“They” say it takes six weeks to break a bad habit. I say it takes only six days to break a good one. My last post was written days after the seductive fog of a week in Roatan, Honduras. Immediately after that I slipped into an unannounced blog sabbatical. I could lie and say I was diligently funneling my effort into a new venture or some ambitious writing project, but, nope. Meanwhile, Jann Arden has written a book, is in the studio recording a new album, finished filming a television series with Vanilla Ice and is gathering material for her radio show. Now I feel like a slouch. Can I not commit to a weekly blog post?
It all started when I walked down to the Bellevue Diner in mid April with a bold mission and the swinging arms to match. I was listening to Elliot Brood (rather loudly) and only slowing to take in signs that we had survived winter. Robins hopscotching across snow-bit lawns. Maples squeezing out leaves as fast as tulips popping out bold heads of butter yellow and blood red. Waterfalls of wisteria.
I had read rave reviews about the “Squirrel Sandwich” and by god, on that April day, I was finally going to eat one. Even if I threw it up soon after on some dainty lawn dotted with carefully orchestrated flowerbeds on the way back. The Squirrel had been on my list of peculiar things to eat (in the company of tongue on brioche with bone marrow and jam donuts to finish at The Black Hoof). The Squirrel, losing a few adventure points after mentioning tongue and marrow donuts I’m sure, is still a gross mash-up: peanut butter, cucumber, hot sauce, cheese and–wait for it—canned sardines. On rye. For $10 it would be a cheap throw-up. It was reminiscent of something I would force upon my poor, unsuspecting kid sister with a sinister grin.
Kensington Market was its usual gong show of commotion: catwalk fashion, longboards scraping curbs, eco-gladiators in vegan shoes and bike bandits popping wheelies. I walked into the Bellevue much like that Joni Mitchell song, like I “was walking onto a yacht.” I eyed Guinness on the taps and asked for a pint and the famed Squirrel sandwich. I boasted that I had come all the way from the Annex for this very moment.
“We don’t make that sandwich anymore.”
The wind was sucked out of my sails. The lumberjack plaid-shirted server shoved a menu towards me and suggested the trout, it was really good. Trout? I wanted the inappropriate marriage of sardines and peanut butter and a Guinness to choke the quagmire down with. The menu fell flat without the Squirrel option (but it is indeed worthy, I’ve eaten there before and swooned). I didn’t even want the Guinness anymore.
“Don’t you have the ingredients? Can’t you just make it, even though it’s not on the menu anymore? It’s still listed on the menu outside the door, you know.”
There was a quick conference and raised eyebrows with the matchingly plaid-shirted chef who marched out to see above mentioned menu for himself. Nope. Even though.
I left (politely, no slammed doors or dramatic Paris Hilton-esque rage scenes) and made my way back up to Bloor. I paused at Caplansky’s on College and contemplated a smoked meat sandwich piled so high I’d have guaranteed lockjaw. Then my hungry thoughts drifted to Chippy’s and their Guinness battered haddock as big as a cricket bat. The kind of fish n’ chip feed that makes you moan midway and long for a supine position. Nah.
I felt like nothing but that stupid Squirrel sandwich, which I could have very easily made at home. Instead I made my way back to the Annex, very glum, and popped open a Niagara blonde beer and stabbed at the last of my girlfriend’s mother’s sugary pickled beets. I was going to write a blog about the Squirrel sandwich and felt the material was snatched away from me faster than the paperback my grade 6 BFF Tyra and I were reading at recess that mentioned sodomy. Asking our teacher directly what “sodomy” meant was obviously pre-Google days. And not a good idea.
And then summer inched into my life and I gave way to a new routine that forgot about blogging. Yes, I’ll blame my hiatus on not having that sardine sandwich and summer. The soupy days when clothes transform into Saran Wrap on sweat-slick skin. When thunderstorms are so violent they rattle your bone marrow. Even the bone marrow in your donuts. When appetites give way to the flesh of robust fruit and the primal satisfaction found in grilled meat. The tart kiss of lime in mojitos. Sangria-soaked Sunday mornings. The distinct pleasure in gossipy nights on packed patios with beers sweating as much as those swallowing them.
The smell of hot heat, mown grass, gasoline. The day’s sun radiates up from the sidewalks pockmarked with flattened bubblegum. Dogs hang their tongues lower than the breasts of women who have decided they are already too hot to wear bras, or anything mimicking support. There is a thwack of flip flops on bare feet, fish belly white skin and skin pink and angry from the humidity.
Soon kids will be screeching like little dolphins at the public pools–the whites of their eyes the colour of cotton candy. Their mouths stained orange and purple from sucking on the lifeblood only a freezie provides. There will be tears over upside-down ice cream cones and skinned knees from poor finger and toe holds on beckoning hard-barked trees.
I’ve already been to the island and embraced the coconut-oil infused breathing space of the beach. Shoved a bathtub warm beer can deep into the sand. This is my quintissential summer moment. Drowsy with an open book, a brothy lake wind whipping at my face and tangled hair. Cocky seagulls questioning personal space. Awkward frisbee throwers causing concern. Salty chips in a ziplock. A sandwich with inevitable sand actually in it. And a unity.
It’s a truly Canadian moment when we tell our parkas and toques to F-off for a few months so we can scorch our skin and coagulate our blood and drink things with umbrellas and limes and do unpredictable things at drive-in theatres, despite not being teenagers anymore. We join an unspoken army that approves of burgers five nights out of seven, of grass-stained short bottoms, of putting off career ambitions and landmark decisions until September. And of thick milkshakes winning out over those protein shakes that taste like vanilla chalk and chocolate cement.
But, despite this carefree grace period, I will try to maintain my blog relationship. And if I can’t blame a sardine sandwich and summer, I’m sure I’ll find something else just as worthy to point a finger at.