We set out Friday morning, well before dawn, with snow and Tim Horton's and that special resolve one saves for singular days such as these. We arrived Friday evening, just past eleven, weary, creaky, really happy. Really really happy. Double double happy.
Québec to Ohio. We did it. (Again.)
Sky over Toronto, ON; Centre des Sciences Montréal
When we crossed over mid-morning at Ogdensburg, New York, the border agent asked all the usuals. Who?, Why?, How long?, Where to and from? He studied us hard when we answered those last two. Clarified our beginning and end points. "That's a lotta miles," he finally said.
We are still a bit yawny, from Friday's travel and Saturday's scrub-fest. Also, my computer hard drive is about to commit hari-kari. We'll keep it brief today.
But I wanted to mention a few quick things, before school resumes and life moves on. Like, when we returned, the dirt was defrosted, the daffodils blooming, and there were worms! Also, before leaving town for a week, it's always wise to empty the kitchen trash. Even if you've just cleaned the fridge. Especially if you've just cleaned the fridge. (Entirely unrelated, those worms, that trash. The worms were outside. In the garden. Scout's honor.)
Also, books on CD in the car. Over the years, we've stopped dozens mid-listen, because pleasing audiences aged 5, 8, and 12 is tricky. Too silly, too scary, too too, whatever. One out of three usually protests. Not so with this, and this, and this. Not only did each kid hang on every chapter, but this mom snuck listens when driving solo. Unanimous thumbs up to all three, if you're wanting for such entertainments. (Have you any favorite all-ages audio books? I'd love to hear. Let's trade titles in the comments.)
Also, road food. Trail mix, my way. Salted almonds, candied ginger, sour cherries. So good.
I am not ordinarily an eater of GORP, or for that matter, of any trail mix. For one thing, it's too uneven. There's the rare Good Stuff, the abundant Bad Bits, the Semi-Okay In-Between Filler. For another, there's just way too much strife. The jockeying for favorites. The pile-up of stale peanuts. The silent soap opera of who snitched what, when. The inevitable M & M scandal, old as the hills, big as Watergate.
But this, this is another animal, Trail Mix 2.0. For starters, there are no bad bits, nor good ones; splendid or bust seemed a good standard. The proportions—so often severely lop-sided, so essential to great munching—are spot-on, to ensure balance in each bite, and to keep elbow jabs to a minimum. Also, it's a nice bit of fuel, part protein, part fruit, part kick-start of sugar.
Montréal, from atop Mont Royal; Sustenance, for anywhere
Fuel. As if. Let's talk texture, spunk, flavor, sparkle. The cherries are dried sour Montmerencies, sweet intensely striped with tart, with a winey dark backbone that doesn't whisper. The ginger is small, but spiky with heat, fierce by its lonesome, excellent company. The almonds are salted, which changes the whole game, from bland sweet drumbeat, to fairly mesmerizing.
But wait. It gets better. Because when everything meets in the mixing bowl, the tacky dried cherries become little lint brushes. They pick up all the almonds' extra salt, and all the ginger's superfluous sugar, and even begin to look a little linty, only with crystals instead of coat dandruff. Crystals that look identical to the eye, but run across the tongue in two opposite directions. Thrilling, that. You wind up with these rich ambassadorial bites of chew mediating between the salty crunch of almond, the prickle of ginger, the mellow bittersweet of chocolate.
Did I mention the chocolate? Sometimes chocolate sneaks in. I don't think it's necessary. I understand those who do. It's a fine fit. If it's your thing, add it; you won't regret it. Either way, it's heady stuff.
And if you've got gardens to weed, or garages to unearth, or deadlines to meet, or any of a hundred journeys that involve a lotta real or metaphysical miles, well. I can't guarantee results, of course. But in my experience, a good mix can help you get there. Even when there is awfully far off.
Molly's Trail Mix (Salted Almonds, Candied Ginger + Sour Cherries)
inspired by a long-ago Trader Joe's mix
Yield: 2 1/4- 2 1/2 pounds
Diced crystallized ginger can be tricky to find; I use 4 oz. bags from Penzey's. Sliced crystallized ginger, diced at home, doesn't make a good substitute, as the exposed edges are too sticky. I'm devoted to Trader Joe's dried Montmerency cherries, which I love for their tart flavor and true texture. As to ginger quantities, choose your heat level. I like each bite to include one almond, one cherry, and two nubs of ginger, and so use the full 8 ounces. But I love me my ginger. Many will find 4 ounces plenty.
16 ounces salted, roasted almonds
8 ounces tart, Montmerency dried cherries
4-8 ounces diced crystallized ginger
8 ounces chocolate chips (optional)
Pour almonds, ginger, cherries, and chocolate chips (if using) into a large bowl. Toss gently to combine. Stored airtight, trail mix keeps forever, though crunch is best when eaten within 2 months.