Friday, April 29, 2011

April: Grilled Cheese & National Poetry Month!

Gastronomic experiment: Grilled Cheese Sandwich
 Woodlot's Red Fife bread, Stirling Butter from Cambridge, ON &
Upper Canada Cheese's Guernsey Girl Cheese

Canadian Grilled Cheese
 as Royal Wedding Gift Haiku

Woodlot's Red Fife Bread ...
Upper Canada Cheese dream ...
Oh Canada oh!
- Shirley Lum April 29th, 2011

I just love the month of April!   
 *  The month of April has been declared as National Poetry Month! Sharpen those quills folks and put on your Maple Leaf toques! Folks attending the popular Kensington Foodie Roots walks throughout 2011, will have "food for the soul" experiences, as I introduce one of my Grilled Cheese Haiku each time. It will be fun paying tribute to Canadian fromage with the seasonal/festive cheese tastings! 
* April showers bring May flowers for those who appreciate Mother Nature's spring blooms! After a bit of hard work in my garden, I'm ready for a Grilled Cheese Sandwich! 
* The month of April has also been declared as Grilled Cheese Month!   

Guinness Cheddar:
Makes an awesome boozy Grilled Cheese Sandwich!
The grilled cheese sandwich is such a heavenly combination of three basic ingredients: bread, butter and cheese.  Changing any one of these three key ingredients creates pure comfort food alchemy, figuratively and literally, so I'm discovering this past month.  

I can't help myself, but this blog will be peppered with my own Haiku creations inspired by some of the different grilled cheese sandwich combinations I've made over this month ...  and sprinkled with a bit of of trivia ...

What's amazes me, is how the combination of these three basic ingredients generated "cheesey tweets" in Twitter.   Joining the conversation in Twitter, and I found "chat rooms" in the guise of Hashtags like #GrilledCheese,  #CH (FYI: Cheese Haiku) and #Cheese!  Marcella Wright aka Twitter@cheesemonger in Twitter, has postings every day of the month, and this one caught my eyes/palate:  "April is Grilled Cheese Month" #21 Woman of LaMancha & Flame-Crafted Ham: Bravo, Marcella! 

Heading south of the border, the  8th Annual National Grilled Cheese Invitational took on April 23rd, 2011 in Los Angeles, CA! Aside four different categories of grilled cheese sandwich, they also had Haiku and limerick poetry contests! The last time I wrote a Haiku was too long ago back in grade school. Anyway,  I was unable to attend this cool event,  but perhaps next time and I'll be armed with a variety of Haiku, bread, butter and cheese.  Meanwhile, here's a wonderful report in LA Times "Grilled cheese as far as the eye could see" to whet your appetite and entice you to enter their 2012 cooking and/or literary contests: 
Thanks to my love for this fabulous sandwich, poems written up by fellow Twitter fans for Haiku and limerick poetry contests  inspired me to haul out my old fountain pen and ink well, to scratch off a few "cheesey" Haiku of my own while exploring new cheese or bread to use as I make my grilled cheese sandwich. 

Toronto, The Meeting Place's 

Grilled Cheese Haiku

Nakamura's Bread ...
Monteforte's awesome Sheep Milk Cheese ...
TO's Hot Grilled Cheese!

- Shirley Lum April 26, 2011

From early childhood and right through my university years, the grilled cheese sandwich was  an old reliable friend whenever I'm in the pinch for time.  In the past, my grilled cheese sandwich would have been a slice of processed cheese slipped between white bread by Wonder Bread. Then, I switched to whole wheat bread from a national grocery store. Since starting my Kensington Foodie Roots walking tours, my bread slowly morphed as I started shopping in the culturally diverse Kensington Market's bakeries and grocery stores. A new repertoire of heavenly slices for my grilled cheese sandwich: Rye bread, Jamaican corn bread, Portuguese white corn bread, Persian Sesame Flatbread, and the list goes on. 
Early April, I found myself with a grilled cheese sandwich consisting of decadent Guernsey Girl Cheese by Upper Canada Cheese between hearty slices of Red Fife Bread from Woodlot Restaurant and Bakery  accompanied by  soup and salad. As I nibbled into my sandwich, I read What's to Eat? Entrees in Canadian Food History. The chapter, Grain Elevated: The Fall and Rise of Red Fife Wheat by food columnist Sarah Musgrave caught my attention. In Grade 8, I wrote a report on the status of wheat in Canada, and I vaguely recalled coming across something called Red Fife Wheat. 

In this chapter, she discussed a heritage grain that is currently regaining favour after a period of neglect. She beautifully traces the story of Red Fife wheat by ways of exploring issues of provenance. She asserts the value of heritage foodways and introduced me to a special Canadian who actively engaged in challenging assumptions about the innate benefits of novelty and progress,  The sandwich almost wouldn't have been possible, if not. for the perseverance of agronomist Sharon Rempel, under her guidance, seed specimens were transferred to a seed orphanage operated by he Canadian Heritage Wheat Project.  Red Fife would lie dormant until mid-1980s, when a bag of pure Red Fife seed, some of the last remaining stock, was discovered in a shed on a lonely stretch of prairie  road. 

Starting with half pound of seed, Rempel began bulking up on Red Fife and eventually had enough to begin distributing it to farmers by the late 1990s. Since then, it has cropped up from one coast to the other coast of Canada, in Antigonish, Nova Scotia, as well as Hastings, Ontario, and Cranbrook, British Columbia, with the tonnage harvested each year continuing to grow. Like many old wheats, its genetic variability makes it adaptable to different growing conditions and suitable for organic cultivation. 

The next exciting chapter in the Red Fife story unfolded on a rainy night in November 2004, when the grain finally made the leap from cultivator to consumer as the Loiselle family farm in Vonda, Saskatchewan delivered to Wild Fire Bread and Pastry, a tiny bakery in Victoria, British Columbia.  

Fast forward to late 2010 as David Haman, chef/owner opened Woodlot Restaurant & Bakery in downtown Toronto. My husband and I, love picking up this hearty bread as a treat once in a while, to make some of the most fabulous grilled cheese sandwiches. 

Let's celebrates Canada's culinary heritage!
 There are endless Grilled Cheese Sandwich possibilities ... 

Canadian Grilled Cheese Heaven Haiku

Woodlot's Rustic Red Fife Bread...
 Niagara Gold Heaven ...
Canadian, eh! 
- Shirley Lum, April 29th, 2011

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Toronto Royal Wedding Fever

Royal Wedding window display at Midoco's in Toronto.
 The Queen atop Paper wedding cake doing the Royal Wave as
Kate Middleton's & Prince William's heads bobble! 

Tick tock, tick tock! Where did the time go? April just flew by so quickly! It's hard to believe, but it seems like yesterday when the engagement was announced... tomorrow we'll catch a glimpse of the Royal Wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton ... Who has not caught the Royal Wedding fever as yet in Toronto?

Strolling along Bloor Street West, I bursted out laughing at the very sight of the Queen perched on top of a paper wedding cake, and one of her hands enclosed in a white glove, is doing the famous Royal wave! This is one of my favourite window displays of all time - Midoco's Stationary (see above). Don't you love how Prince William's head and Kate's head bobble? Caught you smiling! 

Last night while conducting the Phantoms, Players & Pundits Walk, my guests and I simply loved the beautiful tributes by Malabar (yes the dance and costume rental folks on McCaul Street jumped on the Royal Wedding party). Each window paid tribute to a British Royal couple - complete with an accompanying photograph/drawing of their actual wedding outfit, and then mannequins clothed in very similar ensembles: Queen Victoria & Prince Albert;  a young Queen Elizabeth II & Prince Phillip; a young Queen Mum & King George.  Tasteful. Sorry, no pictures as it was getting quite dark at that point during the ghost walk.

Strolling into Kensington Market, along Augusta Avenue on Tuesday, I just had to pause a few seconds and take a snap of The Good Egg's creative window display & tribute to the Royal Wedding ... another paper wedding cake... note the couple's names - Kate & Willy! 

Getting ready for your wedding can be a stressful time despite an army of assistants in the case of the Royal Couple, and having been through it in a much smaller scale in June 2009, it's still fresh in my mind. I'm sure there will be last minute details to be taken care of, but the young couple seems to have their heads firmly on their shoulders, and taking it all in stride and probably find that having sense of humour helps along the whole way, or perhaps dancing every so often ...

On the subject of dancing and having a good laugh, thank you T-Mobile Royal Wedding for this fun video! Dance away as you watch or re-watch it, for I sure did!

Here's a toast to Prince William and Kate Middleton:

May their wedding day on Friday, April 29th, 2011 be the beginning of a 
harmonious, healthy and joyous life together 
that's filled with love and laughter!  


May the flowers bloom as
gorgeously  in London as in Toronto!

Saturday, April 16, 2011

The #grilledcheese project drawer. Note: *separate* from the ... on Twitpic

The #grilledcheese project drawer. Note: *separate* from the ... on Twitpic

This picture is amazing as it reminds me of the Cheesey Guys at St Catharine's Farmers' Market. Why? They take a medley of cheeses out of their cooler, and create awesome Grilled Cheese Sandwiches. On a rainy day like today, it simply rocks!
- Shirley

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

April is National Poetry Month: Celebrate Dead Canadian Poets Society!

April has been declared as National Poetry Month!  Being a proud CBC aka Canadian-born Chinese, since Tuesday April 5th, 2011 I've been musing over how to pay our respect for our dead Canadian poets.  What's the significance of this date, you might dare ask? Qing Ming Festival or Tomb Sweeping Day takes place 106 days after the winter solstice, and in 2011, it happens to fall on April 5th!  This little-known Chinese ghost festival is a day of paying respect to the dead. Those of you who attended the Second Chinatown Foodies Walk or the Haunted Kensington, Chinatown & The Grange Walk scheduled  around that date, will recall that more often than not, pragmatic folks will defer this tomb cleaning/sweeping to a later and of course, much warmer date or season as in the case of my own family.

Now, how can we pay our respects?  Remember that wonderful 1989 drama film, Dead Poets Society with actors Robin Williams, Ethan Hawke, Robert Sean Leonard, and Josh Charles? Well, I figure I would start off by compiling a list of amazing famous deceased Canadian poets who should be immortalized.  

The Dead Canadian Poets Society:
Earle Birney (1904-1995), 
Irving Layton (1912-2006), 
Gwendolyn MacEwan (1941-1987), 
John McCrae (1872-1918), 
Susanna Moodie (1803-1885),  
E.J. Pratt (1882-1964), 
Al Purdy (1918-2000) and Carol Shields (1935-2003).

Lucy Maud Montgomery, OBE (1874-1942) 

Canadian author, Lucy Maud Montgomery is an amazing, prolific writer better known by average person for the novel, Anne of Green Gables, though she wrote a series of Anne books, then Emily, and Pat.   Along the Swansea & LM Montgomery Walks,  I love introducing walkers to Jane by reading excerpts from the novel, Jane of Lantern Hill that connect with the author's actual final home, Journey's End and the surrounding homes of 1935. Since we're paying tribute to dead Canadian poets, I thought it'd be fitting to feature a poem of hers. Enjoy as you discover another side of this amazing Canadian author! 

The Difference

When we were together, heart of my heart, on that unforgotten quest, 
With your tender arm about me thrown and your head upon my breast, 
There came a grief that was bitter and deep and straitly dwell with me, 
And I shunned it not, so sweet it was to suffer and be with thee. 

And now when no more against mine own is beating thine eager heart, 
When thine eyes are turned from the glance of mine and our ways are far apart, 
A dear and long-sought joy has come my constant guest to be, 
And I love it not, so bitter it is, unfelt, unshared, by thee.
- Lucy Maud Montgomery (November 30, 1874-April 24, 1942)

Along my popular Kensington Foodies Roots Walks, there's equal portion of food for thought and the palate!  My way of sharing a bit of Canadian culture with all of my guests: Reciting the wonderful poem by the late Canadian poet, Irving Layton.  This poem also gives me an excuse to dole out tasty black Moroccan olives for folks to try, and it beautifully ties-in to the changing faces of immigrants within the residential and marketplace quarters of colourful Kensington neighbourhood of 2011 compared to those when he arrived in town.  He wrote this poem in the 1970s when his friends brought him to the market to get his apartment set-up after he was invited to teach at York University in Toronto.  Bon appetite!

Ode to the Olives

O those lovely black corrupt olives. 
Nowhere else have I seen such generous ones winking at me with moist eyes of a thousand Fatimas. 
I lost my heart to them on my first visit and haunt the place every since. 
Fondly I gaze at them and the crowds diverse as the maps of the world. 
They hunger for sensations only this fabulous realm can gratify. 
Wordsworth was turned on by daffodils. 
My flowers are the faces I pluck from Kensington's pavements:
Oriental, Jamaican, Slovak, Jewish, Italian, Wasp.
Nothing so moves me as their varied hues. 
- Irving Layton, OC (March 12, 1912 - January 4, 2006) 

On the Haunted Yorkville, U of T & Queen's Park walks,  guests are spooked by the use of history I slip in to shed light on the weird sightings. The memorial wall  at St Michael's College, and then the WWI and WWII wall /walkway by Hart House haunt many guests even further ...  If you look carefully, you will spy with your own eyes, the poem you learnt from memory in early childhood... and you discover that the poet graduated from Victoria College, the very grounds walked along the ghost walk ...

In Flanders Fields 

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row.
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly

Scarce heard amid the guns below. 

We are the Dead.  Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie, 
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields. 
                        - John McCrae (November 30, 1872- January 28, 1918)

Happy National Poetry Month! 

Did I miss any of your favourite dead Canadian poet?
Who else should be included in the Dead Canadian Poets Society? 

the cookbook store blog

the cookbook store blog

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Power of A Pen on A Beautiful Day: "Chosen Words"

It's a glorious, sunny day in Toronto today!   It's one of those day that beckons you to go out  for a leisurely stroll ...  just take in one's beautiful surroundings ...  hear the birds' cheerful chirps in the background ... and of course, I'd drop into one of my favourite foodies haunt, DT Bistro and stand in front of their dessert window to feast with my eyes before ordering something decadent treat with a delicious cup of Earl Grey Tea and grabbing a window seat to savour the world and reflect over  ...

A feast for the eyes  

Emotions can only describe: 

"Profound Humanism" (in the POWER of 'Chosen Words' and a pen.)  

Have a fabulous day!

Share this little gem with all your friends & make it a beautiful day for them!

CTC refreshes social-media channels.

CTC refreshes social-media channels.

Experiencing and sharing all that Canada has to offer has just become more fun & easier!

Friday, April 8, 2011

Toronto Bakes for Japan – April 9 & 10, 2011

Some of the awesome treats at Rivoli location,
Toronto Bakes for Japan 
Toronto Bakes for Japan – April 10, 2011

* Added date: Saturday April 9th, 2011
* Lots of wonderful generous Raffle Prizes donated by A Taste of the World, Arvinda's Spices, Le Dolci and many others!
* If you're throwing a dinner party or attending one, drop by one of the many locations this weekend and pick-up some treats and Raffle Prizes!

Toronto Bakes for Japan – April 10, 2011

Toronto Bakes for Japan – April 10, 2011

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Why your favourite Chinese BBQ shop is busy today! It's Qing Ming Festival!

Which BBQ Items does my family buy for Qing Ming?
Find out along 2nd Chinatown Foodies Walk (April 3, 2011)
or Haunted Kensington, Chinatown & Grange Walk (April 5, 2011)
or Lost 1st Chinatown Foodies Walk (April 10, 2011)
Qing Ming literally means "pure and clean" in the Cantonese dialect.  Qing Ming Festival follows the traditional lunar calendar, so it falls exactly 106 days after the winter solstice. In 2011, it falls on Tuesday April 5th.  When it's a Leap Year, as is the case in 2012, it will fall on Wednesday April 4th.  Qing Ming Festival is considered to be a little-known Chinese ghost festival as Chinese families  hold memorial ceremonies for the dead relatives.   Tomb Sweeping Day is another name for this day.  Its name harkens to the time when Chinese families traditionally visit their ancestor's graves in the countryside or up in the mountainside, and actually perform spring cleaning or tomb sweeping. Food and other offerings for the departed are brought along to these visits. 

In China, by this time of the year,  the weather is mild and after the graves have been tidied and the proper respects paid, most families spoil themselves with a picnic of cold food prepared in advance. Only cold food is eaten out of respect for the dead. As a matter of fact, traditionally, no fires are lit in the homes for at least two days thanks to superstitions! 
In Canada however, the type of weather one experiences depends on where one lives.  The weather can be mild and pleasant for a picnic, as in the case of Vancouver, B.C. or frightfully cold and muddy as in the case of Toronto, despite the moderating effects of Lake Ontario! 
Both of my parents have several ancestors buried at Mount Pleasant Cemetery. My siblings and I are "technically fourth generation Canadian-Chineses" and my good old mom, who arrived in Toronto in early 1950s, is a very pragmatic person when it comes to the oft-not co-operative weather. We tend to not to be trekking around in the beautifully groomed Mount Pleasant Cemetery until school is out. Any time between late June until August, you'll find my family jumping into the family car, drive over to Toronto's second Chinatown to pick-up specific food items from our favourite Chinese BBQ shop, bakery and grocery store. Did you know there's a certain "code word" you need to say to get a certain cut from the BBQ shop? (find out on the ghost walk tonight while sampling the treats!) Then you'll see us head over to Mount Pleasant Cemetery with our bounties to pay respect for our ancestors. 
So if you notice some of the Chinese BBQ shops are a trifle bit busier than normal today, it could be the die-hard traditionalists still practising Qing Ming Festival on the actual day, instead of waiting for warmer days like my pragmatic  and perhaps, more "Canadianized" family!
Dying to find out the customs, rituals and changing traditions connected with Qing Ming? Well, you still have two chances left for 2011!  As a matter of fact, we'll be sampling some of my family's favourite BBQ items and pastries along the Haunted Kensington, Chinatown & The Grange Walk (Tuesday April 5th, 2011 6:30-9:00 PM) and along the Lost First Chinatown Foodies Walk (Sunday April 10th, 2011 10:00 AM-1:30 PM). Space is limited, so book sooner than later to avoid being disappointed! Call (416) 923-6813 or e-mail us at to book your spots!

White-Cut Chicken served with
Grated Ginger & Diced Green Onion