The visit to Ottawa brought back memories of my time working there like a dog and how I ended up living with the former federal New Democractic Party leader, Audrey McLauglin.
In 1994-95 I was seconded to Ottawa to complete the field testing and piloting of a new program, who’s name I’ll withhold. My specific function was to edit the manuals associated with this program, criss-cross the country interviewing pilot sites, end users, national associations/organizations and universities to ensure we had captured the most relevant research for the program and to better include issues of diversity and accessibility. ANYway, I was staying at the Cartier Suites Hotel my first 3 months there when my supervisor informed me I needed to find cheaper accommodations during my secondment. I was a tad miffed at this. Sure the company was paying my room and board, but the Cartier was nice and I didn’t want to move on top of all the travel I was doing. I truly felt homeless.
So I’m sitting at the Mayflower Restaurant with Berkeley Louise (see post below) one morning reviewing galleys and complaining about having to find a place to live when she says, ‘Oh, why don’t you come over and meet Audrey as I’m moving out at month end”.
“Sure!” I say, “that’d be great.”
“Audrey will want to meet you beforehand as she is a very private person,” Berkeley Louise advised.
Understandably, I’m fine with this and we agree I’ll head over to James Str on Sunday at 9am to meet Berkeley Louise who will introduce me to Audrey.
Now, key to this story is the fact at no point has Berkeley Louise mentioned the last name of the Audrey I’m meeting.
Sunday morning, I’m standing at XX James Str banging on the front door. No answer. I’m ringing the doorbell. Nothing. I’m checking the slip of paper with the address on it. Yup, right house. Damn Berkeley Louise, I’m thinking.
I decide to go around back and hammer on the backdoor. I hear a “hold on” and then the door opens. And there before me is New Democratic Party Leader, Audrey McLauglin. She is wearing a pink polyester housecoat with a sort of doily trim around it. Her hair is up in rollers like your grandma used to wear and there are noticeable spaghetti stains all over the housecoat.
“You must be Brent,” she says smiling.
“You’re Audrey McLauglin,” I exclaim, cursing Berkeley Louise under my breath.
She nods and says “Yes, please com’on in”.
And in I went.
We had coffee and traded stories about Berkeley Louise’s brilliance and eccentricity. In short, we hit it off. A week later I moved in. And what is strange is that for the year I lived there, Audrey and I were probably in the house together all of 10 times. I was travelling, she was travelling (her riding was the Yukon) and busy with the transition of the leadership to Alexa McDonough. We never once spoke about politics, which I think was cool and I respected her for that (especially since I’m not an NDP fan). We communicated through notes left by the front door most often, and fought with Daniel and the frat boys next door about noise levels. And I always felt safe as Audrey had a RCMP team assigned to her as leader of the NDP. She would walk up to Parliament Hill each morning and you’d see the unmarked car inching along with her. Too funny.
Monday’s food: stuff bought in the Byward Market
While in Ottawa, G and I bought some items difficult to get here … even at the St. Lawrence Market.
(front left to right) Fleur de Sel du Guerande; Poivre Vert from Madagascar; Coeur de Louis Le Coutances; dried ancho chili
(back left to right) Les Jardins du Chef Mini Mesclun (from Blainville, QB); Traditions d’Ille de France Culinares Fleurs de Bluets and Petales du Safron
close-up of the micro greens
- Fleur del Sel: a finishing salt, slightly pink in colour and with a very mild odour of violets (great on chocolate or on bread buttered with unsalted butter). It is hand harvested in the village of Guerande in July and August each year.
- Madagascar Green Peppercorns: we’ll make a green peppercorn cream sauce with this for veal. Green ppcs are fine and spicy with hints of fruits and anise.
- Le Coutances cheese: a double-cream, soft-ripened cheese from Normandy (and notoriously difficult to find) which develops with age. Great on it’s own and with apples. We use this when making Apple Napoleon.
- Dried Ancho: famous mexican chili which is very mild and has a plumy, raisiny taste. They are about a 3 or 4 on a heat scale of 1-10; they are the dried form of the Poblano pepper. I’ll be making a mole sauce with these tonight.
- Mini Micro Greens: also very difficult to find. These are organically grown in Quebec and have edible flower petals in the mix. Les Jardins du Chef only retails at one spot in Quebec and at a wee spec of a store in the Byward Market. Otherwise, they only sell direct to restaurants.
- Fleurs de Bluets/Petales du Safron: ridiculously expensive (though G got them half price) and used as garnish and for soups/stock and cream sauces.