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Amazing Food Scenes in CanLit
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Amazing Food Scenes in CanLit

By kileyturner
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tagged: Fiction, food
In which book did the protagonist leave a smoked meat sandwich at his father's grave? In which book does a traumatized woman find solace through a lover's cooking? All these picks have incredible food scenes.
A Great Reckoning

A Great Reckoning

A Novel
edition:Hardcover
also available: Paperback

InstantNew York Timesbestseller:

#1 in Hardcover Fiction
#1 in E-book Fiction
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"Deep and grand and altogether extraordinary....Miraculous."
The Washington Post

"Artful...Powerful...Magical."
-The New York Times Book Review

"Superb"
-People

A Great Reckoning succeeds on every level."
St. Louis Post-Dispatch
#1New York Times bestselling author Louise Penny pulls back the layers to reveal a brilliant and emotionally powerful truth in her latest spellbindin …

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Hope Makes Love

Hope Makes Love

edition:eBook
also available: Hardcover
tagged : literary

All former major league baseball player Zep Baker needs to put his life back on track is to revive his marriage by convincing his wife to return to Tampa with their daughter. But his wife won’t fall for his pleading or his old tricks. He needs a new game plan. Enter Hope, a neuroscience researcher who he persuades to help him in this endeavour. The resulting life-experiment takes both characters to places they did not foresee and for which they are not prepared.

 

With his award-winning comic to …

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The Mistress of Nothing

The Mistress of Nothing

edition:Paperback
also available: Paperback Paperback eBook

Kate Pullinger's Governor General's Literary Award-winning novel about a lady, her maid and the man that comes between them.
     Lady Duff Gordon is the toast of Victorian London society but when she contracts tuberculosis, she and her devoted lady's maid, Sally, set sail for Egypt and an entirely new life. Sally and Lady Duff Gordon thrive in their new and exotic surroundings, learning Arabic, adopting native dress and visiting the tombs of ancient pharaohs.
Soon, Sally adapts to this new wo …

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Once

Once

edition:Paperback

Rebecca Rosenblum's Once is a fiercely original and assured debut, a collection of sixteen stories portraying the constricted and confused lives of the rootless twenty-somethings -- students, office techies, waitresses, warehouse labourers, street hustlers -- who inhabit them. These are stories grounded in the all-too-real comedy and tragedy of jobs and friendships and romances, books and buses and bodies.

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The Stone Diaries

The Stone Diaries

by Carol Shields
introduction by Penelope Lively
edition:Paperback
also available: Audiobook (CD)
tagged :

The Stone Diaries is the story of one woman's life; a truly sensuous novel that reflects and illuminates the unsettled decades of our century.

Born in 1905, Daisy Goodwill drifts through the chapters of childhood, marriage, widowhood, remarriage, motherhood and old age. Bewildered by her inability to understand her own role, Daisy attempts to find a way to tell her own story within a novel that is itself about the limitations of autobiography.

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Birth, 1905

My mother's name was Mercy Stone Goodwill. She was only thirty years old when she took sick, a boiling hot day, standing there in her back kitchen, making a Malvern pudding for her husband's supper. A cookery book lay open on the table: "Take some slices of stale bread," the recipe said, "and one pint of currants; half a pint of raspberries; four ounces of sugar; some sweet cream if available." Of course she's divided the recipe in half, there being just the two of them, and what with the scarcity of currants, and Cuyler (my father) being a dainty eater. A pick-and-nibble fellow, she calls him, able to take his food or leave it.

It shames her how little the man eats, diddling his spoon around in his dish, perhaps raising his eyes once or twice to send her one of his shy, appreciative glances across the table, but never taking a second helping, just leaving it all for her to finish up -- pulling his hand through the air with that dreamy gesture of his that urges her on. And smiling all the while, his daft tender-faced look. What did food mean to a working man like himself? A bother, a distraction, perhaps even a kind of price that had to be paid in order to remain upright and breathing.

Well, it was a different story for her, for my mother. Eating was as close to heaven as my mother ever came. (In our day we have a name for a passion as disordered as hers.)

And almost as heavenly as eating was the making -- how she gloried in it! Every last body on this earth has a particular notion of paradise, and this was hers, standing in the murderously hot back kitchen of her own house, concocting and contriving, leaning forward and squinting at the fine print of the cookery book, a clean wooden spoon in hand.

It's something to see, the way she concentrates, her hot, busy face, the way she thrills to see the dish take form as she pours the stewed fruit into the fancy mold, pressing the thickly cut bread down over the oozing juices, feeling it soften and absorb bit by bit a raspberry redness. Malvern pudding; she loves the words too, and feels them dissolve on her tongue like a sugary wafer, her tongue itself grown waferlike and sweet. Like an artist -- years later this form of artistry is perfectly clear to me -- she stirs and arranges and draws in her brooding lower lip. Such a dish this will be. A warm sponge soaking up color. (Mrs. Flett next door let her have some currants off her bush; the raspberries she's found herself along the roadside south of the village, even though it half kills her, a woman of her size walking out in the heat of the day.)

She sprinkles on extra sugar, one spoonful, then another, then takes the spoon to her mouth, the rough crystals that keep her alert. It is three o'clock -- a hot July afternoon in the middle of Manitoba, in the middle of the Dominion of Canada. The parlor clock (adamantine finish, gilded feet, a wedding present from her husband's family, the Goodwills of Stonewall Township) has just struck the hour. Cuyler will be home from the quarry at five sharp; he will have himself a good cheerful wash at the kitchen basin, and by half-past five the two of them will sit down at the table - this very table, only spread with a clean cloth, every second day a clean cloth -- and eat their supper. Which for the most part will be a silent meal, both my parents being shy by nature, and each brought up in the belief that conversing and eating are different functions, occupying separate trenches of time. Tonight they will partake of cold corned beef with a spoonful of homemade relish, some dressed potatoes at the side, cups of sweet tea, and then this fine pudding. His eyes will widen; my father, Cuyler Goodwill, aged twenty-eight, two years married, will never in his life have tasted Malvern pudding. (That's what she's preparing for -- his stunned and mild look of confusion, that tender, grateful male mouth dropping open in surprise. It's the least she can do, surprise him like this.) She sets a flower-patterned plate carefully on top of the pudding and weights it down with a stone.

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All-Day Breakfast

All-Day Breakfast

edition:Paperback
tagged : literary

When widowed father and substitute teacher Peter Giller leads an eleventh-grade class on a field trip to a plastics factory, he thinks the worst that could happen is that the parent volunteers wonít show up (they donít), the kids will be rude (they are) or the free lunch will be terrible (it is).

Then a leaking pipe sprays Peter and the students with a mysterious pink goo and 'the worst that could happen' spikes from inconvenient to catastrophic. At first, the goo's side effects are mild: short …

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Mme Proust and the Kosher Kitchen

Mme Proust and the Kosher Kitchen

edition:Paperback
tagged :

Stretching between turn-of-the-century Paris and contemporary Canada, Mme Proust and the Kosher Kitchen is the story of three women whose lives intersect across time to reveal the intrinsic bonds of our collective and personal histories. It is a rich and compassionate debut, a novel that encourages us to explore the depths of love and memory, of life and of art.

Unable to escape the pain of her unrequited love for Max Segal, Marie Prévost travels to Paris in order to study the writing of her oth …

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Excerpt

Sophie needed some stones, but could not think where she might find any in the midst of the city. She wasn’t looking for a great boulder, but neither would she be satisfied with the few scrapings of gravel she could surreptitiously remove from the tiny, urbanized garden that jutted but a metre onto the pavement in front of the ground-floor flat in the building three doors down from her own. Wondering where she could get more sizable specimens, she remembered now with fondness and regret the tin bucket of pebbles and seashells that the child had kept in her bedroom for many years, souvenirs of their holidays that the little one had gathered on the beach and then refused to part with when it came time to get on the train and return home. And Sophie recalled too their regular walks in the nearby woods where there must surely be some stray rocks lying about beneath the trees. But the child was older and far away now, the tin bucket long since discarded. The family had not taken a trip to the Norman coast since the war began, and although the entrance to the Bois de Boulogne was but ten minutes on foot from the apartment, Sophie was increasingly cautious about venturing any further than the baker’s shop at the corner and did not want to risk an extra outing on top of today’s mission. She would just have to rely on finding stones at her destination.

She noted with relief that Philippe had also gone out earlier that morning, so that she did not need to explain her own departure. Communication was increasingly strained between them and she lacked the energy to think of a lie that might cover her as she pulled open the apartment’s heavy oak door. As long as the child was still with them, they had been united in their plans and resolute in their execution. Their daughter was to find safety, even if it cost Sophie and Philippe their life savings. But once word had got back, nine long weeks after the night they had parted, that her group had made it through the checkpoint at Hendaye and safely crossed into Spain, then their focus dissolved and their unity fractured.

At first, Philippe had sought Sophie’s permission before he sold anything. From the start they had agreed that the silverware, their wedding gift from her mother, each piece so delicately etched with a tracery of vines, was sacrosanct, and then they had agonized together over what was more dispensable. But now she realized what he took only when she noticed it missing. Sitting reading in the salon, she would look up to the marble mantel to check the time and find that the gilded clock with figures of wood nymphs holding up its white-and-black face was not there. Reaching into the china cupboard for a plate onto which she could arrange a meagre meal of boiled potatoes and white beans, she would sense that it seemed less crowded than before and realize that the Sèvres was gone.

These losses were unspoken and Philippe no longer told her of his plans, but she knew that he was probably visiting another dealer that morning. These days that was the only reason he had to leave the apartment. When they first imposed the quotas and he lost his practice, he was out every day, hurrying down to the Cité on the Métro because Maître Richelieu gave him work clerking in his office. But Philippe could no longer take the risk of the daily trip any more than his former colleague could take the risk of hiring him. He spent his days reading the newspaper and sorting uselessly through his old files. Suspended between their former life and some uncertain future, they seemed for the moment to have abandoned time. Increasingly, Sophie longed for something to disrupt this condition and had begun to think that when a knock came on the door, it would be nothing but a relief.

She just had this last task to complete. She belted her drab-coloured trench coat firmly around her–she would need its strong, deep pockets to carry any stones she did find–and slipped quietly onto the landing. She peered over the wrought-iron banisters down four floors to the hallway, checking that Mme. Delisle was not about, sweeping the carpet or polishing the brass newel posts. The hall was empty for the moment and Sophie walked swiftly but silently downstairs. She moved without sound down the last flight, glided across the empty hallway like a ghost, and stepped out into the street.

She walked towards the Métro quickly, attempting to set a pace that was rapid enough to suggest legitimate business but not so hurried as to hint at flight. The day was pleasant, still hot although it was now mid-October, and despite herself, she warmed to the light on her face. From La Muette, the stop where she had safely and thoughtlessly boarded a train so many times before, she took the Métro eastward, keeping her head down so as not to catch anyone’s eye, anxiously scanning not the faces of the other passengers but their equally revealing footwear. She was fearfully looking for the well-polished leather boots that would belong to either a gendarme or a German officer, but she saw none and forty minutes later arrived without incident at her stop, Père Lachaise.

This is the most famous cemetery in Paris. As she entered the gates, Sophie heard herself saying these words in her head like some sort of tour guide, and she realized that she was talking to her daughter. This is the most famous cemetery in Paris, she continued as she started up one of the beaten dirt paths, home to Sarah Bernhardt, Oscar Wilde, and Marcel Proust. Look, dear, there is the grave of Alfred de Musset, there with the little willow tree. He’s the man our street is named for, a great writer. Privately, she had always thought the tree was ridiculous. The poet had requested that he be buried beneath a willow, and instead of finding some suitable riverbank, his family had put him in Père Lachaise and planted this pathetic specimen above the grave. But Sophie would not share this criticism with her daughter.

This is where France’s great artists are laid to rest, she would continue, the writer Alphonse Daudet is here, so are the painters Géricault and Delacroix, the playwright Beaumarchais, the poetess Anna de Noailles, and Georges Bizet, the composer who created Carmen. This is where the Faubourg Saint-Germain comes to a bitter end. That monument holds the bones of the de Guiches. The de Brancovans are here somewhere, the Rothschilds, all the great families. There’s the Comte de Montesquiou, a famous dandy in his day. And look, that’s the grave of Félix Faure, president of the Republic. Died in his mistress’s arms at the height of the Dreyfus affair. Not that you would tell such a thing to a girl not yet twelve, any more than you could explain how the English writer Oscar Wilde came to be buried in Paris, exiled and disgraced.

As she spotted the Faure monument, Sophie also noticed a rough patch of clear ground beyond it, where there was space for some future grave. She approached and started kicking through dried leaves and half-dead grass with the toe of her shoe. Soon she found what she was looking for, a round pebble about double the size of a one-franc coin. By dint of more kicking, she amassed half a dozen such stones, putting them in her pockets, before moving up the hill towards the top of the cemetery.

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Sweetness in the Belly

Sweetness in the Belly

edition:Paperback

SOON TO BE A MAJOR MOTION PICTURE

Set in Emperor Haile Selassie’s Ethiopia and the racially charged world of Thatcher’s London, Sweetness in the Belly is a richly detailed portrayal of one woman’s search for love and belonging. Lilly, born to British parents, eventually finds herself living as a devout, young, white Muslim woman in the ancient walled city of Harar in the years leading up to the deposition of the emperor. She is drawn to an idealistic young doctor, Aziz, but their love has o …

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Prologue
Harar, Ethiopia

The sun makes its orange way east from Arabia, over a Red Sea, across volcanic fields and desert and over the black hills to the qat- and coffee-shrubbed land of the fertile valley that surrounds our walled city. Night departs on the heels of the hyenas: they hear the sun’s approach as a hostile ringing, perceptible only to their ears, and it drives them back, bloody lipped and panic stricken, to their caves.

In darkness they have feasted on the city’s broken streets: devouring lame dogs in alleyways and licking eggshells and entrails off the ground. The people of the city cannot afford to waste their food, but nor can they neglect to feed the hyenas either. To let them go hungry is to forfeit their role as people on this wild earth, and strain the already tenuous ties that bind God’s creatures.

A hundred years ago, when the city’s gates were still closed at night — the key lodged firmly under the sleeping head of a neurotic emir — the hyenas were the only outsiders permitted access after dark. They would crawl through the drainage portals in the city’s clay walls. But the gates are splayed open now, have been for decades, a symbol of history’s turn against this Muslim outpost, a city of saints and scholars founded by Arabs who brought Islam to Abyssinia in the ninth century, the former capital of an emirate that once ruled for hundreds of miles.

For all the fear they inspire, though, if a hyena must die, one hopes it might do so on one’s doorstep. Pluck its eyebrows, fashion a bracelet, and you are guaranteed protection from buda, the evil eye. Endure the inconvenience of having to step over a hideous corpse baking in the African sun all day, but be assured that by the following morning, thanks to hyenas’ lack of inhibitions regarding cannibalism, the street will once again be licked clean.

As every day begins, the anguished cries of these feral children grow dim against a rising crescendo of birds quibbling in the pomegranate and lime trees of the city’s courtyards. And then the muezzins call: beckoning the city’s sleeping populace with a shower of praise for an almighty God. There are ninety-nine of them within the walls of this tiny city — ninety-nine muezzins for ninety-nine mosques. It takes the culmination of the staggered, near-simultaneous beginnings of a hundred less one to create the particular sound that is heard as Godliness in Harar.

* * * * * * *

“But I don’t want to go among mad people,” Alice remarked.

“Oh, you ca’n’t help that,” said the Cat: “we’re all mad here. I’m mad. You’re mad.”

“How do you know I’m mad?” said Alice.

“You must be,” said the Cat, “or you wouldn’t have come here.”

Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, Lewis Carroll

Part One
London, England
1981–85

Scar Tissue

On a wet night in Thatcher’s Britain, a miracle was delivered onto the pockmarked pavement behind a decrepit building once known as Lambeth Hospital. Four women standing flanked by battered rubbish bins looked up to a close English sky and thanked Allah for this sign of his generosity. Two women ululated, one little boy, shy and tired, buried his face in his mother’s neck, and one baby stamped with a continent-shaped mole tried out her lungs. Her wail was mighty and unselfconscious, and with it, she announced that we had all arrived in England. None of us had hitherto had the confidence to be so brazen.

I was one of those four women. I trained in this God-forsaken building, a gothic nightmare of a place, a former workhouse where the poor were imprisoned and divided — men from women, aged and infirm from able bodied, able-bodied good from able-bodied bad — each forced to break a daily quota of stone in order to earn their keep. Adjacent is the old infirmary, which once had its own Register of Lunatics, among them a woman named Hannah Chaplin diagnosed with acute psychosis resulting from syphilis while in residence there with her seven-year-old son Charlie, some eighty years ago.

I don’t share this history though I’ve moved within its walls. In the places I have lived, the aged and the infirm and the psychotic are not separated from the rest of us. They are part of us. I don’t share this history, but as a child, I did see a Charlie Chaplin film in a cinema in Tangier through the smoke of a hundred cigarettes. I sat cross-legged between my parents on a wooden bench, a carpet of peanut shells at our feet, the audience roaring with laughter, united by the shared language of bodies without words.

Amazing that humour could ever be borne of this place. The building now stands condemned, slated for demolition, and I work at South Western, a hospital largely catering to the poor from the beleaguered housing estates in the surrounding areas: the mentally ill, the drug addicted, the unemployed white, the Asian and Afro-Caribbean immigrants and the refugees and asylum seekers, the latest wave of which has been rolling in from torn parts of East Africa, principally Eritrea and Sudan.

Many of these claimants avoid the hospital, overwhelmed or intimidated as they are by the agents and agencies of the state — the customs officers, police, civil servants, lawyers, social workers and doctors — with their unreadable expressions and their unreadable forms. I know this, because they are my neighbours. I encounter them in the elevator, in the laundrette, in the dimly lit concrete corridors of high-rises on the Cotton Gardens Estate. I’ve lived in a one-bedroom council flat on the fourteenth floor of one of these buildings since the autumn of 1974 — compensation for the circumstances of my arrival.

My white face and white uniform give me the appearance of authority in this new world, though my experiences, as my neighbours quickly come to discover, are rooted in the old. I’m a white Muslim woman raised in Africa, now employed by the National Health Service. I exist somewhere between what they know and what they fear, somewhere between the past and the future, which is not quite the present. I can translate the forms for them before kneeling down and putting my forehead to the same ground. Linoleum, concrete, industrial carpet. Five times a day, wherever we might be, however much we might doubt ourselves and the world around us.

I was not always a Muslim, but once I was led into the absorption of prayer and the mysteries of the Qur’an, something troubled in me became still.

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