A cafe day

“I drew you a heart,” she said showing me the milk frothed in my coffee as she delicately placed one at a time the items from her tray onto the table where I was sitting. The collection was perfect: a green glass carafe of water, a short glass, my coffee, a sugar jar, and a basket holding a ma’amoul.

For months I have been meaning to stop at Le Zigoto – ever since a friend told me that the cafe customizes each cup of hot chocolate to suite the customer’s desired richness – and now that I’ve been I want to go back every day. It sounds so trite to say that everything was just lovely and beautiful, but I truly felt that about aspect of the cafe – the arrangement on the table, the late-day autumn sun, inside: the music, the colors. Such a small space can be intimidating, but Le Zigoto was homey.

The cafe is beautiful – a long space, furnished with mostly second-hand items. Everything appears meaningful and deliberate, from the floor, made from reclaimed wood, to the attention given to the blackboard menus.

I’m going back for the brownies. There’s a different every day, save for a single secret ingredient. Le Zigoto also serves breakfast, sandwiches, and a daily soup. Although the cafe has a Lebanese flair, I saw that almost only in the ma’amoul, traditional nut-filled Lebanese pastries. The one I tasted was pistachio, and bright green. I saved a bite for Joe. He said it tasted like pistachio shortbread.

I’ll try out a recipe soon, but for now, I have only this.


Blue, black, and raspberry jam

Saturday I ventured to Jean Talon market where I found a stand boasting crate upon crate of Quebec berries. After musing for a minute or so, I selected six bins of juicy, beautiful blueberries, raspberries, and blackberries that stained my jean shorts as I skipped home, daydreaming of homemade jam.

I love jam. I love to eat it, to spread it, to look at it, and lick it from my finger. I think jam jars are beautiful. For a long time now I have collected recipes, saving them for the day that I would have the kitchen, and tools to make jam. I don’t really have either, but Saturday I made my first batch any way.

I should confess that I have actually experimented with jam making twice before. Both times were rather makeshift. They were sort of haphazard concoctions – the first a combination of peaches, plums, and a handful of strawberries, the second, apricot and spice – roughly based on a collection of recipes, for which I did not have the proper ingredients or inclination to can.

Making the berry jam was a special experience for me. I followed the recipe with a precision I usually opt not to maintain when cooking, and I canned for the first time, which was a surprising success. I really enjoyed working with something that seemed so fragile, knowing that I couldn’t skip a step. Unlike the fruit from my first two attempts, the berries didn’t foam as they boiled. The blackberries and raspberries mostly melted away, while the blueberries endured, leaving me with a seedy and somewhat chunky homemade texture.

I’m experimenting now with beautiful ways to label the jars, and collecting new ones for next time. I’m thinking fig.

Using about 30 ounces of berries (mostly blueberries because Montreal is littered with the most wonderful tiny blueberries from Quebec’s Lac-Saint-Jean) I filled 9 125-milliliter jars.

A word of advice regarding cookware:

Make sure you have a pot large enough for the jam. A deep pot might be best to avoid splattering as the fruit boils. Just don’t make it too deep – you want to be able to stir and mash the fruit easily. A very tall pot works best to boil the jars, and you’ll only need a small saucepan to sanitize the lids.

Blue, Black, and Raspberry Jam


  • 30 ounces mix of fresh blueberries, blackberries, and raspberries
  • 1 1/2 – 2 cups white sugar
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice


  • Mix berries with sugar and lemon in a large bowl. Let sit for half an hour to two hours at room temperature. Stir occasionally.
  • Place a saucer in the freezer to use later.
  • Fill a large pot with water, cover, and bring to boil. Reduce heat to low. Either place a metal rack or extra screw bands at the bottom, or a towel once the water is boiled, to protect the jars from direct heat.
  • Wash jars, screw bands, and lids with hot, soapy water.
  • Fill jars with very hot water.
  • Place lids in a small saucepan. cover with cold water. simmer. turn off heat.
  • Transfer fruit to a large saucepan. on medium-high heat bring mixture to boil, stirring occasionally. Mash with a potato masher. Boil gently at medium heat, stirring often, until mixture begins to thicken, about 18 minutes.
  • Remove saucepan from heat.
  • Drain hot water from jars and rest them on a flat surface. Ladle jam into each jar, leaving 3/4-inch space at top.
  • Clean rim of each jar with a cloth, but try to keep the cloth from rubbing inside the jars.
  • With tongs, lift lids from their pot one at a time. Shake dry and place atop jars. Seal with a screw band.
  • Place jars in the large pot. be sure each is covered with at least one inch of water. Cover the pot and bring the water to a boil. reduce heat and boil gently for ten minutes. Turn off the heat and wait five minutes. Use tongs to remove each jar without tilting. Place upright on a towel and let the jam cool to room temperature.

some jam-making and canning tips:

  • To test if your jam is gelled: before you begin actually making the jam, place a saucer in the freezer. When your fruit has thickened in the pot, dribble a bit onto the the cold saucer, and return to the freezer for one minute. Remove the saucer and jam from the freezer. If the jam wrinkles when you poke it it is ready for canning.
  • Protecting the jars: You should have something in the bottom of the pot with the cans that protects them from touching direct heat. Recipes I looked at suggested a rack. I did not have one and found a dish towel worked perfectly. Place it after the water has boiled.
  • Check the lids for seal by pressing lightly on the top. The lids of sealed jars will be concave and will not move when pressed.


oh goodness here we go!

I’m blogging! Welcome to the beginning.

Blogging. It’s been on the list of things that I really want to do but cannot start until I know that I can commit for quite some time now. It’s sandwiched between running a marathon and writing a book. Both of these, I assure you, will happen.

Just so as to wipe away any scrap of mystery, let me explain what I’m doing. My mission statement, in a large nutshell:

This is my space to start writing for myself again. This is a project, an experiment, a lesson. I’m a few months out of my undergraduate degree, and after a summer of unmotivated laze I find myself erupting with innovation and a sudden craving for productivity. For the next while I will be playing in the kitchen mostly. I plan to churn through a few cookbooks, locate all those scraps scribbled with recipes, and bake and cook and learn as much as possible. Bear with me as I figure out how to write creatively again, to get my camera to take pictures I like, and figure out just what oh what I should do with myself.

And we’re off!