Tuesday, May 31, 2011


Writing here feels like playing hookey! I should be editing the Burma book, since I'm in the last ten days before I submit the manuscript. Well I've been doing a lot of that book-work, so it's time for a break.

Procrastination and avoidance are such interesting phenomena. How we justify them, or just fail to admit what we're doing, is a whole study in human behaviour! I have managed several great breaks in the last few days, each time telling myself that I need to clear my head. That may well be true, but I'm not sure that taking a whole day off was necessary!

I'm talking about Sunday, when Dawn-the-baker and I drove out of town at 7.30 in the morning under a grey and overcast sky, headed for Grey County, but not directly. First we had to go to Listowel to pick up some maple syrup; Dawn uses it in the granola that she makes as part of the Evelyn's Crackers line of locally made crackers and shortbread etc. And just south of Listowel are the Hoovers, who make organic syrup.

What??!? you say, how could maple syrup NOT be organic? The answer is that it depends on how the equipment is cleaned. The Hoovers use no chemical agents, just the sap itself, to clean the pans and pipes. It's an amazing operation, using sap from the trees in their bush, and wood from that bush to cook the sap. Talk about sustainable and local!

Because it was Sunday, on our way between Waterloo and Listowel on small country roads we passed Mennonites, old order Mennonites in their black horse carts, driving to Sunday service. In one yard there were over forty carts, drawn by one horse or a matched pair. The fields were such an intense green under the overcast sky, and the carts shone black against the green, the men clean-shaven in black hats, the married women all in black with a bonnet, and only the girls wearing a little colour, perhaps some purple or intense blue. We felt lucky to be out and about in Mennonite Country with eyes to see its loveliness, and time to admire it.

From Listowel we headed north to Grey County, via Ayton and Neustadt, and eventually to the small town of Elmwood. The STC, Saugeen Trading Community, which I've written about before, was having its spring Market Day. It's a chance for members to buy and sell, for trading community credit or federal dollars, or a mixture, and to catch up on news. I came away filled with news and warmed by friendship. More tangible loot included a ceramic bowl, a pair of gently worn yellow pants, some rhubarb, and a load of plants/starts: tomato and basil and chile peppers.

It really is time to plant now that the warm weather has come (as of yesterday). All the starts I bought (including some cumin plants from a small nursery) are now in the ground except the tomatoes. I came across lots of fat worms as I dug today, very encouraging. The tomato plants will go in bags of soil (to avoid the blight in my garden), perhaps tomorrow, when I take yet another break from the Burma bookwork!

And in the neighbourhood as I go for my morning run the chestnut trees are in full magnificent bloom, the irises are coming out, and the city's cyclists have now all got their bicycles on the road it seems. What a great sight, people in business clothing pedalling to work instead of driving in a car. The university of Toronto is now in full Convocation/Graduation swing, with lawns all mowed and a huge tent set up opposite Convocation Hall. Today there was a lovely crowd of happy parents and graduates out on the green grass looking delighted, and a straggle of academics in red and black and all kinds of coloured robes and hoods making thier way back to their offices from the ceremony.

I was on my bicycle threading my way through them, for I was headed to a Women's Culinary Network event late this afternoon. It was a potluck. I took some incredible wide flat crackers made by Dawn-the-baker, beautiful eight by eleven inch flats, and to go with them, a big block of old cheddar, and a jar of freshly-invented "chutney". The crackers were a hit, and the chutney and cheese too. Here's the chutney story: I had some stewed rhubarb, slightly sweet, made from the fruit I'd bought in Grey County. So I heated olive oil, added mustard seed and fennel and a little turmeric, and some dried red chiles, then tossed in chopped dandelion greens and garlic chives from the back garden. Once they'd wilted with a little salt, I added the rhubarb and cooked it all down a little. The combination of bitter and sweet and tart with some chile heat too was great, essence of springtime in one easy mouthful!

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