You might ask why I was eating a burger at all last night, and the answer is that simply, in this lovely little restaurant I was taken to in Toronto, the fish had no appeal – simply none. (And later, when I tasted that of one of my co-guests, I recognized that that had been the right decision, anyway.) I could have ordered vegetables but I had been eating them faithfully all day, and I was cranky. I could’ve ordered a big piece of meat but it felt hypocritical and wasteful. Maybe I should’ve gone to bed.
But after sharing a few unpromising appetizers, I begged the waitress for a really rare burger and she said, “When you ask for rare they make it medium rare,” and I said, “I know, that’s how it often is, and though I’d prefer it rare I don’t mind it medium rare, but if it’s medium I’m going to be unhappy,” and she said, “Then you’ll be very happy.” And it came out well done. And I wasn’t unhappy at all, I just didn’t eat much of it. I ate fries and roasted beets.
Other than that it was a great day. Lunch at Terroni, one of a small chain of pretty authentic-seeming Italian joints, was better than pretty good; I had pasta with mushrooms and two coffees. (Book tour requires much coffee.) There was a taped interview with Canada’s food channel; a sort of better-organized one with Maclean’s magazine where we strolled through a supermarket pointing out that you had to search for decent food but it was there, buried among the crap; a sit-down with Malcolm Jolley of Good Food, who insisted on taping the conversation with a little camera in front of his face the whole time, which seems to be au courant, though why you’d rather plough through a video in real time than read a writer’s analysis of it is beyond me … and … maybe that was it.
In the evening I met Matt Galloway, the handsome young radio personality whom I’ve always liked; we did an onstage q&a in Toronto in January 2009, and had fun. This year we were at The Stop, a wonderful collection of rebuilt bus and trolley car garages, or “car barns,” now called Whychwood Barns and housing community groups, artists, startups, and a whole lot of sustainable-food related activities, including afterschool cooking for kids. Excellent scene.
Matt and I talked and took questions on a stage in front of 300 or more enthusiastic Torontoians, or whatever they call themselves, and a couple of them were especially interesting. Asked why I didn’t just recommend veganism, I asked the vegans in the audience to raise their hands; there were two. Asked how many people intended to become vegan, I counted 15 or maybe 20 hands. Asked how many people intended to cut back on animal products, at least 200 hands went in the air. So I felt … hmm, like I was maybe making some sense.
There was another question about gender and cooking and stigma and how all that was going to shake out which I realized I had to think about a lot more. Whatever my answer was, it got applause, so it must not have been too stupid. But there was a sociological upheaval in the second half of the 20th century that took all of us with it, and some of that was around the role of women, which needless to say had an impact on cooking that is only just now coming full circle. More on this sometime.
Off to Pittsburgh, to see my friend Andrew Morrison, now running Habitat restaurant in the Fairmont Hotel. He’s created a menu based on Food Matters Cookbook, with a few of his own twists, and I’m looking forward to it. And to seeing Andrew, and Christine, and Kelly. And to running along the river – I hope the Monongahela! - this afternoon.
(Photo Credit: Ben Mark)