Here are pictures of 5 dishes. 2 are dishes I made at home and 3 are from Lawrence restaurant where I work.
A local chanterelle and small zuchini linguini I made with a yolk from a “Les Fermes Valens” egg. Lots of olive oil, parsley and parmesan. The pasta was store bought unfortunately; had it been homemade this dish would have been a homerun.
First thing’s first: a satisfying meal I made early this summer with green pea couscous, a thyme roasted tomato, some creamy humus, and an awesome seared fennel dish with radishes, olives, red onion, feta cheese, raisins, fresh parsley and lemon juice. I served this with a nigella seed pita bread, which is so good. I need to learn how to make different breads…
Last night I watched the Polanski film Carnage. The film is based on a play that was written by the writer Yasmina Reza, who also co-wrote the screenplay with Polanski.
I was going to add a link to the trailer but I think it reveals too much. It’s better to watch it without any knowledge of what the movie is about. The acting and script are phenomenal. It might not pack quite the punch it would like to, but it’s nonetheless a well developed satire about 2 deliriously entertaining couples trying to arrive at a mutual understanding over a violent even that took place between their sons. I, personally, was mesmerized by the unfolding action and the actors. Jodie Foster in particular is a knock out. It’s fun, short and unlike anything I’ve watched recently.
I have learned a great deal about the food industry over the last year. Over that time, I’ve taken a more proactive approach to cooking for myself following a moderate set of ethical guidelines that I’ve established in accordance to my new knowledge. There were some difficult moments and meals where I blankly ignored what I knew. The summer however has brought on a wealth of new flavors and ingredients that have provided me the means to easily follow a diet that is both more sustainable and healthier.
One issue I face during the year that affects my eating habits is the desire for diversity. In North America, with the annually available products from around the world in the grocery stores, this is not so hard to do. But doing so means sacrificing your appreciation for fresh ingredients. So often, you pick up a fruit or vegetable that has traveled (literally)thousands of miles to be there, was picked before being ripe and was grown on massive industrial farms where artificial fertilizers provided the necessary nutrients for their flavor profile… Fresh produce, in season, from locally sourced farms that practice sustainable agriculture taste vastly different from what we are used to seeing at the grocery store. Over the last weeks I’ve enjoyed a plethora of wonderful foods both colorful and nutritious that have helped me try new things in the kitchen. Much of that experimenting has been simple; fresh produce doesn’t need much work to taste good, and one thing I’ve noticed is that I’ve become creative again. I had gotten bored during the winter months and seemed to use produce redundantly, without any attempt at trying new things. Of course, the summer also provides a great deal more to work with.
Here are some dishes I quickly put together over the last 2 weeks that I enjoyed. You’ll find that there are reoccurring ingredients in these dishes… The fresh produce I’ve used the most recently has been green peas, broad beans, carrots, radishes, fresh leafy greens, herbs and tomatoes. Last weekend, at the Jean-Talon market, I learned that the corn season had just started…
Wow, 10 days since my last post… Time sure flies! I’m in the middle of re-orienting my life right now and I’ve got a number of things on the go. I didn’t realize it had been so long though: my apologies.
It was cool Monday here in Montreal, with temperatures hovering around 20 degrees with large clouds providing a dramatic skyline and a healthy breeze. I had a decadent weekend of eating and celebrating with my mother and her beau who were in town for the weekend from Toronto. They had a delicious meal at Lawrence on Friday that I offered her for her birthday. They shared oysters, a pig’s cheek asparagus and mostarda appetizer(one of the best dishes ever…) and a poached duck leg with puy lentils, kale and radishes, as well as sea bream with zucchini flowers, chanterelles and mussels. For dessert they shared a strawberry tart, and a ginger rhubarb layered ice cream cake they make. I’ve tried and savored each one of those dishes and I can declare with confidence that it made for a great evening of eating.
The duck was from a farm called Au goût d’autrefois on l’Île d’Orléans, an island near Québec city. The owner, Jacques Legros and his wife, work tirelessly to provide what must be one of the most ethically admirable animal products in all of North America. Not only are their ducks, geese and turkeys well treated and loved, but they taste fantastic, due to a healthy and varied diet of different high quality grains.
After eating what some refer to as neo-rustic english cuisine at Lawrence on Friday night, Carolina(my wife) and I joined my mom and her partner for an evening of fancy Turkish food at Su, a restaurant on Wellington in Verdun, Montreal, where Fisun Ercan, the chef and owner, plates aromatic and colorful dishes from the country that bridges Europe and Asia.
It was a first time at the restaurant and we had a very good meal. I was very pleased to see them serving lamb from Kamouraska, a Québec lamb that I particularly enjoy. They live by the mouth of the St-Lawrence and the feed they graze is slightly salty due to the sea water mixing with the river and the sea winds bringing with them some of its flavor. The meat is fantastic, and SU did the lamb justice. Here’s what I ate:
Kuzu pirzola Grilled fresh lamb chops marinated with mountain herbs, mint, sumac and pomegranate infused olive oil, bulgur and seasonal vegetables
I sucked on those chop bones in an attempt to get at every last bite of meat. Fantastic. Thank you Kamouraska, and thank you Fisun and Su!
I recommend the restaurant and urge people to explore what Verdun has to offer. I was very pleasantly surprised by how charming it is.
Following a night of lamb infused sleep, the four of us woke up for another round of food: this time, some Montreal bagels, smoked meat, cream cheese, sun dried tomatoes, and a rhubarb and almond loaf from the pastry shop Rhubarbe. All of this we enjoyed sitting on a picnic table in parc Laurier near one of Montreal’s cutest neighborhoods. Picnicking is something I don’t do enough!
It was a great weekend. Eating brings us together.
I was surprised to receive a great deal of positive feedback with my last post about the gizzard salad. It was certainly unexpected. Thanks to those who sent me a “like” after reading it. It’s nice to know someone’s paying attention. It certainly helps with one’s motivation as well!
So in the spirit of blogging, I decided to write about a movie I’ve just finished watching: Mike Leigh‘s “Another Year“.
But first, a bit of context. My wife and I first discovered Mike Leigh when we watched the brilliantly comical film “Happy-go-Lucky“ last year. It was a great watch; heartwarming, sidesplittingly funny and tender. The characters were so richly developed. The film felt real and alive: with amusing moments and sad ones carefully weaved to produce a very enjoyable nugget of cinema. I can’t remember the details of the story very much so I won’t go into great detail about why the film was so good, but I was finished the film with deal of respect for the filmmaker and wanted to know more. The film was a poignant character piece whose plot was life, the interplay of people, their emotions and their day-to-day activities.
Following that, we rented “Naked”, whose protagonist was played by David Thewlis, an actor I very much enjoy. What a shock! It was much darker and edgier than “Happy-go-Lucky”, with none of its lighthearted whimsy. But the film was incredible! Once again, a rich canvas of characters suffering their fates in various ways, each one unique and well rounded. While the film’s cynical and bleak mood was surprising, the richness of the characters was not, and once again, Carolina and I were thoroughly impressed with the experience; even more so because the tone was so vastly different than “Happy-go-Lucky”.
Tonight we watched “Another Year”. The plot follows an older couple whose life has been stimulating and rewarding. Still in love, they garden and cook together and calmly reflect on aging and living fruitfully. Interrupting this gentle environment are coworkers, friends and family who, for the most part, haven’t really got things together: they’re drunk, bitter, depressed and alone; looking for redemption and some sympathy. The film is broken into four parts, each being a season of the year, hence the title… To a certain extent there is no plot. The film weaves the relationships in such a way to bring about reflection about life, death, happiness and love. The film is essentially about living. Now this may seem broad, but Mike Leigh’s powers reside in developing engagingly fully developed personalities that deal with their own demons and circumstances.
The film asks the question of how to live a good life. Part of the answer it gives is taking responsibility for one’s actions. However, the film isn’t so didactic or obvious. All in all, it’s a series of conversations, and within them, by getting to know the characters, the viewer comes to value certain things over others. The healthier characters are more aware of their failings, of their own selves, while the rest fear to face the personal issues that cause them to hurt themselves. Perhaps slightly conservative in outlook, the film’s symbolic center is the happy older couple’s garden, where they work the earth in return for life’s wonderful bounty. The couple’s been in love for ever and the whole thing is perhaps a little too perfect. In my mind, Leigh also puts too much responsibility on the backs of the sufferers and says very little about the society itself, which seems to me an important influence on the health of our emotional and psychological states. Despite these criticisms, the film remains wonderfully directed and produces vivid portraits of distinct characters. The actors are brilliant and the simplicity of it all is divine. The film doesn’t finish with any overt or obvious answers for the poor characters who suffer so, but that’s part of its success: the ability to paint a detailed picture of life, contrasting some of the paths and decisions we make and letting the viewer come to his own conclusions.
***A caveat: I’m very much aware that this is the nerdiest post I have ever written.
In September of 2011 I joined the Karate “Dojo” at the CEPSUM gym in Montréal. I had repeatedly heard of the benefits of studying a martial art. I remember a woman with whom I worked who started Kung Fu and would repeatedly rave about the empowering qualities of the discipline. “It’s the best thing I’ve ever done” she would declare ever so often.I found numerous ways not to join. The gym was too far, the costs too expensive, the schedule not right and so on.
Years later, last fall, the circumstances fell into place for me to take my first session of classes. Twice a week I went to the gym for an hour and a half and followed our senseis as they had us repeat the different moves and combinations that make up the discipline.
My first impression was one of instant pleasure. I laughed to myself upon hearing some of the more experienced students yell out “OUS!” after the sensei’s teachings and comments. “OUS!” is the term used to declare understanding to what your sensei says, and it should generally be pronounced loudly and clearly, with confidence. Hearing a choir of OUSes seems comical at first but one quickly falls in line with doing so: that wall of self-consciousness disappears and one adjusts to this new world with its own unique social mores.
What’s clear in a Karate dojo is the hierarchy of power. There are a set of traditions and habits that one must follow in order to respect the sensei and the discipline itself. I took pleasure in acquiescing to our 2 senseis’ demands. I find North America generally suffers from a lack of respect towards the older generations. There’s a generational divide within society, and the youth don’t often seek to learn from those with more life experience. While this is a generalization, our society nonetheless celebrates the individual, and mythologizes his accomplishments as his own and not the product of a conducive social environment. A consequence of this is a self-absorbed, often naively arrogant youth content to proudly blaze ahead in their endeavors without taking the proper amount of time to assume the responsibility in analyzing the consequences of their actions. I am a child of this generation and certainly not immune to its influences…
I think we’ve forgotten the satisfaction in learning from those with experience. Ideally a balance in society could be struck where a respect for traditions and older generations doesn’t trump to importance of innovation, creativity, reason and critical thought in younger generations. We must avoid subservience to past ideas when they have become out-dated or are shown to be inadequate or worse, oppressive, but this doesn’t mean that we should proclaim our self-righteousness without considering the self reflections of those who have once gone through the same trials and tribulations as we inevitably will.
While I don’t think that wisdom necessarily lies in age, I do think that aging provides people with a form of knowledge and wisdom that can be gained in no other way. There’s a humility in aging that needs to be respected; even celebrated. I think that a more engaged dialogue amongst generations would enrich our societies greatly.
At the Dojo I have the pleasure of following the advice and teachings of 2 amazing senseis. I find their simple presence to be inspiring: calmly assertive and aware. I’m more than happy to bow before them, because I know that they are not my betters, only my teachers, and that what brings us together is Karate. As senseis, their role is to communicate the practices of the medium, not to impose them, or alter them for their own purposes. My empowerment stems from personal improvement and the feeling that I may one day be good enough to also share my experience with a younger generation of practitioners. I fully intend on getting my black belt, which has a ladder of 10 Dans, or grades, which represent a practitioner’s level of experience. My sensei Fethi is 5th Dan, and my sensei Katsumata is 7th Dan and apparently the highest level Shotokan Karate practitioner in Canada. The 2 of them, and other black belts from among the students who have led classes or assist the senseis, provide the kind of inspirational framework that we CHOOSE to follow. There is no goading or repression.
What strikes me when I’m in class practicing is how much more there is for me to learn: not only in terms of combinations or moves, but in terms of physical control and awareness. In fact, most of Karate is about awareness. Our group is comprised of people aged anywhere between 18 and I’d say over 75(although I wouldn’t dare to ask the man in question just yet…). The physical aptitudes of each practitioner is unique to his work ethic and experience. While sensei Fethi is more physically imposing and thus understandably strong, sensei Katsumata can’t weigh much more than 130 pounds, and yet against almost everyone in the Dojo, his understanding of the way to accentuate the strength in his body is such that he remains completely dominant even with those much heavier and stronger. The black belts from our dojo demonstrate a physical and mental self control unrelated to age. The awe inspiring quality of karate is that control: the focus particular to very few activities when a complete awareness takes over one’s actions. This is where Karate strives to get you: a kind of transcendent consciousness of mind and body. And while complete control may never be attainable, if you were to see my senseis practicing you would understand how impressively far one may get in striving to reach that goal.
The world is a highly stimulating and chaotic place. Living in an urban environment as I do only accentuates that state. For a short period of time, in my classes, I work at erasing all that chaos and focusing on the moment. Ironically, being that I’m submitting myself to a set of very precise activities, it’s incredibly liberating. There’s something so very human about Karate. It’s not about god, nature, or some transcendent power: it’s about your body and the limits of who we are as human beings.