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Brunch with Hipsters at Aunties and Uncles

My brother is visiting from SF with his girlfriend. I always like it when my brother comes to visit. This is the second time he decided to arrange his trip schedule in such a way that he spent some time in TO with me and M before we headed out to the country to join our parents. My brother and I used to have a terrible case of sibling rivalry but sometime, somehow, in the process of growing up, I actually started to enjoy spending time with him. And L is just fun.

I took work off Friday afternoon in order to actually be able to spend some time with them. We spent the day romping around the city, drinking coffees, checking out hipster knitting stores (post to come!), and riding street cars. To set our appropriate mood, we had breakfast at the most hipster place we know of in the city. (Not that we know of many hipster restaurants or haunts. We aren’t particularly hipster.)

Aunties and Uncles is one of those restaurants built into a hollowed out, 100-year-old house. Upstairs, you can still see where there used to be walls separating the space into bedrooms. It seems a little grungy, a feeling confirmed by the state of the bathroom upstairs. If I remember correctly from our first visit, the sink was held up by an old cane and the presence of the old, cracked and dirty family shower was a little disconcerting.

But in reality, all of that is part of the charm of the restaurant. It’s filled with authentic 50s memorabilia, covered in a thin layer of dust as if the whole place has been carefully preserved in time. Tables and chairs are mismatched, beat up, well-worn. Old suitcases, posters, toys, and knickknacks are packed up to the ceiling. The place is adorable.

Unfortunately, the service seems to be a little less adorable. We didn’t mind the wait to get a table. The entry way is rather cramped and, with staff moving between the rooms, inconvenient for everyone. And, we didn’t mind the wait for our order to be taken, especially since they were relatively quick with the coffees. We did, however, mind the wait for our food. Mostly because they forgot it. Or, rather, just mine. J and L sat with their food infront of them waiting for 5 minutes until I told them to go ahead and eat. My food was nowhere to be seen and our waiter hadn’t come around in a while. 10 minutes later, he made his rounds, saw the empty table infront of me and turned in annoyance toward the kitchen. Since the kitchen is open to the rest of the restaurant, we quite audibly head the cursing response of the kitchen staff.

5 minutes later my BLT finally sat infront of me.

Simple, delicious. Mmm… bacon.

And that salad? Their vinegrette is delicious.

Here’s something that’s not quite so charming: they don’t take plastic. This doesn’t exactly work for someone like me who doesn’t carry cash for reasons of cash flow control — I am far less likely to get coffee or make impulse purchases on little things if I have to swipe a card to do it. It didn’t exactly work for the American and Almost-American sitting across the table from me either. I left them there and scurried down the street to the Scotiabank on the corner, spent the extra $1.50 with a cringe to withdraw cash from a bank that is not my own and scurried back so we could get away from the restaurant we had already spent too much time at.

Bottom line: They’re hipster and they know they’re hipster. But they’re friendly. It’s a warm, relaxed atmosphere. My stomach thought maybe a little too relaxed. But they make good breakfast food and just for that, the next time an almost-hipster friend comes to town, or even a not-at-all-hipster friend comes to visit, I’d gladly take them there. I’ll just remember to bring enough cash next time.

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Book Review: Late Nights on Air and White is for Witching

Considering I am essentially unemployed, and considering we’ve been camping for the past two weekends (with another shorter trip coming up this weekend), I’ve been doing a lot of reading. The past two books have been so night and day I thought I’d write some quick recommendations.

The first book. Late Nights on Air by Elizabeth Hay.

I love Canadian Literature. I’m proud of my fellow Canadians and what we can do with words. Some of my favourite books are written by Canadians who seriously know what they’re doing and make it up as they go if they don’t. But this one? I have no idea why it won the Giller Prize. It’s pretty quintessentially Canadian: the great white north, grizzly bears, canoe trips over icy lakes, and all that. The book took on the exact identity that I was always glad Canadian literature grew out of. I found it dull, the characters boring or annoying, the landscape vast and empty and boring. I suppose if you enjoy man-vs.-nature stories, you might enjoy the second half of the book, anyway. But 20 pages in, the book became a slog and I couldn’t wait to finish it.

White is for Witch by Helen Oyeyemi, on the other hand, is a confusing twist of delight from start to finish.

It’s impossible to understand what’s going on but you don’t care because the characters grab you, the language draws you in, the movement of the story keeps you engaged. Important plot points reveal themselves throughout, information that suddenly sheds new understanding on the 80 pages you’ve already read. I mainly read this book over the weekend, while attending a family campout. I was fortunate that this particular campout was pretty low-key and no one was offended that I spent a large portion of the days with my nose buried in the book. It’s a book that makes you want to be there from start to finish.

To give you an idea of the difference between these two books: it took me almost 2 weeks to finish Late Nights on Air. White is for Witching I started on Wednesday on a subway trip to visit a friend of mine downtown. I finished it this morning — not even a week.¬†And, when I go to the library later this week, I’m going to do something I haven’t done since I was a child: I’m going to find another book by the same author. Who knows, maybe I’ll discover a new answer to the question, “Who’s your favourite author?”

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