60 is the new 60.
Tomorrow. February 6, 1963.
My parents with Christopher, my older brother. The adoration in their faces. So in love. It was the same with me.
My father getting off his motorcycle after working a shift at Union Carbide in Welland — May or June 1962. My mom waiting with a bad case of baby fever. At 60, there's nothing gross about knowing a good time was had. The story's a gift my dad left me.
today I want to remember my parents. My father used to say, "The only time I feel old is when you have a birthday."
(I still have that chin.)
What follows is cliché.
Anything that broke me into pieces (with some exceptions).
What I've had to put back together, clean up, or abandon.
Life's fine print. And the agree button.
What I'm most grateful for.
And the love and help that made it possible.
The no-end work of existence.
I hope I've told you enough about how grateful I am you're here, reading this.
I am not a coal miner's daughter. But as soon as I heard Loretta Lynn's voice, I knew she was it. In the Grand Ole Opry performance, she looks like an angel. I love the sound of a banjo so much.
You know that menu circulating on Twitter from the Warner Bros. Studio Cafe in 1941? I went straight to desserts. The slim selection is in keeping with the bodily demands of Hollywood.
Poached prunes for me, with a heap of cultured cream the colour of okra flowers.
I can order dinner backwards if the dessert menu is offered upfront. I won't start with the last course, but I like having it in mind. I can wait, too. When I'm confident of the pastry talent, it's another pleasure.
More gratitude on the way to sixty.
Held up my middle finger to diet culture in January and baked a couple of fantastically moist, earthy cakes. For myself.
A Greek Walnut Cake (Karidopita) in the photo that had breadcrumbs in the batter and is soaked in brandy syrup.
Made Gill Meller's Orange-Coriander Almond Cake. Shards of toasted coriander shells in the glaze looking like a seed head exploded nearby. A three-star life is having a slice after a bowl of homemade soup.
My Levi's are getting tight. Hips over thigh gap is my new motto.
The first time I had molten chocolate cake, it was made by Jean-Georges Vongerichten in 1991. The lacquer quenelle of vanilla ice cream snugged against it melting to a puddle. Like me. Ecstatic.
My first year at the Stratford Chefs School. A Valrhona chocolate virgin. Royalty in the dining room that evening, too — Marcella and Victor Hazan.
The culinary equivalent of being at Woodstock or Glastonbury.
I was a French apprentice, a generalist trained to be a chef-owner. I know my way around pastry. Possessing that skill is something I’m proud of.
My yardstick is baba au rhum, the yeasty pudding drenched in syrup and liquor. There are two that set the bar. One at Bouchon Abel in Lyon and the other at Edulis in Toronto. Tobey Nemeth serving crème Chantilly with a grace most of us will never possess.
I wrote this in 2021 about the tarte Tatin at Frenchette in New York City. "I can't look at that dimly lit picture without gasping a little."
Don't make me eat dessert alone.
Don’t fill me to bursting beforehand.
Rules my favourite people follow.
Something seductive to finish. Two songs from the same era.
Madonna's body of work is solid gold. I hope she sings and creates to her last breath.
The rhythm in this version of Prince's Cream. A perfect song.
"You're filthy cute and baby you know it"
© DEBORAH REID, 2023
Cookbooks. As important a consideration as the bathtub when I move.
I love this small corner in my space. Click here for another view of my kitchen. I hate doing dishes.
I don't have much. And in all the right ways, I have plenty.
Looking at your cookbook shelves is something I like to do. There's a lot to be gleaned — what's worn from use, what's at eye level, how they're arranged. A collection is an intimate expression of a person.
This is more gratitude in the run-up to sixty.
My dad was a classic 70s guy. Chuck had a solid-gold cookbook collection. The Foods of the World regularly came in the mail from Time-Life. He had them all and cooked from them. Making the connection between recipes and eating extraordinary things was a seed planted in me early.
One of the last times I was alone with my dad was in his root cellar, we were admiring the season in jars and his cookbooks. He gave me his first edition of The Classic Italian Cookbook. Both of us wild for Marcella.
(A couple of months after he died, I was cleaning stuff up on a Google site and discovered he'd tried to make contact with me through another account he'd set up. His avatar photo broke my heart. It felt like he was reaching out. It was surreal. I cried. Grief is strange.)
I was fourteen when I got my first cookbook as a Christmas gift. The two-volume set "the vegetarian epicure" by anna thomas (all lowercase, like on the book cover). I got a real wok that year too.
My parents encouraged me to listen to my heart. It's why I chased cooking and writing. Good and bad, those were my decisions.
This pile says a lot about me. On the left are books that guided my professional life, and on the right are books that influenced my writing. The one on top straddles both.
The headnotes in Chez Panisse Cooking are stunning. I talked to Paul Bertolli about this, and he paid respect to Elizabeth David. My heart lit up.
I’ve written about a few books. Generally, I read them a few times cover-to-cover and then ground myself in the writer/cook’s work. Out of respect. For my craft and theirs.
I have a pretty piece coming out soon on a book. The story was a joy to land and write. I felt lucky, and soon you’ll know why.
If I hate a cookbook, I can usually tell you why in one sentence. Like, it doesn’t have an index.
Hearing a woman sing this song is sexy. I like Springsteen only a little. I’ve always respected how he shows up for unions and labour, like a genuine human.
From 17 to 23, I travelled around Canada — for work and study. The soundtrack of my life then included Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young. Hearing a song from Déjà Vu reminds me of night fires on Lake Cowichan, morning frost in August in Temagami, and sitting on the banks of the Otonabee River at Trent University. You can see and hear how good they were together. How fortunate we are that David Crosby was among us.
So adorable. *pink neon light flickers on in my heart*
I'm happy as a clam in the bath. It must have been a fun place as a toddler because good feelings about it are still with me.
More gratitude in the run-up to sixty.
I experienced severe physical anxiety in the days and weeks after quitting alcohol. My nervous system was constantly revving, and I shook. Vigorous exercise helped, as did massage. But neither was as good as the warmth and comfort of a hot bath. Some days I would have two. No thought to the cost. Looking for ways to get through another day.
I see myself in Lee Price's intimate paintings -- women in tubs, mostly eating. The basics are beverages (plural), food, reading material, and the phone. No time limit. It's where I read and think freely. I want a bathroom with a comfy chair. For company. Think of traditional hammam or sauna culture. A social activity often with food and drink.
I work in a cold building (and I dress for it). Last week I came home from work and sat in the tub for a couple hours before dinner. To warm up and relax. Can you tell I don't have kids?
I was renovicted from a basement apartment in the Junction (may I never have to live below ground again). It was a terrible experience. I loved the neighbourhood and watched my place sit vacant for months while they slowly gutted the building.
There was a Euro-spa tub deep enough to have built-in armrests. The water covered me completely. It had an angled backrest for comfort. There were jets. I didn't care what the rest of the place looked like. Put my money down.
I won't look at an apartment with a shower. A hotel room without a bath is just okay.
Let's talk about shimmying into narrow French bathtubs. Designed for nymphs. I've heard funny stories. The snug fit when I get in makes me feel halfway to being swaddled.
I spent one March break in Avignon, France. Ten of us in an oldish mansion. Most of us had a room. Someone locally had helped find accommodations. It was fun.
I discovered Carrefour sold coconut bubble bath that smelled like drinking a virgin Pina Colada under a palm tree, on hot sand, and looking out at turquoise water. On the way back, I packed six bottles — sober for two or three years then. I've carried wine back and forth, just not on that trip.
Show me a better Beach Boys song. I sing this chorus loud sometimes — in my own company. Sing it in the bath.
"I went over to Brian's with my new [tape recorder] and told him the name of the tune and sang those intervals, and he pumped out the rest of that song." Van Dyke Parks
No more than two inches end to end. Holding the tiny bracelet is interesting. I sense my smallness. It always makes me smile.
In February, I turn sixty. I got here on one of those Japanese high-speed trains. The G force is real.
I want to talk about the stuff that grows my heart in the run-up. Be grateful.
Sixty is the new sixty.
I was born into a golden age of music. Lived in a home with parents who loved it and had very different tastes. My mom played ballads, theatre, and movie soundtracks (I survived a long period of MacArthur Park). She listened to Elvis, Liberace, The Carpenters and Barbara Streisand. My dad listened to soul and rock — the Moody Blues, Cat Stevens, Mahalia Jackson, Roberta Flack, and Chicago. We watched all the music shows like Flip Wilson, Andy Williams, Ed Sullivan, and Mike Douglas. My mom's a night owl and ironed my dad's work shirts while watching Johnny Carson.
I heard David Bowie echoing in a big house for the first time in 1974. Rebel Rebel, muffled but loud from behind a closed second-floor bedroom door. My grade six friend Ann had older brothers who had returned from an extended stay in London, England. Who had ever heard anything like it? At eleven years old...Diamond Dogs. And the wild album cover!
I liked being near the stereo at parties as a teen girl. Still do. There was always someone to talk about music with. I read Creem and Circus and sometimes Rolling Stones. Songs, albums, and collections tell a story about a person. I had some rich conversations.
There was always music playing, and it left a beautiful imprint. My little ears knew to tune in early. Thinking right now about hugging my mom and dad. Heart against heart. Flickering pink neon light.
I did one of those silly Instagram things: Your 2023 will be like the hit single from when you were fifteen.
Staying Alive. Released in December 1977 and top of the charts two months later in February 1978. The Bee Gees are more evidence of having grown up in a golden age.
This song was playing fucking everywhere — your doctor's office, aunt Julie's house, Tim Horton's, your best friend's parents' living room. It makes me think of a young, pre-scientology John Travolta poured into a pair of white pants. Inspiration for some late-night solo fun at fifteen. Andy Gibb looking real good, too.
Shining Star, Earth, Wind and Fire. That horn section. They were bonafide showmen. And twelve-year-old me dancing in front of the television on Saturday afternoon with Soul Train. I'm paying respect to Fred White (there goes that high-speed train again).
You're a shining star
No matter who you are
Shining bright to see
What you could truly beat you could trul
One word for the year ahead.
Some things I liked in 2022:
“Fuck wisdom. Just get in there, and don’t be afraid to get your hands bloody.” Brute Force by Summer Brennan.
Hell's Grannies by Monty Python. How perfect is Eric Idle?
Anderson Cooper's candour in All There Is. The episode, Sadness Isn't An Enemy, deals with his brother's suicide. It's about the process of grief and how our greatest sorrows can serve others. It reminds me of a saying that hangs in rooms where I've found comfort and hope — You are no longer alone.
Poet Desiree McKenzie wore a suit the colour of a hot pink bougainvillea when she opened for Rupi Kaur at Massey Hall in December. Here she is: Hey Dad. Hands up, Toronto!
This is my messy today playlist. It reminds me of my teenage bedroom, and I'm shy about sharing it. Finding the music for today is a big joy. I still want to find a story to fit John Cougar Mellencamp's Pink Houses and The Who's Eminence Front.
I took a photo of the level crossing at Geary and Bartlett Avenues every morning I've worked since June. It's one of the last things I see before I put on my chef jacket. A reminder of how grateful and how small I am. This is 6:56 a.m. on Friday, December 16.
My social media is tilted toward the arts. It brings me so much pleasure. I know you see it because enough of you tell me how much you enjoy my Instagram Stories. Here are a few of my favourite accounts from this year.
2023 marks a decade of writing. I can clearly see the investment. Telling some of the stories has been like kintsugi for my life — pouring gold into the cracks.
I want to see a more significant return this year. During the holidays I've been writing fiction. It's fun and there's a learning curve. I'm treating it like an adventure, outcome unknown.
Can’t you see
I gotta be me
Just like this
I gotta be me
Baby hit or miss
The first time I was published in The Globe and Mail, my uncle Peter sent a note telling me how proud Theo would be. She was a subscriber all her adult life. What a good feeling that gave me.
Peter and I have spent quality time discussing family and lake boats this year. I've got practical questions he can answer. We can talk, and the conversations are high value — they mean an awful lot to me. There's a craft in putting a family story together. A few days ago, we were musing about the lost time in the narrative. There's a decade for Theo and Harry where little is known. We're left to speculate. I'm convinced a deep archival search — harbour master and shipping company records — might produce documents.
This week, Peter's wife, Brenda, sent me a card and note with good photos. The last thing she wrote before, Lots of Love, is, We are very proud of you!!
I've worked hard on the writing. It's been another apprenticeship. I hold what I do with esteem. But having someone who loves you say it, lands right in the heart.
This might be my favourite photo of Theo. She's probably ordering someone to make her a Manhattan or bring a Peter Jackson. I can still see the black patent cigarette pack sitting on the table by her chair. The living room on Lyons Ave was cozy. My family in there, first drinks in hand — jostling to tell a good story — everything golden.
She's at the kitchen sink. An electric knife mounted on the wall behind her and underneath a magnetic bar with half a dozen paring knives stuck to it. Enough for everyone to help with something. Theo had run kitchens. She had lots of kids. If she stuck her arms out, she'd come close to touching opposite walls in that room. A woman of stature comfortable working in tight spaces.
My family is matriarchal — Theo was the dominant force. There are pluses and minuses with the structure. At this point, it's fresher than the patriarchy. She produced strong women. I'm full of gratitude for her. For making me, and some of the women I love the most, who we are.
You reach out with beautiful stuff. I appreciate your candour and words. This note came early this week about a post I made on Instagram,
"I love this very much. Thank you for being so generous with us, sharing these glimpses of your life. I appreciate it and I appreciate you."
I talked with a friend by DM today. He's just had a close relative pass, shared family photos, and told me a bit about them. It was nice. His last sentence,
"You're a beautiful voice in a room full of noise."
I hurt my wrist on Tuesday and am in a splint. That's a fast way to clear a calendar. I can't chop, so it will be a very Polish holiday here. I went to Janchenko's in Bloor West village and hit the hot table — potato pancakes, cabbage rolls, sauerkraut, and borscht. And a big tub of M-C Dairy sour cream (they're Polish, too).
I don't recommend an injury, but you should try clearing your schedule like you had one. Thankfully I can still type slowly (but scrolling is hard).
Cancellations, travel snafus and power outages have a lot of us changing plans. It's going to be a different day than many of us had imagined. I hope for you it's full of love and good things to eat.
I went to see the Ryuichi Sakamoto documentary, Coda, in 2017. This song starts about five- or six minutes in. I was running late and had barely settled into my seat at TIFF. At the sound of the first notes, I burst into tears. Does art make you do that?
Sakomoto and Bowie were in the lead roles in the movie Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence. I saw it when it was released in 1983. It's not a light film for gathering the family around.
He may be gone soon. But here he was performing less than two weeks ago — his expressive hands. Like Bowie, creating to the end. Leaving us with riches.
Seven years old. Soon to be eight.
Christmas 1970. I loved that housecoat.
A blond bob. My hair would turn almost white in the summer. We were outside playing from dawn to dusk in the days of free-range parenting. I can confirm having several unsupervised hair-raising experiences.
The year I got my Crissy doll. Turn a dial embedded in her back, and her hair would grow. I'm sure there was a North American-wide parental scramble to get her that December. I loved her. She got a permanent brush cut at some point — you know, regular brother stuff.
My unique spirit was developing. What a gem.
The occasion for a feast or family time can be fun. But it's not everything.
I see the kids navigating blended families. Divorce changes the season. Even in amicable situations, there are complications. We mostly tell a fairy tale narrative about family and the holidays. I was older when my parents split, but I still remember my heart hurting.
And I have another perspective on the season from being on my own for years. There is great pleasure in stepping out of the christian days-long party and joining with the rest of the free world. The 25th is another day for a lot of people.
If you work in a kitchen, you might feel tired in the final sprint of the year. I hope there's enough left to fill your own spirit up.
I said yes to a pair of tickets for Rupi Kaur on Friday night at Massey Hall. Brought a friend who loves her poetry. A lovely night in the thick of December. There will be trips to galleries and movies in the few days off — the Kent Monkman show at the ROM and Leonard Cohen: Everybody Knows at the AGO.
Joy is the orchestral opening of this song. So rare to better the Rolling Stones, but The Verve did it. I love the bell ringing in the middle of this extended version.
Two years old. Can you believe it was taken on Christmas? I look straight out of The Shining. Obviously, I'd missed a nap or, worse, a meal. I want to know who was behind the camera — my dad, mom, or maybe my grandmother Theo. Bet it was the last person on the list.
But the bangs and the teal velvet dress with the fox and raccoon embroidery are sweet. And look at that deluxe buggy. A few months later, I went on a real dangerous walkabout with it — a hair-raising experience for my parents.
I'm still that bitch (and old enough to know everyone has it in them). I trust most parents have seen something similar in their young children.
Those ponytails were so tight when my mom took them out, and my scalp relaxed, it felt like undoing the zipper on too-tight pants after a holiday dinner.
In the season of infinite pressures, mental health is everything. Tend to yourself.
Movies in the theatre are where I find refuge. When the lights go down, the world drops away. Bliss. Watching movies at home is just okay. A late afternoon matinee is good for my spirit. At that time of day, getting choice seats requires no plan. I saw All the Beauty and Bloodshed and Aftersun this week. Both were brilliant and troubling. I'm game for a mob film or some James Bond too. I'll see more movies before the year's over. When I'm on my own on the 25th, I usually go. It is busy and fun (without the christians).
If at anytime during the holidays you feel like how I look in that photo, it is normal.
I was taking all this week's smoke breaks on Friday morning at Dear Grains Bread on Geary Ave — real leisurely-like. I love their onion scones, pan loaf sourdough, and cortados. This song was playing, and a few of us around the counter were quietly grooving. If a disco ball had dropped, we might have put our backs into it. I asked about the song and then listened to it, walking back to work.
Get up and dance...in your bathrobe...grab the person near you.
The office corner in my studio apartment. A few of you have had lunch at my desk. It's where I spend most of my time these days.
I like keeping the blinds up past dusk in the winter. A couple of flickering votive candles make it cozy at that time of day. I need to get an amaryllis for a bit of green. The cat likes to flop in the middle of everything. My laptop is his arch-nemesis.
Do you ever take on too many things?
I have two creative projects wanting time and attention. You know about one. The other is a delicious secret that may never see the light of day.
Creating with little distraction is all I need now. So I made a decision. Over the coming months, 'today' will be sporadic. I'll check in if I have stuff to say.
I finished reading Orwell's Roses by Rebecca Solnit. If you have a smart reader on your holiday gift list, it's a delight. It speaks to the troubles in our world in surprising and reassuring ways. The essay "As the Rose-Hip to the Rose" is gorgeous.
If you want to see something that will have you thinking (and chuckling), go see, The Banshees of Inisherin. It is rich. There's so much in it. I could talk your feckin' ear off about it for an hour.
When Eric Burton says, "the acoustics," he shares our wonder at the sound of his voice alive in a gorgeous space.
© Deborah Reid, 2021 - 2023. All Rights Reserved.