There is an illness that plagues the streets and sub-divisions of the suburbs, it can cause the healthiest of esteems to question their very habits and perpetuate major purchases, all in fear of demonstrating socio-economic inferiority. I call this condition “The Joneses”, although many recognize it by the full name “Keeping up with the Joneses”. It pains me to admit, but I’ve been effected by this condition once or twice since we’ve moved to the ‘burbs.
As I pass by my neighbour’s well manicured lawn to start up my rusting truck with a powerful “rattle-bing-bang” and head to the hardware store for the potted plants and house accents that I need, I can’t help but think of a time in my life, not that long ago, that I had lost everything and was still happy. A time when relationships were ending, I had been deported from the U.S. and shipped back to Toronto (a story for another day), I had lost my job, and had nowhere to live. Almost over night I went from having plenty to having nothing. Fortunately for me, I had a great group of friends that kept me distracted as I sorted myself out. In those days we basically lived at Paupers Pub (Bloor/Bathurst), and as long as I could rely on a Portobello Mushroom Burger, a pint and belly laughs with friends nothing else mattered.
Nearly every day I would order the Portobello Mushroom Burger with added bacon and cheese from Paupers Pub, partly for taste, partly out of habit. Servers would so often snarl at me for adding bacon to their signature vegetarian burger but why not?? The salty fattiness of bacon pairs so well with the earthiness of the mushroom, and once grilled those moisture-rich mushrooms can always use a little help in the texture department. As for the cheese, c’mon, everything is just better with melted cheese, especially a mushroom and bacon combo.
Portobello Mushroom Burger
Inspired by the many memories at Paupers Pub
Marinates 4 portobello caps ideal for 4 burgers or 2 double burgers.
- 4 portobello mushroom caps, cleaned and stems removed
- 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
- 2 Tbsp good-quality olive oil
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 tsp dried oregano
- salt and pepper to taste
- 4 slices of provolone cheese
- lettuce (optional)
- tomato (optional)
- bacon (optional)
- toasted bun
- Place the mushroom caps, smooth side up, in a shallow dish. In a small bowl, whisk together vinegar, oil, basil, oregano, garlic, salt, and pepper. Pour over the mushrooms. Let stand at room temperature for 15 minutes or so, turning twice.
- Preheat grill for medium-high heat.
- Brush grate with oil. Place mushrooms on the grill, reserving marinade for basting. Grill for 5 to 8 minutes on each side, or until tender. Brush with marinade frequently. Top with cheese during the last 2 minutes of grilling.
Eventually I started working for a Toronto-based marketing firm and secured a dive-aliscious bachelorette apartment around the corner from the pub. It was a single room with a stove and fridge that worked most of the time, with a closet-sized bathroom and small balcony. I didn’t own much more than my bed, a computer, some clothes, my albums, and some pots and pans that I had started collecting at yard sales. The walls were covered in hand-written song lyrics and movie posters and Christmas lights were strung up in place of lamps or overhead lighting. I loved that apartment, it was a dive but it was it was my dive. I had nothing to prove to anyone, I was rebuilding my life on my terms and the last thing i wanted was to be tied down by material goods and “nice things”.
Quelle surprise, my little apartment was the place to be at dinner time. I fed everyone: friends, band mates, friends of friends, I was the punk rock mama serving mainly spaghetti and vegan chilis at 6pm. Being on the 2nd floor, I never had a need to use the building’s buzzer system since my balcony was perfect height for friends to tap my patio with their skateboard trucks and I could just leave the door open. Those were great days, defined not by what I owned but by the joy that I had.
These are the memories that I think of as I look on at the landscaping crews rolling in and out of driveways on my street, and as I’m tempted to drain our credit cards in a desperate attempt to keep up. I think of those days in my bachelorette apartment in Toronto’s Annex, then I think of how that Dana would slap some sense into this Dana for fretting over manicured lawns, , hop on her skateboard and simply continue on to the pub for a pint and a Portobello Mushroom Burger.
As I prepare to post this, Edie, 4, starts crying, “Alice has more chocolate chips in her banana muffin than mine does!!” Devastating I know. Without thinking, I respond with, “Well, sometimes people have more than you but it’s not worth getting upset over.” Ain’t that the truth.
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