Just Your Average Day

"So i just stopped a homeless lady from jumping off a bridge. Now I'm writing a midterm. Just your average day."
-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.

I got my hair cut.

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.

La Familia

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



Frittata for one

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.
2 eggs
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.


Acciughe Salate

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:

Serves 6

2 tablespoons olive oil
50g butter*
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
sea salt
* 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


All of Nothing

"The only way to eat an elephant is one bite at a time. "
"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.