Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015


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Marcel had his tea and madeleine, I have my dark-roast coffee.

(No, I never got very far into Proust, but I think about him every morning.)

“She sent for one of those squat plump little cakes called petites madeleines, which look as though they had been molded in the fluted valve of a scallop shell … I raised to my lips a spoonful of the tea in which I had soaked a morsel of the cake. No sooner had the warm liquid mixed with the crumbs touched my palate than a shudder ran through me and I stopped, intent upon the extraordinary thing that was happening to me. An exquisite pleasure invaded my senses …

“And suddenly the memory revealed itself. The taste was that of the little piece of madeleine which on Sunday mornings at Combray … when I went to say good morning to her in her bedroom, my aunt Leonie used to give me, dipping it first in her own cup of tea or tisane ... and the whole of Combray and its surroundings, taking shape and solidity, sprang into being, town and garden alike, from my cup of tea.”

What does my morning dark roast (always the darkest roast) recall for me? (Besides Belgium in my student days, a cold-water flat, the steam making a cloud in the room, a square of chocolate on the saucer...)

Coffee recalls me to myself. That first cup gives me words for my dreams. It jump starts my optimism. (Okay, I am an addict.)

But coffee has its own story now. Juan Valdez (or his cousin) is a real person, and you can track him on the internet via serial numbers on Ikea’s fair-trade coffee packages. You can see pictures of the small co-operative coffee plantation. You can see photos of the pickers and learn about the new school.

Did Proust ever think about the serfs who picked his tea leaves in India or Ceylon? Did Proust care about the woman who got up at four in the morning to bake his madeleine?

I’m just saying.

The views expressed in the Writer-in-Residence blogs are those held by the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of Open Book: Toronto.

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Sheree-Lee Olson

Sheree-Lee Olson is a Canadian novelist, poet and journalist. Her first novel, Sailor Girl, was published in 2008 by The Porcupine's Quill.

Go to Sheree-Lee Olson ’s Author Page