In my newsroom days, I was the final eyes on thousands, even hundreds of thousands of stories before I moved them into the public realm. I wrote bazillions of headlines, sneaking in puns, alliteration and word-play.
And not a single reader knew my name.
On Jan. 10, faced with the prospect of publishing the first blog post of this series, I had a crisis of self-confidence. Oh, I knew my words were fine and my spelling was good but the act of putting my creativity on display — under my own name, no less — was scary. I am an editor, for Pete’s sake. I am not some kind of creative person!
It got easier — thank goodness, or it would have been a really long 100 days — as I learned to trust my instincts, my capacity to tell a story and my love of the language.
Lesson #1: If you create, you are creative. If you are fearful about showing it off, you are human, and that is OK.
I learned a few other things on this journey, too.
On occasion, I thought about this project as being very Seinfeld-like. Not in a good way, more in a “blogging about nothing” kind of way. After all, what was I supposed to write that would make anybody care about why I made apple muffins? Think about that. All of a sudden, I had plenty of sympathy for all the newsroom interns who were told “Go to Farmfair and come back with a story. No, wait, come back with a FRONT PAGE story.”
Lesson #2: I apologize to all interns to whom I assigned those stories. That is not easy to do. And you showed me that it can be done well.
I learned that cooking isn’t just about ingredients and a method. It’s about sharing a meal and sharing a day. Dan was simply stellar through all of this, gamely testing everything I made except for the deconstructed cabbage rolls. (He has been forgiven for this.) But I was also able to offer up Kitchen Castoff creations to our kids, to other family and to friends. It never mattered whether the recipes were loved or hated; it only mattered that we were breaking bread together.
Lesson #3: Food is love.
Back on Day 32, we attended a soup night with good friends who we don’t see nearly enough. The top of that day’s blog post went like this:
The wine and conversation were flowing. The aromas of warm bread and savoury soups were filling the kitchen. And Mitch, the unexpected romantic among us, summed it up beautifully. “This,” he announced, inhaling deeply, “is love.”
That was one of my favourite posts during this project. Some were special because the recipes were so darn good, like the Boeuf Bourguignon, the Guinness Irish Stew, the Saffron Risotto, the Shakshouka eggs. Some were favourites because they were fun to write and to read — the Cherry Cha-Cha, Dan’s crouton coup, and the Jack-O-Lentil Burger.
All of it led to some pressure about Day 100. As in, “What are you going to make for your last day?”
We made reservations.
We snagged a Saturday night table at Chartier, the Quebec French restaurant in Beaumont, chosen because we’d read many good things about it and had never been there before. Little did we know how well it fit in with the theme of this blog.
The menu changes often and features comfort food, done really well. The night we were there, Dan had the deconstructed beef bourguignon and I had the tortiere. To start, we shared a poutine. To finish, we shared the wonderful “poor-man’s pudding” (Pouding du Chômeur) and we each had one of the chocolate truffles. I am pretty sure I drank most of the wine. It was a celebration after all.
The food was tremendous. The service was tremendous. The atmosphere was welcoming, and not at all pretentious. And in a very Kitchen Castoff kind of way, its chairs and china patterns were merrily mismatched.
But what spoke most to us came at the end of our dinner when owner Sylvie Cheverie came around to check on us. Her pride in her kitchen and staff was evident; her delight in our enjoyment was genuine. It didn’t matter that she wasn’t sitting at our table, she was still sharing a meal with us.
As we left, we saw the chalkboard sign on the sidewalk.
Food is Love, it said.
Yes, it is.
Thanks for joining me on my 100 days.