The current read-aloud project here at Chez Dua is Young Romantics: The Shelleys, Byron, and Other Tangled Lives, by Daisy Hay. Kelly was making tobacco panna cotta yesterday (the recipe is in Bitter: A Taste of the World’s Most Dangerous Flavor, with Recipes) and was therefore stirring milk. For hours. I read while she cooked, and this let us plow through to the point where Percy Shelley drowned.
Reading this book has been a long process of (re)discovery of the various specific ways in which a woman’s life could suck in the 1800s. This seems to apply universally to everyone associated not only with Shelley but with Lord Byron and Leigh Hunt, who feature prominently in the book. As far as I can tell, Keats was the only one of the bunch who didn’t eventually drive a woman to throw herself off a bridge. But, to be fair, he died young.
Hay hasn’t really delved into Mary’s character all that much so far. She’s talked about her reactions to a lot of things, notably all the moving around she did with Shelley, her troubled relationship with her half-sister Claire, and all of the children she lost. It’s a disappointing lack. But I’m hoping now that Mary’s a widow, the analysis of her will get deeper.
If not, we’ll be in the market for an excellent Mary Shelley bio. Heck, we may be anyway. Recs, anyone?
Something I did in October when I was in Vancouver was to tell everyone I know that I’d be at Caffe Calabria in the mornings, writing if I had the place to myself, and socializing if anyone cared to show. I met Barb there. Badger came, as did Emily from our old condo. I figured I’d see some of the cafe regulars, but it turned out there are a shocking number of them: I saw both Toms, for example, the alternate-energy physicist and the religious studies professor. An aspiring YA author, Jenny, was there both mornings. I caught Adita and Harry, the snowbirds whose daughter is a poet, on their last day in Canada. Oscar was there (what I know about Oscar is TMI for the Internet), and Yespat the engineer. I even exchanged friendly hellos with a trio of people I think of (not that this reflects well on me, but their voices carry and all they do is bitch bitch bitch some more) as the Friday Snark Club.
The sheer number of people I had a “Hey, how are ya?” relationship with and the delight that came with seeing them made me realize how many connections I’d built up just by going to work at dawn in the same place, 6-7 days a week, 2 hours a day. It drove home that I hadn’t even begun to do that particular kind of in-community root-growing here.
This lack of effort was no accident–in fact, I had it scheduled for November. I didn’t put much effort into a cafe hunt in May when we first moved to our new building. I knew there’d be guests coming and then travel and more guests and more travel, and the publicity push for Child of a Hidden Sea and then the film festival and more travel atop that. It was a thoroughly awesome summer and autumn, but I wasn’t keeping to the sort of schedule that makes it possible for me to settle into a routine.
Of course it was impossible I’d score another place quite as perfect as Calabria. It was 300 meters from my door, it opened at six in the morning, and Frank Murdocco’s eclectic curation of 20th century music is uniquely delightful, irreplaceable.
But! Now that October and all those trips are in the rearview, I’ve been going to a recently opened cafe called Portland Variety. The coffee is excellent, the atmosphere is right, the staff is lovely, tables are plentiful and the music leans to jazz (which is easier to tune out than pop, satellite radio’s litest hits or the go-to choice at Jimmy’s Cafe, the Doors.) I’m comfortable working here for hours on end, and there are starting to be other morning regulars. It’s not obscenely close to home, but the route back to the condo leads past the grocery, and that’s a significant plus.
It’s promising, in other words. I have high hopes that at last I’ve found this particular piece of my workaday puzzle.
Kitten updates have been few and far between lately, I know, because Kelly and I were scampering around to a variety of movies at TiFF, with my always delightful and thoroughly brilliant cousins, Alicia and Joe. What’s up with the kids is, basically, that they are cute. Supercute, even!
We experimented a little with leaving the bedroom open to them at night while we were en vacance, but they are still too rambunctious. No big surprise there. CinCin’s headed back to the vet in about ten days for spayage and shots. I’ve also rearranged the top of the cat tree known as Beetlejuice Station. This might, eventually, occasion a new video.
This past staycation has been the best vacation, for me, in quite a long stretch of time. It offered the perfect mix of tourism, intellectual stimulation, good company, downtime, and amazing foodie experiences. Among other things, we tried a huge number of new restaurants: Khao San Road, The Harbord Room, The Senator, Fusaro’s Kitchen, and Byblos. Each of these is as deserving of a review as all the incredible films we saw.
It was illuminating, and has made me consider what K and I require in a break where our entertainment isn’t curated by a savvy, film-loving family member. Next time we have a stretch of time off at home, this shall be the model, I think: buy lots of tickets to lots of things, make a list of restaurants, and lure out various lovely people to partake with us.
It is a warm, rainy and potentially thundery Monday morning as I write this, rain-drenched and delicious. We spent Saturday bumbling around Prince Edward County, exploring wine country with our friend Linda. Relaxation was had, a good thing because a big chunk of Sunday went to itemizing receipts from our 2013 move from Vancouver. The government would like to verify that lunging across the nation required a bit of expense.
Exploring wine country was a delight and, naturally, I took many pictures. It’s really exciting to realize that you can go either east or west and be in a vineyard in around 90 minutes, traffic permitting. I didn’t taste much, but I did have a few sips at the County Cider Company in Picton. Mostly it was nice to have a short road trip and a chance to explore.
Here’s a little structure that made me think: DIY Ancient Ruin…
I am pro cheese. If you were to ask me to articulate a political position on cheese, in all its full-fat, salty glory, I would definitely be hitting all the available Like buttons, possibly while shouting: “Up with cheese! Go NDP Go!” The two main purposes of wine, as far as I’m concerned, are first that it makes cheese tastier and then that it helps you chill out after a tough day of not reformatting your co-workers’ hard drives (or brain stems) with a crowbar. I tell you this because Badger, in response to my “Tell me what to write” plea, said this one thing: Cheese!
I know what you’re thinking. After “Yum,” how much more is there to be said?
In 2009, I volunteered at Cheesecamp, which was an offshoot of a delightfully nerdy wine event called Vinocamp. Volunteering meant emptying spit buckets of red wine, mostly. In exchange, I got to sit in on sessions designed to edumacate my cheese palate. Samples were provided. It was a fun day.
Ninety percent of what I remember learning, from the Benton Brothers presentation mostly, was the thing that put me off mass-produced cheese by the brick, of the sort that you’d get at your local Safeway, (a chain we don’t actually have in Ontario). Don’t get me wrong, the edible material of which I speak isn’t made of kitten toes or anything. You can read on without fearing regurgitation, unless you truly are a delicate flower. You will not have to march on any Hill or storm a dairy to liberate a big-eyed animal after I’ve shared this with you.
But! The gist was that for good public health reasons, the government forbids us to ship huge amounts of fresh milk–even if it’s pasteurized–any significant distance. In order to make the massive quantities of cheese-like product required by the big grocery chains, what producers do instead is acquire powdered skim milk and vegetable oil, mixing the two with water to reconstitute an allegedly milky substance. To this they add salt, bacteria, rennet and eventually packaging and a bar code.
The oil, which stands in for the fat that’s been removed from the milk flakes, is the reason why the cheese you find in the non-boutique part of the grocery–cheese which isn’t even all that cheap, I hasten to complain!–will express drops of oil if you leave it out at room temperature.
So! Not horribly gross, I know. Just a little. But I take this as my license to say: Hey, when I want to drink canola, I’ll swig from the bottle, in the time-honored fashion of my ancestors. (Or was it ketchup we drank that way?) In the meantime, my cheese when I lived in Vancouver came from La Grotta Del Formaggio, mostly, and sometimes Les Amis du Fromage. Here in Toronto, we surveyed our cheese options carefully. Kelly now makes a weekly run to the St. Lawrence Market to stock up on our house table cheese*, which is currently a honey goat gouda. We’ve also gotten a pretty tasty rougette there, recently. I do sometimes just gotta have the award-winning La Sauvagine, which one of the Marias at the Grotto described, famously, as “Jesus sliding down your throat in satin pants.”
I will close this entry by mentioning that:
One: I am still looking for topics from you all. If I can do cheese, I can do anything!
Two: If the above sounds like the smuggest thing to blaze across the Internet, it is almost certainly because I drafted it in my condominium hot tub.
*What? Of course we have a house table cheese. We’re terribly refined here at Dua Central.