In 2007, like many before me, I came up to Dawson City for a summer as a student to work, have fun and check out the north. What I encountered was so much more than I could have ever imagined—a paradise for any kind of transient, adventurer or fun-seeker.
Obviously my life changed more than I was ready for it to as I returned to school, friends and family that August with a heart that wouldn't stop aching for trees, mountains, rivers and a different way of life.
As soon as I could I made a beeline back up here, still not knowing what I wanted to do with my life but finally certain of how I wanted to live it.
I worked on settling in and building a life, in turn leaving behind that ecstatic transient paradise that only really exists for your first summer as you begin to see the greater joy is in becoming a part of an incredible community.
After spending a few years in Dawson, I became quite settled. I had a darling little house in town and had set it up perfectly, especially the kitchen. I had every pan, utensil, gadget and spice anyone would ever need.
Cooking became my pastime, my therapy and my passion.
After realizing that cooking was what I loved and what I wanted to do, I also realized that I might like/need to know more about it than the internet could teach me. So I left Dawson last fall to complete a certificate in culinary skills.
It was amazing to finally learn the proper way to chop an onion and thicken a sauce.
As soon as I finished I came right back up to live in Dawson once again, returning this summer to my friends, a job, a truck and... oh god... all of my kitchen stuff that I left here, kept safe and sound for my return.
With nowhere to live, (the darling little house now rented to someone on one of the film crews in town), I have found myself back in transient first-summer-esque paradise, moving about once a month from one friend's couch, to another friend's couch, to a rented bedroom to whatever came up.
While this certainly lent to shades of that nearly forgotten existence—freedom from household responsibilities, doing whatever, whenever and ultimately feeling totally free—it also has made me wonder when I will ever have a kitchen to unpack my six-tall stack of Rubbermaids into.
Moving in and out of various furnished houses, there has been no room for all my stuff. Instead of trying to find a reasonable solution for settling back into life, I have embraced summer in Dawson as if it was my first all over again.
It has been fun, yes, but there have been moments where I have found myself staring wistfully at my beautiful Kitchen Aid mixer in its box in the corner of my current bedroom, my exquisite knife set propped on top, and I have wondered what I was thinking leaving Dawson for a year, giving up my sense of permanence to pursue something that I have not picked back up again...
Cooking for me always begins with organization—a systematic ordering of equipment and ingredients which ultimately optimizes my enjoyment of the whole operation and consequently its success. A disordered kitchen makes me feel stressed out.
Since my return to Dawson, without a home to call my own, a place to unpack and to organize, I completely gave up on the idea of cooking. However, one cannot live out of the Bonanza Market freezer section alone.
It was getting kind of embarrassing running into people in the checkout line and always buying the same pathetic groceries—Lean Cuisine, Special K granola bars, a pint of raspberries, a tin of tuna...
Then, true to Dawson form, it just happened. A few friends in the impossibly busy throws of summer somehow found a free evening to get together for a dinner party. Obviously I would not show up empty-handed, and so, the cooking strike ended!
I remembered a culinary secret I guess I had forgotten: you can make any kitchen your own. It is the same way any closet I hang my clothes in or bed I place my pillow on becomes my own—a home is a home no matter how long you live there.
I was nervous at first and I wondered if my hands had forgotten how to do much else than pour a pint and enter time into a microwave. I decided to take it slow and go back to my first true love: baking. I would bring dessert.
After spending a day or so stressing about mousse pies, cheesecakes and homemade ice cream, I remembered what food is all about.
Yes, there is something to be said for culinary technique and I will always campaign for whole foods and scratch cooking, but, ultimately, I believe that good food should satisfy both the palate and the soul in some way. If that has been achieved then the recipe is a success.
The ultimate recipe came to mind, something so simple in ingredients that I wouldn't need to drop 100 bucks just for basic pantry essentials or require our hosts to dirty a million plates, forks and spoons to serve: squares. The best dinner party take-along. Unwrap the tin foil and have at 'er!
I first tried these squares when an old friend's mother brought them over for dinner and I unashamedly ate most of the entire batch in one sitting.
There are pages of recipes for them online and they are sometimes referred to as "heath bars". I don't know what to call them but I celebrate the awesome '50s housewife (I can only assume) who came up with such a delicious and bizarre combo.
I know these are good because the day I made them I came home to a note from my roommates letting me know that they had just tried "the teensiest row" (before I could even cut them).
And so, I remembered how much I love cooking and why I want to—it just feels so good to make something that other people want to eat, to make people happy in such a truly special way.
In the epilogue: after this dinner party I have since helped to organized several more and have actually cooked things, bought flour and sugar and moved my most important kitchen tools into my new kitchen, even though it is only temporary.
It seems that this simple little recipe, which barely qualifies as baking, is the one that saved me from frozen dinners, the recipe that brought me back to culinary life.
I hope you will enjoy!
Allie Haydock is a graduate of culinary skills at George Brown College in Toronto. She lives and cooks in Dawson City.