“I’ve propped myself so I’ll be able to see when dawn starts to arrive. For now there are still planets and stars. Above the black branches of a maple is the dog star, Sirius, my personal favorite. The dusty rings of Saturn. Io, Jupiter’s moon.
When I think I can’t bear it for one more minute I reach down and nudge her gently with my dog-arm. She rises slowly, faltering, and stands over me in the darkness. My peer, my colleague. In a few hours the world will resume itself, but for now we’re in a pocket of silence. We’re in the plasmapause, a place of equilibrium, where the forces of the earth meet the forces of the sun. I imagine it as a place of silence, where the particles of dust stop spinning and hang motionless in deep space.”
The Boys of my Youth, Jo Ann Beard
I walked five minutes away from my regular route a few weeks ago. I am a walker. I like looking at people’s houses and imagining just how different their lives are, even if all I see is a cat on their doorstep or a gigantic TV screen from their front window. Everyone is interesting in my head. I try to take the dogs with me sometimes. One of them is stronger than me and the other thinks it’s best to always go in the opposite direction. With no footpaths, going right already seemed more appealing than going left. I went left anyway. A few meters in, I got pulled by dog 1 towards a boxer in a chain-link fenced house, just as a car was driving on the same side of the road and I thought to myself – well this was a stupid idea. Nobody died but I wasn’t in the best mood. “Why can’t we have impeccably-trained animals? Why can’t these dogs be like Gypsy? She’s adorable. She doesn’t pull and all she wants to do is ride in a car.” I crossed to the other side of the road and didn’t look up. I almost fell into a ditch thanks to dog enthusiasm.
When I got over myself I passed by a little slightly-bigger-than-a-birdhouse house. Oh! It’s the little free library. Except my mind was shouting those words. I’ve never seen one before but I heard about it. Sarah from work kept talking about a book she got from one and since then I’ve been wishing to make my own discovery. For me, true liberation is finding a book I didn’t have to hear about from somebody. There are so, so many books in this world that we never cross paths with. So few of them are allowed to find themselves into our hearts. Right from finding a book to bringing it home – I enjoy every second of the journey.
I’m not here to dismiss online book-shopping or e-books. They have their pluses (is that a word? Don’t see a red underline so I’m going to assume it is). I just don’t see them very clearly owing to my own bias towards holding a physical copy of love labour. Pages somehow manage to make the world more real. For me, having no space for clothes because books take it all up is a joy – not a hindrance. It’s a pleasure I will never tire of. When I moved to the US, one bag was mostly books. Second bag was everything else. I know my priorities
Finding The Boys of my Youth came at a time when I needed that exact blend of melancholy and nostalgia. I always do but this time was different/I needed it more. It was everything my heart needed to cling to.
Plus, who doesn’t love boys?
Herbed grape leaf rice salad
I am having the hardest time naming this recipe. If you see a title on the top, it was written after I wrote everything else out. I finally got it. YES! You can add another layer of flavour by cooking the rice in chicken or vegetable stock.
For the rice
- 2 cups cooked basmati rice (1/2 cups uncooked. Here are how-to instructions)
- 1 cup parsley, roughly chopped
- 1/4 cup fresh dill, roughly chopped
- 1/2 cup green onions, chopped into rounds
- 5 grape leaves (enough to fill about 1/2 cup when chopped)
- 1 tomato, finely diced
- 1/4 – 1/3 cup pine nuts, toasted
- 1/3 cup raisins
- 2 tbsp garlic, chopped fine
- 1 tbsp vegetable oil
For the dressing
- 6 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 1 tbsp lemon juice
- 2 tbsp red wine vinegar
- A pinch of salt
Cook the rice, cover and set it aside. It should still be steamy once you’re ready to mix in the other ingredients.
Chop the parsley, dill, green onions and tomato. Set the ingredients aside in a bowl. The grape leaves will need to be blanched before they can be used. First, prepare an ice bath. Boil a pot of water and add the grape leaves to it. Bring the water back up to a boil and let the leaves sit for about 5 minutes. Take the leaves out of the water (careful!) and place in the ice water bath. Drain the leaves and pat dry. Cut out the middle vein on the leaf. This part is usually tougher to chew. Julienne the rest of the grape leaves until you get 1/2 a cup. Keep with the other herbs.
To toast the pine nuts, you can either do it over the stove or in the oven. I toasted mine in the oven. Heat the oven to 375 degrees F and prepare a baking sheet with parchment paper. Place the pine nuts on the sheet and into the oven for about 7-10 minutes. At the 5-minute mark, stir the pine nuts around so they toast on all sides. Pull them out of the oven once they turn golden-brown and let them cool.
Heat the vegetable oil in a frying pan and add the garlic to it. If it looks like it’s cooking too fast, reduce the heat. Keep stirring until the garlic turns crispy and a light golden-brown colour. Take the pan off the stove and drain the excess oil on a paper towel.
Whisk all the ingredients for the dressing together in a small jar.
Spoon the rice into a serving bowl and add all the chopped ingredients to it. Mix it into the rice. Spoon in the dressing. Add as much or as little as you like. Sprinkle the raisins, pine nuts and garlic chips on the top and mix in lightly. Serve as a side with a chunky hunk of whatever it is you like to eat.