Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Feeding Writers

In the mid-1970s, Margaret Lawrence impressed upon Andreas and me the importance of nurturing what she called the tribe – our community of fellow Canadian writers. The hospitality of Pierre and Janet Berton was always part of this. My previous post about this describes Andreas & I tumbling ass over tea kettle during our exit from one of these parties. Our annual dinner party, in the middle of the Sechelt Festival of the Written Arts, is a much more modest event, no more than 40 people.

Starting on the left, and going clockwise around the table are Terry Fallis, Angie Abdou, Claire Cameron, Aislinn Hunter, Linda Holeman, Roberta Rich, and Hal Wake Director of the Vancouver Writers Fest, and with her back to the camera - the irrepressible Kim Thuy.

This year, we were well supported by our friend Suzanne as well as by Heidi Greco and Marion Quednau. Without them, this year’s feast would have been a total disaster. Three hours before everyone was due to arrive, a tree fell across the power line and cut off the electricity for three hours. So much for my plan of pre-cooking the chicken in the oven.

Heidi came to the rescue and grilled eighty chicken thighs on a family-sized barbeque –an award-winning feat of culinary prowess. Not only that, but she didn’t burn the house down, unlike the real-life experience of Bill Gaston, another of the writers at this year’s Festival.

I often get asked for recipes, so here goes. This year’s dinner included much the same fare as last year’s. I had already posted the recipe to Trudy’s Stunningly Good Quinoa Salad, but at least the quinoa was prepared properly this time round. Thank you Heidi for advice on doneness and Suzanne for vigilance. Also, as I noted last year, always trust Ruth Reichl.

Dianne Whelan and friend hovering. Choices... choices....
Vanessa baked her fabulous bread, once again – and her version of how to do it was also posted last year. The spinach salad and sake-marinated chicken are new additions, so I am adding them to the growing list of recipes that I include in my blog. I didn’t post what we did this time for the roasted pepper salad because it is so darned simple. Roasted peppers, toasted pine nuts, basil, what’s to know? Just invite Marion to assemble it. Even though I forgot to add the usual sprinkle of balsamic vinegar. A more labour intensive version, prepared for 50 people, is described in a 2011 post.

The hummus and baba ghannooj are old faves, but I hadn’t posted my recipes until now. Enjoy. I post these kinds of recipes because I can then refer to them when I am traveling. When I end up cooking in a castle – and this has really happened - I haven’t had to rely on my jet-lagged thought processes.

Last up, as it should be, was dessert - a carrot cake with mascarpone topping. Now, I know that Julia Child says Never apologize - but I do tend to ignore that. This time round, one of the cakes was slightly undercooked. Oops. For the guests who ended up being served an overly moist slice, sorry. Next time, I’ll get it right.

The day after the festival was over, I found Vanessa deeply absorbed in reading Andrea Routley’s Jane and the Whales. My heart melted.
Stories are the most important gift of writer’s festivals. I have included links to the writers included in the photos so you can find them too – although there were also dozens of other writers who missed being caught on camera. If you were not able to hear all of them read and/or speak in Sechelt, you can catch some of them in October at the Vancouver Writers’ Fest. Their writing will feed your mind and soul. Guaranteed.

Photo by Hal Wake in our driveway: L-R Kim Thuy, Claire Cameron, Angie Abdou, and Alison Wearing.


  1. Great post, Sharon. Almost like being there (sans smoke in eyes). The leftovers you sent with me for the trip home were delicious. You were right -- so much better than ferry food!

  2. You have a beautiful home - thank you for inviting us into it. An absolutely wonderful evening! Thank you for the hospitality.