7:38 a.m. at the coffee shop
Blessed is the fall because it means citrus jam season is finally upon us again! Lemons, grapefruits, mandarins, clementines and oranges of all kinds. All my favourites! And since the beginning of the pandemic, I’ve had more than enough time to practice a wide variety of recipes. I’m a bit of a glutton sometimes and I love to spread a thick layer of fruit on my morning toast. Even thinly sliced orange peel gets added to cooking juices.
I simply love roaming around the aisles of grocery stores and ethnic food stores where I often discover new varieties of food. That food trek takes me back to the time when I was starting out as a cook in a small breakfast diner. My curiosity was insatiable, especially when it came to selecting fresh fruit and leafy greens to decorate our breakfast plates.
I remember it so well. My youngest son quickly became an expert fruiter – peeling, cutting and shaping fresh fruit. His thing was preparing an apple in the shape of an arrow; he could do it with his eyes closed! He later taught his expertise to hundreds of younger fruiters. This striking garnish is now the emblem of all breakfast plates at every competitor restaurant everywhere.
Perhaps we’re the only ones today who remember that this breakfast revolution, from ordinary to extraordinary, was born in our first restaurants. Yes, I am bragging a little! I was the instigator of a breakfast renaissance. Families would not leave the house to have breakfast out 35 years ago. Special occasions would be celebrated at hotels that offered a Sunday brunch featuring egg dishes, charcuteries, salads and usually a wide array of desserts.
Then there were the neighbourhood snack bars that opened early enough to serve eggs, bacon, sausage, ham, toast and commercial dehydrated pancakes to early bird workers. No one had seen nicely assorted fruit plates served with an egg dish or large homemade crêpes before we opened to serve them. When we started, no one else was filling large crêpes with delicious strawberries, bananas or mixed fresh fruit in delicious homemade custard. I remember it so well, like it was yesterday, the expressions of amazement on our customers’ eyes. A smile as big as their appetite lighting up each new face. They would stretch their necks to catch a glimpse of what kind of magic we were cooking up in the kitchen.
We were living in a moment of creative euphoria back in those days. Each day, tens of new pairs of eyes would be completely transfixed by their breakfast plate. And when we had a few minutes of peace before or after the lunch hour rush, I noted down everything we had just created that day so we wouldn’t forget it and could recreate the dish again.
We had no clue at that time what gargantuan task awaited us and what it meant to create a new restaurant concept. Creating new dishes was how we dazzled our clients. And we’re still doing it today, 35 years later. Of course, our way of delighting customers is now available outside our establishments too. Is being copied the price of fame? I could really do without it. But would we be able to serve this amazing restaurant concept to all our fans?
It cheers me to think that Canadians everywhere can treat themselves to a delicious breakfast thanks to us. My heart fills with happiness knowing that I had a hand in this incredible morning gastronomy revolution.
Dear Louise D., I learn from your comment that you live in Saint-Sauveur, minutes away from the coffee shop where I write. Enjoy Mexico, its sun and beaches. Will I ever go back to Riviera Maya myself one of these days, where I’d escape to during those years of strenuous work? It’s strange how I’m just content with my simple life today. Writing fills me with happiness, I guess. Writing and reflecting upon the time I have left; thinking about this last quarter of a century that is softly pushing me towards the exit door. I often think about it, especially when I drive. I have to tell you a very dark secret, a fear that is nearly impossible to tame. And, I must confess, I have never talked about this with anyone. Why am I sharing this with you, my dear readers? I’m telling you because you have been the most caring listeners in the world to me. And maybe a few of you will know how to disperse this awful fear.
My mother died in a head-on collision with a big truck that was transporting lambs to the slaughter house. The accident happened right at the green road side announcing “CAPLAN,” the village where my poor mother was born. My mom had decided, the summer after my father passed, to take my kids to Gaspésie. None of the three children suffered any physical harm, but my mother died on impact. In that moment, when I had to identify her broken face at the morgue, the fear that I would know the same fate immediately entered my bones. And I can’t help but think about it when I drive; not every time I get behind the wheel, but often enough. I drove across Gaspésie last summer. I did think about it, but you were right there with me, in my car, and I was far too busy talking to you and thinking about new tales to regale you with to fear anything.
Come to think of it, the fear does seem to have faded a little. Now that I write regularly, you are always here with me, as I share what I see and feel. Truth is, I’ve come to think of you as my guardian angels.
I often get the feeling that a superior form of intelligence takes over me when I write. By doing what I love, I am learning to trust and take a chance on that inner voice and the message it dictates to me. The universe’s creative energy is within our reach. Imagine a huge warehouse where we can harvest as many pearls as we want. I daydream about it often. Writing fulfills me and the more I darken the blank page on the screen with words, the more I learn to trust my intuition. I often seem to hear the words running through my head, as if I were no longer alone at the keyboard; as if I were possessed by someone who absolutely needs to express themselves. I am learning to channel my creative energies as I write. And I often take risks, explore hidden areas of my personality or confess unspoken facts like I did today thinking back to the death of my mother and the dread it instilled in me.
My destination is always the same, but it is composed of a thousand and one detours bringing me life’s surprises that I embrace. The barriers of my imagination, so far apart from one another, are almost invisible. But be aware, imagination speaks, tells tales, converses and discusses, just like the plastic crows perched in a row on top of my kitchen cabinets. Imagination is a wonderful addition to real life and sometimes proves to be the tastiest part of the story. I sometimes find myself telling rather eccentric tales to my dear plastic-feathered friends.
— “So, dear crows! Tell me, what will we have for dinner?”
— “Yesterday’s leftovers or a nice cod filet?”