I get requests to talk about writing or to make sushi before an audience, but never has the two come together in one event. Earlier this month, the forces in the universe aligned and I found myself before a group equally in love with food and books.
It was a well-heeled affair, an old-school book club, led by the bona fide Grand Dame of Toronto’s literary salon scene, Jane Griesdorf, a woman with a 20th century artistic sensibility mingling with a 19th century indomitable character. My kind of woman.
You know you are dealing with a genuine lover of literature when her dog is called Gatsby- who, it must be said, also has his own blog and email account.
The night began with an engaging talk given by University of Toronto English professor, Andrea Most, who teaches a course called “Cook the Books”, which may attract those with a propensity toward creative accounting but is actually about Food Lit that incorporates a lab/cooking class component. She is also deeply involved in Toronto’s sustainable/local food movement. Her talk that night was about Barbara Kingsolver’s book, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year Of Food Life, about the author’s year long experience of planting, pulling weeds, expanding kitchen skills, harvesting animals, and joining the effort to save heritage crops from extinction. The book made a passionate case for putting the kitchen back at the center of family life, and diversified farms at the center of the American diet. It was a controversial choice and Professor Most did what all good profs do: stir strong responses one way or the other from her audience.
I was also there to discuss how food and writing came together in my life (going days without food in the Jane & Finch projects; finding a book by Maya Angelou on the way home from work at Pizza Hut as a fourteen year-old dishwasher; watching the local drug lord read massive tomes on his roof while sunbathing etc.). Then I prepared some of my signature sushi for the guests, some of whom told me later that, like an epiphany, it struck them that Literature and Sushi felt like a match made in heaven.
I think they were just hungry…