Heavy Traffic: Negotiating the Lanes of Big City Life

Torta

The speed at which we experience can be negotiated. Life in Toronto continues at a blistering pace, but I began my life in Prince Edward Island where time can appear to stand still if you refuse to blink. Perhaps my greatest challenge has been to reconcile the speed at which I live and the top speed that I was built to run at; Islanders can only maintain the breakneck sprint for so long before the engine needs an overhaul or the horse needs new shoes.

Tonight, I took time for myself. I hopped on my Argon carbon-fibre racing bike and rode slowly and with purpose. I rode a small strip of perfect pavement along the waterfront. I breathed slowly and deeply. I took notice of my surroundings, and felt the sun bronze the edges of my skin. The aquarium smells of Lake Ontario reminded me of how much I miss the ocean; how much I miss my childhood. But what could I do there? I am too expensive to hire as a teacher, and I left because I could find no way of supporting myself.

Around me lawyers rode the $9000 Cervelo bikes in packs, discussing deals and their next problem; they swore at children and old people who did not get out of their way. Other women in tight Lululemon outfits ran their little hearts out with faces betraying inner-agony. It was clear they would rather be eating Cherry Garcia ice cream in loungewear, but one must stay ahead of that competition. I rode my bicycle like Louis Armstrong played his horn: in the spaces between.

I am not certain what any of this means, other than that I am thinking about who I am, who I have become, why I love what I do, what I want from the remainder of my life. When I was younger, all I wanted to do was to be a rockstar, a motocross rider, a chef, and even a National Geographic photographer. As a teacher, I get to be anything I want to be all day long, and I do love how children remain aware of the power of the imagination. I foster my students’ passions by using my own little talents to lift them up a little higher and then pushing them onward. I can take my 1 minute on the stage with my guitar, but will only do so to give a budding Van Halen his 3 minutes of fame. I will share my photography or writing or cooking, but only to inspire the children to be more than what I am. The constant altering of my identity takes a toll, however, and every year I need to escape to rebuild myself through a week of rest, relaxation and thoughtful meditation on the present.

The photographs featured here are the result of my slowing down over the past three weeks. Despite the torrential pace of San Francisco to Vancouver to Toronto to Portland to Toronto to Charlottetown and final back to Toronto, I have been coasting in the spaces between. My vision for what I want to do over the next month in Toronto is becoming more clear; all I can do is wait for the tides to sweep me along into the next step forward.

Tonight’s images begin with an experiment with a classic frittata. My twist was to use duck eggs and heavy cream to cream a deeply rich custard. With mushrooms sautéed beneath beforehand, and buffalo fior de latte added near the end, the layers resonate and only needed a sprinkle of Ibiza fleur de sel to open up the dish entirely. Both were cooked in Staub mini-pans that I love for their countless uses and perfect cooking ease.

Next, would be a focus on little portions on big plates from Island potter, The Dunes. Firstly, I featured chive buttermilk pancakes layering morels in a truffle cream sauce. Secondly, came a simple spaghetti with fresh tomato and pine nuts. Thirdly, was a piece of fresh wild B.C. salmon that was on sale. Finally, came a reduction of Swiss Chard and garlic in white wine. Nothing was too heavy, and the slowness of each dish resonated on the palette against a light merlot I bought in California last month.

The only other photo would be the pizzas. Each focused on specific flavours – salty meats, salmon and asparagus, artisan cheeses, and chèvre/kale. In mini-pans from Williams-Sonoma these are always a treat for a few days afterwards. The recipe for the dough was found by a former room-mate in Montreal in Chatelaine or Good Housekeeping magazine. We had no money, but basics are always cheap enough. The recipe for the dough resides in my personal recipe book as “Kelly’s Montreal Pizza Dough” though over the years it has evolved into an almost unrecognizable form. The recipe is

3 Cups of flour, 2 Tbsp of Active Dry Yeast, 1 Tbsp of honey, and enough water to turn the flour mixture into a reasonable dough. Obviously, the yeast, honey and 1 Cup of warm water start the process. Leave it for about 20 minutes. Add the flour. Mix and then add enough water to let it blend. The result is a rich, soft, sweet dough that is cheap to make and can turn any odds and bits into perfectly wondrous pizza.

Off to Barcelona and Valencia for a week alone to finalize the slow-down. I hope to take a cooking class to master paella and Catalan cremes. I will update with dispatches from the iPhone, so tune in for the best that these cities can offer a foodie, a world traveller and a photographer. My camera choices will be the Leica M3 and Hasselblad cameras; nothing but film.

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