"The GIFTS OF NATURE—GENEROUS, RICH IN FLAVOR—constitute the largest and most precious part of the pantry."
La cuisine du marché 1987.
Burgundian lushness pressed seductively against the village of Vonnas.
Weathered tables at local markets. Dappled light through trees. A high summer garden stitched together like a verdant quilt.
It began with a woman—la mère Blanc. The gastronome Curnonsky christened Elisa "the best cook in the world." Imagine that.
Knowledge tended by generations.
Her grandson Georges wove a light and exquisite thread through it. Nouvelle cuisines natural evolution.
He turned his inheritance into a temple to ingredients.
PRINTANIERE AUX SUCS DE LEGUMES—painterly whorls of vegetal colours.
VINAIGRETTE TIEDE DE JEUNES LEGUMES A LA CORIANDRE ET AU GROS—tiny glistening jewels from the garden.
BIGARREAUX AU JUS DE CERISES NOIRES ET A LA VERVEINE GLACEE—cream melting into crimson velveteen juices.
Chefs in great modern kitchens on this side of the Atlantic in the late 1980s studied it for inspiration.
His influence is obvious in restaurants near and far from me.
I worked in kitchens with men who worshiped him.
Farmers and gardeners enjoying the apricot glow of adoration.
Time is like a long country lane.
Intimacy with history is one of the lovely outcomes of committing to a career.
Almost 25 years later, I still pull this cookbook from my shelves and can return to the first time I went through it as a young apprentice.
A brand new world before me.
On our last day together, my mom and I went to a small municipal beach in Chestermere, Alberta. We set up lawn chairs on the grass and moved with the shade. The breeze felt like silk in that hot and dry part of the country.
Sitting and watching the people—families and goofy kids bubbling over about the sand and water.
It was the best day.
We talked about what needs talking about on this trip. I could imagine her with spunk and spirit as she told me stories of being young.
I made two recordings. During one, we laugh so hard we can hardly breathe.
She, too, was fatherless—her mother’s story the same as Theo’s. Both my grandmother’s caught in an impossible spot.
Over a little fun.
Talking like this took time and effort for my mom and me.
It was not a walk in the park. We can still disagree.
I said goodbye to her and my brother when I was 17. They went out west, and I stayed put for my last year of high school—lived with friends.
The pain of standing on the platform at Union Station and waving goodbye to their train.
I glued me back together.
Good things happened. Almost straight out of high school, I did Katimavik—a life-affirming experience.
At 58 years old, I am my home. My mom’s home is in Strathmore.
We don’t take being together for granted.
She was in the passenger seat for all my sunset videos. Barbara Streisand is one of her favourites.
My seatmates on the flight to Calgary were Liam, six and his sister Bo, four.
We were on a first-name basis before we hit the runway in Toronto.
Fifty-two and fifty-four years separating us in age.
But in aisle 11, seats A, B, and C, we were sharing the same excitement.
They were going to see their grandparents for the first time in two years, and I was visiting my mom for the first time in twenty months.
They were jazzed about other things like the journey to the runway, take-off, and going through the clouds. That was fun.
Bo let out a joyful shriek when the plane began ascending. Her travel companion was a bunny named Bella Luna, worn in places from love and cuddles.
When the plane levelled above the clouds, we all did activities.
They had books and attentive parents.
I turned to my journal and the practice of handwriting a poem daily—because cursive is lovely, doing it is meditative, and it makes for good sentences later.
Liam’s dad read a book to him for one and a half hours, and he was quiet the whole time.
Later he told me he was starting to read a chapter from a book on his own at night.
We marvelled at this. I was the kid who liked to read too.
Bo barfed on the descent.
Lucky I carry a supply of Pur spearmint gum. That worked a trick—good for the ears.
She sat on her mom’s knee—big blue eyes and golden curls. Bella Luna in the crook of her arm.
We parted ways in arrivals.
Their first stop was for ice cream.
Me and my mom went for ice cream too.
This is about letting go.
Without even realizing it, I’ve been wearing a ring JE gave me.
It was silver. What else is there?
On Friday, I found myself in a store on Queen St. W. looking down into a cabinet at the ring for right now.
A reminder of Wasan Island. It found me.
Made by artist Karen Cameron in Owen Sound—Bella Grey jewellery design.
It will have a season. Then there will be the pleasure of finding another.
When I got home, I took the ring from JE off. It was easy.
There are beautiful pieces of jewellery that must be worn no matter their origin.
But there has to be a letting go. People have seasons too.
I'm consistently surprised by how long change can take.
It happens—sometimes despite me.
"I am made and remade continually. Different people draw different words from me." Virginia Woolf
Sixteen or seventeen, going on twenty-five. I grew up quick.
It was hard picking music for this. In 1979 there was Message in a Bottle, Money for Nothing, Highway to Hell, My Sharona, Heart of Glass, Rock the Casbah...and there was The Cars.
Jeanette was like the sister I never had. Her mom loved me. Most especially because I ate all my vegetables, that was the sweetest.
This is us at a party—I have no idea what we are playing. The way we're holding our Player's Light cigarettes—I miss smoking the most.
Nothing dates you like a pile of empty stubbies. I smile when I see a Molson Golden label—mostly we drank Canadian.
I loved beer.
She had a couple of good men. They always played lots of sports, so there was time for us.
We met at a department store lunch counter. I was working the grill, and she was serving—in our orange polyester uniforms. Sometimes on Saturday mornings, we were sweating out a hangover. I think we clocked in a few times directly from an all-nighter.
Laughter was hard and easy between us.
In the wee hours of one Sunday morning, we outran the cops in her Toyota Celica. Don't ask me how we did it. I was too busy trying to sober up quickly. Skidded into a driveway with the lights off and cut the engine. We would have been in royal shit if caught.
Our style was similar, and we shared clothes.
The only time I was a bridesmaid was for her. The dresses didn't suck or cost a fortune. I have a hilarious picture of us from that day. I was going to use it and let you caption it for fun.
Jeanette was the kind of friend who told hard truths and then stuck around.
There were some life hardships then—my parents busting up being one of them.
We had a beautiful family home—nice landscaping, a pool—then the whole thing imploded. It felt like strangers lived there.
To find a place to go where there was laughter and love was everything. It means more now than ever.
Some friendships don't go the distance, but they're damn good in their time.
For too long, I put a lot of weight in the opinion of students who didn’t like me.
I’m not saying they don’t count.
Just that there are as many—may be more—who I had a real connection with.
And their opinions matter as much.
I taught a lot of young people—thousands in twenty years.
In numbers, they would almost fill the CNE coliseum.
When a former student approaches me, I’ve started asking:
What was your experience of me as a teacher?
Then I listen. I open to the conversation.
Time has not worn my passion and curiosity down.
Those qualities are invaluable. I'd even say precious.
They carry the best lessons.
I was a good teacher.
It’s beyond me to please everyone.
There’s lightness in letting that go.
The fact is I failed some.
But on the whole, I did my best (sometimes under incredible duress).
I always felt I answered to chefs and restaurateurs more than any institution.
I’ve just spent ten days with two former George Brown students—each with a unique talent—both on the cusp of change.
Watching them grow into who they are is a privilege.
I’m grateful they still care what I think.
And are happy to see me.
Thank you, Alyssa and Blake, for your beautiful hospitality.
You too are my teachers. I am your student.
Wasan Island is a magical place.
Ai Monasteri in Rome.
That's where I bought Joyce Goldstein's bubble bath.
1997 celebrity chef in residence.
San Francisco's Square One restaurant in snowy Stratford, Ontario.
Vivid Mediterranean flavours and a bright mind.
Having her run the kitchen for a week was delicious—and affirmative
Rome had been her home as a young woman on an art scholarship.
She'd sent me a list of classic restaurants and food shops. I still have it.
Pasta e fagioli at Costanza, cacio e pepe at La Campana, carciofi alla giudia everywhere, crema gelato from Giolitti.
I spent four days following her lead. It was perfect.
Something nice for the bath was a small gesture of thanks.
Claudia Roden and Paula Wolfert were her peers. So were Alice Waters, Peggy Smith, Lindsey Shere, Judy Rodgers.
The chefs who shaped California cooking.
There are recipes in The Mediterranean Kitchen I adore—it's a classic in my collection.
On the Saturday evening before her flight home, we had dinner at Avalon in Toronto. Chris McDonald's cooking—I stopped writing for a bit to recall his genius.
The most beautiful thing was the respect he paid her. He knew the full measure of her talent.
Lovely courses kept coming through the kitchen doors—wines to match.
I was a young woman. She was a great conversationalist.
Sharing that meal was something I'll never forget.
A recipe should only take you to the end of the runway.
I have conversations with the cooks who write books—in the margins.
Scribble notes about directions, change measurements, shift the timing.
Am an active participant.
I’ve made some masterful adjustments to Christine Ferber’s strawberry jam.
And when I eat it I think of something new to tweak.
Fine-tuning it to my frequency.
I don't feel a sliver of dissatisfaction.
The jam and the learning are good.
I'm also in the process of letting go of the bitchy perfectionist in me.
Searching for new ways to get soft—because it’s time.
Just like the jam, I'm a work in progress.
First day of the Tour of California.
Andy Schleck, my favourite rider—on the far right in red.
So much world-class cycling talent sprinting to the finish.
I watched them in the rain a few days later.
Standing on the side of Oakville Crossroad and CA-29.
Between Yountville and St. Helena.
The only person around.
In my last two years in Stratford, I cycled with a club.
Bought a custom second-hand road bike.
Perfect size. Like it had been waiting for me.
Got doored by a cab my second ride in Toronto.
Hung it up in the garage—then sold it.
So many steep learning curves riding in a peloton.
The agony of bridging the gap on early rides.
Out on jet-black paved rural roads first thing on a summer morning.
Grateful to be alive.
I wish I’d been put on a road bike as a young girl.
Because I could fly.
Did a few triathlons—won my age division once.
Took a few women out on a big incline.
The sweet feeling as I passed them.
I love city cycling.
The training with the club gave me confidence.
I’ve been off my bike for two years because of my knee.
I missed it a lot.
Building strength now.
The spirit of it is still strong in me.