The View from Saturday

A heart full of love and a bookshelf full of hope and some books.

Monday, October 16, 2006

The Big Smoke.

I just spent the weekend in Toronto. While most of my time was taken up with eating Rodney's Oyster Bar out of house and home and drinking wine spritzers at a rate that would make me an excellent understudy for Jack Lemmon in The Days of Wine and Roses, I also did other things that exercised my brain as well as my liver. We hit galleries and restaurants, and I came to the realization that Toronto isn't ALL bad. It may be the poor man's NYC, but I defy you to find a better hollandaise sauce than that of Over Easy, which is pretty much our living room whenever we visit. Plus the view of the ravine off Mount Pleasant is very pretty. And handsome waiters abound.

I drove home yesterday in my now-incredibly-inappropriately-nicknamed car and plowed through part of one of my favourite Toronto-centric series, Scott Pilgrim by Brian Lee O'Malley. These wicked comic books are a tribute to manga and the Toronto scene and are full of fun visual references to various spots all over the city, from Honest Ed's to Toronto Ref. Anyone who's spent time in the city will love these books, and anyone who hasn't will still appreciate the ubiquitous CanPop tidbits and smart yet silly writing. Scott Pilgrim, who is named after a song by Plumtree, who no one will remember except me and Heather, is a feckless musician dude who has to fight his hott new lady friend's seven evil ex-boyfriends in order to win her heart. This premise is shockingly entertaining, I promise.

And while we're on the whole Toronto thing, my favourite poem about the city is "A Night in the Royal Ontario Museum" by Margaret Atwood. It's the third poem in this pdf version of her Selected Poems and it reminds me of the unsettling feeling of going to the ROM when I was a kid and pretty much having a panic attack in the bat cave. Enjoy.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

A Literary Cornucopia.

It's an eatin' time of year, from delicious pies baked with apples from a sketchy apple tree to pink squares to stuffing that hasn't been stuffed in anything except a casserole dish. It is, to put it one way, harvest time. In honour of the twenty pounds of cheesecake I will be packing away this weekend, and in tribute to everyone's favourite cooperative board game, here are some of my favourite books about food. And sharing. Okay, maybe we'll scratch the sharing part.

Julie and Julia by Julie Powell really grew on me. It's the story of a sketchy gal from Long Island City who decides that she'll cook every single recipe in Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking as a way to fill her unemployed days. This book is as much about her turning-30 crisis and the resulting existential crisis as it is about the sheer magnitude of Julia Child's amazing, culture-changing cookbook. The fact that a girl in a divey apartment with a malfunctioning stove could muster up things like beurre blanc and osso bucco is, to a single girl with a sketchy kitchen like me, comforting. She also swears a lot. I like casual swearing.

Home Cooking and More Home Cooking by Laurie Colwin are books that make you homesick, especially if you come from a home like mine where there is always something on the stove and someone wonderful to eat it with. Laurie Colwin started out as a sketchy gal in a crappy apartment (is there a pattern here?), cooking things like eggplant parmesan on a hot plate and doing her dishes in the bathtub (again, I relate). Over the years, she became an amazing novelist and food writer for the New Yorker, and these collections of her columns are funny, and personal, and totally delightful. You'll never think of lemons, or gingerbread, or chocolate cake, the same way again. My favourites are the piece on what to serve to someone with jetlag and the one about Halloween dinner. (Halloween dinner! This woman is a genius!) My mom passed these books on to me after Laurie Colwin had died, and I tell you, I was so sad when I realized she'd never write anything more.

Happy Thanksgiving, kids. Be kind to your turkeys.

Monday, October 02, 2006

kicking vegetarianism in the pants.

So my friend Sarah informed me this morning that yesterday was World Vegetarian Day, and she wanted to know what I'd done to celebrate. This holiday could not have come at a worse time for me. Instead of joining hands with other like minded fans of Tofurkey sausage (I actually ate this last week and it was NOT THAT BAD) and planting crap in a community garden, I spent my day of meatless empowerment barrelling down the 401 in my brand new Honda Civic, emitting fossil fuels and listening to Heat by Bill Buford, a book that is not exactly vegetarian in focus. At one point as Bill recounted losing his shit and travelling to Tuscany to apprentice with a master butcher, I found myself thinking, "huh, cured rendered pig fat spread on a slice of bread actually sounds kind of delicious!"

Butcher talk aside, it's a really wicked book for anyone who loves dining out and is mildly obsessed with the whole celebrity chef phenomenon. Buford spends over a year working at Babbo, a NYC restaurant owned by Mario Battali, who's the quintessential fiery celeb chef, and his stories about everything from continuing to work after he's sliced the tip off his finger to the surprisingly difficult art of making pasta are hilarious and compelling. The book on CD was fun to listen to, although it made my driving snack of Diet Coke and grapes seem a little lacklustre. I bought and made some tortellini as soon as I got back home, but without the pig fat, it was a little meh. This could be the next step down the slope toward meat eating, which, as we know, began during the infamous Scottish Spring Roll Debacle of 2006. By the end of the week I may be eating turkey and wiping my mouth with a hamburger or something.