I had the pleasure of getting to know an acquaintance much better last night as our Thanksgiving celebration wound down into the quiet evening hours.
I had known this gentleman and his wife for years, but never really had an opportunity to speak to him. He discussed community, politics, religion and generally, the stuff that makes the world go ’round.
This is the beauty of what I have come to call our, “Misfit” get-togethers; gathering people together who are kind and intelligent to share an evening of, well, true sharing.
The definition of Misfit is; Onewho is unable to adjust to one’senvironment or circumstances or is considered to be awkwardlydifferentfromothers.
As we age, being around people we actually like is a big deal. It’s rejuvenating, fun, and renews our belief that good triumphs over evil. Being surrounded by thoughtful (as in they think independently, and care about how they impact others), intelligent people with a true sense of who they are and how they show up in the world every day is something that I am thankful for.
Most people define themselves against their first experience of ‘them’ and ‘us’, basically, how and where they fit into the family unit.
For some, family gatherings are just another uncomfortable event they feel they have no choice but to attend. Others have tossed decorum and bunk to the side, and have decided to live a life less complicated and simply spend time with people they actually like.
As we charge full-steam ahead into the season of holidays that seem to be tied to family tradition and sanguineous relationships, don’t forget that it’s all a load of crappola.
These traditions of gathering are an opportunity to spend time with the like-minded, differently-minded or whatever-mined, kind, loving, wonderfully diverse people whom you call friends. If you have been invited to our home to share a ‘misfit’ holiday with us, know that you have my respect, and that I like you.
The good people whom I like; they are my family of friends, and for them, I am truly thankful.
From the beginning of time human beings have gathered around food; hunted, gathered and prepared as a community while sharing stories, passing down wisdom, and nurturing the divine within each person.
Food then, is not just nutritional sustenance, it is a tangible vehicle through which we come to know and care for one another.
Our lives have become so busy that the cultivation, preparation and intake of food has been condensed to a faceless speaker and drive-thru window. Not good.
I work too much. I rush too much. I eat too much pre-packaged, prepared, processed food, and it makes me sad.
For the “Ladies Who Lunch”, it’s been ten years, maybe twelve. We’re not really quite sure, and we don’t really care darlings. What we know is that every year we can count on Summerlicious and Winterlicious to encourage a ‘Ladies Who Lunch’ afternoon of catching up with one another over a slow, delicious meal.
You see, sometimes a gal just has to get together with her pack of women. You know, the intelligent, beautiful gals who raise her up when she can barely lift her own head and who raise a glass to her every success, even if that success is just making it through the day without flipping the bird with her well-manicured hands.
We take time out of our busy lives to connect with other intelligent, compassionate and kind women who know the same joy, pain, frustration and daily triumphs that women feel deep down in their bones.
Lately I’ve been neglecting moi. Yes, I’ve been time-starved. It’s made the-little-old-laid-back-lush that is yours truly, anxious and neurotic. The freak show that is currently performing in the three-ringed circus of my mind is a shit-show of the most grand order, requiring pharmaceuticals, but settling for the odd gin and tonic after a long day of being held hostage by the nine-to-five grind.
Summerlicious with the girls is something which requires planning, research, multiple telephone calls, and always last-minute-begging to change reservation numbers and times. It’s the event-planning equivalent of herding horny cats during a midnight rainstorm. But we’re fabulous cats, and it’s always worth the effort. Besides, it’s a wonderful opportunity to practice patience and not-being-attached to outcome.
Given my state of mind this year, I was pretty sure that I was going to forgo the event unless someone else picked up the ball and organized the event. Alas, I decided at the last-minute to create the event in the most simple way possible. Choose the venue, make a reservation for six, and go forward. Usually I take requests for locations on a first-come-first-to-be-called basis, and then dial a zillion numbers until I find a place which will take a Saturday Summerlicious reservation for a dozen or so. Not easy.
We started with a reservation for six and ended up with eleven ladies at our table. Cluny Bistro was more than gracious accommodating our group (We will all be back, and appreciate your patience). Some arrived early, some arrived late, but in the end, we all managed to take a few hours out of our busy lives to connect and share that face-to-face interaction that I’ve been so starved for, for so long.
Lunch with the ladies is something we say we’re going to do, but never get around to doing it. One of my friends and I have been planning lunch together, and had to think back almost four months since our last visit. Four months is pretty darn good. This year I’ve had multiple reminders that taking time to spend with friends who nurture me is something I’ve neglected for far too long. Months turn into years, and years and years…
Summerlicious may be a marketing ploy to open our wallets and spend more money, but we’ve used it as the excuse we need to come together, try a new restaurant and remind ourselves that our friendships matter, that we do not need to exist as solitary, stone angels who do it all.
Yesterday we stopped, a little detour on our way home to a planned wine and cheese picnic in the park. We spotted a cute place on the crowded patio, and made our way over to a street-side, table-for-two.
That’s when the whining started.
I’m going to try and be crystal clear with regard to my description of the little prick who ignorantly tried to dissuade me from sitting at my preferred table.
Tisk, tisk, tisk, he said, shaking his man-bunned head back and forth and eyeing me up like I’d just dropped my drawers. “We hate it when you sit at a table that hasn’t been cleared.”
“Funny,” I said with my signature sweet-smile plastered on my face, and my eyes locked to his, “As a paying customer, I don’t mind at all.” Followed by an unsolicited, ” Dirty. Wiped with a dirty cloth,” from Mr.-Nobody-Likes-Me-Everybody-Hates-Me-I’m-Pissed-At-The-World-Because-I-Must-Be-A-Grown-Up.
First of all, to all of you bearded and non-bearded, man-bunned, hipster, fucking beatnik wanna-be twenty somethings out there who think that the world owes you something – get real darlings. That doesn’t just go out to the young folks, I’ve encountered people of all ages who adore carrying a chip on their shoulder. It’s their preferred accessory, but it ruins an entire wardrobe.
To the whiners: Upon careful consideration from eons of generations who have come before you through hardship, and 1980’s neon, you are owed sweet-screw-all.
Your condescending manner is a flashing sign advertising your lack of authenticity in a world you presume to know. Because you had to pay for your own education? Because mommy or daddy didn’t love you enough? Because no one gave you a hand-out? Well sweetie, join the club. It’s called adulthood. You know what makes it better? Margaritas. On a patio.
How you participate in the land of the real world determines the quality of your character. This little connoisseur of two-star restaurants clearly held a much higher opinion of his limited practical and spiritual experience of the world than anyone else on the planet. The same goes for his pal who served us.
After Mr. I-think-I’m-worldly-and-all-knowing tisked his opinion out loud, and I smiled a saccharine smile, he murmured an opinion to his waiter-buddy (in french no less, assuming I couldn’t grasp the not-so-subtle innuendo that I was a supreme douchebag), and then we were left to wait, and wait and wait for our order to be taken.
That’s ok though. You know why? I’ve been a server before too. I know what it’s like to work for a paltry wage, and make the rest up with tips. I know that it sucks. Been there, done that, clawed my way through school, jobs and life. What I learned very quickly was that being a miserable twatcycle didn’t make it any easier.
After two hours we had been served an appetizer and with three ignored attempts by my partner, we finally had our second round of drinks. Oh, and the taps weren’t working, which made the cerveza selection less than titillating. The food was mediocre, the margaritas however, satisfied my craving, and my choice of partner, well darlings, you know I only accept the very best.
My happy hour was not ruined, but the waiter’s attitude was. You see, it takes awhile to realize your self-worth, and these two young gentlemen had yet to discover their own. Self-worth means showing up for your job, whether it’s serving tourists margaritas, or leading a country, determined to have a positive impact. To engage with another human being is sacred work, and each of us have that opportunity every day.
When you connect, instead of whine, you offer so much more than a product or service. You offer a caring piece of yourself to another human being. To these young men, the only thing that mattered was a bizarre power-play of master and servant, and collecting a pay cheque.
I stopped for a margarita. It sated my craving. I enjoyed the relaxing atmosphere of people-watching on a street that was new to me.
I did not leave a tip. The only tip I may have considered leaving was a well-written diatribe on how not to be an asshole. Whether it would have been written in French, English, or illustrated Sesame-Street style, I doubt the message would have been understood.
A missed opportunity to connect was not on the radar of this poor-me-tag-team. No tip though, ah, there’s the rub.
Not you, dish-rag of a girl behind the counter, nor you, 65ish waitress with the second-hand Target sweater and hair clip.
Nope, you two have my respect. You’ve earned it. Over and over, you’ve earned it. Day in, and day out, you’ve earned it.
Say what you like about what money can’t buy, it can buy a whole lot of peace of mind and privilege. That’s why it’s so coveted, and so hoarded by those who have it. If it was as worthless as all the popular memes want us to believe, people would be way, way, way more generous.
Why your terrible breakfast offends me is because YOU are likely a greedy-money-hording employer from hell. I’m guessing, but it’s an educated guess.
More than once favourite restaurants have changed hands, and I believe that one of my favourite breakfast spots, Artisano’s may have also changed ownership, or perhaps the management has just dumped the concept of customer service? I’m not sure. I am sure that I will not be going back, nor recommending it based on my own personal experience.
Any time front-line staff don’t produce excellent products or customer service, it’s likely because they don’t have the tools or energy to do it. After all, who likes to feel second-best after a long day at work? When I say tools, in this case I mean decent food to use and enough staff. When I say energy, I mean; the staff likely get treated and paid like hell.
Yah, a bad breakfast is a first world problem, but it’s the symptom of a larger problem. First of all, if you’re raising kids, and working, you likely have to stop somewhere to eat at least once or even twice a week, simply because the demands of work and the demands of trying to have your kids get ahead mean you have no time and a whole whack of extra blood pressure. Why? Simply put; the Have’s now have more, and the Have-Nots have even less. And yet we’re not protesting in Canadian streets. This both intrigues and frightens me.
So, when I get a chance to actually enjoy a meal, and I’m paying YOU for it, I’d like it to be well-cooked, fresh and hot. That’s the least someone should expect. Your burned bacon and rubbery-older-than-dirt sausage and cold as hell eggs suck. No salt or pepper. Clearly those are extravagances. Besides, when the food is burned, old and cold, salt and pepper are really just putting lipstick on the pig aren’t they darlings? And if you’re looking at the photo, that’s not pepper, it’s grit from the grill. Ewww.
Staff to bring you those things after you ask? Can’t be bothered. Breakfast is a completely indulgent meal to enjoy on a Sunday morning; with hot coffee and a newspaper, there are few things that make me happier.
I do not blame the all too commonly underpaid staff who are working their buns off to pay the bills. I do blame employers who skimp, penny-pinch and do so at the cost of the health of employees and customers. This is why your terrible breakfast offends me. This is why I will not be back.
Despite having a career which could easily see me lost day and night in the good and meaningful work I am blessed to be able to do, the energy I have to do that work comes from making time for rejuvenation, shenanigans, and spending time being nurtured by the people who love me.
Stirring honey into my tea today, I overheard a woman exclaim that she was feeling overwhelmed, and complaining that going away for a holiday just made it harder to come back and get up every day to get back to work.
I slipped my wooden stir-stick into the trash and stole a quick peak at her from under my luscious locks. She was a bit younger than me, and clearly, unbalanced.
That’s not a cynical observation.
She looked to be carrying the weight of the world even though she was sipping a gourmet beverage in an upscale coffee shop with a friend willing to listen. “Why is life so difficult“, her high shoulders seemed to be whimpering. I know shoulder language, because more often than not, my own shoulders are tensed right up to my ear lobes, and the margins in my life are tighter than cycling shorts on a man smack dab in the middle of a mid-life crisis.
You read that right. Men in cycling shorts should never happen. Ever.
Balance; the-shoulds-of-a capitalistic-society verses the shoulds of, Deep-down-I-am-a-free-thinking-spiritual-lush. Recently I’ve been up to a little ‘make herself happy’ balance plan.
Food, wine and friendship, the great triumvirate of happiness. Combine those three, and I’m a happy woman.
Before I allowed my joy to be stolen by a grand conspiracy of single-parenthood, economic necessity, and surrender, I was the queen of food, wine and friendship, the duchess of do-it-all-and-then-some, the grand-dame-of-damn-that-woman-can-dance. Oh yah, I lived in and for the moment.
That was long ago and far away, but not an impossible attitude to resurrect.
Trying to be a responsible-adult-woman, the final strike was entering into a relationship with a man who ruined all three for me; food, wine AND friendship. I carried on in the relationship because that’s what I thought I was supposed to be doing when in fact, I was supposed to be doing whatever the hell I felt like.
Life as I knew it and dreamed it was over when that relationships ended. It was both heartbreaking (there would be no big, happy family or new babies) and emancipating. Turns out, I’m not sure I was ever convinced, other than the apparent security, that a traditional relationship was best for me after so many years of doing everything on my own.
More than a man who needed to lead, it turns out I need a man who values laughter, discovering new food, wine and ways of making sure moments matter even if it’s just sitting in companionable silence. I thought I had someone like that making a place in my life this summer, but I was mistaken. Must have been the wine.
On my way home from the office I stopped on a whim and picked up a couple of bottles of wine to hold me over until the vintage release this weekend. I found a much coveted Italian varietal, and another which conjures a warm, no. Wait. Not warm. It conjures memories of an electrically charged, white-hot and carefree love-affair, aptly birthed in Sonoma, California and named Folies a Deux.
I will take my charming new find to be uncorked at a French restaurant tomorrow evening to share over a meal and wonderful conversation.
Being excited to try new wine, try new recipes, make time for friends, writing, and maybe a little tryst in a land far-far-away means I’ve got the groove back I thought I had lost.
What on earth was I thinking? When you’ve got it, you can never lose it.
Get out there and be fabulous darlings. There is exquisite wine held hostage in bottles just waiting to be emancipated. There is savoury food waiting to dance on your palate, and friendships that need rekindling.
I also have a suspicion that there are delectable men who are worthy of wooing us, just waiting for our school-girl hearts to bow to the sage wisdom of serendipity.
Every year for the past decade, I’ve organized a Lady’s Winter/Summerlicious dinner for the Ladies Who Lunch. There are usually between 6-12 of us who use this culinary celebration as an excuse to get together and try a new place.
Trying new restaurants gives us another card to play in our social repertoire, and when we’re impressed, we return; for birthdays, anniversaries, dates and weekend lunches that involve a bottle of wine…or two, depending on the deeds we need to dish with our dear ones.
Winterlicious was a wash with business for me. Alas, I was only able to get out to two new places. I’m sad to say that this year, everyone, including myself, my ladies and my kiddo, were underwhelmed by both the food and service.
Before the restaurant world whines about bad tippers and losing money on the endeavor, I would like to say that it’s a fair shake for diners and staff alike. If you don’t like Winterlicious don’t participate. If you don’t enjoy facilitating a happy dining experience for people, please, for the love of digestion, get a job somewhere else.
Today I spent a fair amount on lunch at Archeo in the distillery district after braving the freezing rain and slick roads. It took an hour and a half to get there, and not once did a server ask how our meal was, nor were we offered a beverage once the meal started. Apparently coffee and tea with dessert is passé, because it wasn’t offered at all at Archeo, and only as an afterthought last week at Hush.
Both restaurants served French fries with meal options, yet neither offered condiments such as wonderful vinegars or tangy mustards for their sandwich choices.
The fish and chips at Hush were sad. The batter had the potential to be wonderful, it looked crispy, but was flavourless, and lukewarm. The accompanying bacon and apple slaw was as outstanding as the fish. The spicy edamame beans were not spicy, and the soup was bland as well. Nothing tasted hot, fresh or flavourful.
Nine of us at Hush were served barely warm meals, but the service was at least friendly.
At Archeo, the food was hot, which is really the least you should expect when dining. The bruschetta was flavorful but served on the same mass-produced bread as the chicken parmesan sandwich. Both the tiramisu crème brule and chocolate pudding were delicious. Unfortunately the service was so cold that by the time dessert came, we were chilled by the poor service.
Our meals may have been hot at Archeo, but the service was as cold as the blizzard outside. Instead of ordering wine, and lingering over coffee this afternoon, we headed back down the street and stopped at Balzac’s for a little something ‘to go’.
An impromptu stop at Le Saint Tropez during Winterlicious,(not a Winterlicious meal) reminded myself and my gal-pal what service was all about. We did not have a reservation, we were not there for a multi-course meal, but we were welcomed warmly and sincerely. The waitress/server knew how to have an engaging conversation. That kind of four-star service and delicious food, will guarantee we come back again and again. It’s the kind of place you can count on for a special occasion.
Our 2015 Winterlicious experience was underwhelming indeed. We will however, look forward to Summerlicious 2015, hoping that the restaurants live up to the wonderful food and extraordinary service we enjoyed at Destingo last year.
It’s been unseasonably mild here, with nary a tiny pile of white, fluffy, hideous snow or ice to be found. Although it makes for romantic scenery to snuggle up by the fire with, while the snow falls outside, snow sucks.
Let me clarify; Driving in the snow sucks, walking in the snow sucks, and shoveling the snow sucks.
Yesterday, as I bee-bopped along the top of the GTA, being tailgated by Rudolph, I was pretty happy. No, wait, it wasn’t Rudolph, it was a mini-van duded up with a fuzzy red nose and antlers. Get off my ass Rudolph, you mini-van driving boxing-day hording freak, it’s Christmas!
Besides the load of work I do leading up to the holiday for our annual dinner, and get-togethers, the December 26- January 1 days are a major part of my holiday celebrations.
Off I trotted to an annual out-of-town open house and traditional too-much-Christmas-cheer overnighter. It took me an hour to get there. Record time, but during that blissfully peaceful hour on the highway I could feel the stress and fatigue get up and start gathering their holiday luggage. Whew. It was delightful and an absolute gift to be a guest in someone else’s home.
In the morning, I woke with a slight twinge of regret, and a bit of optimism. After all, I was off next to lunch at the home of dear friends. After popping into my favourite shops, The Gentle Rain, for some local honey and Rheo Thompson Candies for the best chocolate dipped cherries in the entire universe, I was back on the road.
I was once again tailgated by another mini-van driving Rudolph wanna be. I’m sure that the ‘Rudolph’ mini-van is the preferred vehicle of all of the Cousin Eddie’s in our lives.
Off to lunch with friends who understood my red-wine Christmas themed over-indulgence from the night before. They once again opened their home to me, and set out a fine and delicious selection, “Please, have some more salmon, it’s good for a hangover,” the host offered. Artichokes, olives, lox, handmade quiche and a little, white, hair-of-the-dog-that-bit-me.
These visits are what Christmas is about; connecting with the wonderful people in your life whom you see far too little of, but think about daily, and miss like crazy. The company of kindred spirits is sometimes hard to find in a life of work and single-sports-momming, but during these days I find it and savor the moments.
Today, it’s off to lunch at a small airport just north of the city with another wonderful friend. I’m so happy to be able to travel on clear roads and do all of my catching up with so many of the people in my life I feel blessed to count as friends.
Life is good when we slow down and enjoy the friendships that buoy us up, and make life worth living. For the time to do that, I am truly grateful.