Helen Andersen, clowning with a kid


It’s been a while since I posted a Helen Andersen piece and this one may seem like an odd choice. It looks to me like a child’s drawing, not something an adult would sign; not something to be associated with a master like Chagall. But there it is, signed Helen Andersen 80 [1980] and titled Clowns, Clowns, à la Chagalle.

I choose it not because it’s a great work of art, but because it tells us a few things about the artist.

First, Helen loved getting little kids involved with all things creative, especially drawing and painting. She did this by showing kids how to let go and just have fun. She led by example.

I can easily imagine Helen telling a very young Jane Clapp (her child play-partner in this case) that anything goes … that clowns don’t have to stand still on the ground. They can go onto the page sideways or up in the air, if you want. Why, look at Chagall! (She might have added, “You can even misspell his name,” but that was unintentional, I’m sure.)

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Smoky Black Bean and Vegetable Soup

Your Royko Recipe for September

Smoky Black Bean and Vegetable Soup Download PDF here. )

This recipe comes from the January 1993 issue of Food & Wine magazine.

Chipotle chiles in adobo (smoked jalapeños in tomato sauce) can be hard to find unless you go to a grocery store specializing in Latin American foods. Bruno’s Supermarkets often carry them, too. One can will make about 4 batches of this soup. Freeze the remainder.

This recipe makes 4 hearty servings. Each serving has 363 calories, 20 grams of protein, 69 grams of carbohydrate, .6 mg, of cholesterol, 3 grams of fat (.3 grams saturated fat).

  • 1 large Spanish onion, coarsely chopped
  • 2 ribs celery, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced
  • 2 carrots, diced
  • 4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 2 canned chiles in adobo, rinsed, seeded and chopped
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 tsp. ground cumin
  • 2 tsp. dried basil
  • 1 tsp. chile powder
  • 1 tsp. dried oregano
  • 3 15-oz. cans black beans, rinsed
  • 1 28-oz. can plum tomatoes with their juice, chopped
  • 8 cups vegetable stock
  • 1/2 cup plain low fat yogurt
  • wedges of lime or orange
  • chopped fresh cilantro (coriander)

In a large sauce pan, cook onion, celery, carrots, garlic and 1/2 cup of water over medium heat until the vegetables soften (about 12 minutes). Stir in the chiles, bay leaves, cumin, basil, chile powder and oregano, and cook for 3 minutes.

Stir in the black beans, tomatoes and vegetable stock, and bring to a boil. Cover partially and simmer over moderately low heat, stirring occasionally, for 2 hours.

Discard the bay leaves. Purée 3 cups of the soup in a food processor or blender until smooth. Stir the purée back into the soup. Season with salt and serve hot with a dollop of yogurt, chopped cilantro and citrus wedges.

Visited King and Queen today

We went downtown to shop for winter jackets (too soon, wait 2 weeks. Stock isn’t in yet). Danica pointed out the design of a new condo, not quite finished. We were on Queen West, near John Street.


It so happens that Active Surplus is nearby, making the old/new contrast strikingly apparent. The condo tower is designed to have a bit of character. After all, it could have been a simple, boxy tower rather than a multiple boxy tower. Professor Banana stands outside his soon-to-close store, representing the old, quirky, counter-culture character that once attracted people to Queen Street West.


The professor looks kind of sad about the change, but that’s life in the big city. Time for him to join the artists and musicians who long ago left for cheaper rent districts. He’ll be happier there.

Take note, Active Surplus

A spiffy new parking lot is going in behind the strip on Lower Gerrard. That’s Andrew Horne’s colourfully painted studio in the small photo, behind his Flying Pony Gallery Café [link to map].

The hand, artist Horne’s homage to Michelangelo, points to the menu board in the café.

Active Surplus, you are looking for a new retail location in town. How about one with spiffy parking? You and Professor Banana would be a great fit on the street, which is really coming to life. It’s on the streetcar line, too.

Poking around Pied à Terre

Meet Patrick, retired U.S. Navy guy, proprietor (along with his Canadian wife) of a nifty antiques and collectibles shop in Leslieville on Queen East. He’s easy to chat with and has an above average stash of treasures to dig through.

  The decorated doorway lured me downstairs from the street into quite a large, low-ceilinged space. Pools of light reveal tableaus of intriguing objects. An hour could pass quickly in there.

One eye-stopper is a large, painted horse. It’s from Texas and Patrick shared an undocumented rumour that it may have been in the movie musical Carousel. He’s only had it a couple of weeks but wouldn’t mind keeping it around as a signature piece.

I didn’t ask about the Pied à Terre name and the Parisian theme expressed in many signs and objects. Does Patrick’s wife have a French Canadian heritage, perhaps? I’ll ask next time I visit.

Corktown Commons by bicycle today

The park on the west side of the Don River was closed to the public for the PanAm Games but it’s open again and the heat wave has broken. Perfect chance to go for a ride and explore.

  I thought we might be able to ride through the hilltop park, down into the streets of the Games’ Athletic Village, but they are still fenced off. A security guard, wise in the realities of unfinished construction projects, said nobody knows when the fences will come down.

So the slide show starts with what we could investigate. Lots of fresh paint on the support pillars of Underpass Park and a new pedestrian ramp to climb. It goes up to an Adelaide ramp and affords a unique new view of the city, looking west toward downtown.

Our trip through the Corktown Commons park begins with a view of a freshened up sculpture by U.S. sculptor Mark di Suvero. It’s called “No Shoes” and used to be in High Park.

I used the sculpture to frame what has to be the fanciest bathroom in Toronto. There’s a pavillion on the hilltop that is very modern and attractive. It is surrounded by nicely a landscaped park that features fun things for kids. There are wading, water-squirting areas, rubberized, spongy hills to climb, swings and and slides and such.

The  hill that is the park is a huge, artificial mound, created for very practical reasons. It acts as a flood control barrier protecting downtown from potential Don River overflows. Climate change, you know. The recreational use is a brilliant bonus and Corktown Commons is much enjoyed by the locals who live close by.