Ooooh boy.

I've been trying to write this entry for a week.

This was not the week I expected to have at all.

Excuses are for wimps and undergrads. But first there was the earthquake that rocked Japan and then the tsunami. The aftershocks came. A nuclear catastrophe erupted and a snowstorm hit. In the days that followed many were quick to point out that disasters happen each day to people around the globe, but I don't feel that's a fair comparison. I don't mean to say that those suffering in Japan are not worse off than anyone else, though that may very well be, because I'm not interested in writing up a veritable who's who of worldwide victims, and I'm not interested in measuring levels of agony or injustice if such measurements were even possible. I mean to say that media coverage of these Japanese events has totally saturated the airwaves, print mediums and social networks in a way that is so all-encompassing. I woke up Friday morning, ate my granola and yogurt, sipped on a mug of strong coffee, and watched the world shift and change irreparably yet again. And in a small way, insignificant to anyone else, those moments have woven themselves into my life, too.

After a large-scale natural disaster I tend to retreat a little, grow uneasy. Maybe you do the same thing, too. I lie low. Do you know what to do? I don't. I sit glued to my television listening to the news reports and the stories, and I read the articles and the quick write-ups. I can't imagine it yet it stares me in the face. Mostly it makes me feel sad and helpless, but it also serves as a reminder of how fragile we all are, how delicate our lives are, like intricately woven spiderwebs.

They -- epic natural disasters -- render me speechless. How do I wax on about the wonders of chickpeas tossed into a lemony, rosemary-spiked casserole when such despair looms? Toward the end of the week I fell ill with a wicked case of the "stomach flu", ie. sleep for eighteen hours straight and wake up promptly at 8am in search of orange popsicles and slurpees; walk across the street in barely-combed hair, Birkenstock clogs and baggy yoga pants to acquire said slurpee and an orange freezie (sorry, no popsicles.) I clearly spent most of Friday sleeping and all of Saturday propped up on the couch catching up on B-rated movies and connecting with a 2L bottle of warm 7-Up.

That brings us back here, to Monday. Have I mentioned that I hate Mondays? Probably. I've been sticking mainly to the basics -- bland recipes unworthy of writing down at all. But there is one thing I have fallen in love with for the first time. I know I'm slow -- hang with me. Eventually I catch up, you know.

Yes. Toast, butter, honey, and sea salt. Wild blueberry honey, if we're being specific, though your favourite honey will work just fine. It's basic and doesn't require a recipe, but I've been happily eating it all week for breakfast. Sometimes it's just what you need -- or what I needed. And while new recipes are all well and good, I think it's nice sometimes to revert to the classics, even just for a little while, even just to be reminded how satisfying they can be. I feel uncomfortable writing more than this, to be honest. Life goes on, certainly, but a pause does some good, too. I for one could use a long pause.

That, and a bite of toast.


This little life

Some say that the purpose of life is joy. Between that and the guy who tried to convince me that I could will away my auto-immune disease by using a hypnotist or holistic nutritionist -- I can't remember which -- it might be a little too zen for me. But regardless, there's some real truth in that conviction, I think. Misery is an unhappy waste of time in my books, so I'm trying to be more mindful again. Learning what makes you happy is difficult, particularly if you derive happiness from many things. Sometimes I have to stand back and remind myself that contentment and satisfaction are different things, and while I may be complacent I am not always so happy. This statement reminds me of Gretchen Rubin's Happiness Project, actually. This has nothing to do with food. I'm getting there.

This weekend I cooked. I made enchiladas stuffed full with pinto beans cooked from dried and roasted poblano peppers topped with a salsa verde made from fresh tomatillos from a store in Kensington. They were wrapped in preservative-free corn tortillas, the only ones left at this Latin American grocer I frequent. The owner tends to make up prices depending on how well he knows you. "I'm making enchiladas," I said. "Green or red?" he asked, and we talked about how delicious real Mexican food is and he chuckled at how excited I was at the prospect of eating enchiladas made with super fresh tortillas. You'll know him if you walk by Baldwin St., because he's the one outside spouting a mantra that goes like this: "Bens, piss-tachios, al-munds..." and he will give you terrific advice if you ask.

I braised pork tenderloin, red-fleshed and fresh, in milk and a little extra-virgin olive oil and seasoned it with salt and pepper, dried sage and garlic. I served it on top of a small mound of lentils de puy, tiny French green lentils, tossed with a mustardy red wine vinaigrette. I woke up to steel cut oats this morning thanks to my slow cooker, and to a butternut squash and granny smith apple soup this evening spiked with a little apple wine and apple cider vinaigrette for brightness. I even threw together a chickpea casserole with farmer's cheese, plain yogurt, parmesan, fresh rosemary, fresh parsley, lemon, artichokes, brown rice and homemade bread crumbs, frozen for a later date. I think it might be nice cooked with a little dry white wine and eaten with some lemon artichoke pesto I still have in the freezer, served with a spring mix salad and a glass of Sauvignon Blanc some evening. I imagine eating it while watching a French film quietly on my couch, wearing some elegant something or other that I of course do not own because I own nothing that embodies that kind of style.

It makes me long for spring in a real, tangible way, for sandals clanking against the sidewalk and a cappuccino on a patio somewhere, perhaps at Caffe Doria on one of those adorable tables beneath the tree. I'm happy I've come to Toronto, even if it means there are long lonely pauses where it feels as though one life -- my old, care-free life -- has died a silent, barely perceptible death and another more mature one has entered. I consider all the changes that have occurred the past few years and I'm filled to the brim with nostalgia, sadness and pride. I miss everyone, always, and even the tiniest things remind me of what used to be my daily life -- a life I lived without thinking too hard about it, moving one day to the next, and a life I no longer meet every morning. It really does feel like I was picking up a bottle of wine from the grocery store yesterday or walking against the unfinished wood floors at the apartment I shared with an ex-boyfriend. That I drove to a girl's night or drank wine at The Winery, casual, feeling a sense of community and belonging. I think about graduate school and how much I laughed with my old roommate, and it's frightening to think it'll be two years this May since we last lived together. I was just talking to her over a cup of coffee. We were probably ranting about something or other.

Eventually I may feel this way about this little life of mine, too. I hope so. Maybe everyone will move here to the big city at some point; that's the dream, isn't it? For now I dream in sour cherry popsicles and debate whether I should sign up for a food writing course for April or wait until July, and I think about travel plans to New York City. I'm lucky in that all of my endings have been met with good beginnings, and even luckier that the feeling has yet to leave me.

No recipe right now -- I have one in mind, but you'll like it better later, when the buds start to pop. For now just know that I'm here, I'm pondering the ways of the world, I'm trying to be conscientious, I'm trying to keep it together, I'm trying to work toward a self-satisfied place, I'm eating an orange every morning and savouring every section. I have an antique pine dining table now and staring at it makes me smile, even if I don't have a single chair to sit on in order to enjoy the table fully. I'm busy. It's all good. And I probably miss you the way most (all?) Canadians miss springtime on March 7th. But I'm beginning to feel joy, I think, for the first time in a long time, which must mean I'm beginning to feel at home in Toronto.

Dear reader, do you ever feel like you've lived many times over? That there must've been a steep cliff between where you were and where you are?
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