I’m heading back to my hometown (Campbellford, Ontario) for a couple of days this week. It’s a chance to visit friends, revisit local sights, and load up on fresh curd from Empire Cheese & Butter Co-op. Anyone who is a true connoisseur of cheese curds knows they must be less than 24-hours old to be considered truly fresh—squeaky, rubbery, worm-like appendages with just the right amount of salt. When I’ve had the good fortune to arrive at Empire at the right time of the morning, I’ve enjoyed them still warm from the vat and there is no finer culinary treat.
As a kid in the fifties, we used to stop at one of the many local cheese factories on our Sunday drives and Dad would pick up a cardboard container of curd for us to polish off, wiping our greasy fingers on our clothes before we got home. Most of those small local factories in Ontario have closed now but Empire remains open, independent and always busy with fresh dairy and a variety of local treats. There are very few independent factories still operating and we need to support them not only for the excellent quality of what they produce but for the important jobs they provide to the local economy.
I’ll also be stopping to refresh my supply of goodies from Dooher’s Bakery, voted Canada’s Sweetest Bakery. a fourth-generation small-town bakery that has become a destination for sweet-tooth aficionados like myself.
While I’m away, my husband has his own version of a hall pass. Before my car has barely turned the corner out of our neighbourhood, he peels out of the driveway and makes a beeline for his bucket of KFC. It’s his sacred ritual. For the duration of my time away hubby and the dog will exist on greasy, finger-linkin’ good breasts, wings and thighs. Admittedly, the quality of KFC has greatly diminished in the last few years, but it doesn’t seem to have affected his hankering for those famous eleven secret ingredients mysteriously glued to barely-there chicken parts. By the time I get home, the discarded evidence is stashed in the recycling and organic bins, although I’m not sure KFC even qualifies as ‘organic’ waste.
Every so often we need to forego healthy eating and just enjoy good old-fashioned junk food, particularly, with the stresses of the last eighteen months. We’re eager to grab onto whatever pleasures we can find. I’ve been indulging my passion for ice cream all summer (and the scales can confirm this) while trying to maintain overall healthy eating habits. It’s time for some recklessness and this week we’re both going to blow our entire junk food budgets on empty calories and artery-clogging grease and fat. So what!
We can try to justify our lapses as bulking up for winter. Bears do it and humans do it too. Butter tarts, pecan squares and cream-filled donuts are on the menu, along with the aforementioned KFC and cheese curds. There’s also a chocolate factory in my hometown and I can’t guarantee I’ll pass it by, but with the car full of inventory from the cheese factory and bake shop, I’m not sure I’ll have room for a load of chocolate-covered almonds and milk chocolate chunks.
In conversations with friends over the last few weeks, I’ve learned that I’m not the only one who is sick to death of cooking. The combination of enforced lockdown with lack of access to restaurants and visitors along with general cooking fatigue associated with our advanced age means we’re ready to let ‘er rip at the bakeshop. No more labour-intensive homemade sourdough. What the bakeshop offers is lovely and perfectly acceptable. Even KFC’s disgusting, greasy chicken has its appeal after a junk food fast. Am I right? So, do not block our driveway this week. We have places to go and things to do. Start the car; start the car.