I’m writing this wearing six layers since Hydro Quebec decided to conk out on the coldest night of 2011. I keep a stash of flashlights and candles, and a tiny emergency heater that can make tea, and I have Juliette with her newfound harmonies serenading me with The Lakes of Ponchartrain. So today, day 24 in my year of daily doing some new thing, I did my new workout by myself for the first time. There was confusion – which leg? Do I breathe in or out? – I had the feeling Monsieur Svelte in the corner with his barbells dearly wanted to correct me on a few points but managed to restrain himself. And while Mike, my trainer, told me to swim on a separate day, I realized there was no way I was going to endure the metro, the bench press and the reverse fly, then pretend no heavenly swimming pool, sauna or hot tub existed.
Back outside in Chinatown I felt the excitement that comes from doing these daily new things – a cumulative thrill that shows me parts of the city somehow invisible before. Today I saw a frisson at G & D Supermarket – throngs parting a curtain that had been slit to form an entrance from the icy street to a warm world of colour. The G & D Supermarket is huge and I have passed it many times, but never noticed it before today.
I’ve been in lots of Asian groceries but nothing like this. This was no tumble of dragon fruit and lotus roots and buckets of clams, nor was it shelves of ceramic soup spoons and tea and noodles. This was like any North American supermarket: neat aisles and long lines of freezers and a clinical atmosphere. I bought bright green seaweed salad, seasoned Nori strips, tofu shredded to form noodles, shrimp gyoza, and the green tea red bean ice cream cakes in the photo below. The place made me want to find someone who could guide me around it and teach me its thousands of stories. I’ve often thought how great it would be to have a cross-cultural grocery club: maybe I will search or start one another day in this year of new enterprises.
I once had a wonderful tour of Chinatown in Vancouver with a friend who grew up in Singapore. She had me sample all the fruit she remembered having as a child. It was delightful.Two images stayed with me, the giant clam foot ( which was very phallic looking) and a flattened dried duck, which looked like it had been run over by one of those giant rollers....