Wasn’t that a party?

I love this city! I just love it! And New Year’s Eve proved it! Thousands of families were downtown, mingling on Collier St., stepping around horse deposits on Mulcaster (when beautiful Belgian horses give wagon rides to hundreds of people, they leave deposits, don’t you know?). Hundreds were skating on the Circle at the Centre that was the brainchild of Rob Butler. Hundreds more were lined up for the slide rides. And thank you to the many city staff who worked so we could play!

In its simplicity, this was a wonderful way to say goodbye to 2003. Poor old year. My good friend Andrea asked me what I wanted to leave behind, and I could think of a few things. A new year is like a the first page in your new English scribbler (dates me, doesn’t it?) in grade seven. A new year is like the first day after you get married. A new year is like the day you move furniture into a new office after it’s been painted. A new year is like day one of your business, or day one of your new job.

We begin with self promises (lose the Christmas weight, and some more), and end with regrets often.

But I’d like to toss that out and think about what I could personally do to make this city a better place. Just little me with small changes that could make a difference.

I could be much more patient when there’s an old person in a car in front of me. I could remember that my own mom or father-in-law could be in that car and is doing their very best in a crazy, cell-phone driven world of immediacy. I could also remember that to the 16 year old in the car behind me, I’m the slow old lady! It’s all relative!

I could rush less. I could look at my daytimer and block off what’s realistic, not what’s impossible.

I could take time to have conversations. I could take that daytimer and block off 90 minutes every two weeks somewhere at the beginning or end of the day. I could then make a list of all the ‘shoulds’. You know, the person in the nursing home that I keep saying I should go see. The person I used to work with and still love but never seem to have time to… The people who were so generous with their love and support when we first moved to town. Former neighbours in former houses. You get my drift…

I could want less. Much less. And live better for it.

I could support the politicians at all three levels of government. I could write to them regularly, thanking them for taking on the onerous job of representing the diversity of this area.

I could look at that thing in my character that continually gets in my way. It could be a fear of something. It could be a guilt of something. It could be an unidentified goal that whimsically avoids coming into focus.

I could stop, breathe deeply, pet the dog more, say hi to my neighbours and generally embrace the world.

Shouldn’t be that hard to do.

Happy Birthday, Barrie!

on another note

Those of you who caught my goodbye column on Lucretia Rowe should know that there is so much, much more to her life. Writing that history is another of the things I could get working on this year.

But, for now, the Martha Stewart in me (and this is the only shred there is) wants to share with you the infamous Coles recipe for spiced beef. The George Coles family (in the 1860’s and 70’s there were half a dozen Coles kids) were beef farmers, overlooking Kempenfelt Bay at the farm at the corner of Puget St and Shanty Bay Rd. The home still stands and new owners are in the process of lovingly restoring it… George Coles butcher shop was at the Barrie Market every single weekend. He was the master of beef for Barrie.

George was Lucretia’s grandfather. As a butcher, his spiced beefs were huge, so we’ll start with that and pare down.

The Coles Spiced Beef Recipe
(start in mid-November, you might put it in your 2004 daytimer now)
40 lb roast, 6 weeks in brine

Brine consists of
8 oz salt
1.5 cups brown sugar
1.5 ounce salt petre (I have found this impossible to buy)
1.5 ounce black pepper
1.5 ounce allspice
.5 ounce each nutmeg, ground cloves, mace.
(for a smaller roast, like 10 pounds, use 2.25 oz salt petre, 2 oz whole black pepper & allspice, 4 oz juniper berries, 1 blade of mace, 6 cloves, 6 oz salt, 6 oz molasses, 1 tsp nutmeg). You’ll see a change in ingredients… the top ones are Lucretia’s grandfather’s; the bracketed ones are Lucretia’s)

Day 1. Place roast in a crock. (it can’t be in a metal container). Rub brown sugar all over and into the roast, everywhere. Cover the crock with a cheesecloth rinsed in vinegar. Keep the roast in a very cool spot–your garage, a cold room.
Day 2. After thoroughly mixing the spices, rub them into the roast and continue daily, turning the roast to do so for the appropriate time to pickle it. A 40 pound roast (which practically none of us would ever do) would take 6 weeks. A 10 pound roast would take 3-4 weeks.
Each day. Turn the roast and scoop brine off the bottom of the crock, pouring it over the roast. You’ll need both hands to do this.
When done (Christmas Eve) wash off the spices, or leave a portion on the roast, and put it on a steaming rack in a pot. Bring water to a boil and simmer about 2 hours (for a 10 lb roast).

And then, get ready. Your taste buds won’t know what hit them!

Thanks, Lucretia!