When people find this little corner, often they say after a cursory read “oh, I didn’t know you keep a food blog!” And yes, I have what has morphed into a food blog of sorts.
That is to say, I like to remember things and so many of my memories in mind and heart are about food, or at least I translate them that way. I grew up in a restaurant with a family that shares stories through meals and by feeding one-another. And I live a life that centres around my stove and recipes and others who share their worlds through kitchen tables. There’s joy and sanctity in breaking bread as there is with no other activity.
Mostly, I write a blog about life – and often food creeps in – as I try to figure out this day, this perfect day, the only day I know.
Thanks for reading along.
Twelve things I wrote in 2009
And these photographs keep us alive (January)
The last line, though, is the most interesting; that the pain of leaving is appeased by the beautiful. And it gets me to thinking about human beings as gatherers: of places and things and people.
Reconciliation with the angels (February)
There isn’t any reason for me to even wrestle with this. I will heal, as we humans do – I will placate the screaming angel on my shoulder.
A stranger and airport sounds and stranger things have happened (February)
But to destroy the notion of you, an ocean away, slipping in and out of my thoughts? I’ve always been one to romanticize things.
Oregano and olive trees (March)
It comes as a surprise that my heart can be so heavy for my vacation home, that I am able to smell the thyme and salt-water midnight air waiting for the ferry – that I conjure up the welcome death-dry Athenian heat in my bones.
I anticipate that I will find his words tired or trite, but still they stir me: “With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world…”
But the rhubarb (June)
There she was, propped up in her flowery pink bed, ubiquitous crochet needles alternating in her shaky arthritic hands with the equally ubiquitous chain of cigarettes and china tea cup rattling on its saucer.
Being alone (July)
I like to see movies alone, and lunch as one in a pretty dress, and sit in the park on a blanket making up love stories for the squirrels. I’m a lot like my little self, actually, who went about things deliberately and quietly and alone.
The night is alive and I am alive and my heart is filled and it is so beautiful.
Licorice scented (September)
The details are blurred, but I eventually sweet talked a shot out of my Papou an drank it down like an especially potent juice…
Here I go generalizing, but as I see it we humans fall pretty nicely into two groups.
As I know it (November)
And then laying flat, placid for a moment, staring at the sky and its clear grey cast that makes everything prettier, more saturated, incredibly fall-like.
Belly and heart (December)
We triumphantly proclaim that in the history of friends and recipes, none has been better and none will be better, until the very end of time…
Twelve things I read in 2009
The Price of Tomatoes by Barry Estabrook, Gourmet (March)
The kitchen consisted of a table, four plastic chairs, an apartment-size stove, a sink with a dripping faucet, and a rusty refrigerator whose door wouldn’t close.
Release and The Return by Sameer Vasta, I Tell Stories (April & August)
I came home from work last night to find a small UPS package waiting for me at my apartment. In it, a plush toy and a two-page letter.
Amusing Ourselves to Death by Stuart McMillen (May)
In short, Orwell feared that what we hate will ruin us. Huxley feared that what we love will ruin us.
The Scandal of Food Waste by Tristram Stuart, Financial Times (July)
If the fruits rotted, or the venison putrefied, before he could spend it, he offended against the common law of nature, and was liable to be punished …
Memories of a French Summer by Béa Peltre, La Tartine Gourmande (August)
I told her about where our food comes from. When I took her to the village, I showed her the cows and sheep and chicken and rooster and rabbits. I pointed at eggs nested at one corner of the hen house.
Set it on Fire, Part II by Francis Lam, Gourmet (September)
She had a sweetness to her, and I suddenly felt like I was disappointing my grandmother, only my grandmother is an awful human being and this woman seemed like a perfectly lovely one.
The End of Gourmet (And Why I’m So Bummed) by Sarma Melngailis (October)
All the food world would be there, dressed in dark clothes, and easels everywhere with giant cover images. Then everyone would drink really really good wine, and eat lots of beautiful food, and feel the comfort of communal mourning.
Raising a Glass by Molly Kath, Les Cadeaux (October)
There is no minimum occupancy for a home: if you live somewhere, you have a home. And you should be comfortable in it, whatever that means.
Leap and the Net Will Appear by Luisa Weiss, The Wednesday Chef (October)
You’ve got to listen, really listen, in order to hear what the universe is trying to tell you. And move mountains, then, when you finally know what you want.
The Vanish Project by Evan Ratliff, WIRED (November)
People fret about privacy, but what are the consequences of giving it all up, I wondered. What can investigators glean from all the digital fingerprints we leave behind? You can be anybody you want online, sure, but can you reinvent yourself in real life?
Extremely Dead and Incredibly Gross by Kiera Butler, Mother Jones (November)
People often set up these false choices, these false dichotomies, and it’s not like we have to do either of them.
Dealt a Bad Hand in Life by Ashley Ambirge, The Middle Finger Project (December)
A circumstance is a condition, and sometimes when you’re suddenly hit with an unfortunate set of your very own, they can quickly morph from being what would normally be a temporary setback into something closely resembling a big, gloomy, threatening cumulonimbus cloud sure to make any respectable weatherman rush to fetch his brightest yellow slicker on the double.
And we leap into a new year, a new decade. Onward to 2010.
Try to say nothing negative about anybody for three days, for forty-five days, for three months. See what happens to your life.
- Today, from @yokoono
This resonates. Holidays are here, I’m heading home, there will inevitably be gossip around the kitchen table: words said that aren’t so nice or just plain frivolous. This season, I’m not going to partake.
Will you join me?
Often when we talk about how food invokes memories we speak very generally, without specific items and stories in mind. But do you ever find that some dishes and drinks impart a physical nostalgia so strong it takes you right back to that place – much like certain songs cause us to replay past events almost tangibly?
Today I tucked a box of Canada’s own Mighty Leaf Vanilla Bean into my shopping bag. Have you had these teas? They’re really splendid. The vanilla in particular has such a gentle and sweet nose – just like a freshly scraped bean! It’s not cloying and fake like most vanilla teas I’ve steeped.
(As an aside: I’m resolving this new year to walk into a Whole Foods without buying tea. It’s become 2009′s psychological impossibility. Worse addictions exist, but really! I lack restraint around leafy aromatic things.)
Through fourth year university, I almost-lived in a little tea shop on campus called The Tea Room. It was run by our engineers and was a cozy little space that was diligent about keeping a small environmental impact – from completely biodegradable products, to sortable waste receptacles, to a vermi-composter and energy monitor in the shop. They exclusively served Mighty Leaf tea and I drank so much Vanilla Bean that winter.
This afternoon, I returned to the office after lunch and brewed a cup from my new treasure box, and lo – one entire winter right under my skin. It was palpable: the bone-chilling walk from my Princess Street home, the slushy underpath to the limestone building, how nice it felt to strip off layers of parka and mittens and sink into a mug of goodness alongside a hefty dose of theory. Tea Room had the nicest mugs – giant like latte bowls with a sturdy handle, but made of glass so you could perfectly steep the tea. The early-morning shift behind the counter would always gift me a hot water top-up as I extended my mug for just one more hour of reading.
I ached a little, today, remembering those long mornings, afternoons, nights. We romanticize things and forget the long hours of slogging away, writing just one more paper, trying – failing – to figure out what on earth a certain philosopher was trying to say. The weeks of choosing pretty much any activity over sleep, sometimes not by choice. Student life isn’t glamorous and I did my share of sobbing into my mom’s ear over four years.
But so much about that time was right. The flexible schedule and sun-drenched naps. The easy library shifts where I’d help book-seekers find material for papers soon due. The hummus-cucumber-tomato-sprout-on-pumpernickel sandwiches (not toasted, please) that fueled me through eight exam seasons. The overwhelming feeling of promise of a 6:30pm walk to campus, counting my fortune that I would for three hours sit around a table to discuss the finer points of things that happen only in the clouds.
There’s something magical in these forgotten places and what they become in our minds. And I ruminate on this very moment - how I might find it one day, over a cup of tea.
Someone balked a few days back at my admission that I don’t much care for Rice Krispie Squares. What kind of solemn upbringing did I have, that I find these neat squares of sticky white airy goodness all a bit lacklustre?
My mom made them from time to time in her burgundy plastic bowl, microwaving the butter and marshmallow into a strange-scented congealed heap. She’d add a capful of vanilla and dump in the puffed rice. Stir with her wooden spoon, then smear the mess into a Pyrex dish. Cool. Cut into squares. Stack neatly.
People and recipes are a lot alike. We have our favourites, and what makes one perfect for me might turn you off completely. Some are good, some better, some ho-hum. Now and again, one is so amazing that we cheer in delight and fall off our chairs and triumphantly proclaim that in the history of friends and recipes, none has been better and none will be better, until the very end of time.
Despite good intentions, failures in execution often have more to do with the cook than the ingredients. They’re so subjective, these recipes and friendships. Everything left to temperature and proper salting and distance the ingredients travel. Are today’s tomatoes sweet? Did the pan heat evenly? Have I done enough and been enough for someone whom I love?
Tastes and people change, and what may be the most beautiful dish today becomes another recipe tucked to the back of the mind. As someone who photographs many meals I have a catalogue of past favourites: some long-lived in my repertoire, some fleeting. The entire fall term of my senior year I had a pot of split-pea soup on the stove. I haven’t made it since.
Sometimes, years later, we pick up the phone and call to say hello – but mostly we move on and have new go-tos and standbys and reliable concoctions.
In matters of belly and heart, I figure my steady palate has served me well. When I find things I like, I keep them around. They’re good in a way that I can’t possibly ever let go. People and dishes that offer strange comfort after a dreadful day and reassurance that this friendship, this recipe, this method – it’s failsafe.
So many ways to make Rice Krispie Squares and keep someone’s heart. Lucky enough, we might find a favourite for keeps.
“What sort of diary should I like mine to be? Something loose-knit and yet not slovenly, so elastic that it will embrace anything, solemn, slight or beautiful, that comes into my mind. I should like it to resemble some deep old desk or capacious hold-all, in which one flings a mass of odds and ends without looking them through. I should like to come back, after a year or two, and find that the collection had sorted itself and refined itself and coalesced, as such deposits so mysteriously do, into a mould, transparent enough to reflect the light of our life, and yet steady, tranquil compounds with the aloofness of a work of art. The main requisite, I think, on reading my old volumes, is not to play the part of a censor, but to write as the mood comes or of anything whatever; since I was curious to find how I went for things put in haphazard, and found the significance to lie where I never saw it at the time.”
- Virginia Woolf
P.S. – Aren’t carnations pretty? They get such a bum rap as the-flower-bought-by-inexperienced-highschool-boyfriends-on-awkward-dates, and it’s a shame. My mom would fill vases upon vases of carnations when I was little, and maybe that’s why I’m soft for them. Gosh, carnations, full of life.