Traditionally, I’ve made a chocolate trifle at Christmastime – thanks to Jean Pare and cookbook given to me by an old friend years ago. However, no oven in my flat here met brownies, cake, or anything resembling them were off the table. I wanted to make dessert to bring to Christmas dinner with my co-workers, and had to find something no-bake. Of course, Nanaimo Bars seemed obvious! Until I tried to find the ingredients to make it.
This is the recipe I went with. And here’s what I had trouble finding: graham crackers, Bird’s custard powder, and anything resembling Baker’s chocolate. I should’ve scrapped the idea, but sometimes when I get an idea, it gets lodged.
I’d been intending to make this ever since I got more or less settled in Zhongshan, but didn’t manage to do it until a few days before Christmas. This a Canadian twist on a Bolognese from my uncle Kelvin in Edmonton. What makes it Canadian? Bacon instead of ground beef, plus maple syrup and beer.
Sourcing ingredients here can be tricky – bacon is no issue (it’s pork!), and you can get canned tomatoes, but they’re imported, and crazy-expensive when you’re earning in yuan. So I’ve learned where to dig things out, what to replace, and what I have to improvise. I’ve learned to peel fresh tomatoes, and splurge on dried spices which can’t be substituted. Behold the results:
I will say first: I love to cook. I make killer chocolate trifle. The Ukrainian lady who gave me her recipe for borscht said I was a very good cook – high praise. I make cookies every year for Christmas presents, and people anticipate them.
But here’s the problem: When I cook for just me (which is almost always) I always make too much. If it’s something that doesn’t keep well – which happens often, because I like trying new recipes to prevent boredom – I end up throwing away most of it. So I find recently I’m not cooking as much. It’s a waste of money, and time. I’m…enjoying it less.
I have a Costco membership to get the cheaper gas, and it’s good for bigger things that you can store – paper towels, bottled juice, canned tuna. I’ve learned NOT to buy the single servings of amazing greek yogurt or hummus though…because I’ll only get halfway through the box before the rest expires.
Every now and then, I take myself out for dinner, and I’ve learned over time which restaurants are nice to single people, and which will treat me like a fast food customer because I take up too much space and don’t spend enough money. If a restaurant has a bar, I usually squeeze in there, and ignore the rowdy university students on either side of me while I drink ginger ale.
Yesterday, the pain came. Yes, this is how I know my endometriosis is back, when I’m in horrendous pain for NO REASON. It’s on days like that when I should really be eating home-cooked vegetables. But it’s on days like that when I feel least like cooking – which involves standing. So I end up eating take-out instead. Because there’s no one to cook for me, but me.
This would require finding a man who can cook. Which is reason #4 (of several) that my crush on this man hasn’t abated yet.