CAPITAL PINT: Clocktower Brew Pub, Ellis Valentine, and bubble gum beer

Capital Pint by Travis Persaud is published regularly at OttawaMagazine.com. Follow Travis on twitter @tpersaud.

Clocktower-Ellis-Bubblegum

Former Montreal Expos player Ellis Valentine visits The Clocktower Brew Pub

We’re just a few days away from opening day of the 2014 Major League Baseball season, and The Clocktower Brew Pub is getting in on the action.

Tonight, The Clocktower in Westboro hosts Ellis Valentine — former Montreal Expos right fielder and all-star — who’s in town to help raise funds for the Miracle League of Ottawa ahead of the Toronto Blue Jays’ two exhibition games in Montreal this weekend. And they’ve created a beer in his honour.

Clocktower brewmaster Patrick Fiori brewed Valentine 17 Ball Park Beer for the occasion. He wanted it to have a bubble gum flavour, but wasn’t sure if a Belgian-style beer would produce the profile he desired. So, instead, he bought a ton of Hubba Bubba gum to include in the brew. The result, Fiori says, is a beer that carries that signature gum flavour with pride.

Valentine 17 Ball Park Beer launches tonight at The Clocktower in Westboro during Valentine’s special appearance from 6 to 9 p.m. A portion of all proceeds will support the Miracle League of Ottawa. The beer will be tapped on March 28 at all other Clocktower locations.

LUNCH PICK: A great deal at Fraser Café

By ANNE DESBRISAY

fraser-cafe-ottawa

Freshly made fettuccine topped with cherry tomatoes, toasted walnuts, roasted garlic, and more at Fraser Café (Photo: Anne DesBrisay)

Wednesday, 12:30 p.m. and Fraser Café in New Edinburgh is packed. There’s a mum and her young, (uniformed) daughter sprung from school at one table. A pair of elderly gents in tweed jackets are at another. A group of well-coiffed ladies who lunch are in the side room, and then there’s the three guys in power suits talking unintelligibly about matters high tech. Their table is closest to mine. And the only time they make any sense to me at all is when the bill arrives, presented — as the bill has always been presented at Fraser’s — in a McKenzie seed packet. Shasta daisies. Empty other than for the invoice. They are hugely disappointed that it didn’t come complete with seeds. “What a rip off!”

Actually, lunch at Fraser strikes me as a pretty good deal.

fraser-cafe-ottawa

Fraser Café churns their own ice cream. Seen here: a scoop of pear and a scoop of walnut (Photo: Anne DesBrisay)

What did I have? Fraser fettuccine (freshly made) filled in with cherry tomatoes, roasted cauliflower, roasted garlic, toasted walnuts, and fresh sage, all paddling in a creamy garlic sauce with lots of nice chive snips and a tumbled mound of parmesan shards. Micro greens were the toupé on the top. And then, to get rid of the garlic, ice cream. Fraser churns its own, so pretty tough to say no to that. Walnut was one scoop, pear the other, good on their own, great together.

Daily pasta dish, $15; ice cream/sorbet, $2.50 per scoop

Fraser Café, 7 Springfield Rd., 613-749-1444, frasercafe.ca

KITCHEN CHRONICLES: Blast from the past meets a frosty reception PLUS Best ever cottage pie

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.

Charles redux

Fiona wishes she hadn’t thawed out the hamburger; now she has to make her mother’s cottage pie,* when all she really feels like doing is throwing together a salad and a simple pasta. Still, the pie’s the ultimate comfort food. That’s what she needs after today. The publisher is pressuring her to run an article on Domestic Houses Inc., a local developer and frequent advertiser. He has no clue about journalism ethics, she thinks angrily as she chops the onion. Tears well up in her eyes. I’ve told him so many times: People see the ad, they see the article, and they assume it’s biased. You’re not doing anyone any favours.

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QUEST: Korean delicacies catching on in Ottawa

By CINDY DEACHMAN

Ottawa-Korean-Food

Korean BBQ pork in a bento box from The Swan at Carp (Photo: Photoluxstudio.com/Christian Lalonde)

All things Korean seem to be catching on in Ottawa. Burgeoning Korean restaurants, for instance, offer good eating — bulgogi (grilled beef) or bibimbap (a rice dish often made with raw egg). What’s the deal? Well, we can think of a couple of reasons. South Korea is definitely on the radar nowadays — last year saw celebrations of two anniversaries that brought South Korea into the limelight: the 50th of our mutual diplomatic relations and the 60th of the Korean Armistice.

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KITCHEN CHRONICLES: Jacen’s HIV fall-out PLUS comforting chickpea soup

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.

Nothing positive

The blue table top is covered with neat stacks of VISA slips and bills that Fiona is adding and organizing by category: food, drug store, clothes, eating out…. Luc is poised over his laptop, entering the numbers as Fiona calls them out: hydro $152.73; phone $102.34…. It’s their monthly accounting; they both hate it, but Luc insists that they have to keep on top of things. They recognize that this is his way of controlling his anxiety over having a mortgage, over debt.

There is a tap at the back door and they look at each other.

— I’m not expecting anyone, says Fiona.

Luc gets up and opens the door.

— Jacen! he says. Good to see you. Come in, come in. It’s a frosty one tonight.

Fiona’s first impulse is to leave the two guys alone, but then she remembers that Jacen is HIV positive and she feels a wave of compassion — and gratitude that her family is well. She stands up and gives him a hug.

Kitchen-Chronicles— Jacen, it’s so good to see you, she says. Soup’s* almost ready if you’re hungry.

— No thanks, he mutters.

— How are you doing? she asks. Here let me take your coat.

— I guess you know, he says, shrugging off his boiled-wool jacket. I’m not so bad, all things considered. I’ve started on my meds so there’s a little nausea, diarrhea, the usual, but not as bad as it could be. It’s the head trip. I’m sorry for barging in like this, but I’m really upset. I just ran into the guy who infected me.

Jacen sits down. Luc raises his eyebrow at Fiona.

— It turns out he knew he was positive. He knew and he’d decided not to tell his partners. Thought if he used a condom he didn’t need to. And I guess, technically…. But then he took it off. He says he didn’t. He says it broke, but I don’t think so. And even if it did, he should have told me. The prick. Oh sorry. Is Gavin around?

— He’s gone to see a movie, says Fee. Don’t worry.

— Are you going to press charges or anything, asks Luc. I mean isn’t there some law against.

Jacen shakes his head.

— A friend of mine went to court — well, not really my friend, a friend of a friend. Anyway, it ended up costing him about six grand in time off work and fees. And the case was dropped — not enough evidence. He said, she said. I mean he said, he said. Really, to get someone, you need more than one example. They have to be serial spreaders.

— But shouldn’t you at least try? asks Luc. I mean you wouldn’t want someone else to go through this, would you? And if the guy’s out there, practising unsafe sex…

— Yeah, I know, I know. I have thought about it. I mean he might infect someone else. He says he’s on HAART, which reduces the chances by a lot. If he is on it.

— What does public health say? asks Fiona.

— They’ll get in touch with him, tell him that he should disclose before sex, but he probably won’t and there’s nothing they can do about it.

— Unless they get more complaints.

Kitchen-Chronicles— Exactly. And if they do, and if they come back to me and want me to testify or whatever, well, I’ll decide then. Right now, I’ve got other fish to fry, as my dear papa would say.

— What’s up? asks Luc.

— I’m worried about work. I won’t be able to stay in emerg. I love it there — the pace, the action.

— Because you’re HIV positive? Isn’t that discrimination?

— Not really, says Luc, shrugging. It’s a question of the type of work. People are bleeding and it gets really invasive. And sometimes people get violent. It’s just too unpredictable. I mean something could happen. They’re just trying to be safe. It’s for my sake too. I mean I’d hate to infect someone. The problem for me is that I find most of the other work — the counselling and all that — really kind of dull.

— What if you worked in an HIV clinic? asks Fiona.

— I thought of that, but it’s too depressing. I’d be seeing into my future every day.

— Of course, I never thought of that, says Fiona.

— I’m looking around. Meanwhile, I’m stuck at the front desk in emerg, but they want me out of there ASAP. Ils voudraient que je foute le camp!**

— As if you didn’t have enough changes in your life, says Luc. Is there anything we can do?

— Not really, the union’s helping me. I’ll be okay. I just need to talk, a sympathetic ear. It’s like you say, Luc, too many changes all at once. And I’m on my own. Although the union’s being great; they’ll help me find a new position.

He pauses.

— Thank God I’ve got you guys.

— Anytime, my friend, says Luc.

— Take some soup home with you, says Fiona.

*Comforting chickpea soup

2 garlic cloves, put through a press
½ onion, finely chopped
1 tablespoon olive oil
½ jalapeno pepper, seeds removed, finely chopped
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
19-ounce can of diced tomatoes
19-ounce can of chick peas with liquid
2 cups of vegetable broth (make your own or use bouillon cubes)
Freshly ground black pepper
¼ cup shell or little elbow pasta

1. Heat the oil in a pot over medium heat. Add garlic and onion and stir onion is translucent.
2. Stir in jalapeno pepper, Worcestershire and tomatoes. Mix well.
3. Add beans and broth and lots of pepper.
4. Twenty minutes before serving, add pasta. Cook until tender (20 minutes or so).
5. Serve with green salad, cheese of your choice and baguette. A complete meal.

Derived from The Vegetarian Epicure by Anna Thomas (Vintage Books, 1972).

**Means they would like me to disappear as soon as possible.

LUNCH PICK: Absinthe’s superb three-course lunch

By ANNE DESBRISAY

Ottawa-Absinthe

Classic crème brulée, part of Absinthe’s three-course meal (Photo: Anne DesBrisay)

Une Petite Soupe (a broccoli “velouté”) was course one of Absinthe’s three course lunch special. A classic crème brulée in mini ramequin came last, and in between, a main course of Taco de Poulet Tikka with Kachumber.

To suggest that, from time to time, Patrick Garland and his team of cracker jack French bistro cookers pitter patter over to give some Indian-Mexican fusion thing a go seems fair. (I ate the proof.) And it was delicious in a disjointed sort of way.

Good, adult soup — which is to say soup with a pleasing lemony bitterness about it, and a sharp and salty roundedness from Parmesan cheese. Then came the tacos: these were superb, the soft shells warm, made in house, smeared with a mint and cilantro chutney and topped with very moist grilled chicken drenched in a spicy cardamom-strong curry, cooled with a yogurt raita.

Ottawa-Absinthe

Chicken tacos at Absinthe, smeared with mint and cilantro chutney (Photo: Anne DesBrisay)

There was crunch — as there must be in a good taco — in the Kachumber salad, of cucumber, tomato and onion that topped the construct. The side of mixed greens was tossed in a mustard-creamy dressing that featured fresh thyme leaves and lots of lemon zest and brought me to Paris with its forceful flavours. A really good plate of food.

What else to follow a tikka taco but vanilla bean crème brulée? The real stuff, four spoonfuls-worth, well-executed. I could have four more.

Three-course lunch special, $20

Absinthe, 1208 Wellington St. W., 613-761-1138, absinthecafe.ca

KITCHEN CHRONICLES: A trip to therapy PLUS delish Rosemary cashews

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.

Can We Change?

—   I’ve been avoiding Anne, Fiona admits to Luc. I’m afraid she’ll get me to fess up that I’ve known about the affair for months. Long before Georges told her. I feel so guilty for not telling her.

—   Hey, I’m the one who’s Catholic! I thought we’d cornered the market on guilt!

—   Apparently not.

Luc gives her a hug.

—   You’re too sweet, Fee. There’s no reason to feel guilty. You did the right thing. We had no way of knowing Georges would lie to us too.

—   He’s the weasel! And we’re all paying for it.

—   If you tell Anne, you’ll just hurt her even more and she’ll be pissed at you.

—   I know, I know, says Fiona. I’ll give her a call.

She invites Anne over for a bit of a wine and whine while their men are playing pool. Fiona prepares some rosemary cashews* as a special treat for them and opens her current favourite red, a Carmenere from Chili, Casillero del Diablo. Anne’s punctual, as always.

—   Fee! It’s been so long. How are you?

They kiss each other on both cheeks.

—   I’m great. Busy times, eh?

—   Yes, says Anne, settling at the kitchen table. This counselling, on top of everything else….

—   How’s that going? Oh, let me get you a glass of wine.

—   Thanks. It’s going well. I guess. Twice a week though. It’s a bit intense. And now our counsellor — Dr. Travis — he wants Georges to do some solo therapy too.

IMG_4357—   Here you are, says Fiona, handing her a glass. Help yourself to the cashews, I just made them. They’re best when they’re warm.

—   You always make something special. Thanks, Fee.

—   Therapy for Georges? What does he say about that?

—   Mmmm, these are delicious! Georges didn’t say much. He’s still in the doghouse, so he’ll do anything. He knows he’s got more than his share of emotional baggage. You know about his father, don’t you?

—   Vaguely. He was violent or something, says Fiona.

—   It was ugly. You know Georges’ youngest brother is mentally delayed. Well, Georges says it’s because his father beat his mom when she was pregnant. She was hospitalized twice for it.

—   That’s terrible! And Georges? Were things bad for him?

—   Not so bad when he was young, says Anne. I guess his mom got the worst of it. But his dad started picking on Georges when he got older — probably because he was trying to protect his mother.

—   How awful!

—   Yeah, but then Georges moved out and went to a CEGEP in Gatineau. We’ve talked about his family a lot. Especially in our first few years together. I think he’s dealt with it — in so far as that’s possible. I really don’t know how useful it’s going to be to unearth it all again.

—   Isn’t that the basis of therapy, of recovery? asks Fiona.

—   Yes, but I’m really starting to wonder if that’s the best way. In the first place, it’s all based on our interpretation of the past, of what happened. With all our distortions. I mean truth is nebulous enough in the present. In the past? Well, knowing the truth is impossible. So that means we base our therapy, our impetus to change, on a lot of half-truths.

—   Yeah, “truth” is a relative thing, but if the patient — the person — believes it’s the truth, isn’t that what matters?

—   Maybe. But a lot of time it’s not very constructive.

—   I’m surprised to hear you saying that about therapy.

—   It’s been a long time coming, Fee. I’ve referred a lot of patients to psychotherapy. Some make progress, but most don’t. I think the main thing is that most people just don’t have the capacity for psychotherapy, for the work and self-reflection it demands to get to the emotional truth. And even if they do have the capacity, a lot don’t have the time.

—   It can be really time-consuming, acknowledges Fiona. But isn’t it helpful just to talk about things? To have someone listen to you?

—   Maybe. For some people. I mean, I’m not belittling the fact that unspeakable things happen in people’s lives, and I’m not discounting their horror, but what’s the point in dredging up the minutia again and again? Is that the way to recovery — through feeling miserable? Or would it be better to deal with the symptoms, to make people’s day-to-day life better.

—   Behavioural therapy?

—   Exactly. We are a sum of our past, good and bad, and we can’t ever go back and change that. Maybe all we can reasonably strive for is normalcy. To be functional in the now.

—   Georges does have an unhappiness tucked away in him.

—   Nicely put, Fee! And it definitely relates to his parents, his upbringing. But still, it’s part of who he is. His point of vulnerability. It’s the thing that makes him human, unique.

—   I know what you mean, Anne. At a certain age, it’s probably best to deal with what’s at hand. At least for most people…. Like you say, those who haven’t got the capacity for reflection. And Georges?

—   He hasn’t got it, says Anne.

She sighs.

IMG_4372—   Travis is a sort of a hybrid therapist. He’s getting us to recap the past, just so he understands, but he’s primarily into the behavioural stuff. I just hope Georges doesn’t start wallowing around in self-pity when he’s talking about all this. I mean, I’m the one who deserves some sympathy. He cheated on me, after all.

—   Oh, Anne. You know it’s not that simple. Given his background, he might need constant reassurance of love, or his worthiness to be loved.

—   And I’m not enough?

Anne flashes a piercing look.

—   Of course you are, Fiona says hurriedly, for a person without heavy baggage. But him?

—   Are you making excuses for him?

—   Not at all. I guess I’m thinking of Luc. Luc and I.

—   What’s going on?

—   We went to see Dr. F a few weeks ago and we finally had it out over Luc wanting control all the time.

—   Oh, so you finally got down to that? You’ve been talking about it for years.

—   Have I?

Anne nods.

—   His control, all that. So was it helpful?

—   Yeah, for me. I mean, I know Luc’s from a big family, but I hadn’t really considered how that affected his need to be in control, him being bossed around all through his childhood.

—   And him?

—   Oh, he knew, but he hadn’t really given it enough thought either. So now it’s out there. Just acknowledging it seems to have helped us both. Especially sexually.

She grins, then notices Anne’s downcast eyes and frown. I’ve been insensitive, thinks Fiona. Just when things are obviously going so badly with Anne.

—    I mean it’s a whole different thing for you guys, says Fiona. Georges has to be held accountable. I agree. I guess what I’m saying is maybe you should take his weaknesses into account. I mean he seems so strong, but we all have our vulnerabilities. Our Achilles heel.

—   Travis agrees with you, more or less. He says the reasons behind affairs concern both partners.

Anne sighs.

—   It’s so complicated. One thing he said that was practical though is that we need to make time for each other. I’ve been saying that to Georges for years, but now that Travis has said it, well, suddenly Georges is all interested.

She sounds so bitter, notes Fiona.

—   We tried the Wednesday night date thing, says Anne. That lasted about a month.

—   So did you pick a different night? asks Fiona.

—   Thursday. And we’ve both agreed that nothing, short of a medical emergency, takes precedence.

—   Well, that’s a good start, says Fiona.

—   It’s all about taking baby steps, says Anne.

—   And maybe the therapy will help him be a little more self-aware. To tell you what he needs, to express himself.

—   I’m not holding my breath.

—   Baby steps, echoes Fiona.

She reaches across the table and grasps Anne’s hand.

—   And you need to take care of yourself, Anne. Let’s go to the spa next week. Mani, pedi, the whole nine yards. Lots of time for chatting. Diversion. What do you say?

—   Sounds great!

*Rosemary cashews

1 pound roasted, unsalted cashews
2 tablespoons minced fresh rosemary leaves
½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon butter, melted

  1. Preheat oven to 350 °F.
  2. Spread cashews on a rimmed cookie sheet. Toast until warm (about 5 minutes)

In a large bowl, combine remaining ingredients. Toss in the warm cashews. Mix. Serve warm. Store leftovers in fridge, and microwave briefly before serving.

CAPITAL PINT: Beau’s LCBO brewery feature

Capital Pint by Travis Persaud is published regularly at OttawaMagazine.com. Follow Travis on twitter @tpersaud.

Beaus-LCBO-Feature

Beau’s All Natural Brewing Co. releases four new bottles as LCBO’s spring brewery feature

Beau’s All Natural Brewing Co. drops four brand new beers into the LCBO this week.

The Vankleek Hill brewery, which just wrapped a successful FEBREWARY, was selected as the LCBO spring brewery feature — the first Ontario brewery to get this special placement throughout the province.

“When we found out that we were going to be the brewery feature we knew we wanted to do something special,” says Beau’s Creative Director Jordan Bamforth. And by special, he means a year-long process of creating four brand new beers — all barrel-aged and bottled conditioned — complete with special packaging. “First we did a couple of long-aged beers,” he says. “The Old Ale was aged in rum barrels and the Wheat Wine was aged in chardonnay barrels; both for more than a year.” The Ginger Beer spent some time in rum barrels as well, and the White Pepper Saison was aged in red-grape ice wine barrels.

“And we created a unique wrap for each bottle,” Bamforth says. “It’s like each bottle is gift-wrapped, and they all have custom labels.” When planning a theme around the release, Bamforth says they took inspiration from ancient Mesopotamia as the beers “seemed like they were otherworldly.” The result is a naming scheme as unique as the other elements of this special LCBO release. (Click on each below for full tasting notes and background information.)

Gilgamesh (Old Ale, 8.9%)
Siduri (White Pepper Saison, 10.2%)
Sargon (Ginger Beer, 6%)
Ashnan (Wheat Wine, 9.8%)

Bamborth says the brewery feature is supposed to last three months, but don’t expect these to stay on the shelves for that long. “We brewed one batch of each,” he says. “So there’s about 7,500 bottles spread between [29 stores].”

Visit beaus.ca or lcbo.com to see which stores are carrying this limited edition series.

DesBrisay Dines

DESBRISAY DINES: Seductive French cuisine at Le Baccara

By ANNE DESBRISAY

Le-Baccara-Lac-Leamy

Le Baccara wows with such dishes as this rich tuna rillette refreshed with a green apple and cucumber salad (Photo: Anne DesBrisay)

I can’t think of a single open kitchen in this region where the view is of chefs in a monogrammed white jacket and traditional hundred pleat toque. Most everywhere, if you do get a peek into the back, the worker bees are in tees. A skull cap keeps the locks in place. Maybe a bandana.

Not a bit of that at Le Baccara. The fine dining restaurant of the Casino du Lac-Leamy is now in a class of its own. All the others of its haute French ilk have disappeared.

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KITCHEN CHRONICLES: Trish makes a difficult decision PLUS warming Portuguese stone soup

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.

Rebound redux

After several rounds of telephone tag, Trish and Fiona set a Tuesday evening date — Luc’s pool night. She arrives waving a large bottle of diet ginger ale, in lieu of her customary vino, and Fiona feels immediate dismay.

—   I’ve decided to keep the baby, announces Trish.

Why!? Fiona wants to shout. A lump of bile rises into her mouth Are you crazy? she thinks. But this is Trish’s decision, so she swallows her objections, says the expected.

—   Congratulations, Trish. I hope you’ll be really happy.

She gives her a hug, but Trish isn’t fooled.

—   I wish you were more enthusiastic, she says. I’ll be counting on you.

—   And you know I’ll help out as much as I can, says Fiona, but I can’t help being worried, Trish. I mean you and Craig…. It’s all so new.

—   He was super happy when I told him I’d decided to keep the baby.

—   Was he?

—   Well, he was scared too. But that’s a good sign, it means he’s taking it seriously.

—   Yeah, he knows it’s a giant step. Isn’t he concerned about the fact that you’ve only been together a few months?

—   He loves me. He says we’ll work it out.

—   And what if you don’t? How do you feel about being a single parent, Trish?

—   Fee! Give us a chance at least. We haven’t even had the baby yet and you’ve got us separating. One day at a time, as Uncle Renny would say.

—   That’s ‘cus he’s in AA.

—   Well, whatever. It applies to life. Anything can happen. You could lose your job. Or get hit by a bus.

Kitchen-Chronicles—   But you have control over this decision, says Fiona. You’ve got plenty of time to have another baby.

Trish begins to cry.

—   I need your support, she says.

Fee puts her hand on Trish’s arm.

—   Trish, honey, it’s your decision. I just want you to really consider all sides of this. Please.

—   I have, Fee. Really. Craig’s solid. It’s going to be okay.

Fiona can see there’s no point protesting; the decision has been made. She takes her hand off Trish’s arm.

—   And will you stay in your apartment, she asks.

—   For now. For a while. Craig doesn’t think it’s the right time to move. Says we can’t really afford to and he doesn’t think the disruption will be good for me.

—   And you?

—   I’d like a bigger place. I mean I’ll turn my office into a room for the baby, but I still need my own space. We’ll have to talk about it.

—   The students will be leaving town soon, you could always find something inexpensive.

—   Will you help me?

Fiona hates it when Trish imposes on her like this, demanding her time. It’s always something: help with buying a laptop or organizing her kitchen. But in this case, she sees she has no choice. This is for the baby.

—   Sure. Let’s keep our eyes on the ads. What’s your rent? $950?

—   Yeah. Plus hydro. We want to live downtown though.

—   We can look. You never know what will come up.

Despite her initial hesitation, Fiona’s mind is already racing: friends who own buildings, sites where apartment rentals are posted. She embraces challenges.

—   I had to tell Mom, says Trish. I was at her house last week and I started getting morning sickness and had to lie down. And I was all emotional and weepy…and well.

When aren’t you emotional and weepy? thinks Fiona, then chastises herself for being uncharitable.

—   And what did she say?

—   Well, you know her. She starts crying and hugging me and saying she’s always wanted to be a grandmother. She’s going to buy us the crib. And a bunch of clothes too. A layette, she called it. She’s being really sweet.

—   I’m so glad, says Fiona. She’ll be a big help. If she doesn’t drive you nuts.

—   Don’t I know it! says Trish. Hey, have you got anything to eat? I seem to be starving all the time.

—   I’ve got some Portuguese stone soup* left from last night. It’s more like a stew. I’ll heat it up. And I have some multigrain bread from that new bakery.

—   Sounds great!

Fiona pulls a pot from the fridge and puts it on the stove on low heat.

—   So, what happens in the interim? asks Fiona. Are you staying in school?

Trish nods.

Kitchen-Chronicles—   Until the end of this term. That way I get my full year. And maybe I’ll take a course of two in the summer. I’m due September nineteenth.

Fiona can’t help having one more go at Trish’s decision.

—   You have, what, one more year to go? You do realize how difficult this will make it for you to finish your degree?

—   There’s daycare at school.

—   And you’ll stick the baby in next January, when he or she is six months old?

—   You’re being so negative, Fee. It’s all going to work. I’ll probably take a year off.

—   But you’ll go back?

—   Of course.

Fiona suspects she won’t.

—   Sorry, Trish. I’m not trying to be a naysayer, I’m just concerned for you. Having a baby makes all your other goals and plans so much more difficult. It took me years to get back on track. You’ll have to quit your job at the bookstore too.

She shrugs.

—   I’m okay for now. It’s only about twenty hours a week and I sit behind the cash most of the day, studying. Besides, we need the money right now. But Craig’s business is starting to grow. He got some orders in from Toronto and Vancouver. And he’s got lots of outlets in Montreal now.

—   Chocolate, right?

—   Fair trade chocolate. He buys in bulk and repackages. He’s doing really well.

—   I’m glad. I really hope things go well for you, Trish. And I’m happy about the baby. It will be lovely to have a little one in all our lives.

Trish starts to cry.

—   Oh, I’m so glad you feel that way. I was worried that you wouldn’t approve.

—   Approve? Why would you need my approval, Trish? You’re twenty-seven, you’re old enough to make these decisions yourself.

—   I know, but I’ve always looked up to you, sort of a mentor, a point of gravitas. You are fifteen years older than me.

—   Don’t remind me! Here dry those tears, have some soup and then let’s go for a walk. It’s good for you and the baby, and we can go take a peek in that new baby store.

—   Oh, baby clothes! says Trish, flashing her beguiling smile.

*Portuguese stone soup

Makes 12 servings

2 tablespoons olive oil
3 onions, coarsely chopped
3 leeks, trimmed and thinly sliced (white only)
2 potatoes, peeled and diced
2 carrots, peeled and diced
2 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
3 cups cabbage, thinly sliced
7 cups chicken broth (homemade or from cubes)
1 bay leaf
8 ounce piece of smoked ham
4 ounce piece of chorizo or other spicy sausage
1 can (19 ounces/540 mL) tomatoes, not drained
1 can (19 ounces/540 mL) kidney beans, drained and rinsed
½ cup elbow macaroni
½ cup chopped fresh parsley
Salt and pepper to taste

In a large saucepan, heat oil over medium heat. Cook onions and leeks for 10 minutes, stirring often.

  1. Add potatoes, carrots, garlic and cabbage. Stir.
  2. Add broth, bay leaf, ham and chorizo. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover and simmer for 45 minutes.
  3. Remove ham and chorizo; dice and return to pot.
  4. Add tomatoes and kidney beans, breaking up tomatoes with a wooden spoon. Cover and simmer for 10 minutes.
  5. Add macaroni and simmer until al dente (about 10 minutes).

Discard bay leaf. Stir in parsley and add salt and pepper to taste.