How should I remember these past four years?
As one of the many graduating staff members at the Silhouette, I think a lot of us are thinking and obviously writing about how to make sense of the past four or more years at McMaster and at the paper. My life has been structured around the weekly publication schedule since first year.
The paper has also helped me realize some of most important passions: writing and food. I realize that even when I leave here, I want to continue to write about the stories behind the food in this city: the restaurants, cafes, candy shops, bakeries and convenience stores.
The truth is that I’m just getting started in food writing. There’s too much technique and history to learn in and out of the kitchen before I can really call myself a food writer.
For now, and for the last time, I can only share my story with decent writing, good food and better friends.
Contrary to its sugary content, this milk tea dessert drink marked a period of growing up, and it was one of the first ways I started to explore my city through food.
Ever since I was a child, bubble tea was the “downtown treat”. Bubble tea shops were no- where to be found in the suburbs of the Hamilton mountain. When my parents and I had to stop by Jackson Square or the Farmers’ Market, we would stop by the Japanese candy and bubble tea shop, Doremi, which has since moved to Westdale as Kuma’s Candy. By my early teens, I had the freedom to bus downtown with a couple of friends. Often the sole reason for these trips were to enjoy the summer weather with a bubble tea from D’s Café.
Doremi may have moved to Westdale, and D’s is still a bit too high school to revisit, but in a clichéd, full-circle moment, there is a new bubble tea store that opened in Jackson Square this year: Justeas. While there is no shortage of these places throughout downtown, I think Justeas may legitimately be my favourite. Their golden tapioca pearls, and the best damn taro I’ve ever had helps, but really, it just feels good to still be that kid that’s found a reason to be excited about a trip to Jackson Square once in a while.
Big Dinner with a best friend — the Burnt Tongue
I met the first, and best friend I made at McMaster through the Silhouette. Rachel and I were both volunteer News writers, and she was pretty sure I hated her until I invited her to get coffee and work on a philosophy paper at Democracy (a move that was so cliché Hamilton hipster-wannabe that I still kind of cringe about it.)
Nonetheless that move kind of marked a safe way of getting to know each other: go out, get food and drink at a new place. I got to show some of my favourite places, and learn about new ones along the way, and she would eventually return the favour when she took me around her favourite spots in Toronto.
By second year we were close, and we both knew that we were both going through an extremely difficult semester. I felt incredibly lonely, and one day, to kind of kill time and to take a break from campus food, I bussed downtown during a heavy snowstorm, bundled up and miserably walking down James Street until I got into the Burnt Tongue.
I realize that even when I leave here, I want to continue to write about the stories behind the food in this city: the restaurants, cafes, candy shops, bakeries and convenience stores.
I ordered a large butternut squash soup with apple and a bun for the side. I sat myself at the bench outlooking the snow. It was sweet, hearty and cozy. It reminded me of the soup that I would only ever get when some extended family members brought it to Thanksgiving dinner, and it was maybe this memory that reminded me that this meal needed to be shared.
I later wrote an article about the business in the paper, but Rachel and I made a regular habit of coming to the Burnt Tongue just before my Thursday night classes. This tradition partially inspired the creation of our Culinary Class Acts section, which has since included nearly every restaurant that we have regularly visited as part of our own Big Dinner, and even staff dinner outings.
By third year, Thursday night dinners together turned to Tuesdays, as a means of getting us out of The Silhouette office at a reasonable time. The principle though has always been the same: no matter how good or bad the week’s been, we always made time to share a meal together.
Pokeh + Golden Brown
The moment that I knew that there was something in me that wanted to pursue food writing was after writing one of the features in second year. After fumbling in the role for some time, I finally put out a piece that I felt wholly satisfied with: a double feature showcasing the Farmers’ Market’s Pokeh bar, and the Barton Street Korean take-out restaurant Golden Brown.
Pokeh’s Hawaiian seafood rice bowls was the first stand of its kind in Canada. Salar’s farmers market experiment was a resounding success, and that summer, Poke restaurants were popping up all over Toronto.
We were one of the first publications to write about them. That was a proud moment, but more importantly, I think the reason why I come back to this piece so often is that it also highlighted a potentially role we could play in the community. Our food articles did well. We could cover emerging restaurants in the city, while still paying mind to our student audience. There was an active conversation behind every piece of food writing that you read in the past two years.
But there is really one reason why I keep going back to this article.
Golden Brown closed just a few months after the piece was published.
We could cover emerging restaurants in the city, while still paying mind to our student audience. There was an active conversation behind every piece of food writing that you read in the past two years.
Julia and her son, Jake, were the two loveliest restaurant owners I’ve ever met. Their space reflected that, with every detail painstakingly decorated and crafted by the owner. Jars of homemade kimchi lined the walls. It was take-out place, but for those who chose to seat at the one table in the room, it really made you feel as though you were invited into someone’s home. I really wish that some of the friends that I’ve made since then could have tasted that sweet and spicy Korean fried chicken on top of a perfect bed of white rice. I didn’t know it could be done, but Julia perfected white rice and I wish my friends today could have had just one more bulgogi gimbob.
I miss them dearly, but I am forever grateful that Julia shared her story with us, and indirectly showed how much love and passion I can have for trying to tell these stories. I am happy to have had a job that let me share these stories and make friends that helped make these articles possible every single week.
Everything that the Silhouette has given me: a passion for writing, a greater love for this city, these amazing friends and four years of fond memories with them — I will choose to remember it through the food we ate and the people that I lucky enough to share it with.