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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