Believe it or not, there are six degrees of separation between British author Charles Dickens, Parisienne food blogger Clotilde Dusoulier, who's the 2011-2012 Joseph Hoare Gastronomic Writer-in-Residence, Culinary Historian Shirley Lum (yours truly) of A Taste of the World Walks, Paris, the City of Light and Toronto, the Meeting Place. What the Dickens!
Charles Dickens was quite a foodie in his time. Whether you read one of his numerous novels, personal letters or diaries you'll find many detailed mentions of food or fabulous meals. You may ask "what was his grist for literary mill?" Well try this: Dickens published the famous novel, A Tale of Two Cities after visiting Paris, the City of Light with his wife in 1855. In 1882, Macmillan & Co. posthumously published his unconventional handbook called Dickens' Dictionary of Paris, after he revisited Paris in 1865 with actress/mistress Ellen Ternan!
Wondering about where Toronto, the Meeting Place fits in? It got a nod in his 1843 travel handbook, American Notes (which by the way, I had autographed by his great-great grandson, Gerald Charles Dickens and I'll read excerpts on the tours). Yes, Saturday December 3rd marks the final In The Footsteps of Charles Dickens: Toronto 1842 walk in year 2011. If you've not had a chance to attend this incredible Da Vinci Code-type Literary Detective walking tour yet, you're truly missing out on this "librarians' dream come true" walking tour experience lead by your guide armed with old maps, diary excerpts from Dickens and even his wife's long-lost diary circa 1842 ! Can't make it this weekend? Mark it in your calendars: Saturday February 4th, 2012, we will be celebrating his 200th birthday, even though it actually takes place on Tuesday February 7th, 2012. More details to come of the celebrations to take place throughout 2012...
Still wondering about the connections between the Charles Dickens and Clotilde Dusoulier? Hold onto your hats... here it come... Guess who also dropped into town? Clotilde Dusoulier! In case you haven't heard, she's the Writer-in-Residence from Paris, France. She pens the award-winning blog Chocolate and Zucchini and has published several books, one of them, Edible Adventures in Paris (which I'm sure would tickle Dickens' fancy). Clotilde Dusoulier spoke at George Brown College in Toronto, Ontario on Thursday November 10th, 2011. What a fabulous turn-out! I've never seen so many faces I recognized who are Women Culinary Network (WCN) members - Elizabeth Baird, Nettie Cronish, Mary Luz Mejia, Marion Kane, Joanne Yolles, Preena Chauhan and new faces! All eager to hear what award-winning blogger, Clotilde Dusoulier has to say during her informative talk on the Art of Food Blogging. What would Charles Dickens' reaction been if he was there that night too? Whenever I conduct one of my walks, you'll always hear one of my favourite wistful musings, "Imagine... if we could use Dr. Who's Time Machine and bring Charles Dickens back to Toronto along the In The Footsteps of Charles Dickens: Toronto 1842 walking tour!" The prolific British writer who was dubbed by one walk attendee as the "Danielle Steeles of the Victorian era" would have loved being a "fly-on-the-wall" during the fabulous Art of Food Blogging seminar.
Thank you Eleanor Kane and James Morris, the Co-founders of Stratford Chefs School for developing the Joseph Hoare Gastronomic Writer-in-Residence Program at Stratford, Ontario. Those of you who read Toronto Life magazine might recall its former food editor, the late Joseph Hoare, who was immensely supportive of young writers interested in food and gastronomy. To honour his lifelong passion for food and food writing, his family generously established the innovative position of writer-in-residence at Stratford Chefs School. The individual who is graced with the title Writer-in-Residence is given these key roles - s/he leads workshops about food writing, conducts one-on-one consultations with students who are interested in food writing and presents readings of his/her work to both students and the public. This dynamic program included national and international writers over the past years: 2007-2008 James Chatto; 2008-2009 Corby Kummer; 2009-2010 Michael Symons; 2010-2011 Ian Brown.
The program's mission: To help people experience, enjoy and understand the gastronomy of our time so that a distinctive Canadian food culture may continue to develop.Here's a little highlight from that seminar that can be savoured...
10 Golden Rules in the Art of Food Blogging from Clotilde Dusoulier
1. Choose Focus
2. Look at what others are doing
3. Set yourself apart
4. Be genuine
5. Focus on great content
6. Keep learning
7. Give credit where credit is due
9. Keep at it
10. Have fun!
You can read the wonderful detailed recap of these rules by Mardi at the fabulous Food Bloggers of Canada. If Dickens lived in this era, how many of these rules would apply to him? I can just picture Dickens sitting there nodding his head while listening to Clotilde and making mental check marks as he goes through that list...
By the way, did I mention that there was the reception afterwards, where food and drinks were served and attendees had a chance to mix and mingle? Me think, Dickens would have been in seventh heaven watching as a fly on the wall and observing how we network, use our smart phones to tweet the event. He would fall off the wall laughing so hard as he watch how we wander to the two tables laden with six types of delicious hors d'oeuvres (half prepared by the Stratford Chef School students and half by George Brown College The Chefs' House) and start to take photographs with the very same cell phones before we start noshing ad sipping! He would probably leap over to the book signing table to chat with Clotilde about copyright and maybe pick her brain about modern day Paris! Which dishes do you think tickled the fancy of Clotilde Dusoulier and Charles Dickens?
Menu: 6 different types of hors d'oeuvres served 3 types by students of the Stratford Chef School - Smoked Albacore Tuna crispy wontons - seared lamb loin, pickled eggplant - Stratford Chef's School madeleine, sauce grenache 3 types made by GBC The Chefs' House - crispy fried mini scotch egg, mango chutney (right) - foie gras custard in egg shell, creme fraiche, chervil (below) - beef pot stickers, chili lime dipping sauce