The food: haroset (in August!)
“A Taste of Honey,” a story I wrote for the 2008 crime story anthology Toronto Noir, has been adapted for the stage as part of a play, also called Toronto Noir, currently playing at the Toronto Summerworks festival, with the remaining performances scheduled for August 9, 11, 13 and 15.
The multi-talented impresario Heather Davies adapted three stories from the collection – the other two are “A Bout of Regret” by Michael Redhill, and “Sic Transit Gloria at the Humber Loop” by Sean Dixon – into a 60 minute one act play, directed it, and produced it through her theatre company, Cheeky Magpie.
And what a wonderful production it is! (I figure I can say this because I had nothing to do with it, other than happily agreeing to have Heather adapt my story.)
A talented cast of professional actors (plus a professional musician who can act) do a splendid job of enacting the three separate story lines in alternating scenes. The staging is creative and arresting, and depicting the three narrators as sleepless in Toronto is an inventive thematic approach that connects the stories. The set design, though by necessity bare, is bold and effective – I loved the movable screens featuring the local landmarks that ground each story – and the sound and music excellent at mood-setting and marking the transitions.
What I enjoyed most about the play (surprise, surprise) were the scenes from my story, which takes place in Toronto’s St. Lawrence Market neighbourhood, and features three lovely players: Sarah Mennell, who captures the intensity and edginess of Jen, the embittered unemployed actress who narrates the piece; Emily Andrews, who fearlessly and amusingly plays the annoyingly perky Honey; and Marilla Wex, who gets a laugh almost every time she appears in the smaller part of Karen, the starstruck owner of a honey shop.
Which brings me to the food angle of this post – yes, there is one – honey! One of my favourite dishes made with honey is haroset (also spelled charoset), a delicious combination of shredded apples, walnuts, sweet wine and honey that has symbolic significance at Passover seder dinners. In my view, it’s good enough to eat any time of the year, and especially apt when celebrating a good stage production of a story called “A Taste of Honey.”
Haroset Recipe: adapted from the classic Jewish cooking cookbook Second Helpings Please.
1 apple (I use Granny Smith), peeled and coarsely grated
1 tsp. honey
1. T. red wine (I use Manischewitz Concord wine)
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 – 3/4 c. chopped walnuts
Mix ingredients. Serve on matzo (at Passover), on rice crackers (for celiacs), or on artisanal Raincoast Crisp cranberry hazelnut crackers (for an added layer of fruit and nut goodness and complexity).
Bonus link: here’s Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass playing the 1966 instrumental hit after which the story is named. I loved this song in its day, proof I am a) not young, and b) a former band geek. It has a slow intro but goes uptempo 20 seconds in.