Every year is different, but one thing remains the same. I feel more in July than I do in other months. It's like having hypersensitive skin that prickles at the slightest brush--except the feeling is purely emotional. Highs are higher, lows are lower and everything in between is just...more. It's just something I've gotten used to, for better or for worse.
While many of us reach out, lend a hand up, and invite in, the terribleness in my feeds is heartbreaking. Thankfully, for every person who parrots mantras that propagate small-mindedness, prejudice, and entitlement, many more embody fairness, compassion, and inclusion. It's these positive traits that came easily to Michael.
As difficult as July is for me, it was made more so when an old friend of mine (and I think Michael's) passed away last week. I met Stephanie when I was in uni and we were both part of a university-based theatre group. We may have met before that when we were in Junior Achievement, but I can't be certain. She was a bright and passionate spirit. She spent her final years in the Boston area. She found her tribe and from what I can tell, she flourished. I am so happy that she found that happiness before she passed. She was only a few months older than I.
As I've often said, we pass only after we have learned what we need to learn, have taught what we need to teach, and we live on through those lessons we passed on. Stephanie will live on.
In reading the threads marked and celebrated Stephanie's life, one food came up several times: butter tarts. Even though she was in the States for a while, she was still a Canadian girl at heart. And I think, a Waterloo County girl (at least when it came to butter tarts).
As Canadians know, your hometown's butter tarts are the only real butter tarts. The rest just aren't right.
When I read some of her American friends wanted to make them and posted links to other versions, I piped up with what we have here in Waterloo Region, as popularised by my friend, Edna Staebler. According to a friend who grew up in the County's rural areas, her version is reasonably faithful to how we do things here.
What makes a Waterloo County butter tart different from the others? Well, I haven't made a formal study (if only because they are one of my migraine triggers) but I do know Edna's call for a rich pastry crust (not a flaky dough), raisins (divisive at the best of times), and do not call for corn syrup (anyone who's made a caramel or butterscotch sauce knows the role syrup plays...our tarts have the sought-after gel-gooeyness without it).
To remember Stephanie, I made some tarts, adapting Edna's rules so I could get a full dozen (the original used old measurements and made 8-10).
Would Michael approve? Absolutely. He'd complain that his diabetes meant he couldn't eat them, but those protests would be short-lived and he'd simply dial up the insulin. As one does.
Butter Tarts, by Edna Staebler, from Food That Really Schmecks (adapted)Yield: 12
Rich pastry, sufficient for 12 tarts (see below)
175g / 190ml / 0.75c brown sugar
145g/ 190ml / 0.75c raisins
40g /45ml /3Tbsp Butter, melted
15ml / 1Tbsp Water
5ml / 1tsp vanilla
pinch of salt
Butter and flour the bowls of a 12-bowl muffin tin. Line with pastry and pop into the fridge.
Preheat oven to 230C/450F.
Beat the egg, add the sugar and salt and beat again.
Add the water, vanilla, raisins and butter.
Divide into tart shells, and fill to almost half-full and bake for about 15 minutes.
- I use dark brown sugar because of its deeper flavour
- I prefer sultanas, but use regular brown or golden ones if that's what you've got.
- Because the filling rises as it bakes, don't fill the tarts more than half way. If you fill them more the filling will spill out and make a bit of a mess.
- If you don't like raisins, you can use the same volume of nuts (walnuts or pecans).
- The original quantities: 1 cup brown sugar, 1 cup raisins, 1 egg, beaten, Butter the size of an egg (melted,) 1 Tablespoon water, 1 teaspoon vanilla.
Rich pastry (for 12 tarts)350g / 585ml / 2.33c / AP flour
175g/ 190ml / 0.75c / frozen butter
1 egg yolk
cream / milk / water (as needed)
Make the pastry in the usual way. Chill the dough for at least 30 minutes before using.
Roll to about 3-5mm thickness and scry your pastry cases.
My friend, what a lovely tribute, not only to Michael, but to Stephanie. My mom's claim to fame were her butter tarts. She took her secret with her when she died, and I have yet to make them as good as she did, but I'm getting closer.
It never gets easier, the empty space a loved one dying leaves. The harsh jagged pain gives way to sad emptiness, but it never goes away.
Hugs, my friend. Hugs.
Hugs to you, Jasmine. I remember the sadness of your dear one's passing and that for some time, it seemed you had disappeared. I also read of Stephanie's passing recently and could see the impact she had made on so many other's lives. The butter tarts look exquisite.
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