Thanks, friend

We visited the 519 where a small memorial for Orlando has been set up. Left a small sympathy card. Started crying again, and someone handed me a box of tissue kept on site for just such an occasion. Tender mercies at tender times. Thanks friend.

The Village at Yonge

Abstract painting of a Toronto street scene in the rain. The rain-drenched streets reflect bright reds, contrasting the dull grey blue buildings fading into the grey blue sky. This is the Gay Village at Yonge.

Abstract painting of a Toronto street scene in the rain. The rain-drenched streets reflect bright reds, contrasting the dull grey blue buildings fading into the grey blue sky. This is the Gay Village at Yonge.

This is a recent abstract painting I finished. I love red lights in the rain. Set against the grey of the road and sky, they are beacons drawing the eye in. The weather and light work together to bring us down to earth, away from the urban forest or flagpoles and banners and skyscrapers all of which are receding. We are visually drawn down to a human scale but still have difficult discerning human form from street furniture. It is at this human level that we find the most to connect with.

The original painting measures 36″x24″

Jerk Chicken in a Dutch Oven

I spent Friday in a course for work. While the instructor was interesting, he spent way too much time telling stories, and not enough time covering the material. We ended half an hour early – his decision – and rushed through everything. He kept saying “we’re running out of time” and then would talk about that time years ago when he did something. Drove me crazy, and has inspired me to shut up and get on with today’s recipe: Dutch Oven Jerk Chicken, Rice and Beans. I bought all these spices at a local bulk food store for just a couple of bucks, and have enough for a couple more dishes (Jerk shrimp, anyone?!)

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup canola oil
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 medium onion, diced
  • 1 1/2 to 2 teaspoons cajun spice
  • 2 small bay leaves
  • 2 cups uncooked Basmati rice
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 13.5 oz. can (1 3/4 cups) coconut milk (I use Thai Kitchen’s organic lite coconut milk)
  • 15.5 oz. can red kidney beans, rinsed and drained
  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • 1 teaspoons paprika
  • 4 chicken thighs
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 Tablespoons Jerk spice

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F
  2. Put rice in a bowl and rinse until the water runs clear (just once or twice should do)
  3. Throw chicken thighs and Jerk spice into a baggie and shake it up, making sure you have covered the thighs as much as possible 
  4. Place chicken skin side up in a Dutch oven (or oven safe pot or pan) for about 3 minutes, just enough to make the Jerk stick but not enough to burn the spice. Set aside. 
  5.  Add about 2 Tablespoons oil to the Dutch oven, then onions, thyme, and garlic. Sauté until soft but not golden, about 2-3 minutes.
  6. Add rice and beans to the pot and stir
  7. Add everything else including the chicken and mix it together, covering chicken
  8. Bring to a boil
  9. Cover and place in the oven on the middle rack, for about 35 minutes or until chicken is fully cooked.
  10. Remove let it cool and serve.
All the ingredients mixed together in a Dutch oven, before going into the oven

All the ingredients mixed together in a Dutch oven, before going into the oven

Jerk Chicken in the Dutch over, inside my dirty oven

Jerk Chicken in the Dutch oven, inside my dirty oven. Stop judging!

One pot Jerk chicken, ready to serve

One pot Jerk chicken, ready to serve

 

A serving of one Jerk chicken thigh, covered in rice and beans, in a really big cup

A serving of one Jerk chicken thigh, covered in rice and beans, in a cup

Think Like a Freak

cover of the book Think Like A FreakThink Like a Freak by Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner
2014
HarperCollins Publishers Ltd.
Hardcover
No. of Pages: 268
ISBN: 978-1-44341-651-1


Let me start by saying, I don’t know the “Freakonomics” brand, I have no clue who the authors are beyond what they say in this book, but I was vaguely aware it might be related to some economics theory book I never read (it is). Thinking “like a freak” simply means thinking outside the box, and I love stories that make me think outside the box, or at least, give me a new way of looking at things. Their explanation of why we all still get that stupid, obvious “Nigerian Prince” email scam made me realize it’s about sifting out all the intelligent, hard to fool people and directly targeting only those people who actually WILL believe it. Now, take that theory and apply it to local politics, and suddenly I am starting to understand how Rob Ford was voted Mayor of Toronto.

The chapter “How to Persuade People Who Don’t Want to Be Persuaded” is a great primer for learning how you can talk to homophobes – not that this topic is directly discussed, but rather, it talks about the difficulty of ideology and extremist thinking, and gives you tips on how to at least try. It’s a fairly simple, fast read that gives a whole lot of stories to illustrate their ideas. Apparently, it’s been poorly received by many people who bought into the “Freakonomics” brand only because much has been said before, in relation to economics. But if you haven’t read those, don’t follow the radio broadcasts or podcasts or whatever else they run, I would recommend this to help you see things from a different angle.

The Village – A Peek at the History

Toronto’s Gay Village is a tiny, long-running enclave of queerness, freedom, security and acceptance in Toronto. Bounded (approximately) by Gerrard Street, Yonge Street, Charles Street and Jarvis Street, this 146 acre Village is home to dozens of bars, restaurants, an LGBT-friendly community centre, AIDS memorials, the yearly Pride Parade and so much more. And it’s a place that my wife Kelly and I call home.

AIDS red ribbon of lights

AIDS red ribbon of lights

As early as 1810, this land is tied to gay life. A large portion of the area was owned by Alexander Wood, a notorious gay man who was sent home from the “colony” for his scandalous behaviour involving young army men and penises.

Now, it’s a thriving haven of queerness where people who don’t live here like to say it’s full of middle aged gay white guys. But, as someone who lives here, I can assure you it’s as diverse as any part of Toronto is: every sexuality, every gender, every race and every body type is accepted here, as long as you are friendly, polite and tolerant. From ancient gay men to heterosexual hipsters with babies to questioning homeless youth to f*cked-up meth addicts looking to score. They are here.

It’s our home. It keeps us humble, thankful and happy, and who could ask for more than that from their tiny village?

And what does that mean? Well, two weekends ago some guy on some kind of drug stood on the street corner and took good pants off. And on. And off and on and off and finally on again.

Just the other evening, while we had dinner in a restaurant patio, an angry woman with mental wellness issues was screaming at the top of her lungs at passersby. She spotted us and smiled and asked for money while apologizing for bothering us. A couple of toonies later, although she was still angry (she REALLY did not like the green-haired woman on the dress) she immediately stopped yelling at people and eventually headed on her way (I think it was because we were respectful and friendly, even striking up a 30-second conversation with her).

Kelly smiling on the restaurant patio

Kelly smiling on the restaurant patio

That’s just a little slice of life in Toronto’s Gay Village.

Super Cook Sunday

organic potatoes

(Warning for all my veg/vegan friends – close up pic of medium-rare beef at the end)

By my own admission, I am not a great cook. I am an average cook, I think. I’m not sure, I don’t stand on street corners surveying people:

Me: Excuse me, am I a good cook?
Passerby: (walks past silently, looking the other way, ignoring everything anyone ever says. After all, this is the city)

I took an online test to determine if I was a good cook. At the very start, before the Begin button, it says: “This is about common sense, people. No wasabi vinagrette on the sweet potato pie.”

Okay, number one, what is wasabi vinaigrette? Number two, they spelled vinaigrette wrong. So nyah. After my test, they advised me, not too unexpectedly, that I am average. Hell, I still need to look up how long to cook hard boiled eggs. Every. Single. Time.

results

Wait, did that test just call me a turkey?!

I blame my mother who, I think, boiled everything – water in the pot, put the item in, turn up the heat, then once it boils, turn it down and simmer for 30 minutes. Potatoes? Boil ’em. Peas? Boil ’em. Corn? Boil ’em? Meat? As a teenager, I realized that boiling pork chops was a big fail, but I never did anything about it except continue to boil ’em.

I went through a vegetarian phase before I met Kelly, and the very first meal I ever made for her was the Enchanted Broccoli Forest, from Molly Katsen’s cookbook of the same name. How did it turn out?

That was almost 30 years ago. Now, I don’t make broccoli forests and I don’t usually burn stuff. Usually.

I really do cook and eat everything I list here. The photos are mine, taken while cooking (perhaps unlike the “private chef” I found online, whose recipe for slow cooker chicken included only photographs of chicken in a cast iron skillet).

My goal is to eat a little healthier, a little at a time. I have cut back on red meat, but you wouldn’t know that from this meal. It’s based on a recipe from Martha Stewart’s website. Served with organic mashed potatoes and a bit of salad with a raspberry vinaigrette (Ha! Spelled it correctly again!).

Ingredients:

  • 1 beef roast (already tied up when I bought it at the grocery store)
  • Salt and pepper
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened (I nuked mine for 15 seconds)
  • 3 tablespoons Dijon mustard with seeds, it’s all I had

Directions:

  • Preheat oven to 425 degrees
  • Season beef all over with salt and pepper
  • Whisk together butter and mustard
  • Rub mixture all over the beef
  • Roast on a parchment-lined baking sheet in the upper third of the oven until my instant-read thermometer read 140 degrees (for medium-rare), about 40 minutes
  • Let rest for 15 minutes before slicing.

Delicious!

roast

 

P.S. I no longer boiled pork chops…

This is where creativity is born

A moody, rainy downtown Toronto street. The white umbrella can be seen as an anomaly, a symbol of difference and change, a rebirth in the darkness of rain

The winds are whipping
Umbrellas failing
Clouds spitting down their acid rain
As people duck their heads and run

This is where creativity is reborn

The reverse Easter Bunny 

I doubted Kelly when she told me Ella, our young Siamese ,was stealing her chocolate Easter eggs and hiding them. Until I found this egg, hiding by the cat food…

  

The Garage on Church St

The Garage patio, on Church St

The Garage patio, on Church St

I am the quintessential Canadian.

It is late March, and the temperature was slated to hit 11°. I wanted a pint or two on a pub patio: that is Canadian thing #1. We head to Garage on Church St., which was the most likely of the three corner pubs to have sun and therefore have an open patio. As we approached, and this was around 4:30pm, we saw a waiter unlocking the tables and chairs. Although no one was on it, I said I was happy to see the patio was open. It was not yet open, he said, it hadn’t been cleaned but was hoping to open a couple of tables at the back.

We headed in, asked about sitting on the patio and the same guy said, “just oh God no, I can’t stomach cleaning that right now, it’s disgusting.” He made me have a sad face, but I REALLY do not want to know what he saved us from.

So we sat near one of the garage doors (you do know it’s called “Garage” for a reason, right?), which he kindly opened for us. I sat in my big wool sweater (Canadian thing #2) near the wide open wall, and we ordered a pitcher, and eventually some steak fajitas.

They arrived smoking hot on a cast iron plate (pro tip: do not touch the cast iron, it’s hurty). I apologized (Canadian thing #3) to the table that was downwind for getting a face full of our delicious sizzling fajita smoke. After I ignored the previously-mentioned pro tip and burnt my thumb, and after we were done, the waiter arrived to take away the cast iron plate. I quickly said “Be careful it’s hot! Oh, I guess you know that, sorry.” That was Canadian things #4 and #5 combined – cautioning him not to burn himself, and then apologizing for cautioning him not to burn himself, as if he was an amateur.

Tomorrow is supposed to be rain and more rain, somewhere between 10-20 inches (I have the temperature conversion from Fahrenheit to Celsius alright, but am terrible at just about everything else, which can be described as an “old” Canadian thing, so that makes it #6).

I have skipped over the guy in rubber shirt and rubber shorts, the family walking around with bunny ears, the woman who refused to pay her bill and took it out on the “krafty” drag queen promo, the police arriving about 15 minutes after she paid her bill and left, the people looking enviously from O’Grady’s over to the Garage where the sun was… ahh, there’s no place like home.

Krafty ad for Donnarama and Sofonda Cox

“Krafty” ad for Donnarama and Sofonda Cox, before the drunk woman trashed it

The city I live in

I am amazed and delighted by the city I live in, where the city librarian, Vickery Bowles, makes significantly more than the mayor, John Tory. Short article heresearchable list here.

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