Catching my breath after a busy, for me, week. My friend JCD visiting from New York had me walking around downtown & neighborhoods I rarely spend much time it. He was staying at the Courtyard just north of College. His first day here we had a banal lunch at the ‘market’ cafe in College Park (never again). Supper that night at Swiss Chalet. Love the ribs. I hadn’t realized that 7/11 & Starbucks had made such inroads south of College along Yonge.
The next day we had a great lunch at Flo’s Diner. A reliable kitchen, smooth coffee with great staff. I lunch there every other month or so & am never disappointed. The following day we got over to Kensington market after getting off the street car at Bathurst – I loved the reclaimed cargo container food shops – nothing tempted me though. Did a good look through Kensington stores. Checked out the wood burning bagel place (I’ll hit there another day) but I really had to try The Grilled Cheese on Nassau St – simple menu & good, thick, oozing delicious cheese sandwiches served with ripple chips (you can’t have everything.) Simple fare but the best grilled cheese I’ve had in ages. The place had a sweet 60’s vibe interior & the cub waiter was hot hot hot. I’ll eat there again.
That night we supped at Sambucas on Church St. Good pasta & more excellent service. I lunch here occasionally & have always been impressed by the inventive menu, reliable kitchen & the friendly staff. Our final dining experience was Lunch Saturday at Como en Casa on Yonge. When it says authentic I have to believe because I have nothing to compare it too – I had a perfectly spicy beef stew with rice, beans & a big corn chip. I’ll certainly lunch here again too.
As reluctant as I was to see my friend off to the airport Saturday I was eager to get back to my routine, cut out the carbs, spend a day doing s.f.a & not wondering how much to tip or if the washroom has something to dry your hands on – hmm that’s an idea – maybe I should do restaurant bathroom reviews?
a little something to get you in the mood for halloween:
Getting my bags packed for Loyalist. How many tee shirts? If only teleportation for luggage was possible I’d travel more. Picked a couple of sections of the Priest’s Niece to take for workshopping. I had considered one of my weird tales as they requite no backstory to understand.
Each year the food options on campus have shrunk as they remodel the cafeteria area – last year we were reduced to Tim Ho’s till 11 a.m. then Subway from 11 till 3 p.m. This year its only Tim’s but it’ll be open till 3. I’m hoping this year it will be a full service Tim’s. Last year, I think, they had usual line of donuts & bagels & wraps but not much else – & even those ran out as it appeared stocks weren’t replenish during the week. Once the cheddar bagels were gone by Tuesday there was no more.
Going off campus for lunch is a pain – we have a two hour break but that time usually used to get ready for workshopping in the afternoon. Nearest off-campus dining is another Tim’s – joy. other spots are twenty minutes away – so adding travel time etc. there’s an hour down the drain.
Here’s one of the pieces I’m taking for workshopping from my 2012 nano:
(Set in Cape Breton coal mining town – mid 1920’s)
Even though the chill of spring was over Lillian shivered under the heavy woolen cover. It wasn’t even a blanket as far as she was concerned. It kept the heat in but she felt cold. The sheet between her and the wool wasn’t thick enough to keep the coarse fiber from chafing her feet. The cover was like everything in her uncle’s house. Coarse. Homemade. She tried to picture the parishioner who had made this and brought it as gift to her uncle. It was meant to be a rug. Under it she tugged her mother’s shawl tighter around her shoulders. It smelled of comfort, of the life she had left behind to come here to this clumsy backwater coal mining town.
Lillian pushed the stiff cover off her and swung her feet to the floor. They recoiled from the cold. She should have left the rug where it was but pulling it over her in the night was the only way she could think of to keep warm. Her uncle had offered one of the quilts but she had refused. The tattered rag patterned comforters looked even more home made than the rug.
Lillian put on her slippers and wrapped her dressing gown around her. The dark blue silk was embroidered with small pink flowers along the hem with larger ones on the pockets and lapels. It was one of the few things her uncle had let her keep when she arrived. He felt her Boston clothes were too good, too indulgent for someone living his house. He didn’t want anything to be a distraction for his parishioners.
“Such gaudy goods are a sign of a lack of faith. The Lord wants us plain when we stand before him not gussied up like a peacock.” He had said as he went through her trunk shoving all her pretty clothes aside and picking the ones he deemed suitable. “They’ll be in the attic till you are fit to leave us. Your father thinks he’s made a man of himself but he never knew the meaning of decorum.”
Her tears only made him impatient with her. Now here she was dressing in rough, colorless, shapeless pinafores, coarse linen shifts that gave her no shape. She wondered if he was more concerned with her being a temptation to him than a lure of Satan to his parishioners.
Her room didn’t even have a mirror. She hadn’t seen her face clearly since she arrived three months ago. There were no mirrors in the priest’s house and certainly none in the small church.
She splashed cold water on her face. Her hands were red and chafed from the housework she was now responsible for. Learning here what her uncle said her father and mother had failed to teach her. How to be a woman who could serve others, not a wonton who only served her own pleasures.
She sat at her dressing table to brush her hair. More than her clothes she missed her cosmetics – the lotions and creams she could use to keep her hands, soft, to keep her hair radiant. All she had been allowed some Castile rose soap. She stared at the space on the wall where a mirror had once been. She knew that by the discolored, and water-mottled rose wallpaper around a clean rectangle of red roses.
She tugged the brush through her hair trying to be gentle with the knots that always crept into it overnight. She resisted the temptation to pull harder, not wanting to break it off in clumps. She longed for a long, hot bath but that wasn’t possible in this house. Too much work to heat enough water for a bath.
One snag pulled painfully at her scalp. She began to cry. This was unbearable. All she had wanted to do was get married. At twenty-two it was time for her to get married yet her father was always on the guard for young men who wanted his money, wanted her for his money. At the same time her mother was wary of men who might not respect her as a woman. Men who would corrupt her with their unwholesome demands.
When she had met David Henderson two summers ago, she felt she had found someone to please them both. Older than her by five years, David came from an equally prosperous family. He was modest. The two of them had signed temperance cards. They had never been together unchaperoned expect when they walked to church together.
Yet when he asked her father for her hand in marriage her father had said no. He forbade her to ever see that ‘Henderson man’ again. When she pressed him for an explanation her father told her she was only to obey. At church the next week she was told that David had been sent to England by his family. They too felt this would be an unwise match. She later learned the the problem was that David’s mother was Jewish.
That was when James Dunham came into her life. A dashing and very rich man in his thirties who charmed both her mother and father. James had no family in Boston and was there to establish himself in banking. A man her parents trusted and whom she was allowed to be alone with to go to the theatre.
Only he didn’t take her to the theater every time. He would make a great show of it to her parents and then whisk her back to his rooms at the Lennox Hotel. There they would dine in private. He was eager to show her what ‘unwholesome demands’ meant on two occasions. On the second her father arrived at the door unannounced. The hotel manager thought it wise to alert her father as to what was happening.
This is what she had come to from the bright promise of Boston. Her father about to become a senator and here she was exiled in shame to Cape Breton. At least she didn’t end up in a home for wayward girls. Even though she had miscarried she was deemed unfit to be seen as member of the family in Boston society.
Her father’s brother, Uncle Pat, whom she was now to refer to as Father Patrick, had agreed to take her in. He needed a housekeep, or so his letter said. Housekeep! All she had here was an occasional kitchen helper. She was sorry she hadn’t died when she lost the baby.
“Lillian. Lillian are you about.”
“Yes Uncle Pat. I will be down momentarily.” She gave up with her hair. Without a mirror or the proper pomades there was no point in trying maintain it.
She shrugged her smock on over her head and tied a dark blue rag around her hair to keep it off her face.
In the kitchen she was relieved to see that her uncle had cut wood for her. Most mornings he left that work to her. He had even started a fire in the stove. He sat at the small pine table on the one chair in the room.
“Thank you Father Pat for getting the fire going.” She had learned quickly that her uncle expected gratitude for every thing he did around the house.
“It is my pleasure to be of service.”
She pumped water into the kettle and set it on the stove.
“Tea will be ready shortly.” she told him. “Would you like the Ceylon or the English?”
“The Ceylon I think. Yes, it’s definitely a morning for the Ceylon.”
Lillian put the iron skillet on the stove and greased it lightly. It was quickly warm enough for the one egg and one piece of bacon that her uncle ate every morning with one thick piece of bread. She was to prepare his before she could eat anything. She wasn’t allow the bacon.
Her uncle had come to Cape Breton several years ago after two years in a monastery. There he enjoyed an austere life of silence free of concern about, what he now called, objects. Yet he found the solitude taxing and dedicated that he was more suited to being of service with humanity in a more direct way.
The kettle whistled and she poured the water into the tea pot. She was allowed to have a cup of tea with him though. He felt eating in the morning together would be unseemly. Too much like what properly married catholics would do.
She served him his breakfast.
“Now you remember that today is when the union men are coming to speak with me.”
“Yes Unc … I mean Father Pat. I baked two pies last night.”
“Apple and rhubarb.”
“Yes as you asked. I also made some of the chicken soup you like.”
“Not too meaty I hope.”
“Good. We want them to know the Lord is bountiful but also that we aren’t foolish with his bounty.” He wiped the last of the egg yolk up with a crust of the bread.
“This is very good bread, Lillian. You have learned very quickly. I’ll never forget that first loaf.” He laughed as she blushed. “I’m still using it as a door stop at the church.”
“God finds a use for everything.” She forced a laugh. It was all she could do not to run from the room to cry.
Not that I’m a coffee hound or expert but I enjoy a brew most days. Usually when I’m out for my morning constitutional. When I first moved to Greenwood/Danforth – there was no fast/take-out closer than Carrot Common. Now it’s a five minute walk between Tom Ho’s, ten between various Starbucks.
Nearest me now is Red Rocket. I hit the Rocket at least once a week, even when it was down on Queen – but a five minute walk suits lazy me. Friendly staff, great coffee & in-house baked goods. Their peanut butter cookie is the best in the city, try it. I also like the peanut butter square & the macaroons are excellent. I’m waiting for a combo: peanut butter macaroons. A great place to sit & work too – I used it last November for a weekly NaNoWriMo meet-up & edit & hope to get back there weekly again now that I don’t have to deal with winter wear.
My Sunday walks take me to Cake Town – sort of at Danforth/ Woodbine. Another great spot with an in-house bakery with a great selection of savory scones and cookies. Friendly staff & smooth coffees – now that winter has passed I can walk in & not have my glasses fog over so badly that I cant’ see what else they offer. I’d recommend their pecan butter tarts if you need a sugar rush. Good peanut butter cookie too, but not as good the Rocket’s.
If I don’t hit Cake Town on Sunday I drop into Bandit – at Gerrard/Woodbine – a great local coffee spot. Recently opened but has built up a strong following for the area. I’ve only been in their maybe three of four times now & different staff each time. Good coffee but ‘imported’ cookies, muffins. Imported from local bakery, not in house. Passable peanut butter cookie, muffins okay but clearly fresh on Friday but not so fresh by Sunday.
I also drop by Starbucks & Tim Ho’s frequently. Tim’s has my favorite bagel – the jalapeño that has a nice heat to it. The two Starbucks on the Danforth are always too busy for sit down but the one at Gerrard/Jones has a nice upper level that is ideal for a quiet chat. I hit the Timothy’s at carrot Common when I want a super strong coffee – their sticky vanilla square always goes well with that.
Travel often means eating in diners, cafes, restaurants & airports. Even staying, as I did, with my sister here in Sydney, I dined out more than usual. Usually for lunch. With more Tim Ho’s per capita than doctors, Cape Breton is right on the money for coffee and donuts. What I like about the Tim’s here is that the coffee is stronger than in Toronto and they offer a regional snack – oak cakes – that I love.
My airport dining experience was in Toronto – things done to chicken at a Swiss Chalet – their summer special Greek meal – the tzatziki make a good replacement for the sauce plus the veggies were not over cooked but a bit of feta would have completed the meal.
When we went to the Miners’ Museum we ate at the Miners’ Village Restaurant after we went through the exhibits. The menu was limited but hearty. I would have like to see a few more nods of what the miners would have eaten – I’m sure they didn’t have California veggie wraps. I went for the hot hamburger with gravy sandwich. the burger was excellent – the fries okay. The Museum itself is excellent for an introduction into the mines but merely hints at the daily life of the miners. A trip into the mine is the best way to get a feel for the conditions the miners worked in.
After the Miners’ I hit the Whitney Pier Museum – which I love – not much new has been donated since I was last there 5 years ago but I enjoyed going through the old high school year books and seeing the exhibits on the extensive and various ethnic communities that were isolated in the Pier. Many groups sought to stick together and never strayed far from their ‘stomping grounds.’ Even in Toronto is Little Italy, Little India etc. But there is an awareness of each other – when I grew up in Sydney, I didn’t know there was black community till I was in my late teens.
On Monday I had lunch with an old friend at Centre 200 where I had forgettable bacon & eggs to the sound of clicking slot machines. An ideal place to get caught up with each other without the distraction of tasty food.
Tuesday was another lunch with another old friend – this time at an old haunt – The New Moon was the first Chinese restaurant to open in Sydney. I can sort of remember my first jumbo shrimp, definitely remember my first Singapore Sling. The menu remains pretty much unchanged, prices haven’t gone up that much either and the food was good.
It was a short walk from the New Moon to hit Wentworth Perk again, had time to sit on the patio and enjoy the rather steady stream patrons. More attractive men who needed a shave than I would have expected. Coffee as good as on my first visit, great date square & my old friend gave me a section of her Turtles cheese cake which was perfect. I did hear from one of the owners after my pervious post and they hoping to start a spoken-word night in the fall.
Travel also mean a change in routine for me. Not big changes but enough to make me appreciate getting back to those routines. Less reading, less writing too – this time – but I have been making notes & picking up books to fill in the context for my next novel (Coal Dusters). I’ve had a few chats about it with people I’ve met on my search for info & the reaction is positive. The time era – mid 1920’s – is one that hasn’t been look at too closely and certainly not in fiction.
here’s an old piece about growing up in Cape Breton –
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