DAY 1 of 3 BEFORE DEPARTURE (one week ago)
STARDATE: FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 21, 2012
MISSION: THROW A GOING-AWAY PARTY
** note: the memory card for my camera corrupted a few days ago, so this text is simply what it is and no pictures to interrupt it… all’s the better. I’ll be writing down all the recipes mentioned later, too **
Today is my last day in Montreal. So, it’s in this morning, to stare at the unfortunately grey sky and put together the final orchestral movements on the feast I’ve made for my goodbye party tonight, and hope I’ve made enough wonderful things to eat to show them the depth and the field of my love. A kind of nostalgic and wild cook-off that will, I hope, empty my fridge to bareness.
- 01. Brine pork shoulder for banh mi sandwiches
- 02. Marinate firm tofu slices in lemongrass, soy and ginger. also for banh mi sandwiches.
(the ability to properly cook meat has, I’ve decided, no malevolent characteristics. It is a gentle sashay away from death. It is a transformation of death into soul, mobility, and colour. The ability to cook tofu requires force. and garlic)
And I’ve decided that I don’t find much interest in doing things “one last time,” so my final days have been very normal. No desire to eat crackly sweet sesame rings from St-Viateur or Fairmount bagel shops. No need to fill my senses with the carnival of growing things that is the Jean-Talon market. The mountain is no fun when it’s raining like today, and the museum of contemporary art does call my name, but not out of nostalgia, just interest, and I do not have time.
- 03. Make a run to buy one tablespoon of ginger. Put that into gingersnap batter. Turn (some) gingersnaps into crumb crust for key lime bars. Frost others with pink strawberry glaze.
- 04. Make meringue.
(Despite the implied uniformity of the icebox cookie’s geometrically cylindrical shape, it’s probably this very expectation of perfection that stymies it. A drop cookie – oatmeal, say – may be as nubbly, off-form and craggily as it wishes, but an ill-shapen icebox cookie is particularly unsatisfying. That is why I reshape all the ones that require it back into adequately perfect circles before I bake. Gingerbread rhomboids suck)
I’ve even left my dancing shoes in the closet… I’ve been fading from the after-dark scene in Montreal, and no approaching departure date could really make me want to pretend to like partying with hipsters anymore. They’re super nice people, but it’s been the same party for seven years, and I’m not fresh out of art school anymore and I don’t do the drugs that they do. Or any at all these days.
- 05. Assemble raw ingredients for dips – Hummus, salsa, and avocado-edamame – in correctly sized containers for blending later. Can’t make too much noise now, the house is still asleep.
- 06. Finely julienne 2 combined pounds of carrot and daikon. Pickle them in (yet another) brine.
(Ingredients combined together while still being distinct is one of my favourite phases of food. It’s the introductory bits of a relationship, the parts where everything’s still exciting as the butter melts the breadcrumbs and the heat of the onions bring the spices out of their shell. Homogenity can happen later, after the mosaic part. After the part where i can pluck out certain components if I’ve accidentally fudged up the mix).
It’s not that I don’t love this city. I adore it. It’s become a gilded cage, though. I feel like I’ve eaten it’s fruits (juice dribbling down my chin) and absorbed it’s nature so many times already that the taste has become ordinary, and I’m starving for something it can’t provide. A re-invention, maybe.
- 07. Noise OK now. Make stovetop popcorn. Make white chocolate (Valrhona white chocolate) crab-apple popcorn with that. Sweet.
(Using up extremely expensive ingredients on projects that may or may not be worth the quality upgrade is one of the most stripped-down exultory pleasures in life. This kind of pleasure is only increased when the reason for using the ingredients is to remove it’s added weight from your luggage just before leaving town. Pure hedonism).
Of course I will be back one day. Most of the major players in my life live here – the people that I’ve known for so long that I can bare a reasonable amount of guts to them and if my bones or messed-up bits show that’s like, totally OK. People who have pulled me out of the fire again, and again, and again. Curiously, in the past few days, I’ve been making time stop when I’m with my friends. I can see their movements happen as if through glass and in perfect clarity. It’s never happened before like this. I think I’m taking mental snapshots.
- 08. Bake off PB oatmeal raison-chocolate cookies from the freezer. Don’t forget about the shrimp dumplings in there.
(We are so lucky that we are all masters of a simple kind of time machine. And one with very few hazards at that, save freezer burn and the occasional freon leak).
Come to think of it, it wouldn’t make any sense to run around being a tourist in my own city as a way of saying goodbye. No wonder I’ve been focussing so much more on my blog and the inner world and preparing for this party I’m throwing tonight. The snapshots – that is, the moments that have impact – we decide where they occur. Where the stress (both emphasis and challenge) is. It won’t be a challenge today to fall into grace with my chef’s knife and the soft hues of produce and the smell of ginger and the egg whites. That is a dance that my Self With No Name understands – it’s a universal language that applies anywhere people are hungry and there is water enough to boil. Like a turtle, I know I won’t feel scared or hopeless no matter where I go, as long as I’m allowed to cook.
- 09. Empty the pantry of all chips, cookies, crackers, pretzels and popcorn. Bowls.
- 10. Empty fridge of all vegetables, fruits, meat and cheese. Slice and arrange.
- 11. Stop to admire the space left behind.
(Do not leave anything behind that can be enjoyed today. Cavort and frolic in the idea of having no resources left. I would like a pin made, “I survived 6 days without peanut butter” to be worn proudly at opportune occasions, such as first dates with friends, hiking trips, parties where I know nobody, and in Parisian grocery stores).
The challenge of this party won’t be making the food. It will be understanding what it means to say goodbye. I don’t understand it yet. I think I’m beginning to, but there’s still time left to spend and words to say, and I haven’t seen anyone’s hair from behind for the last time yet.
- 12. Assemble banh mi sandwiches. Finishing touches on the table.
- 13. Make a nice gin drink with leftover key limes.
(Spending a day preparing a feast has a way of turning the simplicity of a cold apple for dinner into an even more distinct pleasure).
I’m actually in Vietnam already. The goodbyes have already been made. The table cleared, rooms vacated, suitcases bursting with breakfast cereals, airports navigated with patience. Still nursing some jet lag, and not as lonely as I would be if my lover weren’t asleep next to me, here in the cheapest hostel room in Hanoi. Sometimes, you have to forget that there is anything to miss that isn’t right here beside you.
♥ Enormous love to my friends and family!! ♥