Woman does not live by books alone

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Betsy Kepes is covering the Kingston WritersFest for the station, but even the most avid reader must eat–and Kingston offers many options. In this second post from Betsy, we join her, at least vicariously, for a Burmese dinner. –ER

Walking through Kingston and Tastes of Burma

Kingston is a busy city on a lovely weekend in September and all the waterfront hotels were full when I started looking for a place to stay. I choose an “affordable” hotel 4km out Princess Street, a place with retail on the first floor and mattresses that sloped in to a soggy middle. The price was right, though, and the staff friendly and the shower had hot water.

I decided to walk to the waterfront this morning, as a way to experience more of Kingston and to let my travelling companions have a little more time to eat the “free” continental breakfast. I’d augmented the minimalist offerings with some greek yoghurt and nectarines from the Loblaw’s across the street so I left the groceries in the hotel room  and headed off.

Laphet, a popular Burmese dish.

Fortunately, the city of Kingston has invested in sidewalks, even on the busy retail strip I walked through. After ten minutes of walking the landscape shrank to a more human scale—family-owned Vietnamese restaurants and tattoo parlors and yoga studios. The businesses become more upscale in the last kilometer before the lake—a natural foods store, boutiques, and a dog clothing and accessories store (really). I made it to the Holiday Inn just as the Taste of Burma lecture was set to begin and discovered a line of people waiting in the hall. “Technical difficulties,” someone explained. That gave me time to browse in the temporary bookstore. As one of my reading friends once said to me, bookstores are to her as crack cocaine is to an addict—irresistible and expensive. I picked up beautiful book after beautiful book and made myself put each one down. I tricked myself by saying I’d come back later with more of a plan and only buy a couple of books.

A selection of dessert delicacies.

Naomi Duguid greeted us as we poured into the room before her slideshow and talk. Her first cookbook about the world of flatbreads won the James Beard award and the Julia Child award. I’d flipped through her Taste of Burma cookbook in the bookstore—a lavishly illustrated book with gorgeous photos of food and scenes from Burma, now known as Myanmar. Ms. Duguid was eloquent and obviously loved to go on culinary explorations. She gave us a fascinating tour of Burma, in photographs and cuisine. I don’t even like to cook and I wanted to go out buy the book and try out her recipes. The start of most of the recipes seemed to involve hot oil, a sprinkle of turmeric and a handful of shallots, deep-fried. That would probably also be the end of the recipe if I was cooking it.

In the elevator on the way back to the ground floor, my companions said they might continue the culinary tour and go to the Chilifest in the park down the street from the Holiday Inn. I walked through the park where vendors were setting up for the day but it was only 10:30 and no one was serving yet. Food, glorious food, but not yet. I had over to Queens College for my next Writersfest event and imagined what I’d eat for lunch.