The Girls

This took place a few years ago, but continues to plague me in an odd, unresolvable way…

The scene: I’m in the disabled washroom at a live performance space called the Theatre Centre because my herniated discs occasionally make it incredibly painful to go up and down the stairs to the regular washrooms and the elevator must be run by a staff member. The disabled washroom is accessed through a storage area off the lobby and the door has one of those open slatted sections on the lower half, either for ventilation or communication in emergencies or both.

While I’m in there I hear people enter the storage room. It sounds like they’re gathering some extra chairs. There are two female voices and what sounds like an older man. There was an older man working the door as a volunteer when I came in so I assume it’s the same guy.

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How Justin Trudeau Inadvertently Convinced Me to Not Buy a Pink Tool Set


“She’s not much into dolls yet, but she’s been asking for a tool set.”

My brother and I are discussing what to buy my 2-year-old niece for Christmas. Up until this point, we’ve showered her with pink clothes and toys; and made her quite a stylish little thing in the process (it’s no secret that I live vicariously through her awesome wardrobe, sending her care packages of clothes each month, mostly selected because I want an adult version of the thing). But as she approaches her 3rd birthday, she’s developing a personality with likes and dislikes of her own. And I’m happy, nay, overjoyed to buy her a tool set.

The item in question is super-cool, made from recycled plastic with each tool labelled with what it is (pliers, wrench) right down to the screwdrivers which specify a Phillips and flat head. The box is pink, with the tools in shades of pink, mauve and green. But as I peruse the Amazon website, I discover the “blue” version of the same set. Same contents, same price, but the colours are darker (blue, red, bright green).

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The Gung Ho Food Race

At this moment, I am sitting on six… no, eight different bits of Toronto restaurant news/gossip that I cannot share. I can’t share them for a number of reasons, either because I’ve specifically been asked not to until the restaurant is ready to formally announce their news, or because what I know is unconfirmed gossip and I’m still working on fleshing out the story.

It is my job to find out (factual) restaurant news. And I love my job; I love the excitement that chefs and customers have when a new place opens, I love watching the buzz spread, I love seeing the reviews roll in. What I don’t love – and this is why I’m sitting on all of these secrets – is when we all jump the gun, or get way too excited about a potential new restaurant or project before it’s even opened.

Case in point: the David Chang thing. I’m as enthusiastic as anyone for a David Chang restaurant; he’s considered one of the best chefs in the world. But didn’t we all look pathetically desperate a couple of months back when gossip spread and then the news was confirmed that Chang would be opening restaurants here… in late 2012? Standing back and watching the frenzy from a safe distance, anybody would think that Torontonians had never eaten anything fancier than Kraft Dinner and bagged salad, so desperate were we for Chang’s noodles and pork buns. Could we even be trusted in a fine dining restaurant? Were we familiar with those crazy things they call “utensils”?

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To Market, To Market… To Market

Over the years, I’ve heard a lot of excuses as to why people don’t make the effort to shop at farmers’ markets, with the most oft-heard one being that there just isn’t anything accessible and easy to get to. This has changed considerably in the past couple of years, and downtown Toronto now has over 20 separate markets, with at least one market taking place every day of the week during the summer and early autumn.

Which begs the question – have we hit a saturation point? Are markets the new Starbucks with two on every corner?

On Thursdays in the downtown core, there are now three separate markets within walking distance of each other. The market at Metro Hall is the most established of these, with a selection of vendors who are predominantly farmers. There are many vendors selling the same in-season produce, but this tends to create a healthy competition that keeps prices reasonable. During the lunch hour, there are live performances, and half a dozen food vendors along the south end of the square selling everything from Caribbean food to crepes to peameal bacon on a kaiser.

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Local Yokels

Allow me to play devil’s advocate for a moment.

I had a conversation with a colleague recently in which the subject turned to local food. Specifically, how people in the Toronto area are prone to blindly follow and buy anything grown locally despite the quality of the products themselves.

My colleague suggested that most consumers want their farmers’ markets to carry the same things that the grocery stores do (instead of the other way around) – i.e. expecting varieties of fruits and vegetables similar to the bland varieties grown in California that were mostly developed for easy shipping. They also suggested that certain local food producers create products of inferior quality; that many esteemed Toronto chefs who specialize in local food don’t actually offer a good quality meal; and that fans of local food willingly buy these inferior products or meals anyway, because they refuse to acknowledge their own sense of taste, instead deferring to local “experts” or advocates (chefs, food writers, etc.) who tell the food-lovers what to like and what to buy.

I don’t necessarily agree with all of this opinion, thus my “devil’s advocate” disclaimer – please don’t shoot the messenger – but on some levels, my colleague has a point. The argument cooked in my head a bit, because I’ve been wondering for a while – how many local products are we buying are because they’re the best products available, and how much of it is for the ideology of “supporting local”?

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An Open Letter To Councillor John Filion Regarding Street Food Carts

Dear Councillor Filion,

This morning, upon reading the news of the backtrack on the issue of funding street food carts, my husband said, prophetically, “He’s gonna fuck it up.”

While I think the idea for the city to purchase carts and rent them out to vendors is noble – that many potential vendors cannot afford the purchase of a new custom-built cart is a definite hurdle in getting this programme off the ground – I have an issue with your reasoning.

The Toronto Star quotes:

“We don’t want a repeat of what’s happened with hot dog carts,” said Filion. “We want a uniform look. We want something that’s good for branding the city as a food destination.

“We do not want a hodge-podge of carts that someone makes up in their garage.”

No. No, no, no, no. Please, can the city just once NOT look at something from a marketing perspective? Why do the carts all need to look the same? As long as they meet the safety and sanitation requirements, what does it matter if they ultimately look different? Doesn’t it make more sense to be able to tell the empanada cart from the pad thai cart at a glance?


You know who has a “uniform look”, Councillor Filion? Fast food chains where every meal is the same and the experience does not deviate whether you’re in Paris or New York or Halifax. If the push in getting food vendors onto the streets is to celebrate our diversity, then WHY would we want them to all look the same? “Branding the city as a food destination”??? Wait… I need a minute for my eyes to stop rolling around in the back of my head. You know what makes a city a great food destination? Great food!! Not the cart it comes from.

Please stop mucking around with the unnecessary details; as long as the vendors’ carts meet the safety and sanitation guidelines, the more creative they look, the better.

And finally, as for this idea about an official Toronto street food; let it be. Stop mucking with it. We have an official Toronto street food, and no matter how many carts hit the street selling noodles or tripe or kebabs, we are the city of the hot dog. That’s nothing to be ashamed of.

We at Taste T.O. have been enthusiastic supporters of the new vending cart initiative; we think it’s an important step forward in embracing our great cultural diversity, but diversity is the key word here. Your statements insinuate that Toronto needs to be Disneyfied in order to attract visitors, and that only those visitors matter in terms of street cart customers. It also assumes that visitors want some sort of bland uniformity that stifles anything unique about the individual cultures represented at the many food carts you hope to place on the streets. Can we not give both our visitors and our citizens more credit than that?

Certainly, safety and sanitation must be the priority, but beyond that, we are a city that embraces all languages, all colours, and all cultures. Why not all carts?