Talk Description to Me

Episode 84 - Victorian Christmas Part 2

January 01, 2022 Christine Malec and JJ Hunt Season 3 Episode 84
Talk Description to Me
Episode 84 - Victorian Christmas Part 2
Show Notes Transcript

Happy New Year everyone! To celebrate the season, Christine and JJ head to Toronto's Distillery District Christmas Market. Wandering the cobblestone streets of the Victorian neighbourhood, they describe the decorations and delicious treats,  share a few stories, and some good laughs, too.  All the best in 2022!

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Christine Malec:

This is the second of two holiday episodes JJ and I recorded for Christmas 2021. We took our microphones on the road and went down to Toronto's distillery district where they host a winter holiday market. What you're about to hear is a collection of stories and descriptions and some of the visuals of a Christmas market in our home city, done by JJ and myself. Happy holidays.

JJ Hunt:

Talk description to me, with Christine Malec and JJ Hunt. until the 19th century, Christmas wasn't a particularly popular holiday outside the German speaking world. In the UK, for example, many businesses didn't even consider it a holiday. But that was all changed by two things, a royal marriage and an illustrated novella. So in 1840, Britain's beloved Queen Victoria married her German born cousin Prince Albert, and he moved into Buckingham Palace and brought many of his childhood traditions with him, notably, his love of Christmas. So when the royal family began publicly celebrating Christmas, the Brits ate it up. Newspaper articles were written accompanied by etchings and illustrations. And those images became aspirational for the average family in the Queen's realm. So many of our modern traditions actually have their roots in the illustrations of those early royal holidays. And then in December 1843, Charles Dickens published an illustrated novella called A Christmas Carol, and it was a smash hit by Christmas 1844. So only one year later, it had been reprinted in 13 separate editions, and the desire to emulate the royal family, the huge success of a Christmas carol and then the emergence of nostalgia coming off of the Industrial Revolution, spun this celebration of Christmas into a British obsession, a cultural and consumer obsession that grew internationally, especially in the British Empire, and that continues to this day. So what Christmas traditions the Victorian era didn't create outright, it solidified as modern Christmas cannon. So the distillery district where we are today is perfectly positioned to take advantage of this Victorian setting. It's like if you're Rolie polie guy with a big round belly and a white beard, all you got to do is put on a red hat with a white pom pom and you'll look like Santa. If you're a Victorian neighborhood with original buildings, cobblestone streets and all you got to do is hang some garlin pipe in some Christmas music and suddenly your Christmas Wonderland. So since 2010, there's been a Christmas market here and there's food there's drink. There are gift vendors. There's a little small events stage some years and lots of heated patios for nightlife that spills out of the restaurants and into the neighborhoods, you know, streets for drinking and partying and celebrating. So there are different kinds of food styles that are that are here and you know, it's different in the morning different in the evening. In right now in the morning. It looks like the giant pretzel stall is open. I'm not sure if the raclette booth is

Christine Malec:

Can you tell us what raclette is just so I can drool because I've never actually had one.

JJ Hunt:

Oh, hold on. Is it? Okay, it's coming. We're coming up to it. I think it might be. Okay, so first of all the giant pretzels I should say as we walk past they are enormous. So these pretzels are twists bigger than my head. And there are some just pause right here. So some of these pretzels like truly bigger than my head all handmade so they're all kind of twisty and weird, but they're not uniform in any way. But golden brown and covered some of them in sesame seeds, some of them in sunflower seeds. And they are served with mulled wine or aunt Beth's whiskey cookies. Oh, yeah, I know that sounds all right.

Christine Malec:

Mulled wine. Just to say it's chilly. It's cold. It's at least zero Celsius and it's windy and there is a flake or to have snow blowing around. So ulled wine is sounding pretty good.

JJ Hunt:

That could go alright, but the raclette booth. I don't see the raclette booth. Yeah, this is normally where it is. So reclad is. I mean it's, it's awesome. So this is a cow's milk cheese made in the Swiss Alps. Usually in a large wheel. It's kind of similar to GRI err type cheeses, and it's golden yellow in color, no holes in the cheese and it's got an edible rind that has a smooth, powdery golden brown. Whew. And traditionally, peasants like cow herders would carry, like some of this semi hard cheese with them when they traveled in the Alps. And in the evening, they would place the cheese near the fire so that it would soften and then they could spread the cheese onto onto a crust of bread that they've been carrying with them. Very popular in Germany is served a new years it's a it's a popular New Year's Eve dish. So here in the market when the booth is available, what they do is they take a portion of this, of this, this cheese wheel, and they place it on a like a wrought iron stand like a rack. And they place it such that the cut side of the cheese wheel is facing up. And then the rack itself is slipped under a long, narrow electric heat lamp. And what happens is the top layer of cheese, the top of that cheese wheel begins to bubble and brown, and that as soon as it's as soon as it's brown and bubbly and golden, they pull the cheese wheel out. And they scrape about an inch or so of the melt the melted cheese, they scrape it off of the wheel and they pour it onto either perogies or little mini Rosemary potatoes.

Christine Malec:

Ah, JJ is not describing how I'm smiling and my eyes are crinkling up with like longing.

JJ Hunt:

So I just got to shuffle you there's a little tiny mini car that needs to get past us. So no real traffic here, but it looks like a beer delivery is being made to one of the one of the brew pubs. So they've got a golf cart with an open back. It's a golf cart with a with like a, like a pickup truck back. And it's filled with with kegs. And so it was it was chugging past needed to get by us to go to the beer gardens which are not open yet, but the beer gardens will be opened later.

Christine Malec:

Oh, well. Thank you for the description of the raclette. Over pierogi? Whaaat?

JJ Hunt:

I know. Come on! Let's go, so shall we head toward the beer garden? Sure cuz I think the beer garden actually the the stop on the official tour that I did it the beer garden I think was one of our moments of early connection.

Christine Malec:

Are you gonna read the excerpt for Christmas Carol? Okay, this is where I really smother my giggling! Play it straight.

JJ Hunt:

On my official cheesy tour that I do -- cheesy as it were -- you know, yeah, you can hear of course I break into I go into tour guide voice and tell some stories. And yeah, no, no, in the tour, I read a few quotes from A Christmas Carol. And so we were we were at the Beer Hall, which is an open space. Kind of delineated by, by, you know, thick ropes like sailing ropes, like, you know, on stanchions, and there are again different food vendors. So there's a free vendor, there's a grilled cheese, like, like a, you know, bespoke grilled cheese sandwich booth and whatnot. And those are all the little vendors that are inside this roped off beer garden. And so in the in the original tour that I did, I talked about how really the idea of the office Christmas party, like this beer garden was invented in the Victorian era, and it was about Mr. Fezziwig, old Fezziwig from A Christmas Carol and so I read this quote, and you giggled, and I think all year so the quote is: "Old Fezziwig laid down his pen and looked up at the clock, which pointed to the hour of seven He rubbed his hands adjusted his capacious waistcoat, laughed all over himself from his shoes to his organ of benevolence, and called out in a comfortable, oily rich fat jovial voice. Oh, there Ebenezer. Oh my boys. No more work tonight. Christmas Eve. Christmas. Clear away my lads. And let's have lots of room here!" And I think it was something about, was it perhaps the...

Christine Malec:

I'm not even gonna focus on what the funniest part was for me! I'm really gonna leave that alone. But I learned this about JJ later. You'd like to throw in little easter eggs with particular people in mind just to see what will happen. And that one landed, it landed? Yeah, yeah. Organ of his benevolence. Alright, I'll just say it. Organ of his benevolance! I said to JJ "Come on! That's not really in there. Right?" You said "No, it's right there in Dickens."

JJ Hunt:

Yeah, no, I couldn't write that.

Christine Malec:

You couldn't make that up.

JJ Hunt:

I couldn't make that up.

Christine Malec:

I wouldn't. Yep, it's in the canon now. It's in my proverbial list of phrases to pull out when you need a phrase. Thank you that was a beautiful dramatic reading as well. Fantastic appreciate very festive very festive

JJ Hunt:

The beer garden is kind of tucked away between a couple buildings there's actually one of the newer condos just to our right and it's kind of a beer hall indoors as well it's open year round and it's it's a newer condo like the you know, the classic new Toronto condo which is glass tower glass balconies and everything like that. But it backs on to this alley with a with a beer garden is and on the other side, there's a an old mill a building I think this is one of the brew houses and in beautiful windows you know green painted a trim, double hung windows and there's a there's a wreath in each window arched on top and little white benches between the windows so you can sit down and and have a drink and then there are these patio heaters so propane tanks with with long posts and then caps on top and then the element is of course burning up top with underneath this cap and heats up the area so you know if you do come by night, you can grab yourself a beer, you can you know grab yourself a nice grilled cheese sandwich or some raclette or pie there's a tourtiere place around here as well that does beautiful pies

Christine Malec:

You should explain tourtiere here for our American friends who may not know tourtiere.

JJ Hunt:

Tourtiere is wonderful. Tourtiere is a meat pie, French Canadian meat pie. It's a minced meat and usually a quite thin. This is not a not a deep pie but rich and and beef lamb How do you usually do do you make it?

Christine Malec:

I do not make it. I've never had it with lamb I'm pretty excited by that though.

JJ Hunt:

It's good I've had a couple but I'm not sure that's the traditional I think the traditional is more it's more than beef the beef yeah so there's there's a series of these selfie stops one in front of us so selfie stops for those who don't know where it like orchestrated places for people to pose in front of and take selfies and these are everywhere now or when you know traveling around all around the world organizations are putting up selfie stops sometimes they're put up by the city or you know local government sometimes put up by businesses and around here there are lots of different kinds one version of them seems to be words crafted out of so we're each individual letter is crafted out of steel so sheet metal so this one says family and each letter is crafted out of sheet metal hollowed out and then inside each letter is a row of red lights so it's red lights glowing and sheet metal This one says family another one around the corner we passed earlier says Love and these are all hanging on these old brick buildings. So you know brick old brick is really charming because it's not uniform. Some of the bricks are brown some of the bricks are red, some of them are chipped away you know the mortar between them is peeling and cracked it's old and beautiful and then these you get these very handmade you know steampunky letters with the red lights in them very attractive and so people stand under these and like you know let's get the family standing under the side that says family and we'll take a selfie or a couple standing under the love it says the love and I'm sure as we walk along we'll we'll we'll find a few more of these you know these selfie stops and you can we can we can take our selfie for our talk description and a Christmas card.

Christine Malec:

What are we looking for? What sign are we looking that's gonna make us go Yeah, that's the one? Sardonic?

JJ Hunt:

Ha ha!

Christine Malec:

Is there a sign that says sardonic?

JJ Hunt:

I don't know if they've got an organ of benevolence.

Christine Malec:

Ha ha! But why not? But why not?

JJ Hunt:

Really. This is absolutely authentic to the Victorian era. They have done a great job for example lists a little tiny detail. We're standing in front of a store that is now the sell sports like memorabilia inside oh, big arched windows but original leaded windows. So hands in the glass on original windows. So this is interesting. There's a there's an original window and a new window side by side. With the new window. The glass is smooth, completely flat and reflects things perfectly like a mirror. Beside it is an original window and the glass is a little bit lumpy, it's handmade, and so on. It has a wobble to it. And so all the reflections that are in the glass look a little bit like a funhouse mirror. And the painting on the trim has been so many layers thick, it's been painted so that it doesn't, it doesn't look clean and crisp the lines around it.

Christine Malec:

Right.

JJ Hunt:

So it's got all of those details, but then there's a little tiny detail, which is there's a miniature door with with a wrought iron grid across it. And it's all been, again painted this this deep forest green that all the windows and doors in the distillery have been painted. And I don't know if this was like a milk box. Where you know, the milkman would come the delivery person would come and leave the milk in the milk box or it might have been some kind of something else for an industrial purpose because there's a whole row in this building. And they're, you know, maybe a foot and a half tall, one foot across. Oh, and they're original to this building, but they're all along all along. I don't know why they would be there. But those are the kinds of details where that's what makes it's not this isn't just architecture that has been this isn't Neo Victorian architecture. This is Victorian. It's those details that make everything look and feel genuine like you really back in time. And that's why it's so perfect to create a Christmas market here because so much of the works already been done. We're already in this Victorian world. They say you know, hang your wreath and you're and you're good to go. So this place that we're walking past now he's got to sign out for mulled wine hot chocolate and Christmas poutine.

Christine Malec:

What? I have to know what that means! This Christmas poutine of which you speak! What on earth What could that be?

JJ Hunt:

I don't know.

Christine Malec:

Poutine with cheese curds and can crumble candy cane? Seriously that's all...

JJ Hunt:

I know! What else is going on there? Maybe they die the cheese curds red and green? That's right. Okay, so we've got another selfie stop this isn't just a Christmas one this one's up year round. And so this selfie stop is again the word love ello V with a giant heart at the front of it. And but it's made out of a grid of wires really heavy gauge wires. And then it's people come in they attach locks padlocks to it. And so all of these padlocks that are here have people's names on them want to go up close and let's see we can read some of them so people come and they bring their bring that lock that they have drawn on or written on. So here's Jennifer Hart. Darrin rich plus kale. I don't know if that just means rich really likes the food or if his partner's name is kale. Here's one in like a little kid writing Charlotte plus Muth Oh, probably Matthew But misspelled little kid writing Joe plus Lauren. Here's just a little drawing of a little girl in a pink pink shirt in a little gray skirt and with pigtails. So you know people come and they they attach their padlock and and the whole thing. The whole thing is covered hundreds and hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of pad locks. Yeah.

Christine Malec:

And look there's one right there that says I love the organ of his benevolance!

JJ Hunt:

Ha ha ha!

Christine Malec:

I jsut made that up, that's not really true.

JJ Hunt:

Snort!

Christine Malec:

Sorry. See, I'm not over it.

JJ Hunt:

I'm pretty sure I just saw Santa Claus on the Segway rounding a corner.

Christine Malec:

Gotcha. Santa Claus.

JJ Hunt:

A young woman dresses in a Santa suit with a Santa hat. And she's on a Segway kind of digging around in between people. She's walking with someone else who's wearing a matching Santa hat. Yep, just cruising along on a on a Segway. I think there's a there's a Segway rental place in the distillery so yeah, so

Christine Malec:

The thing is you never know here when someone is in a Santa suit. Are they staff? Are they just really exuberant?

JJ Hunt:

Totally. Didn't we actually...

Christine Malec:

We met some guy -- full on! -- and it was unclear. Is that a costume? Or do you always dress that way? And are you just kind of rotund and you had a beard like I don't even remember how that story ended?

JJ Hunt:

Well I from what I remember, we were actually standing at because there is a place where you can go and sit on Santas knee, take pictures and so we were on our way to that spot. So I could describe it. Santa wasn't actually there yet. And as we were standing there and I'm talking about like describing this little Okay, so here's the throne that you can sit on and here's where the you know the little fake Santas village that's around looks like and while we're standing there talking. This dude walks by and he's a big guy, wearing a long white beard long white hair with round metal frame glasses. big belly and he was wearing like a red plaid. Lumberjack jacket with a big black belt around his belly. And I was like, Oh, my God, is it?!

Christine Malec:

It really is!

JJ Hunt:

So I said "Excuse me, sir, can I can I describe you ?" So she stuck a pin in his belly just to see what would happen! And I remember I think it might have been Maria, who was like, "I don't know, are you just pulling our leg? Are you completely making this up?" She asked if she could touch his beard! And he was lovely and said "Go for it." And she felt this guy's beard. She's like, "Oh my God. This... I think this is actually real!" I couldn't. I mean, I hadn't set it up. You can't.

Christine Malec:

So I'm still unclear. Who was that nice guy?

JJ Hunt:

I think he's just some guy who knows if he puts on that too. He's got the look already. He's probably already a white bearded, big bellied man. And he knows if I put on this jacket and --

Christine Malec:

just walk around the Christmas Market stuffs gonna happen.

JJ Hunt:

I'm just going to make people smile. Yeah, exactly. And stuff happened. This guy's this guy's pulling a little wagon. And the only thing on the wagon is an industrial sized bucket of Hellman's mayonnaise.

Christine Malec:

Oh my god.

JJ Hunt:

Like honestly, this is like a five gallon bucket. I don't know. There's another Santa on a Segway. Oh, one or two or three of them.

Christine Malec:

This is the thing!

JJ Hunt:

Santas on Segways. Maybe it's a band?

Christine Malec:

Maybe, maybe they just whisk around. We missed the carols! At certain points during the day there's this roving band of carolers.

JJ Hunt:

Ya!

Christine Malec:

I'm Sorry we're missing those.

JJ Hunt:

They're very nice. They tend to be in long black wool coats like gold great coats, and they have muffs in front of them that they can tuck their hands into firm muffs and long red scarves or tartan scarves and hats or something. But we haven't seen them yet. This is another soul stop. This one is a big gold star with twinkling lights. Oh, and then we've got some fashion selfies being taken. Posing people posing in front of the tree. Very cool. sunglasses and a matching jacket. Oh, outfit. And he's, you know, he's making sure he's looking as best for his selfie in front of the tree. I think this is a Korean restaurant with the hot table. Oh, no one's sitting on him right now. But they've got the little gas grills right in the middle of the table.

Christine Malec:

Oh, wow.

JJ Hunt:

Just sit around and grill your own food. Oh. Christmas on the beach. So this is a vendor that selling Christmas ornaments. Little hand blown glass ornaments and little Nutcracker style dolls and things.

Christine Malec:

Okay.

JJ Hunt:

Oh, there you go. How about ice cream? No, pardon me -- It's not ice cream. Okay. This is fried chicken in a waffle cone!

Christine Malec:

Oh, this is a thing. This chicken on a waffle is a breakfast item.

JJ Hunt:

And so this is a like a giant waffle ice cream cone. And it's filled with fried chicken. So there's, there's the OG which is chicken in homemade chipotle aioli. And then there's the hot sauce, which has like a like a buffalo style hot wing sauce. And then there's a general Tso's chicken in a waffle cone.

Christine Malec:

Okay, come on. I'm sorry. That is so Canadian. I love the fusion of foods that you get. Possibly it just in Toronto. That's a general Tso's, which is not really Chinese food.

JJ Hunt:

No, no not really.

Christine Malec:

But we think of it as a Chinese dish. On a waffle ice cream cone.

JJ Hunt:

That's right. And then for dessert if you still have room then you can go for the gingerbread cookie butter cheese cake and waffle cone. So you can start with friend chicken...

Christine Malec:

and with a waffle cone.

JJ Hunt:

You want one of those?

Christine Malec:

You know I'm enjoying hearing about it. Actually it's funny. I don't need to --

JJ Hunt:

You don't need one?

Christine Malec:

I don't need one to enjoy it. I'm enjoying just hearing about it.

JJ Hunt:

Oh, then there's an empanada place. Oh, we've got a really good one! Have you been to La Morena near us at Dufferin?

Christine Malec:

No.

JJ Hunt:

Oh my god some of the greatest in the city...