Monday, June 25, 2012


As I sit in a chilly breeze, by an open door and looking out at the green and growing garden under a clear blue sky, I realise that I often start these posts with the weather. Is it cultural? Some Anglo streak that insists on making itself felt? Perhaps in part, but it's also a reflection of just how much the sky and light and weather generally affect moods and plans and the feel of the city.

Speaking of moods, the break in the heat last Thursday night came just in time, so that Friday night a passle of friends could dance and chat and eat and drink in comfort well into the warm breezy night.  The mood was relaxed, happy, engaged...truly a first summer party feel.

Though dancing was the main event, with talking a close second, there was also what to eat: Fresh strawberries picked that morning in Grey County were a highlight, along with sugar snap peas organically grown there too. We ate the peas raw, almost like green candy, and whoosh! they vanished. On the cooked food front, there were two brilliant cakes, large generous cakes, by dawnthebaker assisted by Evelyn, of Evelyn's Crackers; and some chocolate brownies that disappeared before I even saw them; as well as grilled beef salad, the meat alluringly smoky tasting, I have to say, because of the way the charcoal fire burned, made from flatiron steaks from Sanagan's. I grilled mushrooms of various kinds and they were really the hit for me, because of the (always reliable) olive oil and fish sauce coating of flavour they got just before I put them on the grill. All they needed was a squeeze of lime juice to finish them.

There was some sticky rice left over, and not much else.  Clean-up was easy easy, with help, and done before 3 am. Ahhh

The late nights I used to keep in university and afterward are not as easy now. I mean, they're easy enough at the time, and fun, but the lingering afterward of sleepiness and dopiness at odd hours of the day is a little long - at least three days. It's like jetlag I guess: pleasures that are paid for later.  The easy answer is to make sure to get to bed in good time. But these long limpid-light evenings are irresistible, and so I find myself up and outside in the soft air until way past midnight, way past one, .... you get the idea.

Pedalling around with an old friend on Saturday evening for example, listening in for a half hour here and there to various offerings of the Toronto jazz festival, was a perfect way to linger through the summer evening and make every moment a pleasure. Then yesterday I took my bicycle to Ward's Island for an afternoon singing (shape-note singing) at the small beautiful church, over a hundred years old, made of wood, with generous clear acoustics. We sang with the doors open to the green outdoors. Every once in awhile one of the long trailing tour bus cart things would come by and pause for a moment in front of the church, the guide's amplified voice telling stories of the past to bemused? bored? sleepy? tourists.

At singing we sometimes sight-read a new-to-us song, most often sight-read with the benefit of having sung it before a few times, or often in some cases. We sing a capella and the harmonies are delicious, the syncopations of rhythm occasionally startling. Yesterday was a long packed sing; we tried all sorts of less familiar tunes. And by the time I was sitting at the dock gazing at the mirage-like view of acqua railings framing the city's skyline across the water, I realised I was pooped. Yes, my voice was a little tired, but more it was because of the concentration. Reading music and words and trying to stay focussed seem like easy pleasures, and they are, but/and at the same time they do take effort.

And so although yesterday was not a heavy day of work, last night I was ready to catch up on sleep and dream a long night away.

One more thing, to do with food: I have leggy broccoli raab in my garden, grown from seed. I snap off pieces and then watch them regrow. The same goes for the kale that lasted through the winter.  I chop stir-fry the greens, or float pieces in soup. But I also chop the kale and include it in tender greens salad. Delicious. Last night I did that, and also used it in a simple soup made with masur (red) dal. I tempered the soup with chopped spring onions and some ginger cooked in olive oil, along with a blend of freshly ground cumin and coriander seed, and a couple of dried red chiles. A dash of white wine left over from the party finished it nicely.

Last week I gave the last class of my six-week Foods that Changed the World course at U of T's School of Continuing Studies. I miss it already. There was a pattern of intense reading and thinking and organising for weeks beforehand and also every week all through the course, as I tried to sort out what to cover, and how.  I'll be giving it again next year, and hopefully will be able to do a second food-and-culture-related course too.  More when I know.  And my student feed-back was very good, which always feels great. The thing I learned from it that I will try to do better with next year is that I should have had everyone introduce themselves and give a little of their background. We had some amazing resources in there, and it was only by "accident" that we learned of the expertise and food-related history of the class members.

It's always good to have a clear idea of how to improve and do better next time. And it's a luxury to have a "next time" to work with. Happy summer everyone.

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