“You’re doing another guest blog?”


“What day is it?”

“Violins and ice cream.”


I turn on “viola artist, activist, and musical anarchist,” Christen Lien’s It’s Not a Violin album and sit down to contemplate the task at hand.

Ice cream.  And violins.

What the hell?  It’s 365 Foods, no? Did I draw the short straw? When the ladies were “offering up” guest blogging days, did they go through the calendar, spot December 13th, rub their hands together and say, “Oh, perfect, let’s make Rumon eat the violin!”?

I figured perhaps I was missing something (not uncommon) – perhaps “violins” are not only somewhat squeaky musical instruments, but also somewhat tasty … somethings.  So I asked The Internet.  No luck, apart from reminding myself I need to eat a frog one of these days, finding restaurants to visit on my next trip to Vancouver, Toronto or Phoenix, and a quote or two to boot:

“A world without tomatoes is like a string quartet without violins.”

–  Laurie Colwin, Home Cooking

Does the year include other days on which helpless guest bloggers (and unsuspecting foodies) will be asked to eat part of an orchestral string section, woody instruments in general, or simply something-not-typically-considered-food? This is what I found (to my dismay):

  • Food Checkout Day: February 6th – Okay, also likely inedible, though if combined with February 11th there might be some consumption involved. And, for the rant, err, record, I can understand this one being on the 1st of January or 31st of December, symbolically getting this rolling, but the first week of February? Random. Oh wait, it’s also Nutella Day.  Scratch it off the list.
  • Don’t Cry Over Spilled Milk Day: February 11th – milk (food product) as cliche philosophy is still food? Another cross-listed day, this time with Peppermint Patties…which would go lovely with Nutella, no?
  • International No Diet Day: May 6th – does this mean eat nothing or eat whatever the hell you want, without restriction?  Forget it, May 6th is sending mixed messages – eat some Crepes Suzette (nope, me neither)
  • Pick Strawberries Day: May 20th – A non-food day that’s a food day if you’re like me and picking strawberries means leaving the field with nothing to show for your efforts apart from a distended stomach, but in any event also Quiche Lorraine day (what’s with the food ladies? Where’s my food? And no, you can’t suggest the Reuben Rumon – too obvious.)
  • Kitchen Klutzes of America Day: June 13th – Aha! I definitely don’t want to eat a Kitchen Klutz.  Hell, no thank you to eating anyone, klutz, kitchen or otherwise.  Pity the fool who’s blogging on June 13th, to say nothing of their “meal.”
  • Cheese Sacrifice Purchase Day: July 29th – What does that even mean?
  • TV Dinner Day: September 10th – Okay, I guess on some descriptions that’s a food, but … *shudder*
Okay, so on the assumption cannibalism isn’t part of this year-of-eating, I’m on my own having to write about the national day of eating something more fibrous than a bale of straw.  Thank god for the ice cream accompaniment to help wash down the violin.  But now, what flavour?
Wouldn’t want to be discordant.

Yes, eating a violin would be stupid (though perhaps not all that more stupid than some of the other things I’ve consumed along the way).  What to do?  I checked to see if the Victoria Symphony was playing – sneaking in an ice cream cone seemed the perfect, if not VSO-endorsed, solution.  There was a concert playing, but Christmas pops, not my t’ing, wasn’t sufficiently compelling to risk a lifetime ban from the Royal Theatre.

So I headed downtown, seeking inspiration.  Bracing against the unseasonably cold Pacific Northwest weather, eating even ice cream on its own seemed stupid.  (As an aside: December 13th?!? For an ice cream day???  This list must have been generated in Florida.)

Nonetheless I swung by a local gelateria, heavily trafficked by the fair weather tourists and peered in the glass cases.  Rows of ice cream and sorbet, all the colours of the rainbow, all completely untouched, all left behind as I walked back out the door, uninspired, unenthusiastic and somewhat deterred.  With time running out and an empty cone of ideas, I wandered directionless along the sidewalk, dodging Christmas shoppers.

And then, approaching my favourite public haunt, wishing for Hot Toddy day rather than ice cream and violins, I heard it: the sweet refrain of bow over string, warm Christmas carols being coaxed from a cold fretless neck.  Looking up I saw sisters Malia and Tanisha standing at the entrance of Bastion Square, musically promoting the Capital Festival Christmas series of events, which runs December 18th-23rd.  I stopped, smiled, and let Malia’s music warm me up, distracted from the challenge of my day.  As the tune shifted from Christmas carol to Loreena McKennitt, it hit me, blockhead that I am: she’s playing a violin! What serendipity.  Now just back to the gelateria and this blog will write itself, I thought.

But before I returned down the road I reflected: this 365 Foods exercise isn’t so much about the eating as it is about the preparation of and attachment to the foods involved.  I’d considered trying to make ice cream for today, but lacked the necessary tools (and skill).  Simply buying a random gelato felt like a cop-out.  I turned back to the young sisters shivering in the chilly air, smiling nonetheless while they played and pamphleteered, promoting voluntarily a series of small local events.

And then it struck me: notwithstanding the time of year, here’s my thread – localism.  Slow and local is an integral part of the Vancouver Island culinary culture, just as the local arts scene – growing every day – finds its grounding and connectivity in the community that populates and patronizes it.

This is what my day would be about: the unexpected pleasures of being a part of this community.  Malia’s violin had appeared as a welcome surprise as I searched for this blog’s narrative thread; now I’d pay forward that welcome surprise and bring home to my kitchen and my bride an unexpected dessert:

The rest of the story, visually retold, below.  Thank you to the Ladies of 365 for another – unexpectedly enjoyable – opportunity to guest.