Day 3

Following up on the challenge of the week – I felt a bit more inspired today, and tried Syrian rice, homemade Babaganoush, and a spinach & chickpea stew. The red/orange bits in the middle is some left over tofu with tomato sauce. It was so good that I’m seriously ready to explode any minute…



Challenge of the week

Last week Alan and I ended up eating out a lot, which is not good for either our wallets or our health so this week our challenge is to only eat food we prepare ourselves. Although I love to cook, that’s primarily because I love to eat and try new things so getting me to eat out is not a very difficult feat. Like anybody else, I don’t always feel like cooking when I get home at the end of a long day so when Alan turns to me and says “do you want to go to The Bowl?” I can’t really say no. The danger lies in allowing that to become a habit and before you know, you haven’t cooked for days and have actually forgotten how wholesome a homecooked meal made from the freshest ingredients can actually be. So this week is an attempt to reset the system and get back to eating at home most of the time rather than occasionally.

Having said all of that, I have to say the week didn’t start all that well since I wasn’t all that inspired when I went to the market on saturday and ended up not buying much. That has meant a few trips to the local stores and a lot of creativity with leftovers.

Quinoa TaboulehFor today I made a meal out of the quinoa tabouleh I made on the weekend by adding some lima beans to it. I was going to add some tuna but forgot to buy them… For dinner I’m having a bit of the leftovers, some hummus, and some kefir for dessert.

For tomorrow, I’m thinking of using some of the radish salsa I made on the weekend as the basic seasoning for a rice and chickpea salad. I’m cooking some brown short grain rice and I’ll mix it with a can or chickpeas and the radish salsa (I have nearly 2 cups of it left). That should take care of lunch tomorrow and the next day at the least.

I’ll update this post as the week progresses in case anyone is interested.


By the way, I’ve been thinking about creating a blog dedicated exclusively to food and food-related issues. I’m not sure yet. I’ve also decided to move this blog to a self-hosted space, which will give me more flexibility. We’ll see…

Summer in Toronto

Summer in Toronto is very frustrating.

Last night we went to check out the opening of Luminato at Dundas Square but could only stay for an hour since we had to go to the other side of the city where Alan’s guitar teacher was playing his final gig with his bad. The evening was nice, we discovered an amazing band at the concert on Dundas Square but we also got the program for the Luminato festival. Turns out that the main theme of the festival this year is the guitar so within Luminato, there’s also a guitar festival, which immediately caught our attention. But it turns out that most of the events are happening today, when we have already committed to a potluck dinner at a park on the city’s east end.

The tendency is for things to get worse. Soon, there will be four festivals happening at the same time on any given weekend, making it impossible for us to check them all out. Particularly this summer when I’ll be teaching a course – and thus probably marking or preparing during weekends – and have Hebrew class on sundays… Sigh.

Life can be simple…

Why wait for a special occasion to have a special meal? Why make a big fuss when you do want to have a nice meal by spending all day in the kitchen? After a nice day cycling and meeting friends, I didn’t feel like cooking something big for dinner. So I came across this winter caprese salad, which seemed simple enough and was even better with a bit of balsamic, which was followed by some bread, decadent St Andre cheese, and whatever I had in the fridge (jams, olive tapenade, marinated eggplant) and wine. And for dessert? Some fresh strawberries, organic kefir from Pinehedge Farms, and a bit of maple syrup. Every bite and every taste was a little piece of heaven. Life is good…


It’s a beautiful day here in Toronto today and Alan didn’t really feel like spending it swimming laps at an indoor pool. I suggested we go out for a walk and being eager to be talked out of swimming, he promptly agreed. So off we walked along Carlton Street to Cabbagetown. The area is only a few blocks east of where we live and used to be one of the poorest neighbourhoods in Toronto, before significant gentrification in recent years. Characterized by nice Victorian homes, cafés and green spaces (even a farm!), it’s one of my favourite spots in Toronto.

As usual, Alan and I walked out of the house without a clear plan of what we would do. The basic idea was to walk over to Jet Fuel, the local Java joint which is a favourite among Toronto cyclists and which serves a mean coffee, and sit and read for a while. Both Alan and I had some homework – he had to do some music theory work and I had Hebrew to catch up on. The coffee was indeed good, the vibe in the place was just right but when it came time to leave, we weren’t quite ready to go home. So a quick browse through Urbanspoon on my iPod Touch (ah, the beauty of technology and free wireless internet) revealed two promising places nearby for brunch: Big Mama’s Boy and The Pear Tree. We walked over to the first one but unfortunately it was closed so Pear Tree it was and it was really good. Our brunch was nice, service was friendly, price was good. We definitely need to explore Cabbagetown’s restaurants a bit more often. Some quick pics of the morning/early afternoon walk (click on the small ones to see a larger version):


Jet Fuel Pear Tree Pear Tree Brunch Brunch

Giving up on resolutions?

The year will be over in two weeks so it’s time to look at how I did on the resolutions I took last year:

1. Eat more regularly at home. It sort of worked. I have been cooking more – as you can probably tell by all the food pictures on flickr – but not as regularly as I would have liked. On the plus side, since I started received a box of organic fruits and veggies every week, we have certainly started eating a lot better although some weeks some items go to waste.

2. Eat a healthy, well-balanced diet with enough calcium-rich fruits and vegetables daily (since I’m in a risk group for osteoporosis). I’ve certainly started eating a lot more vegetarian meals and have increased the fruit consumption. But I still have ways to go.

3. Go to the gym every morning before school – six times a week, alternating between weights and swimming. Total failure. But on the plus side, I’ve started learning yoga and have been practicing at home. A yoga studio has just opened across the street from where I live so I might join in January. I’ve also started learning to run. The new resolution is to run a 5k race in the summer.

4. Write at least three chapters of my thesis by December.Ha! too funny! I was certainly ambitious – I wrote one. The new resolution is to write three by July.

5. Publish something. I was asked to submit something to a journal earlier this month. Just finished the draft. Fingers crossed!

6. Spend less time browsing aimlessly on internet to be able to achieve #4 & #5. Not much success.

7. Recycle more. Thumbs up. I have also stopped buying over-packaged items at the grocery store. Actually, I don’t really shop much in large supermarkets anymore. I buy most of my food in markets and small stores. Going for whole foods vs processed foods make this much easier.

8. Devote more time to learning Hebrew. I started a course 3 weeks ago and it’s going well.

9. Travel to places I haven’t been before. We went to Segovia in the summer, I visited Chicago and we explored parts of Paris that were off the beaten path. Granted that most of those trips were work-related but it was fun being in a new place.

10. Keep a healthy perspective about work. So far so good. This past month has been very productive and the more I produce, the less anxious I get. The challenge is to keep the momentum.

November 20, 1999

We met over a postcard. It was September 1, 1996 and I had been on the internet for about six months. We both used to hang out in chat rooms through IRC and one day I asked people to send me postcards from where they lived. I collected postcards, you see. I was also fascinated about knowing more about other places, languages and cultures. He sent me a private message asking me for my address and promised a postcard from Montreal, where he lived. All I knew about Canada at that point was that it was the land of the totem poles and grand British buildings (I had been to Victoria, BC, when I was 7 years old). I also had vague notions that some parts of the country spoke French. So we started talking. We found we had much in common. So we started looking for each other every night. Soon we were talking for 3-4 hours every day. Sometimes for 8 hours straight. We had exchanged pictures during the first week but he avoided telling me his age. I knew he was much older but didn’t know how much. But it didn’t matter when he could read my mind and finish my sentences from 7,000 miles away. We soon discovered we were soul mates, we fell in love. Eleven months later I would come to Montreal to take an English course and we would meet for the first time. We were 100% comfortable with each other from the very first moment, there was no awkwardness or embarrassing silent moments. People who believe in re-incarnation might be on to something; it feels like we’ve been together for generations. We married as soon as I graduated from university in Brazil and today we celebrate 9 years of marriage and we are as in love and as attentive to each other as in those early days. We are so comfortable that we forget our anniversary every year. The only reason we remembered in the first year was because my mother called. Thank God for modern technology – I was able to write this post a week ago and post it today, before I forgot again.

Happy anniversary sweety.

PS: we talked so much that first day when he asked me for my address that I think we both forgot what initiated the conversation. While he sent me many postcards, letters and gifts later, that initial postcard was never sent.


Thank you for the anniversary wishes! To celebrate, we went out to La Palette, a little French bistro at Kensington Market. We had been there before for lunch and were very impressed so decided to try it for dinner. French food always does it for us. It takes us back to some of the most romantic dates we’ve had. It’s not just the food – it has to do with the ambiance, the sound of the French language, the lingering meal… We had the $50 five-course tasting menu and although it was very good, I’m not sure it’s a better value than the $32 prix fixe menu. The wine? A Spanish one to take us back to our days in Spain…

Brazilian Coffee

When Canadians ask me about Brazil, almost the first thing they ask – after the weather, of course – is about the coffee. “It bet you get really nice coffee there!”, they’d say. When I first arrived in Canada, in the days when the only coffee we had at home was sent by my mother through the mail, I’d probably have said “oh yes, our coffee is great!”. But I have since learned otherwise.

Brazil is the world’s largest coffee producer and many experts across the world vouch for the quality of its beans. And while Brazilians are avid coffee drinkers, that does not mean they have access to good coffee. Most of the best beans are reserved for export and what remains on the shelves of the supermarkets is often mixed with other stuff. Most roasters tend to burn the beans, effectively making the coffee too bitter and leading most people to over-sweeten their coffee.

Unlike in Italy, Spain or Portugal, most of our coffee is percolated rather than pulled from an espresso machine. Until a few years ago, it was served already sweetened with loads of sugar.

It was only after moving to Canada, and later traveling to France, Spain and Portugal that I have learned what really good coffee is supposed to taste like. I now know that a good espresso can be drank pure, without sugar, and it won’t taste bitter (unthinkable to any Brazilian). And that a real cappuccino has no chocolate in it. But my mother still gets bewildered whenever I call home and refuse her offers to send me ground coffee from Brazil. I’m happier buying my Brazilian coffee at Casa Açoriana, at Kensington Market.

Universal health care

I’ve recently got into a discussion with my brother on the issue of universal health care. It’s a big debate and one which we may be far from agreeing on. It boiled down to two basic issues – freedom of choice and trust.

My brother doesn’t believe in the welfare state because he doesn’t think the state is better than its population and we shouldn’t depend on it. According to him, the state shouldn’t abandon education and health care but should focus on providing it to those who need it as opposed to those who want it. He was very alarmed when I mentioned there’s no private health care in Canada. He felt that the lack of alternative hurts his individual rights to choose the kind of health care he wants.

In theory, I have nothing against the co-existence of public & private education and health care. In practice, I don’t think it works. Take universal health care for instance. I think it only works when an influential segment of our population, the educated middle class, the opinion-makers, rely on the system and therefore demand a certain basic quality. If you have a private alternative, the minute the first glitch on the public system appears, this influential group moves on the private option, which is easier than demanding change on the public side. Soon all the ones left using the public system are only those who need it – those on the margins of society, who can often be ignored by the policy makers. The pressure to keep the system working well disappears and soon only those with money can receive quality care.

That, to me, limits my freedom of choice as an individual. If my choice of hospital or treatment is limited by the amount of money I have in the bank or the kinds of benefits I get from my employer, it hurts my individual rights much more than not having the choice to pay for private health care. Full individual freedom is illusory. Our freedom ends when it interferes with the freedom of our neighbour. We all have the right to quality health care irrespective of our previous health history, job, class, or financial conditions. If to have that I need to wait a bit more for a non-urgent test because someone else who has a life-threatening condition needs to be taken care of first, I’m happy to oblige. I don’t want to be able to do whatever medical test I want the next day just because I have enough money to pay a private clinic when there are other people who are denied that choice. That, to me, is no freedom.

Update: Interesting article debunking some commonly-held myths about the Canadian healthcare system

Part 2 of article here.