I had my last drink in late October.
My sobriety date is November 1, 1994.
Scared is too small a word for how I felt.
It’s a fact I was lonely in the kitchen I worked in at the time.
I carried a boulder of grief for a few weeks.
Certain I’d have to surrender the only thing I loved with all my being.
Who would I be if not a cook?
My imagination couldn't yet reach the place of doing it without a drink.
I asked a good man in Stratford if he knew of any sober people working in restaurants.
No...but we can do this one day at a time.
So many cooks have tattoos on their body of people they love.
Mine are on my heart.
A male colleague saw me and JE holding hands, downtown Toronto. Thankfully he didn't stop us.
A member of the work grapevine told me this man was acting all surprised in the days after the sighting.
He thought I was a "lesbian."
The tongues of the country club cooks employed by that institution were wagging that week.
At long last, there was a category for me.
Would they like me now there was evidence I'd been with at least one man?
Was there a ceremonial welcome to shed the identity they imposed on me?
Because who doesn't know that in those circles, "lesbian" is code for hetero man-hater.
I chose work I loved. The price I paid was being othered. It was degrading to more people than me.
Sadly I got used to being the object of gossip—my sexual identity their feast.
The speed with which a new generation has put an end to it is a relief.
Queer, Trans, Lesbian, Homosexual, Two-Spirit, Bisexual, Fluid—all those beautiful people holding the gates to freedom open.
That man's arrogance was thinking it was any of his business who I got it on with.
How it applied to my tremendous cooking talent remains a mystery.
I still have this photo. That was a good seven days.
Has this happened to you? Images from our time together seem to pass through a veil. Where do they go? That beautiful one of young intense you down by the river on a sunny winter day.
We both lived at an equal radius in the opposite direction of one subway station. We could draw a circle with a compass. Notice, I found a way to bring math into it.
After the split, our paths never crossed. Not once.
That’s how we knew.
You were well-dressed and liked movies as much as I do—music too. It was nice looking for a song for this.
Under pressure you got calm and gracious. Your tough and gentle mix was on balance.
There was a lot to love about you. Your mind top of the list.
And you loved my smarts too. It was a revelation and a massive relief from most of the rest of my life.
You looked at me like I was new and exciting. We laughed so hard.
Remember the night we were sitting on a park bench on the shores of Georgian Bay. You told me I looked beautiful in the moonlight. I could feel your heart. Thank you for holding that mirror up to me.
I have one piece of you. The last thing you sent me. An act of incredible intimacy and a reminder of a man's capacity for love.
In the early days, you planted a joke from the Simpsons as a kind of test. Told me you knew when I laughed I was right for you.
At any rate.
If I met you on the street, my eyes—the colour of tropical water—would sparkle.
I hope the whole world shines down on you. Always.
There's a piece I'm working on about my grandmother. It's beautiful and so hard to write.
I'm naming the summer of 2021 after Theo. Honouring her spirit.
Going to the farmer's market to buy ingredients and cook how we both like to eat. Serve it up on the few pieces of her Blue Mikado china I possess. Put preserves in bottles I wish I could take to her.
We went to the Welland Market in the early 70s on a couple of Saturday mornings. I think I was seven or eight. Talk about hustle—keeping up was non-negotiable. At 6-feet tall, she was an imposing figure striding through the crowd, getting the good stuff.
On visits to the Atwater Market in Montreal, I've imagined her buying fresh supplies for the canaller when she worked on the St. Lawrence River in the mid-1930s.
I'll be listening to opera and baking on Saturday afternoons, staying current on federal politics (my grandmother and father raised me up right), maybe subscribe to Canada's History and National Geographic.
I might watch an early black and white episode of Days of Our Lives—'like sand through the hourglass.' That sacrosanct time of day when bothering her could lead to a swat.
I'm thinking of my family—those present and not—sitting around the after-dinner rubble at the table or in a comfy living room for 5:30 cocktails. Trading stories. The room shimmering gold from the sun hanging low in the west.
I've learned so much—most of it a privilege.
A man who was a student and has currently manifest as my teacher told me at lunch on Wednesday, "Land your lessons more powerfully." By that, he means, put down the hammer and let them float softly to earth.
I hope our friendship lasts a long time.
Soundtrack - 2015
It bugs me when a female restaurateur or a New York journalist tells me about my work life. Most of them only want the pain and care little about the rest.
Sixteen years—you haven't got a clue.
Yeah, it was hell at times. But it was also so much fucking fun.
I've never laughed harder.
Summer of 1999 at the Old Prune.
Ben's humour made the hard work lighter. He also made the best sushi rice for staff meal. You're made of the good stuff if you can cook nice for your work pals.
I was part of a big-hearted crew. We were mostly grown-ups.
I'd been sober five years then. Sometimes in the afternoon, we took a break and went for a run.
On Sunday nights, the bartender made me a beautiful alcohol-free cocktail before that was a thing. It was magic the first time they brought one to me in the kitchen. Years of walking past the case of staff beer in the walk-in, and finally, here was something just for me.
I felt comfortable in my skin, working for and with men who were okay with my having authority.
Bryan Steele, me (both of us in the photo), Ben Baird, Anne Dunbar, Tim Anderson, Brett Stephens, and superstar dishwasher Paul Morgan.
One of those dear sweet men is gone.
Sometimes we cried hard too.
Soundtrack - 2015