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Happy Canada Day!

It’s Canada Day – 8 a.m. in Provence, still the middle of the night back home. Tonight my mother will sit on her sister Do’s balcony with a glass of white wine, and the two British expats will watch the fireworks explode over Parliament Hill. My Vancouver-born daughter will see many old friends at Chris Kitney’s annual wild Canada Day bash, which she’s been attending since the year high school ended. Chris Kitney is an important young man in our annals – he was in the basement with me when the fire started next to us; he burned his hands trying vainly to put it out.

My Ottawa-born son is in the Muskokas doing landscaping while waiting for the strike in Toronto to be over so the ferries resume and he can go back to work on the islands. Some, possibly even a great deal of beer will be consumed tonight, to celebrate our country. In Gordes, Canada will be toasted with a glass or three of rosé.

Here in this densely-packed country overloaded with rules, I miss the fresh, straightforward openness of Canadians and the absurd vastness of our country, those thousands of almost empty miles. Bears, mountains, poutine, Molson’s, Margaret Atwood. I love the fact that most Canadians aren’t sure of the exact words of our national anthem. Have we changed “in all our sons command” or not? Oh Canada.
But I also remember each landing back in Toronto from Europe, the highway drive in from the airport through a wasteland of industrial buildings, a lake barely visible behind a forest of apartments, the chaotic jumble of new and newer buildings. Each time, seeing it all afresh, I’ve exclaimed, “It’s so UGLY here!” It would be different landing in Halifax with its pretty wooden houses and the sea, or in Vancouver, that loveliest of cities with sea and mountains. But Toronto, no two ways about it, is ugly.
It’s a great, vibrant city, and I’ve just learned that Christopher Hume, the architecture critic for the Toronto Star, has named “any street in Cabbagetown” among the ten best streets of Toronto. My own tree-filled neighbourhood with its rows of Victorian brick is anything but ugly. But when you come back from somewhere beautiful, Toronto hurts the eyes. And as I sit here in Provence in July, the thought of Toronto in February and March – well, let’s just not think about it.
Or about Stephen Harper either.
Toronto may not be beautiful in general but parts of it are and it’s home. At the end of August I will be overjoyed to be back in Canada, my beloved country.
Meanwhile, back in France, time to talk about food – did some more cooking yesterday, from a recipe ripped out of the newest Elle magazine. Tuesday mornings, the Gordes market fills the village square. I was amazed at how it’s grown in the last ten years, and, this time, at how few food stalls there are. Most of the stalls are aimed at tourists – filmy cotton clothing, hats, lavender, Provencal tablecloths, salad bowls, soaps. Incongruously, there was a group of people native I’d guess to Bolivia or Ecuador, wearing American Indian garb, floor-length feather head-dresses, loin cloths and ankle bells, dancing about to some vaguely South American Muzak. I’ve seen them at other markets; I guess it’s their moneymaking schtick.
At some point I’ll buy a dozen lavender sachets as gifts, but yesterday, we needed groceries – peaches, apricots, tomatoes, nectarines. I bought dried sausage from Arles and stopped at the olive lady’s stall – a huge array of olives, nuts, dried fruit – and bought several kinds of olives and some tapenade, olive paste, and almonds. At the butcher’s I bought a chicken – had to ask him to cut off its feet and head, thank you very much. Almost didn’t make it back up to the house – it was well over 30 degrees by 11 a.m., broiling hot, breathless. Panting and sweating profusely by the time I got home with a backpack of supplies. When it’s that hot, the sun can feel like a punishment; I understand now why during the day, Denis keeps the shutters down and the doors closed.
Following the recipe, I stuffed the chicken with black olives, sprigs of fresh rosemary and garlic cloves, then put more garlic, olives and rosemary with olive oil in a baking dish, rolled the chicken in it, covered the dish and baked it, with a pan of new potatoes also rolled in olive oil. In an hour and a half, there was dinner. The house smelled divine and the taste was pretty good too. Even the Frenchman thought so.
Tonight, the leftover chicken and potatoes will be good, but oh, for one of Chris Kitney’s fat hamburgers doused in ketchup and an ear of fresh corn and some Caesar salad. Mmm.
One more thing: ol’ Eagle Eyes, Bruce in Vancouver, pointed out an error a few posts back. I wrote that we had melon as an aperitif, but the aperitif is the drink before the meal. The melon was the hors d’oeuvre or the entrée. Thanks for the correction.
Happy Canada Day, Brucie. Glorious and free.



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About Beth

I began keeping a journal at the age of nine. Nearly fifty years later, I started this online journal, sharing reflections, reviews, updates, and the occasional secret.

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