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Monday, July 23, 2007

summer spring rolls

While fried spring rolls are great after a night out of debauchery, there not something I crave on a beautiful day.

Summer spring rolls on the other hand, delicate and fresh, make the perfect summer lunch.

I bought some of the rice paper in Korea town a couple of weeks ago and have been dying to use them ever since. My only problem was I didn't know what to stuff them with. Glass noodles? Shrimp? Mango salad?

Walking home from the yoga studio I decided to stop in the grocery store and pick up some sprouts for my rolls. Instead, a big 99 cent bag of coleslaw called out my name.

I thought about buying some shrimp, but I've eaten enough seafood to build an aquarium in my stomach in the past few days.

Back at home I mixed the coleslaw with parsley, green onions, chili flakes, rice vinegar, ginger powder and salt.

Next I prepared the the rice paper. The paper is unbelievably easy to prepare, and only needs to be soaked with a towel for a minute before it is pliable and ready to use.

With the paper ready, I filled each one with a mixture of the coleslaw salad, and rolled them up tightly.

I had no sauce for the rolls, so I mixed up a thick miso dipping sauce out of miso pase, rice vinegar, oil and red wine vinegar, and lunch was ready.

The result was satisfying, nourishing and as delicious as a beautiful summer day

summer spring rolls.

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Thursday, July 19, 2007

a long way home

The tickets are booked.

Knowing this, my step is lighter and my gaze is further off.

I can already smell the old wood of our crumbling house, feel my feet climbing up its steep wood steps, and hear the pigeons outside my window.

From the airport, we’ll drive out of the city and into the country. We’ll pass fields of sunflowers and old farm houses, vineyards and homes selling foie gras. We’ll drive down roads with perfectly aligned trees, and as we turn a sharp corner I’ll see it through the leaves. I’ll see my village, still standing strong and tall, atop of a hill, the houses left the same way they were hundreds of years ago.

France is whispering my name. The small village in the South of France where I went to school at 4-years-old, then came back to time and time again, is waiting for me.

The Patisserie door is waiting to be opened by my hands first thing in the morning, eager to get the croissants while they’re hot out of the oven. It will smell the same, and the woman at the counter will recognize me from years gone by, but will only let me know with a smile. If it’s her husband, he may make a joke or correct my French as he connects the image of a four-year-old blonde Canadian, who used to run around the village square, with the woman standing before him.

The stern owner of the bar will say hello if he’s in a good mood, or will nod in approval if he’s not, then continue yelling at the servers. The barman might smile too, or wait until his night off, when a couple of beers have brought out his social nature, and he’ll make some jokes under his heavy brown mustache.

At the market the foie gras merchant will yell provocative comments at my mother, the pizza man will smile his charming smile, and maybe make some jokes about me keeping my hands of his handome sons. We'll buy food fresh from the soil and the meals will be deliciously easy.

I’m dreaming of France and I can’t help it. Throughout my life, I have had the fortune of visiting this country time and time again, and it is my second home. It is a place I’ve associated with happiness, self-discovery, young love, and minor heartaches.

When I walk down the old country roads, blonde hair waving behind me, feet dirty from being outside all day, I often break into a run, and fall right back into my childhood self. Old women will stop me and recognize me from when I was younger, “Ah, Gigi!” They will exclaim.

Walking those roads my body and mind grow stronger and the important things in life become more clear.

In a few weeks I’ll meet my mother there. Until then, I’ll continue daydreaming.

castelnau de montmiral



Ode to France Nicoise Salad

Handful of mixed greens
Steamed green beans with red onion
Vine tomato
Hard boiled egg
Corn on the cob (although they would laugh at this is France, where corn left on the cob is only for cows)
Dash of olive oil and red wine vinegar
Tuna (Callipo Italian brand, soaked in olive oil)

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Tuesday, July 17, 2007

some love just might last forever

I forgot how good it feels to walk on the cold Mexican tiles of my kitchen floor and make an espresso in the morning.

I forgot how much I love the feel of sun on the balcony, so much that I used to lie down on it in my bathrobe just to feel the hear permeate into my body.

I never forgot how soothing the mountains and the ocean are to look at under a summer sun, a reminder that there is beauty in the world.

Leaving Vancouver was easy. My love for it comes in the summer with the sun, and leaves in winter with the first heavy rainfall.

But it's summer, and my love for the city of glass, surrounded by picturesque nature everywhere, stole my heart when I came home.

Falling into the comfort of my bed, of my parents' company, of the waves of the ocean and the easy pace of a West Coast summer paradise, it was hard to get up and leave after five days.

Then again, if I had stayed any longer I may have started to take it all for granted.

And no moment was taken for granted. Feasts and good conversations were a nightly ritual. One night my whole family, and my love who flew down from Toronto, clinked glasses to the 60 years my grandparents have been together.

My grandparents may have a permanent grip on each others throats, but something has held them together for 60 entire years. No matter what they say, I can tell love is still somewhere in the air. It is stronger than them, and reveals itself in the way they look out for each other.

And as I flew back up in the air, on my way back to Toronto, I felt love for a city I left a long time ago.

Love doesn't always have to be constant, big or bold, it can come back in the small moments, as a reminder, that there's still some room for you to feel something stronger than yourself.

west vancouver
evening sun
alone in the world
father and daughter
celtic band
Richard Kidd
girls at Chambar

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Saturday, July 07, 2007

these arms of mine

The airplane starts to rattle back and forth.

A frightened pilot trips makes an announcement: we're going down. People are screaming, babies are crying, and the air breathes chaos.

I try and imagine my final moments. Would I be screaming? Silent and stunned? Would I find sudden clarity right before my death?

In reality, the flight was as smooth as whipped butter, and I arrived in Vancouver to the open arms of my mother.

For months, weeks, days I have been craving those arms. I haven't seen her since Christmas, and she is my confidante, my inspiration and my greatest companion.

I have left the city of the CN tower and my life at the busy restaurant to spend a week with family in Vancouver. We are celebrating my grandparents 60th anniversary, and in a couple of nights will feast, drink, and dance to Irish music in their name.

In the meantime, I'm re-grounding myself in the city of my birth, in the house I grew up in, and with the family I adore.

I feel blessed. With the sun shining, this is one of the most ideal settings in the world. The mountains hover over me while the ocean beckons me to its side.

Last night we made burgers, while I whipped up some cocktails, then ate, talked and laughed with my family on the deck outside as the sun set.

My lips are smiling, my body is relaxed, and these arms of mine want to embrace everything around me.


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Monday, July 02, 2007

women who eat

I have always loved food.

When I was young we ate dinner every night at the dining room table under the glow of candles, Van Morrison playing in the background. We feasted on creamy pastas, garlic infused salads, finger-licking spicy chicken wings or my dad’s curry, which we would chase down with yoghurt, cucumbers and cut up bananas.

Some nights we would make our own pizzas, and carry large steaming slices upstairs to watch movies. Other nights we would make tacos or burritos, building our own along the kitchen counter, the insides spilling out as we took big bites, salsa spilling onto our chins.

I grew up with two older brothers who taught me that ice cream should be served in big mounds, and that if I wanted to hold on to any candy or cookies, I had to hide it from their hungry hands.

I spent part of my childhood in France, where we visited the Roquefort caves, and were probably the first Canadian children to fall madly in love with stinky blue cheese. Driving away from the caves, we ate the potent cheese in the car, stopping in each town for more baguette to envelope its creamy texture.

When I returned to France as a teenager years later, I re-discovered my love of cheese, as well as Nutella spread across small toast crackers. But somewhere in my teen years my love of food started to seem like a curse. As a perfectionist I wanted a thinner body, longer legs and a prettier face. I couldn’t do anything about my legs or my face, so I became focused on the body.

While living in Northern Ireland, the distance from close friends and family made it easier to deprive myself. I searched for control and found it in food. To my advantage, I discovered I loved vegetables, steamed parsnip from the market, hearty stir-fries and salads. To my disadvantage I grew uneasy with any other foods. Without noticing, fat fell off my bones, my breasts disappeared and my monthly period ceased to exist. I felt accomplished and horrified all at once.

I don’t recommend deprivation. In the end, I felt sexless, looked malnourished, and spent a long time getting my body back. I have since not lost my love of clean, healthy foods, but I have re-gained my love for substance and adventure in food as well.

I spent a couple of years fooling around with diets, before I realized the importance of listening to my body. What did I crave? Was I full yet? I discovered that eating exactly what I want, and stopping I'm full, is the key to happiness and comfort in my body.

These days, as I hike my way into womanhood, food is a big part of my life. It connects me not only with myself, but with different cultures and people.

At the restaurant, a conversation about how to make proper salsa with the Mexican line-cook helped form a friendship that will probably last through my life. My ranting and raving about food to the chef-who assumed I was "one of those girls who doesn't eat"-brought us together as a couple.

This morning I feasted on pastries picked out from Korea town-a red bean bun and custard cream bun-and espresso made on my stovetop. Starting the day like this helps me to see how rich life can be, that every day has the potential for new tastes and experiences.

Nothing brings people together more harmoniously than a beautiful meal, and nothing connects me and my body more than nutritious food put together by my own hands.

I’ll save the diets for those on the catwalk, and continue to walk through life with a good appetite.

france, two years ago

This post was inspired by my most current read- women who eat- a book I recommend to any woman with a fascination for flavor.