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Flavour Guy: It took me 68 years to become a balaboost

It was the lawnmower that did it. We have a cottage in P.E.I. Why P.E.I? Well, one day about 25 years ago we thought it would be nice to have a cottage to go to when the city got too hot, to spend weekends at, to be in the country: the usual reasons.

We took a map and drew a circle around Montreal, about 100 miles, a 90-minute drive. It made sense.

Then we got a phone call from a friend buying land in Prince Edward Island. He wanted us to come in on the deal. I went to the McGill University library map room to see where it was. There was a chunk of bog on the land. “Bog?” my friend said, “Bog is good. I would love to have bog.”

But our friend and his family were going to be there, it was on a lovely bay, and the view was spectacular. Sometimes you don’t get what you wish for but you get what you need.

We found a couple of rental cottages for sale, built in the 1940s, and moved them to our land. Over the years we worked on them, sometimes with contractors, sometimes on our own, building, painting, fighting mosquitos from the bog. It’s a work in progress.

I found out that part of country living was being able to call on others for tools I lacked. Chain saws, hedge clippers, even BBQs get passed back and forth. While I thought this was working out fine, I sensed something was missing.

At our cottage, the yard is large. Once or twice a season I would borrow a neighbour’s push mower, slog it through the woods to our place, and chop off just enough so that we could see the sea.

However, in PEI grass cutting is a fine art with lawns the size of football fields manicured to the depth of putting greens.

One morning I decided that it was time we had our own mower. Celina, to my surprise, agreed and Sears had them on sale. By noon we had a new 21” EZ empty rear bag push-mower that didn’t just promise to cut the grass but had a “mowing system with consistent-cut technology” capable of bagging, mulching, slicing, dicing, and possibly doing whatever else might be required should the Cuisinart blow up.

I filled the mower with the correct fuel mixture. I applied sunblock, put in my ear plugs, adjusted my hat visor, and pulled the starter handle. Once. Twice. There was a belch of smoke as it roared alive. Through the ear plugs, I heard a comforting low growl. I pushed the mower down a long length of lawn.

Turning around at the end, I headed back past the house. Celina was watching from the screened-in porch. “What’s up?” I said. “Aah,” she said smiling, “At last my man is a real balaboost.”

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Raw oysters with watermelon granita

Balaboosta is Yiddish for homemaker. It is also used for a gracious hostess, a perfect wife, a great mother, etc. The male version, balaboost, implies capability, someone who can get things done, fix things, not have to borrow a neighbour’s lawnmower.

Here is a dish to serve any balaboost after mowing the lawn: Raw oysters with watermelon granita. It’s adapted from The Balaboosta Cookbook by Edina Admony. You can always skip the oysters as my balaboosta does. Mix 1 3/4 cups of pureed watermelon with the grated zest and juice of 1 lime.

Add 1/4 cup of vodka and a tablespoon of cold simple syrup (make this by cooking equal parts of sugar and water to dissolve the sugar). Mix well and put it in a covered container in the freezer.

Scrape it down with a fork every fifteen minutes or so until it has a consistency between slush and hard ice. Place a dollop on an oyster and serve.

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