Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Eat. Pray. Love.

This is the most recent novel that I completed. As cliché as it sounds, it really is an incredible novel. Told through the eyes of a thirty some year old women who is going through a painful divorce and is attempting to rediscover herself by traveling to three different areas of the world (Italy, India and Indonesia). What really struck me about this book was the similarities between Elizabeth Gilbert (the author) and myself:

a) a love and passion for a foreign language and country (Italy for her, and France for me)
b) being a control freak
c) being a devoted yogi (practicer of yoga)
d) recently having a long term relationship ending (yes I know a divorce is not anywhere close to the same as what I went through, but many of the same emotions are there: anger, sadness, etc)
e) the same birthday: July 18th (this I found very eerie when I discovered it in one of the last chapters in the book)

The book is divided into three sections - one for each country that she visits. While in Italy most of what is mentioned is all the culinary delights she discovers while there. The descriptions are enough to make your mouth water and want to reach through the pages and devour what is in front of the author. I've never been to Italy but want to visit eventually. My passion has been French and anything French-related for many years. If and when I ever have the funds, I would love to spend 4 months in France and do nothing but enjoy all the French cuisine from all over the country. Dishes vary depending on the region you are exploring. While in Italy, Ms. Gilbert also signed up for Italian conversation classes as a way to better communicate and enjoy her stay overseas. I am already fluent in French and would love the opportunity of several months to do nothing but eat and explore the amazing country that has captivated me for years.

While in India, Ms. Gilbert endured hour upon hour of meditation and self-reflection at an ashram (a more or less glorified yoga school). The idea of attending one of these meditative schools is very appealing to me, but apparently the criteria for admission is very difficult to obtain. Reading this section was very much like a mirror looking into my brain. I have always had an overactive brain and a wild imagination...which is hard to keep at bay. Having a calm mind is a constant challenge, which is why I go to yoga classes three times a week...to keep me sane and allow my brain an opportunity to void itself of thought, even for 10 minutes at a time.

While in Indonesia, the author met the man that she would eventually call her husband, completing the title of the novel with the final section - Love. What she learned during her time in Italy and all the self reflection that she underwent in India allowed her to fall in love on her own terms, not out of desperation or the need for a man in her life.

The novel is an awesome read. I greatly enjoyed Ms. Gilbert's writing style and her witty comments thrown in randomly. Her frank and forward way of speaking is something that I admire and it felt like either a very blunt best friend recounting their life, or perhaps your conscience, telling you things you really didn't want to acknowledge about yourself.

Monday, March 19, 2012

My Favourite Things...continued 2

Le Chien Noir, one of the only french restaurants in all of Kingston, was definitely a must-see for me, being the Francophile that I am. Located at 69 Brock Street, this relatively small eatery serves mainly traditional French cuisine, with the majority of the dishes loaded with eggs, cream, cheeses and rich sauces. They also have a variety of traditional Quebecois dishes. Le Chien Noir also has one of the largest wine selections of any restaurant I've seen.

The building is decorated with gorgeous tables and chairs, and all the walls are covered in French posters. The ornate ceiling and chandeliers reminded me of the Hall of Mirrors at the Palace of Versailles. The atmosphere was incredible and this was before the food was even served.

I ordered a glass of Merlot ($8.75) to start (I've always been a big fan of red wines) and got to nibble on some crusty French bread and butter before the main course. For the main dish I opted for the Poutine ($16), thin cut fries smothered in gravy, shredded duck meat, and huge chunks of brie. It was absolutely incredible! Brie is a much richer and creamier cheese than the traditional cheese curd. *As a side note, I am a vegetarian, and did not realize that there would be meat in the dish as it wasn't stated on the menu*

For dessert I chose the Lemon Raspberry Cheesecake ($9). It was a very unusual presentation - comprising of a scoop of green tea ice cream fried in a crispy layer of tempura (the batter normally on veggies and shrimp), served on top of a layer of lemon cake, sitting on top of a creamy raspberry mousse. Devine. J'adore Le Chien Noir! I will be revisiting this adorable restaurante française in the future :)

Check out their full menu on their website! http://www.lechiennoir.com/

Friday, March 2, 2012

Eating Animals

This novel is the most recent one that I have completed, documenting the treatment and slaughter of animals (namely cows and chickens) in the United States. It was incredibly enlightening and disturbing. I was also pleasantly surprised as well to note that the novel has a philosophical slant, asking questions like:

Why do we eat cows and pigs, but not dogs?
What does free-range and organic mean?
Why do we justify the slaughter of animals? Purely for the taste?

The author Jonathon Safran Foer is himself a vegetarian and has many convincing arguments, justifying his choice of diet. While I live in Canada, the evolution of the farming industry in the US is astonishing, with over 99%of the meat coming from factory farms: animals living in unhumane and unsanitary conditions, unable to access the outdoors, and pumped so full of chemicals that the consumption of these animals is hindering human medicine to cure certain ailments.

I wasn't particularly aware of the proximity of humans to animals, but when you're consuming them on a regular basis you sort of become immune to it. The Spanish Flu that decimated an incredible number of people was a type of avian flu.

Other reasons to support a vegetarian or vegan lifestyle include reducing the effects of global warming (animal agriculture is the biggest culprit) and discontinued support of these factory farms and slaughter houses. They continue their practices because people continue to purchase the meat from them.

I was a vegetarian for a couple of years, a couple of years ago. It wasn't for health or moral reasons at that time. Now I have very real health concerns about the consumption of meat, and I will resume being a veggie again.

For those skeptics out there, pick up a copy of the book and educated yourselves. Or watch "Meet your Meat" http://www.chooseveg.com/meet-your-meat.asp People are in denial about where their meat comes from, making consumption of it far easier. Family farms are no longer the rule, they are the exception. To keep up with the demand of consumers, corporations have turned traditional farming into a production line, compromising both the quality and the health of meat being produced.

***Caution, the video is not for the weak of stomach***