Many years ago I was a young chef running a kitchen herself for the very first time. I was in beautiful algonquin park. My fellow comrade from my previous gig at the courtyard restaurant, Michael Hay, was also off in the wilderness. He was in British Columbia, cooking for tree planters. Every once in a while he would get internet access and we would exchange emails about the trails and tribulations that faced us now that we were in charge.
That summer in Algonquin park I was fairly isolated. We were about an hour from town but I didnt drive. Lucky for me, amazon.ca delivers everywhere. I cant remember the exact number, but I believe I purchased something like 30 odd books in the 6 months I was there. But only one stands out.
I didnt get Stanely Park from amazon. It arrived one day, unexpected, from my friend Michael Hay. Inside it says:
Stanely park by timothy taylor is a wonderfully creative book with a lot of humour and insight. But the thing I ( and likely michael as well) took away from it was ” bloods and crips”.
In the second paragraph of the second chapter Taylor shares this :
Crips versus Bloods. Crip cooks were critical. They fused, they strove for innovation, they were post-national. They called themselves artists. They tended to stack things like mahi mahi and grilled eggplant in wobbly towers glued together with wasabi mayonnaise, and were frequently suspicious of butter. Vegetarianism was an option for crips but not for bloods. Blood cooks were respectful of tradition, nostalgic even. Canonical, interested in the veracity of things culinary, linked to “local” by the inheritance or adoption of a culture, linked to a particular manner and place of being.
Michael and I would spend years discussing which gang we belonged. For me, my beginning was definitely in the crip camp. My mentor Marc Lepine is a near perfect crip. My current boss, chris lord, a perfect blood. A couple years ago I left a really good job at a really good restaburant and started working in a pub. This confused everyone. But I didnt leave atelier for the manx. I left atelier because I did not love what I was doing. I didnt want to make that food anymore and I was bored of it. I took the job at the manx because my dream jobs werent hiring, and I needed a job. Besides, I figured, the pub gave me the chance to work a bit less and figure it all out. I thought working there, being a blood would make me happy. It did not. I was back in crip territory within 2 months.
My understanding of crips vs bloods has always been this : crips cook for a few, bloods cook for everyone. And somewhere along the way, that became my goal. To be a cook who cooks for everyone. To make people happy. With food. And I realized that blood do not cook for everyone.
My passion for food had been in hibernation. I even briefly considered changing careers. And then, strangely, in the oddest of places I found it again. A style of food that is creative, challenging, and truly for everyone. Food I am excited to make and to share. Food that can change minds and perceptions. Plant-based, animal-free food.
A bloodless blood.
Disclaimer: I dont want to deal in labels. Am I vegan? I dont know. I have been for the last 5 days, but I dont think the way I feed myself requires me to put a label on. Like everything else in life, I will deal with it one day at a time.