A little bread goes a long way

Roch lay dying under his twig and leaf thatched hut, plague afflicted, starving, and parched. Between gasping for breath and praying, he didn’t notice the dog beside him, or feel him licking his wounds, or see the loaf of bread he’d dropped. The hound’s wet nose nudged his side. Roch flinched, coughed and shifted, batting away the dream dog. It was then he saw the bread that saved his life, and the hound that brought it.

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OnionSoup

In Québec City, a golden statue of St-Roch and his dog stands on top of a stout cathedral watching foodies parade through the neighbourhood with his name. And every day the saint watches homeless people and recovering addicts wander among the craft breweries, artisanal chocolate shops, vegan bakeries, and poutine palaces.

This is a neighbourhood of holey socks and spandex running gear, where hand painted chocolate is paired with dark beer and vegan key lime pie is composed of avocados. This is a neighbourhood of potholes and expensive in-fill housing. This is a neighbourhood of addiction treatment centres and food nirvana.

Chocolate

While the wind rouged our cheeks and chapped our hands, our group of foodists ate our way up and down St-Roch’s streets. Above us cold sun and the golden saint sent promises of warmth. I wondered if the saint was wearing socks.

Teapot

Around us, men with exposed bare ankles slopped along the cement in shoes too big, their zipperless, buttonless coats flapping open in the sub-zero breeze. Women with tangled hair, bare legs, and hollow high heels zigzagged between potholes. What would the saint’s dog give to save them today?

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Beer

I’m not a true foodie. I’m more of a “sockie”. I collect socks the way some women collect handbags. This is not to say that I don’t love food, it’s just that the food part of St-Roch was indescribable because I don’t have a culinary vocabulary. Let’s just say that if the food I ate was a pair of socks, they would be silk mixed with Merino.

Our meal at the ballyhooed “L’Affaire est Ketchup” was a couturier sock and as I savoured the last morsel of dinner in my mouth, I watched a creased and grizzled old man cut across the street leaning against a spruce young man. A few minutes later they returned, a grocery bag draped over the strong arm of the younger man. He unlocked the boot-battered door of a tipsy old building while the old man waited.

Ketchup

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Maybe food is reviving the St-Roch neighbourhood, maybe even healing it, but this kind of food infusion hasn’t much to do with the people who lived there before the foodistas moved in – and who still live there. The people who live on its cracked sidewalks are being stuffed into hungry holes and I wonder if St-Roch or his dog has the power to make it better, to give them what they really need – some sturdy fisherman’s socks, a warm bed, a simple meal, a place to call home.

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43 thoughts on “A little bread goes a long way

  1. Cynthia Jobin April 24, 2016 / 10:07 am

    How beautifully, artfully, smoothly and vividly you have interwoven the opposites, Susanne.

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    • Susanne April 24, 2016 / 10:25 am

      My husband (the occasional editor of Redo Sue) and I had quite a debate about whether this piece worked. He said not and favoured a more direct approach talking about the changing neighbourhood and its effect on residents. Your comment vindicates my approach and I thank you for that!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Cynthia Jobin April 24, 2016 / 10:41 am

        It’s beautifully written Susanne, but what I especially like is that the craziness of social change and the pathos of it is not the typical–almost preachy–type of writing about it, that is so tiresomely out there. The voice of the writer here conveys kindness and emotion but not the fruitless “tsk..tsk” that often flavors writing about these things. It taps into universals even as it movingly paints the particulars.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Susanne April 24, 2016 / 10:48 am

        Thank you again, Cynthia. It was a discomfiting experience enjoying such abundance and culinary joy when the opposite was evident throughout the tour. I have no solutions. Only observations.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. D. Wallace Peach April 24, 2016 / 10:55 am

    A thoughtful post, Susanne. I think it serves humankind well to notice what is often invisible and falling between the cracks. It’s the ladder to compassion. I hope the legacy of St-Roch one day extends to those who could use some kindness.

    Like

    • Susanne April 24, 2016 / 11:43 am

      Maybe the gentrification of the neighbourhood will lead others to observe what’s going on with the original residents and kindness will grow.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. joey April 24, 2016 / 11:59 am

    Even foodies, maybe even especially foodies, must be careful to remember the quest for the ultimate whatever is trivial while people starve and struggle. You manage to convey enough foodie-ness with your sock metaphor, and the photos help as well.
    Great contrast in this piece, and it’s one that remind me that art imitates life.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Susanne April 24, 2016 / 12:33 pm

      You’re right, Joey, everything comes at a cost and not just a dollar value cost.

      Like

  4. Donna Gwinnell Lambo-Weidner April 24, 2016 / 12:39 pm

    I’m so glad you didn’t take your husband’s advice, Sue. All the previous comments speak for me, too. You hand us two beautifully crafted grossly opposite worlds on a nonjudgemental plate and leave it to us to ingest, process, and digest the craziness of it all without a hint of preachiness. Your last line packs an emotional wallop that will stay with me for a while, I’m sure. It’s so powerful that I feel the need to get up off my butt and do SOMETHING. Thank you, Susanne!

    Like

    • Susanne April 24, 2016 / 3:43 pm

      The experience definitely stayed with me, too, both for the glorious food and the juxtaposition of circumstances. But there were a couple of characters we met along the way whose faces I still see. One was a cheery old soul who greeted us in French and English telling us with such explosive good humour how beautiful we were (I was with a group of women) and then carried on down the street talking out loud to himself or anyone who would listen.

      Liked by 2 people

    • Susanne April 24, 2016 / 3:38 pm

      Thank you, Osyth. Hope you’re well. Missing your posts.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Osyth April 24, 2016 / 4:00 pm

        I’m good thank you, Susanne – I’ve been away for a few weeks but ready to get back posting this week – hopefully something of some merit!

        Like

      • Susanne April 24, 2016 / 5:37 pm

        Looking forward to hearing from you again!

        Liked by 1 person

  5. Bruce Goodman April 24, 2016 / 2:11 pm

    As the saying goes: sock it to ’em. I don’t want to be the cause of divorce, but this was terrific. I remember years ago hearing a speech from a person how he had to step over beggars in the street to get to see the Taj Mahal. I thought this posting of yours would work really well delivered out loud to an audience!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Susanne April 24, 2016 / 3:37 pm

      A good debate keeps the marriage perking along, Bruce. My hub prefers a more Hemingway style while I favour something more by the by.

      Thanks to you and Cynthia recording your works, I have thought of doing likewise but haven’t yet got the courage to try.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Andrea Stephenson April 24, 2016 / 3:12 pm

    I think this works really well Sue – it’s subtle but gives a real flavour of the neighbourhood and how it’s changing.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Susanne April 24, 2016 / 3:33 pm

      Thanks, Andrea. It was a really delicious food experience and the neighbourhood, which used to have many old factories including a corset maker, was fascinating.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. thecontentedcrafter April 24, 2016 / 4:28 pm

    You have given us a soul-searing juxtaposition of the human experience here Suzanne – it is sobering and thought provoking – and oh, so real! I guess all your readers will ponder over it for a while in our own different ways – maybe open some eyes that were not open before……. and that of course does more good than all the pontificating in the world would do! Thank you xo

    Liked by 1 person

    • Susanne April 24, 2016 / 5:47 pm

      The sad thing is, Pauline, we have neighbourhoods like that in my city, too, but because we’re used to it, we don’t see the people. We just walk by. Sometimes it takes going away to open our eyes.

      Like

      • thecontentedcrafter April 24, 2016 / 6:20 pm

        Yes, I agree. You made me look around with new eyes during my walk today.

        Like

  8. Luanne April 24, 2016 / 7:47 pm

    I’ve never heard of this St-Roch. Where can I find out more? Do you think the sock thing is because you’re a knitter? On this topic, I discovered a 100 year old article about my grandfather’s grandmother knitting socks for the troops. She was the only knitter named because she knitted so many!! Something like 38 pair.

    Like

    • Susanne April 24, 2016 / 9:42 pm

      I went to Wikipedia but I’m sure there are much better sources. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Saint_Roch
      I have been sock fiend since a child, long before I became a knitter. My mom, also a knitter, was not a sock knitter and I never owned a hand knit pair until my sister made some for me. My feet are always cold – I think the sock thing is practical!

      Having only made 2 pairs of hand-knit socks, I stand in awe of your ancestor! Wow. That’s an accomplishment and I’m glad to hear she was properly honoured.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Luanne April 25, 2016 / 9:42 am

        So interesting about Roch/Rach. I’d never heard of him!

        Like

      • Susanne April 25, 2016 / 10:15 am

        Me either but the name “Roch” is common in Quebec.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Luanne April 25, 2016 / 10:44 am

        Ahhh, I guess I’ve never lived in an area with that name, alTHOUGH I bought my first house from a family named Roche!

        Like

  9. Yvonne April 24, 2016 / 9:37 pm

    My gosh, you are an excellent wordsmith!

    Like

    • Susanne April 24, 2016 / 9:46 pm

      Thank you, Yvonne. This was a hard post to write and I picked away at it all week. I’m glad you liked it.

      Liked by 1 person

  10. Lisa @ cheergerm April 25, 2016 / 8:14 am

    Great ‘juxtapositioning’ in this insightful piece of writing and the sock/foodie anaolgy cracked me up.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Susanne April 25, 2016 / 6:08 pm

      You know, I actually thought of you while on this tour. We had a vegan key lime pie that was so hippy-dippy good and it was gluten free, too!

      Liked by 1 person

  11. hilarycustancegreen April 25, 2016 / 4:53 pm

    Lovely, graphic piece. I have been thinking about people in the refugee camps in particular this evening. We thermometer dropped to zero (centigrade) tonight and I went out to wrap fleeces over some precious plants, but I had no gloves on and my hands became painfully cold and then later painfully warmed up. That was just my hands…

    Liked by 1 person

    • Susanne April 25, 2016 / 5:56 pm

      It’s really hard to imagine the physical privation of refugees, never mind their vulnerability in face of all they are going through.

      Liked by 1 person

  12. exiledprospero May 4, 2016 / 8:25 am

    This post may contain traces of nuts, peanuts, gluten, soy lecithin or specks of poutine emanating from palatial eateries.

    When you see a comely thing, like that rocking chair (no, not there–by the fireplace…the one on the throw rug), you like it. But then there’s always dirt under the carpet.

    Like

    • Susanne May 4, 2016 / 5:00 pm

      We couldn’t grow without dirt, could we?

      Like

      • exiledprospero May 4, 2016 / 5:47 pm

        I should have said dust bunnies and other undesirables instead of dirt, thus robbing your witty repartee–but I’m not a spoil sport.

        Like

  13. J.B. Whitmore May 5, 2016 / 12:38 am

    Amen. The richer the poorer?

    (what is that bread dipped in—first photo?)

    A tipsy old building is a wonderful image.

    Like

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