The Pantry of Pleasures

My rapped attention would be focused on the under-stairs pantry, which guarded troves of fresh baking. On any visit, its treasures might offer up chocolate muffins, gumdrop cake dolloped with creamy icing, or extra syrupy cinnamon buns. You could count on a fresh loaf of homemade bread. 

The aroma of spices, yeast and sugar would practically overcome my senses as I’d count down the minutes until teatime. Delicacies would soon be served on green Depression-era plates (now in full vogue, thanks to Martha Stewart).” … An excerpt from, “ A Place at My Table”.

This photo would have been taken about the time I started visiting Emma.  Thousands of visits were to follow, but this is exactly how I will always remember her.

Upon hearing of the story concerning Emma’s polio, someone referred to her as “handicapped”.  I was taken aback, not once had I’d thought of her that way!  Strong-willed, an overcomer through any challenge, I started to correct, “Oh, Emma wasn’t handicapped… she just couldn’t walk!” It struck me, “not being able to walk” might have been considered a huge “drawback”, but only to those who didn’t know Her!

My designated chair at the table faced the gateway to those treasures. A thin film of cotton had been sewn into a gathered curtain.  No doubt there were times when the contents lying beyond may have been the real reason for my “drop-ins”.  

With each drop of tea, love multiplied. That’s what happens when you share your table.  Nowadays, we may not possess troves of fresh sweets, but we have bakeries and coffee shops. Connections are made over food and drinks. Care reaches out. Relationships are established, and lives like mine are changed.

Emma possessed very few “giftings”, as most would judge a person like her.  With a grade four education, and little access to the world outside her home, Emma shared what little she had. God multiplied her efforts, accomplishing the miraculous.

When this woman and child came together, a commonality was created over bread and biscuits. 

Emma at her pantry, she is speaking to me even now. “Susan, it’s not about perfection, but dedication.

When you share your table, you share your soul.  

For more stories, go the our store and purchase “A Place at My Table”.

Good Friday, but my “Sunday” was Coming!

I’m reminded of the fiery sermon title by the black preacher, S.M. Lockridge, five powerful words. “It’s Friiidaaaay! But Sunday’s Coming!”. All seemed hopeless and lost on the Friday of Jesus’ crucifixion. However, new life was coming on Sunday!

Doris Langille, in front of the home where I met her

… It’s Good Friday, April 8, 1955, Saint John, New Brunswick. The circumstances weren’t ideal, and the setting remains a puzzle. However, my birth on that day heralded a new start for my father, age forty-three, a “second” daughter and the beginning of a second family. Another chance. He’d had one child over twenty years before, but they were permanently estranged.

Maria had met Russell when he was struggling to survive a long and painful divorce (caused in part to his drinking). Her side of the story is that she felt so sorry for him. He confided to me that she had surely “saved” him. In any case, a pregnancy resulted. My mother’s Acadian family, living in Northern New Brunswick (Campbellton) and across the river in St. Francois, Quebec, had no knowledge of her unborn child.

The father of her unborn child was a ‘Divorced,’ ‘English,’ ‘Protestant .’ The news would disappoint the entire family. So, Maria didn’t tell them.

The reason for travelling to the other end of the province to my father’s family remains a mystery. The failure of his first marriage had caused some distancing from them as well. But, like the wise men who followed a “sign,” my parents had somehow been directed to visit his hometown. It was the only time in my growing-up years that they did.

My mother knew she was going to have to eventually face her family. She must have sensed that my father had not exercised himself from his demons. On this day, no one in my hometown would have knowledge of my birth. Had keeping me been a last-minute decision rather than having me adopted? After nine months, my parents still hadn’t settled on my name.

It was Good Friday on the church calendar, but not a very “good Friday” for the prospects of this newborn. However, in a few days, my father’s family would be gathering with my parents. Dad’s cousin, Doris Langille, would be one of them. “A Place at My Table” talks about the friendship between Doris and my father, whom she described in his younger years as “Hollywood handsome, and full of fun.”

There’s no way my mother’s soft heart would allow her to give me up. My father would have wanted to do the “right thing”. So there I was, welcomed with open arms at the family gathering.

“A Place at My Table,” recounts how, at the age of fourteen, I discovered the existence of my father’s cousin Doris… how I’d written to her and took the train ride to visit hundreds of miles away. Assuming this was our first meeting, she informed me that it was not. After being like a sister to my father, her life later took her on a very different path than his. As well, she’d become a Believer.

One person at the family gathering threw a sarcastic remark her way. (I can’t help but assume it had been my Dad.) Feeling humiliated and discouraged, she made her way to a darkened bedroom, where the newborn “Susan” lay.

“I started to cry and wondered, what will ever become of this child?” “I took you in my arms and felt that I should pray for you…” Doris held a one-minute baby dedication, “God, bring someone into Susan’s life so she will come to know you.”

My “Good Friday,” arrival into less than ideal circumstances, held prospects for a potentially dark future. However, my “Sunday” was coming because God had intersected an “accidental birthplace” with one of the Godliest women I have ever met.

You might feel stuck in a “Good Friday” of hopes that have died. Perhaps you find yourself mired in a “Silent Saturday” where it seems like God is aloof and not answering your prayers. But, like the preacher, I’ll repeat your Sunday is coming! He may use the most unlikely circumstances to change your life around.

On the other hand, be the “Sunday answer” to someone’s life. Doris never knew what her one-minute prayer accomplished until I looked her up fourteen years later. (How that came about is another story in my book, how my father’s hurtful remark to me started a chain of events that led me to Doris). Be the “Sunday Person”.

“It’s Friiidaaaay! But Sunday’s Coming!” Can I hear a loud, “Amen”!!

* The Pitre family found out about me about six months after my birth. They adored me and unconditionally loved my father.

My Table Talk blogs come from a passion to connect. The stories in “A Place at My Table” will inspire! Tap photo for your copy.

Charcuterie… the new cheese & crackers!

Whether Mom was feeling rushed, or it was getting near the end of “pay period”, she could count on one meal to solve her problems – Kraft slices and bologna, layered over a crusty white roll. Those pyramids of culinary delights stretched her budget and her timeline! All the family knew is that she’d planned the perfect Saturday night supper!

As a young bride on a limited budget, I “cheffed up” Mom’s basics by introducing European delicacies. Salami and mozzarella slices were artfully stacked over split Kaiser rolls, then finessed with sprinklings of briny green olives. A light charring under the broiler produced ooey, gooey cheese that would stretch from feast to lips. We’d lean in to slurp up every last wobbly string.

My company-worthy snacks could expand into a full meal by accessorizing with pickles and potato chips. However, there was a secret and practical side to my offerings. I found myself scheming how to clean out the fridge by layering collections of leftovers, then disguising them under a melted mountain of cheeses!

Whether “on the cheap”, or “on the go”, I became proficient at creating offerings that always seemed to call for seconds.

Not to be outdone, our church socials inspired me with their arrays of “open-face” sandwiches. The buffets seemed to extend from here to eternity. Platters offered varieties of stacked meats peeking through tomato and cheese toppings. Endless mixes, like tuna and celery or chicken and cucumber, contributed to what I considered to be “world-class gastronomies”.

Nowadays, simpler meals shared with friends seem to have lost out to Pinterest’s perfect presentations. “Quantity”, how often we gather, has lost out to “quality”. Some feel that in order to have company, they first have to measure up to, “the hostess with the mostest”.

I have great news for the intimidated! The hottest trend in entertaining now is the much-hailed, “Charcuterie Board”. Never in gastronomic history has a simple offering been more over-rated. What our mothers once referred to as, “cheese and crackers” now tops the trends!

Let’s face it. Any four-syllable French word to describe a meal comes across as daunting. “Char-coot-er-ee”, requiring a twirl of the tongue to pronounce, just drips of “classiness”. And when you have to Google the dish to find out what’s in it, that can’t help but add an air of mystery and sophistication.

It’s time for Company. You can do this!

How to serve a “charcuterie”
1. Draw from what you know already, what Mom did for Saturday night suppers. Then, adapt the elements and presentation by shamelessly stealing Pinterest photos and ideas.

2. Cut out the drudgery. Don’t make sandwiches like our moms did. Relax, because YOU don’t do the assembling. After laying out several selections, the order of the day is, “Everyone, help yourself…”

Lazy, and yet classy, at the same time. That’s genius!

2. Instead of using a plate, serve on a piece of wood. A charcuterie board (the hottest trend in gift-giving right now) can be substituted with any wood cutting board. Honestly, your serving dishes will do, but it’s nice to slip in a plank somewhere to make it “authentic”!

3. Just like Mom, you want some carbs (breads and crackers), meats (deli sliced), salty and savory (like nuts or chips), and briny (pickles and olives). Forget about making “salads. Lay out assorted veggies, guests will create for themselves. A combination of hard and soft cheeses, separated by clusters grapes, will offer a colorful finesse to “our “charcuterie feast”.

What easier combination than “no-cook”, “sit wherever you want”, followed up with “easy cleanup”? Afterwards, you’ve got the makings of perfect leftovers”!

Most importantly, what memories will remain long after your impressive array? It wouldn’t matter if your offerings had been any more than crackers and cheese. What counts will be the conversation, the care you showed, the love you extended as you shared your time, your food – that you gave of yourself.

…. Dedicated to Jack and Daisy Keys. Their Sunday evening hospitality looked almost the same every week. Whether it was a visiting guest or someone who needed a little encouragement, their offerings became legendary: toast and tea… with maybe a little something on the side.

Many were touched that their pastors, who’d held several services that day, took the time and effort to be with them. Young couples in ministry were given the chance to be “loved on” for who they were, not how they’d performed.

To this day I hear stories of how lives were changed with the Key’s simple encouragements. Thank you, Jack and Daisy, for putting friendship before finesse, and simplicity before culinary feasts. Your legacy lives on. Some, who would later persevere through hard times, were reminded of the value you’d placed on them.

Don’t know about you, but I just got hungry! Think I’ll call a friend to come over. (More charcuterie tips, and feel-good, food-good stories to come.)

My Table Talk blogs come from a passion to connect. The stories in “A Place at My Table” will inspire! Tap photo for your copy.

I’d love to hear from you. Did this bring back a memory? Add suggestions!

Don’t miss funny, informative, but always encouraging, “Table Talks”. Unsubscribe anytime, but you won’t want to!

Success! You're on the list.

And that’s the Tea!

“Tuesday Table Talks”… why I’m writing this Blog

A Sunny but wind-blown day celebrating my birthday, April last year with my dear sister Karen.

“Spill the tea, “that’s the Tea”… A modern definition of spread the news, or, that’s the truth!

According to Urban Dictionary, “spill the tea” means, “the scoop”, “the news”. The term can be used for local gossip, to indicate that yours is the juiciest of news!” “Have you heard the latest?” “You can count on this being the truth!” Nowadays, phrases like this are often used interchangeably with, “That’s, the tea!”  

HISTORY   The phrase, “Tea Time” evolved from a British afternoon snack to a full-on experience beloved by women worldwide. In the eighteenth century, “unaccompanied” ladies had been afforded few socially acceptable outlets for gatherings. They met, not just to drink “tea”, but also to gather with friends and chat up the latest events. 

CULTURES   In many countries, cafes are filled with men sharing the latest. They’ll sip on a tea or coffee cup for hours, swapping events, giving opinions, only to meet, and repeat, the next morning.

MODERN DAY  Enter any eatery nowadays, and you’ll find gatherings of girlfriends, guys with their best buds, or any mix of sexes, ages and walks of life! They’re all sharing their stories around a table.

My Teastory is rooted in chats, with drinks that “drop-by-drop” changed my outcomes. Every sip of the host’s hot liquid seemed to come with a message. Those life lessons guided me, and eventually transformed the lives of women and men around me. The story of one family’s journey of faith can be yours too. I have the very best news to share with you, but it’s not gossip or mindless hearsay. 

My blogs will serve as “place settings”, exploring further insights into the subjects covered in “A Place at My Table”. But like any exchanges between good friends, conversations can wander “from the sublime to the ridiculous”. Some posts will inspire or give you a good idea. Others may bring a tear. Many will bring a give you a chuckle for the day.

Jesus announced, “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour.” Luke 4:18,19

The good news is the ultimate testimony anyone can share. You can count on it. That’s the tea!

Don’t miss funny, informative, but always encouraging, “Table Talks”. Unsubscribe anytime, but you won’t want to!

Success! You're on the list.

A Place At My Table