Would you forgive me if I told you that I had one of the best summers of my life? Everything moved so quickly that by the time I would finish a blog post it was no longer up to date or relevant. I can't type as quickly as my life is passing me by. And it seems all that much more rapid because every moment feels like one worth savouring, every moment is worth holding on to, worth cradling and observing and embracing. When I sit this computer in front of me and start typing I fear that I am missing out on something, that time is slipping away, that I should be doing something more meaningful.
Looking back on my last blog post however, I am reminded of the value of taking the time to sit here and reflect. Because without reflection it is so easy to forget, and if you forget everything that you have done then how worth doing is it? I like to come back here and revisit how I felt at some particular moment of time. And, if you are someone who eats, many moments in time are anchored around food in some way. For me, and for many I am sure, life revolves around food: our relationships, our feelings, celebrations, meetings, bonding, new beginnings, farewells and everything in between.
I can look back on my summer and see the meals that I ate, the settings in which I ate them, the people that I laughed and conversed with, the stories and memories we shared, the experiences we recounted, the people that ebbed and flowed around us, the warmth of the air that surrounded us, the scenery that acted as our backdrop, the events that led us to that table or that park bench or onto the grass, the train coach or even just to a couch, a kitchen counter or on a food-in-hand promenade. The food that we eat extends our experiences and our memories to all five of our senses. This must be why our meals are a part of so many of life's memorable events.
I would love to recount all of the experiences I was blessed to be a part of this summer, but I have waited too long to share and I do not have time to write the novel I would need to write. In brief, what flitters through my mind is weekends spent drinking beers at the beach, a trip to the Okanagan, exploring lakes along the way there and passing through a dozen wineries on the way home. I went to the Sasquatch music festival at The Gorge in Washington, went on a road trip to Portland aimed at exploring breweries that resulted in the discovery of so much delicious food. I also went on a brief but beautifully memorable sailing trip up the Indian Arm and also spent two weekends camping on the sunshine coast. On top of that I spent a pleasant week in Seattle that was work related but turned out to be more fun than serious (except for when I missed my 6:30 am train). Also of note is that I ran my first 10 K race in July which prompted me to pay closer attention to what I was eating than ever before.
Even though I recognize that this already sounds like an amazing summer in itself, it actually was made even better by a visit from my mom and littlest sister to Vancouver in early August and then even better by a trip to Italy and Spain with my second littlest sister, my sister-in-law (of sorts) and my very best friend. I am using this post to catch you up on my life and show some of my favorite pictures from my trip.
I have to say that in Italy, never in my life have I eaten such a high concentration of amazing food. My stomach growls and my mouth waters thinking back to it. It is quite sad to think that I will not really experience that culinary satisfaction again for years to come since I do not know when I will make it back. Even at the best restaurants in Canada I think it is hard to match everyday Italian cuisine. In Barcelona, I did not love the food I ate quite as much as what I experienced in Italy, it may be that we were not as strategic in choosing our restaurants. We did find one tapas bar, called Cal Pep, which was hands down the best place I ate at at in Barcelona and for some reason I feel obligated to promote it.
In Italy, it was hard not to eat well (unless we were near a major historical site). As such I rarely made the effort to remember names, but there are some that I will mention since I find them impossible to forget. In Monterosso Al Mare I will always dream of Ristorante da Ely, for their perfect ravioli with pesto and Ristorante Al Carugio for their pesto gnocchi and for their kindness. From Florence we went to Chianti for a wine tour and there, at Tenuta Casanova we had the most amazing meal I have ever had - a multi-course lunch where everything came from the farm from the chickpeas, tomatoes and eggs to the honey, truffle oil and the balsamic (I kid you not) - served with a variety of lovely wines of course. I also have to mention La Ciambella Roma in Rome because in the touristy parts of Italy we fell victim, more than once, to bad tourist-trap restaurants. This one, not too far from the Pantheon, was a wonderful find. The four photos below, including a zucchini millefeuille, come from there.
Now, back in Vancouver, I am trying to recreate some of my favorite dishes from Italy. They were, for the most part, all very simple; the high quality of Italian ingredients is undoubtedly what made them so unforgettable. Grilled zucchini with olive oil, garlic and sea salt, toasted bread with grilled tomatoes, al dente pasta with the most flavourful of pesto. I am clinging to the memories with a jar of artichokes and sun-dried tomatoes that I brought home from a grocery store in Barletta. I also have my Cannensi Olive Oil which I could not live without at this moment.
I also have at my side, two brand new cookbooks that I have had my nose in the entire weekend and I think they are two of the most beautiful cookbooks I have ever purchased. First, there is Plum by Makini Howell with recipes from a popular vegan restaurant in Seattle. I am most excited to try the vegan creme fraiches and ricottas. I also am keen to try the author's strategy for making "egg foam" which she claims is an excellent egg white substitute in recipes. I will report on how that turns out. The other cookbook is Plenty by Yotam Ottolenghi which is filled with creative vegetable centred recipes. Tonight, I am planning to try the Lentils with Broiled Eggplant, the photo looks irresistible. The recipe calls for a final topping of creme fraiche, which I plan to substitute with the vegan creme fraiche from Plum.
So this is where my life stands, filled once again with recipes and a passion for cooking. Also, the Vancouver rain is back in full force so it is certain that I will not be getting out as much as I would like to. Instead I may find more time for cooking and documenting and hopefully I will still manage to live life to the fullest.