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A literary lunch

Ruth and John brought over copies of his latest book today. It has my cover design and I was eager to see the real thing. Delight! He dedicated this one to Danica and me.

We celebrated with lunch at Pizzeria Via Mercanti. Loved it, once John asked for the music to be turned down so we could talk. Conversations with the Colombos are never dull.

We tried several things from the menu and shared tastes. All delicious and well-presented … salads, pannini, calamari, rice ball appetizers, tiramisu dessert … and friendly, helpful service, too. If you just stick to pizza, good as it is, you’ll be missing some fine opportunities.

My Valentine, dress hunting

The red one Danica is looking at will not be the one, but it works well for a Valentine photo, don’t you think? The hanger even adds a tiara effect.

The quest for a bridesmaid dress seems to have been successful today. Danica will wear it to her sister Anna’s wedding in September. No sneak previews of the actual choice, yet. Things can still change … and there will be plenty of photos on the actual day.

Preview a new Gwynne Giles ebook

For all their appearance of simplicity, abstracts by Beach Hill artist Gwynne Giles require time and attention. A quick look will almost certainly miss.

In a new ebook, Giles succinctly describes his history as a painter (he began at 60), his sources of inspiration and his painstaking methodology. I am stunned by what he has accomplished.

How, using such minimal means and such restricted colours, can he create a such a distinctive, personal style? I don’t know how he does it, but a Giles painting is easily identifiable. It is not an easy thing to achieve so gracefully.

At the back of the ebook, the early paintings are abstractions, but with subject matter. I love their whimsicality, originality and wit. He could have stayed there and I would have been a happy fan.

But that is not Gwynne Giles. He has pressed on, developing a visual balancing act that leaves obvious subject matter behind. His titles still suggest inspirational linkages with imagery, but the canvases are pure shape, space and colour, now.

As much as I still enjoy his early phase (and kind of miss it, sometimes), there are richer, deeper rewards to be mined in the realm of purer design. It takes Giles many, many hours to produce one of his pieces, so it’s no surprise that viewers need time and stillness to appreciate them.

For me, they are engaging. They stretch my seeing ability, too, because those that seem less successful than others do work if I stay with them. Looking is dynamic. Giles makes it so.

Snowy day by Frenchman’s Bay

In spite of snow-covered roads, we were first to arrive for brunch with friends at Port Restaurant in Pickering, today.

I had time to go around back and look at the view. So many birds out there!

Hundreds of Canada Geese standing still. Waiting for Spring? Feet stuck in the ice?

This crowd just doesn’t believe in that migration jazz. Flying south isn’t what it used to be.



Flageolet and Leek Soup

Your Royko Recipe for February, 2017

Flageolet and Leek Soup

Royko says: “Flageolets are the Champagne of dried beans”.

Food & Wine, Mar. 1991, Page 126. Credit: Deborah Madison.

To parboil beans, place in a saucepan with enough cold water to cover. Bring to a boil and cook for 2 minutes. Cover, remove from heat and let stand for 1 hour. Drain and rinse.

Elapsed Time: 2 hours  
Prep Time: 10 minutes  Attention Time: 1 1/2 hours  Finishing Time: 20 minutes

Serves 4.

2 medium leeks-greens coarsely chopped, whites quartered lengthwise and thinly sliced crosswise
1 large coarsely chopped carrot
1 small chopped onion
1 rib chopped celery
5 sprigs fresh Italian parsley
10 whole black peppercorns
2 bay leaves
1 1/2 tsp. salt
2 tbl. Sweet butter or margarine
3 tbl. minced, fresh Italian parsley
1 1/2 cup soaked, parboiled dried flageolet beans
boiling water
1/2 cup milk or cream
1/4 tsp. Freshly ground black pepper

In a stockpot, combine the leek greens, carrot, onion, celery, parsley sprigs, peppercorns, 1 of the bay leaves and 1 tsp. of salt. Add 10 cups of water and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to moderately low and simmer for 25 minutes. Strain the broth and reserve. Discard the solids.

In a large saucepan, melt the butter or margarine over moderately high heat. Add the leek whites, the remaining bay leaf, 2 tablespoons of the minced parsley and 1/2 cup of water. Simmer for 5 minutes. Add the beans and reserved vegetable broth and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to moderately low, cover partially and simmer very gently until the beans are almost tender (about 1 1/4 hours). Add the remaining 1/2 tsp. salt and continue cooking until the beans are very tender (about 10 minutes longer). If the liquid evaporates, add enough boiling water to keep the beans amply covered.

Remove 1 cup of beans and broth from the pot and purée in a blender or food processor until smooth. Gently stir the purée back into the beans in the pot. Stir in the milk. Reheat the soup and season with salt to taste. Stir in the ground pepper and the remaining 1 tablespoon of minced parsley just before serving.

Fortune finds Adrian Fung

Brian Hickey just sent me a link to a Fortune Magazine article listing, among others, the Toronto Symphony Orchestra’s Adrian Fung as a star Executive MBA. A series of links lead to this interview.

Danica and I met Adrian through the Hickeys and Jolanta’s gifted student, violinist Min-Jeong Koh. Adrian and Min are married. Readers of this blog may have seen my post about the recent arrival of their first child.

We love to get news of awards and recognition for this remarkable couple. Min performs brilliantly in the Cecilia String Quartet and Adrian plays a mean cello, himself … on top of his Executive MBA chops.

Good turnout

I have no doubt that the Blue Crow Gallery in the Bazaar is going to be a commercial success. Last night’s Grand Opening was attended by large, enthusiastic crowds.

Customers will find a wide range of styles in the stable of artists, so something for many tastes. Crafts of high quality are there, too, and attractive jewellery. The gallery offers artist workspaces and classes for children.

Two different imaginings

In his recent lecture, Kent Monkman said nobody in art history had addressed the subject of children taken from their parents and sent to residential schools, so he did it.

Kent Monkman, The Scream, 2016

He wouldn’t have any way of knowing it, but Helen Andersen tackled the subject in a series of works,  30 or 40 years earlier. A mother herself, Helen imagined the pain of separation with an image of a little girl crying as she was leaving her mother.

Helen Andersen, When the Indian Children Were Sent Away to the White Man’s School, 1980s

Monkman’s imagined scene is equally valid, identifying villains and victims as well as the passions of the situation. Scope and scale are grander.

Helen made a series of pictures on this theme, a mother drying her sobbing daughter’s eyes. Here, the little girl is leaving her land and her culture, as well as her parents.

Personally, I find Helen’s way into the subject more emotionally direct, personal and convincing … but then, I would. She was my mother.

When I asked the benefactor who helped rescue Helen’s missing pictures if there was one particular piece that she would like to keep, she chose one of the “separation” images. It spoke to her.

Banks to flank Danforth Dollarama

Watch out, Bay Street! A new financial district is taking shape near Danforth and Woodbine.

Royal Bank is abandoning its corner building at Woodbine and grabbing the big space a couple of doors away, left vacant when DeSerres Art Supplies moved one subway stop west.

The old bank building has accessibility issues, because teller wickets are downstairs. There is no street-level main floor. So who will occupy the old RBC location? Will it be fixed, to create street-level space? Has the area gentrified enough to support a Starbucks? (Not my preference, but a possibility.)

Once the dance-of-the-storefronts is over, the Danforth line-up, west to east, will be Royal Bank, Dollarama, Scotiabank. Money, money, money. TD Bank and BMO occupy other corners at the intersection. See what I mean about financial district? Hey, maybe a payday loan racketeer will take over the old RBC building.