Have you ever heard of Little Free Library? I guess I had seen them around from time to time, but since moving to the East End of Toronto last fall, Little Free Libraries are ubiquitous. They are a small box that a home owner has either bought or built that has a couple of shelves in it and a little door. You stick your box on a pole, and you have a lending library at the front of your house. Within a 3 block radius of our house there are three in front of people’s houses! Then there is one in the park 2 blocks away, and as you get closer and closer to the Lake Ontario beaches in Toronto, they are all over the place. I wonder why this hasn’t caught on in the West End of Toronto, especially since there are so many University students living over there?
Regardless, things started out innocently enough with me and my most convenient lending box. I initially approached it to check out the children’s books offerings as it has Alice in Wonderland drawings all over it.
I started out taking the Lion King story book and replacing it with another Disney story book: Frozen. I came back and Mary Poppins was in there, I replaced it with Chitty, Chitty Bang Bang. Then I began to survey my book shelf because I hadn’t caught on that the exchanges were in dialogue yet. I have a lot of books…so it took me awhile to figure out what I wanted to get rid of:
When we moved into our current house, we were sold on the idea of turning the dining room into a library. We don’t have a dining room table, but we do have over 1000 books. This is just one view of the 15 shelves of books that line different rooms in our home. I start surveying the shelves. I pick Unconditional Parenting, a book that I bought when I had my son over four years ago. In the interim I have come to realize that I think unconditional parenting is complete bs. My parenting is completely conditional – so on the next walk out of the house – I dropped off Alfie Kohn. On the way back, I had forgotten that I also had brought Kate Chopin’s The Awakening, an early piece of American feminist writing. What I realized upon opening the little door was that Alvie was gone already and a different parenting book was in its place, so I took it and left The Awakening. At first I thought it was just coincidence, but when I left the house this afternoon and passed by the little library, even though I had nothing to drop off – I looked inside anyway, and Chopin was gone and in its place was Charlotte Gillman Perkins’s The Yellow Wallpaper, an even earlier piece of American feminist literature! Is this a coincidence or is something happening here? I’m excitedly thinking “Something is happening!” Now I find myself thinking about what I want to put in this box way too often through the day; what do I want to say about my collection, what kind of book do I think will illicit the best and most interesting book response?
I kind of love it in a super wonderful nerdy way. To honour books, I’ve included the books I’m casually reading or the recipe book that I’m working from in my food choices today.
3/4 cup Kashi Go Lean Crunch
1 cup blue berries
32 oz water
I ate on the front porch this morning because my partner had cleaned up the entire space, planted a bunch of ferns and set up a bistro table and chairs. It was so inviting in the morning sun that I sat for a 1/2 hour and read part of The Alchemist.
Lunch: from Skinny Bitch in the Kitch
French Lentil Salad (recipe below)
The subtitle reads: “Um, lentils…Do we need to say it? Keep your ass at home after eating this one.”
1 oz goat cheese divided
2 Belgian Endive leaves
Ratatouille (recipe below)
We’ve been making French Lentil salad in our home for almost 8 years now. I first bought the Skinny Bitch cookbook when it came out in 2007 and was seriously disappointed to find out that the book is FULL of bizarre vegan ingredients that no one knows how to buy easily. I’m sure that if I was dedicated to making sure egg substitute and nutritional yeast were part of my life I may have made the effort to find them, but since I’m a true blue omnivore, I’m unlikely to go to the extra effort to make a meal with cheese substitutes and liquid amino acid. Still, the book did produce one of our favourite lentil salad recipes, and since the pressure cooker is big in our lives right now – I made a 10 cup haul of lentils. (I don’t even know why…I think just the thrill of doing so in 5 minutes gives me a kick.)
French Lentil Salad
2 cups green lentils (cooked)
6 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons white wine or champagne vinegar (both a very nice)
1 tablespoon fresh chopped tarragon (or dried if you don’t have fresh)
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
coarse salt and pepper to taste
2 tomatoes, chopped
2 Belgian endives, sliced thin
1/2 cup chopped Italian parsley
Toss all ingredients gently and serve cold.
Ratatouille (from The Comfort of Cooking)
Ratatouille has only recently come into our lives. While watching the Disney movie with our young son, he expressed an interest in eating the meal made in the show. Sure, why not? Well…it’s a million slices of vegetables is probably one reason. I definitely did not want to slice 3 layers of zucchini, eggplant, potatoes (our substitute for winter squash) and bell peppers. Then it dawned on me, there is a “slicer” attachment for the food processor. Voila – sliced vegetables in 3 seconds. Since mastering the food processor slicing function we’ve eaten Ratatouille twice a month.
Our method of creating this dish is slightly off the orthodox French manner. We first layer onions, potatoes, olive oil and salt as the base layer. The reason for this is that we really love it when onions caramelize on the bottom of the Dutch oven – so whenever we get an opportunity to make that work in a meal – we do it.
- 1/2 onion, finely chopped
- 2 potatoes, very thinly sliced
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
The rest of the recipe lays out in layers:
We used: sliced eggplant (2 skinny Chinese eggplants), zucchini (4 small) and a red pepper. As you might discern, we ran out of red pepper. At each point when you are finished a layer, put a half cup of marinara with
¼ tsp. oregano
¼ tsp. crushed red pepper flakes before you start the next layer.
As the top layer we put a thick layer of marinara and a few sprigs of fresh thyme then cover it all with a piece of parchment paper so that the vegetables do not scorch. You need to cook this dish at 375 degrees to 400 degrees for 55 minutes without a lid. If you were to put the lid on it would basically make your delicious layered meal into a soup because of the moisture in the pot from the vegetables. So to keep that top layer protected and “dry-ish” you just use parchment.
For a dish that is just a bunch of vegetables, you’re going to be blown away. We toasted up some rye bread in the oven when it was done. (10 minutes at 400) To layer tomato sauce, veggies and those delicious caramelized onions scraped up from the bottom on a piece of dark rye – no words. Trust me on this one.
Through the progress of this blog post I think I’m settled on the next book to drop off, a collection of poetry by Pablo Neruda: The Heights of Machu Picchu.