ELLO?! A woman was calling out from the front of our apartment. I'd just slumped on the couch after a day of road-tripping interspersed with a gigantic hike through the Canadian wilderness. I was feeling pretty lucky to be alive. I don't think my heart rate had reached that speed since I'd first learned to walk. That, and I'd passed a yellow sign halfway with a man holding a gun outlined in red. It was in French, so I can't be certain what it said, but the graphic implied there could be hunters in the area. Which also meant there were scary animals worthy of hunting. Most of the path had turned into a slushy mud soup after the recent rains, which mean our shoes, socks and feet (all now inside the small apartment) were slowly trying to gas us to death. The last thing I wanted to do was have to rally my legs in order to leave the couch and greet this stranger. ELLO! She called again. I lay as flat and still as possible, willing my body to disappear into the pillows.
I saw her dog before I saw her. It was some kind of husky cross. To me, big dogs are kind of like ugly babies. They are not cute, but you must hide your repulsion from their deluded owners at all costs. The huge beast shot out straight towards our radioactive sneakers. A red leash followed, dragging a woman on roller blades. She had a goofy smile and her Mousey hair was tied up in a loose ponytail. Her plain clothes matched her hair, but standing out in her nose was shiny silver ring. It seemed so out of place, like eating sushi with a knife and fork. Hi! I'm Ayleen! She said. Thankfully my brother's unshakeably positive girlfriend was in the room to carry the conversation. My take on the exchange can basically be surmised into bagels. Apparently, according to Ayleen, Montreal had the best bagels on the planet. After living in New York for three months I had developed somewhat of a bagel habit. Ayleen may have had poor taste in dogs and effective methods of transport, but she seemed to know food - giving us the low down on how to curate her city's finest ingredients into the breakfast buffet of our lives.
The next morning I set out for my morning walk. I'd been tasked with collecting toppings, and mum and dad on bagels from St Viateur. My brother had been staring intently at his laptop 'working' at the time of delegation, so managed to weasel his way out of helping. It was one of those purely gorgeous spring days - warm and sunny, pollen drifting through the crisp cool air. I lingered in the park for a few extra minutes, clutching my coffee, feeling particularly grateful to be on a marvellous adventure with my beautiful family, in a gorgeous French city waiting to be explored. I took my time wandering the local supermarket, picking the freshest salmon, plumpest blueberries and a fresh whipped cream cheese.
But when I got back to the apartment, there had been a change of plan. My brother and his girlfriend had wanted coffee, so took it upon themselves to get the bagels... And all of the ingredients. Oh, I have salmon and cream cheese too, I said into the fridge. Yeah well, I got the bagels, so obviously I got all of the ingredients, my brother snapped. And you got the wrong cream cheese. No thanks, no sorry, just straight up attitude. He turned back to the computer as I started preparing our feast - angrily chopping tomatoes, crushing blueberries and slicing bagels. Just as I was spreading my first bagel with whipped blueberry cream cheese, mum asked me to go inside and get her map. Do you mind if I just have my breakfast first? I asked. All I wanted was for us all to sit down together and chat and relax. God, everything is always too hard for you isn't it?! Mum snapped. From there, everything went downhill. My brother ate at his computer, I sulked in the backyard and mum continued ranting about how selfish I was.
We obviously managed to get over it, bonding over apples in the backseat as we trekked towards Quebec. I'd eaten a hell of a lot of apples over the trip. Not only are they delicious and nutritious, they also prevented me eating bags of Doritos like each day was my last. As I crunched into my 400th, I remembered someone once telling me that the little seeds inside contained a minute dose of cyanide. I've been known to eat whole apples if I have nowhere to dispose of my core. But it's always easier to stomach shitty things when they're mostly awesome.
- Fresh smoked salmon
- Sliced heirloom tomatoes
- 1 cup European whipped cream cheese
- 1 punnet blueberries
- 2 tablespoons Canadian maple syrup
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice + extra wedges to serve
- 6-8 mixed bagels (from St Viateur!)
- For the blueberry cream cheese, start by finely chopping or smashing or processing a punnet of fresh ones.
- Combine them with half of the cream cheese, lemon juice and maple syrup.
- Slice the salmon, tomatoes and bagels and lay everything out on a big board.
- Try and devour without arguing with your loved ones.