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A Father’s Day Tribute & Contest from Fiesta Farms

12 Jun

I could listen to people’s personal stories about cooking and eating with their families for hours on end. Food truly does bring people together and bonds family members.

I’ll never forget witnessing the intense feeling of sadness and regret when Neil’s aunt passed away and his cousin, her son, came face to face with the reality that he would never taste her hand-made lasagna ever again…That moment touched me deeply.

Our family recipes, food rituals and meals should never be taken for granted.

Father’s day is coming up this weekend and Fiesta Farms is running a really awesome contest in honor of dads and grandfathers and the food memories that surround them.

The 2012 Apron Strings Contest is a call out to Torontonians to share your stories, recipes and food memories about your dad or grandfather for a chance at winning one of three gift certificates to the store. All entries will be posted on the Fiesta Farms website and the top 3 will win the prize. You have until June 30th to share your story and you can enter here.

On top of that, the good folks at Fiesta Farms have put together Father’s Day cooking videos featuring families sharing recipes and cooking together for our viewing pleasure. They’re very cute and fun to watch.

The contest inspired Neil and me to think about our own personal stories and we both decided to write separate entries for the contest.

As a tribute to our dads, we wanted to share what we wrote with our Communal Table readers.

Happy upcoming Father’s Day to our amazing fathers Phil Tryansky & Nick Faba and to all the dads out there!

Jenny’s Father’s Day Tribute Story:

Steak and French Fries – The Other Side of My Grandfather       

This one’s about my grandfather’s cooking but my dad is just as much an important part of the memory as a whole…

My grandfather was a complex man. The kind of person who didn’t say a lot and had a presence that some found intimidating. We spent many Christmas vacations staying at my grandparent’s condo in Florida. A traditional man, my grandfather was not one to help out in the kitchen and spent most of his days playing cards with his friends. But –my favorite memory of him, one that is still so vivid in my mind, is when he cooked for the family his one and only signature meal: Steak and French fries.

He would banish everyone from the kitchen and get to work slicing and peeling potatoes to make homemade thick-cut fries (legendary in my own father’s childhood memories) and spice up huge steaks. I remember he would wear an apron, which would always make me take notice and instantly softened his stature. The smell of the fries frying always made everyone salivate and we couldn’t wait to get our hands on a plate of them. They were the best I’ve ever had; Oily, salty and soft yet crispy. I don’t know how he achieved perfection every time.

He served the meal with extra spicy pickles that my dad would always proudly note my grandfather ‘doctored up’ himself and we would all sit down to a meal that allowed me to see a whole other side of my ‘Zaidie’.

I cherish that special food memory.

** When I shared this story with my dad, he in turn shared this happy little nugget with me: “I can still smell the fries and imagine their taste with salt and ketchup. But I especially remember how happy it made him to make all that for all his kids”

Neil’s Father’s Day Tribute Story:

I don’t have a lot of childhood food memories that include my father. He worked a lot, and while we were fortunate to be able to sit down to meals as a family on a fairly regular basis, my mom was often the one to cook those meals. And since she’s always been something of an amateur gourmet chef and genuinely loves cooking, I tend to consider her my most important culinary influence.

But in so many ways, my dad is responsible for how I think about and approach food. He was born in Italy, moving to Canada when he was 11 years old. Since crossing the ocean for a new life, his family has held on to the recipes and food traditions that had been so much a part of their ancestry and history in the “Old Country.” My zios (Italian for uncles) keep expansive vegetable gardens at their suburban Toronto homes, cellar salumi and cheeses in their basements to eat when they’ve been aged to perfection, and make their own (addictively drinkable) wine. Those ingredients have been central to many family meals I enjoyed as a child, and continue to enjoy now with my wife and other new family members.

And while I’ve only recently realized it, my father is a pretty amazing cook in his own right. My parents separated when I was 16, and in the years immediately after that I don’t recall a lot of great meals with my dad. What I do remember (and what my sister and I tease him about still, even though I think it only happened once) was my dad serving us mashed potatoes that turned out to be from a box. 

At 19, I moved away to go to university, and after graduation I continued to live away from home for another five years. It was over that 10-year stretch that a slow, almost imperceptible change began to take place in my dad’s kitchen. Each time I came home and sat down to a meal, something new and different was in front of me – expertly prepared fish, risottos and meat dishes. When I started bringing Jenny to dinner at my dad’s, she was quick to compliment him on what he’d made, often asking for the recipe and for his cooking tips. 

I remember how I felt the first time she said to me, after a dinner my dad had cooked, “I can see where you get your great cooking skills from.” It was at that point that I began to realize that my father had always had great culinary skills. It had just taken him a while to feel the passion needed to really showcase those skills, and it took me even longer to recognize a part of him we’d both taken for granted. And I think that’s a lesson about fathers: Often, it’s so easy for kids to focus on ways they think their dads don’t measure up. But by doing that, we’re often missing out on appreciating the great men they truly are.

Win Tickets to the Green Living Show with Communal Table!

11 Apr

Green Living Show

The Green Living Show – Canada’s largest green consumer show dedicated to educating people about easy and workable solutions for leading a sustainable lifestyle – is taking place next weekend in Toronto, April 15 to 17, and we have two pairs of tickets to give away free to a couple lucky readers. Keep reading to find out how to win!

The show is in its 5th year, and it’s grown each year. That makes sense, of course, since the focus on sustainable living has continued as more people realize that with a few small actions and a few easy changes to our buying habits, we can all make a positive impact on our interaction with the environment. But green trends aside, the show itself continues to draw crowds because it really has something for everyone. Here are some of the highlights of this year’s event:

  • For  job seekers, the Green Jobs Forum on Friday will feature a panel of speakers discussing the new green economy, how to develop in-demand green skills and transform traditional skills to meet the needs of the green workforce, and tips on how to find a green-focused job.
  • Those focused on fashion will pick up some useful info on which cosmetics are safe, as well as get a look at some great green clothing.
  • Looking for a new car that’s easier on the environment? The show’s Green Living Test Drive section will offer opportunities to test drive leading green cars from Toyota, Mitsubishi, Lexus and Nissan!

Of course, we’re always most interested in the food and drink, and the Green Living Show offers plenty in this regard. The Farm Fresh Fare area will pair up some of Toronto’s best chefs with farmers from across the province to create dishes that will be sampled throughout the festival. More cooking will take place on the Cooking Stage, where some of the chefs participating in Farm Fresh Fare will tell you how to create great dishes using local and sustainable ingredients. There will also be sessions on pairing beer and cheese and the Slow Food movement. Local craft beers and biodynamic wines will be available to taste. And if that’s not enough, the show will have its very own farmers’ market, the Good Eats Market, where you can buy some amazing local produce, cheeses and other products to enjoy at home.

We’ll definitely be walking around the Green Living Show, eating, drinking and discovering new green products and information, and you can too. Admission to the show is $12 or free with the donation of electronic waste, which is a great deal if you have any products that need recycling. If you don’t have any e-waste, all you have to do to win one of two pairs of passes to the show is:

Option 1: Tweet this phrase: Win tickets to #GreenLivingShow from #CommunalTable http://wp.me/pJ0ov-nA

Option 2: Leave us a comment right here on the blog letting us know you’d like to win!

That’s it! Tweet or comment to enter by this Wednesday, April, 13. Winners will be announced here and on Communal Table’s Facebook page on Thursday. Good luck!

Final Week to Donate and Win a Mark McEwan/North 44 Prize Pack!

12 Dec

Mark McEwan Great Food at Home

There’s still time to be entered for your chance to win a $200 gift certificate to chef Mark McEwan’s North 44 Restaurant in Toronto, as well as a signed copy of his new cookbook, Great Food at Home, all while helping the Daily Bread Food Bank help feed those in need.

As many of you know, Jenny and I launched a campaign in November to raise funds for the Daily Bread Food Bank. The organization helps feed people across the Greater Toronto Area year-round. But the Christmas holidays represent one of their busiest periods. So it seemed like a natural fit for us – using our food blog, where we focus on the food we cook, eat and love, to help the Daily Bread Food Bank feed those in need.

Since we set up Team Communal Table’s online donation page nearly a month ago, many of our family members, friends, and even several people we’ve never had the chance to meet, have generously donated. We’re really happy to report that we’ve raised a total of $1,030 so far! And everyone who has made a donation will be entered into a draw for the North 44/Mark McEwan cookbook prize pack, generously donated by chef McEwan and his staff. We think it’s a great prize, and we’re excited to be able to give it to one generous donor.

If you’d like to be entered for your chance to win, just click here to go to Team Communal Table’s Daily Bread Food Bank online donation page. With a minimum $10 donation, payable by credit card through the secure site, your name will be placed in our draw and you’ll also receive a tax receipt via email from the Daily Bread Food Bank. It’s really a win-win situation: You help the food bank ensure people are well-fed over the holidays, you receive a tax deduction for making a donation, and you might even win a great prize.

But if you want to donate and win, you need to do it soon. We’ll draw a name from all donations received by midnight on Saturday, December 18, and announce the winner both here on the blog and on our Facebook Page by Monday, December 20.

To make a donation: Click here to go to our team page. Then, click on “Make a gift” on the righthand side next to the red progress meter, and fill out the online form.

Thanks to everyone for their generous donations!

Daily Bread Food Bank

Holiday Giveaway #1: New PC Insider’s Report Products from Loblaws

30 Nov

One of the things I love most about the holidays is the excitement that builds in my mind around traditions. Over the years as my family circle evolved, our holiday traditions did too. My parents’ divorce, relatives passing away, my moving away from home and other events led to new ways of celebrating the holidays. But no matter what’s happened, some things that I’ve grown to look forward to at Christmas haven’t changed. My mom and relatives always put out far-too-indulgent feasts of delicious food, I always make sure to get in at least one viewing of A Christmas Story, and as far as I’m concerned, Christmas isn’t officially over until I get to hear The Pogues’ Fairytale of New York at least a dozen times.

Another holiday tradition I’ve looked forward to for as long as I remember is the President’s Choice Insider’s Report. Since I was a kid, I’ve always loved reading through the pages of the Insider’s Report, with its descriptions of products reading more like stories than marketing copy. As a kid, I knew that the arrival of the Insider’s Report in the Saturday paper meant it was only a matter of time before delicious treats began making their way into our kitchen… PC Egg Nog, Chocolate Fudge Crackle Ice Cream, PC smoked salmon on Christmas morning.

So it seems fitting that Communal Table’s first 2010 holiday giveaway is a selection of products from the latest edition of the PC Holiday Insider’s Report. We have a package of goodies that would go great with a morning of opening presents… or would make pretty good gifts themselves. Here’s what you can win:

  • A 1 lb. package of of new PC 100% single origin Hawaiian fine-grind coffee (Jenny and I are currently working our way through a package of this stuff; it’s medium bodied and flavourful – perfect for weekends!)
  • A 425 g jar of PC The World’s Best Jumbo Cashews
  • A box of the new PC Gourmet Belgian Chocolate Collection (30 chocolates in six flavours)
  • A box of the new PC Chocolate Fruit Fancies, which  are milk or dark chocolate ganache and fruit puree enrobed in Belgian chocolate

This stuff all looks delicious, and to be honest I’d love to keep it and eat it all myself. But Jenny won’t let me, so we’re giving it all away to one lucky reader. All you have to do to enter this contest is this: Leave a comment below this post and let us know what your favorite holiday traditions are (Canadian entries only for this one). That’s it. We’ll pick a name at random from all comments left on this post by Monday, December 6, and announce the winner here next Tuesday, when we’ll also announce our next holiday giveaway prize (yep, we have more holiday surprises coming!)

Also, don’t forget about Communal Table’s donation drive on behalf of the Daily Bread Food Bank… all donations made are eligible to win a $200 gift certificate to North 44 Restaurant in Toronto and a signed copy of chef Mark McEwan’s new cookbook, Good Food at Home.  Click here for details on how you can donate and win with Communal Table.

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