Enjoy a breakfast of literary champions
Waterloo, Day 2.
The last time I made granola, it was hard to tell the difference between the pebbly clusters of seeds and oats and the bits of broken teeth that were later replaced with a crown.
Today, however, when I wake to my first morning in Waterloo, where I’ve come to speak to audiences at Conrad Grebel Univeristy College, I find Hildi in the breakfast room off her 1950s kitchen.
She’s been up for hours already, busy with the work of a retiring-but-still-busy scholar.
I, on the other hand, am still on Pacific time and have never been a morning person.
So, it’s noon — a little past — when Hildi asks whether I’d like breakfast or lunch.
“Granola, yogurt and fresh mangos?” Hildi asks, adding a query about how I slept.
Now, it has to be noted I am a no-talent, a pretender and a hack when it comes to sleeping.
Others lay their heads upon their pillows and set their consciousnesses adrift on a lake of dreams.
I take half a blue pill and hope for oblivion to pull up over my head like a sodden blanket, then later wake with a mouthful of taste like dirty coins.
However, how I slept is less important this morning than where.
“Well enough,” I say — and it’s the truth.
Considering a three-hour time change, chronic insomnia and nerves that should be stripped down to their wires by the reading and lecture I’m to present tonight, I did sleep rather well enough.
“It’s a lovely guest room,” I add. It’s also the truth.
Graciously windowed and flooded with airy light, the room, the house, is a testament to better builders from a more accountable time.
And, here, in this same room where I last night unpacked my pillow from home, I know, have also slept some of the greatest living writers whose books I have ever trembled before.
Rudy Wiebe, father of Mennonite literature and Order of Canada recipient.
Patrick Friesen, Governor General finalist. And David Bergen, Giller winner.
Miriam Toews’ accomplishments are too many to count and my fangirl status too embarrassing to note.
And, Sandra Birdsell is not only a Giller finalist, but my teacher from the Humber School for Writers, whose work I return to whenever I need to feel completely inadequate as a writer.
Altogether, they are writers of such loft that I get dizzy just looking up.
And yet, even though Hildi, a scholar of English, and peace and conflict studies, has spent her career ensuring writers of Mennonite heritage are heard in a crowded room, there are no airs here.
There is easy conversation, warmth of spirit and generosity of self.
And, there is Hildi’s granola.
“I brine my walnuts,” she says when I ask why this reduced-fat granola is better than any other.
Better than cookies.
A few minutes later, Hildi’s husband Paul joins us for mid-day espresso, as Hildi writes down her granola secrets for me to take home and share with all of you.
Already, this trip has been worth the flight from West to East and I begin to wonder what other kitchen secrets I might yet glean before I head home.
5.5 cups rolled oats
4.5 cups nuts (selection of almonds, walnuts, cashews, hazelnuts)
3/4 cup unsweetened apple sauce
1/4 cup coconut oil
Scant 1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup maple syrup
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. vanilla
Combine well. Spread onto two large baking sheets and bake at 325 F for 20 to 25 minsutes.
Sprinkle with sea salt.
Fold in two cups dried cranberries or cherries. Cool completely before storing, refrigerated, in an airtight container.
1 lb. raw walnut halves
4 cups warm water
1/2 cup kosher salt
In a large bowl, dissolve salt in water. Add walnuts. Let soak for three hours: drain.
Spread walnuts into a single layer on a baking sheet. Allow to dry in a 170F oven for 5-6 hours, stirring periodically to encourage even drying. The nuts will have a crispy, somewhat crackly texture when thoroughly dried. (Under-drying will result in the nuts being vulnerable to mold.)
Cool completely before storing in an airtight container.
Darcie Hossack is a food writer and author of Mennonites Don’t Dance. For past recipes, go online to
nicefatgurdie.wordpress.com. She can be contacted at email@example.com.