Tag: Antony John

2009: Not A List, a Remembrance.

Lists are, to my mind, a way of categorizing those things that generally defy categorization. They’re also just a cop-out for reminiscence. I tend to shy away from lists that show up this time of year, mainly because what I think is the best so-and-so of the past year (or decade) probably won’t match anyone else’s -nor should it. Memories are personal things, like opinions, and rather than arguing over veracity or validity, I tend to find a deeper meaning in simply reading the personal remembrances of others -for instance, someone’s most memorable meal or personal highlight for the year -as opposed to any top ten list that’s designed (usually solely) to ruffle feathers.

So here, in no particular order, are just a few of my favourite 2009 highlights:

Jessica Jensen
The Canadian designer best known for her exquisite leather goods ventured into the world of clothing at the start of this past autumn’s LG Fashion Week. The pieces were interestingly presented in artist Thrush Holmes‘ studio, located along Queen Street West in Toronto.

What made this marriage of fashion and art so fascinating were the various intersections between creativity and commerce; with the muted colours and billowing folds of Jensen’s pieces draped onto white, faceless, feature-less mannequins, Holmes’ studio resembled something of a retail space; it was less creation, and more consumption. But placed together with the work of Jensen’s photographer-husband (which definitely had hints of Sugimoto in its contemplative simplicity), the set-up encouraged lingering, contemplating, and connecting different ideas and pressentations. The links between the source of her inspiration (the moody climate of the American Eastern seaboard) and the end result (simply-constructed pieces in an array of pre and post-storm colours) was made clearer, with the space transformed into an intriguing mix of old and new definitions of art, artfulness, creation and commerce. Nicely done.

Goran Bregovic
The Eastern European singer, in Toronto this past June for the Luminato Festival of Arts and Creativity, proved to be wonderful, charming, curios conversationalist, and it remains one of my favourite interviews. His first appearance here -he played two shows, the first being a massive, open-air show in a main square in the city’s core -was met with a riotous response. Singing, clapping, dancing, climbing the scaffolding -and two of the city’s main roads closed -all for a man who doesn’t sing in English (okay, one song). His concert the following night -in a smaller club, the celebrate the release of his Best-Of album -was warm, ebullient, joyous, and raucous, and brought me closer to my own Eastern European background than I’d ever been before. It also re-awakened my love of dance. Easily one of the most musically fascinating -and personally important -concerts of my life.

The Nightingale
The Robert LePage-directed work received its world premiere at the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts this past fall. I had my doubts about pairing Stravinsky and the Quebec-born artist, mainly because the former’s music is, to my ears, so incredibly difficult at points. Where -how -would LePage find his way into this? Find his way he did, though, with the use of creative puppetry, shadowplay, sumptuous costuming, and a pit-full of water. Using a fascinating visual palette that embraced the Russian flavour of the piece, as well as the piece’s Oriental leanings, The Nightingale was a feast for the eyes, ears -and the heart. Easily one of the most memorable opera productions, ever.

Food Writing
From walking around Antony John’s wonderous, beautiful farm, to attending the Brickworks Picnic, to tasting teas -and champagnes -at Hart House, this has been one heck of a great year, food-wise, for me. Not only have I expanded my professional (and photographic) repertoire by chasing these features, but I’ve received a great education in the process.

I’ve also become keenly aware of both my own purchasing power, and of the power of social media with regards to food. I was interviewed by AP reporter Michael Hill about my love of twecipes. And I’ve met and spoke with some truly wonderful people, some of whom I met via the wonders of the interwebs, including Food & Drink/Globe writer/author Lucy Waverman, Ruth Klahsen (the Queen of Monforte) and Maria Solokofski, the Guerilla Gourmet; there’s been more enlightening yacks with raw milk farmer (and good food crusader) Michael Schmidt and Earth To Table authors/chefs Jeff Crump and Bettina Schormann, who were so informative, affable, and down-to-earth (irony intended) in their approach to food. More than ever, 2009 was the year in which my kitchen became my haven.

Toot Toot
One more thing: I was profiled in Shameless Magazine. It’s not very often I feel completely proud or satisfied with my work -creative, professional or otherwise (my inner critic is also a relentless bully) -but really, having this piece out there and so widely circulated was a personal boon, and the response I’ve received has been tremendous, and inspiring. I’m going to try to keep myself open to more of these good moments in 2010, and the decade it heralds.

Here’s to continuing the magic.

Jessica Jensen / Thrush Holmes’ studio photo by Kimberly Lyn.
Goran Bregovic photo by Imre Szekely.

Cool (Hot) Beets

I’m writing this from my kitchen -my place of refuge, my studio, my laboratory, all rolled in one. It’s funny how such a simple change of locale -from upstairs to down -can drastically alter the way one approaches one’s work. No wonder coffee shops are so filled with people on laptops; what is sometimes lost in personal interconnection in such circumstances is often gained in the field of inspiration and initiative (though I’d argue one is deeply connected with the other).

So, after much thought -and a joyous session in roasting beets (more below), I’ve decided to include simple recipes as part of Play Anon. Rather than watering down its content, I feel it will add to, and complement it. Food is as much a part of culture as theatre, dance, painting, sculpture, electronic art, and so on -though it is also vastly more immediate, and I feel, intimate in its nature. Food is what we share as humans. We cannot live without eating. And like all cultural things, it provides needed nourishment -not only to our bodies, but on spiritual, mental, and emotional levels.

Right now, I’m typing with hands softened by good olive oil, just used to anoint the beets which now roast in the oven. I love beets, and always have done, ever since I was a child, standing beside my mother, hands stained purple, carefully peeling, apron firmly tied. I grew up thinking there was only one way to prepare them -that is, my mother’s method: boil to death, messily peel, drown in butter. While I’m not immune to the charms of butter and salt (though now, I’m finding good quality in each harder to come by), I feel treating such a beautiful vegetable so heinously borders on the sinful. Basic rule: if the vegetable is good, it should stand on its own. Period.

So while I applaud Lucy Waverman integrating beets into various dishes to tempt the palette of any beet-hating President, I prefer my purpley root veg straight-up. Antony John understands this. I had the wonderful fortune of visiting his beautiful farm, Soiled Reputation, last month. Sitting just outside the town of Stratford, Ontario, the farm grows organic vegetables which are then used in many restaurants across the Southern end of the province. Jamie Kennedy, the activist-chef (and one of my very-favourites, for his food and his ethos), uses Soiled Reputation’s veg, including their lovely, feathery greens, filled with sweet and bitter tastes.

One of the things I brought back from my trip was a bag of beets. Though pink on the outside, they’re white on the inside. They yield a sweeter flavour than regular beets, and I am wagering, roast up deliciously.

Roasting is, incidentally, my favourite method, though I have also experimented with marinating sliced beets in good balsamic, and then barbequing, both with foil and without. But there’s something awfully comforting about the smell of roast-anything wafting through the house, particularly as temperatures drop and the season turns. With the advent of autumn, root vegetables come back to prominence at my table.

Depending on the size of the beets, you may wish to slice them (I chopped a few bigger ones in half width-wise) and i always take the top off (the part where the greens sprout), though I tend to leave the “tail” -there’s something so merry about them, even if you can’t (or won’t) eat that portion.

So you will need:

Roughly 12 beets, small, or 8 small, 2 medium, 1-2 large, all very well-scrubbed.

  • Leave the small beets whole; chop the medium beets in half width-wise; chop the large beets in manageable chunks.
  • Pour good olive oil on top -about 3-4 tsp should be enough, but use your judgment; you don’t want them swimming or dripping in it, but you want enough to lubricate the beets and the casserole dish they’re sitting snugly in, rosy cheek to pale jowl.
  • Sprinkle salt on top: sea, rock, red, whatever you wish.
  • Toss with your bare hands.
  • Cover with foil, loosely; pop into a pre-heated oven (400F) for about 15 minutes; check after that to see if they’re done how you like, or if you need to add more oil.

I’d leave them in another 15-20 minutes. Prick with a fork if you’re really not sure but they’ll be making little sizzley sounds to indicate they’re cooked.

And… that’s it.

Really, wasn’t that easy?

Addendum: 30ish minutes did the trick. Delicious, succulent, sweet, and rich. I said it before, I’ll say it again: beets are beautiful. Take that, Mr. Obama.

Powered by WordPress & Theme by Anders Norén