The day before I left Paris, I ran into a beautiful, languid American woman at a reception. We were commiserating about all the incredible croissant, salade, frites, charcuterie, and macarons we’d eaten, and how hard it would be to return to North American food. I. Think. I. Will. Simply. Eat. Rice. Crackers. And. Water. she said, rather dramatically.
But, back in my city and my ‘hood, I’m happy to say that good local food and good local intentions are thick on the ground.
Once the delicacies I’d brought back – duck paté, Bordeaux wine, chocolates and fromage – had been consumed, there was nothing to do but head to my local farmers’ markets, at Trinity Square Bellwoods and Dufferin Grove Parks. Bought some St John’s Bakery organic bread, and was comforted to see Ruth Klassen of Monforte Cheese there, gently counselling folks as to which cheese to go with what situation.
Much like the expert cheesemongers I’d seen in Paris, she knows exactly what you need or want, and her cheeses, delicious as they are, and with a percentage of profits going to Doctors Without Borders, are the gift that keeps on giving. I got some aged goats milk cheese washed in grappa (called “Indiscretion”), and The Librarian And Hair Dude and I had it with fresh cherries and Bordeaux that evening.
This same week, I had to go to Ryerson, my workplace, for a meeting. I was beating a quick escape to the nearest streetcar when, out of the corner of my eye, I thought I saw a community garden on Gould Street. Thinking it was a jetlag-induced mirage, I looked again and yes, there they were: lettuce, kale, string beans and other kinds of greennness, just metres from my office.
I asked the kids hanging out at this tiny outpost of sanity what the deal was and they said, sweetly, earnestly, We. Are. The Food. Security. Group. Ryerson actually has a Centre for Studies in Food Security, deploying ” an interdisciplinary and systemic approach to the social justice, environmental sustainability, health and socio-cultural aspects of food security” according to their website. The produce from the little garden will go to the university food bank, known as the Community Food Room. Doesn’t get more local, or more sensible, than that.
Well, except for the garden on my back deck.
I’ve been eating lettuce, arugula, chives, and basil I’ve grown all week. I made several green salads dressed only with Breton sea salt, bergamot-inflused olive oil, and balsamic. And a pesto potato salad to go with churrasco chicken, for a picnic with The Anti-Poverty Organizer, on Toronto Island.
The cherry tree in my backyard is a different story. Spring’s excessive rainfall made it difficult for the bees to pollinate. I harvested a only handful of cherries. Nonetheless, I ambitously decided to make duck with cherry sauce from Mastering the Art of French Cooking for a cherry-themed dinner. By the time I got to Sanagan’s Meat Locker, in Kensington Market, I was having a bit of a meltdown.
I. Am. Making. Julia. Child’s Duck. Recipe. I gasped. Please. Help. Me. A lovely young man calmed me down, talked me through the process, encouraged me to pan-cook rather than roast the duck and even wanted to chat about what kind of duck I’d eaten in Paris. Sanagan’s, committed to supplying meat products from small Ontario farms, is a find. As I left, my pulse rate had lowered and courage surged through my veins.
That night we had, among other things, The Iconcoclast’s polenta with hand-picked chanterelles, cherry salsa on the side; The Librarian’s mint-rubbed lamb chops with cherry-rosemary confit, and my tender, juicy, canard aux cerises, made with duck from a small Ontario farm.