Daily Archives: November 14, 2009

Bonnie Stern Book Club, November 12.

Every year, Bonnie Stern of Cooking with Bonnie Stern (www.bonniestern.com) selects a certain number of authors and their books. She reads the books, marking all the food passages in the text. Then she concocts recipes that go with the books. The walls of her enclave on Erskine Avenue in Toronto have many authors pictured with food and/or books. People sign up for the dinners, the authors speak, and then we eat. Bonnie provides the recipes for the dishes. which I’ll insert here when I get them in e-form. It’s a labour of love for Bonnie.

On November 12, the reader/eaters assembled at the BonnieCastle  and undertook to eat our way through the themes of YOTF. (Someone has to do it.) Bonnie had excelled herself, paying meticulous attention, not only to The Year of the Flood, but also to Oryx and Crake.

We began with  Elderberry Sangria (see Chapter 9 of YOTF), continued with some lovely cheeses, and – for others – some mini-Not-So-SecretBurgers, made with Cumbrae local and organic beef. Next came some delicious Wild Mushroom Bruschetta, in a tribute to the Gardeners’ mushroom-growing. (No psychedelics though.)

While all this munching was going on, I spoke about food in YOTF, dividing it into Vegetables, Fruits, and Meat and playing the appropriate Hymns from the CD (“The Holy Weeds,” for vegetables; “The Peach or Plum,” for Fruit; and the Predator Day Hymn, “The Water Shrew That Rends Its Prey,” for Meat.) We then spoke of many things, though I didn’t tell What Happens Next or What Becomes of Zeb.

Next, the main food event began, with a fantastic Ancient Fruits Gardener Salad (see Pollination Day, just before Chapter 49); and then we had some 100% Real Fish Sticksof the kind Jimmy in Oryx and Crake would have liked, served with lentil “caviar” and Heritage Carrots of many colours. We talked some more while the dangerous-dessert  Happicuppa Walnut Roll was being prepared. At the end, I gave out some CDs to interested parties, and we staggered home, blessing the food we’d just eaten. Thank you, Bonnie and Co.!

For Bonnie’s inventive and witty recipes (when did you last eat a witty recipe?) see below:



“God’s Gardeners ate a lot of mushrooms, both dried and fresh and lived in buildings where they did not have to pay rent like an old cheese factory which still smelled faintly of cheese.”

1 lb (500g) mixed wild mushrooms, cleaned and sliced

2  cloves garlic, finely chopped<

2 tbsp (25mL) olive oil<

1/2 tsp (2mL) salt<

1/4 tsp (1mL) pepper<

1 tbsp (15mL) fresh thyme leaves<

1 tbsp (15mL) white truffle oil – optional<

8 oz (250g) riopelle, Brie or goat cheese<

16  slices baguette<

2 tbsp (25mL) olive oil or butter<

1 tbsp (15mL) chopped fresh tarragon<

1. Cook mushrooms and garlic in olive oil in a large heavy skillet until any liquid evaporates. Season with salt, pepper and thyme. Add truffle oil if using.<

2. Trim rind off cheese if it is too strong.<

3. Brush bread on one side with olive oil or butter. Grill or broil about one to two minutes per side until crusty on the outside but still chewy on the inside. 4. Spread oiled side with cheese and top with mushrooms. Sprinkle with tarragon.<

makes 6 to 8 servings<



No one really knew what strange things were in SecretBurgers! But we know what’s in our burgers – meat  from Cumbrae Butchers.<

1 lb (500g) 100% ground pure steak<

1  egg<

1 tsp (5mL) salt<

1/2 tsp (2mL) pepper<

2  cloves garlic, minced (or one head roasted garlic)<

1/4 cup (50mL) breadcrumbs<

1/4 cup (50mL)  tomato sauce<

2 tbsp (25mL) Worcestershire sauce<

chipotle ketchup*<

16  dinner rolls<

1. Combine ground steak with egg, salt, pepper, garlic, breadcrumbs, tomato sauce and Worcestershire.  Shape into 16 meatballs. Flatten ball slightly.<

2. Just before serving grill burgers to medium.<

3. Serve in dinner rolls topped with chipotle ketchup.<

* For chipotle ketchup add 1 tbsp (15mL) pureed chipotle chiles to 1/2 cup (125mL) ketchup.<

makes 16 mini burgers<



In The Year of the Flood, God’s Gardeners eat many wild greens and herbs. They also keep honey bees and make their own vinegar. For this salad, we used Cookstown Greens’ organic salad mix of more than 40 greens, herbs and floweres and made a honey vinaigrette.

16 cups (4 L) organic mixed greens

2 apples, halved, cored and sliced

1/2 cup (125 mL) pomegranate seeds

4 fresh figs, quartered

8 Medjool dates, halved

1 cup (250 mL) honey-coated walnuts or roasted walnuts


3 tbsp (45 mL) apple cider vinegar

1 tbsp (15 mL) honey

1 tsp (5 mL) salt

1/4 tsp (1mL) pepper

1/2 tsp (2mL) Dijon mustard

1 small shallot, finely chopped

1/2 cup (125mL) extra virgin olive oil

1. For dressing, whisk vinegar with honey, salt, pepper, mustard and shallot. Whisk in olive oil. Season to taste.

2. Toss as much dressing with greens as needed. Top salad with apples,pomegranate seeds, figs, dates and walnuts.

Makes 8 servings



In the cafeteria at Helthwyzer High, they serve fish sticks with only 20% real fish sticks. Ours are all fish! Atwood confirmed that Jimmy in Oryx and Crake would have loved them.

5 tbsp (75 mL) butter

1 1/2 cups (375 mL) panko breadcrumbs

2 tbsp (30 mL) chopped wild herbs (thyme, sage or rosemary)

salt and pepper to taste

2 lb (1 kg) boneless, skinless, fresh halibut fillets, cut into 2 oz (60

g) pieces

2 tbsp (30 mL) extra virgin olive oil

1 tsp (5 mL) kosher salt

1/4 tsp (1mL) freshly ground black pepper

1. Melt butter in a large skillet. Add breadcrumbs and cook gently untillightly toasted. Add herbs. Season with salt and pepper. Cool and place in alarge shallow dish.

2. Rub pieces of fish with olive oil, salt and pepper. Dredge with crumbs onall sides. Place fish in a single layer on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.

3. Roast fish in a preheated 425F (210C) oven for 8 to 10 minutes, or justuntil cooked through.

Makes 6 to 8 servings



At Scales and Tails where Ren works, Caviar and Champagne were considered “loyalty snacks” for girls who had gone above and beyond with high rolling clients. These beautiful beluga lentils look like caviar. For a vegetarian version omit the bacon and use 2 tbsp (25mL) chopped smoked sun-dried tomatoes from (Cookstown Greens) instead – add them with the olive oil and onions in step #3 and cook  about 5 minutes until softened. We used double smoked bacon from Cumbrae Butchers.

1 1/2 cups (375mL) black beluga lentils (or tiny du Puy lentils)<

1  onion, cut into chunks<

2  sprigs fresh thyme<

1  carrot, cut into chunks<

1  rib celery, cut into chunks<

4  strips double smoked bacon, diced<

1 tbsp (15mL) extra virgin olive oil<

1  onion, chopped<

1  clove garlic, finely chopped<

salt and pepper to taste<

1. Cook lentils in a large saucepan just covered with boiling water for 20 to 25 minutes until tender. Drain well and rinse with cold water.<

2. Place bacon in a large deep skillet and cook until crisp. Remove bacon and reserve. Discard excess fat. Return pan to heat. Add olive oil. Add onions and garlic and cook gently until tender about 5 minutes.<

3. Add lentils and heat thoroughly. Season with salt and pepper. Stir in reserved bacon.<

makes 6 servings<



Organic, heirloom vegetables would be God’s Gardeners first choice and drizzling them with honey makes them irresistible.<

3 lbs (1.5kg) carrots, cleaned and cut in half lengthwise if large, preferably heirloom varieties in many colours<

2 tbsp (25mL) olive oil<

1 tsp (5mL) salt or to taste<

1/4 tsp (1mL) freshly ground black pepper<

1 tbsp (15mL) fresh thyme leaves<

1 tbsp (15mL) honey<

1. Toss carrots with olive oil, salt, pepper, thyme and honey. Spread in a single layer on baking sheets lined with parchment paper.<

2. Roast in a preheated 400F (200C) for 30 to 40 minutes until caramelized and tender.<

makes 6 to 8 servings<



This cake was inspired by the novel’s Happicuppa coffee franchise and the walnuts and berries that God’s Gardeners ate.

6 eggs, separated

3/4 cup (175 mL) sugar, divided

1 tsp (5 mL) pure vanilla extract

1 1/2 cups (375 mL) ground toasted walnuts

1 tsp (5 mL) baking powder

Coffee buttercream:

3/4 cup (175 mL) butter

1 cup (250 mL) icing sugar, sifted

1 tsp (5 mL) pure vanilla extract

1 tbsp (15 mL) coffee extract or more to taste

Chocolate sauce:

1/2 cup (125 mL) whipping cream

4 oz (125 g) semi-sweeet or bittersweet chocolate, chopped

1 tbsp (15 mL) brewed espresso or strong coffee (optional)

2 cups (500 mL) mixed berries

1. Lightly butter a 10×15-inch baking sheet and line with parchment paper.

Butter and lightly flour parchment.

2. Beat egg yolks with 1/2 cup (125mL) sugar until very light. Add vanilla.

Combine nuts with baking powder and stir into egg yolks. Whip egg whites

until light and gradually beat in remaining sugar. Fold into nut mixture.

Spread on prepared pan. Bake in a preheated 350F/180C oven for 15 to 16

minutes. Cool.

3. For filling, whip butter until very light. Beat in icing sugar. Add

vanilla and coffee extract.

4. Loosen cake from pan. Dust with icing sugar. Turn cake out onto parchment

paper. Spread cake with filling and roll up lengthwise. Refrigerate. Serve

cake at room temperature.

5. For sauce, heat cream. Pour over chocolate. Allow to rest for 2 or 3

minutes and then stir until smooth. Stir in coffee. Cool.

6. Drizzle cake with sauce and garnish with berries.

Makes 8 servings



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My Scotiabank Giller Prize Pics, Nov. 10

05. Bob Rae06. Russell Banks, David Young08. The Lineup07. Foursome04. Gian Gomeshi02. Elana R. She Rules03. Moses, Drs. Lam01. Jack R The KingI’m not the best photographer and on-the-run snapshots always make people look a bit demented, but here they are. Jack Rabinovitch, King of the Giller; Elana Rabinovitch, She Who Must Be Obeyed, who runs the whole show, with many helpers and others; Moses Znaimer, with me & the two Drs. Lam, Marguerite and Vincent the writer; Gian Gomeshi of Q, auditioning for The Satanic Brides of Dracula; me & fellow juror of 08, Bob Rae, with Michael Ondaatje doing a cameo in the background; juror Russell Banks and a surprised-looking David Young; writers Charlotte Gray and Jane Urquhart, with beaming juror Victoria Glendinning, and Martha Butterfield blessing them from above; and the final lineup, with host Seamus O’Regan, jurors Banks, Alistair McLeod, and Gleninng, then Jack, then winner Linden McIntyre (for The Bishop’s Man) making a 5-star speech.

I missed a lot because I didn’t want to be too nosy with my little green camera. For the whole thing, go to: http://www.scotiabankgillerprize.ca/


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Mole-A-Teers and Make a Mole

08. Making a MoleThe Pictures:

The Ur Mole-A-Teers: LA, Orville, Ted Perlman, Nelson Bragg; NY, Orville, Ted, Ray Marchica ; Washington,  Orville, Louie Diller, Gregory McWhir; Chicago, Orville and Jane Bunell (piano).

The Hour: George Stroumboulopoulos gets a Mole, plays piano for Mole Day Hymn performance, and is seen with Mole on shoulder and Anne

Joldersma of Toad office.

The Make-A-Mole Diagram. Some real moles.


Hmm. It seems the Mole-A-Teers have taken on a life of their own, and you – yes, you! – can now become a Mole-A-Teer!

This organization (loosely styled) was begun by the musicians who play on the recording of the Hymns of the God’s Gardeners: Orville Stoeber, the composer and singer, various guitars; Ted Perlman, guitars, bass, keys; and Nelson Bragg, percussion and drums. The same trio played and sang at the Los Angeles YOTF Event at Royce Hall on October 9, and began styling themselves the Mole-A-Teers. They originated the Sign of the Mole performed with three fingers of extended downwards in simulation of the Mole’s pointy claws.  (See pictures, but Warning Note: DO NOT make this sign in certain areas of Los Angeles, or you may be mistaken for a gang member.)

In subsequent performances of the YOTF in the U.S., the musicians were initiated (see pictures). Then, while the core YOTF U.S. Events team was drinking Organic Shade-grown Fair Trade coffee — and more — in Atwood’s Café at the Hotel Burnham, Chicago, the Mole-A-Teer Rules were drawn up. More or less. It’s a work in progress.

FIRST RULE:  You have to have played or sung one or more of the Hymns in public: for instance, the Mole Day Hymn, “We Praise the Tiny Perfect Moles.” “In public” can mean: in a choir, at an environmental event, at a book group, on television, on radio, via YouTube, podcast or webcast; or in a school; or in a bar. Let’s just say there have to be others present.

SECOND RULE: You must take the Organic Shade-grown Fair Trade Coffee Pledge, because What Kills Birds also Kills Moles. Especially pesticides and habitat destruction. All coffee-drinking Mole-A-Teers drink only Virtuous Coffee.

ENTITLEMENTS:  You are entitled to use the name Mole-A-Teer for yourself, under one of the Orders, as below. You may make and present  Mole-A-Teer Moles (see recipe) to other Mole-A-Teers, especially when inducting them; you may wear the T-shirt, once there is one; you may make the  Sign of the Mole to identify yourself to other Mole-A-Teers (see Warning, above.) You may take pictures of your Mole-A-Teer  singings and post them on the Mole-A-Teer Facebook page, and post links to your YouTube videos, if any, to share with other Mole-A-Teers.  For the music, sheet music, etc., see below.

SPELLING OF MOLE-A-TEER: Tried it without the hyphens, but the result—Moleateer  — was a little too close to Mole Eater for comfort.

ORDERS of Mole-A-Teer are as follows:

CHIEF MOLE: Orville Stoeber.

AIDE-DE-CAMP MOLE-A-TEERS: Phoebe Larmore and Margaret Atwood, and anyone else who helped, in Canada, the UK, the USA, and Beyond.

FIRST HONOURARY MOLE-A-TEER: George Stroumboulopoulos of The Hour. For the first presentation of the Mole and a fairly awful performance, see:  http://www.cbc.ca/video/#/Shows/The_Hour/Guests/ID=1320478751

UR MOLE-A-TEERS: All musicians who played in YOTF Events in the fall of 2009.

GRASSROOTS MOLE-A-TEERS: Those who induct themselves, as above. It’s the Honour System. We count on you.


Turns out there really is a Mole Day!  Who knew?

“Celebrated annually on October 23 from 6:02 a.m. to 6:02 p.m., Mole Day commemorates Avogadro’s Number (6.02 x 10^23), which is a basic measuring unit in chemistry. Mole Day was created as a way to foster interest in chemistry. Schools throughout the United States and around the world celebrate Mole Day with various activities related to chemistry and/or moles.”

For the National Mole Day Foundation, its e-commerce shop, its Mole Day pledge – taken facing the ground, where moles live — and some pretty bad Mole jokes, visit:  http://www.moleday.org/index.htm . It stands to reason that all National Mole Day members are automatically Mole-A-Teers, once they sing the song(s) and take the Coffee Pledge. Welcome, O Strange But Vivid Mole-A-Teers from Planet X! Questions to: mole@avolve.net

CHILD MOLE-A-TEERS: Mole Day in The Year of the Flood is a Children’s Festival. It celebrates underground biolife, most of which is small. Thus Child Mole-A-Teers are welcome; and to all who’ve asked if they may sing the Mole Day song and make Moles in their schools or Sunday schools, the answer is yes. If the word “God” in the last verse bothers you, you may substitute “earth.” The Hymns are hymns, and thus – like real hymns – they may be altered slightly to suit the occasion.


This is how the Mole presented to George Strombolopolis was made.  You may improvise.  See Diagram.

  1. Worn-out socks. No fair using new ones. Wash socks first. Turn inside out for nubbly effect. Wool best, dark colours, but these are Moles of The Future, so they might be any colour.
  1. Stuff one sock with: 1) other sock  2) something else 3) cut-off part of sock you won’t be using.
  1. Tie off with pink ribbon or braided pink string for the tail.
  1. Eyes:  pink or red buttons. Nose: larger pink or red button. Whiskers:  wool.   Sew loops of wool either side of nose, cut at loop ends. Claws: the most difficult thing. Should be pointy. We used scraps of construction paper, but cardboard would do, or hair combs of the right size, or wire bent into claw shape.  We sewed a double claw shape to the underside of the mole so the claws stuck out either side.
  1. Ribbon or string may be attached to Mole at the tail end, for hanging around the neck.

For CDs and Downloads, see: http://www.yearoftheflood.com/us/music


For sheet music, http://www.yearoftheflood.co.uk/ca/music/sheet-music. http://www.yearoftheflood.com/us/music/sheet-music

For T-shirt, once we have one, see the Floodshop at  www.yearoftheflood.com.


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