Party time! Excellent!
I wasn’t too worried about a week alone. I don’t really get lonely as I quite enjoy my own company and tend to have a gazillion projects on the go, so I’m never bored, but I did face down and take into account the fact that my mental health was not the greatest over the winter and that during the time Rob would be away, our province would be undergoing a nail-biting election of a new premier and being alone for that long could make it difficult to spot if depression and anxiety crept in like the creeping creeper creeps that they are.
I approached that as I normally do; by talking to my favourites and my bests (most of whom deal with depression and/or anxiety and/or other mental health issues in their own rights, so they get it) about it, making plans to visit and working a bunch of things to look forward to into my schedule and I think you all know that a thing I often look forward to is food.
Another thing I often look forward to is saving money. Knowing full well how difficult it can be to get motivated to cook decent meals for one, I began stashing single-serving leftovers from a good selection of the meals we enjoyed in the weeks leading up to Rob’s departure, leaving me with only fresh produce and a few extra bits and bobs to worry about. I think I struck a pretty impressive balance between having to do very little to keep myself fed and getting to get culinarily creative over the week.
The first evening, of course, I had the daughter over for the experimental “Soup Stuff” . The until now untold part of that story was that The Divine Miss A was also looking out for a pal who’d been feeling poorly for days, so we setup some leftovers to take to said pal who expressed her gratitude via text most adorably:
Even when ill, this lass is a beauty in all of the ways.
Day two was a bit of a shit show in catching up with administrative work and trying to get a housefly situation under control. Those little fuckers seem to know when I’m planning to entertain and decide to invite themselves to the party in legions. I’ve yet to determine their true source, but much cleaning of every nook and cranny then spritzing of homemade repellent was done so I could have folks in in good conscience.
I did get to look forward to one of my favourite I’m-eating-alone-so-I’m-eating-dirty-terrible-food dishes: Campbell’s cream of mushroom soup with pasta:
And, fuck yeah, straight-from-the-pot.
Dirty, right? But also delicious. Well, delicious as long as you know the little secrets to making it delicious, which I do after years of eating this glorious glop and I was going to tell you all of those secrets here, but quickly realized that the secrets of this scrumptious abomination deserve either a blog post of their own or to go with me to the grave. I’ll likely toss a coin on that one.
Day three was election day and did not begin well. I was stressed and anxious from the get-go and then got spanked with two projects on very tight timelines, which left me choosing to cancel plans with two friends so I could get in all of the work and civic duties, but subsequently left me alone on the one day I did not want to be alone.
First world problems out the wazoo.
To occupy my time after doing the things, I decided to treat myself to a creative kitchen sesh in which I produced a rather luscious red curry with bay scallops, snow peas, grape tomatoes and a good sprinkling of basil flowers from the balcony garden:
I unfortunately had little appetite for this sumptuous creation as, by the time it was ready, the election results were in and we have hired a giant, whinging, wanky, bigotted, selfish marshmallow of a man to rule our province for the next four years.
Tears were shed.
And, from the “because life is a roller coaster of emotions” files, awaking day four to pervasive feelings of grief for very important services and people-forward initiatives that are likely to be lost under marshmallow man’s administration were quadrupled by news of the loss of Anthony Bourdain.
In spite of the best efforts of my BFF and her mama, it took me a long time – like, until about 2 years ago – for me to accept Anthony Bourdain into my heart and life because I just don’t particularly like celebrity chefs or the culture they try to foist upon us.
Without getting into how inequitable that whole culture is at the systemic level, they tend to come off as insufferable, intolerant, boorish dude-bros with only an adequate amount of nerdiness to make them interesting enough for mass consumption. Their food may be good, but they’re the human equivalents McDonald’s french fries – only good while hot and that’s never for more than a New York minute.
Bourdain was different. I took in the entire first series of parts unknown in one fell swoop and between his willingness to put just about anything in his mouth, constant acknowledgement of his role as a corporate puppet and genuine affection for his crew, I knew he was one of my people.
I admired him. I enjoy the mirth with which he quietly opted out of wankery, without saying a fucking word, while sat at tables with other celebrity chefs indulging in wankery. I revel in him standing up and out for survivors and especially women through the Me Too movement. I so fully appreciate that balanced mix of arrogance and humility that, in my experience, comes only to those who have had hard-down face-offs with their addictions and the demons they feed.
As a friend so astutely put it: “we needed him longer”.
We did need him longer and I truly hope that others who admired him, especially men, will see how much he marched toward equity, take up his torch and walk in his footsteps.
I have zero shame in saying that I am deeply gutted by the loss of this person I never met.
Dipping into the “because life is a roller coaster of emotions” files once again, grief had to make some room for glee as a lovely love was coming in from the city bearing gifts of scallops and kefalotyri and Aperol and oodles of hugs and affection so we could kick off her birthday weekend with enough excess to make Dionysus blush.
Just seconds before lovely love called to say she was but 10 minutes away, I received this text from the daughter:
I swear that sprog has a nose for when when good shit’s goin’ down.
We quickly re-jiggered our menu to accommodate another couple of mouths and got down to the badass business of celebrating, beginning with Spritz and Pie Sniffer by the jugful. The extra booties around the table made for a good excuse to break out our market tent and table and eat al fresco, which is a thing I love doing as often as possible.
Silliness and perhaps a little help from jugs of potables pushed dinner back to after dark, so the pics are shite, but we had fun with our big fat Greek feast.
Chopped salad, Greek meatballs, spanakorizo, three different kinds of pickle and the pièce de résistance: a big skillet of sea scallops and kefalotyri saganaki with oodles of toasted ciabatta for dipping.
There was much mutual admiration of food babies shared around that table.
It was all so lovely and more than a little magical and just the balm my soul needed after a heavy day.
That one’s for you, Mr. Bourdain.
Saturday morning we were off to enjoy the patio at a favourite local eatery, Black Honey.
How pretty are those plates?
We also did a quick, if tardy, tour of our new farmer’s market, which I have a lot of thoughts a feels about that I might get into in another post, but for now let’s just say that it was bustling and lovely and it looks like we’re onto a winner.
The rest of Saturday was pretty low-key after seeing friend off to further celebrate her birthday. Lots of lazy puttering about cleaning the joint up after the previous night’s festivities and chillin’ with the fuzzy monsters. I finally made use of some of the leftovers I’d set up and made myself a mushroom gravy poutine with goat cheese curd.
So damned good. Then neighbour dudes and I decided it was time for a bonfire, so we did that…
…until 6 in the morning…talking about life, the universe and everything…because I make foolish life choices.
One neighbour gave me the loveliest compliment on this here blog with “if I didn’t know you, I’d never be able to tell where you’re from because your food is all over the place”. I’m quite chuffed about that.
Needless to say, Sunday was a total write-off and I was thankful for the leftovers from Friday night’s feast and their ability to sustain me with very little effort.
Like, I really don’t think this bowl of delicious is what they mean by “healthy Mediterranean diet”, but hey. I’m doin’ my best here. I mowed on this while watching a really fun and fascinating documentary about Italian diaspora and the distortion of food that goes with it. If you’re like me and like to poke holes in lofty ideas about “authenticity”, particularly when it comes to food, check out Food on the Go.
Monday is technically Rob’s night to cook, but was also day two of grueling travel as he made his way home. As such, I was not about to put foodie responsibility on him, plus he may have ended up grabbing a road burger. Who knew? I took charge and made us some lovely soup from the leftover soup stuff broth, which gave us a lovely, no-fuss meal to catch up over.
Between the very intentional, the rather junky, a meal out, a good bunch of spinach and strawberry salad to fill in the gaps and a little help from my friends, I think I did a pretty good job of feeding myself. I hope to not have to do it again any time soon.