One step forward, one swoop backward

Hansel and Gretel scattered bread crumbs as they disappeared into the forest.

One tree, after all, looked much like another, especially to the lost.

So, even while it was likely their trail home would be snicked up by peckish birds and other woodland creatures, or covered over by a blanket of snow, they continued to scatter.

Here, outside the world of Grimm, I, too, have a handful of bread crumbs.

And, unless I excavate my winter boots from storage and stop trekking across icy sidewalks and snow-compacted parking lots in my fair-weather walking shoes, I may have to take a lesson from the brother and sister.

Although, instead of behind me, I will need to toss crumbs ahead of me for traction underfoot.

Back in the forest, having lost their way, Hansel and Gretel came across a candy house in the forest and thought they had been saved.

I, at least, one fateful few winters ago, knew where I was going.

But, while there visiting a friend’s farmhouse to spend time with their alone-for-the-holidays pets, I did step down their short flight of outdoor stairs, each one hunched round with compacted snow and ice and, in less than a moment, in a swoop of fairytale-like physics, landed at the bottom.

Now, this is a critical scene for it is the moment, according to Chefhusband, when certain vertebrae were forever loosened and my spine transformed from a sturdy lifting-force to a wobbly thing, predisposed to other, nonsensical, injuries that happen at the least provocation — and may even be responsible for a pronounced twitch that occurs when overtired and overstressed (read: When I have houseguests).

Chefhusband may be partially right.

Although one MD, a neurologist, chiropractor, physiotherapist and a massage therapist have all shrugged their shoulders in a unified, “Who can be knowing?” this may have been the damage on damage that created a new instability.

But, it was hardly the first.

Before the incident of the snow-mounded steps, there was the rollerskating incident of 1985.

When, after crashing down on my tailbone, I was taken to the Mennonite bonesetter (read: “Untrained, uncertified chiropractor” who got her start on chickens and sheep before moving up to people) for an adjustment.

Previous to this, as I recall, I always did own a somewhat troublesome spine.

But, it wasn’t until the Great Blueberry Lifting Incident of Summer 2011 that something went ping and was never completely set back to right.

Not by the above-mentioned medical team nor a back specialist, who could also not discover why moderate misery is mine whenever I lift the Kitchen Aid stand mixer or the flour bin.

Or when I knead dough by hand and wash heavy pots and casserole dishes without assistance.

Now, Hansel and Gretel, once captured by the witch, were headed for the oven, yet escaped becoming dinner roasts served with sides of biscuits and gravy.

I, after a long queue on a medical wait list, will similarly be slotted into an MRI machine.

“Are you claustrophobic?” queried the specialist as he filled out the paperwork.

“I can’t send you if you’re claustrophobic.”

“I’ll be fine,” I said, already feeling a bit like Sunday’s roast.

“Just fine.”

Herbed cheddar biscuits


2 cups all-purpose flour

2 1/2 tsp. baking powder

1/2 tsp. flaked kosher salt

6 tbsps. butter

1 1/4 cups milk

1 (generous) tbsp. each finely chopped

Italian parsley and chives

1/3 cup grated sharp cheddar


In a large bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder and salt. Cut in butter until mixture is coarse and crumbly. Add herbs and cheese and gently combine.

Make a well in the centre of the mixture and pour in milk. Bring together with a fork to make a heavy batter.

Drop by heaping spoonfuls onto Silpat- or parchment paper-lined baking sheets and bake in a 450 F oven for 12 minutes.

Biscuits are done when the bottoms are lightly golden, the crust crackly and insides soft and set.




Darcie Hossack is a food writer and author of Mennonites Don’t Dance (Thistledown Press). For past recipes, go here. She can be contacted at


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