Posts filed under ‘Art’
Every once in a while I make something to eat at home that receives glowing reviews from my dear dining mate. This is no easy feat and like all hard-to-achieve praise, it is sometimes hard to understand. This is just mushroom soup – there are some fancy things to add at the end if you wish – cream, a bit of chopped spinach (my favourite), a few drops of truffle oil, a sprinkle of chives – but it is just mushroom soup, and it is easy to make.
The hardest part is the patience needed to cook the onions and mushrooms slowly so the flavours have lots of time to develop and mingle – make sure you do that.
I made this soup for a quick Friday dinner before we went to see Life of Pi, which was very well done – a great movie adaptation of a great book. Like many people, I’m a Yann Martel fan (especially his ‘What is Stephen Harper Reading’ project, which I enjoyed even more than Life of Pi), and it makes me very happy to see Canadian literature turning into Hollywood films. I remember seeing Yann Martel’s books at the Livraria Lello in Porto a few years ago and wondering if he was as pleased as I was to see his books translated into Portuguese. I think his star just took another giant leap.
1 large onion, finely chopped
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 tablespoon herbes de Provence (or dried thyme)
Lots of fresh ground pepper
1/2 cup red wine
3 cups sliced button mushrooms
3 cups sliced portobello mushrooms
4 cups vegetable stock
3 tablespoons fresh herbs, chopped (I used oregano and basil)
Optional add ins (for four servings):
1 cup chopped spinach (frozen is ok, but thaw it first)
4 tablespoons whipping cream
Slowly cook onion in oil over low-medium heat until it begins to carmelize. This will take a while, maybe 15 minutes. Add in the dried herbs, pepper and red wine; stir for a few minutes until the wine starts to reduce. Add in the mushrooms and cook slowly until they begin to cook down, about 10 minutes. Add in the vegetable stock and fresh herbs and remove from the heat. Let the mixture cool down to lukewarm and then puree in the blender (do not blend hot liquid, not ever!). Return to the pot and heat through. Stir in any of the optional add-ins above. Or, if taste differences prevail in your house as they do in mine, add what you will to the bottom of individual bowls, ladle in the soup, stir and serve.
The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern. A real book. The kind of book you always hope to find. A can’t put it down, stay up until 2am, fall asleep with your glasses still on your face sort of book. The storyline is epic and sprawling, there are tons of characters (but you’re never confused about who is who), the writing is lush and visual with no “literary trickery” says one reviewer I always trust, and the book is long, which is good because you don’t want it to end.
It’s a great book. I liked it so much, actually, that I closed another book the other night before I finished reading it. Not good enough. I love books, I read a ton of them, and I try to choose carefully. It’s a rare thing for me to abandon a book, but I think my standards have just gone up. There was a great article in the National Post recently by Keir Lowther, a PEI author who was guest editing the Afterword section. He talked about the importance of telling a good story and not just generating literary drivel, which, I have to say, is my assessment of that half-read book I’ll be shuffling back to the library this weekend.
The Night Circus was a Christmas gift last year. I put it on my wish list because I was inspired by Erin Morgenstern’s pep talk for the National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) challenge, and because it sounded like such a great story: a night-time circus. How magical. The Night Circus, a debut novel which has become a bestseller, began its life during the NaNoWriMo challenge, which happens each November. 46,991 words is the closest I’ve come to reaching the 30 day-50,000 word goal. This year will be the fourth time I’ve participated.
There are only nine days left in the challenge and for a variety of reasons I’m off to a late start: a day in, a mere 1,727 words logged. The little word tracking chart on the NaNoWriMo website makes it look like I’m at the bottom of Everest, and I suppose I am, but I didn’t want to break my tradition of participating. Only 48,273 words to go. Every attempt at a novel brings you that much closer to actually completing one, right? Better late than never, and better to fail than not try.
I believe that books find you at the right time and place in your life. If I own them, I tend to wait for them to call out from the shelf instead of reading them the moment they arrive. When November came along and I found myself thinking about the challenge but not actually participating yet, I decided to read The Night Circus. I loved it and now I’m using it to justify this ridiculous decision to try to write 50,000 words – not in 30 days (which sounds so easy now!), but in nine. By the time I was a few pages into The Night Circus, I thought, I want to write a novel just like this some day. Imaginative. Page-turning. Magical. Fun. Something a reader can’t wait to get back to and can’t wait to begin again.
Happy NaNoWriMo, writers. There’s still time to start!
The Self-Completing Tree, a collection of poems by Dorothy Livesay caught my eye this morning. Its green and white spine seemed brighter than normal today, and the book was calling to be pulled from the shelf.
The Self-Completing Tree is an old friend, discovered years ago in a Canadian literature class in university. I loved it then, as I do today. Livesay’s poems have passion and spark – politics and feminism, life and death and love are her frequent subjects. Her work is nuanced, but also easy to read: Livesay wrote poems for real people, not just other poets and academics, and she lived a fascinating life well worth knowing: student, social worker, mother, grandmother, poet, seer of tumultuous times, lover of men, women, children, music, art, pear trees, geraniums. She died in Victoria, BC in 1996.
Livesay has a way of making stillness seem whole and full of being. Plants leaning on windowsills looking for the light can be found in the quiet corners of this book. Poems like this are the ones I appreciated most when I stepped back into Livesay’s words today:
Bartok and the Geranium
She lifts her green umbrellas
Toward the pane
Seeking her fill of sunlight
Or of rain;
She has no commentary
Blows out her fubelows,
Her bustling boughs;
And all the while he whirls
Explodes in space,
Never content with this small room:
Not even can he be
Confined to the sky
But must speed high and higher still
From galaxy to galaxy,
Wrench from the stars their momentary notes
Steal music from the moon.
He is dark
She’s heaven-held breath
He storms and cackles
Spits with hell’s own spark.
Yet in this room, this moment now
These together breathe and be:
She, the essence of serenity,
He in a mad intensity
Soars beyond sight
Then hurls, lost Lucifer
From heaven’s height.
And when he’s done, he’s out:
She leans a lip against the glass
And preens herself in light.
It is a very beautiful city, though, full of elegant architecture and glamour. Most of all I am captivated by all the art and museums. We’ll have one more evening in Paris later this week after we surface from wine country – for now a few photos with hope that I’ll keep warming up to the famed city of light with every visit.
Calgary’s fall has been less than idyllic so far. We spent 10 days vacationing on Vancouver Island in mid-September, and when we came back the weather was hot and balmy, as if it was still summer. A few days after that it turned cold with the first frosts of the season. Since then, we’ve experienced chilly rains and more than a few days of snow, most recently paired with blustering winds and temperatures dipping to -10C.
Aside from braving the cold for a few brief moments today to hang this beautiful sunflower head from Eagle Creek Flowers for our backyard birds to snack on, I’ve felt mostly deprived of the usual joys of experiencing the fall season outdoors. At its best, fall is one of my favourite seasons. It is soothing and peaceful to watch the plant life in our garden reach its full life cycle and prepare to rest for the winter months. And while I miss the warmth of the summer months, enjoying more time nesting in our cozy house is a welcome shift as the seasons change.
We’re spending this weekend, Thanksgiving weekend in Canada, visiting Lake Louise for a couple of days and after that we’ll enjoy a family dinner to celebrate the holiday. With luck we might also squeeze in the Harvest Country Drive, which is happening between Calgary and Red Deer – a seasonal, farm-friendly activity in our region that I’ve never experienced. My hope is that the whole weekend will provide a thorough dose of fall and some much-needed time outdoors, walking, taking photographs and experiencing nature before the long winter settles in.