Tuesday, 4 July 2017

Smoothies Are The New Ice Cream

In summers past, I have rhapsodised on ice creams. Just as a refresher, here's my position: we don't always keep ice cream in the house. When we do buy ice cream, we like to buy fairly nice stuff in small quantities. Matthew loves ice cream as a topper on most desserts (and sometimes breakfast too, not judging). I don't mind a dollop on a slice of pie or cake, or on top of some strawberries. But otherwise I leave it in the freezer and don't really fantasise about it.


When the weather is fine, and the sun is still up, for example on a summer evening in Vancouver, I do love to walk to any number of our local ice cream shops for a waffle cone with a scoop of chocolate in the bottom and a scoop of some random flavour on the top. Has to be a waffle cone. Has to be chocolate. Has to be the bottom scoop. Has to be evening, specifically after dinner (ice cream before dinner ruins your appetite). Love that combination.

Since we have found ourselves less able to easily leave the house for a walk in the neighbourhood after dinner (see also: babies), we have adjusted our ice cream intake accordingly. It's similar to our discussion on the readjustment of the concept of a "date" from dinner + wine to any time the two of us are ordering food or drink anywhere together (including coffee but not including free samples in a supermarket aisle... yet... sigh).

Side note: one year rather than ice creams it was bubble tea that took us out of the apartment on long neighbourhood walks after dinner. That was a good summer too. But I always get taro flavour, and since we now live 1 block from a bubble tea shop, the sense of adventure has waned.

Enter the smoothie. Smoothies are sweet and decadent, and cost about the same as 2 scoops of ice cream. But the beauty of the smoothie is you can drink it any time of day (even breakfast, although I have yet to actually do this). The smoothie allows us more flexibility than the ice cream, and comes in as many different flavours as, if not more different flavours than, the ice cream. (Major downside: it invariably comes in a giant plastic cup with a straw - both terrible for the environment. This alone is a reason to limit weekly smoothie intake.)

So we have set about constructing a Smoothie Map of our neighbourhood, scoping out places that make them, ranking them in comparison with one another, and factoring in circumstances (like, if you want to sit in this nearby park, or if you have an errand to run at that adjacent supermarket).



I think the reason it has taken me so long to "discover" smoothies is because I used to put them in the category of "meal replacement" (which I loathe), when instead I should have been thinking of them in the category of "special sweet treat to be enjoyed in the sunshine". Also because I have had some bad smoothie experiences in the past where the drink presented to me was the texture of a slushy that you get from 7/11 just with less colour and sugar (i.e. less fun bits). I'm sorry but a freezer bag of blueberries blended with ice cubes is not a smoothie. I mean, just for a start, it's not smooth... Also, in recent years we have seen an explosion in popularity and availability of alternatives to milk (old faves almond and soy, but also coconut, cashew, rice, hemp, etc), which I think has improved the smoothie game.

That said, I tried my hand at making my own smoothie today. Obviously I had low hopes (I don't have a blender... I also made ice cream a couple of years ago without an ice cream maker, it was very grainy... my point is that I still try even when I don't have the right tools at hand). I hurled a banana, half cup of almond/coconut blend milk (Matthew's choice, it's ok), half teaspoons of cinnamon and cocoa, loaded teaspoon of peanut butter, and handful of spinach in the food processor and hit the whir button. 1 minute later...

Job done.

Mm, refreshing.

In conclusion: Matthew and I are making good progress in our smoothie map of Vancouver. Smoothies are good at any time of day. And although you can make them at home, much like an ice cream, they are better when made for you, and enjoyed outside in the sunshine and in good company. Cheers, smoothie lovers.

Greek Day

Last weekend (Saturday) was Canada Day. We celebrated with a potluck picnic in Aunty Lorraine's yard, with mountains of food. The babies had a lovely play with their Great Gramma. And George learned to do the Cobra on a picnic blanket. Good times. But I don't have any photos of that, so instead I am going to write about Greek Day, the previous weekend, on Broadway.

Matthew and I went to Greek Day a couple of years ago, and it was a drizzly and humid day. This year was blazing hot. Literally 28 degrees, no clouds. Matthew was out gaming, so I recruited my mum to adventure with me and the babies. We headed out a bit past midday and walked to the festival, about 2 kms away.

The entrance to Greek Day Festival, at MacDonald Street
Mum and the Beavis Babies strolling
This singer encouraged us to join in with him but sadly we had no idea what he was signing. Clearly a 20th century folk classic though. He had a wonderful voice. Weirdly, there was a man in front of us in the audience who had draped himself in a Persian flag.

At a stage further west, we found some Greek dancers. They deserve real props for dancing in traditional costume with such gusto in the heat, which by this time was blazing.
We stopped at a food truck (that I actually had been to before, at the Christmas craft market at the PNE... more on this in my "closing thoughts"...), and ate our weight in felafels. And then the babies needed a snack, so we snagged a sheltered table on the pavement outside a coffee shop. Of course we spent more time feeding the babies at the cafe than we did checking out the Greek Day festival. But the point of the endeavour was just to see if we could actually get there, rather than to really soak up every festival experience.

Which leads me to my closing thoughts: the following week I popped into my work for a quick visit, and I caught up with a colleague who is Greek and has lived in the West Side for years. She recalled that back in the 1970s Greek Day was very Bacchanalian, and these days it's very tame in comparison. I told her that we noticed a lot of the same vendors at Car Free Day on Main Street, and she also recollected that Greek Day had a lot more focused Greek-themes vendors back in the day. In fact we had to walk several blocks in before we encountered the live (Greek) music tent, all the Greek themed food vendors that we saw were serving loukoumades - Greek for sure, but do you need more than one stall? Maybe mix it up and serve something else Greek at the next stall?

Much like in 2013, I enjoyed Greek Day and I would go again in a flash. Music, dancing, food, I love it all. But also, perhaps if I could wish for more, I would wish it to be more Greek?

Warm thank you to mum for strolling the babes to their first Greek Day, and I very much hope to stroll there again with her and them, in years to come.