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KITCHEN CHRONICLES: A legacy of bitterness. PLUS barbecued tandoori chicken

Kitchen Chronicles is a weekly series by Barbara Sibbald — novelist, award-winning journalist, and long-time contributor to Ottawa MagazineVisit Kitchen Chronicles every Sunday for a new installment — and a tested recipe.

 

Will He?

KITCHEN CHRONICLES WILL HE?

 

Fiona slams through the back door. He’s such an asshole, she thinks.

—   Luc, she calls out, mustering her inner sweetness so she doesn’t sound as bitchy as she feels.

—   I’m home. Luc?

—   Be right down, babe, he calls from upstairs.

 

She plunks her heavy courier bag on the table and rummages through it, pulling out a letter. She takes it out to re-read.

—   Asshole, she mutters.

—   Hope you’re not talking about me, says Luc, coming in and giving her a kiss on the cheek. What’s up?

—   I got this letter from Dad. At work no less, because after nearly a year he still doesn’t have our home address straight. Shows you how much I mean to him.

—   Whoa, Fee. What’s up? What does he want?

—   It’s a note really, and a copy of his will. Basically, Neil and I get nada. Nothing. It’s all going to wifey two.

—   Nothing?

—   A few family trinkets. Neil’s getting grandpa’s piano for chrissakes. How’s he supposed to move that from Vancouver to Halifax? And Neil doesn’t even play anymore. It was Dad who was keen on that. As soon as he left, Neil quit. Basically, Dad knows nothing about us.

—   What’s he leaving you?

—   The family silver, which I suppose is worth something, but I’ll never use it. I hate it. After polishing it every Saturday morning for years and years. Never quite to his standards, mind you. I’d have to line it up on a cloth on the kitchen table for inspection and he always make a big joke out of rejecting a few pieces. But it was no joke to me.

—   So some silverware with bad vibes, and that’s it?

—   Yeah, that’s it. He says his first obligation is to Lorelei. We’re young and can look out for ourselves, but she’s got rheumatoid arthritis now so he wants to make sure she’s okay.

—   Well, he does have to look after her. Especially if she’s sick. But his track record for truthfulness is kind of shaky.

—   So what happens when she goes? I guess her kids will get everything. It’s so friggin’ unfair.

—   A legacy of bitterness, says Luc.

—   You’re so right. I’m furious. I mean what about Neil? He’s sick too. Doesn’t he even consider his own son? And there’s Mom, too. She’s not exactly rolling in it. He might leave her something. She is the mother of his children.

—   How old’s your dad? Eighty-five?

—   Eighty-four. But he’s healthy, as far as I know. He’s probably just getting things in order. I don’t know why he decided to tell us about the will now.

—   Maybe it’s a trial balloon, to see how you’ll react. Wills can be changed.

—   Or maybe he just wants to be mean, to bug us. That’s possible too, with Dad.

—   I think you should go to a lawyer, or maybe a mediator. Get some professional advice on how to handle this.

—   You mean figure out how to negotiate with him?

—   Yeah. Let’s assume it is a trial balloon, that it’s not set in stone. I’m sure he doesn’t fully appreciate Neil’s situation. I mean it’s not like you’ve been calling with weekly updates.

—   That’s true, says Fee slowly. Neil hasn’t talked to him since Christmas. I haven’t either.

—   And does he know about our finances? How much we owe on this house? How much we’ve saved — or rather haven’t saved — for Gavin’s university? He might change his mind if you talked to him, if you opened up to him a bit.

—   I don’t know, says Fee, shaking her head, he’s friggin’ stubborn. And cheap.

—   But he does love you.

—   I guess he does. Yeah, he does.

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/PMH0001467/

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trial_balloon

IMG_4372

 

 

She looks up at Luc, grinning.

 

—   How did you get to be such a smarty pants? Okay, I’ll go and talk to someone, work out a way to broach this with him so he doesn’t go ballistic.

—   Stick to the facts. He’s a lawyer, he understands facts.

—   Thanks, Luc, says Fee, giving him a full hug. My voice of reason.

—   Chief cook and bottlewasher too. Shall I fire up the barbecue for the tandoori*?

 

 

 

*Grilled Tandoori Chicken

Six servings

Note: Needs to marinate at least 8 hours.

1 ½ teaspoon Dijon mustard

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

¼ cup low-fat plain yoghurt

1 ½ teaspoon fresh ginger root, minced

¼ teaspoon cumin seeds

¼ teaspoon ground turmeric

2 tablespoons lemon juice

1 jalapeno, seeded and finely chopped

2 ½ pounds chicken breasts, bone in

Juice of half a lemon

 

  1. Place mustard in bowl, add oil, drop by drop, whisking until well blended. Stir in yoghurt.

  2. Using a mortar and pestle or spice grinder, grind the ginger root, cumin, coriander seeds and turmeric to form a paste. Add lemon juice and mix well. Stir into yoghurt mixture with chopped chili.

  3. Remove skin from chicken. Make very small cuts in the meat. Arrange in a shallow dish and pour the yoghurt mixture over. Flip to coat all pieces. Cover and refrigerate at least 8 hours (up to 24 hours).

  4. Barbecue chicken 15 to 20 minutes on each side (15 if the top is down on the barbecue), or until juices run clear when chicken is pierced with a fork. Watch carefully and turn to prevent burning.    

LOST IN TRANSITION: Transitioning from the pediatric to adult health care system

This feature appears in Ottawa Magazine’s May 2014 issue. 

Sarah Mercer, Injuries, surgeries, and medication will always be part of her life, but that doesn't faze her as much as the transition to the adult health care system. Photo: Justin Van Leeuwen

Sarah Mercer — injuries, surgeries, and medication will always be part of her life, but that doesn’t faze her as much as the transition to the adult health care system.
Photo: Justin Van Leeuwen

By ROGER COLLIER For young people with chronic health conditions, turning 18 signals an important milestone. That’s when they transfer from nurturing, family-centred pediatric hospitals to the overcrowded, fragmented adult health care system. Not all make it to the other side “The scariest thing ever”

At the age of nine, while lounging on the floor of a friend’s home, playing Monopoly, Sarah Mercer attempted a feat that put her in hospital for three days: she tried to get up. Unfortunately, her left knee had other plans, opting to fracture rather than co-operate.

“That’s when I began using my wheelchair,” says Mercer. “I started walking again later, but I kept falling and breaking my bones.”

Mercer has spina bifida, scoliosis, osteoporosis, and a blood-clotting disorder called factor 5 Leiden. She was born with club feet, two hernias, and a partially split spinal cord. There have been about 40 surgeries over the years, the first when she was 12 days old. Her feet have been reconstructed, her spine has been fused, and several of her tendons are no longer in their original locations.

In short, Mercer’s health problems are chronic and complicated. Injuries, surgeries, pain, medication — these have always been parts of her life and always will be. At the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario — or CHEO, as it’s known to everybody in Ottawa — Mercer is on a first-name basis with people in many departments.

Though the thought of yet another surgery doesn’t faze Mercer, there was always one thing that did worry her: a date. January 24, 2013. That was the day she turned 18, which meant her time at CHEO was coming to an end.

“It’s the scariest thing ever,” says Mercer. “The doctors there are like family. They’ve seen me grow up. They’ve been through really tough times with me. Leaving them is like graduating from high school or moving out of your family’s home. It’s very nerve-wracking.”

Mercer is hardly the only young person with a chronic disease to bid farewell to a children’s hospital with some trepidation. When patients “age out” of the pediatric system, typically at 18, they encounter an entirely different culture of care. They leave a nurturing, family-centred facility where all their health needs — physical and mental — are addressed under one roof. In pediatric hospitals, patients receive care from multidisciplinary teams, which could include nurses, physiotherapists, social workers, surgeons, psychologists, pain specialists, and other health professionals.

On the other hand, the adult health care system they enter is fragmented and difficult to navigate, particularly for those who require the services of many medical providers. Someone like Mercer, for instance, will have to visit multiple locations across the city. As well, the adult system is bloated with elderly patients, who outnumber young adults by an ocean-wide margin. Welcome to waiting lists, shorter appointments, and impersonality.

“I’m used to it being very personal and one-on-one,” says Mercer. “Now I go to an appointment, and it’s like, ‘What’s your name?’ ”

Adult health care providers expect patients to be independent. There is no handholding, no deferring to parents, no reminders to keep appointments. You are expected to be an expert on your condition and the primary advocate for your health. Gone are the days when you could lean on others to fill in the details about your medications, therapies, and equipment needs.

In other words, after you blow out those 18 candles, you move out of a cozy, full-service medical home and into a confusing, overcrowded medical maze.

“People become very comfortable at CHEO because everything is here,” says Diane Gregoire, who became familiar with Mercer during her years as coordinator of spina bifida care at the hospital. “They don’t always realize they will be leaving at 18. You can get so overwhelmed and busy, and all of a sudden, you’re a teenager and have to start thinking about life after CHEO.”

Like other children’s hospitals across Canada, CHEO is striving to ensure that transfer to adult care is not merely an administrative event but, rather, a carefully planned transition. The goal of transition programs, which are growing in number and scope every year, is to facilitate continuous and coordinated care between the pediatric and adult health care systems.

A good transition can help young adults with complex medical conditions enjoy a greater quality of life and function better socially, academically, and professionally. A poor transition, however, can lead to anxiety, complications, deteriorating health and, in some cases, disappearance from the health care system altogether.

Lost to follow-up

If you talk to experts in the field of transitioning to adult health care, you’ll hear one phrase time and again: lost to follow-up. What that refers to, in layman’s terms, is when someone leaves a pediatric setting and doesn’t see a doctor for a year or more. Once removed from the familiar and reliable structure of their childhood medical homes, some young people simply disengage.

“Sometimes they never make it to the other side and re-engage with the health care system only at a time of crisis,” says Dr. Khush Amaria, team lead for the Good 2 Go transition program at The Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids) in Toronto. “They show up in an emergency room, and nobody knows their health history.”

One study often cited as an example of this phenomenon followed 360 former SickKids’ patients between the ages of 19 and 21 with complex congenital heart defects. Slightly fewer than half of these young adults made their recommended annual follow-up visits to a specialized adult clinic, despite being at risk of complications such as arrhythmias and premature death. The study, published in 2004, found that more than a quarter of the patients hadn’t attended a single cardiac appointment since turning 18.

It is also common for newly independent young adults to get sloppy with their medication. Perhaps the drugs cause weight gain or acne, and the desire to make a good first impression at college or a new job sways sound judgment. Or it could be forgetfulness or indifference. Whatever the reason, the consequences of poor adherence to medication can be severe, depending on a person’s condition.

The health of young people with HIV, for example, can go south quickly if they interrupt antiretroviral therapy. Recipients of donated organs put themselves at risk if they skip their anti-rejection drugs. There isn’t an abundance of robust research in this area, but one 2000 British study of young people with transplanted kidneys did have troubling results. For eight of the 20 patients in the study, the donated organs failed within three years of transfer to an adult transplant unit.

Why would someone with a serious medical condition walk away from the health care system or stop taking their medication? Their health — their very lives — could be at stake. Well, it just so happens that the age when people transfer between health systems coincides with the peak period of risk-taking and experimentation in their lives.

Compared with adolescents, young adults are more likely to binge on alcohol, abuse drugs, or participate in risky sexual behaviour. It is a time of seeking new sensations, of pushing limits, of challenging rules. So perhaps it shouldn’t be a complete surprise that — after a lifetime of appointments, procedures, and pills — some young adults balk at the strict regime they had little choice but to follow when their parents were in charge.

“You have this period when people are already at higher risk of harm. Then you have young people with chronic illnesses, some who may have been sheltered all their lives. Now they have this blast of freedom, so they may stop taking their medication or take it erratically,” says Dr. Lorraine Bell, director of pediatric transition to adult health care at Montreal Children’s Hospital. “It could be because no one is watching, or it could be overt rebellion.”

Other factors can contribute to a less than stellar transition to the adult system. Young adults are a mobile bunch, and finding doctors in a new town can be challenging. People in their late teens and early 20s often struggle financially, making it difficult to pay for medication not covered under insurance or other costs related to their care. Furthermore, a busy or inflexible schedule at university or work limits their freedom to book and attend medical appointments.

However, the greatest challenge to planning and executing better transitions just might be getting all four parties that should be involved to work together.

The road to independence

When Sarah Mercer first entered preschool, her mother had to visit often to insert a catheter into her bladder. Lack of bladder control is a common complication of spina bifida. But for Mercer, depending on someone else to help her use the bathroom just didn’t cut it. “When I was four years old, I started catheterizing myself,” says Mercer, laughing at the memory. “I wanted to be in control.”

Mercer’s independent streak will serve her well in the adult health care system. Taking ownership of your health is vital to a successful transition. Unfortunately, not all 18-year-olds are prepared for that responsibility, says Deborah Thul, who runs the Well on Your Way adolescent transition program at Alberta Children’s Hospital in Calgary.

Thul says current research indicates that brain development continues for young adults into their 20s, so some may not have mastered the developmental skills needed to take on full responsibility for managing their own health care by their 18th birthday.

That is why plans for better transitions must include contributions from parents and medical providers from both the pediatric and adult systems. Of course, that is easier said than done.

One of the biggest challenges to getting parents fully onboard is their reluctance to let go. Many parents are overprotective of their children — even more so when those children have serious medical conditions. It is only natural that mothers and fathers accustomed to managing one crisis after another would struggle to pull back, think long-term, and see the sons and daughters they’ve accompanied to countless medical appointments as having the potential to live fulfilling, independent adult lives.

Mercer is fortunate that her mother, Laura Brown, has always stressed the importance of resilience and independence. That meant not using her condition as an excuse to fall behind in school and finding a part-time job when she turned 16, as well as going to the hospital only when absolutely necessary and returning home as quickly as possible. It meant not regarding life as a series of medical emergencies.

“The thing that was important for me was for Sarah not to see herself in the role of the sick person. She is more than her condition. Sarah has a chronic condition, and she needed to learn to live with it. That means living with pain, with a wheelchair, and with surgeries,” says Brown, who works in vocational rehabilitation to help people with disabilities find jobs. “I want Sarah to contribute to the world in some way. The world is not going to tailor itself for her. There will always be stairs, and it’s important for her to learn how to navigate them.”

The road to independence can be rough, though, when you encounter adult medical providers who don’t understand your struggles and have neither the time nor the skills to meet your needs. Sure, there are pockets within the adult health care system that have shown interest in improving transitions for younger patients, but in general, it isn’t seen as a priority. That’s because young people represent a very small proportion of the population, and most adult hospitals have their hands full with patients who are very old and very sick. With an aging population, that isn’t going to change anytime soon.

Furthermore, doctors on the adult side aren’t always familiar with treating some chronic conditions that start in childhood. There was a time not so long ago when many children with these diseases never saw their 18th birthday. But thanks to advances in technology, pharmaceuticals, and medical therapies, most youth with spina bifida, congenital heart disease, HIV, and other chronic conditions can now expect to live well into adulthood.

“There’s a new generation of patients that didn’t exist before,” says Dr. Sandra Whitehouse, medical lead of British Columbia’s Youth Transitions initiative. “There are more adults now with cystic fibrosis than children. It used be a children’s disease.”

In the pediatric system, however, transition is considered a hot topic. Pioneers in the field began to take interest about two decades ago. Now several of the larger children’s hospitals in Canada have transition programs and coordinators. Still, despite the advances, there is plenty of room for improvement.

“Closing the gap”

Here in Ottawa, CHEO began to focus on improving the transition to adult care in 2010, when it became part of the hospital’s strategic plan. Different approaches are being tested in various departments. In a pilot project, for example, doctors in the nephrology clinic partnered with colleagues in the adult system to improve transition for patients with kidney diseases and presented suggestions to youth and their families at a workshop.

The hospital has also created educational materials, including a readiness assessment tool to assist teenagers in figuring out if they’re prepared for transition. Do they know their new doctors’ names? Do they know all their medications? Do they know which pharmacy they’ll be dealing with?

“When people turn 18, there is so much happening. They are becoming independent, graduating from high school. They may be starting a relationship or a job,” says Shaundra Ridha, director of CHEO’s transition program. “There are so many changes in their lives, and if we can be a stabilizing influence, making the unknown less scary, that’s what we aim to do.”

As a member of the hospital’s youth forum, Mercer has provided input into how to better equip young people to transfer to adult care. “In time, the transferring is going to be smoother because they are going to start it earlier and all the departments will be on the same page,” she says.

Children’s hospitals in many Canadian cities — including Toronto, Vancouver, Montreal, and Calgary — are also making progress on improving transition. Many of the programs share similar principles, such as starting the process early, as young as the age of 10, and fostering independence in patients.

Transition coordinators also stress that the time of transfer should be flexible, factoring in the youth’s cognitive development and external support systems, as well as the availability of medical care. Other popular ideas include creating individualized transition and long-term care plans with input from both pediatric and adult providers, using electronic medical records to improve communication between youth and adult systems, and providing professional health care navigators for young adults.

Many transition experts point to the Good 2 Go program in Toronto and the ON TRAC (Taking Responsibility for Adolescent/Adult Care) model in British Columbia as leaders in the field. Good 2 Go offers a wide range of services and tools, including readiness checklists, transition timelines, discussion groups for parents and teens, and MyHealth Passport — a card for young adults that lists all their conditions, medications, allergies, and other medical information. ON TRAC provides separate toolkits for youth, parents, and health care providers, focusing on topics such as self-advocacy, sexual health, financial planning, and social connections.

The British Columbia Medical Association has also lent its support to the cause, releasing a policy paper on transition called “Closing the Gap.” The paper lists a number of recommendations, including having a family doctor from birth, individualizing transition plans, tracking young people with chronic conditions after they leave the pediatric system, and developing benchmarks to gauge transition success.

What is lacking, however, is consistency across the country. There are no national standards, no official guidelines, and no established best practices. To date, efforts to improve transition are mostly based on concepts rather than evidence. For good reason: though some data exist, much speculation remains. There is a need for more empirical research to quantify how transition services are actually affecting health outcomes. Do they reduce emergency room visits? Do they reduce in-patient admissions? Do they reduce deaths?

The good news is that interest is growing among researchers in obtaining that data, and this research guides the work being done by the Canadian Association of Paediatric Health Centres, which is presently developing national pediatric guidelines for transition from pediatric to adult care. So the future looks bright.

As for Mercer’s future, that’s looking pretty good too. She has moved into an apartment and, with the help of her mother, who stays over several days a week, has learned to cook, clean, and do laundry. She schedules her doctors’ appointments and gets herself there on public transit. And she still has the job she started when she was 16 at a movie theatre in Barrhaven.

In September, she enrolled in Introduction to Music Industry Arts at Algonquin College. A singer and musician (she plays guitar, piano, and ukulele), Mercer loves almost all forms of music, from acoustic folk to rock. The tattoo on her ribs — Come as You Are, a song by Nirvana — is evidence of that passion.

It is another of Mercer’s tattoos, though, that is particularly telling. The primary message her mother taught her — that her identity is not defined by her medical condition — has evidently sunk in. Mercer knows exactly who she is, and if she ever needs a reminder, she only has to look at the five words inked on her right forearm: To Thine Ownself Be True.

Photo: Justin Van Leeuwen

Five words inked on her right forearm: To Thine Ownself Be True.
Photo: Justin Van Leeuwen

Q&A: Rory McGlynn on Hollywood, helping young singers, and Capital City Opera

This article first appeared in our May issue, which is on newsstand until June 6, 2014

Rory McGlynn has survived the world of opera singing in Canada with his passion for both the music and the country intact. In an industry where performers tour internationally in a leading role one month and sing in Toronto hotel lounges the next, McGlynn has persisted. In 2012, McGlynn and Ottawa entrepreneur/opera buff Bart Tecter started Capital City Opera to focus on growing young talent. Nicholas Savage talks with McGlynn about bringing Hollywood hymns this month — as well as the ups and downs of running a modern-day opera company, and how the CCO plans to arm their altos (and sopranos and tenors) with the tools they need to succeed on the stage.

Capital City Opera founder Rory McGlynn. Photo by Graham Law.

Capital City Opera founder Rory McGlynn. Photo by Graham Law.

Nicholas Savage: Opera in Hollywood sounds like a different kind of show. What’s it about?
Rory McGlynn: Rather than staging a traditional opera, which we also do, our Opera in Hollywood series focuses on performances of opera arias, duets, and ensembles that have had actual influence on Hollywood movies — movies where the musical director understood the importance of this kind of music. The marriage of movies and opera is very gratifying for a couple of reasons: while the music obviously adds to the scene, the movie scene itself is a new dramatic life for the music. Take the scene in The Shawshank Redemption when Andy Dufresne plays “Duettino Sull’aria” from Mozart’s Marriage of Figaro through the prison speakers. Many moviegoers may not be familiar with the opera or even Mozart, but through that scene, that music lives on. Everything opera music wants to be — moving, dramatic, emotional — movies can facilitate.

Read the rest of this entry »

KITCHEN CHRONICLES: Fiona gets Neil away from their mother. PLUS Is gourmet beef stew an oxymoron? (No!)

Kitchen Chronicles is a weekly series by Barbara Sibbald — novelist, award-winning journalist, and long-time contributor to Ottawa Magazine. Visit Kitchen Chronicles every Sunday for a new instalment — and a tested recipe.

Back home

Gavin stirs the beef stew* for the hundredth time. Where the heck are they? he wonders. How long does it take to pick Mom up at the airport? He glances at the starburst clock; it’s already been over an hour. Lame excuse leaving me at home to stir the stew. I know they just want time to talk about Uncle Neil without me around. I want to know what’s going on too. He’s my uncle.

Gavin balances the lid half-way on the pot and hears the car door slam. He leaps to the back door as his mom, dad and Uncle Neil come up the back steps. He yanks open the door

—   Hey Uncle Neil! he yells, jumping up on him and giving him a big hug. I didn’t know you were coming too!

—   No one tells me anything either, says his uncle with a grin. You’re getting so friggin’ big, cowboy.

Luc and Fiona follow Neil in. Fiona’s mouth is a thin line; Gavin knows that means serious trouble is afoot.

—   Hi Mom, he says, the grin still plastered on his face.

She returns a terse uplifting of her lips. Not really a smile.

—   Hi honey. We’re giving your Uncle Neil a little holiday. Just for a few days though, he’s got an appointment Thursday in Halifax.

—   I’m glad to be here, says Neil, roughing up Gavin’s hair.

—   Hey, maybe you can borrow dad’s bike and we can go for a ride, says Gavin.

—   Later, Gavin, says Fiona. Let your uncle get settled first. That stew smells delicious.

—   Thanks for minding it, buddy, says Luc.

—    Gavin, why don’t you help your uncle get settled in the spare room, says Fiona, while I set the table.
Gavin knows his parents want to be alone for a minute, but he’s happy to have his uncle to himself. He grabs Neil’s knapsack.

—    Right this way, he says with a mock formality. The two head upstairs.

Fiona begins getting plates from the cupboard, but Luc puts his hand on her hand, she turns to him and he wraps his arms around her.

—    It’s going to be okay, Fee, he whispers into her hair.IMG_4300

—   I’ve never seen him so bad, she murmurs. He’s hardly talking at all and then it’s all false bravado and forced smiles. I feel so helpless.

—    He’ll relax, says Luc, stepping back to look her in the eye. Gavin’s great for him. They get along so well.

—    Yeah, I know. Neil’s doctor told us it would take a while for the new meds to kick in so this is a critical time. That’s partly why I couldn’t just leave him with Mom. But he seems so out of it.

—    You’re a wonderful sister, Fiona. Going out there, snagging him out from under your mother…

—    She was borderline hysterical when I left, says Fiona, smirking. Didn’t understand why he needed to go, wanted to keep him there, or come along. She doesn’t even try to understand. She thinks he’s a drama queen…

—   You have to love the irony of that! says Luc.

—   No kidding. In her opinion all he needs is a good shake, or a girlfriend, or something and he’ll snap out of it. She just makes things worse for him.

—   Le nez le plus long n’est pas toujours le meilleur senteur, says Luc.

—   That’s a new one…

—   It means the person with the longest nose isn’t always the one with the best sense of smell.

—   Good one, says Fee. She pauses.

—   You know, I hate to admit it but Mom’s right in some ways. He does need a change. All those years in the basement, so few friends.
She shakes her head.

—   That must make things worse.

—   Fee, you have to be careful. There’s only so much you can do … you’re not a shrink and he’s a grown man.

—   I know, but he’s my baby brother too.

—   Yeah, well, this is something you can’t fix for him. You can’t beat up the bully or write his English essay. He’s got to work on it. And he’s got a psychiatrist now to help him.

—   Yeah, and she’s great too. We had a family meeting, and she pegged Mom right away. Asked to speak to me privately afterward which really got Mom in a lather! The psychiatrist is looking for a residential spot for Neil, a sort of interim place so he can get a fresh start… and she agreed a visit here would be good for him.

—   What brought this all on anyway? Did something happen to Neil?

—    On the plane, he finally admitted that he’d lost his biggest client. He said they were being unreasonable, but I suspect they just got fed up with missed deadlines and stuff like that. I think that’s sort of what triggered it, the attempt …. He hardly has any other work left now. That’s really tough for anyone to deal with, but if you add social isolation, a domineering mother and mental health issues…

—   Losing his work might be blessing in disguise, says Luc. It might kick start him into sorting himself.

Fiona nods.

—   I’ll set the table, Fee. Why don’t you pour yourself a glass of wine?

*Luc’s fabulous beef stew

1½ pounds lean stewing beef, cut into 1-inch cubes

olive oil as needed

3 tablespoons whole wheat flour
freshly ground pepper

1 large onion, peeled and coarsely chopped

2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced

2 cups red wine

4 cups beef broth (from powder is okay)

2 tablespoons tomato paste

3 tablespoons fresh herbs (such as rosemary and thyme), minced

5 medium potatoes, peeled and cut into 1 inch pieces

4 carrots peeled and cut into 1 inch pieces

2 stalks celery, washed and coarsely sliced

½ small turnip, peeled and cut into 1 inch pieces

1 ½ cups cooked pearl onions (cut an X in root end, boil 5 minutes, drain, rinse twice and peel)

8 ounces chanterelles cut lengthwise, sauté in butter

Parsley to garnish

  1. Shake beef cubes in bag with flour and pepper.
  2. In a large pot, brown meat in olive oil over medium-high heat.
  3. Add onion and garlic, sauté 3 minutes.
  4. Add wine, broth and herbs. Simmer 45 minutes, uncovered.
  5. Add potatoes, carrots, celery and turnip. Simmer 1 hour, adding more hot broth if needed
  6. 15 minutes before serving, add pearl onions, chanterelles and parsley.
  7. Serve with baguette and a fresh green tossed salad.

 

 


KITCHEN CHRONICLES: Georges and Luc’s friendship rekindles PLUS Bistro Onion soup for blustery days

Kitchen Chronicles is a weekly series by Barbara Sibbald — novelist, award-winning journalist, and long-time contributor to Ottawa Magazine. Visit Kitchen Chronicles every Sunday for a new instalment — and a tested recipe.

Mending fences

—   Hey, Georges, says Luc. Good to see you.

—   Ditto, says Georges, extending his hand.

They shake quickly, cautious of this contact after so many months. They’ve exchanged a few emails since their blow out, but this is their first meeting face-to-face. Luc arranged it, of course, but Georges seemed willing enough.

—   Beer? asks Luc.

—   Definitely, says Georges I’m parched. It’s actually getting hot out there.

Kitchen-Chronicles—   Harbinger of good things to come. What a brutal winter.

—   Not just the weather either, says Georges. It’s been a haul. Have you talked to Jacen recently?

—   Yeah, we had a coffee last week. He’s doing okay. Work’s still a bit up in the air, but he’s more stable on the meds. And he’s found a support group.

—   That sounds good.

—   Yeah, it’s sort of informal. He’s only gone to one meeting but he says it’s good to talk to people who get it. He was really afraid of being ostracized.

—   He doesn’t tell me much, says Georges, but I figured he might have a problem that way. You need your buddies.

There’s a moment of silence between them.

—    And I’ve missed our pool night, adds Georges.

Luc is surprised Georges has mentioned this. Maybe he is changing, Luc thinks.

—   I’ve missed them too, says Luc, handing him a bottle. And we’ll be able to go hiking soon too.

—   Bonus. Anne says it’s time we made up.

—   How’re things going? asks Luc.

—   I hate the therapy — knew I would. The shrink thinks he has me all figured out: poor role models in my childhood so I don’t know how to be a partner. I mean I’m not saying that isn’t part of it, but there are so many factors. It’s not ALL about what happened to me before I was sixteen.

—   True… but a lot of shit starts then, before we have that thick skin.

Georges shrugs.

—   The part I’m finding useful is the behavioural therapy stuff. She’s pretty good at that.  We’re going on regular date nights now, Anne and I, not the therapist! Thursdays. We aren’t allowed to go to movies or stuff like that. We have to do things that force us to talk, to interact. I thought we’d end up talking about house stuff, you know what brand of toaster to get, but we have these cue cards with prompts. Mostly ethical decisions, like would you pull the plug if x, y and z. Good topics, intellectual. I’m liking it.

—   And Anne?

—   Yeah, she’s coming around. I’m out of the spare room at least. And the sex is back.

—   Hey that’s great news! Fee and I are making progress in that department too.

Kitchen-Chronicles—   You guys? I thought everything was great.

—   We have our ups and downs like everyone. We went to see our therapist a couple of months ago. You know we go every so often, but we’d never talked about sex before. I was reluctant, but I have to admit it was helpful.

—   So now you’re talking?

—   And a lot more! says Luc. Here’s to matrimonial bliss!

They clink bottles.

—   Yeah, I missed Anne more than I thought I would. I guess I was just thinking with my little head.

—   You aren’t the first, says Luc.

—   Well, it could’a ended really badly. I have you to thank for making it alright.

—   After I’d banged your head a couple of times.

Georges grins.

—   Yeah, well the penis can be a pretty powerful persuader…. I think the hardest part for me, maybe for all of us, is how to make love last. I mean after the sex no longer sustains it. I mean there’s friendship…

—   I think you have to work at it. Fee lent me this book, it’s chick lit, but she said I should read it, The Book of Love: Guidance in Affairs of the Heart. It’s sort of lightweight, but in a fun way, and it has these tips at the end that are pretty sound.

—   Maybe I should borrow it.

He glances at his watch.

—    Dèpêche!* Time to whoop your butt.

—   Just let me put this soup** in the fridge.

*Means let’s go!


**Bistro onion soup

Serves 4 or so

10 medium onions (1 ½ pounds)½ cup butter
2 large garlic cloves, crushed
355-ml bottle beer
4 cups beef broth (from cubes or canned)
½ teaspoon dry mustard
1 teaspoon leaf thyme
¼ teaspoon fresh ground pepper
1 bay leaf
8 very thin slices French bread, toasted
3 cups grated Gruyère cheese

1. Thinly slice onions (about 7 cups).
2. Heat butter in a heavy large saucepan and sauté onions over medium heat, stirring often until golden, about 15 minutes.
3. Stir in garlic, beer, broth, mustard and seasonings.
4. Bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat and simmer 30 minutes.
5. Remove bay leaf. (If not serving immediately, the soup can be refrigerated for several days, or frozen).
6. Preheat oven to 425 F.
7. Ladle hot soup into a large casserole or individual oven-proof bowls, leaving a 1 inch space at the top. Place bowls on a heavy baking sheet.
8. Add a layer of toasted bread on top of the soup. Cover with half the grated cheese. Top with another layer of toast and the remaining cheese.
9. Bake in centre of oven until cheese is golden, about 10 minutes.

 

KITCHEN CHRONICLES: Fiona heeds Neil’s plea for help PLUS a recipe for creamy scrambled eggs

Kitchen Chronicles is a weekly series by Barbara Sibbald — novelist, award-winning journalist, and long-time contributor to Ottawa Magazine. Visit Kitchen Chronicles every Sunday for a new instalment — and a tested recipe.

The call

Fiona double checks her pannier to make sure she hasn’t forgotten anything. She smiles to herself: the first bike commute of the season after a winter of dreary buses. Getting back on her bike after a four-month hiatus still brings back her childhood feeling of freedom, of flying and fleeing her home, rattling down Renfrew streets and across the track, peddling away, away from familial constraints, faster and faster, away from chores and homework; alone and free in the world. She can’t wait. She picks up her pannier and turns to say goodbye to her family.

—   Don’t forget to pack your homework, she cautions Gavin.

He looks up from his last bite of scrambled eggs*, mouth full.

—   Yeah, he mumbles.

—   Bye beautiful, says Luc, giving her a kiss on the cheek.

scrambled-eggsHer smile is interrupted by the phone ringing.

—   Hello, she says brightly.

—   Fee?

—   Mom? What’s up? I’m just leaving for work.

—   I’m just back from the hospital; I’ve been there all night.

Fiona drops her pannier.

—   What! Are you okay, Mom? What’s going on?

—   I’m fine, it’s your brother. I’m telling you if it’s not one thing it’s another with him. He scared the bejesus out of me.

—   Is he okay?

—   He’s fine. The whole thing was idiotic.

—   What happened?

—   If he’d just give himself a good shake and get on with his life instead of moping around in the basement.

—   Mom, what’s going on?

—   I found him. I wouldn’t have but I needed that blue dress — you know the one, the wrap-around — to wear to my bridge club and I knew it was in the laundry basket he’d taken downstairs, so I called down to him but there was no answer. I even phoned his cell and let it ring and ring. I knew he was there, so I went downstairs — no small feat with my wonky hip. I poked my head into the den and there he was asleep at his desk. Except I couldn’t wake him up. Then I saw the bottle of pills. Did you know he was taking advantax?

—   Probably for anxiety. Or sleep. I think it’s a benzo.

—   If he was having a problem, Fee, why wouldn’t he just come and talk to me? Why the big secret?

It’s always about her, thinks Fee.

—   Mom, what’s happened to Neil? Is he okay?

—   He’s fine. They emptied his stomach and put him on an IV. They’re keeping him in for a couple of days. I had to ride in the ambulance with him. The taxi fare to get back home was twenty-three dollars. It’s highway robbery.

Trust her to worry about money at a time like this, thinks Fiona.

—   Why are they keeping him in? Is there a problem?

—   Nothing physical. They just want to watch him for forty-eight hours. Oh, and he’ll finally get to see a shrink. He finally told me he’d been waiting for months. Helluva way to move up an appointment. What he needs is a girlfriend.

—   What if you hadn’t found him…oh gawd. How much did he take, Mom?

—   Enough. I don’t know. But the doctor said it was good I caught him when I did. And it was all a fluke.

—   You’ve given him life twice, Fiona mumbles.

—   What?

—   Nothing, Mom. I’m coming out. I’ll get there as soon as I can.

—   Oh, so this is what has to happen to get you out here!

—   That’s so unfair, Mom. We were all out there just last July. Anyway, this isn’t a visit. I need to see Neil. I have to know he’s okay.

—   Everything’s fine. It’s not necessary, but suit yourself.

—   I’ll call back with the details, Mom. I love you.

IMG_4300—   I have to go to bridge this aft, but otherwise I’ll be around. Bye Fee.

She hangs up the phone and leans on the counter.

—   Gavin, time to get your stuff ready, says Luc.

—   What did granma say? asks Gavin.

—   We’ll talk later, says Luc. You’ll be late if you don’t leave.

He watches to make sure Gavin’s gone.

—   What’s up? asks Luc.

As Fiona tells him, she begins to cry. Luc puts his arms around her.

—   He’s going to be okay, Fee. It’s good you’re going. Do you want me to come with you? asks Luc.

Fiona shakes her head, blows her nose.

—   No, it’s okay Luc. I just need to see for myself that he’s okay. Well, obviously he’s not. I should have insisted that he see that behavioural therapist. He’s such a cheap-ass. I should have followed up to make sure he was getting out more. Damn. I can’t believe it’s come to this.

—   You can’t blame yourself, Fee. You live so far away. You talk to him every week. I don’t suppose it could have been accidental?

—   He may try to say it was, but I doubt it.

—   What can I do here so you can go? Shall I book your ticket for you?

—   Yes, yes, please. Thank you. I’m going to drive to work and take care of the urgent stuff, then I’ll come back home and pack.

—   Better to pack first, my love. In case I get an early ticket.

—   Yes, yes, of course. Oh, Luc, why would he do this? Why? He’s such a wonderful man: kind, generous, funny, smart. I don’t get it.

—   He’s ill, Fee. He has, what was it, some kind of mild bipolar. Well, maybe not so mild. He needs you. All he’s got is your mom.

—   That’s a big part of the problem. Fiona grimaces.

*Creamy scrambled eggs for the purist

Serves 3

3 tablespoons butter
6 eggs
3 tablespoons cream

  1. Bring water to boil in the bottom of a double boiler, then turn down to simmer.
  2. Melt butter in the top of the double boiler.
  3. In a medium bowl, whisk together eggs and cream.
  4. Pour into top of double boiler and stir gently but constantly with a wooden spoon (a good task for an older child) until thick and creamy.

Serve with hot buttered multi-grain toast, marmalade or home-made jam and a few slices of tomato (if in season) or orange.

KITCHEN CHRONICLES: Battling conflicts-of-interest PLUS a tantalizing shrimp Sambuca recipe

Kitchen Chronicles is a weekly series by Barbara Sibbald — novelist, award-winning journalist, and long-time contributor to Ottawa Magazine. Visit Kitchen Chronicles every Sunday for a new instalment — and a tested recipe.

Conflict

—   I hate English class, says Gavin, looking up from his laptop across the kitchen table. How am I supposed to know what this dopey story means? It’s just an old story.

—   Whatcha got there? asks Luc, putting down his New Yorker.

—   A good man is hard to find, by Flannery O’Connor.

—   That’s a great story, says Luc, you must have liked reading it.

—   Yeah, it’s pretty cool, I mean for something written fifty years ago.

kitchen-chronicles—   Today, they’d murder all the family members right in front of the grandmother, says Luc.

—   But that’s not what I’m supposed to write about. Mrs. Lansing wants five-hundred words on an underlying theme. How am I supposed to do that?

—   Think about the bigger story, buddy, says Luc. There’s the story she tells, about the family out for a drive and they all get shot by these outlaws. What’s that say about our society?

—   It’s dangerous?

—   Yeah. And think about the grandmother; she’s old, she represents an olden time.

—   Yeah, she talks about how they could only drive thirty miles in a whole day. And she wants to go back to look at the dopey plantation and that’s why everyone gets killed.

—   Write about that, Gavin, how you can’t go back. Mrs. L will lap it up.

—   Good one, Dad.

Fiona bangs through the screen door.

—   Hey, aren’t you the studious lot!

Luc pecks her on the cheek. Fiona kisses the top of Gavin’s head.

—   So how was the cocktail party? asks Luc.

—   Great food: shrimp in Sambuca.* I was lurking by the kitchen door, waiting for the servers to come out. Yum. The French consulate always has the best food.

—   I won’t ask if you need anything to eat.

—   I’m going upstairs to finish this, says Gavin.

—   I’ll be up in a bit, says Fiona. I just need to talk to your dad.

—   Something up, Fee?

—   Lena’s driving me mad. She’s supposed to look after assigning the front-end stuff, but the rule is she has to clear the topic and reporter with me first. So we agreed to do this piece on a new 100-mile catering business and I suggested a few writers, but then she goes out and asks one of her trust-fund buddies to do it. Meanwhile, I’d forgotten all about it.

—   As if you have nothing else to do, says Luc.

—   So the piece comes in this morning and it turns out I know the trust-fund babe. She is friends with the guy who runs the catering business. It’s a huge conflict of interest. There’s no way she can write an objective piece. Never mind that she’s in no way qualified to write the piece. It was crap. I asked Lena why she hadn’t consulted me about the writer, and she said she didn’t want to bother me. Then when I told her about the conflict and she had the gall to pretend she didn’t know.

—   Maybe she didn’t, says Luc.

—   Unlikely. I mean she probably heard about the business from her friend in the first place: My friend started this business, blah, blah, blah. I’m sure she was lying through her teeth. Regardless, she broke protocol by assigning without consulting with me first.

—   It’s disrespectful, says Luc. Of you, and of the rules.

—   Too right, says Fiona, angrily.

—   That joint’s like Peyton Place. So what did you do?

IMG_4330—   I phoned the writer and apologized for the misunderstanding, but explained about the conflict-of-interest. She didn’t even get it, said she didn’t see what the problem was. “It’s not like it’s an investigative piece,” she said. I was speechless. I just told her we’d pay a kill-fee of fifty percent, which is thirty over what we usually pay, but since it was totally Lena’s fault….

—   And what did you say to Lena?

—   I told her she had to write the replacement story, which means she has to work tomorrow, Saturday. She was really peeved, but it’s her own fault. Then I went to Richard.

—   Oh ho, the evil publisher. And what did he have to say about the debacle?

Fiona smiles.

—   Oh, you know Richard. I told him I thought Lena had potentially put the magazine’s reputation at risk, and he just shrugs. He drives me nuts.

—   See, they are having an affair.

—   Who knows. But in this case, I don’t think he was siding with her per se. I think he genuinely doesn’t understand the importance of editorial autonomy. He always wants to place ads next to articles that mention the product or store or whatever. It’s bad enough that he even knows what we’re writing about. The firewall is already full of holes. I have to fight to retain what little independence I have. I got really angry with him over this one; told him I was going to officially reprimand Lena. You know, three strikes and you’re out.

—   Three warnings, so this is the first?

—   Yeah, I’ll do it on Monday. Richard said I could if I really felt it was warranted. He made me feel like I was over-reacting, even though I’m not.

—   Tant mieux.** You should be celebrating, Fee. Only two more screw-ups and Lena’s outta there.

—   True! Trust you to see the silver lining.

—   Hey, can you go see how Gavin’s doing on his English essay? I tried to help him, but that’s more your thing.

—   Sure, she says, rising. Thanks for listening to my blather.

—   No problem, love. I’ll take my bonus later, he says, winking at her.

—   You’re such a cornball, she says grinning.

*Shrimp Sambuca

1 pound large, raw, peeled shrimp, thawed if frozen
3 tablespoons butter
2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
1/3 cup whipping cream
2 ounces sambuca liqueur

  1. Melt 2 tablespoons of butter, sauté garlic, add cream. Mix well. (Can store in fridge for 2 hours.)
  2. Melt remaining tablespoon of butter in a heavy skillet on medium-high heat. Sauté shrimp until it turns pink.
  3. Add sambuca and flambé (if open flame, remove from heat).
  4. Reduce heat immediately and add the butter, garlic and cream mixture.
  5. Simmer gently for 5 minutes and serve immediately.

** Means so much the better.

THE ART OF SEX: Four pieces that look at sex and sexuality in a new fresh way

This feature appears in Ottawa Magazine’s April 2014 issue. Click here to subscribe to the print or digital versions.

All Systems Go 2

the-art-of-sex
The Backstory: This 2013 illustration was conceived as a companion piece to a computer-animated film I’m making with a team in Norway. I was toying with a million different variations on the boy/girl pairing. Finally I came upon this ass earmuffs concept. It’s not exactly breaking new ground — R. Crumb, the American cartoonist, has beaten a beautiful path ahead of me — but it felt really authentic to me. And I laugh every time I see Eddy hanging there so happily. This is a lighthearted image from what will ultimately be quite a dark eight-minute short. — Dave Cooper

WEEKENDER: Seven things to do in Ottawa on the weekend of April 18—21

By CINDY OLBERG

The Love, Handmade. wedding show is happening at Memorial Hall in New Edinburgh on Saturday, April 19

The Love, Handmade. Wedding Show takes place at Memorial Hall in New Edinburgh on Saturday, April 19

In this edition of the Weekender: An undground hunt, swapping vinyl, forbidden love, and four more things to do in Ottawa this weekend.

Vinyl Swap (FREE!)
Do you have a lot of records in your collection that you don’t listen to anymore? This Friday, April 18, bring them to Record Swap Day (er, well, the event is in the evening) at Raw Sugar Café and trade them with other music lovers. After the exchanges are made, a bunch of local DJs (including DJ Adam Saikaley of the band Silkken Laumann and former producer of Tempo on CBC) will be spinning records of their own for your listening pleasure. The Swap takes place from 7 to 10 p.m. Raw Sugar Café is located at 692 Somerset W.

Easter Egg Hunts…
Spring has sprung at the Canada Agriculture and Food Museum. From Friday, April 18 to Monday, April 21 kids will be able to meet newborn animals, help make Easter bread, and take part in the Signs of Spring Easter Egg Hunts — farm activities are scheduled for various times throughout the day. The Canada Agriculture and Food Museum is located at 901 Prince of Whales Dr.

…Underground
If you’ll be in the west end on Saturday, April 19, try looking for eggs underground at the Diefenbunker, Canada’s Cold War Museum — the hunt is from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Diefenbunker, Canada’s Cold War Museum is located at 3929 Carp Rd. in Carp.

Handmade Wedding
Bummed that the Wed by Hand wedding show isn’t happening this year? Well, Meaghan Brunetti, owner of The Handmade Bride, is organizing a brand new indie wedding show on Saturday, April 19 that’ll have just about everything you’ll need for your upcoming wedding. Shop for handmade, eco-friendly designs with a vintage feel, and take in one of the many workshops happening throughout the day. Love, Handmade. Wedding Show takes place at Memorial Hall (across the street from The Handmade Bride) from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tickets are $10 in advance. Memorial Hall is located at 39 Dufferin Rd.

On Stage Diary
The Diary of Anne Frank tells the true story about a 13- year-old who is forced to go into hiding with her family during the Nazi occupation of the Netherlands. Based on the book, the play has received countless acclaims since its first staging, including the 1956 Pulitzer Prize. Tim Picotte directs the performance at The Gladstone. The play will be running until Saturday, April 19. From $18. The Gladstone is located at 910 Gladstone Ave.

Madama Butterfly, the world-famous opera about love and tragedy will be at the NAC April 19-26 (photo: On Stage Ottawa)

Madama Butterfly, the world-famous opera about love and tragedy, will be at the National Arts Centre April 19-26 (Photo: On Stage Ottawa)

Love & Tragedy
Madama Butterfly, one of the most famous operas of all time, tells the story about a young Japanese woman, known as Madama Butterfly, who marries an American naval officer and is then shunned by her family for choosing to abandon her ancestral religion. The opera, playing at the National Arts Centre, is put on by Opera Lyra OttawaMadama Butterfly is on from April 19 until April 26 at the National Arts Centre. From $25. 53 Elgin St.

Beautiful Shapes
The Abstractionists, currently showing at Studio Sixty Six, showcases the first group of paintings in their New Painters series. In describing the four artists — Ali Kramers, Cindy Merksy, Darren Kooyman, and Karyn Watson — curators Carrie Colton and Manar Abotouk write: “Their subjects are the real beauty of the circle, square, and triangle, and the subtlety and plasticity of sheer colour and surface. Their work offers the freest play of creativity and imagination.” The show is on until May 8. Studio Sixty Six is located at 66 Muriel St., unit 202.

QUEST: Chocolate, chocolate, and more chocolate

This feature appears in Ottawa Magazine’s April 2014 issue. Click here to subscribe to the print or digital versions.
By CINDY DEACHMAN

Chocolate-Ottawa

Chocolate and Hazelnut Brick Toast from My Sweet Tea (Photo: Giulia Doyle)

Ahh, chocolate — it melts on your tongue, so rich and so smooth. These sweet, deep flavours soothe our hearts. Surely the food of the gods, no?

Of course, before chocolate becomes chocolate, you must pulverize your cacao beans; assess the correct ratio of cocoa powder to cocoa butter; grind the sugar and refine the paste, kneading it to a smooth consistency. The chocolate has to feel just so. Never mind the growing of the bean; cutting the huge pod from its stem with a machete; removing the husk; fermenting, drying, roasting, and finally polishing the fruit. Yes, it’s time-consuming and persnickety work.

And after all that, you pop said chocolate into your mouth. Takes but six seconds to experience all textures, all flavours, at which point those happy brain chemicals of yours are saying, “Please, sir, I want some more!”

Here we look at three Ottawa kitchens offering up plates full of chocolate goodness.

Chocolate and Hazelnut Brick Toast
Donovan Chong, marketing director at My Sweet Tea, ponders the likely origins of Asian brick toast. He calls up the days of British colonization when Hong Kong people got a taste of French toast. “And they wondered, how did those crazy Westerners do it? Hong Kongers weren’t sure — and so they improvised.” My Sweet Tea has a way with their brick toast: they lightly toast and score a thick slice of Asian milk bread. Then they slather chocolate hazelnut cream over the bread so that all the goodness seeps in. Bananas optional. As one customer proclaimed after just one bite: “My new favourite dessert!” $4.50.
My Sweet Tea, 824 Somerset St. W., 613-695-6543, mysweettea.ca

Mini Chocolate Bundt Cake
The classic chocolate cake. Tracey Black says this recipe dates back to when her take-home shop and eatery, Epicuria, opened 23 years ago. The tiny Bundt shape, however, was Isabelle Leroux’s brilliant idea — she’s the pastry chef. She is also the one who came up with the fudge-like ganache icing slyly licking the sides. The cake itself is dark, moist, and light. Not a lie — this chocolate number has everything going for it. No wonder it’s the most popular dessert in the house. $4.25.
Epicuria, 357 St. Laurent Blvd., 613-745-7356, epicuria.ca

Chocolate Barfi
“When I opened this shop [in 2005], I thought only Indians would come, but Canadians eat more sweets than Indians,” says Rakesh Ahluwalia, owner of Indian Express. He’s in the kitchen now at his humungous wok, stirring the two ingredients — milk and chocolate — to make a chocolate version of the Indian sweet called barfi. The trick is to keep at this until the mixture has condensed — a very long time. What’s produced is a confection that is chewy and dense, akin to Western fudge (but better). One warning, though: this buttery chocolate concoction is decidedly addictive! $8.99/lb.
Indian Express Food & Sweets, 1000 Somerset St. W., 613-761-6000, indianexpressfoods.com