In history
Spikelets of oats

As a verb, Læra means “to learn”, as a noun “learnings”. But it can also mean “to teach” or “teachings”. It’s an unique Icelandic word, and going further back Old Norse, that recently seems to resonate with me.

We go through life taking in experiences, or learnings that shape who we are and where we go. I remember at a very young age spending a lot of time with my grandmother. She was a jovial woman who enjoyed the simple things in life. She had a unique way of sharing these pleasures with us, her 20 some odd grandchildren; nurturing our skills, providing us with the tools/ingredients/environment to take chances and get messy. In one generation it has produced many creatives; 3 chefs, 2 teachers, a graphic designer, a writer and a photo journalist.

One bright Spring afternoon in a rural hamlet; she thought it would be a nice day to make butter tarts. There was no recipe. Neither of us had ever made a butter tart. Instead we worked with our experienced senses, reliving the moment one bites into a flaky crust and the syrupy center starts running down your chin. She was thinking raisins. I wanted walnuts. She thought there must be eggs, something needs to hold it together. I wanted brown sugar. Lots of brown sugar. She pulled out the good bottle of pure vanilla extract, and poured in a generous glug.

She was ready to fill the tarts. I was hesitant. Something had to have been missing. What would a butter tart be without the butter? We melted copious amounts of butter. Stirred it into our custard. Filled our shells and baked. They were pleasantly not-awful. Not something we would of course share with others…

I’ve since spent countless hours in a downtown Toronto kitchen trying to perfect my butter tart. The shell must be thin and crisp. Delicate enough to eat easily with a fork, but strong enough to be able to pick up and eat without cutlery. The center, must be just right; cooked to 75 degrees Celsius (167 Fahrenheit). This is enough for the custard to set when cool, but still run when cut into. Lastly, the perfect butter tart does not discriminate against dried fruit or nuts.

Perhaps a bit of both is the right answer, but these are a few things I still need to learn/decide/accept. While I’m convinced my grandmother really had baked a butter tart in her past, she allowed me to play, to learn and to discover a passion that would keep me excited for most of my life to date. While her teachings are over, it’s now up to me to ensure my learning goes on.

I will continue to læra. This will be my Læra.