Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Heart, Mind, Body, and Concrete

All too often, respiratory flu knows how to hit my weak point. It probably doesn’t help that I was born two months early – apparently arriving on the scene looking something like a scalded, plucked chicken. Later in life, I had a childhood bout with TB which also didn’t help much. Then, I spent much of my teens living in the then heavily polluted Saar Ruhr Valley. I only mention these events because I arrived home a week ago from Ireland via Boston, and a day later started shivering with the dreaded winter flu.

Hearing of this, my third cousin Eilie, told me: Well dear, I haven’t experienced colds since I was child. I had one once when I was I was 50, and I was staying at a hotel in London. I complained to the hotel. For those of you who have yet to meet the life-force that is Eilie, this would have been more than 40 years ago at a time when she worked as a nurse. I have to confess to experiencing a wee bout of envy over the efficiency of her immune system. Would that mine worked like that.

Not that I want to snivel and whine too much about my own latest bout – just enough to enjoy the pleasure of complaining. I did, after all, spend the first week home with my husband at the Granville Island Hotel where absolutely nothing was required of me, except to get better, and to enjoy a couple of events a day at the Vancouver International Writers’ Festival. Not too shabby.

It wasn’t just the Granville Island Hotel that it was so special –  one of three hotels that I mentioned in a piece about a year ago  – it was also that the surrounding amenities fit so perfectly with both the Writers' Festival and our time there. All the events – and there were more than a dozen a day to choose from - were within a block or two of the hotel, as was anything else I might desire.

Most mornings, I shopped at the nearby Granville Island Market for bakery treats, fresh fruit, juice and such for breakfast. For lunch and supper, there was an embarrassment of riches. On the first day, I didn’t feel like venturing too far afield. No problem, the restaurant in the hotel is the kind of space where you don’t have to holler to carry on a conversation, and you can actually hear yourself think, if you are thinking. On the other hand, if thinking is too daunting, then you can simply stare out at the inlet, check out the boats and follow the shifting light, or else note how well the various dog walkers are matched to their dogs.  

On our first day, as part of my get well program, we dined at the hotel’s Dockside Restaurant, and I ordered their Chorizo, peppers and goat cheese pasta. Perfection. Since they make their own beer on site, I washed it down with a Cartwright Pale Ale – a perfect pairing. Too bad for old hubby though. His favourite beer has always been the Jamaican Lager – a light fruit beer made with hints of Hibiscus. Here’s hoping the waitress was misinformed about it not being made anymore. For non-beer drinkers such as him, it is perfection in a glass.
Dockside Restaurant Chorizo pasta
 On our second day, we finally got organized enough to make a reservation at Bistro 101. It is run by the Pacific Institute of Culinary Arts, and all the food and service is done by the students. $18.00 buys a three course meal that has no hint of student about it – it is perfectly professional. The Chipolte Yam soup that I started with was exactly what my phlegmish body needed as a restorative. My spice-averse husband started his meal with a beautifully constructed salad with layers of greens interspersed with a thin pastry-breaddish something – I am no expert on such things - surrounded with local prawns. From there, it was nowhere but up, although goodness knows we had already started on a high enough note.
The mousse in the dessert was a perfect balance of tart and creamy.
A couple of days later, I trotted out to Liberty Wines to see if they had any wine made by M. Chapoutier – they did - and came upon the weekly Farmer’s Market held in the Triangle Square just in front of the Public Market. Amongst the dozens of stalls, there was certified organic bread made by The Bread Affair; premium handmade-artisan cheeses done by Farm House Cheeses, as well as locally grown veggies and fruit from a number of vendors. There was also a stand with home-made pasta pearls. They are a cross between couscous and orso and are made by Lilikoi Specialty Foods. I would have bought one of their ten pound packs, were it not for the fact I knew that we would be backpacking everything home at the end of the week – and as always, I had already added a book or three to our luggage. Next year, I may have to hold back on the books, just to make room.

I titled this piece Heart, Mind, Body, and Concrete because Granville Island attends to the usual first three elements as well as the fourth. Not only is there a phenomenal range of available foods at the various markets and restaurants, but the Island is also where a significant amount of fabrication of all kinds of crafts as well as serious manufacturing takes place. There is everything from pottery studios, silkscreen shops to – yes – concrete, the very kind that builds houses, bridges, and sidewalks.

If I hadn’t misplaced or maybe even lost a bunch of photos from a year ago, I could share my own version of my favourite concrete truck, but thankfully the one above is shared through Creative Commons: http://www.flickr.com/photos/onthetower/4400217149/

I am now home and all is tickety-boo. My Heart and Mind have been thoroughly energized by The Vancouver International Writers’ Festival; my Body has been healed with rest and good food; and as for the Concrete, well, just seeing it being pumped into the waiting trucks each day as I sauntered on to the market or the next literary event always made me feel more grounded. Silly, but true.

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