Sundays with Lori
by Shelley Wildgen
My friend Lori loves food. She loves to make food and she especially loves to attend dinner parties. Lori lives in Winnipeg, where people meeting for food replaced lamenting about winter many snowstorms ago. There, winter begins and ends with movies, theatre, dining out and dinner parties with oodles of imaginative dishes and plenty of chatter. Winnipeggers do not acknowledge winter, they just carry on with their social lives… off-line and outdoors.
Lori and I talk every weekend and recently she told me of a restaurant in The Forks, a trendy entertainment area in her frigid little corner of Canada. The restaurant is built on the fork of the Red and Assiniboine Rivers. It’s a “pop-up” restaurant sitting atop the ice, complete with dancing lights and a projection wall. And, it all gets torn down when the ice thins in the spring. Crazy talk! Not by Winnipeg standards.
I always love hearing about Lori’s latest bite of pleasure. No matter the season, she and her foodie friends have successful living all figured out.
“It was like a sip of summertime,” she bubbled after her latest dinner party discovery. It seems the host had prepared some sort of re-worked shrimp starter in a martini glass. “Tell me again,” I asked groggily from my blankets. “Tell me how you drank the shrimp and why did it taste like summer?”
It seems it had fresh shrimp and tomatoes and cucumber and coriander and hot something or other and about ten other ingredients. The shrimp were all speared and sitting in the concoction in the glass, marinating. Then Lori ate the shrimp and drank the juice. She wasn’t sure if you were supposed to drink the juice, but she couldn’t resist. Hence the sip of summertime and her wriggling delight.
There’s something to be said for letting the elements inspire. Pleasure can be found in the most unlikely places and sometimes the harsher the surroundings the better everything feels and tastes.
As I mentioned, I talk to Lori every week, without fail, and have done so for over 20 years. We first met in Winnipeg and she’s taught me a lot about food and work and family and life. OK, food and life mostly. Truly, everything else just melts in their midst.
My landmarks in life have always been restaurants. I can’t imagine anything being worth going to if there isn’t a good restaurant nearby. Lori gets it. In the ‘90s, during one of our rare off-the-phone visits, she introduced me to Thai food, on the corner of Church and something or other in Toronto. The fireworks of flavours were puzzling and seductive. Plates and pots of fruits and herbs and hot and sweet and savoury and, is there garlic or is that something even better?
I’ve learned that food sampling one’s way through harsh prairie winters is merely a warm-up for spring and summer celebrating. No moment is wasted as legs stretch away from the table. As soon as the frost is finished with the roof of Lori’s car, on goes her kayak. It is strapped to her Toyota from May till October and travels everywhere. Even dressed for a job interview, she never knows when or where a nice opportunity to pour herself into the Red or Assiniboine Rivers may present itself. One hour of any day may be set aside to enjoy a quiet kayak cuddle with riverbank nature. It’s a good way to see life—by looking at it all the time.
This time of year, our Sunday phone calls become a bit shorter. All sunshine hours are consumed as summer grows closer. I still look forward to our talks with relish. Not just the kumquat chutney plopped atop fusion barbecued turkey burgers, but the kind of relish that whirrs inside all of us. We all want to live large, but a lot of self-satisfaction can be achieved just by posting inspiring “memes” on Facebook. You know, the ones that tell all of our friends how important it is to seize the day and live wholly, blah, blah, blah. There’s nothing wrong with sharing someone else’s wisdom in a meme, but sometimes it feels just a little, well… meh.