We were in Montreal. This is what we ate.
Obviously a fair amount of bagels. I liked Fairmount more than St. Viateur, largely because they do onion bagels – bread with flecks of crispy, slightly caramelised onion is all anybody really wants. And yes, we had it with salmon and cream cheese, but we also had it with prosciutto from a dépanneur. Clearly we’re flexible AF.
Soft serve from Kem Coba. This was chocolate and raspberry swirl. The raspberry was very tart, a good foil for the chocolate.
On the same stretch as Fairmount and Kem Coba we stumbled upon Drogheria Fine. A tiny shop selling hundreds of bottles of the same pasta sauce, made in-house. They also have a tiny counter where you can have some of the sauce along with home-made gnocchi, for just $5. We got on that. It was a blistering hot day, not really gnocchi weather at all, but we still got on that. I would get on it again.
At the Jean Talon market Johannes had a sea urchin. I did not. Maison Christian Faure served us the best canelé we’d ever had. Dieu du Ciel! had air conditioning so we ended up drinking 75% of the beers currently brewed by them. (If it is not yet clear to anyone why I was 2kg heavier when we returned home, now you know.)
We ended up at Rotisserie Romados quite by accident. Their large grill room with Portuguese chicken cooking over charcoal fires has a window that looks onto the street, and we walked by. This is clearly a very popular spot – lots of families, and an enormous amount of chicken being prepared at all times. It made for a fantastic dinner, along with some of their poutine, which was so much that it completely obscures the chicken in this picture.
Finally – we made it to Schwartz’s. It was worth it. I could have skipped the fries, but the smoked meat sandwich and pickles were a joy. So were everyone working there. I guess clichés are clichés for a reason.
Johannes had a birthday. So we bought some steak. We never buy steak, here, bewildered by its price. But this is a birthday. Which meant we also drank the last of our special occasion Hendricks gin, and ate the steak with roasted potato and, because we were too tired to make a proper béarnaise, added a lot of chopped fresh tarragon and a little bit of garlic to mayonnaise, and it was delicious. This weekend I’m finishing a skirt, and preparing for the (very first) houseguests we’ll be receiving here in Toronto.
In the meantime, I leave you with this:
Since The Toast stopped posting I’ve been rereading old favourites, like this one on how the comment section of all articles on pubic hair grooming always look the same.
If you’re sick of washing the dishes today, go read Silvia Federici’s Wages Against Housework manifesto, originally published in 1975.
The War Room, a fun documentary on the 1992 presidential race, which Bill Clinton eventually won, featuring a very young George Stephanopoulus and directed by Chris Hegedus and D.A. Pennebaker. Sadly Hillary Clinton only makes a few sparse appearances, but her hair makes up for it.
This episode of This American Life, on being fat, has stuck with me for weeks after listening to it.
And to end things on a happy note (ha, got you there, no happy notes here), Andrea Dworkin’s short story The New Woman’s Broken Heart, part of an anthology under the same title. You can download the anthology here for free (along with most of Dworkin’s other books, too! )
Every day I wake up, walk to Kensington Market, and sit and write in a café for a few hours. I have officially started writing the first chapter of my dissertation, and it feels as if all of the interesting things I have to say at the moment are being deposited there, which leaves me at a loss for what to write here. I used to write mostly about film and being-towards-death but these days I am writing about film and schizophrenia and waiting for a man who will never arrive, and suddenly, unexpectedly, also about the joy and labour of domestic life, about cooking and gardening and the implications of recording the minutiae of the everyday, especially if you’re a woman. So for the next while my posts might be rather straightforward – I do not want this blog to feel like work.
So let’s talk about rhubarb. I realize that we are just about at the end of rhubarb season, and that I should probably tell you about the rhubarb recipes I haven’t had the chance to post about yet. There was of course the rhubarb semifreddo
and rhubarb gin
. I’ve also been adding raw rhubarb chunks to Marion Cunningham’s nutmeg muffins that I wrote about here
, and I think they make pretty splendid gifts for anyone you owe something to. Once rhubarb season hits I find myself buying stalks whenever I see some, struck by the seasonal panic of spring, terrified that the next time I hit the store there won’t be any left and it’ll be a year before I get to touch a rhubarb recipe again. Which means that during weeks where I really should not be involved in elaborate cooking projects I am faced with what the fuck to do with all the rhubarb I bought that is now obstructing the fridge door from closing properly. So I end up roasting vast amounts of rhubarb during summer, to use in different ways. Some of it we blitz to a pulp and drink with club soda (pretty, pink), some we eat with yoghurt and granola for breakfast. I also like to use it for topping cakes – plain white cake (Smitten Kitchen’s best birthday cake
recipe is my Platonic ideal in this regard), cream cheese icing, and slivers of roasted rhubarb. I pretty much always roast rhubarb in the same way, from a recipe originally found in Rose Bakery’s Breakfast Lunch Tea
(my Platonic ideal of a cookbook, fyi). Rose Carrarini has you chop up the rhubarb and mix it with some sugar, some orange juice and a vanilla pod, and through roasting you keep the colour that so often gets lost if you do it on the stovetop.
The other rhubarb project I attempted was Yossy Areffi’s rhubarb and rosewater galette
from Sweeter off the Vine
. The galettes others have made from the book have been amazing (thinking in particular of the sublime sour cherry galette Lindsay made this weekend, and that I had the pleasure to eat), but mine kind of fucked out, largely because of my lack of pastry skills. To make your day better, go look at Lindsay’s galette on Instagram, here
If you’re eating at my table this summer, there will be cornbread. It will be one of two recipes: either Huckleberry Bakery’s Buttermilk Cornbread, or my friend Marie’s Perfect Cornbread. Both are bloody delightful. Huckleberry’s version is sweeter and richer, with a honey glaze. Marie’s cornbread is one you can afford to bake more often, and has a lightness to it one doesn’t often seen in cornbread, largely due to the whipped egg whites. I add fresh corn kernels to both recipes, but they’re just as great without.
In this house cornbread often gets served with pork, it’s fatty savouriness a good foil for the sweet cornbread. This weekend the pork was in the form of a belly, rubbed in soy sauce, five spice powder and lots of garlic (recipe by way of Nigel Slater), and baked. We do the crackling once the meat is cooked, a slab a time perched on two wooden spatulas, right under the grill. On the side two oven pans of roasted rapini, tossed in a vinaigrette of chopped anchovy and lemon juice and zest, and served with some Parmesan. I served five people with $3 worth of rapini. In my world that’s a bargain.
Dessert was from Yossy Arefi’s new book, Sweeter off the Vine, a rhubarb semifreddo. I’d never made a semifreddo, so that was pretty exciting, and it tastes deeply of rhubarb, which is how I like my rhubarb recipes. Don’t disguise it with strawberries or raspberries or whatever else – it defeats the purpose. The semifreddo is just eggs, sugar, cream and roasted rhubarb – basically anyone who learnt to cook while Nigella Lawson was on television in the 90s and 2000s should have these ingredients on hand in the summer. I served it with some more roasted rhubarb on top. It is a pretty dish, but you’ll have to take my word for it – by the time we ate dessert we had all had a decent amount of wine, and the light was awful, so the pictures are all pretty gross. (You know those food bloggers that have great pictures of every party they throw? Yeah, me neither.)
In summer an entire kitchen shelf gets taken up by rhubarb and various berries soaking away in gin or vodka. There are a number of reasons for this – unlike most projects centered on preserving the best of the season this is a quick and easy task, and during spring and summer we were working too much to have energy for anything beyond chopping up fruit and adding it to alcohol. There is also the fact of what we actually consume a lot of in this house. There is a finite number of jams, jellies, and preserved fruit we can eat, and none of those are on daily rotation. But we make cocktails every night. This is a gin house.
Pictured here is a combination of this year’s batches, with some still left over from summer 2015. The bulk of our stash is rhubarb gin – cheaper than the berries, and during the season I keep on buying rhubarb a few times a week and don’t always get to actually bake with it, which means it gets dumped in gin, or more recently, vodka. Sometimes we add sugar, other times we don’t, and mix in some simple syrup into whichever cocktail we’re doing instead. We’ve been following the lead of our friend Marie, and adding sugar to the blackcurrant and redcurrant gin, which makes it less astringent. There’s also a strawberry vodka, and a raspberry vodka, and I realise both of these sound very California Barbie, but fuck it, they are delicious. I plan on spending my summer drinking it mixed with some Cava for a bastardised French 75, if you will.
The first time I made Peter Veldsman’s Sjokolade-Truffel-Mousse was the night before my eighteenth birthday. My life between the ages of sixteen and nineteen was very lonely, although not completely unhappy. In my ideal life I would have many friends and a house with a table where I could cook for them. At eighteen I had fewer than a handful friends, most of them old enough to be my parents, but I was intent on cooking a birthday lunch with a dessert that signified a different life, even if I had only one friend to ask to lunch that day, in the garden of my parent’s house, where I still lived. This chocolate mousse was that.
The process took three hours that night. It still does. Veldsman’s recipe, culled from the back of the Rapport Tydskrif somewhere in the early 90s and kept in my mother’s recipe file, is reminiscent of his French culinary training, and labour-intensive in a way that so much French cooking is, which is to say that anyone making it with any type of regularity certainly was not doing it themselves. It is also very, very good, and the recipe makes enough mousse to serve around twenty people, if not more. (Veldsman claims that it serves twelve, but the appetite of Afrikaners then must have been fucking enormous if that’s the case. I stick with twenty portions.)
It is everything I want in a special occasion dessert: the time and labour involved makes it feel worthy of a celebration, but the end product is something you actually really want to eat. It contains no sugar, written as it is for the chocolate available in South Africa in the 1990s, which was all quite sweet. So if you use chocolate with a higher percentage cocoa solids, I would adjust the sugar to counter the bitter bite of the chocolate. I also replace the fine instant coffee powder with some cold espresso, want ons drink nie Nescafé in hierdie huis nie. Although I should note that I have also made this with ground Ricoffy in times of need, and it turned out fine. If you want to use Koffiehuis, go away.
I still make it every year for my birthday. There are more people around the table now.