Sunday, December 12, 2010


Thursday night, I was surrounded by the merry and slightly tipsy voices of family friends as they robustly sang me "Happy Birthday," crystal classes clinking with white and red wine lapping the rims. Around this table, our rosy cheeks and laughter were clear signs that love and cheer were in sheer abundance. As we passed around plates of crisp pita and hummus, handing forkfuls of golden baked ziti across the table, the dinner marked a celebration in my life - cheers to being 21!

Looking back on the last two decades, I realized that most my birthdays have involved some sort of festivity that centers around the family table. There were the countless birthdays where my grandma made my favorite German chocolate cake with walnut rich icing, the year my friends and I sat in a cozy log cabin, sipping hot cocoa with heaping pillows of whipped cream or the time my Dad made juicy pork chops with a tangy cilantro lime marinade. While I was never conscious of food as a main focus, each dish that was placed on the table for a birthday dinner seemed extra special. It was as if the flavors were magnified and my taste buds even more eager to savor each bite.

Honoring the day we arrived on this earth is important and duly deserving of an extra slice of silky cake, a throng of sparkling candles and a bottle of bubbly to toast off the night. In celebrating the incredible opportunity of life itself, isn't it interesting that we often choose to involve food to create a special atmosphere, one that mirrors our excitement and affection for those we love? Nourishing our bodies with food, while a daily activity, can be a magnanimous gesture and provide the foundation for many wonderful memories.

The beauty of a heartfelt meal is that it doesn't just have to happen for a birthday celebration; it can occur every weekend if you like! Although some days may seem harder than others, each day is filled with reasons to throw our arms up the air and raise our glass to toast the beauty that surrounds us. So uncork the pinot noir, break out your table linens and start slicing the dill Havarti, you've got a reason to celebrate, many reasons.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

An ode to oatmeal

There's just something about those golden rounds cradled in my cereal dish that makes my heart feel light. Dressed up with a little cinnamon, a smattering of crushed walnuts and a good handful of plump raisins, oatmeal is a dish that I revere with biblical proportions.

By now, you might be thinking that I'm a little "oat obsessed" or that my other breakfast options must be terribly unexciting, but I have no shame in saying that oatmeal ranks high on my list of culinary favorites. Sure, oatmeal has the potential to be utterly bland and even gummy, but given some zest and earthy additions, oatmeal can be a reason to jump out of bed in the morning and get the day started with some enthusiasm!

As a college student, oatmeal can be a saviour - it's inexpensive, quick and easy to make. I admit (and know friends who can relate) to relying on oatmeal for a quick fix when a lone dollar nestles in my wallet or when I'm rushing between a dance class and the newsroom.

Steel-cut, rolled, old fashioned, my oats know how to satisfy my hunger pangs. As I mix together a bowl of steaming oats, ginger spread and soy milk, I have the tendency to stare at my concoction rather fondly. Each oblong pearl seems to whisper, "Taylor, you're an oatmeal genius" - praise which I gladly accept.

To those non-oatmeal believers, little do you know the powers of this breakfast treat. Feeling sick? The answer, a soothing bowl of oatmeal drizzled with honey. Needing some energy? Oatmeal with a spoonful of almond butter. Wanting to impress a date? Oh yes, oatmeal with a sprinkle of coco nibs and sliced strawberries.

This week, I encourage you to see how you can put your own twist this traditional breakfast. Invite a group of friends over for a oatmeal tasting where you can enjoy each other's creations. And if you find any keepers... be sure to let this oatmeal connoisseur know about them!