Last week we had an especially beautiful October day with sunshine and temperatures of 25°C . I decided to go to Hanlan's Point on Toronto island, one of the nicest beaches in the city. A horizon perfect for admiring sunsets, a sandy beach to bury your toes in, and naked bodies (it's a clothing optional beach). I like to think about how liberating and powerful I'll feel stepping on to the beach bare breasted! I'll channel Beyonce– do my best head toss with an air kick, then an overhead fist pump (the ultimate girl power move). I'll sing out Run The World and finish with a shimmy shake booty roll like The. Queen. That. I. Am. But as soon as I arrive I reconsider. The reality of the high penis ratio hits me like a salty ball slap to the face. Twenty dicks, no vaginas, and one pair of breasts belonging to a sixty year old Eastern European lady named Olga. She has a dog that looks like a elegant muffin and she does not give a f*ck. I strive to someday be as bold as Olga. But at that moment, the thought of being naked goes from feeling empowering to alarmingly uncomfortable. I like to think I welcome vulnerability, but not the kind that might attract lingering gazes from strange naked men. No way. I watch way too many murdery shows (and the news) to have a progressive view of middle age white men.
It never fails, every single time I go to this beach a naked man strikes up a conversation. It's always harmless but strange that this is the place everyone is dying to make small talk with me.
Naked Man 1: “The water is great today! Nice and warm." Me: “Oh yeah?" I say trying to be polite, staring straight into the sun purposely blinding myself. I catch a glance of his lower half because the more I tell myself not to look at something, the more I have to look. “It looks pretty cold to me."
Naked Man 2: “Hey, do you have a beer you could sell me?" Me: “Uhhhhhhh..... where do you keep your money? You know what, never mind, just take it."
Naked Man 3: “Wow we've got quite a wind today! Perfect for watching the windsurfers." as he stretches backward, hands on his hips, penis is flapping in the wind, ball hair awry.
Any nude beach isn't complete without lone men casually strolling the shoreline. One man begins marching into the freezing cold water. He holds his arms at his sides palms facing forwards. He puffs out his chest and wades deeper into the water with determination, about to execute a self baptism. He submerges his head fully and is reborn! He will now go to heaven. Amen. He starts swimming further out, he gets close to a small yacht with some people having a party. He's swimming around the boat eagerly awaiting an invite. They ignore him. “Awww he just wants a friend.", I think to myself. I create the story of his life– Angus was born on Christmas morning, his birthday inevitably overshadowed by holiday celebrations. His cake forever a pumpkin pie. His birthday and Christmas presents always unified as one. Kids were too busy with family to attend his parties. He hates turkey so his birthday dinner was always a large plate of boxed mashed potatoes (his mother had a fear of real potatoes, she wouldn't allow them in the house). Are you crying yet?! He had a medical issue as a child that caused uncontrollable flatulence. He would break wind loudly without warning and kids made fun of him for it. Even his parents laughed sometimes because farts. are. funny. people. Now he comes here to bare it all because he's unashamed! Good for you man! I look around wondering which one of these people is the biggest creep on the beach. I realize it's me, making up stories about them and their bodily functions. I slide on my sunglasses to give the illusion I'm a discrete person.
The accessories on nude beaches are fun– mostly hats, sandals, sometimes a t-shirt with some lumpy junk protruding out the bottom. One man is adorned with a large glass bottle of milk and a backpack fastened up with clips around his naked body. I decide he is definitely the murderer if there is one. His serial killer name would be The Milkman and he would leave milk bottle caps upon his victims as a token. On that note, I turn on my best Beyonce pivot, dancing my way off the beach in the pump walk from Single Ladies. Peace out my nude friends!
One day later, genitals could not be more covered. The temperature dropped ten degrees and it is time for warm cozy food and layers of clothing. To nurture ourselves in the colder weather we must make many bowls of of roasted vegetables and grains. Squash season is peaking and I am into it.
Acorn squash is one of my favourites because the skin is delicious once it's roasted (and they look like cute clouds when sliced).
The recipe below is plant based based but feel free to adapt it to your preferences. Parmesan cheese is typical for polenta giving it an even creamier and cheesy consistency. I chose nutritional yeast to keep it versatile for all food lifestyles.
I used dried porcini and shiitake mushrooms because fresh wasn't accessible but I still wanted the richer flavours these mushrooms bring. I rehydrated the dried mushrooms in some water, dried them off thoroughly and sauteed them with the fresh creminis.
Bowls of polenta can be topped with many things so let your imagination run wild with roasted or sautéed vegetables, shrimp, poached eggs, tofu steaks, or bolognese sauce. It's an easy meal to make, you just must be attentive when it is on the stove, stirring often.
Feel free to substitute spinach for the kale in the polenta. In this case, you could blend it in fresh instead of cooking it.
Let me know what version of polenta bowl you end up with!
KALE POLENTA W/ MUSHROOMS + ACORN SQUASH
inspiration: cozy Autumn bowls
the feels: creamy, cozy, comforting, savoury
eat with: pinot noir, arugula salad, sparkling water w/ lemon, hot tea, toasted nuts or seeds, fresh herbs
might like if you're into: movie nights at home, granny quilts, other meals in a bowl like this one or this one, fuzzy slippers, hoodies, oversized knit sweaters
makes 4 servings || time: 1 hour
- 1 cup polenta
- 1.5 cups nut milk + extra while cooking the polenta, as needed (you can also use water)
- 1.5 cups vegetable broth
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- salt + pepper to taste
- 1/4 cup nutritional yeast (or grated parmesan cheese)
- parsley, for garnish
- kale puree (below)
- 1 small head of tuscan kale or half a large head (curly kale is also okay), stems removed
- 2 cloves garlic, peeled + kept whole
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
mushrooms + squash
- 1 acorn squash, seeded and sliced into half circles (leave skin on, it is edible after baking)
- 2 cups of mushrooms, sliced (I used porcini, shiitake + cremini to create a richer flavour)
- 2 shallots, diced
- 4 sprigs fresh thyme (of half a teaspoon dried)
- 1 clove garlic, diced
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- salt + pepper
- Preheat oven to 425ºF. Line a baking sheet and toss squash in a large bowl with 1 - 2 tablespoons of olive oil, 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, and pepper. Bake for 25 - 30 minutes. Remove from oven, flip squash and bake for another 10 minutes or until soft and slightly caramelized.
- While squash is baking, add milk and broth to a medium sized pot. Bring to a boil. Lower temperature to medium and slowly whisk in polenta. Keep whisking until the polenta starts to thicken (usually a couple minutes). Reduce to a low simmer (rarely bubbling) and cook for 20 minutes, whisking often, until the polenta is nice and creamy. Make the kale puree + mushrooms while polenta is cooking (see below). You may need to add a bit more milk or water throughout this process or if you want to keep it cooking longer for extra creaminess. Add a tablespoon or two at a time. Keep warm until serving. If prepared in advance, reheat on the stove with a bit of extra liquid and a good whisk.
- Kale puree– Boil a pot of salted water (should taste like slightly salty ocean sea water). Add kale and 2 cloves of whole garlic and boil for 2 to 3 minutes. Add to food processor or blender with olive oil and salt and blend until a smooth puree.
- Mushrooms– In a pan (cast iron works well but any will do) over medium add olive oil and diced shallots. Sauté for 2 minutes. Add thyme, garlic + mushrooms to pan with a dash of salt and pepper. For the mushrooms to brown, don't touch them for a few minutes then turn to other side and repeat. Cook for about 5 to 7 minutes until mushrooms and shallots have cooked down and caramelized.
- While polenta is on the stove, add kale puree, 2 tablespoons of olive oil (if desired), nutritional yeast (or parmesan cheese), salt and pepper to taste. Whisk in until combined. Ladle into bowls, top with roasted squash, mushrooms, parsley and s + p to taste.
Recipe adapted from April Bloomfield on Food Republic.