Homesick Adult

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Mom answers the FaceTime call with a smile and a smirk as if she knew I’d be calling her for help. She’s holding her phone too low, all I can see is her chin and up her nose, and yet I feel cozy as a newborn being swaddled. She’s making dinner at her house, so we have to be quick. My husband runs over and grabs my phone so he can show my mom what I’m doing. I follow her instructions as she yells them out:  Throw everything into the pan. Get a beer. Get the white wine. Poor them in, more. More. In all of the corners. Grab the salt, pepper, seasoned salt, garlic, and dried parsley. Add them in. More Vanessa, IT’S NOT GOING TO TASTE LIKE ANYTHING IF YOU DON’T ADD ENOUGH SPICES. No, that’s not enough, keep going. Okay. Wash your hands and mix it all together. You missed a corner. Okay now try it. The JUICE that you created with the wine and beer, Vanessa. I think it needs more salt, I know I can’t taste it but I can tell. Okay. You’re good. Now get it in the oven.

I’m wearing an apron from my first part-time job. It is faded black and reaches just above my knees. Across the chest is the familiar threaded white block letters that read CARUSO with a red and white line underneath.

I have a sink full of potatoes and defrosted sausage. The mushrooms, yellow, red, and orange peppers are already chopped and sitting hazardous close to the edge of my tiny kitchen counter. Every light in our condo is on and every blind is open as if the brightness will shed some light on what I should be doing with the ingredients in front of me. I know that they can be turned into something delicious. I know that with the addition of a few spices, our 600 square foot condo can smell exactly like my parent’s house. I just don’t know how.

This is the second meal I am making in our condo and if the first one is any indication, this too will be a tasteless nightmare. I’m not sure what happened with meal one. I did everything exactly how my mother would do it. I marinated the chicken early on in the day so the juices would make the big white breasts moist and succulent. I cut and boiled the broccoli for the same amount of time as my mother would AND I even bought the same microwave-minute rice that she does. But, when we sat down to eat the meal that took me all day to create it did not taste like anything. I’ve actually belched things with more flavour.

Over the 29 years I lived with my parents, I watched my mom cook meal number 2 numerous times. I should know how to throw sausages, potatoes, peppers and mushrooms into a pan and make it taste good. But the horror from the previous night was too much to bare so, of course, I had no choice but to call my mom. Apart from taking over an hour to cook in our condo-sized-easy-bake-oven, the meal was perfect. All plates were empty, all stomachs full.

It wasn’t until a few days later that I realized making a delicious meal was more about creating the same environment that my mom did at home than impressing my husband or my friends. Every meal made in our condo will be more about being homesick than about adding fuel to my body.

My husband and I got married two years ago and since we had to wait for our condo to be built, we lived with my parents. There were many a thing that got on my nerves: it seemed like there was always someone around, the basement was too cold and dark to read or feel creative enough to write (honestly, where does my brain come up with this stuff?), the family dog barking all of the time, and limited privacy. By year two of living as a married woman in my parents’ basement, I was itching to get out. I counted down the days, hours, and minutes until move-in day. I was depressed when it had gotten delayed by a few months, and I found any reason I could to get out of the house.

We got very close to my parents during those two years. We had dinner with them every night and spent weekends lounging around the house with them because we had to save money. My husband would always join my parents for a nightcap and would stay up into the wee hours of the morning talking about Donald Trump, stocks, life, and whatever else came to mind. The moment we got our official move-in date, my husband and I started to feel sad. Yes, we were excited to get our own place but something just didn’t sit right. My mom helped me pack, move, and painted out entire condo over three days to ensure we would settle in quickly. She went shopping with me and spent two weeks forgetting whatever she had to do in her home to make my transition easier.

Our first weekend in the condo was easy because my husband and I were both at home. The second week, not so much. I would jolt awake every morning at 5:00 AM after my husband said goodbye and left for the day. The quiet of the condo invaded my ears; realizing that my dog wasn’t going to come to wake me up, or my mom wouldn’t be sitting in the backyard having her cigarette not only made me feel lonely but spun me into a panic.

Every. Single. Morning.

We went to my parents’ house for dinner the other night. I felt more at home there than in our condo. I felt safe. The house was filled with people and the scent of pasta sauce cooked lovingly for eight hours wafted through the house. We were only there for a few hours and we didn’t want to leave. When we got in the car and drove away we both sighed and looked at each other. I was already crying and my husband’s eyes were a little wet as well. We immediately began listing the things we missed about living with my parents:

  1. Someone was always there to talk to

  2. Family dinners (both delicious and fun)

  3. The cool dark basement that was ours

  4. Waffles – the family dog who is as cute as he is annoying

  5. My nieces – who always seem to be at my parents’ house

  6. Hanging out with my parents – learning from them, laughing with them

I, honestly, didn’t want to go home (to the condo) and the homesickness ate away at us the entire drive home. I know that there is a point where you have to be independent and grow the fuck up and I want to. I do. I just never thought I would feel this homesick. Some people, including my parents, would say that they babied us too much (my sister, brother, and husband included). Some people would say that we’re spoiled and need to cut the cord. I would agree if I didn’t feel homesick as fuck. My parents created a home that was free of judgement, full of safety, and EVEN when we were all annoyed by each other, overflowing with love. They created a home that their kids don’t want to leave and I am so thankful for that.

Apparently feeling homesick is natural, especially for those who’ve never been away from home. It just means that you miss the place you felt safe and secure. I am a basketcase full of insecurities so it only makes sense that I miss home. I cringe with slight embarrassment when I think about the cry-fest I had during that drive home. My mom keeps telling me that I’ll adjust and get used to not living with them and even though that might be true, I’ll always think of their house as my home.

Yours, 

Vanessa xo

Foodie Friday – B-day Dinner at Fabbrica

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I’ve been to Fabbrica several times over the years. Alex and I went during Winterlicious in 2013 and we’ve gone back for lunch or dinner dates. My sister even hosted my niece’s Baptism there as well. It is one of my favourite restaurants for many reasons but most important is their consistency. Whenever I’ve gone there the atmosphere, food, service and even wait staff has been consistent. For me, that’s super important. It doesn’t mean the menu shouldn’t change or that the decor should be the same forever, but the customer should still be able to see the heart behind the meal in front of them.

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I am a huge fan of familiarity and feeling at home when I’m out. At Fabbrica I recognize the cooks on the line, the hostesses, and the men and women who’ve taken my order or cleared my plate. On top of that, I’ve never had a bad meal there. So when Alex said he was planning a birthday dinner for me and he booked a table at Fabbrica, I was ecstatic.

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I can always count on my sister to take photos of her food when I’m too busy! Thanks Jess ❤

We started with the charcuterie board (paper-thin cured meat for the win), warm olives, mushroom pizza (their crust is heavenly), and bread.  As my main, I ordered the ricotta gnocchi with fresh tomato, basil and burrata and a side of rapini. The gnocchi were light as air and the portion very generous. The entire table got something different and it was nice to see everyone sending over forkfuls of their dish for someone else to try. Sharing food is a beautiful thing.

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When all of the plates were licked clean and wine glasses empty, the lights dimmed and the waiter appeared with a dessert board of full of cannoli and a sundae (vanilla gelato, fried banana, butter toffee, hazelnut, strawberry, hot fudge) with a candle burning brightly on top. The cannoli tasted of lime, pistachio, and chocolate, paired with their lavazza cappuccino it was the perfect ending to a terrific meal.

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Thank you to everyone at Fabbrica for making yet another amazing meal and to my friends and family who joined me for dinner, I love you!

 

Hungrily yours,

Vanessa xo

Foodie Friday – Girls Night

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Whenever I go out for dinner I try to head to the city, but last Friday I  wanted to stay close to home. A girlfriend of mine and I had loads to catch up on so I wanted to go somewhere with great food, good prices, and the understanding that they wouldn’t kick us out if we were there for hours. I settled on Bolton Pizza Panini, which reminded me so much of Caruso Gourmet Pizza that my heart cried when I sat down at the table.

But I digress…

I ordered the penne alla vodka while Lina had the chicken parmigiano with seasonal veggies. As someone who eats home-cooked Italian food on a daily basis, Bolton Pizza Panini is the closest thing to eating at home. I’ve never had a bad meal there, whether it be take-out OR dine-in. The food is always fresh and seasoned perfectly while the service is nothing short of awesome.

Considering that I knew I was going to write about my dinner, I should have paid more attention to the food. I should have taken photos and Instagrammed my meal. BUT I was focusing intently on the conversation I was having with Lina (you may remember her from such posts as Girls Night Out with Fresita and SPiN).

We talked about dreams, goals, and perhaps taking some incredible risks in order to find the careers we both want. We decided that we’re far too young to settle for jobs that don’t make us happy 6 days out of 7. We both desire jobs that challenge us in a way that drives our passions, which means that a typical 9-5 might not be for us (the curse of being creative I tell you!). We’ve even picked up copies of Careergasm to help us on our way.

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So maybe this Foodie Friday wasn’t just about good food but about the company you keep while you’re eating. They say that food brings people together and I have to agree. Some of my fondest memories, personal breakthroughs, and biggest breakdowns happened around the dinner table, surrounded by people I love. So if you’re ever in a rut and need to figure out your life, have dinner with a dear friend – you won’t regret it!

Hungrily yours,

Vanessa xo

Foodie Friday – I don’t belong in the kitchen

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I don’t belong in the kitchen but you’ll find me in there anyway. I burn toast, under-cook eggs, over-cook pasta, and don’t put enough salt on anything. My go-to meal is avocado toast and scrambled eggs.

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I shouldn’t be allowed to hold sharp knives or peelers (I nearly lost a nail the other day) BUT as a 27-year-old adult, I feel as though I need to learn how to cook. I need to learn how to cook well and fast. My plan is to begin with easy meals and progress very slowly to more intensive ones. I’m not even going to give baking a try – not any time soon.

A few Sunday’s ago I decided to make the easiest soup in the world; a minestrone. Apart from all of the chopping and the peeling of the potatoes it was pretty straightforward.

  1. Heat olive oil in a large pot, throw in chopped onions
  2. Once caramelized, add in chopped carrots and celery – let those cook for a minute
  3. Add in the canned diced tomatoes and beef stock (if you need more broth, add water)
  4. Add salt and pepper to taste
  5. Let that simmer and add in your diced potatoes, chopped zucchini, green beans, and Romano beans
  6. Let this cook until the potatoes, zucchini, and green beans are soft (but not mush)
  7. Add in a bunch of spinach – once that’s wilted you’re ready to eat!

I understand that the above isn’t a recipe and I didn’t provide an ingredient list. It doesn’t have measurements or proper terminology but that’s how I’ve always watched my mom cook. She rarely measures anything and tastes the food as she cooks. She cooks from her heat and that is how I hope to cook some day.

What are your favourite homemade meals? Let me know!

Hungrily yours,

Vanessa xo

Foodie Friday – Carbs & Cake

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It came to me in a moment of panic. I was sitting at my desk on a Friday afternoon contemplating my next move (something I tweet about regularly) when it hit me. I have been surrounded by food my entire life and nearly every job I’ve had has been connected to the food industry.

I spent ten years as a waitress in the best mom -and-pop pizza shop in Bolton and for the last two years I’ve been a Customer Service Coordinator for a Spanish cured meat and specialty food importer. On My Pen, My Voice I had the pleasure of working with Brand & Buzzing on several projects that had me headed to the city to try out new products or new restaurants.

No matter how hard or fast I run from the food industry I cannot get away.  It seems that I’m only running in circles. Instead of fighting it I’m going to embrace it! Foodie Friday is all about my love of food. Let’s be clear:  I am not a chef, baker or cook. I have absolutely no culinary training but when I taste a dish that has my taste-buds singing or experience wonderful service I have to talk about it. So, let’s talk.

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Last weekend my sister turned 30! In order to make it a little more memorable, myself and her husband planned a dinner for her in the city. After calling around to several restaurants we settled on Terroni on Adelaide. I’d been to Terroni dozens of times and never had a bad experience. They easily accommodate large groups and allow you to bring your own cake (with a $4.00 per person serving fee) and balloons without issue.

What I love about Terroni on Adelaide is their warm and welcoming atmosphere. Espeically their entrance and main dining room. I was a little disappointed when were shuffled upstairs by the hostess and brought into the room where they must have all of their larger groups. It looked like a cafeteria to me and didn’t have the sophisticated and special vibe I was hoping for for my sister’s big day. Thankfully being in a room full of other large groups meant that we could be as loud as we wanted to.

The cafeteria vible was completely forgotten when our appetizers showed up. I have never had a bad meal at any Terroni location and last Saturday did not break that streak. From appetizers to pizza to pasta to their drool-worthy cappuccino, everything I ate was delicious and fresh. The portions are large and quality abundant so you’d better arrive hungry.

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Pappardelle alla Iosa – a homemade spicy sausage, mushrooms, green pea pasta paradise

Perhaps my sister’s favourite part of the evening was the cutting of her cake. A special birthday had to be accompanied by a special cake! I found Nicole from Lipstick Baker on Instagram and after a few brief emails we came up with the perfect cake. A coffee inspired masterpiece made of red velvet cake and the sweetest fondant I’ve ever tasted. The cake didn’t just look fantastic it tasted wonderful too! It was fluffy and moist, yet rich and filling. Check out her Instagram account for some more of her amazing work.

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What’s your favourite restauarant in Toronto?

I’m looking to try somewhere new for my birthday.

Hungrily yours,

Vanessa xo