer to your fun, fondue plate) before tasting.
FonDON’T overlook the fun dippy do’s! In addition to the fun dunking and cooking and chatting at fondues, there should be lots of fun dunking and dipping. While you are waiting for your scalded lips to stop throbbing, survey the land of toppings and goos. A variety of mustards, hot sauces, aiolis, sirachas, basically any kind of goo that you can plop on your plate and dunk your fondue pieces in, will go a long way to pushing your fondue from fon-dull to fon-delicious!
(Sorry, I couldn’t help myself).
And last, but not least:
FonDON’T spend the whole party away from the table, if you are hosting. The best part about fondue is that everyone cooks their own stuff (heck, they can even bring some of their own food and dippy-do’s!) Other than drinks and a little flame management (deftly provided by Practical Man), there’s not much to do except straighten your polyester muumuu and dive in to having a great time!