Thursday, September 11, 2008

Famous Canadian Authors Eating

I've been getting such a good response to my Camilla Gibb-sandwich story that I thought I'd inaugurate a new series of posts on Canadian authors whom I've seen eating or drinking in public. No one else is churning out this kind of material, so why not fill the need? We Canadianists want to know what Joseph Boyden looks like eating a slice of pizza. We want to know what Joseph Boyden looks like eating a gyro. We want to know how Joseph Boyden eats an ice cream sandwich, and we want to know how Joseph Boyden cuts his watermelon. Does he cut it down the middle, then slice it into wedges? Does he cut the meat from the rind, choping everything into steak-like triangles? Does he cut it into squares? Or does he do all three?

We must know this.

But, interestingly enough, this post isn't about Joseph Boyden. Instead I want to remember a time when I saw Jane Urquhart eating crab cakes and New England clam chowder at Captain John's Harbour Boat Restaurant in Toronto.

I was there with my grandparents, celebrating a birthday, and Urquhart was at the table across from us. She was with a man--he could have been her father or her grandfather--and they were sharing a bottle of wine and a large Caesar Salad.

Urquhart's got an appetite. But the fork kept missing her mouth, and pieces of lettuce would jam up against her cheek, leaving a smear of Caesar dressing.

My grandparents saw me watching, and wanted to know who Urquhart was.

"That's a Canadian writer," I said. "Very famous. John Metcalf loves her."

"He does?"

"Sure. Last week I heard him tell Russell Smith that she was the best thing to happen to us since Frederick Niven."


"It doesn't matter. She's just a writer. Leave it at that."

"I think that I've read her," my grandmother said. "I thought she was okay."

"She is," I said.

"I like the way that all her paragraphs end at the bottom of the page."

Urquhart managed to drop a hunk of cheesecake down the front of her dress, and when the man went to help her retrieve it she raised her chin and stuck out her tongue. "Look at that," she laughed, "straight to my tits."

Well, coming from Jane that kinda shocked me. But her grandfather-date did her one better: "What tits?" he said, drumming a rimshot with his hands.

It's not really a story, but it's something that I like to tell at parties. Jane Urquhart and a salad; Jane Urquhart and a piece of cheesecake.

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