Saturday, October 9, 2010


As I sit here typing, the sun is golden and getting low in the sky, it's nearly 6 pm, but the air is so balmy that I'm still in short-sleeved cotton. This Thanksgiving weekend is like a reminder of all the wonderful weather we've had since June, a truly memorable summer for gardeners in Toronto. North of here, in Grey County, there was more rain and many market gardeners had too much wet weather and problems with mould and blight etc. But here in the Toronto area and down into Niagara, it was hard to find any complainers!

I should revisit the subject of Nuit Blanche, that I wrote about in anticipation last week. But really, there's too much to say, and I am not a reviewer. I'll just mention a wonderful installation called "The Big O",by Zilvinas Kempinas, a 7 metre diameter circle of magnetic tape that floated and rippled continuously, sustained and animated by six fans, three on either side about 5 metres apart. The piece was aspirational, optimisitic, and memsmerising. I thought "sight unseen" by Lee Ranaldo and Leah Singer was memorable. And "Arrivals and Deparatures" by Michael Fernandes, a pair of large notice boards like those in European train stations, with horizontal lines closely spaced, on which all night people wrote, and erased and wrote more, in the form "I am arriving from...(Sault Ste MArie, or a place of depression, or Whitby...) and I am going to (hope, or Harbourfront, or Europe...)" was very effective and engaging; it perhaps sounds trite, but it worked...

And now here we are at Thanksgiving weekend, with the markets and farmers' markets jammed yesterday and today with optimistic shoppers, me among them. A bicycle is a great mode of transport, and imposes some good constraints. I do NOT have a large box or basket on mine, something I regret from time to time. But as I rearranged my load today, putting the pears and tomatoes and olive oil in my small day pack, and the lighter lumps like bread in an over-the-shoulder bag, I realised that I'm better off without a basket. If I had one I wouldn't be as restrained/constrained, and would shop even more optimistically and generously.

This impulse to buy because the vegetables are fresh and beautiful, and also just because there they are, is a fine one. But it leads me to a kind of hoarding mentality, "I'd better get a lot of X, just to be sure I have enough"; or, another version, "Maybe I'll take these dandelion greens too, because maybe the beets and the purple cabbage and the leaf lettuce and the celery root that I have already bought for this weekend won't be enough". It's crazy thinking. And it's predictable, especially at a farmers' market before a holiday.

Somewhere there lurks in me, and perhaps in many of us (I do like to think that I have company in my weaknesses!), some kind of atavistic fear of being caught short, not because of real threats of food scarcity such as invading armies or plague, but just because the stores are going to be closed for a day or two... (It's a little pathetic, phrased that way, isn't it?) So I stocked up on extra butter and eggs, in case i want to make a cake as well as a pie as well as, oh, perhaps a different pie...

It's lovely, picturing all these possibilities, but it also shows that I don't really want to pin myself down or have a plan. I want to play the whole weekend or holiday by ear, and have the freedom to decide at the last minute what I am going to cook and how I am going to cook it.

If I think of earlier times, when the challenge in the home kitchen was to work with a narrow range of foodstuffs and still make meals interesting or festive, then this wonderfully rich choice at Thanksgiving weekend is even more astonishing. No wonder my eyes are bigger than my planning!!!

Which leads me to, yes, the plan. What is it? Well in the last few days a kind of shape has emerged: I'm expecting a loose collection of various people over for an early supper on Monday. I have some Berkshire pork (a small roast from Sanagan's), and some merguez, and a little beef too, to grill, and there are potatoes and a rich assortment of vegetables that will get used and eaten, but I don't know exactly in what way. A friend called today to ask us over for a Thanksgiving meal, and I suggested that since there were already people coming here, she and her family join us. It sounded like a good plan to her, which is great. And so now after all there will also be turkey (not my favorite, but loved by many): She is bringing over a small turkey that she'll have roasted ahead.

I have a load of pears, a mix of Bosc and Bartletts, maybe for a cake? or a custard tart? And I have some small pie pumpkins that I'm baking right now, so I can use the flesh, appropriately mashed and processed and smoothed with coconut milk and spices and an egg or three, as filling for several tarts/pies, on Monday. So that should feel generous and festive, don't you think?

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