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The Cross and the Cleaver: Comfort Food

Hello all. This is more of a reflection than a recipe. Please forgive me. As I type this, I keep one eye on the updates about Ukraine. I am thinking of the people over there and of Ukrainian people in Saskatchewan and all over Canada who worry about their loved ones. I am thinking of my own family living in Poland, 325km from the Ukrainian border and 400km from the city of Lviv where recently air raid sirens were heard. This is not making me feel overly creative. It does however make me think of comfort food, of food that makes difference in times of stress.

For me, comfort food comes in two forms… simplicity and presentation. I am sure almost everyone gets simplicity. As for presentation, I assume you heard the expression: “presentation is half the success.” Meaning that polished shoes will likely get noticed over your wrinkled shirt, and a pocket square (handkerchief) might distract from the fact you don’t know how to press your pants (or you didn’t bother). Presentation is a matter of personal taste, but it makes a difference, and it can be simple! It does not have to be a hexagonal plate with three dimples in which lonely prawns rest on a skimpy bed of mayonnaise, decorated with a sprig of dill or basil chiffonade (sounds more impressive in French) and gently drizzled with golden olive oil and rich dark balsamic reduction. Sounds hoity-toity and complicated wouldn’t you say? It doesn’t have to be. Touch of this or that is all you need to lift an ordinary dish and bring a smile to your face and warm your heart, or the person you are serving it to. One of those places where you can practice is a dish known to many… BEANS ON TOAST.

– Toast several pieces of your favourite bread.
– Can of baked beans (whatever type you have) reheated gently on the stovetop (not the microwave, you philistine! )
– Place toast on plate – top the toast with HOT beans – sprinkle generously with shredded aged cheddar cheese (yes, the one from the bag is just fine, and no, mozzarella will not work).
– Garnish with parsley, freshly chopped or dried, and cracked black pepper.

You can add a splash of Worcestershire sauce or balsamic reduction. Colour contrast, remember!? Season with whatever kind of fancy-schmancy sea salt you can find/afford in any of the local stores (just memorize the label, to impress your date!). You can top the beans with a fried egg or/and a few slices of bacon. A slice of tomato on the side with a leaf of basil on top makes all the difference–think a touch of colour as a touch of hope and sunshine!

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