Winter's coming

All the ingredients required for the three-rum punch found in Gabrielle Hamilton's Prune cookbook. 7.5L of rum!

All the ingredients required for the three-rum punch found in Gabrielle Hamilton's Prune cookbook. 7.5L of rum!

As soon a the weather drops and I’m forced to wear a jacket, I get sad. Instead of admiring the changing leaf-colours and the return of pumpkin beer, I am preoccupied by the feeling of impending doom. Winter is coming. Last year, it was only bearable because we finally took a sun vacation so when the holidays were over, we at least had a trip to look forward to. Some break from the horror of January’s long days and February’s windchill. Not this winter. We spoiled ourselves too early in the year and the vacation budget is overspent. We do have a trip planned in December, but that's before the holidays so it doesn't count. There will be no break this year and so, to overcome the winter misery, I vow to find some ways to embrace the season. 

Here are some ideas so far:

  1. Make Prune’s three-rum punch (it takes 3 weeks) - Started this last week! See pic above.
  2. Stick to a regular exercise routine - toughest one
  3. Eat at Big Crow at least once because it’s the best in the winter - enjoy the smell of firewood clinging to clothes, wrap warm blanket around me while I eat poke
  4. Follow the Raptors and hope they have a season like the Jays, watch them regardless
  5. Go snowshoeing
  6. Book the Dufferin Grove campfire for a winter evening, roast chestnuts

Keeping it real with Gabrielle Hamilton

Halibut with cherry tomatoes and spicy tomato broth

Halibut with cherry tomatoes and spicy tomato broth

It's August! We are in the middle of a mini U.S. tour/vacation thanks to H's conferences. Last week, I tagged along while she attended a course in New York City. I flew in on Porter, just beating out delayed flights destined for Newark to make it to a much anticipated dinner at Prune in the East Village.

I listened to Blood, Bones and Butter earlier this year and it is one of the best memoirs I've read, food-related or not. Gabrielle Hamilton has been a foodie hero long before "foodies" were a thing but I suspect she would cringe at the designation.

Last week, when I was getting buzzed on her three-rum punch and sitting in between OB-GYNs talking about vulvas and nightmare ER cases, Gabrielle walked by—three times! She looked happy and beautiful in a light blue tunic, shoulder-length bleached blonde hair, smiling as she passed us in the basement dining room. 

While we ate the chanterelles with thick buttery toasts, the smokey sweet clams and the seared halibut with tomato broth (above), I thought only once about the time she found a maggot-filled dead rat on the stairs only a few feet from us. It is a graphic image that stands out, but the book is really about a love of food. While I find some bro-y chefs endearing, Hamilton is truly the one who legitimately keeps it real. She's not on Instagram collecting likes or writing a new cook book every year. Hamilton seems to just like preparing good food that makes people happy and satisfied. It's not trendy, but she's been doing it since 1999 and her food is more personal than any meal I've had in a long time.

As a 2011 New York Times profile documented, there was that time she did a screen test for The Next Iron Chef, only to realize she didn't actually want to be apart of it.  

“I was asked, ‘So why do you want to be the next Iron Chef?’ ” Ms. Hamilton recalled. “And I said, ‘Um, I really don’t.’ ” She removed her microphone and walked off the set.

Last year, she appeared on the podcast, Go Fork Yourself, while she was writing her cookbook, Prune. It was a tome that was 15 years coming, but as she explains, it was worth waiting for:

"I'm really glad I waited 15 years. I have much more to say than I would have when they came to me originally, 14 years ago...I don't like to litter and I feel like some of these books come out and just are littering the marketplace for vanity reasons. I think, I don't want to jump the gun, but I think this book is adding and not just taking up space."

We live in a world where celebrity chefs are constantly in the spotlight. If they're not "writing" their annual cookbook, they're expanding their restaurant empire or they're selling a cook wear line or they're judging a cooking competition show. Very few keep hitting it out of the park. Most are batting well under .250, just littering the marketplace. Hamilton is a refreshing change. Don't just take up space. Add to the world.