Sunday, October 25, 2009

The drama of the brokenhearted

I feel like a high school girl spending the last week of summer with a boyfriend who's heading off to university in the fall. The young lovers spend every moment together, memorizing the lines of each other's body, the pitch of a laugh, never wanting to be far apart whether they're doing something or nothing at all. It feels just like that, except the object of my affection is a boat. In about four or five days, the boat will come out of the water for the winter. Every morning I languish in bed a bit longer than necessary, knowing I'll be waking up without her soon, on land, in a bed that doesn't rock and sway. And when I get up in the morning then, no one will yell across the dock to invite me over for breakfast. My morning pee will take place 10 steps from my bed, not running down a dock with my legs crossed to the warm bathroom trailer. This afternoon, I dozed in the sunny cockpit listening to Stuart Maclean on the CBC, feeling every story was precious. Not because I'll never listen to Stuart Maclean again, but because it will never be this moment again, with my boat, and the dogs on their sides in the sun. It's hard to keep me on land for any amount of time right now. Leaving the boat is time I'm not spending with her, time wasted. And I'm disproportionately happy when I come back to the boat, even after a few short hours away. Regular chores make me maudlin. Is this the last time I'll fill her water tank before it's over? Is this the last time I'll spray dirt off her sagging aft deck? Oh, how I'll miss scrubbing seagull shit off her wide bow. Indeed, I have been reduced to a lovesick teenager by an old boat made of fibreglass, faded vinyl and rough wood.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Functionally drunk

I have always enjoyed a few stiff drinks. And I probably drink more socially than my contemporaries, those with children, mortgages and full time jobs. People who have prioritized the latter over spending an afternoon in the pub telling tall tales. I've also been known to drink antisocially. To each their own. And boats and booze just seem to go together. I remember reading somewhere that boating is no place for drunks, at least for drunks who are making a go of being sober. I climbed out of the cabin this morning and was immediately invited for coffee and Amarula by one of my remaining neigbhours. It was 9 in the morning. Of course I accepted. We hugged warm boozy coffee mugs sitting at the picnic table, red and orange leaves dancing around our feet. I wasn't always a morning drinker; I mistakenly used to believe that was the domain of hardcore alcoholics. No one civilized drank before noon. BAH, what did I know then. I don't drink any more now, but I don't drink any less. I just drink smarter. I have become enlightened to the allure of a few white wines with lunch. Millions of wealthy divorcees sitting around restaurants at noon downing Sauvignon can't be wrong. Yesterday I swilled half a bottle of Campari at 2 in the afternoon, feet hanging over the dock, watching a friend drain their oil and dry their spark plugs. It just made me more helpful. And what's wrong with a stiff martini before work? Why wait till after work like everyone else? Every passion has its learning curve. I may have become a better sailor this summer, but I also became a better drinker.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

I Can Haz Cheezburger

Yep, that's what it's come down to, a gratuitous kitten photo. Who in their right mind can resist a little baby kitten? No wonder they fool the humans so well, making their way into human homes, only to grow into cats. This little devil recently joined a marina family. By next year, kitty will be stalking rabbits and bringing dead mice aboard.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Full Time Jimmy Jams

A blissful Saturday morning here. I went over to my girl friend's boat for breakfast. We ate eggs and bacon in our pyjamas. And then I danced to Lady Gaga with a 10 year old boy. These days, I only change out of my pyjamas if I'm going into the real world. In fact, someone just said to me, "you're like Hugh Hefner, always in your pyjamas." Maybe next year I'll get a paisley silk robe and wander around the marina, leaving no further doubt that I have indeed lost my mind.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Chicken Soup for Boaters

Being sick on a boat doesn't have much to recommend it. And having a cold on a cold boat during during cold weather, even less so. At full blast, my little ceramic heater has managed to get the temperature up to about 11 degrees inside. That's 9 degrees or so less than room temperature. It's sort of like being sick in a walk-in cooler. I am sitting under a pile of duvets huddled with the dogs, trying to remember the good times. And all I can remember is being sick another time on a boat under less than ideal conditions. I contracted Norwalk Virus while sailing the Caribbean on a tall ship. Our boat was moored in St. Kitts for a day or so, right next to the Queen Elizabeth II, which was quarantined 2 weeks later for a Norwalk epidemic. TA DA, I was sick 24 hours after being moored next to the QEII.

The normal smell of marine toilets is usually enough to make me dry heave. But it's even worse when you're hugging a marine toilet during rough seas and the holding tank is full of other people's waste, stinking and sloshing about 5 feet from your vomiting face... Need I go on? Not pleasant. But I think I would trade this cold for that Norwalk virus. After the Norwalk, I was 5 pounds thinner and swimming in the Caribbean 5 minutes after it ended. This cold isn't as promising...

Monday, October 12, 2009

The Angry Risotto: A Parable

Late one afternoon, near the beginning of the season, I made some risotto for an open air communal dinner. I tried something new, a sweet potato, spinach, feta, and pine nut risotto. A very vegetarian dish to be sure. Before I started cooking, in the middle of a perfectly enjoyable afternoon, I received a blood boiling text from the ex. I fumed as I started to cook, chopped the potatoes, sauteed the onion and garlic, boiled up the vegetable stock and roasted the nuts. And boy did I roast those nuts. I had been looking forward to cooking the risotto, but now it was just a chore I resented. In the movie 'Like Water for Chocolate', a heartbroken woman prepares a dish for a wedding banquet, all the while crying into the large simmering pot in front of her. When the guests eat the dish she's prepared, they all start to cry, thinking of their own lost loves as they consume her tears. My risotto was not sad, just very angry. It was received blandly by those who ate it, no one raved. Someone suggested it lacked flavour and that I should have roasted the nuts differently. There wasn't enough 'stuff' in it. I was just glad there was no fighting among the diners after they ate the angry risotto. But when you mix that kind of anger with vegetarian risotto, you get something sort of dull and unsatisfying, like anger itself.

Fast forward to now. On a recent trip to the grocery store, I walked by a beautiful display of Italian ingredients: squid ink pasta, expensive balsamic vinegars, and things I'd never heard of before. I spotted a charming little jar labelled "Crema Tartuffo": white truffle cream. The ingredient itself was unfamiliar to me, but what a thing to build a dish around I thought... And so I decided to make white truffle risotto for our dockside Thanksgiving dinner. I googled the recipe and found a variety of ways to make this dish, which the internet unanimously hailed as decadent and delicious. On a brisk and sunny Sunday afternoon, in great spirits, I poured myself a tall glass of Pinot Noir and set about cooking the risotto. Paul Simon played in the background, upbeat and infectious. I felt calm, confident and in charge. I used more chicken stock then I normally would for flavour. My shallots and garlic were finely chopped. Lots of wine. Heaps of mushrooms. Lashings of butter went in. And so did a big pile of expensive grated parmesan. A generous pour of full fat cream. And to finish it all off, a whopping dollop of white truffle cream. This was a luxurious and heartfelt risotto with nothing spared. It should have been served with a side of Lipitor. And it was a hit. The hostess had two servings, one for dinner and one for dessert. It's difficult to draw attention from the bird of honour at a Thanksgiving dinner, but women from the end of the table came up and raved. What is that dish? What's the seasoning? I said it's white truffle risotto of course; pigs find truffles buried in the ground. Well it's divine they said. So rich. Simple but extravagant. Understated but over the top. And that's how my risotto evolved in the course of a season. And me too, Grasshopper.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Great Weather for Huskies

Here's one of our local banshees, Calliope. She seems practically animated as she just finished devouring the snout of a cooked pig at the pig roast.

And the most recent weather warning from our boys over at Environment Canada: "A large bubble of Arctic high pressure will settle across the lower lakes tonight accompanied with generally clear skies and light winds. This will produce ideal conditions for ground frost as the mercury is expected to dip below the freezing mark in most localities." Bring it...

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Marina's Most Wanted

This is one of the little urchins causing mayhem around here. There seems to be a bold and rampant population of juvenile raccoons, probably born during the garbage strike when pickings were good. Now pickings are slimmer and these little coons have become public enemy number one. They are on everyone's boat, eating whatever they can get into with their tiny little opposable thumbs. I was walking by the garbage the other day, a lidded wooden enclosure about 5 feet by 4 feet. The Yorkie started sniffing at it and subsequently lost his mind. I hesitantly opened the lid and sure enough, two teenage coons were nestled inside a garbage can. A woman I know came along and had a look too. Then some of the menfolk stopped by to see what all the fuss was about. One of the guys took the garbage can out and shook the raccoons loose. Methinks that if it wasn't for the female presence, these young coons would have met a sudden and violent end rather than returning to the wild.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Storm before and after...

Storms blow in pretty quickly around here and they can blow out just the same. During a recent pig roast, a whopper descended without notice, wreaked havoc and then took off for Buffalo, like a drunk person who crashes your party while everyone else is still sober, eats all your food and then passes out on the pile of coats.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Moral Outrage in Leslieville

Toronto is very much a brunch town. On the weekends, everyone stumbles out of bed and heads for that deliciously lazy hybrid meal named after breakfast and lunch. I was among the bleary eyed and hungry searching for sustenance on the weekend. My friend and I went to our usual place, Edward Levesque, but they had a lineup out the door, no thanks. And it was only noon. Their food is urbane and their Pinot Grigio cold - a couple of glasses make for a perfectly genteel brunch time buzz. I am also strangely attracted to the surly and unhappy servers and a menu that wittily discourages both children and cell phones in their place of business. Alas, we wandered down the road and found a textbook greasy spoon, the Leslieville Diner. I Urbanspooned the Diner on my iPhone and saw a couple of comments like 'terrible service' but 'reliable and average food'. We were getting pretty hungry so we went in. The vibe was strange and dingy in this small place and the servers seemed harried. We sat for a few minutes unnoticed, but my friend noticed that there was no liquor license and we both admitted to craving a spicy Ceaser. We started mulling over the possibility of leaving. After all, there were plenty of other places to dine along Queen Street. When we got up to leave, a server finally appeared and I said, "Sorry, we're going to leave. We see you don't have a liquor license." We had been temporarily seated next to a table of what I can only describe as crusty old farts. Four senior men who'd probably been sitting in the diner for the better part of the morning relaying useless facts back and forth. As we passed by their table to leave, one of them said loud enough for everyone to hear, but didn't address us directly, "It's a little early to start drinking don't you think?". We were impervious to this brunch time judgment hurled our way and tumbled out of the Diner laughing. We happened upon a most charming spot up the road at the OK Diner. We were seated immediately, brought two Ceasars and served a delightful little brunch. If I wanted judgment on a Sunday, I'd probably skip brunch and go to church.