I hope everybody had an excellent Canada Day! Ottawa is indeed the best place in the country to be for Canada Day – for one night of the year, the downtown core is magically transformed into an atmosphere more befitting to a livelier and friendlier place, say, somewhere in the heart of Latin America, or Hong Kong, where I hail from.
But my favourite time to be in the city is the month of May, when it feels like the city finally awakens from hibernation, shaking off the dust and dew that collected during the Winter and Spring. Starting with Jane’s Walk (free guided walks in the city featuring local flora and fauna, named after Jane Jacobs), followed by the Tulip Festival (a gift in perpetuity from the Dutch Royal Family), FestiBiere (a Gatineau festival celebrating artisan beers), Ottawa Race Weekend (biggest race of the year), and ending with the Great Glebe Garage Sale (giant-block-party-garage-sale) on the last Saturday of the month. That’s just naming the most established annual events and not counting the concerts, one-off craft shows, flower and plant sales… etc.
It’s almost like the city is trying to woo its citizens back into its embrace after each deep freeze. And it works.
In preparation for my move in June, I set off the morning of the Great Glebe Garage Sale bright-eyed and in love with the city. I was looking for inspiration on organizing spices and grains in a visually appealing but also practical way. In a word, I was building a pantry!
During the walk to the Glebe, which is a stately and affluent yet down-to-earth neighbourhood immediately south of Centretown, my co-conspirator and I mentally did an inventory of the kitchen. We asked ourselves, what kind of grains, spices, and condiments do we buy in bulk, and how did we want to store it? We quickly decided that clear containers (glass or good quality plastic) was the way to go – so we could easily see how much was left and if we had gained uninvited friends. We also decided that we needed large ones for rice, flour, quinoa, and couscous – our staple starchy grains – a few medium sized ones for things like sugar and barley, and many small ones for spices that we purchase in bulk.
For a total of $4 and a mere hour and a half covering maybe a kilometer, we ended our hunt with our sacs full and arms heavy. Compare that to a trip to Ikea (with a rental car) where a glass container with lid costs between $4 and $8 each! We laughed all the way home.
But before we got home, we passed by this little gem, which I would like to share with you in the Ottawa series as Ottawa Thing #2.
From attending events at the Glebe Community Centre, I always knew there was some kind of a kitchen in the building. But it was never open whenever I was there. So of course when I saw the sign in front of the beautiful wooden door, my curiosity demanded that we stop and check it out. We entered not knowing what to expect, and were completely surprised.
The building which the Pantry resides in (the Community Centre) is modern, spacious, and bright. But once you step inside the Pantry (about 600 square feet?) you are transported to another time altogether. It is darker, with the walls filled with wooden objects and knick nacks, yet cozy, thanks to the mismatched furniture that exudes a sort of prairie pride. A buffet heavy with picked flowers and freshly baked goods still in their pans separates the kitchen from the guests, and indeed I felt like a guest at someone’s home, rather than a customer.
We shared a delicious strawberry shortcake with a grandma-made quality, and we saw that they served sandwiches and soups as well.
The man who greeted us and took our order had a light English accent – further adding to the feeling that we were no longer in Ottawa and magically transported back in time. The atmosphere was delightful. If not for their retiree and mothers-at-home hours, I would go there more often, sporting my pinafore and saddle shoes.