50 Clove Garlic Soup

Soup still
This is not a soup to serve to company. This is a soup for hand-to-hand combat with colds and sore throats.

It may be as much placebo or superstition and garlic and chicken broth, but I have not had a cold in 5 years (knock wood!)

I make 50 Clove Garlic Soup in the fall and freeze it in one-cup portions. Anytime I feel a tickle in my throat, I eat a bowl. Maybe all the garlic just keeps people away so that I am not EXPOSED to any germs…who knows? It is warm and comforting and delicious, and it’s working for me!

Click here for the video


Olive oil (for frying)

One large onion

50 cloves of garlic, chopped (or one whole jar of Derlea Chopped Garlic)

One cup of fresh Thyme, cleaned and chopped OR one quarter cup dried thyme. Or a mixture of both.

6 cups chicken broth

One can Campbell’s Cream of Mushroom Soup

Salt and pepper to taste


Indian Relish

2 tsp mustard seed

2 tsp coriander seed

1 tsp ground turmeric

1 tsp cumin seeds

1 tsp fennel seeds

10 hot chilies

2 cups vinegar

3 cups sugar

6 cups chopped cucumbers

3 cups chopped onions

3 cups chopped green or red peppers*


Boil the brine first and adjust for taste before adding the chopped vegetables and re-heating to boiling.

*I often leave out the peppers.

Delicious irony


It’s been an honour and a pleasure to work with Erik Waddell, who is an amazing dad and a good proof reader.

Not just ironic, but DELICIOUSLY ironic – that’s the only way I can describe one hilarious event at our birthday party blast yesterday.

Erik Waddell, his wife Trista, and their three bright, energetic kids Abigail, Spencer and Sam came to spend a day with me swimming, laughing, and eating ice cream cake.  We were celebrating both my birthday and Abby’s, and my only goal was happiness: happy kids, happy parents, happy food, happy birthday!

While Trista and I were preparing food in the kitchen, I asked if Erik had ever told her the proof reading story, which remains one of my favourite ever. She had never heard it!

“When I was Director of Communications at Health Canada and Erik was our Press Secretary, we launched Canada’s New Food Guide and were printing 4 million copies on the first print run. We not only had a printing press on stand-by; we had a paper mill on stand-by!

“Obviously this document could not go to press with a single typo, but the day the ‘blues’ were scheduled to be approved I had to travel with the Minister and could not be there myself. I asked Erik, ‘Are you a good proof reader?’

‘I have a Master’s Degree in Political Science!’ Erik replied indignantly, clearly offended.

‘That doesn’t answer the question asked,’ I pointed out. ‘I asked if you are a good proof reader. Those are two different things.’

‘Yes, I am a good proof reader,’ Erik answered, and so was assigned the task of approving the final document before it went up on the printing press.”

(And, I am pleased to say, no typographical errors have ever been found in the many millions of copies that have been printed since. It is the second-most requested document from Canada’s federal government; only income tax forms are requested more often.)

Trista and I were laughing merrily at this little display of Erik’s pride in his educational achievements versus real life practicality when we walked out into the yard. I even shared with Trista the fact that when Erik recently asked if I would provide him a reference because he was applying for a new job, I filled the glowing reference with multiple positive statements and ended with a final observation: “Erik is an excellent proof reader.” Once again, it was our little joke. Well, OK, my little joke at Erik’s expense, but I thought I was being very cute and witty.

Fast forward to lighting the candles on Abby’s birthday ice cream cake: I had really struggled with the store-bought icing tubes I used to write on the cakes. The frosting is thick and slow to come out of the tube, and has an infuriating way of lifting right back off of the cake when you finish a letter and raise the tube.

I was so focused on maneuvering to keep the frosting ON the cake, I did not notice other essential elements of cake decorating.

“Why is ‘happy’ spelled with 3 p’s?” Erik asked when he saw the cake.

The extra “P” stands for more happiness. That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it.


“It’s not!” I exclaimed. “Look: H-A-P-P….oh dear!” I realized in dismay that I had, in fact, spelled ‘Happy’ – ‘Happpy.’

Of course, the third ‘p’ in ‘Happpy’ has now taken on a life of its own: friends have noted that it just means ‘more happy.’ Or more frosting to eat.

To me, it means that I’m not as smart as I think I am and I should perhaps focus more on being humble and less on being clever.

And Erik? He posted this Facebook message:

Erik Waddell This typo (icing-o? ) was a highlight of the day. :)”

Well, I set out to make people happy, so Mission Accomplished, I guess…

Congratulations on your new job, Erik – wishing you a Happpy Summer!

July 23 update: Trista posted this photo of Abby’s 4th birthday cake to make me feel better. I really appreciated it…

trista cake







Sweet Garlic Dill Pickles


These are the hands-down Smith Family Favourite.

You can use fresh dill and fresh garlic if you have access to those ingredients; or, as I often do, use dried dill and prepared garlic (quicker and simpler!)

Click here for the video of my process.

Please note – this is not a “how to can” video. I’ll do a separate one of those later. There are great instructions on Bernardin’s website.


Ontario has suffered a Basil blight for 4 years! It appears as though 2016 may be the first time we can make and freeze Pesto since 2012. YAYYYY!!!!!!!!!

Pesto pasta, Pesto pizza, Pesto potatoes (with green beans and slivered almonds!) Pesto potato salad…there are SO many fabulous dishes which need only a little dash of Pesto to make them magical.

So it has been really awful that Ontario has endured a “Basil blight” for almost 4 years now. I kept buying plants, only to watch them wither and die in front of my eyes: spotty leaves, brown patches, wilting stems. Even professional growers told me: “No one can grow Basil. A blight is killing the plants.”

Well, somebody figured out something – we must have a more resistant strain of plants this year – because for the first time in 4 years, Basil is growing like gangbusters!

I can’t believe I was able to harvest enough leaves to make a triple batch of Pesto on only June 19th! By August, my freezer will be stuffed full, I promise.

Click here for the video.

Here is the base recipe I use, from the Joy of Cooking. As you will see watching the video, mostly I work by taste and I switch out pine nuts for ground almonds, which are cheaper and more flavourful.

Go for the gusto! Plant lots of Basil!

Mangia, mangia!

Pesto, from “The Joy of Cooking”

2 cups loosely packed Basil leaves

1/3 cup pine nuts (I use ground almonds, or sometimes, walnuts)

1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil (I find this to be about 2x as much oil as you need)

Salt and pepper to taste


Why is God male?

One of the most enduring images of all ages: a mother and a baby. Madonna and child – this beautiful cast of the Donatello original is one of my most prized possessions. The artisan who cast it for me handed it to me with no ceremony: I was in awe. “Why would you give this to me?” I gasped. He didn’t know. “I just thought you should have it,” he shrugged.


Why is God male?

Over the years I did a lot of reading on the male/female dynamic in society and I never ceased to be fascinated by it.

I devoured books and essays on Christianity, Goddess worship, monotheism and polytheism, struggling to grasp what seemed essential to know.

What was the U.S. Sacagawea coin, but mint version of a mother and child?

During the debate in the run-up to the legalization of same sex marriage, we were told by some that the bond between a man and a woman is the most ancient and pervasive link that exists between two human beings: marriage pre-dates all forms of government, and therefore government has no right to alter or amend the definition of marriage.

I balked at this concept: the bond between one man and one woman is the oldest link in history? Really? Because for much of history – and to the current day – the link between men and women seems to be often tenuous.

Most cultures make lots of room for relationships between men and women that are strictly limited to one or a few sexual encounters. Courtesans in ancient Greece, Rome or China; barbarians raping and pillaging. Rape slaves in modern day Syria or Iraq. Young adults dating in a hook-up culture. Bootie calls. Baby daddies.

In addition to such situations made by choice, men go to work, and to war, face injury, illness and early death.

tom mom dave cropped
A lot of babies make it to adulthood with no father. Very few make it with no mother. This does not mean fathers are not missed; it means they are missed so much, we needed to create elaborate social constructs to replace them.

That’s why I believe it is safe to say that in all of the bonds formed since the dawn of time – husband/wife; father/child; siblings; or mother/child, the one that has actually stood the test of time is the bond between mother and child.

A man can father a child, and then disappear; so long as the baby has a functional mother, the child has a decent shot at surviving to adulthood.

Should a mother leave a child, that child is much more likely to die. Either of starvation, back when breast milk was all the baby food there was, or of neglect, in the current day.

Historically, babies who lost their mothers died. Humankind is vastly more likely to be made up of people who can, and have, survived the loss of a father; and much less likely to be made up of those that have experienced the loss of a mother.

Is this why God is male in monotheistic religions?

If a culture is going to suggest a deity that fills the spiritual and psychological gap left by a dead or missing father, it doesn’t need another woman. The women are already right there, where you can see them and touch them and be cared for by them.

How comforting, then, to be taught that your father is always with you too, always watching over you, keeping you safe, providing everything you need. Even when he is invisible, a belief rather than a being.

It worked in Judiasm[1], Christianity[2] and Islam[3]. One of the most telling and important tenets of all three faiths was that men were to care for widows and orphans – essentially substituting organized human action and generosity for the protection of a living earthly father. This was no small thing: it was the beginning of civilized society.

Am I implying fathers are not important? No. I am saying exactly the opposite: that fathers are so important, entire cultures developed intellectual systems to allow communities to cope with the loss of them. We did not need to do this for women.

I believe this is why God is male. Because we need Him to be.

Happy Father’s Day!





[1] “A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in his holy dwelling.”—Psalm 68.5

[2][2] “Pure and undefiled religionbefore our God and Father is this: to care for orphansand widows in their distress, and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.” James 1:27

[3]  And They Feed, For The Love Of Allah, The Indigent, The Orphan, And The Captives, Saying: We Feed You For Allah’s Sake: No Reward Do We Seek From You Nor Thanks.

(Surah  76:  Ayah  8-9)










Tending the little sprouts, with Love

I planted Aunt Mary’s “Yellow Seeds,” without having any idea what they were. I still do not know. I will not know for weeks. But, I will tend to them with tenderness and care and hope for the best. Seeds are like kids.

I am up at 4am  watering my little sprouts.

The seeds are Aunt Mary’s “yellow seeds,” I picked up several envelopes last July at the celebration of her life. They are Mystery Seeds – we do not know what she planted or what she saved, or what seeds got into which envelopes; just that they are all “yellow seeds” from Aunt Mary. She loved them and collected them conscientiously.

Gently misting them, I wonder what they are and what they will become. I can only know by tending to them: watering them, fertilizing them, carefully transplanting them into garden beds I have prepared with topsoil, trellises, and making sure they get all the sunshine and water they need.

I have to water very carefully: the sprouts which popped out with vim and vigour – the more sturdy sprouts which are now climbing up the poles I gave them (shish kebab sticks) I think MIGHT be Black Eyed Susan.

The more fragile, willowy ones…I have no idea. I will tend to them as carefully as I can and perhaps transplant them into a pot I can move around, before I try to put them into the Earth.

Thinking of these little sprouts, and my sisters, I realize that what I am doing to tend to these unknown sprouts is exactly what my big sister Cathie is doing with human beings: she and Bob and Tracy and Adam are at Kercheval Dance every day, tending to the little sprouts. Providing them with poles on which they can stretch and grow.

kidsThey cannot know now the potential in these sprouts. What are they? Who are they? What will they become? Only with love and care and water and sunshine, music and dance, love and attention, can anyone know.

I am so grateful to live in a world, and in a family, in which people invest time, effort, and love into little sprouts so that we might know – and they might know – what they can become.

mary al
Al and Mary Wancha. Mary loved her yellow flowers!

Financial stress the #1 cause of mens’ suicide

When I asked Khalil Shahinjouy if he would pose for a photo of a “man screaming in frustration” for me, he laughed heartily: “I already have one! Me at City Hall! “

I was so worried about the unbearable stress being piled onto members of Toronto’s taxi industry by UberX’s illegal activities last winter, I contacted a friend who heads up a mental health agency and asked for her help.

“Many of these men are being pushed past the point of endurance,” I tried to explain. “At the demonstration in December, some wanted to lay on the TTC tracks and commit suicide, because they could not bear to go home empty-handed to their families one more day. They have been shamed, humiliated and devastated by the effect of UberX on their livelihoods. It is horrific.”

We talked for a while, which was mostly me trying to explain to her the outrage the industry feels over the fact that while legal taxi drivers are subject to every minor by-law the City can dream up, UberX drivers are subject to no regulation whatsoever.

Anyway, I drafted a proposed ad for her and worked on her copy. Ironically, originally, the copy I sent her made specific reference to the fact that UBER is pushing cab drivers to the brink of insanity. My first draft was this:

“Are you stressed out over UberX?

(photo: man screaming)

Members of Toronto’s taxi industry are enduring an incredible amount of stress – financial, emotional, intellectual – since UberX arrived in town.

Did you know that one of the largest predictors of male suicide attempts is financial stress?

Symptoms of extreme stress which can destroy your health include:

  • X
  • X
  • X
  • X”


By the time we got to the final draft, my friend, who was becoming increasingly uncomfortable committing to writing the fact that it is UBER that is making taxi drivers crazy, wrote me to say:

“I took out ALL reference to Uber.  Sorry…but I just don’t want to attack.  Just offer support.”

The offer of support is so kind, and I am very grateful for all the work she did compiling the information below. I still felt like quite the failure: somehow I had not managed to explain to her that it is not the taxi industry, or Toronto traffic, or the pressure of earning a living that is destroying cab drivers; it’s UBER, and the City’s refusal to enforce its own laws.

Anyway, here is her very informative text. Maybe it will help someone in a dark moment. I hope it does.

“An open letter to our friends in Toronto’s Taxi Industry,

Are you worried about your career as a Taxi Driver or Taxi Licence Owner?

(photo: man screaming)

It has never been easy to be a member of Toronto’s taxi industry.  Hours are long, wages can be unpredictable, and regulations can be frustrating.  But for over a year now, we understand life is unimaginably hard.  Stress levels are through the roof.  Industry members are facing great financial uncertainty.  You’re suffering and your families are suffering.

We hear you and want to help.

Did you know that one of the largest predictors of male suicide attempts is financial stress?  And high levels of stress can lead to severe mental health issues.

Here are a few things to watch out for:

  • Physical symptoms (head and stomach aches, fatigue, sweating, changes in appetite, difficulty breathing, heart palpitations,);
  • Constant worry and difficulty concentrating;
  • Increased irritability and/or agitation, aggressiveness, combativeness, and anger;
  • Feelings of hopelessness, distorted thinking (eg: “my life is a total failure”) and lack of confidence;
  • Prolonged sadness;
  • Changes in sleep patterns (too much or too little, insomnia);
  • Social withdrawal (friends and family);
  • Increased alcohol or drug consumption;
  • Suicidal thoughts, writings or actions.

Please know that there is no shame in seeking help for your brain health.

If you feel like these difficult times are costing you your mental health, PLEASE – ask for help!


See your family doctor and be honest with them about what’s going on.  And visit one (or call) of these agencies for support:


www.torontodistresscentre.com provides a confidential help-line service available 24 hours a day to persons in Toronto in emotional distress.  The number is 416-308-HELP (4357)

www.211toronto.ca/ (or 211 on the phone).  211 is operated by the United Way and has a dedicated online section for addictions and mental health.  There, you’ll find links to distress numbers and centres that exist to HELP YOU.

www.gersteincentre.org offers a telephone crisis line run by crisis workers 24 hours a day, 7 days a week at.  Crisis Line is 416-929-5200.

www.eMentalHealth.ca is a non-profit initiative and has lots of resources for families.  Because whether you know it or not, your families are impacted by your mental health.

www.meetup.com/Mental-Health-Peer-Support-Organization  Meet ups can be a great way to meet people with similar symptoms or concerns.  There thousands of types of meetups in Toronto and you can search them all at www.meetup.com.”


How to know your son has married into the right family

Peetra’s parents, Jennes and Mark, have raised 3 brilliant, beautiful daughters.

At the wedding rehearsal on Friday, the wedding planner was diligent in covering every single detail of the ceremony, including who would give away the bride. While Peetra was walked down the aisle by both her mother Jennes and her father Mark, the wedding planner seemed to be of the mind that this question, traditionally asked, required only one person to answer.

“And so, when the Celebrant asks, ‘Who gives this bride to be married,’ who will answer?” she asked very matter-of-factly, apparently expecting Mark to speak up at this point and say, ‘I do.’”

“NO ONE!” Mark answered, forcefully.

“But this question is always asked, traditionally, and usually the father of the bride says ‘I do,’” the wedding planner carried on, eyes on her clip board, pen in hand, clearly expecting to be able to check off one more item and move on to the next.

“NO ONE is giving the bride away,” Mark reiterated, disgust evident in his voice.

I was surprised that the wedding planner took a third run at it: “But this is a traditional part of the ceremony, it is always asked…”

“NO ONE is giving the bride away,” Mark stated clearly. “This is the 21st century. It is not going to happen.”

“We will pay 12 goats for her!” I called out gleefully. “She looks healthy! Actually,” I added, “we would be willing to throw in a cow.”

“I am holding out for a camel,” Mark laughed.

“The Smith Family does not own a camel,” I sighed sadly. “However, we will give you two goats if you will take Tom Smith.”

From the altar, Tom Smith noted: “That’s the nicest thing she’s said to me all day.”