Tuesday, June 19, 2012


This run of fabulous summer weather is continuing, giving us soft nights where the air is skin temperature and everyone is out in the streets walking, chatting, hanging out at a bar or cafe.  I love pedalling in the dark through the soft air, whooshing along on my bicycle. It's so freeing.

These weeks in the daytime, along College and also on Bloor, the bars fill around lunchtime and are open to the street, so we can all see the action and hear the cheers and the groans: people are glued to large screens as they watch the next round of European Cup soccer.

Yesterday afternoon I walked past a small bar and got waved in. "Who are you supporting?" asked several guys sitting along the bar. I looked at the screen: Netherlands 1; Portugal 0. "Portugal" I said.  Huge smiles.  "Come, sit down! What will you have?" I demurred, needing to get home because guests were coming for an early father's day supper. "Next time!" they said cheerfully, and went back to the game. Later Portugal rallied to beat the Dutch and advance to the next round.  

I really must get out to watch a match or two this week.  Every two years we have this pleasure, either the World Cup or the European Cup, as fans settle in to watch the matches and cheer, and put flags on their cars and honk their way down the street when their team wins. Even-numbered Junes in Toronto are enriched by all this.

Meantime the annual pleasures continue to unfold: the peonies are done, but the tall red rose bush (more a skinny tree than a bush in fact) is loaded with rich-red heads, and the day lilies are starting to bloom. The tomato and pepper plants that went in four weeks ago are looking healthy; I've mulched the tomatoes in an effort to discourage blight. I've been eating scads of sweet and tender broccoli raab grown from seed this spring. And there's a tall kale plant that came through the winter and has tender grey-green leaves, great for quick stir-frying.  The red okra seeds that were planted at the same time as the rapini have not produced much growth. They may have needed more warmth to get started. And they also seem to attract slugs, so they're always hitting setbacks.Win a few, lose a few, is the theme of the garden and needs to be the motto of the gardener, or else s/he goes crazy.

Last night we had a mixed greens salad of leaves from all over the garden, from slightly mature romaine to oak leaf lettuce to some sorrel and tender spinach...Nothing better than fresh lettuce. But as it gets tough in the heat, I am starting to look forward to the first cherry tomatoes, still three to four weeks away probably. sigh.

Tomorrow I teach the last of my six classes on Foods that Changed the World. It has been such a pleasure, as well as lots of work. It makes me want to teach a second food-related course. I've been thinking about something that could explore fermentation and preservation "Putting Food By" kinds of things, from soy processing to cheese to wine and dried fruit to pickles in Japan and Korea, etc. You get the idea.

The question is, how to make it enticing for students? The whole subject of butter and milk products, not just cheese but also yogurt and its cousins, is a huge one. If you have any thoughts on this, on what a good course title and focus might be, please write to me. I find swimming in the large layered ocean that is humankind's relation to and inventiveness with food and food production to be infinitely fascinating. There is so much to wonder at and be amazed by.

And on a non-food topic, speaking of amazement: I went to see the latest Robert Lepage, Playing Cards (part 1 -  Spades) on Friday night. What a brilliant spectacle, linked stories and scenes miraculously stitched together on a round flexible stage. Unbelievable.  Yes he is a genius.

And back to food: I want to make boxty for the class tomorrow: potato flatbreads from Ireland.  there are many versions. The ones I'll make (from my recipe in HomeBaking) are delicious. They include cooked potato and grated raw potato, with wheat flour and some butter or bacon drippings. I'll make a batch of each so people can compare. And then we'll talk about coffee and wine and liquor and beer... Human beings have been brewing and fermenting and distilling beers and wines and spirits from grains and sugar since the beginning of time it seems.  What better way to sum up the history of basic foods over time?

1 comment:

Holly Bruns said...

Sally Fallon's "Nourishing Traditions"... you probably already know about her, but if not she talks about the necessity of fermented foods as a digestive aid. Not sexy material, but I found it really fascinating and love that wine is actually a digestive aid too.