-Brittany Webster 2:20 pm Friday October 22nd.
My sister has always been magically lured to scenes of life and death danger. One time while riding her bicycle near our house in the countryside she tried to whistle a dog her way to get him off the road only to have a pick-up truck zoom up out of nowhere and run it over right infront of her eyes and drive off. The next year she found my Dad mid heart attack in the bathroom in the middle of the night and unable to save him, watched him die. Today after hearing a man's shouts for help, assisted him in holding an extremely drunk homeless woman from leaping off the ledge of a bridge until the cops showed up and were able to lift here back onto solid ground. I hope all these unfortunate circumstances are leading up to some kind of completely collosal Disney Princess Happy Ending. Like, a terrible car crash in Toronto this Christmas break ... Brittany will run to help those stuck inside and find Hugh Jackman who, after having a near death experience will confuse the snow falling around my dear sister's shoulders as angel dust and propose. Excellent. We'll definitely have a maid to do our dishes this year! Thanks Boo, or should I say Wonder Woman.
Today I had a slightly less heroic but still 'just your average' day.
Then I found myself standing in line behind Christine Cushing at Dark Horse Espresso and thanked the lord I atleast had a nice hair do. Then I examined her hair do, and thought " I hope she just came from the gym." and then I judged her just a little ( you know, had a little chuckle to myself) when she ordered a pistachio biscotti but pronounced it "Bis-coat-ti" like an Italian. Isn't she GREEK? I'm such a bitch. *chuckle chuckle*
I went to China Town and bought myself a kick ass Chinese cleaver. Y'know, for choppin bones n thugs. I mean, things.
Then I spent two hours making a lasagna which I will feed to my hungry staff tomorrow. Yes I spent nearly two days making one dish of lasagna and I couldn't be happier.
Then I talked to my mother on the phone for two hours. Her best line:
"I have two lovers. Wine and Cigarettes."
All in all, just your average day.
Check out this sweet little photo project. 10 people from all over the world : South Africa, Japan, Germany, Toronto etc got together to take ten pictures each on October 10th 2010.
"The 1010 project was devised as an antidote to everything in modern life always having to be bigger, better, louder and brighter than what’s been before. It’s an opportunity to slow down and appreciate the simple, everyday things that make life beautiful."
In the age of daily apple updates, clap lights and KFC sandwiches with fried chicken not only in the middle but AS THE BUN, I welcome these sorts of reflection on what life could be like if we all put down our technological gadgets for a moment and looked around.
Thank you to Anabela Carneiro for sharing this with us Torontonians.
The 1010 Project
I couldn't resist buying the mini personal size cast-iron skillet by lodge at crate & barrel last weekend.
Yes, this type of shopping excites me more than shoes ever will.
Today, a gorgeous little frittata for one.
1 small shallot, minced
Salt & pepper
A few shavings on manchego cheese
A drizzle of olive oil.
If you're going to eat alone you must make the effort to make it glorious!
Today I think I succeeded.
I finally found a tin of Salted Anchovies in the basement bulk produce shop at the St Lawrence Market.
I was so excited and aprehensive that I let them sit on my counter for 24 hours before I opened them. It was like pandora's box! What if they were bad? The River Cafe cookbook ( my bible) said they should be DRY. What if they weren't dry? So I just left them there for a day and kept looking at the tin but finding other things to do to avoid opening it. I really am a freak.
On my second day off I decided it was time to open them. I decided to cook them up in a River Cafe recipe "Penne con Pomodoro e Acciughe" (Penne with Tomato and Anchovy Sauce) Can I just say that beneath the title of the recipe it says "You must use salted anchovies from Greek, Spanish and Italian delicatesssens. Small tins of anchovies soaked in oil are not suitable" So it was time to find out... Why Not!?
Well, I opened the tin. And there they were. All packed away safe and dry and salty!
I was really excited to start. To get them ready to use, you have to rinse them quite well in cool water and then take the spine bone out. There are some tiny bones that run through the sides of the fish but they're so tiny that they just dissolve once you cook them. I wasn't positive of this until I finished so don't think I'm some kind of anchovy expert. Not yet anyway.
So this part took me a little while to figure out. I needed ten for my recipe and after 3 or 4 I had it down pat. I used a knife to wedge the fish open and then i flattened it out.
Once it's flat like this it's very easy to just grab the bone at the top and slowly and gently work it out of the meat. Sometimes it got caught and pulled the meat with it but I got pretty good at easing it out without ripping the fish. Here's my little de-boning station.
It took me about 20 minutes to complete this task. But it was well worth it. I think with practice I will get better at this. Once I was finished 'cleaning' the anchovies I was ready to cook.
Now the flavour of the anchovies was really suprising. I thought 10 seemed like alot but actually, you could hardly taste them. I mean, you could... but it wasn't a 'fishy' taste. I guess it's safe to say that fish should never really taste or smell 'fishy' if it does it's either bad or overcooked.
There is nothing more awful than overcooked fish. I didn't like cooked salmon until I had it cooked properly last year. Poached slowly in a flavoured broth until it was JUST cooked. The overcooked salmon I get in restaurants with the white globs of fat congealed on the surface did not compare. "Wow I actually like Salmon!" I thought.
So this project and hunt was definately a success! If you like savoury flavours then I highly reccomend picking up a tin of these the next time you are in a specialty food store or deli. They add a really delicious salty depth to your dish and do NOT taste fishy and disgusting like we all think they do.
Here's the recipe I used:
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 garlic cloves, peeled and sliced
10 salted anchovies, washed and dried
2 tablespoons fresh rosemary leaves, finely chopped
1 x 800g tin peeled plum tomatoes
150 ml double (heavy) cream
120g Parmesan, freshly grated
250g penne, rigatoni or conchiglie
* always use unsalted...always. you cant control the salt in your dish if you used salted butter. and it's often remixed after the unsalted butter is made and therefore not as fresh
Melt the oil and butter together in a large pan, and fry the garlic gently until light brown. Add the anchovies and rosemary and mash them into the oil, almost to a paste. The anchovies do not need to cook, they just melt; this only takes a few seconds.
Add the tomatoes to the paste and stir to break them up. Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat and simmer until the liquid has evaporated and the tomatoes have become a sauce, anout 30-45 minutes. Finally, add the cream and bring to the boil stirring, then add most of the Parmesan.
Cook the pasta in a generous amount of salted water, then drain thoroughly. Stir into the sauce, and serve with the remaining Parmesan.
Unfortunately I forgot to take a picture of the final plating. I think this recipe would be just as good without the cream and all that Parmesan at the end... I'll try it next time. You know, cuz I don't want to die of heart failure at age 24.
Anyway. Here's to Acciughe Salate!
The book I cooked out of this time was The River Cafe Cookbook (1) by Rose Gray and Ruth Rogers
"There's too much to do, I'll just do nothing."
Or.. more recently.
"There's too much to do I have to do everything."
I quit facebook this week. I immediately felt liberated, inspired and ready to conquer the world. Leave it to me to take a simple action and blow it up into a explosively dramatic, romantic challenge for myself.
Ever since I can remember, I have always day dreamed about how much there was in this world to learn and how that very fact completely paralyses me. I can still remember the moment I realized, at about age 10, that there were so many books in the world that there was no possible way I could read them all in my lifetime. Even if I wanted to, I could not by any means study everything there was to know. The knowledge in this world was simply too vast for my tiny brain. "But I want to read every book in the world!" I thought. "How can I live knowing that I will not learn everything there is to know?" Of course my thoughts drifted and life went on... But I never really let go of that fear of never being able to learn everything.
In high school our final project for Grade 12 English Class titled the "Independent Study Unit" a small crash-course on essay writing intended to prepare us for University ( because of course that is where we all were headed... Which one are you going to? Which program?) ... Left me completely overwhelmed. If I remember correctly we had to pick an author and read 1 or 2 of their books, and pull the themes and plot into a sort of study of their work and present it as a meticulously edited 5 page essay. All the reading, notes and preparation and drafts were allowed to be done ahead of time, but the writing of the final paper was to be done 'exam style' in class. I read the books. I studied the themes. I decided on my ideas and wrote my draft but when it came down to writing the paper, I just couldn't do it. I panicked, and didn't show up to write the paper which was worth 20% of my mark. My friends didn't understand, and neither did my teacher. They cornered me in the hallway.They offered to let me take extra time to write it, to tutor me after school. But it was the prospect of not being able to start a seemingly ( to me) epic task that I was battling with. I failed the class. I took it as an online course over the following year. More books, more essays, but I wrote them on my own time and somehow didn't experience the stage fright again.
But I still struggle with the balance of feeling overwhelmed by the things there are to study or do, so much that I decide to do nothing at all ...... For example, although living in downtown Toronto to prospect of the Toronto International Film Festival simply overwhelms me and turns me completely off films for 2 weeks. OR finding myself obsessively doing too much...Last year I was working 45 hours a week and doing 4 hour classes at GeorgeBrown College 3 nights a week. It's all or nothing for me, and I am so far not growing out of it.
Leaving facebook came not out of nowhere, but as a slow brewing climax. I was spending too much time on it. It was sending me ridiculous messages about limiting who I could add as friends. I 'woke-up' from surfing it to look at the clock and realize I had spent 45 minutes of my life staring at other people's mindless banter and photos of themselves squinting at the camera with pursed lips.In other words, it was a disgusting waste of time. And it was disgusting me.
Last weekend I went to my first symphony at Roy Thomson Hall. On my way I kept thinking to myself "I hope I don't fall asleep." "Oh this really isn't for me. I hate sitting still" "What if it's really boring?"
It was a colossal blast. A symphony! I know knew what that word really meant. Witnessing the live orchestra is something I will never forget. It really re inspired in me a hope in human 'culture'. And, it fortified my desire to leave facebook forever. And so, after weeks of humming and hah'ing I finally deleted it.
I initially felt a sense of relief. But now, a few days later I am going a little bit insane.
What should I do with my free time? I have to go out! I have to see concerts. I have to see art! I have to take out 6 cookbooks from the library and study them all. I have to update my blog! I have to fold all my laundry. I have to a scour the city for culture.
So here I am. After a day of torment over doing too much or nothing at all, venting my observations about my own behaviour as a sort of distilling of my own scrambled thoughts.
Who knew quitting facebook would elicit such a withdrawal?
To quote a character from Julia Robert's new chickflick Eat Pray Love: (speaking as an Italian living the life of luxury...Naps, 4 small delicious meals a day, wine at lunch, cheese for dessert.. "You North Americans don't know how to enjoy life! You work work work work.. and then! All weekend you spend on the couch like zombie in pyjamas infront of the television!!"
Am I just a product of my surroundings? Or am I an individual clinging to my early fears of all or nothing.
My question for today is... How do I find a balance between being paralyzed by too many options, and being run down by acting on all of them.
Better get started on that stack of cookbooks...
Just kidding. That's the world's largest library. The Library of Congress in Washington, D.C.
One of my favourite directors, Sofia Coppola has just won top honours at the Venice film festival for her newest film Somewhere.
Shot at the infamous celebrity hotel The Chateau Marmont, on Sunset Blvd in Los Angeles, the film explores an up and coming actor who is lost in a lifestyle of excess and indulgence until his 11 year old daughter ( played by Elle Fanning - sister of Dakota) comes to live with him.
So far reviews have mentioned the slow and quiet character development and the inside peek of celebrity lifestyle in Hollywood.
I look forward to Sofia's take on father/daughter relationships. She has always dazzled me with her unique portrayal of the tenderness and quiet confidence of girls.
Unfortunately I will have to wait until December 22 for that slow panned look up into a sun soaked LA sky... Ohh I can already see it!
In a rather fortuitous manner, I have returned to blogging. As I attempted to 'add' a friend on my facebook account today, I got a message saying "You are unable to add anymore friends at this time. Many of your recent requests have been unanswered. Either because you are adding friends you do not know personally, or because another user has flagged your activity as offensive. Don't worry, you'll be able to add more friends soon."
Feeling like I had reached a new low of self loathing for using facebook in the first place, I decided to use it as a sign that I should get back to working on my blog. So instead of sitting on facebook and talking about nothing in particular, I am going to talk about something that interests me.
Anchovies packed in Salt! I've been looking for them everywhere for the past two days and I cannot find them ! My new River Cafe cookbook calls for them in a recipe for Ossobuco that I made last weekend.
And they say: "Tinned anchovies in oil are no substitute."
So what's so special about the salted ones? Apparently, the anchovies are graded by size, then salted whole in large barrels or tins of 5 to 10 kg in size. The best fish are the largest ones, and should be red in colour. To prepare them you rinse them under cool running water to remove all the salt, gently remove the spine bones and head, and pat dry.
I am so fascinated and can't wait to find out what the big fuss is!
But alas.... I am still on the hunt! If anyone knows a place that sells them please tell me!
After nearly two months I am finally ready sit down and finish of my thoughts on my trip through China & Hong Kong. Sorry about leaving it unfinished for so long... but once I got home after this trip I just needed to drop it for awhile.
the heat finally got to us and we checked into our hotel room. Boo decided to take the afternoon off and I struggled through an afternoon trying to find some shopping. There was a really serious focus on designer brands here. Everyone in the city dressed impeccably. Looking around on the subway there was not a soul with scuffed or worn shoes. Everyone had brand new shiny shoes and great style. I really wish I could have spent more time exploring the style culture here - I got lost in a sea of Chanel and Burberry and never did find any of the unique shops i just KNOW were out there. . . Ohwell. Next time! ( If I'm so lucky)
The next morning we met up with Laurel for a quick dimsum which I unfortunately was too ill to really enjoy. Did a quick stop at a beautiful temple - I made a prayer for a safe return home :) it was answered.
I stopped at the top of a staircase ( which were all over the place in this crazy hub of a city. Staircases here, small streets this way and that) ... and snapped a few pictures.
Can you feel how hot it is at that very moment? It was scorching!
Anyway, I love the colours. It was a pretty interesting city. I want to go back sOOoooooOo badly. I'll save up :)
three gorges dam. Our day train ended up arriving at midnight... And
after a rather unnerving taxi drive into the off roads trying to
locate our hostel, we arrived to our beds at nearly 2 am. It was a
darling little place with no lock on the door, black mold covering the
walls, and no other back packers in sight. There was air conditioning,
and clean (ish?) bedding, and I was so tired that, staving off my
negative thoughts of being murdered I love to torture myself with, I
managed to pass out. Jumped outta that bed at 6:30 and started packing.
" Should we leave our bags here for the day and come back for them?" -
"No. Let's just get the fuck out of here."
A mildly challenging engrish conversation with the lady at the front
desk... No we didn't want to pay the hostel for their tour, can she
just tell us how to take the bus to the gorges ...
And we were off. Walking in the rain for about 20 minutes we found our
first bus stop. It costs 1¥ (.15 cents) to ride the bus here! But it
was crowded and we were soaking wet and tired so the trip wasn't that
fun. 40 minutes later we arrived at the bus's last stop which is where
our hostel lady told us to transfer. Another rickety bus ride and we
transfered again to a more ' touristy' bus that cost 10¥ and would
take us to the Three Gorges tourist site. This bus was more
entertaining. Listening to Eric Clapton ( tears in heaven) and Boys 2
Men play over the radio in china was quite an experience. They seem
to love cheesy music here. Espescially from the 80s and 90s.
Another 45 minutes later we were at the take off site to view the dam.
This next bus cost us 100¥ and would take us to two viewing sights
plus a 'memorial park' ?
There wasn't another option unless we wanted to climb the roads on
foot but even so we'd get to the same places and it was now boiling
The bus took us to two viewing platforms. All landscaped and equipped
with lovely bathrooms - unheard of anywhere else in the country except
posh hotels. You got the feeling they wanted us to really love it
here. And marvel and ooo and ahh at how fabulous the Chinese are.
Mostly I felt regret for even coming and giving them my money but I
guess it was worth it. The sheer size of the project was amazing. I
read they used 10 million pounds of cement. And they've been working
on it since 1992. The concept was born in the 1920s though, and I
suppose was passed on through the ranks until somebody had enough
balls to actually do it.
It made me sad to think about all the displaced families who were
forced to give up their land. Some who had lived there for
generations. There was no mention of these displaced persons at the
socalled 'Memorial Park' - just tourist shops and ponds of goldfish.
In guessing to show how healthy the water is and how much they care
about nature. Hmph
I'm glad I went. But it wasn't an inspiring trip. Maybe if I was more
into the colossal physics water dams Id've been thrilled.
Back on a trillion buses to get to downtown Yichang. A nice man on our
last bus helped us find our hotel. He lived nearby and would show us
where to get off.
Yay a hotel!!!! You can imagine my relief after almost two weeks of
hostels to arrive somewhere with clean beds and fresh towels. After
two showers, and a good dinner I fell asleep in peace. No Mosquitos,
no bed bugs, no black mold, no people walking through our room to get
to another one. Yipee !
The loveliness was short lived though, both my sister and I both woke
up with food poising and spent the entire day bed ridden then dragged
ourselves to the train station for more puking, but this time on stage
infront of a crowded waiting room of chinese fascinated with watching
the white girl puke her guts out. Am I having fun yet? ;)
After our long long train to Guanzhou we felt much better. We said
goodbye to boo's friend and hopped a highspeed train to Shenzen ( just
an hours trip) where we crossed the border into hong kong and rode the
metro downtown. Goodbye China! What a wacky place. Sad it had to end
with me being horribly I'll but it was quite a trip. I wont lie I am
happy to be somewhere i can speak the language and go into the
washrooms without gagging. 2 days in hong kong await then home !!!
her flying solo in the 3rd bunk above me. I kept checking on her and
waiting to catch her!! They seem to be less concerned about danger
desperately ill we felt to be willing to lay on them.
Luckily we were at a hotel for the night and day. Running to the
bathroom every 20 minutes with the runs and violent barfing. Here we
are at the train station later that day laying on the spit covered
floor. Everytime I tried to stand up I felt like I was going to faint.
Then Projectile vomitted all the water I'd been trying to drink. First
time I made it to the garbage and everyone just stood gawking at me as
I puked my guts out. Clutching my stomach and crying. Second time I
didn't make it and puked water all over the floor. I was so embarassed
and frustrated but no one even cared they just walked through it. Made
it to the train and slept for 12 hours. I feel better now :)
Off to hong kong. I'm super excited to explore the flower and bird
Here's hoping we don't get sick. There is nothing as bad as being sick
in a foreign country. Checking that off my list!:)
than the larger cities we've been to, Xi'an made me feel immediately
comfortable. I knew my way around pretty quickly and enjoyed the sort
of market feel that the streets had. This is the most produce I've
seen sofar. Amazing mushrooms, peaches everywhere, herbs and giant
green onions. Butchers in the street with the hunks of meat just
laying out on the tables. Beautiful parks and friendly faces. The
framework of the city worked like a grid between the huge stone walls
that have apparently been there since 62 AD. Much of the city's
architecture seemed to be old. Old and slightly forgotten.
Walking around the empty canals and abandoned temples I got the sense
that there must have been a much brighter life here many years ago
before things like water pollution and technology became our reality.
We did find one temple which was still up and running and we listened
to some ceremonies and watched as people prayed and burned incense.
Id've taken more pictures but felt it wasn't something that was meant
to be photographed. To get in to the temple everyone had to pay an
entrance fee. It was small but it still made me sad that some people
who have been a part of this religion for many many years now have to
pay to pray. Incense floated through the air and everyone was quiet.
It was a nice refuge from the loud and boisterous streets. Leaving
the temple grounds, we had to wade through crowds of disfigured and
emaciated beggars. Some of them wheeling on boards, not able to walk
or stand. There seems to be a great disparity between classes here.
The lowest of which have been quite frightening to see. Nothing like I
have ever seen before. Not in person. These dark realities of this
trip have made me realize how lucky I am. And how glad I am to be
living in Canada.
This became apparent in a funny way on our last night. After a day
adventuring to the terracotta warrior site, we rented bikes from our
hostel and took of in search of 'Big Goose Pagoda'
We got lost. We weaved between the traffic. The traffic. The traffic
is insane here. Nothing like biking in the sleepy lake side town of
Hangzhou at the beginning of our trip. These drivers are crazy and in
numbers ! There is a bike lane but most people are just walking all
across it in crowds. We had to ding our bells furiously. As we got
further into the congested main roads the traffic started to clog up.
All at once a huge bus pulled off the main road and careened infront
of us and used the bike path! Then ! Further along as even the bike
lane got clogged with traffic a cab drove up, past the bike lane and
started driving on the sidewalk. I watched in amazement and laughed
out loud to myself imagining how hard we think we have it with
'cyclist rights' in Toronto.
We managed to find the Pagoda and saw some pretty water fountain show
and then biked home. What an accomplishment. Did I mention the left
pedal of my bike kept falling off? I had to stop every ten minutes to
Whew china. What a wacky wonderful place.
Day train to Yichang today. Heading there to see the three gorges dam.
muskol I still managed to get two huge mosquito bites that night
pleading and bribing) dragged the girls to Da Dong. A famous Beijing
restaurant hailed for their roast duck. If I was going to have Peking
duck, damn sure I was going to have to sniff out the best place to get
it. Word of mouth aswell as a review I found in a Beijing magazine
cemented my plan. We HAD to go. If we didn't I'dve regretted it forever.
We were definately looking like serious hobos and I was unsure if
they'd let us in with our giant backpacks but they didn't mind. The
dining room was formal but relaxed. I saw a woman in sweat pants and
flip flops and decided we were going to be ok.
The menu was epic. Not only extensive but physically humungous! I wish
I could have had a copy. I scribbled down as many as I could. I was so
I wished I'd had 7 stomachs and 70 hungry friends to try the many
exotic sounding dishes:
Sauteed fresh mushroom with goose liver
Sauteed gingko nuts with lily bulbs
Steamed humphead wrasse with green shallot
Steamed leopard coral grouper
Grilled French blue lobster
Hairy crab ( in shell)
Braised shark fin with saffron sauce ( I know I know but it's a
Steamed egg with crab roe
Sliced Canadian geoduck with alfalfa
Spicy turtle soup Sichuan style
Sauteed scallop with sweet corn
Crisp skin chicken
Sauteed venison with apple
Stewed oxtail with Longan & Honey
Braised beef tongue with garlic
.... It went on and on and on
I was like a kid in a candy store. The presentation was completely
amazing. Every dish they paraded out of the kitchen in poofs of steam
made my neck stick up like a giraffe and I had to restrain myself from
running over to other tables to photograph the food.
We ordered the famous duck which was carved table side by some pretty
serious young chefs with weird knives. The worked so efficiently and
slowly arranged the meat on dishes which were then presented on our
table with different accompaniments. I also tried the braised sea
cucumber. From what i could gather Chef Da Dong ( ya ya haha penis
poop pee fart) set out to perfect many signature Chinese dishes and
make them a little more refined and healthy. He developed a way to
roast the duck to the perfect tenderness and crispness while reducing
the fat by 50% so as to create a more healthy and palatable dish. It
was sooooooo good. My sister told me I'm a nerd but I have seriously
never tasted anything so delicious.
If I ever find myself in Beijing again I will be returning !