Our young friend Melissa is here from Chiang Mai visiting for several months. She is a great addition to the household. And she's wide-eyed out in the city, amazed at chilly rain (rain in Thailand comes after hot season, so it's far from the European style chilly spring rains we have had this month); at the tulips, now finishing, and glorious flowering trees of May (the ornamental plums in King's College Circle at the University of Toronto, just up the street, are in full magnificent deep pink bloom right now); at the pleasure of treasure-hunting for used clothing, in shops and in friends' piles of cast-offs...
We are delighted Melissa is here, for we get to see everything freshly through her eyes. And I love coming across pink (pink shoes, pink computer cover, pink socks, etc) in the house. Pink is usually in short supply in this household of male people. It feels like another kind of springtime.
May has also brought a nice surprise: we are one of the entries in the wide-ranging list of "Fifty Things We Love About Toronto" that is the cover story in the May issue of Toronto Life magazine. For the magazine there's a nice cross-connect between our books' exploration of food cultures in ASia and elsewhere, and the food cultures in Toronto.
I've always felt so lucky to live here, and one huge reason is the richness of the culture here, multi-layered, and constantly evolving. Of course that complexity and creativity is echoed in the food culture, which means I am always a beginner, always coming across foods I don't know in my local Chinese and Vietnamese groceries, or in the Ethiopian store in Kensington Market, or the South American stores along Augusta. All those are within ten minutes' walk of the house. It's hard to feel a need to go further afield, but when I do, to say, the wonderful Tamil shops along Parliament, I find lots of familiar produce and products, and again, also often feel like a beginner, ignorant of so much that is there. (And notice that I haven't even mentioned, let alone described, the extraordinary food culture maps of the inner and outer suburbs here.)
What a luxury, to be reminded every day of how much there is to understand and of how little I still know. And how lucky to be able to learn every day from my neighbours!
So it's not just Melissa who is walking around amazed and pleased in Toronto...
PS A friend I ran into the other day at Wychwood Market (Saturday mornings near Christie and St Clair) told me she and her family had been very sick after eating undercooked (they wanted them crunchy) fiddleheads. Then they googled and it turns out that the Ministry of Health says we should all know that fiddleheads must be cooked through (steam them, cook them in a little boiling water...). So resist the impulse make them al dente. Save that for carrots or broccoli or zucchini.