Saturday, 21 September 2013

The best birthday ever!

I thought this year my birthday was going to be pretty ho hum. No big huge celebration. And I was okay with that. I was happy to just sit at home listening to CD's from groups that broke up thirty years ago and read a book, drink tea and do no work. That was my main objective this year. To not do any work on my birthday and to just relax and take it easy.

I managed to accomplish all of those things, and then around 3 pm I left the comfort of my condo to go to a Harvest Dinner that was taking place in a town called Sutton. En route, I picked up my friend Alicia, and we drove up there, not sure what to expect because neither of us had ever done anything like this before. (Sutton is the place I am planning to move to, so I thought that it would be a good way to celebrate my birthday: eating good food in a place where I am feeling more and more at home, even if I don't technically live there yet).

For this special dinner, Alicia and I showed up with our plates, cutlery and wine glasses in tow. (You got a discounted price on the ticket if you brought your own plates and silverware). It already felt weird to us to have to bring our own dishes so we weren't really sure what to expect. But we knew the food would be great. The dinner had been advertised on a poster I had seen a month ago stating that the meal would be made up of local farmer's produce and cooked by two chefs from the area. (One of the two chefs I had already met in person because I had eaten in her restaurant a few times on my numerous visits to Sutton, while checking out real estate with my real estate agent) Showing typical Sutton hospitality, she came out from the kitchen to chat with me to see how I was enjoying my meal when I was lunching in her restaurant. By the second time I ate at her restaurant, we had already made a connection and I felt like we were becoming friends. Her cooking is amazing so I knew that this Harvest Dinner would be an event I didn't want to miss.

There we were at the local community hall, being led to a table where many guests were already seated. It was so funny to see all these people with picnic baskets and/or bags in their laps, taking out their finest china, cloth napkins, candlesticks, and crystal wine glasses. They were really getting into the spirit of the event. As soon as we sat down, the woman next to us introduced herself and told us that the seats directly beside her were not taken and why didn't we sit there? We had wanted to give her and her group some space by leaving a seat empty between us and them. That is a very "Toronto" kind of thing to do. Always keeping a distance from people. Being warm and friendly is much more the Sutton way. It is also my way in general.

Naturally, we moved over one seat. From that point on, we became fast friends. This lovely Suttonite who goes by the name of Diane, told us all about where she lived, was excited to hear that I wanted to move into the area, started telling me about houses she knew were for sale, drew me a map, wrote down a real estate agent's name and started asking her other friends if they knew of places that were up for sale. She was saying things like: "We've got to get you up here." "You need to get rid of that Real Estate agent you have. He's no good."

Before you knew it, the whole table was getting involved in my moving plans. The man next to me was trying to convince me to move where he lives which is another town further north and east of Sutton. He was telling me all the advantages of his area, and then he told me what he did for a living. His name was Bill and he was a wood artisan who made cherrywood placemats and live-edged cheese boards, finished with hempseed oil and beeswax. When I eventually settle into my new home, I will be buying myself some of those for sure.

The food was spectacular and plentiful. Our table was called the "Carrots". Each table had a sign at the end of it with the name of a different vegetable (Kale, Broccoli, Parsnips and so on) and they called us up for getting our food by the vegetable that was on our sign. When we lost out to the Turnips, Pumpkins and Cabbage, well it was getting a bit too much to take. And when even Asparagus got to go ahead of us, Sue, one of the women from our table was (pretend) livid and went up to the announcer (who was the mayor of the town) to complain that "it was not fair" that the Carrots hadn't been called yet. It was true; we were getting pretty hungry, especially watching all those people walking by our table with their plates loaded to the brim with turkey, cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes, stuffing, salad, chick pea tagine, basmati rice, broccoli and sweet potatoes. Soon enough however, we were called and as soon as the announcer said "Carrots can go up and get their dinner" you could hear cheers, hoots and hollers instantly erupt from everyone at our table, including me of course.

Sue heard me mention that it was my birthday and (unbeknownst to me) got Alicia to spell my name on a piece of paper, and once again went to the mayor at the podium, but this time she was planning a surprise for me. (Sue is not what you would call a shy woman.)

After everyone had had their dinner and just before the dessert course was about to start, the mayor announced to the whole gathering of approximately 200 people: "There is someone here tonight who is celebrating her birthday and who has travelled all the way from Toronto to come to our Harvest Dinner". I wanted to slide under the table and disappear under the floorboards at that moment. The mayor continued, "Could Anita _______ (my last name) please stand up so we can see where she is?" I stood up. Then he asked everyone to sing "Happy Birthday" to me. I'm not joking, he did!

I stood there, dumbstruck, as 200 strangers sang to me. Oh my goodness! What a feeling that was! It was quite a humbling experience actually. Then another woman came to the microphone and asked me to come to the front of the hall to be the first to get dessert for my birthday. And a special dessert it was! Croquembouche! (French puff pastry filled with whipped cream and vanilla custard all stacked in a pyramid and drizzled with chocolate and caramelized sugar. My favourite! I could not believe it! As I went up to get my dessert, all these different people (none of whom I knew) came up to me and wished me a happy birthday. I still cannot believe it!

Alicia said "Well you're having quite the birthday aren't you?"

You can say that again! What a great day! I will remember this day for the rest of my life! I guess that is what happens when you decide to take it easy and do nothing for your birthday. All kinds of wonderful surprises pop up where you least expect them.


  1. Do you know about this other princess? See,_van_Vollenhoven-van_Eijk

    1. No but thanks for letting me know. That is quite the impressive sounding name!