I’m back, from three weeks of movement, from city to city, bookstore to bookstore, friend to friend, my well-worn book in my bag. Green and blue fields passed beneath my plane, water and mountains skimmed beside the ferry to and from Departure Bay. Friends and strangers opened their hearts to my new book, beamed at me as I read, shyly passed their copy to me to sign.
My mother, siblings and nieces accepted the book grudgingly, curiously, like a new member of the family they hadn’t expected, but thought they could grow to love.
As usual, food was the connecting thread.
I ate the best fried calamari (laced with lime) of my life in Edmonton, at a Cajun diner named Daddeo’s, with my longtime friend Chrystia. I grilled fresh halibut in Sidney while Penny made the most ambrosial mashed potatoes I’ve had in ages (her secret: cream). We had stuffed msuhrooms, almond burger, and blueberry pie at Rebar, my absolutely most favourite vegetarian restaurant, in Victoria.
For my birthday, Megan treated me to contemporary Indian vegetarian delicacies at Vij’s in Vancouver; one of the best parts was the lineup (you can’t reserve at Vij’s) which involved sitting on the terrace, drinking wine, and being served complementary appetizers.
At my reading at Barbara-Jo’s Books to Cooks in Vancouver, a man named Mark cooked from recipes in my book, and guests were allowed tastes of asparagus-lemon risotto and carrot-pineapple cake with cream cheese icing. It was swell. I ate as much sushi in Vancouver as I possibely could.
Once again, Glen made me fried Fanny Bay oysters, and I made pie with rhubarb and raspberries from Jeanette’s garden. Local shrimp in a tomato curry sauce, in the old mining town of Cumberland. Calamari again, at the Fanny Bay Inn.
People told me their food memories, like memories of what their dad cooked, after hearing me tell stories about my father’s epicurian ways. Lisa, at Rhizome Café, said my book inspired her to do some food writing of her own, and Vinetta, her partner, intrigued by a fish story I told, cooked up some Portuguese fish and potatoes like she used to eat as a kid.
I read my stories again and again, honing my tone and pitch, savouring the laughter and the silence and the contented little hmmmmmm that audience members sometimes emit when words hit the spot.
Media interviews were alternately sweet and understanding, or insanely and hilariously off the mark. A couple of radio stations treated my memoir like a self-help book, and had people phone in to tell their breakup stories and what they ate. I didn’t mind at all. One radio station played Breakin Up Is Hard to Do as the lead in. One interviewer wanted to know more about my brother Roman, whose life and death I wrote about in the book, and exactly what foods remind me of my mother.
I carried back Saltspring Island cheese and organic wine from the Okanagan. The Guitar Player met me at the airport. The first thing we did was stop at her house so she could show me her garden with its neat rows of tiny green things, its already enthusiastic mint and parsley, the fragile baby bunches of lettuce.
And after that, I went home. My book has gone out into the world. I’m back at the source: computer, coffee cup, kitchen table.