Friday, July 15, 2011


Here it is my birthday, marked on some calendars in England as St Swithin's Day (or Swithun's). He was a bishop of Winchester in the tenth century. Traditionally in England it's a day for predicting the weather, the idea being that whatever the weather on July 15 there will be 40 more days like it. hmmm We need warmth still, I mean, we want to have the rest of summer wonderful summer, but we sure could do with some rain.

The other marker today is that it's full moon. In another half-cycle, two more weeks, it will be the new moon and the start of Ramadan. Markers, markers... They're useful points, like hilltops, from which we can look back over things and ahead prospectively. I have rather selective vision at such times: I tend to want to see and notice the positive and brush away or minimise the importance of the negative. I'm sure it irritates people sometimes. But on the other hand I am grateful to be this way by temperament. It makes rolling with things, accepting the rough with the smooth, much easier. I don't have to do much battle with myself.

While I'm on the positive, a couple of stories: Last week I pedalled up to the northern part of the city, near Bayview and York Mills. It was up and down but mostly gently uphill, an easier ride than I had expected and less than fifteen kilometres each way. I visited a friend in her lush garden and then went to a potluck lunch nearby. I'd cooked some portabello mushrooms with scapes and dandelion greens from the garden, to an intensely flavoured almost-black mass. Our host had not made a plan but relied on serendipity and the dishes people brought all worked beautifully together, as most often happens.

But the story is about an encounter I had on the way up. I saw a woman walking to a bus stop and thought I recognised her, so I stopped and called her name out. Yes in fact, she was EB, the mother of the guy I went out with in my last years of undergrad, in the seventies. I hadn't seen her since then. Amazing! She is such an intelligent and interesting person and here she is, still thriving, turning 90 (ninety!!!) next spring, and alert and engaged. She now runs a summer lecture program at the University of Toronto; they're lucky to have her. She said, "I'm older of course". And I replied "So am I!"

It feels like a miracle when there can be such reconnection, over decades. And it's also reassuring. There's so much change and shifting of landscapes as we go through life, that when we run into a continuity like that it can feel like a lifeline and an affirmation.

The other story is just to tell you that last night, with the day-before-full-moon moon rising in the bright evening sky, I was sitting with a couple of friends having a cocktail on the roof of the Park Plaza. It's a place that's seen many stories unfold, and anyone who has spent time in Toronto has a story or two connected to it. And there we were, with a front row seat as the city lights and skyline sparkled, framing the fat moon. Lovely luxury, to have summer evenings with bare arms and beautiful light, and good friends to share it all with.

Tonight there's a small feast at this house with friends, but I'm just a bystander. Dawnthebaker, is doing the planning and cooking. So generous. There's a bit of a time constraint, so we're starting early, because she and I and Tashi have tickets (booked by Tashi) for a screening of the last/ latest Harry Potter movie later this evening. (I've read all the books of course, because my kids were the perfect age for them, read them aloud aloud and to myself, but I've only seen a couple of the other films, maybe three.) I'm told we should line up an hour or more ahead, so we'll send some younger people down early and then Dawn and I can stroll over a little later. I don't think I've ever gone to the movies on my birthday, let alone to a blockbuster. Ha!

I'm getting down to the wire on book edits, which feels good. It's always difficult to do what's needed, which is: cut out the excesses, delete the extra recipes, trim in various places, so that the manuscript can be tamed into a book. I save the cuts of course. The cut recipes are fine, often really good, they're just too close to duplicates or unnecessarily complicated or whatever, to fit into THIS book. But they'll come in handy sometime, somewhere, I'm sure. So RIVERS OF FLAVOR is taking shape, in its own time in its own way. Books do that. And in New York my editor Ann Bramson is mulling what size and look the book should have, chatting to wonderful Richard Jung who wants to take the photos, though the budget is horribly tight, and generally visualising the next steps. Yikes! It's starting to feel real, already.

What a nice place to be, contemplating a new book on my birthday. This time next year, with luck, the first copies will be coming off a printing press somewhere.... lovely thought!

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