There was an error in this gadget

Sunday, January 23, 2011

The 365 Project- Capturing Little Pieces of Time

It's-33C with windchill at this moment in Toronto. I guess the people from Manitoba don't consider this very cold out in their province, since they do the -40's fairly frequently.
It's so lovely outside though, with brilliant sunshine. Makes me want to go out gallivanting in the city. Sunshine has been hard to find over the recent couple weeks with some horrid wet, slushy snow, in between some beautiful white snowy days with the kind of snow that crunches under your boots.
I would love to go out in this sunshine, but the thought of bloody nostrils keeps me indoors today.
Besides, I have not written on my blog for a while now, so it's as good an excuse as any to stay in and update.

I braved -33C to run out on to the balcony and take this shot which I may put up on my photoblog here:   if I don't find anything better by tonight. Pity, the light is so good for once.

I have been working on the 365 Project for 207 days now and it's been gripping me in a way that is unexpected. I really started it because it is a way of keeping a photo diary. My pictures help me tell a story, (not that anybody cares). But they tell my story, and my views of this city that I make my home. I've seen the same scene in other people's photos and they're alike, but they're different. We see the same things differently. It's a different perspective, from a different angle, or at a different time of day, or season. Pictures have moods. Pictures are emotive.
I love about this project, that I can look at people's photos from all over the world, and see parts of their cities and neighbourhoods that you don't see in the tourist brochures. It's a stranger's little eye on something special to him. And no one would know about what he saw, until he published it up on his photo blog or diary. And when we write about the photos, we capture not just the picture, but the thought we had in that moment.
And some little bug just got immortalized because we put him out in the public pixelated space.
I like the amateurish random shots of plant and animal life, that some people do, as much as the really sophisticated ones that the serious photographers put out there. Some people on the project go into great details about white balance, and texture and composition. And others just want to capture a scene that made up part of their day.I am in the latter category with my point and shoot camera. But I would at some point, like to learn how to take more professional photos as well. And you can bet that despite proper training, I would still want to tell a story.

Tomorrow is my birthday. Wow, that came around rather fast. Time accelerates as we grow older. There's just not enough of it to do all the things we did not get done when we took for granted that we had all the time in the world. So much to see, and savour, and listen to, and  care about.
I have to do something special every day, something that makes me feel good. Then I can look back and say every day was a good day.
This was a summer day this year:

And this was Fall

Monday, January 3, 2011

Yirgacheffe Coffee at Ethiopiques

Coffee has become a curiosity for me since I saw the doc "Black Coffee" over the Christmas holidays.It piqued my interest in a beverage which I don't actually drink throughout the day, Canadian style. You won't see me walking around with a latte anywhere. However my interest did take a turn last summer when I tried some Greek coffee and became so enamored of the taste that I found out how to brew my own, and bought the grind and paraphernalia to make it. I make a rather good cup!

I guess 2010 was my 'coffee awakening' year, as I became more discriminating in my taste and discovered my likes and dislikes. I don't much like the chains, not because they are chains (as seems to be a popular reason not to patronise the big ones), but because I don't much like the blends they serve.
So now I have this desire to sample coffee varieties and in much the same way as one samples wine.
I am just beginning on my journey of discovery and hope my education will be much enhanced by the end of this new year.

I have a very long way to go, but I do believe that I will probably not be able to drink huge cups at a time, but savour the sweetness of strong rich brews, in tiny cups.

So I heard about the Yirgacheffe coffee on the "Black Coffee" doc and decided to try Ethiopiques at Church and Dundas in downtown Toronto( to find the beans. They did have Yirgacheffe and actually serve it free with dinner on Thursdays.
Here's a corner spot in Ethiopiques:

I met Senai ( her name means "Little crutch") and Enat (means  "Mother"), who were kind enough to invite me for a complimentary cup, and to chat about the coffee.
Senai explained that Ethiopian coffee (from one of the oldest coffee drinking cultures known), is meant to be appreciated after a spicy meal rather than drunk solo, North American style. I take that to mean it is not consumed for warmth, but to complete the flavours of a hearty, spicy meal.
So the ladies were kind enough to serve me some hot lentil soup with the coffee.
The beans are roasted on the spot, so be prepared for a wait and a very pungent aroma preceding your cup.
I took several photos of my experience  at Ethiopiques to capture the process.
This is a photo of the roasting beans which Senai brought out of the kitchen to show me:

Then they pound the beans to a grind, which is then shoved into a clay pot with a long neck and spout. This is the pot which was brought out to me:

Cold water is then poured into the clay pot. It renders a better flavour than hot water. Then the coffee is brought to a boil and taken off the heat as the brew begins to boil. An experienced brewer can tell just how short  a time it should be left on the heat, so as not to become too bitter.

Here's my steaming coffee being poured into the espresso-sized cup.

I would say that the Yirgacheffe reminds me of the Greek coffee brew. There's more in the cup though, as the Ethiopians strain the grounds out, while the Greeks leave the grounds in, so you drink the top off the sediment.The flavour comes from the method of brewing as much as from the bean itself. It certainly is a far cry from the coffees we get from the chains!
And Senai painted an Ethiopian morning for me:
The coffee-making process is central to community between the women in an Ethiopian village.  One awakens to the sounds of coffee beans being pounded, and the rich aroma wafting through the huts. The men have arleady left for the work day and the women and children are in the village. The sounds of the coffee-making call some of the women to gather at one of their huts, where the brew is consumed while the women chat about what's happening in their lives (since the last time they met, yesterday).

Howard Schultz, President and CEO of Starbucks attempted to bring a parallel, but different sense of 'community' to the coffee shops of North America, when he purported to re-create the Italian espresso cafes in  the North American context.The coffee shops are supposed to be the 'Third place" where we spend a lot of our lives, home and work being the first and second.
The gathering of Ethiopian women may not be the third, but the 'second place' in that culture.
I don't think the Starbucks experience has managed to really create the feeling of community in the coffee shops.
But the role of coffee in bringing people together is certainly an interesting story...