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Monthly Archives: April 2018

My short story, “Wild John”, just placed first in the open category of the 2018 Elora Writers Festival Writing Contest.

I don’t know if they do anything with the winning stories (I should probably check these things before I submit), but if I’m allowed I’ll post a copy of it for people to read at some point.

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Susan Sontag explains the appeal of instagram “poetry” in On Photography way back in 1973 – “The only prose that seems credible to more and more readers is… the raw record – edited or unedited talk; fragments or the integral texts of sub-literary documents…; self-deprecatingly sloppy, often paranoid first-person reportage. There is a rancorous suspicion in America of whatever seems literary…, which partly accounts for the new appetite for… few words and many photographs.”

Most Thursday evenings I go hang out with some guys at my friend Aaron’s house. We usually watch a movie or play a video game (no sports allowed). More importantly, one of us brings snacks, which can range from purchased fast food to gourmet homemade eats, depending on who happens to be cooking that night. It was my turn last night, and I realized that in all the years we’ve been doing this thing (something like five now), we’ve never had burgers. Not once. Ever. I decided to remedy that.

Now, here’s my position on burgers – they must be real. I don’t eat fast food burgers (if I’m eating guilty fast food it’s almost always fried chicken). I absolutely on principle never eat the frozen hockey pucks that come in packages of eight or twelve from your closest grocery store. No matter what they claim to make them from or stuff them with, frozen hockey pucks made of sirloin and stuffed with cheese and jalapenos are still, in the end, just frozen hockey pucks. I won’t even call them burgers.

The truth is, if all you did was go down to your local butcher and get a few pounds of high quality hamburger, formed them into patties (adding no seasoning of any kind), and grilled them, they’d be far better than any frozen meat product you could find in the store. And, after you factor in the time you’d spend peeling the pucks from their papers and cooking them from frozen, making them yourself wouldn’t even take that much more time or effort.

Of course, if you don’t mind some time and effort, here’s the recipe I made last night:

Mince a few cloves of garlic (more is always better), six or eight green onions, and a bunch of mushrooms. Any mushrooms will do, but the more flavourful the mushroom, the more flavourful the burger. If you use white button mushrooms, you’ll hardly notice them. If you use shitake mushrooms, you’ll notice. I prefer to use several different kinds in order to add some complexity to the flavour, but you do you.

Saute the garlic and onion in butter. When they’ve softened, add the mushrooms. Add salt and pepper. Saute until the mixture is quite dry. We don’t want to add too much moisture to the burgers. Dump the mixture into a bowl and let it cool, then add a little mustard powder, a healthy amount of grated parmesan cheese, and the beef. Mix well, then add an egg or three, until you get the consistency you want.  Form into patties (at least a full cup of mixture in each, preferably more, because nobody likes tiny, shrunken burgers).

In a new pan saute a bunch of sliced onion and garlic until softened. Add a little brown sugar and Worcestershire sauce. Cook until the onions are caramelized and make your house smell better than all the other houses on your street. Crumble in as much Stilton blue cheese as you think is wise, then double it. Stir until creamy and your house smells better than all the other houses in the known universe. The mixture will have a slightly grainy texture to it, which I like, but if that bothers you, you can always blend it in a food processor. Scoop it into a container and let it cool.

Cut nice sourdough buns in half and spread them with garlic butter. Pour a bag of deep-fried onions into a bowl. Lay out some prosciutto on a plate. Wash, thoroughly drain, and chop curly chicory endive. Put it in a bowl.

Now, get those burgers on the grill, but please – for the sake of all carnivores everywhere – do not overcook them. It gives me chest paints whenever I’m over at someone’s house, and the designated “grill master” just keeps cooking the burgers into desiccation. The guy opens the bbq (and yes, it’s invariably a guy doing the damage), pokes at meat already cooked far too long, asks those standing near whether the burgers “look safe” yet, tries to get a thermometer reading, then finally decides to leave them “a few more minutes, just to be sure”.

Do not be this person. If you have good quality meat from a good quality butcher, and if you have any clue whatsoever about kitchen hygiene, you should be able to eat those burgers raw. You won’t, of course, because they’ll taste so delicious grilled, but the point of grilling isn’t to make them safe. It’s to make them delicious. Frozen hockey pucks need to be made safe. Real burgers need to be made delicious. Never forget this.

Right, so as the burgers are grilling, also throw the buns face down on the grill and let those faces get a bit crunchy. Spread the bottom of the bun with caramelized onion and blue cheese mixture (don’t skimp). Add a handful of deep fried onion and a handful of endive. Add the burger, sizzling. Add two or three strips of prosciutto. Put the top on. Eat that bad boy.

If you can go back to eating hockey pucks after that, we need to talk.

The Go Big and Go Home Poetry Tour comes to The Bookshelf on April 28 at 8:00 PM, with Fawn Parker, JC Bouchard, Megan Harrison, and JM Francheteau. They’ll be joined by local poets Mike Chaulk and yours truly. It would be great if you could join us.

You can also come by 130 Dublin Street North at 6:00 PM that night to have some dinner, chat with the readers, and get yourself in that poetry mood.

I’ll have the three broadsheets I did up for Kazoo! Printfest and Orangeville’s Day of the Poets. I’ll also have copies of Trumped and CanCon. $15 gets you a copy of all five, so bring a few bucks with you.

Some notes about the other readers:

Fawn Parker is the author of Looking Good and Having a Good Time (Metatron Press) and Weak Spot (Anstruther Press). Her poems and fiction appear in Cosmonauts Avenue, Peach and more. Read her work here – https://www.peachmgzn.com/fawn-parker

JC Bouchard is the author of the forthcoming book Let This be the End of Me (Hybrid Heaven Press).  His poems appear in Prism, Arc, BookThug’s BafterC and more. Read his work here – http://puritan-magazine.com/might-have-been-jc-bouchard/

Meghan Harrison is author of a forthcoming chapbook with Rahilla’s Ghost press. Her poems appear in Queen Mob’s Teahouse, The Mackinac, and more. Read her work here – http://www.themackinacmagazine.com/meghan-harrison.html

JM Francheteau is author of the chapbook Kids (Hurtin’ Crue Press). His work appears in Grain, Arc, CV2 and others. Read his work here – http://puritan-magazine.com/snowflake-jm-francheteau

Mike Chaulk’s work has appeared in PRISM: International, filling station, Matrix, Up Here, and Lemon Hound, and was shortlisted for the 2014 Robert Kroetsch Award for Innovative Poetry. Read his work here – https://vocamus.net/friends/blog/2016/10/12/ray-romano-patron-saint-trivial-comforts-mike-chaulk

Dreamers Creative Writing, a new writers’ resource site based in Guelph and run by Guelph author Kat McNichol, just posted a little story of mine, “Julia’s Garden“. It’s one of several pieces of wildly different lengths and styles that I’m writing for a project called Curious-City, in which socially or economically marginalized people encounter miracle-like phenomena beyond their control. Have a look.