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Historically funny bookstore

Lower Gerrard’s books and souvenirs store had a sense of humour, once upon a time. John Robert Colombo tells the story …


Long before we met Bill Andersen, Ruth and I would stroll with our friend Suparna along Gerrard Street East. While the ladies were shopping for fabrics and dresses, I would wander into the souvenir store — Hindu but not so identified — to purchase a couple of paperback books of Indian jokes and anecdotes.

I did this once or twice a year for perhaps ten years. One day I noticed that the store looked different on the outside — it was now painted green. I did not give this a second thought until I entered the store and mechanically headed over to the joke book section. There were mounds of Korans.

One of the clerks — who did not look at all bookish — stared at me staring at the Korans. I said, “Where are the joke books?” He said nothing. I said, “Is this store under new management?” He walked away. I briskly walked around, found no joke books — indeed, hardly any publications in English — and then left, not to return.

BuskerFest weekend

From Thursday to Sunday, Yonge Street was BuskerFest Street, from Adelaide to College. No cars. Crowds were large and happy, weather was great and performers were high calibre pros. Fire-eaters, jugglers, stilt dancers, ingenious costumes, musicians and the usual array of vendors and street eateries.

Busker banter had just the right touches of sexual innuendo and mockery. Tame enough for the kids, though. I wonder if anything goes over their heads anymore.

I liked Silver Elvis but was quite bowled over by the Sauruses. They emitted screeches as they stalked the street, towering over the crowd on stilts. With uncanny skill, the Dutch street theatre people inside the costumes used their beaks to tweak hats and bicycle helmets.

Here’s a Youtube movie of the Sauruses in a dramatic production.


Events inspire a new feature


The story below , about Paul Royko’s woodwork art going to the Barkside Bistro, reminded Brian Hickey of a collection of excellent recipes he had. They were compiled and tested by Paul, who included cooking among his many skills.  Brian sent the recipes to me and I have decided to release them here, from time to time.

Here’s the first. Others will follow, about a month apart. BTW, Obi-Wan Pierogi was a nickname Paul received, honouring his Ukrainian heritage.


Belgian Beer Stew (Download PDF here)
This Belgian dish is basically beer, beef and onions, with dumplings thrown in as a bonus. The long cooking time means that it is best made with the less expensive cuts of beef, like rump or round.

  • 4 pounds lean beef (rump or round), cut into 1/2inch slices
  • 2 pounds large onions, thickly sliced
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 6 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
  • 1/2 cup chopped parsley
  • 2 small bay leaves
  • 2 teaspoons thyme leaves
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 1/2 cups beef broth
  • 24 ounces beer

Dumpling batter (see below)

Preheat the oven to 325∘ F. Cut beef into pieces about 1 inch by 2 inches. Flour them lightly and brown, a few at a time, in hot oil in a skillet then place them in a large ovenproof casserole (6 to 8quart size). Add onions and garlic to the oil in the skillet and brown lightly, adding more oil if necessary, then put them in the casserole along with sugar, 2 tablespoons of vinegar, parsley, bay leaves, thyme, salt and pepper to taste. Stir once or twice.

Pour off any remaining oil in the skillet. Pour in the broth and heat over low heat, stirring to loosen all the browned bits. Pour over mixture in the casserole. Add beer, cover the casserole and bake in the oven for 2 hours. Transfer the casserole to the stovetop. Stir in the remaining vinegar and cook over medium heat until the sauce bubbles.

Drop dumpling batter by teaspoonfuls on top of the hot stew. Cover, reduce heat and cook for 15 minutes. Do not remove cover during these 15 minutes.


  • 2 cups sifted self-rising cake flour
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 2 tablespoons melted butter

Combine all ingredients, mixing lightly.

Slide into some shoes

Bill Byres and I used a Museum Access Pass to see the Bata Shoe Museum today. Unless you’re a shoe freak, and there ARE plenty of those, it’s hard to imagine that a shoe museum could be interesting. It is, though. We spent an hour easily.

In addition to wonderful examples of ancient footwear, there’s awesome beadwork on native North American moccasins and glamour shoes, too. James Stewart had enormous feet! Marilyn Monroe’s were normal size. Do you see Elton John platform boots? How about John Lennon’s Beatle boot?

The one with the saw blades is for chestnut crushing. There’s a prisoner boot and, to be up-to-date, Kinky Boots from the musical playing in town right now.

Liked the sign, but not the food

I should have known better than to take a friend to a restaurant I hadn’t tried, especially on her birthday. Sorry, Deborah.


That visit was over a year ago and the restaurant in “Little India” has since gone out of business. I thought I’d capture the best thing about the place before a new tenant replaces the sign.


The idea of hakka food (Indian Chinese) was appealing and there were plenty of positive Yelp reviews but only the one bad review was accurate. The food was NOT good and the restaurant’s fate was inevitable.

hakka-wowLet’s try this again.
Danica loves spicy and I can handle a bit, so I am intrigued by a notice posted in a window a block east of the defunct 5 Spices, on Lower Gerrard. Looks like we’ll soon have a new local place for Indian Style Chinese Cuisine.

This time, we’ll try it first, before we invite anyone else to join us there.