La comida estuvo deliciosa

I wonder sometimes why it is that the older we get, the more questions we have. Clearly this is one of those questions. Another one I currently have is this: Why am I listening to Marc Anthony right now? That's a good one. We adults are certainly skilled in the art of Unnecessary Complication.

Photo credit: Torito Restaurant
At any rate, phew! It's been a disorganized, whirlwind week, but lovely nonetheless. I may or may not have committed a somewhat gutsy act this past weekend -- one large step for me, one small step for womankind.

And so last night I found myself walking along College at roughly 7:30pm, black boots and gray denim, headed to a Spanish tapas bar in Kensington Market. Items that appeared in front of me included: Serrano ham and a Spanish tortilla, at my Spanish dining companion's insistence -- "the way to judge a tapas bar is by its ham and tortilla," he informed me -- and these interesting pickled red grapes that burst so strongly with vinegar. I'd never had a Spanish tortilla, to be honest, but it was delicious. The basic concept calls for olive oil-fried potatoes and onions mixed with a little egg. It's similar to other potato concoctions (latkes come to mind), but, in my humble opinion, better. This one was slightly dry, but the seasoning was right on. I should mention that improper or insufficient seasoning is a common complaint of mine when it comes to dining out, so it's always reassuring when a chef somehow gets it on the nose. The ham was similarly delicious, its buttery texture a perfect contrast to the grapes, skins scrunched like those of prunes.

I chose tiny, red piquillo peppers stuffed with salted cod and olive tapenade, which were extremely salty but in that aged, great way, and packed with flavour. The cod was flaky, moist, and done perfectly. I generally don't expect others to get behind my dining choices, seeing as nobody has a Salt Tooth to match mine (with the possible exception of the late food writer, Laurie Colwin), but I must say, you have to respect someone who can find it in them to eat salted cod with you.

The truly unexpected highlight of the night arrived in the form of a dark chocolate flan atop a puddle of cognac. I don't think there are words, but I'll find some anyway. I felt a little like Julie Powell, taking a bite and proclaiming, "Yum!" It definitely was. I'm not much of a dessert person (see: Salt Tooth), but the dark chocolate was so pronounced and the flan, so smooth. I thought I was stuffed completely until dessert came, and then just like magic, I found space. Ohhh chocolate!

I usually don't have high expectations of flan. It's good. Sometimes, it's even pretty great. But this dark chocolate flan was spec-ta-cu-lar.

Sometimes, when I'm fortunate enough to enjoy a meal like that, I hardly know how to follow it. Generally, I eat something simple -- perhaps a bowl of predictable lentil soup, or a sandwich, or a generous salad. Tonight, I made something slightly different, but easy. Eaten with a glass of Chianti and a green salad, it was the perfect Thursday evening accompaniment to all of the books I have stashed away. I can no longer hide my library obsession, so it appears.

Now: on to the clams. If you've never had clams, please try them. Yes, they do smell like seawater -- we are talking seafood, afterall. But no, they do not taste fishy. In fact, if you're partial to any other canned fish/seafood, you will probably like these very inoffensive gems very much.

Spaghetti with Clam & Herb Sauce
Adapted from Sarah at Coffee Beans & Curry Leaves

Serves 2

2-3 tbsp olive oil
2 shallots, minced
4 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
1/4 tbsp dried chili flakes
1 tsp dried oregano
1 5oz can baby clams + juice
1/2 cup, packed, finely chopped parsley
Splash of white wine (optional)
Sea salt and pepper, to taste


Heat olive oil over medium heat and add shallots. Cook until slightly soft and tender, about three minutes. Add garlic and chili flakes. When fragrant, pour in reserved clam juice and wait until reduced and slightly thickened, about 8-10 minutes. At this point, add the clams, oregano, parsley and splash of white wine (if using), stirring to combine. Add a pinch of black pepper and about 1/8 tsp sea salt to start with. Let simmer for an additional five minutes, until the clams have been warmed through, the wine has evaporated and the parsley has wilted. Taste and adjust seasoning. Serve atop a bed of spaghetti, garnished with plenty of parmesan.

*A note about cooking the pasta: the clam sauce comes together pretty quickly; I began boiling water when I started on the recipe, which takes about twenty minutes total, and pulled out my pasta out of the water about five minutes prior to serving. Allow that to be your guide.


Recollecting on a Thursday

It's Thursday. Somewhere in Northern Florida, a group of girls is getting together to catch up over wine or cocktails. Maybe someone will host a potluck. I know it, because Thursday is girl's night.

If not this week, then next week. I don't know what I expected when I boarded that plane for Florida. I know I was mentally exhausted, so I doubt I was thinking much of anything. I remember being excited for the months ahead. I also remember being petrified for the months ahead. I wish I could go back in time and tell that girl, Hey, relax. It's all going to be fine. I didn't expect what would happen next -- Kudzu vines that threatened to eat the South, hoards of Spanish moss, that rainy day at St. George when the wind whipped at my ears and I found a fully intact conch shell, my feet covered in wet sand. I didn't expect so many tall trees, or a winter that felt like fall, or a coffee shop that serves up the best chai lattés around. I didn't expect to learn the way to the the local food co-op like the back of my hand, or that I'd come to regard the hard cider sold there as the best cider that has ever crossed my lips. We carved pumpkins for Halloween at Nat and Rory's, and drank Vampire wine and candy corn cocktails. We might've played video games into the wee hours of the morning. If you're desperately searching for the sugar high of your life, those cocktails fit the bill remarkably well. 

And I made a handful of friends worth cherishing. That's the most unexpected part of it. 

I remember the first house party I went to because it was the first weekend I spent in Tallahassee. I drank someone else's Maker's Mark straight up and spent a long time talking about writing and teaching and trying to get everyone's names straight. So this is America, I thought -- stories of husbands hiking in cowboy boots in Greece, a big pot of chili simmering on the stove to which someone had added spaghetti noodles, because that's how they make it in Ohio. A bottle of bourbon with a waxy red top and everyone involved in everyone's business. Accents of all kinds, sweet tea, entire grocery aisles devoted to barbequeu sauce, and gorgeous weather. When you step south of the Mason-Dixon line, prepare yourself for some serious hospitality.

I developed my own routines. I listened to motown and country on the radio. I shopped at Winn-Dixie and Target. I visited the turtles at Lake Ella and checked out all of the farmer's markets. I even invited Kim and Matt over for Canadian Thanksgiving, and I threw together a turkey dinner on the fly complete with homemade refrigerator pickles and local sweet corn. I made Julia Child's turkey and garlic-dill mashed potatoes. There was cranberry sauce and clumpy gravy (not exactly my strong suit), and salad tossed with a homemade balsamic vinaigrette. We ate cheese, baked fruit and homemade, three-ingredient peanut butter cookies for dessert, and saw The Invention of Lying. It was okay, as far as movies go, but made better by the cheap margaritas we drank afterward at Cabos. I will always remember that Thanksgiving -- my first (and only) away from Canada and the first (and only) I've ever cooked.

There was also girl's night. Every Thursday, a group of women would get together for dinner and drinks. I miss those Thursdays, and wish I could start something of that nature in Toronto -- low-key, a cluster of friends sitting around at a bar or at someone's apartment, shooting the breeze and relaxing together (preferably with appropriate libations, naturally.)

That's how I met Leigh. On the first girl's night I attended, Leigh made a pot of her mom's Beer-Cheese Soup and kindly accommodated my dietary restrictions. On one of my last days in Tallahassee, we got together for an amazing lunch and shared this blueberry-ginger cheesecake. I still remember that cheesecake because it must be the best I've ever eaten. And on one occasion in particular -- when a ribfest was being held -- she brought a lemon artichoke pesto that everyone raved about. I couldn't have any, but I bookmarked the recipe for future use. Leigh is a woman of discerning taste, after all.

I finally made the pesto, and I have three words for you: artichoke, artichoke, artichoke! I dare you to say it three times fast. It's the culinary equivalent of Beetlejuice, no? No dead artichokes will rise from the graveyard, fortunately, but there's enough garlic in this recipe to ward off the vampires. It is pretty fantastic. While I find basil pesto fairly versatile, I'll venture to say this one is even more so, at least to my mind. It's great on pasta, of course. It would be fantastic slathered on chicken breasts, or tossed with shrimp. It would be wonderful on toasted bread or with corn chips. It makes a lovely spread on sandwiches or on pizza, and I think it would be delicious mixed with quinoa or roasted broccoli. The recipe doesn't require much tinkering, and freezes well -- the easiest way is to fill ice cube trays and pop the pesto out once it's frozen. I then toss the cubes into a freezer bag, and take out as necessary -- it'll give you a little taste of the unexpected. And better yet: try it with friends, huddled over a coffee table, with a bottle of wine in front of you. Maybe even on a Thursday.

As can be expected, the quality of ingredients will effect the quality of the final product. I'd recommend using your favourite olive oil and real parmesan cheese here. In regards to the artichokes, I used a generic canned variety and washed them well of their brine -- they worked just fine for my purposes. 

Lemon Artichoke Pesto
Adapted from Allrecipes.com

1/4 cup (packed) fresh cilantro, finely chopped
6 garlic cloves, minced
3 tbsp fresh lemon juice
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
1 cup walnuts, coarsely chopped
1/2 cup grapeseed oil (or other vegetable oil)
1/2 cup (or more) good-quality olive oil
8oz artichoke hearts, coarsely chopped
1/2 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano, grated
Salt and black pepper, to taste

Toast the walnuts gently in a dry skillet or in the oven, about five minutes, until fragrant.

In a food processor, combine the first eight ingredients (including the toasted walnuts) and pulse until mixture forms a very thick paste. With the motor running, drizzle in the grapeseed oil, followed by the olive oil, until desired texture forms. If you intend to freeze, you can also do as I did; I used only half of the oil called for and I drizzle in a little more when I go to use the pesto. I also tend to salt liberally in order to preserve the flavour. Refrigerate immediately, or freeze in an ice cube tray for future use.

"I do not wish to treat friendships daintily, but with the roughest courage. When they are real, they are not glass threads or frost-work, but the solidest thing we know." 
- Ralph Waldo Emerson


Of soup and comfort

There are no words.

Roasted garlic. Rosemary. Leeks. It's poetry, non? I should think so.

I told you I'm gradually becoming a cereal person -- more specifically, a granola kind of girl. Slowly, I'm also turning away from my flurry of salads and toward soups. Maybe it's the change in the weather. Maybe it's the vent that hangs from my ceiling, the consequence of trying to change my furnace filter single-handedly. A bowl of soup is equal to a bear hug, as far as liquid food goes, and glancing at that vent -- well, a hug doesn't hurt.

I finished Alone in the Kitchen with an Eggplant not too long ago, and fell in love. It's such a compelling anthology of short fiction, all about food (!) and people eating alone. I would say, broadly speaking, eating is considered a social sort of thing, so this notion of communing solo intrigues me. What about those who eat alone, out of either necessity or choice? It's an interesting proposition.

My first instinct at mealtime is to turn on the television, but then I go about eating mindlessly -- never satisfying. Instead, I like to listen to music and have my meals on my kitchen island, or plunk myself down on the floor and eat while reading. It doesn't mean I haven't eaten meals while watching Sarah Jessica Parker wax on about human shortcomings, but, you know, I do my best.

I've come upon the realizations that Jenni Ferrari-Adler seems to have when she first moved to the American Midwest, alone, for graduate school. "Everything, I realized, growing light-headed, anything was delicious. In the next weeks I continued on in phases, first everything raw, then everything baked. I prioritized condiments. What wasn't delicious with Sriracha Hot Chili Sauce?" (This is a good point, I might add.) No, it didn't take subsisting on cabbage for me to figure it out, but through many a meal of rice and beans it's come about anyway: eating alone is a bit of a luxury; eating alone means you can eat an entire fennel bulb for lunch and call it good; eating alone means you can eat the same thing for five days straight -- out of financial necessity, desire or sheer laziness; eating alone means there's no one to please but yourself, and she ain't picky.

Well, not too picky.

Anyway. I digress.

Despite living in a big city, I've craving the slow pace. I know, I know -- grass is greener and all of that. But by that, I don't mean I want to crawl back to the country. I mean I want to let go.

Never one to let life dictate my choices, I've spent the last several years playing Master Coordinator, whipping and cajoling life to meet my wants and requirements. Perhaps it's time to sit on this very stool and eat some metaphorical soup for a while. If you had a bowl of this in front of you, you too might want to stand still for a while.

There are many fantastic recipes for Potato-Leek Soup, but when I came across Molly Katzen's recipe for a potato soup incorporating roasted garlic and rosemary, it didn't take much convincing. Although this recipe calls for chicken stock, a good-quality vegetable stock may, of course, be substituted.

As with many starchy soups, you'll find the liquid will dissipate in the refrigerator and you'll be left with a blob for soup. That's okay. Re-heated over the stove with a little liquid -- water, milk, cream, stock -- the soup comes alive again.

Potato-Leek Soup with Rosemary and Roasted Garlic

Inspired by Molly Katzen

Yields 4 large (or 6 small) bowls

3 cups peeled and cubed New potatoes (or potatoes suitable for boiling)
3 leeks, finely sliced (white parts only)
2 tbsp unsalted butter
5 cups chicken (or good-quality vegetable) stock
2 tbsp roasted garlic*
2 dried bay leaves
1/2 tsp dried rosemary
Pinch cayenne pepper, or a dash of hot sauce
1 cup (or more) of milk*
Salt and pepper

Sour cream or plain Greek yogurt (optional)

In a heavy-bottomed pot or a Dutch oven, melt butter over medium heat and add leeks, stirring to ensure even coating. At this point, I like to let the leeks cook at medium-low to avoid burning them. Unlike onions, leeks do not add depth of flavour once caramelized, so be sure not to do that. Cook until they've softened quite substantially -- around ten minutes, I would say -- and then add the potatoes, stock, garlic, bay leaves, rosemary, a couple cracks of black pepper and salt. Bring to a boil and then reduce to a strong simmer. Let it sit, uncovered, until the potatoes are fork-tender. At this point, add the cayenne (or hot sauce) and adjust the seasoning. Fish out the bay leaves. Purée using a blender, immersion blender, or food processor, and return to the pot. Stir in one cup (or more) of milk or cream until you've reached the desired consistency.

Ladle into bowls and serve with a dollop of sour cream or plain Greek yogurt, if desired.

*A note on the garlic: to roast, slice off the top of the bulb and wrap the remainder in alluminum foil. Place in a 350°F oven for about 40 minutes, until the cloves become soft and sticky to the touch. Once slightly cool, squeeze the garlic from its peel and mash into a thick paste. This can be done ahead of time.

*I take 2% milk in my coffee, so I used that. It worked very nicely. You could use cream, but, in my opinion, the creaminess of the potatoes renders it unnecessary. If you don't have milk on hand or are allergic/intolerant, water is a fine substitute.


Sowing wild oats

I have a story to share with you.

I'm not much of a cereal person in the same vein that, pea soups aside, I'm not much of a soup person. However, since 2010 has kept me on my toes thus far, I'll venture to say that by the year's end, I'll have morphed into both a cereal and soup person. Yes, it appears I have my own Fairy Godmother and set of culinary-minded mice, there to ensure I meet my grain and vegetable quotas.

Now let's return to this very riveting story.

For years I've eaten eggs for breakfast. When I was in my late teens, breakfast took the form of egg white omelets almost exclusively for -- I'm sorry to say -- I was absolutely obsessed with my weight. A chubby adolescent, I was dead-set on keeping slim. I can't say my practices and priorities were anywhere near healthy back then, but there you have it. When I moved to Windsor, I ate eggs all the time. I once even purchased a pack of thirty-six from the market. Some people are serious about their cake, or pies, or jam. Perhaps they are serious about their steak, or their hamburgers.

I was -- and am -- deeply serious about my eggs. I still go through about a carton a week, though I can stretch it to a week and a half if I must, and I'm especially particular about the brand. Most of the eggs that make it into grocery stores are of very poor quality; I want an egg with a real orange yolk, rich and full of flavour, with a thick, ugly shell that cracks easily. Those are hard to come by, even in a city that never sleeps. If you're so lucky to find some real farm eggs, be sure to snatch up those hot commodities.

I like them all ways -- poached, fried, scrambled, hard-boiled, soft-boiled. I am a fan of the incredible, edible egg, oh yes. But as of late, something else -- gasp! -- has been holding my heart captive.

I've shown how fickle I can be in the past, with what my goings on about Montmorency cherries one week and Burrata the next, but breakfast is no laughing matter. I have a ritual to stick to, after all. I climb out of bed, albeit reluctantly, proceed to the kitchen to make coffee, and turn on the morning news. I pour a splash of milk or cream into a mug (or, horror of horrors, find the fridge both milk-less and cream-less and am forced to drink my coffee straight like a trooper.) I wait. I pour myself a cup and hold it between my palms, and listen to the day's troubles. It helps me to feel connected to the world. It's when I focus, when I make plans for the day, when I organize my thoughts.

Then, after I've finished my first cup, I make breakfast. I do this every morning, and breakfast is almost always eggs. Yes, I've begrudgingly eaten cereal from time to time -- perhaps a bowl of quinoa or oatmeal -- and sometimes I might dare to chew on a couple slices of French toast. Sometimes all I want is a bowl of Greek yogurt, laced with honey and nuts and maybe some fruit, or, if I'm feeling particularly indulgent at the grocery store, a serving of Liberté Méditerranée lemon (whomever said money can't buy happiness never had Liberté yogurt, I'll gander to guess.) But usually, it's eggs. I have a reputation to uphold. I have a relationship to maintain.

But September has come along, and with it, a renewed interest in cooking. I've eaten a lot of salads this summer, but autumn begs for comfort food. I've frozen some homemade pesto and hummus I made last night while catching The Cider House Rules on television (one of the very few films that can do its print companion justice, perhaps because John Irving wrote both the novel and the screenplay), and as we speak, I'm cooking up a giant pot of chicken stock, some of which will be used in a Potato-Leek soup tomorrow. As a sidenote, I have to mention how much I love the look of leeks -- don't you? When I open my fridge, I stare at them in admiration for a solid two minutes. I made Brandon's Chana Masala, which I'll be eating for dinner tomorrow, and I finished off the rest of the zucchini frittata I made in my cast iron pan over the weekend. And then there's the granola.

Now I didn't grow up eating granola. I didn't even grow up eating eggs daily, the way I'm sure some kids did. I ate whole-wheat toast slathered with margarine, sometimes peanut butter, and a big helping of 1% cottage cheese. I devoured English muffins with cream cheese, and, for a short and forgettable time, toasted sandwiches made with processed cheese slices and Miracle Whip. I remember the first time I ate granola, actually, as clearly as if it happened yesterday. I was seventeen and in Europe on a class trip, and we had the choice of either granola or some other ubiquitous breakfast cereal -- Cornflakes, maybe, or Rice Crispies. I think we were in England. All I have to say is this: as soon as I tasted it, I was, um, forever changed? That sounds rather dramatic, but we are talking breakfast here. If there's ever a time to get passionate, it's before noon.

"What is this?" I asked. "What, you've never had granola? You can buy it at any grocery store," a friend of mine answered. It was perfect: chewy, slightly sweet, crisp. It tasted, quite frankly, like fall in a bowl. Better.

Of course, due to the aforementioned weight obsession, I never ate granola again after I flew back to Canada, and by the time I came around to the notion of moderation, I'd fallen extremely ill and totally intolerant. Not to mention that North American granolas just can't compare to that granola I ate back then; on the whole, commercial granolas are overpoweringly sweet and decadent. But now (!), with gluten-free oats in hand and a well-curated love of food and cooking, I'm able to finally commit. This recipe is so good, I may be tempted to forgo my daily eggs. Now that's saying something.

No, there's no ballgown dress or shoes; there's no pumpkin carriage or Prince Charming awaiting my transformation. But I have a granola recipe in hand that renders oats amber-coloured and subtly sweet, and it's second best to nothing.

Check out Molly's granola recipe.


A toast

This week has been lovely.

There was one very sweet cake.

French toast that was crispy at the edges, spiced with nutmeg and cinnamon.

And, although my moving around and traveling has transformed me into quite the light packer, I managed to bring back to my apartment twice as much as I brought. As one might suspect, this additional baggage took the form of some very tasty, luxurious treats: two chocolate bars; a trio of vinegars from Italy; a pound of Guatemala coffee; spices from the bulk store; canned chipotle peppers in adobo; and a loaf of multigrain bread. Transporting all of these goods along with my suitcase and belongings was certainly an adventure, but no one puts vinegar in the corner.

I finished this week of absolute indulgence by having roasted chicken for dinner with a bowl of a barely edible, overly salty boxed vegetable soup and a slice of bread slathered with butter, thinly sliced and peppery radish, and sea salt. In the name of transparency, the chicken was store-bought. I may or may not have had too much wine at last night's annual, international wine festival. I may have even had a couple glasses of exceptionally delicious sangria. I didn't intend for it to be this way, but I sometimes wonder why this blog isn't called Chronicles of the Year Sarah Drank a Lot of Wine and Wrote About It.

There wasn't just wine, though. I ate sweet potato fries served with a mayonnaise and BBQ sauce concoction, and they made excellent bedfellows. Immediately, that hit of BBQ sauce reminded me of being in the South, pulling at pork ribs with my teeth. A woman I attended grade school with has a restaurant and a catering company, and I got the opportunity to try very delicious beef kofta with a mint and coconut drizzle. I'm salivating just thinking about it.

I also managed to get together with my high school girlfriends over ice cream at The Waterfront. I missed them.

I'm back in the Big Smoke, watching Julia Roberts in Something to Talk About. It turns out that I, too, have something to talk about (other than food): I've unofficially found full-time employment. The contract's being drawn up as we speak. After searching for work for over a year, this news feels terribly anti-climactic. Instead of cheersing with a bottle of Cava, I am drinking hot green tea and thumbing through my new set of library books. I'm currently reading Alone in the Kitchen with an Eggplant by Jenni Ferrari-Adler and Vanishing and Other Stories by Deborah Willis, a book of short fiction penned by a Calgary writer. However, I think I might prefer this low-key celebrating.

The Toronto Public Library has fortunately decided to continue feeding my love of food memoirs (!), as I also have in hand Eating Animals by Jonathan Safran Foer, a book I've waited ten weeks for, and Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver. And, to end a perfectly lovely day of train rides and books and food, I received a belated birthday gift from Anne. It might only be September 10th, but it may as well be autumn. I had to rummage through my closet for a sweater, for crying out loud. I'm not-so-secretly pining for a couple more weeks of warm weather -- just enough time to get my full share of summer squash and to squeeze in a breezy summer romance or two.


Cake, wine, peaches, turkey: a homecoming

The weather may prove to be unreasonable, but that wasn't enough to keep two girls from getting together for a pic-nic lunch at Trinity Bellwoods, sitting in the giant pool of shade beneath an enormous tree, spreading out an orange blanket.

Of course, before we arrived, the day called for, at Julia's insistence, in-house grapefruit slush and peach ice cream from Wanda's Pie in the Sky and a trip to Nadège, a spectacularly clean, white French bakery on Queen West with a display case of homemade guimauves enrobed in chocolate, pains au chocolat and perfectly shaped macarons -- biting into one is like biting down on a perfectly sweetened cloud, at once dense and light. The employees all speak with a lovely French accent, and it reminds me, albeit briefly, of being in Paris.

For our pic-nic lunch, I threw together a quick salad of lettuces, black beans, baked tortilla strips and green peppers, tossed with a citrusy vinaigrette flecked with chili powder, garlic and cumin, and brought along some watermelon chunks. We drank white wine from Henry of Pelham and talked about food and publishing and weddings, and I left around 5pm feeling a little buzzed and light-headed. It was my first time sitting in Trinity Bellwoods, an exceptional place for people-watching. It felt ridiculously luxurious to be able to get together on a weekday while the rest of the city was stuck in heavily air-conditioned cubicles.

I think I need to head out there more often.

On the walk home, I smiled as I glanced over at the giant white signs hung across The Leslieville Cheese Market's window: FINALLY! GLUTEN-FREE GRILLED CHEESE ON NAVY BEAN BREAD. AMAZING GLUTEN-FREE BREAD! they declared. Oh, how the times have changed. When I first went gluten-free five years ago, nobody had heard of celiac. Tonight, I'll be eating my first real birthday cake in five years. I suppose it isn't a big deal; it's just cake. But I'm a sucker for ritual.

I'm in Windsor this week, the little city that could -- and, oh Windsor!, you sure know how to throw a girl a party. You welcomed me home with maple salmon, cooked on a cedar plank, and local wine made from Essex County's own grape. You had a loaf of multigrain bread at the ready, still warm from the oven. Tonight there will be a turkey, plump and juicy, and mashed potatoes. Green beans, chopped raw vegetables, and a peach crisp made from the last of the season's stone fruit. Peanut butter ice cream and fresh-picked, crunchy apples that smell like fall and taste like the orchard. Coffee from Guatemala with chocolate notes.

Alisa Smith and J. B. MacKinnon, authors of The 100-Mile Diet: A Year of Local Eating, were often asked during their 100-mile diet experiment whether they were bored of the food they were eating. It sounds sort of ironic when so many people eat predominantly out of boxes and cans, and anyway, despite our best efforts, we all often fall into food ruts. Increasingly, I dream about U-Pick farms, in-season peaches and earthy potatoes. Food that tastes like history, like home. James responds this way: "I might answer the question by telling people how I now liked to start the day. It wasn't with parsnip fritters anymore. Instead, I'd stumble out to the kitchen where a flat of blueberries awaited, warmed by the morning rays and burstingly ripe, thoroughly alive. Do the little fruits really, as some people claim, flush out toxins, fight cancer, plump my prostate like a pillow? I don't know, and I don't particularly care. I shovelled them into my mouth with both hands and I felt like I was adding years to my life."

As someone who craves stability and security, it might come as a surprise that I've moved seven times in the last two years, that for a long while I've been unable to plan anything beyond the short scope of two weeks. I've loved the experiences and, as a lucky side effect, I've become infinitely more adaptable than I ever fathomed myself capable of being, but it doesn't mean I haven't been stricken with anxiety so overwhelming it has rendered food unappetizing and sleep, impossible -- which is saying something coming from the girl who ends one meal by plotting the next. It doesn't mean I haven't been scared out of my mind. But! life goes on, as it turns out. However, it does leave one lingering question: what is home to me now?

Home is where the heart is, so they say, but my heart has been stretched across the continent like a rubber band. Really, home is a great meal, I might answer -- bits of my family, my friends, my landscape. Home is sitting around the dinner table with my family, eating perfectly seasoned turkey and chomping on carrots. Home is sitting with a friend in Trinity Bellwoods, eating the full share of the olives, or laughing with friends, old and new, in my apartment. It's reading a book about going back to the basics, and connecting with the people who ensure our very livelihood. Some of the happiest people I know are the ones who have endured the most severe of hardships, and it feels incomparably good to relax with them, sip on a glass of wine, take it all in. "Where thou art, that is home," Emily Dickinson wrote. I would agree with her.

All around us, it seems curses are blooming into blessings, a sort of reverse spring. Turns out, this September, I get to have my cake and eat it, too.
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