Writing Matters

October 26th, 2012

UPDATE. YOUR. BLOG!!! he whispered loudly, intimately in my ear.

We were at a drag queen bar on Church Street. I was tired, achey, and exhilarated. I’d just escaped the dusty realm of my mind (we’re talkin marking season, folks). I had attended a performance of spoken word poets, two of whom are my friends.

I had listened, clapped, chatted, and even hauled myself over to this bar. But it was time to go home. I hugged my friends goodbye, and this young man joined in the hug, giving me his secret yet voluble message. IT’S. BEEN. SIX. MONTHS! he added, and gave me an extra hug, just him and me.

I had to smile as I walked to the streetcar in the thickening autumn chill.

Writing matters.

It mattered to me as I listened to Sheri-D Wilson’s incantatory poems about the life of an artist, about micro-fame, and menopause. It mattered as I drank in The Zorras music and poetry with my ears: hard-scrabble politics, and love, and joy. I could feel the poetry regenerating the molecules of my body.

It mattered to the gender-queer dude in the bar. The Zorras told me later he’s been loving my blog for years. He’s a chef. ‘Ingredients queerly political’ (the original mandate of my blog), matter to him.

Words matter to folks like us. Words – poetry, novels, manifestos, chants, rants, stories and more stories – have defended us, revived us, consoled us, fed us.

Thank you, chef.

I’m back, ever-so-hesitantly, not knowing to whom and to what end these words walk across the page.

I might not always write about food. There might not always be photographs. The words might land in the novel I’m writing, or the lectures I’m giving, instead of this blog. But words, oh, yes, words, scaling walls and borders and binaries, always, always, words.

Italia: Slow, Small Food

July 7th, 2012

The restaurant, Da Divo, had been highly recommended. One of the best in Siena, some said.

We ordered, nervously. We’d had some antipasti earlier. We only wanted primi. My travelling companion ordered the wild boar pasta. I had gnocchi with seafood sauce, over a bed of sauteed kale. What fun!

It took an age to get the food, but they served us an amuse-geule of fresh pea soup, oh, lovely.

Nearby, American families scarfed entire Florentine bisteccas. Bored American children scanned their Iphones. A man very closely resembling dead philosopher Michel Foucault wandered from table to table, meeting and greeting, his bald head gleaming in the candlelight.

We got our pasta, finally. It was scornfully placed on our table.

I dug in, hopefully. I almost choked at all the salt.

I looked at my travelling companion. She was swallowing, slowly.

Why, why? said the manager, his arms waving about, when he heard I hadn’t been pleased with my food.

I. Don’t. Know.. It. Was. Just. Salty.

Please. Tell. Me. Was it the sauce. Was it the gnocchi. Was. It. The. Kale.

The cook emerged from the kitchen, and stood in front of me, arms crossed. He looked as though he would weep, or have me killed, quietly, later, in my hotel.

We walked home slowly, hungrily, through old stone archways and across a bridge with an astonishing view of a church.

Bella Italia. In the end, it was the colours, the light, the architecture that nourished us. The food was uneven, and, at the large restaurants with large followings, rarely good. Maybe, after Eat Pray Love, it got too easy. You just had to be Italian, and your food was suddenly awesome.

In the end, it was the small places that fed us well.

The tiny osteria in an alley off the main shopping district, where the prosciutto, the buffala mozzarella, and the wine filled an ache for home. Mushroom crostini at a wine bar off the beaten track, behind the Piazza del Campo, rustic and earthy, with prosecco.

Organic pizza (this in Volterra) at a wi-fi cafe, of all places.

Slow, small food.

Back to England

June 25th, 2012

I spent two years living in England as a kid. I can still recall so many tastes and smells: Bird’s Custard, yellow and smooth, floating over and around an apple crumble. The little bottles of milk and foil-wrapped biscuits they gave us every morning at school. Lime cordial. Shandy. Hovis bread.The smell of hedges, and rain, and diesel fuel.

And, I often have this dream: that I have returned to London and I am unable to get out of the hotel I’m in. I cannot see the sights. I cannot return.

So, emerging from Heathrow Airport into the tube and then out to the green and mist of early summer in London was thrilling. I was back! I could see the sights!

I was in London for an academic conference on theories and practices of transmedia, called Media Across Borders.
The Anti-Poverty Activist joined me in my adventure ( we were planning to head to Italy after the conference). She and I shuttled across London to art galleries, churches, bookstores and shops, each of us assailed by memory.

And the food? Well, my expectations were low, having lived in London when beans on toast were its highest culinary achievement. We were on our way to Italy: we weren’t in London for the food.

But several small pub meals impressed us with original takes on shepherd’s pie or savoury tart. Indian food in Brick Lane, Spanish tapas in Covent Garden, decent coffee and croissant in an Italian cafe in Russell Square: London has changed.

And, it hasn’t. The rain still glitters on cobblestones, the Tube is still miles of escalators underground.

They’re still selling petticoats on Petticoat Lane. I loved that. I can return.

Vancouver Island Food

May 11th, 2012

The air….aromatherapy with the smell of lilacs salt water honeysuckle

and the light gold at the edges of the day

swathes of green sloping up to robin’s egg blue sky flowers in front of every house, an embarrassment of riches

and of the course the ocean

(succulent Fanny Bay oysters fried up and loaded into a bun at Beacon Landing Pub in Sidney)

how could the food not be different here?

gorgeous grilled shrimp taco at hip, sustainable Red Fish Blue Fish takeout in Victoria

spot prawns from the Satellite Fish Company at the end of Sidney Pier, rich and unctuous as lobster

food embraced by land water and sweet /salty winds.