My older brother couldn’t say “Grandma,” what came out was “Bama.” By the time I was born, she was just “Bam.”
Her husband had died late in the flu epidemic in 1920. My mother was twelve. When my mother married my father, Bam lived with them, and was like our second mother. All through childhood and into my years in Montreal, she was always there, funny, and once a week she baked bread. She used old round coffee tins; the dough rising, billowing over the top, emerging from the tins like a chef’s hat. It was dense, almost the texture of coconut bread, and moist, and when it was toasted it turned bronze, never losing its fresh bread smell. But what made it come alive was butter, and then honey, spread thickly then almost scraped off, leaving only the taste, never getting in the way of the experience of the bread.
It remains the standard. When my wife, Lynda, comes across some special bread somewhere, I slice it, toast it, spread butter and honey on it, and she waits — and she knows. It’s pretty good, but it’s not Bam’s Bread.
We moved to Montreal just after our honeymoon; I to be a law student and to play hockey, Lynda to be a teacher. We had never lived in Quebec before — part of our new life was food, and Lynda discovered that she loved to cook.
I love meat, and I love pie, but tourtière was like something I never had before. Softened with potatoes, sharpened with spices, it became our Christmas treat before our kids were born. After they were born, it became their treat too. After they grew up and went away, when we visit them and their kids for Christmas, Lynda always brings along a tourtière. Presents don’t matter to me so much now; I have everything I need. I like a tree. But Christmas without Lynda’s tourtière is not Christmas.
Thanks to Ken for contributing to our #myfoodhero campaign, which supports Community Food Centres Canada to offer empowering food programs that build better health, skills, and belonging in the communities that need it most. Join Ken by making a donation today!