Last weekend, I spend part of Labour Day down in the Harbourfront, coming to terms with the idea that summer really is leaving us. Where I live we can usually count on some pretty gorgeous, warm, sunshiny weather in September, but this year’s Labour Day didn’t show any of that stuff.
Ultimately I don’t care about the weather; I put on a sweater over top of my skirt and sandals and go out to get close and personal with the thousands of others who don’t care either.
After watching tourists take pictures and browsing for bargains amongst the craft vendors in their tents, I buy a piece of roasted corn from the One Love Corn Soup guy.
Corn is still full on here. Roasted from the One Love guy, it’s substantial gorgeousness in your hand; rich and mellow. Like September. I’ve been thinking about that lunch all morning.
I sit down to eat the corn by a little canoeing pond to watch the paddlers. The artifiicial pond is designed mostly for kids and families who want to noodle around in a non-threatening place. Usually you see a bigger kid or a grownup accompanying one or more tots. It’s cute – the little ones dip their paddles in clumsily and don’t notice their grandmas at the edge trying to get them to look up for a photo.
Not long after I sit down I notice a little guy in a canoe all by himself. He’s no more than four, and his parents are standing at the edge waving at him. He heads straight for the edge of the pond near me and is stuck there for ten minutes or so. Every now and then a stranger comes by and encourages him to row on the OTHER side of the canoe, and gives the vessel a little push to help. But the kid keeps drifting back into the wall.
I’m thinking, how's he going to get back to the starting point? How long are they going to leave him out here? What if the canoe rental time runs out?
Eventually the little boy makes his way back toward the centre of the pond. Straight for the fountain. Then I’m thinking it’s a cool day for a tiny body like that to get doused. Still his parents, relaxed, holding backpacks and a small cooler bag, are waving at him from over on the others side. The smiling kid somehow averts the fountain and glides straight for the other edge of the pond, where his canoe clings again. Now and then he paddles furiously, on the OUTSIDE of the canoe, which only secures its place against the other wall, where now and then a stranger comes along on the walk outside the pond and gives his vessel a push.
After awhile his parents start waving him back in. Either his canoe rental has expired or they’re bored. They’re waving him in and the kid, paddling in circles, grins a lot at people around him.
I’m at the point where I just want to go grab the front of his boat and pull him around the edge to the other side where his parents are waving him in. Then I start wondering about my tendency to want to protect him.
Recently I'd been talking about my favourite sorts of books when I was a kid, “My Side of the Mountain” and Enid Blyton’s “Adventure” series – all about self-sufficient kids working out problems, big and small. Without grownups guiding them around to nicely wrapped peanut butter sandwiches on the safe side. THOSE kids in THOSE stories didn’t need anybody pulling them around in any boat. THOSE kids went on grand adventures that lasted weeks, even months, and outsmarted the elements and even criminals.
So I think if that kid is ever going to be up for his own great adventures, he isn't going to find it if anyone drags him around the edge of the pond back to a place of comfort. I start to feel pleased for him. He could BE Philip or Jack or Sam, my early literary heros.
I imagine me watching some grandkid one day; paddling in circles on the other side of a pond and finding pleasure in her or his adventure. And maybe some stranger might be on the other side, disapproving of my leaving the kid out there drifting into the wall.
But me and the kid; we’re only thinking of the adventure around the corner. That adventure is beautiful thing number sixty-two.
As I think about that I look up and there's the canoe virtually sailing across and right up to his folks on the other side. He gets himself off the canoe and the dad musses his hair and they walk off.
I love soup. I love to make soup almost as much as I love to eat it. There is something so satisfying about putting a bunch of things in a pot for an hour or two and having it all turn into hot delicious goodness. In the colder months I make soup pretty much every week. When my kids were growing up and the budget was tight, homemade soup was economical and most of the food groups were there in one pot. Soup is an easy take along lunch and a quick heat up dinner. Soup is one of those things you don’t mind eating for a few days in a row because it’s always better a day or two later.
With a crusty bread and salad it’s a complete meal. It’s a healthy snack to hold you over. It's something thin and unobtrusive to put in an upset tummy. It’s a substantive breakfast – my Aunt Martha used to love to have the broccoli soup at a favourite diner at the Windsor Market on Saturday mornings.
Soup makes your house smell good. There are thousands of recipes for it from all over the world – if you were so inclined you could make a different soup every single day of the year. Soup can be hearty, light, vegetarian, meaty, calorie-sensible and decadent. One of the favourites in our family is a quick minestrone, of which my daughters make a meatless and every bit as satisfying version.
This Labour Day weekend was cool, blustery and drizzly; it was like the calendar flipped over and shouted “AUTUMN AUTUMN AUTUMN” in giant LED. Today I thought I would embrace that by going down to the Harbourfront and having some One Love Corn Soup.
The One Love Corn guy is a Toronto institution. He has a stall at the Harbourfront during the summer months where you can get grilled, seasoned corn on the cob and the famous One Love Soup. It’s said the soup has healing properties for the psyche. If you’re feeling blue, many people say, One Love Soup can make you feel better.
Don’t go to the One Love Corn guy if you’re in a hurry. There’s reggae music playing in his domain, and while the soup is made and sits hot in a big pot – the corn is grilled right, not fast, even when the line for it trails long all the way to Queens Quay. When he finally determines your cob is ready he’ll saunter with it over to a table where he rubs it with lemon, brushes it with butter and sprinkles seasoning on it. Any part of that process is probably going to be interrupted when he feels the need to dance a little. Just watching your corn get to you takes your blood pressure down a couple of notches. Waiting for the ten people in front of you to get their corn before you get your soup is worth it.
The weather people say summer’s coming back tomorrow, but I’m thinking soup is back in my life now. Next week… roasted veg?
One Love Corn Soup
Recipe courtesy of Ras Iville Wright and Ikeila Wright, Leaf of Life Catering
• 24 cup spring water
• 2 cup yellow split peas
• 1/2 cup coconut milk
• 3 vegetable bouillon, cubes
• 6 Yukon Gold or red medium potato, washed, peeled, and, quartered
• 2 cup Jamaican pumpkin or 2 cup butternut squash
• 2 cup frozen vegetable mix
• 3 cobs fresh corn
• 3 carrot, peeled, and, diced
• 1 scotch bonnet pepper, whole
• 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper, preferably Jamaican Bird Pepper
• 1 clove fresh garlic, finely, minced
• seasoning salt, (Mrs. Dash), to taste
• 1 sprig fresh Jamaican thyme
In a large pot bring the water to a rolling boil. Add split peas and cook until soft. Add coconut milk and vegetable bouillon cubes. Allow liquid to boil again. Peel and cut pumpkin into large cubes. Put potatoes, pumpkin and frozen mixed vegetables in the pot. Cut up 2 cobs of corn into wheels and shave the kernels off of the remaining cob. Add the corn and diced carrots to the pot. Simmer soup on medium heat for approximately 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add Scotch bonnet pepper, cayenne pepper, garlic, seasoning salt and thyme. Stir until seasoning is mixed through. Simmer for 5 more minutes to allow the flavour of the seasoning to be released into the soup.
My Mom’s Minute Minestrone
2 tbsp butter (I use olive oil)
1 onion chopped
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
1 package Italian sausage, chopped into small pieces (hot or sweet – I buy a package of each, using half of each and freeze the other halves for next time)
2 cups chicken stock
2 cups shredded cabbage (I like to keep little bags of shredded cabbage frozen in the freezer just for soup. Just buy a cabbage, shred it, throw it in bags and freeze them.)
1 large can kidney beans drained (I prefer navy beans)
1 large can diced tomatoes
1 carrot cut in small sticks
1 tsp salt
2-3 tbsp sugar (optional – I only add a tsp or so)
1/2 tsp dried basil (I prefer oregano)
1/4 tsp pepper
1 1/2 cups COOKED macaroni or other small pasta (I use orzo)
Approx 14 oz water to make desired broth
In a large saucepan, heat oil and sauté onion, garlic and sausage until sausage is lightly browned. Add herbs and sauté for a minute. Add all other ingredients, except pasta, and cook until vegetables are tender. 10-20 minutes. Add pasta. Serve with grated parmesan sprinkled on top.