It All Started on the 401: Rugelach

As I look back on what has become a somewhat longish life, there are adventures I’ve had with predictable endings from the get go and others that brought a few surprises. Those of you who know me well know that I didn’t always live in the frigid north-west of this vast country of ours. Nope. I started out in the “big city” and, to tell you the truth, was perfectly content there until it became apparent that, after much hard work and study, there was going to be little demand for someone with degrees in sociology and english (who would have thought!) in what could only be described as a challenging employment market. So what does one do when hard times hit? If you’ve heard it once, you’ve heard it a thousand times. You “go west young man”. And while that sentiment doesn’t exactly fit, I did in fact, go west. And stayed there for over 40 years so as you can see, there’s potential here for a very long story which I will do my best to truncate. 

It all started on Highway 401 in a 1970 fuel injection, Volkswagen Squareback Station wagon whose name, if I remember correctly, was Frodo. Northern Ontario is scenic, at least for the first day or so, at which point driving through miles and miles of forest with not even the remote possibility of passing a flush toilet, or any other kind for that matter, does get a little tedious. As we waved goodbye to Ontariairio, we stopped for a quick boo around Winnipeg which, because it was not yet winter, was tolerable. From there our plan was to head for the mountains before making our way to our final destination where we had heard that jobs were aplenty. Ok. So you know what they say about the best laid plans. That’s right. Not long after leaving “the Peg” as the locals know it, our little Frodo decided he was no longer going to accompany us on this journey of ours and he just stopped. That’s right. Stopped dead. Right there in the middle of the Trans Canada Highway for seemingly no reason at all. Unless you consider throwing a piston through the engine block reason enough. Which left us just shy of Elie Manitoba.

Now many of you may not have been to Elie in the late 1970s so let me tell you a little bit about it. It won’t take long. Elie was, and perhaps still is although I can’t say for sure not ever having revisited, a railway town about 30 miles west of Winnipeg. On one side of the highway there was a gas station (thankfully) and on the other side was Elie, with its approximately one hundred houses (honestly I never counted) and one hotel. You’ll just have to believe me when I say this was no Motel 6. This was the kind of hotel where people lived full-time, but not because they really wanted to. And where we were to spend the next three days, fortunately in one of the few “bathroom adjoined” rooms, while the very lovely people at the aforementioned gas station worked tirelessly to try to find us a solution to our problem. Alas to no avail. There were just no 1970 Volkswagen Squareback Station Wagon fuel injection rebuilt engines to be had no matter how many trips to Winnipeg our new friends at Esso made. So it was in Elie that our plans fell off the rails (swidt?) and onto a bus which carried us to our final destination, Edmonton. Thankfully, despite the rather dubious start, we enjoyed our many years there with our growing family, wonderful friends and yes, those jobs that enticed us on our journey in the first place. Until recently when we landed on this little Island of ours. 

Which brings me to the next chapter in this longish story of mine. Rugelach. As you are well aware, I am not a baker. In all those 40+ years in the north country I can count the number of times I baked anything on one finger. I might have mentioned this once or twice before so I won’t go into it here but if anyone had asked me what I thought my future would look like, the last thing I would have said was chocolate chips and cookie dough. So this is as much a surprise to me as it is to you. The thing is, all it took was one afternoon, baking rugelach with the walking ladies for this new journey to begin. Maybe it was the camaraderie. Or perhaps the realization that my cobalt blue, Kitchenaid mixer could do more than just look pretty on my counter. I’m pretty sure it didn’t hurt that everyone who tasted these cute little crescent rolls marvelled at their deliciousness. Whatever it was, the one thing I know for sure is that it all started with the rugelach and now here I am. Baking up a storm and loving it!  It’s a whole new adventure for me and with any luck, my engine won’t conk out before I get to wherever it is this road is going. 

Ina Garten’s Rugelach

Recipe: Prep time: 10 min; Inactive: 1 hr 30 min; Cook: 15 min; Total: 1 hr. 55 min.
Me: Those times? In your dreams! I make these over two days (dough one day, fillings and construction the next) but otherwise I would suggest you keep your whole morning or afternoon free.
Favourite thing about this recipe: Everyone loves rugelach! And even if like me, you are not a baker, you can concoct interesting and delicious fillings  which will make you feel like a baker.
Least favourite thing about this recipe: Talk to my back.
What I learned: You never know what adventures life will take you on, so hop into that Volkswagen and see where it goes. Just be prepared for a little dead yeast along the way. (And that’s a whole other story.) 

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