vendredi, juin 20, 2008

shoeshine girl

The light is beautiful this morning.

I woke up to the incessant clamour of an unfamiliar alarm, courtesy of having two pints too many and deciding not to cycle home. The owner of the alarm was already in the shower, and, as I groggily stumbled around in borrowed pyjamas trying to source and eliminate the beeping, a shaft of sunshine grazed my cheek and stopped me in my tracks.

This city's been grey for weeks.

I waited for water to boil in a rarely-touched saucepan. My gracious host, leaving for a business trip at 8:30, ran out to pick up drycleaning. The morning was off kilter. There was tea in the cupboard and milk in the fridge but no kettle or teapot. English breakfast steeped in a stein. When my host returned, it was with half a suit: somehow his trousers had been misplaced.

All of a sudden there were not enough minutes to pick out a different suit, iron trousers, decide upon tie, collect papers, shine shoes. Ironing abandonned, I found myself sitting on the kitchen floor, armed with an old toothbrush and a dishrag, shining a pair of well worn shoes.

I can't remember the last time I shined a pair of shoes. I can't remember not knowing how to shine a pair of shoes.

My mind flicked from past to present as though I was looking through a viewmaster. The drawer in the back hall stuffed with plastic bags and rags and pucks of polish in various hues. Flecks of sticky black on white kitchen tiles. My dad's voice reminding me to make sure I really worked the polish into the seams. My host's incredulity at this hitherto unnounced skill.

I've spent this month grasping for my father - simultaneously aching for and terrified of catching a snippet of high resolution memory. I worry about forgetting. I worry that by the time I can revisit all of the days from before two junes ago and still remember to breathe, the memories will have faded from lack of exercise.

There is a vast literature on grief, most of which I have not read. I think I don't want to find, in what is to me a vastly a-typical situation, that all of my feelings are textbook responses. So I don't know which stage I am in. I'm not keeping a "personal journey" journal - other than this oft abandonned forum - nor am I in therapy - though I'm considering it.

Instead I'm hanging on to what I know is true: I can shine a pair of shoes in 3 minutes. The light is beautiful this morning.

mercredi, juin 11, 2008

death by cerrano

It was the ham that did me in. Slivers of scarlet sliced off the bone in front of my eyes, melting on my tongue. It tasted nutty and creamy and like the smell of warm, damp pine needles.

An hour into Toronto Taste and I'd lost my heart to a 3000 dollar leg of meat.

The event of the year for Toronto foodies, Taste is a gustatory extravaganza. For those who can afford it, forking over $225 for a ticket, guarantees face time with the city's hottest chefs, the chance to brush shoulders with local celebs, and the satisfaction of having contributed to a very worthwhile cause. To the uninitiated (which includes your faithful scribe) perambulating around the Japanese Canadian Cultural Centre for a few hours on a Sunday afternoon feels a food fair designed by cirque de soleil, with the additional benefit of copious amounts of free alcohol.

Much as it was during my 9th grade food fair, the most popular kids tables were swamped.

As I stood quietly in a corner of grill tent, munching pig's ear terrine on home-made crackers, Marc Thuet and his crew flung ribs to a salivating and sycophantic crowd that never seemed to dissipate. A master of charcouterie, Thuet was instantly recognizable by his tousled platinum coif, as were his family members - presumably there's a household bottle of peroxide, or else they are universally blessed with the fantastic hair gene. Watching Thuet's brigade chatting amiably with prada-loafered nobs I thought how apt some recent research relates to commercial kitchens. Thuet is a burly, bulldog of a man. So are his staff. The three men on the front line were built like the proverbial loo and had accessorized their whites with bandannas and baseball caps. Compared to their fresh faced and crisply starched colleagues, the Thuet crew wouldn't have looked out of place at a Nascar rally or as extras on The Sopranos.

Meandering out of the tent, I picked up a glass of Cave Springs Sauvignon Blanc (crisp! fruity! dry!) and promptly abandoned it for Mistura's mint and pea shooter topped with light mustard foam and garnished with a single succulent prawn. For a few brief seconds I contemplated making off with the tray of shooters, but decided not to when I realized the inevitable conclusion: discovered slumped in a corner, covered in pea puree, suffering a prawn induced coma.

In the main ballroom, Mark McEwen took time out of bestriding the room like a colossus to chat to the doyenne of spicing. Plate of biryani in hand, he paid his respects and then, flunky in tow, resumed his tour. Later, I marveled at his contribution to the festivities: a sweet potato pancake topped with a mint and crab cake wrapped in cured trout garnished with corn salsa, creme fraiche, and greenery that I would have identified had I not immediately gobbled the edible architecture.

There was more, so much more* but my taste buds were overwhelmed and the backs of my eyelids filled with dancing canapes.

I pulled up my bootstraps and headed back to the center of the center of the universe, munching pickled carrots (thanks Mr Kennedy!)on the crowded subway.

*to wit: mini kobe burgers, potato/pea/salmon sushi, souffle, trifle, pate, carlo rota, colin and justin

vendredi, juin 06, 2008

Things I am afraid of, Vol 1


Particularly the cracking streaks that light the thunder clouds cerulean blue for a second before exploding into a flash of white light.

Especially great bolts streaking across the sky whilst I am cycling.

Good thing I decided not to wear my tin foil hat this evening.

lundi, juin 02, 2008

Colour Theory

It is no secret that the east of Canada had a rough winter. When the snow eventually quit piling up I heaved a sigh of relief and began dreaming of spring, completely forgetting about Canada's fifth season: the grimy thaw.

The grimy thaw extends from the last snowfall until mid-May. It's as though the trees and lawns and citizens are holding their collective breath, waiting for the final blizzard of the season. In a stunning example of brinksmanship, Canadians and their flora refuse to tidy themselves up for spring before the warm weather hits and the weather gods refuse to grant warm weather until we sweep the winter's accumulated gravel off our streets. I think the only reason Spring actually occurs is that a day or two of the paralyzing curb-side stench of thawing dog shit galvanizes all parties.

The upshot is six months of existing in monochrome.

Though I am not by nature a colour fiend - I'm pretty sure the divine Miss N's moratorium on the purchase of black shirts still stands - its almost total absence from my life caused me to rebel in small ways.

As March eased into April my daydreams started to resemble a Robert Doisneau montage, except with less kissing and worse hair. I bought a red coat and yellow rain boots.

Salvation came early in May when a friend let me dive into her closet and fish out old bolts of marimekko fabric.

For the past month the floor of my room has been covered with puddles of vibrant prints while plans for projects gestated. I drew. Calculated yardage and seam allowances, and paid close attention to sidewalk fashionistas.

Outside my window, the cosmic game of chicken seemed to have stopped. One fiery tulip bloomed beside my front steps. Daffodils and magnolia trees followed suit. Time sped up and suddenly, weeks later, I had a free morning to play with fabric and draft patterns.

Fueled by copious amounts of tea, I swatched and pinned and snipped and measured and re-arranged and made notes and sat back on my heels and chewed my lower lip and thought really hard about what I wanted to make.

And when I figured it out, the giggles started way down in my belly and, like effervescent prosecco bubbles, spilled out into the sunshine and jazz-filled bedroom.

Apparently, I'm just contrary.