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Smoking With Melissa Bell


Art by Marty D. Ison
Where did the idea for this story come from? How long did it take for you to perfect it, to get the images and references just so?
This is probably going to sound like I reverse-engineered my Dyson into the most powerful bong on earth, but the idea just kind of showed up one night when I was eating a bowl of blueberries and I started to think of all the different colours of food, and thinking that blueberries were more indigo-coloured than a true blue (like, say, flax blossoms), and I started to wonder about their impact on that particular chakra, the indigo-coloured one. And if, say, you needed to work on a particular chakra, would eating the colour of food that corresponded to the same colour of chakra open it up more? Aren't you sorry you asked? I'm not even "into" chakras. I don't know anything about them. So I'll move on. It took me maybe an hour or two to lay out the framework for the piece, and then I spent a couple of days revisiting it here and there, just playing with it, and having fun. I don't know if I would, or could, say I have perfected it. Hah! That's pretty funny.

What else can the stages of a relationship be compared to?
All kinds of things—climbing Mt. Everest, knitting a sweater, oil painting, gardening, a three-day bender in Vegas... I suppose one would have to determine what kind of relationship it is.

Why did you end this story with the ube, the purple yam?
Initially I didn't. I can't remember what it did end with originally, but it wasn't the ube. And then I went to my local Asian market and I was checking out the snacks aisle for some things to take on a road trip to Ottawa that coming weekend. A brilliantly-coloured little purple bag caught my eye—ube-filled crackers. So that's how the ube made it in there—it matched the present decor.

(Just as a little sidebar, at the exact moment I opened up the bag of ube snacks on the drive to Ottawa and distributed them to my friends in the car, we saw that a rainbow had appeared on the horizon. It was only a short little rainbow, but quite the coincidence I thought, given the title of the story. And those crackers were shockingly purple by the way. Very tasty though.)

In addition to blogging for the Canadian Writers Collective, you also blog for tasteTO.com, a food blog covering Toronto’s food and restaurant scene. Have you always been a foodie?
I'm going to say yes. I've always loved good food and I've always enjoyed reading and writing about it. As a kid, a lot of my favourite stories involved food. I loved the descriptions of the meals in the Little House books—I'll never forget that Pa Ingalls likes his tomatoes with sugar and cream. And once I tried real Turkish delight for the first time, the White Witch's power over Edmund in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe made perfect sense. And the gingerbread house in Hansel & Gretel...wow! Why couldn't I ever stumble across something like that during a stroll in the woods?

And I always loved reading my mom's cookbooks. I was also very lucky that my parents would take me with them most of the time when they went out for dinner to a "nice place", so I was exposed to all kinds of different food at a very young age. When I moved to Vancouver in my early 20s, I was completely knocked out by what was available there. It was a very exciting time food-wise—things like sun-dried tomatoes and balsamic vinegar and goat cheese and radicchio hadn't quite hit the North American mainstream. And moving from small-town Ontario to within walking distance of Vancouver's Granville Market meant entering a whole new level of eating. It was a religious experience for someone who grew up with just two kinds of lettuce at the nearby A&P. So I taught myself to cook so that I could play with all the new toys in the bins. It became an obsession and I would spend days and days recreating entire menus from Gourmet magazine, and foregoing practical items like winter boots and gloves to buy a pound of exotic mushrooms or a jar of fancy mustard. I'm slightly more fiscally responsible now, just so you know.

SLQ completed issue 18 at the close of summer and launched this issue, 19, on the threshold of winter. During the three months in between, the crops were harvested, the leaves fell, the rain returned, temperatures dropped, darkness lengthened. Death in increments. How does the turning of the seasons affect your "muse," your inspiration?
Fall is probably my most productive time in terms of writing, and I always look forward to it, especially November and participating in National Novel Writing Month, and the return to wearing my collection of beloved turtlenecks and hand-knit rectangles (i.e. scarves). The muse ignores me when I'm wearing shorts and a t-shirt, probably because I'm not going to be paying much attention to what he has to say anyway. It's just too hard to hear him above the sound of the blender when I'm making strawberry daiquiris for friends on the patio.

Read Food Spectrum of the Rainbow Family.

Issue Nineteen (December 15, 2007): The Off-Season by Jami Attenberg «» A Company Function by Grant Bailie «» Food Spectrum of the Rainbow Family by Melissa Bell «» Holiday Inn by Kim Chinquee «» Killer Pair by Trinie Dalton «» What Happened to My Purple Flip-Flops by Arwen Dewey «» Truth (ii) by Ben Ehrenreich «» How 9) Strange by Laird Hunt «» The Mess You Made in Us by C. Robin Madigan «» Red Brick by Darlin' Neal «» A Boy Not Born Yet by Tori Malcangio «» Taco Foot by Jack Pendarvis «» Boyandaquarter by Ben Stein «» Teec Nos Pos (Circle of Cottonwoods) by Beth Thomas «» Music from 1975 by Benjamin Weissman «» Interviews: Jami Attenberg «» Grant Bailie «» Melissa Bell «» Kim Chinquee «» Trinie Dalton «» Arwen Dewey «» Ben Ehrenreich «» Laird Hunt «» C. Robin Madigan «» Tori Malacangio «» Darlin' Neal «» Jack Pendarvis «» Jim Ruland «» Ben Stein «» Beth Thomas «» Benjamin Weissman «» Cover Art "Desire" by Marty D. Ison «» Letter From the Editor
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