Tuesday, August 2, 2011


Another hot night in Toronto. We're now into the second day of August, just, as midnight has struck, yet still the air is heavy and sweat starts trickling whenever I make any physical effort.

I've got no light on in the office, to keep things cooler, and doors and windows are open to catch whatever passing breeze manages to find its way here.

Tonight I walked out to Queen's Park a couple of blocks away. I'd been hearing music all afternoon and finally felt cool enough to go out. There under the huge old trees in the park was a crowd dancing and hanging as Jamaican music live on a stage, came rocking through the hot air. Lovely. I got there in time for the last three tunes, danced and danced with the crowd, and then the music was done. The crowd hung on though, buying food from the patty stands, and from the rice and plantain and fish and salad places that had been set up all day under the trees. What a luxury it is to have free music on a hot long weekend.

I had the water on in the back garden this evening trying to cool things off. Yes everything got wetter, but no, it didn't feel any cooler. I've been thinking, as I drink huge cups of water, about all the people who are fasting for Ramadan, just started at the new moon a couple of days ago. At this time of year the dyas are long, so the tenacity and endurance required of people who fast is even greater. It's a time of coming together and mindfulness, this fasting month. But I hope that those who are vulnerable to the heat take care of themselves...

I'm just starting to get back in the groove after my time away in Skowhegan. On the long drive back from the kneading conference we stopped in to visit the mill of La Milanaise, who produce the most carefully milled commercial flour around. It's all organic, and it's of wonderful quality. The mill is very close to the crossing at the Maine-Quebec border (Woburn/Coburn Gore) and Sophie, the miller's daughter, whom we'd met at the conference, had said she'd give us a tour of the mill. Thank-you Sophie - I learned a lot!

It's awe-inspiring to look at the huge sacks of flour (900 kilos each) and then the smaller 2 and 5 kilo sacks, and think of the sequence that got them there: farmers growing organic grains, who plant and harvest with enough care that the grain comes to the mill with not more than 14% moisture and passes various other quality tests; and then the mill with its machines that grind either with granite stones (for non-white wheat flour) or metal for the unbleached white flour. The granite stones are imported from California. Every month they are re-incised, sharpened you could say, and polished a little, and every year they are replaced. It seems incredible that stone can get worn that quickly.

The grain is blended before milling not after. All wheat flour is blended, a mix of higher and lower protein wheat, so that the final product is consistent. And the details of a particular flour, its protein, and ash content, and other details besides, are printed on the side of the large bags that go out to bakeries.

When you think of the care involved, five dollars for a loaf of hand-made bread baked in a wood-fired oven seems low, way too low.

After the mill we stopped in to see some old friends of mine near Knowlton, and then it was a long drive northwest to the Gatineau. What a pleasure to swim out in the dark night in the soft waters of the Gatineau River. The sky was dotted with stars. Floating on my back I could lose track of which way was up, weightless and drifitng in a star-speckled darkness...

Early next morning I walked back down to the river and found it dreamily mist-shrouded, wisps of pale cotton floating above the water and draped over the rounded hills on the other shore. I slipped into the water, still and glassy under the mist, and swam and swam, my ripples the only disturbance in the surface as far as the eye could see.

It was like an Eden, a rebirth, a miracle.

1 comment:

justme said...

You must have been in stealth mode, since I'd been dashing up for afternoons and evenings, and cottages have been kneedeep with various changing permutations of family and neighbours... Gatineau is surprisingly warm, eh?