on sandwiches and beer and things that matter

whoa, march already, that was fast.
i feel kind of like i’m still getting my footing sorted for february.
no matter, i saw that snowy month out with a little bang!

i packed a bag and i boarded a train.
and i spent the weekend
away from home.
i laughed with friends and i joked with strangers.
i ate good sandwiches, i drank great beer
and i had those kinds of moments,
 the ones when your tummy hurts 
you’ve laughed so much.
and when you catch yourself smiling at nothing at all.

i walked down streets new to me,
i spoke a language i don’t quite know,
i cheered for canada from the seat of a train.

i met a man whose presence pleased.
his frame slight, his hair grey,
his kindness obvious.
he had a glint in his eyes and work on his hands.
i heard tradition in his voice
and saw history in his story.
i wondered if he needed another grandchild.
i thought to myself, i’m so up for the job.

he had a small shop, all perfectly blue.
wooden molds for hats

and brass stands for shoes.
worn wooden chairs and mottled glass cabinets.
things hanging from hooks 
and polishes in tins.
newspapers abound and
cafes in short paper cups.

opened in 1938,
his father repaired hats,
and now he the same.
teeming with business then, but slower now.
it keeps him just busy enough, he said.
seventy-two years of craftsmanship
passed from father to son.

it got me to thinking about
how easily things are lost.
of how tradition sometimes falters in the space, 
from one generation to the next.

and it got me to thinking about people and their craft.
and of the things we choose to do.
the ways we use our hands, 
the ways we use our minds,
the things we choose to buy.
 and too, of the people whose stories we choose to listen to.
of the histories we care to remember.

it got me to thinking,
that craftsmanship is so easily lost these days.
and that the division of labour so changed the world. 
and that, while we build a small piece of something,
we so easily loose sight of the whole.

it’s no revelation of course.
i’ve a soft spot for people and their craft.
for family businesses and for tradition.

the truth is, 
i just think we should listen more to stories.
we should make sure they are, well, less easily pushed aside.
i want to know where my cheese came from.
and i want to know the story of the family that started the farm.
i want to know who made my bread
and i want to know why they made it.

idealistic perhaps, but attainable just the same.

it’s simple really,
i’m keen on a sandwich with meat smoked by hand.
i’m keen on a passion that stands the test of time.
and i’m keen on the story.

i drank beer this weekend, the kind made in small batches.
i ate maple butter this weekend,
the kind made in someone’s backyard.
i tasted smoked meat this weekend,
the kind that is that way, because tradition made it so.
and it all made me happy.

it was really good.
 i hope yours was equally so.
happy tuesday all.

xox, n.

i can’t get over this light.
a new subscription, the art of eating.
this photo screams, waiting on summer to me.
moccasins for a friend’s new baby. love.
plus, i’m currently obsessing over meat pies.
do you have a family recipe?
feel like sharing, i’d love to try.

the new recipe download i promised,
it’s coming,
it’s just that there’s a surprise involved
and that bit, it’s taking a little longer than expected.
soon though, promise. 


posted on March 2, 2010 by Nikole


  1. Simply Mel says:

    Tears of joy to read something so absolutely beautiful and true! The stories do matter, and matter so much! We must support the small businesses, the craftmanship and those who are so passionate about what they create and offer to the world, us.

  2. sarah deibler says:

    A truly beautiful post – thank you!

  3. tara says:

    I love his shop, and I love that you told us about it. Every bit rings true. So glad you got yourself on a train.

  4. Shannalee says:

    I love everything about this post.

  5. Jen says:

    I'm so glad we're friends. Because it's your stories that I like hearing about.

  6. Dana V says:

    Thank you, Nikole, for this lovely post. So perfect to read on a rainy SF morning! I was of course reminded of your own project with your dad when I read this and once again felt gratitude–for the story of it as much as the loveliness of the objects.
    I think you're right, that it's the story as much as the product or service that inspires us (although they are seldom far apart from each other.) And stories are only kept alive in the telling, so thank you for doing just that!

  7. Anna says:

    this is such a beautiful meditation on people and travel and craft. i love how you want to know who maks your bread and WHY they make it. passion is so important. i traveled to montreal this summer and just adored it. wish i was close enough to take a quick train ride.

  8. Electro Geisha says:

    wonderful photos and you always amaze me with your words :)

  9. Pamela says:

    Nikole,I am new to your beautiful blog and shop. You are a true wordsmith. I am sorry to detract from the beauty of your post to inquire about something "superficial." But the font used for "Forty-Sixth at Grace" is exquisite and I was wondering if the name of it was something that you would be willing to share?

    I look forward to your posts!

  10. de mis sueños says:

    indeed. that was beautiful.

  11. Ann Marie says:

    beautiful words about stories, tradition, food, and friends. this put a little bright spot in my gloomy day.

  12. braiseandbutter says:

    you write in a way that makes me want to pour a glass of really great wine, nestle in to my favorite chair, and read slowly, savoring. i can't say that about many other blogs. thank you for slowing me down and making me pause for a moment, and listen to your story.

  13. jules @ The Diversion Project says:

    lovely post and images. thanks for the journey!


  14. Enia Is (Almost) Here says:

    beautiful images and true words said.

    thank you for taking the time…

  15. Hannah Newnam says:

    An exquisite story. Such descriptive writing brought oodles of images to my mind. Makes me want to take off on a weekend train-ride adventure to see what sorts of people and things I discover.

  16. Jane Flanagan says:

    So beautiful, I can't begin to count the ways this moved me. And made me think about what I ask and tell. And it made me think about you and your Dad and love everything you make more. How lucky am I to own a piece of that story!

    I might share a family recipe. Closer to March 17th maybe :)

  17. Char says:

    i miss small shops, homemade in the neighborhood and yes, big dill pickles out of a barrel.

    beautiful shots

  18. erica-knits says:

    First thing I did after I read your post: Checked the price of a round-trip on ViaRail.
    Second: Checked my Visa balance.
    Third: Called a friend to ask about crashing on her couch. Success!

    I miss traveling by train. I miss smoked meat. I miss the churches and the language.

    I want to meet those people, those people who do and make that you've described. That means getting out of my apartment and into the world.

    Sounds like you had a fabulous trip. I'm so glad.

  19. See Hear Say says:

    your beautiful photos and writing, always got me stop for a moment and think. great work, as always.

  20. Celine says:

    beautiful story.
    that shop is beautiful nikole!
    and it is lovely that you took the train out. How does the canadian countryside look?

  21. Molly says:

    i love the reflections, inordinately. the bits about craftsmanship, also, inordinately. so spot on.


  22. Suz says:

    Calm, I love the calmness in your photos and your words.

    Thank you.



  23. alexandria says:

    You have an extraordinary way with words and descriptions. I immediately felt the mood and could imagine what you were sharing. Beautiful. I also loved the photo with the light coming through the window…such a lovely find.

  24. silverlinedletters says:

    this is such a beautifully written passage that struck a chord. there is just so much history and value in traditions and thank you for reminding me to cherish it <3

  25. nikole says:

    hi all! thank you so much, i love all your words. really, thank you. and

    pamela, no trouble at all, the font is from veer and it's called feel. :)

  26. Christina says:

    how beautiful this is. i felt your words, deep in my soul.
    so glad you are well, friend.

  27. nathalie et cetera says:

    this little shoeshine/hat shop is right down my street. isn't it a rare place? i love it. and whenever i pass it, i wonder the same as you about crafts and traditions. i really like how you captured it. and i'm amazed to realize you were in my neighborhood. small world.

  28. If Jane says:

    great post…and so happy to see montréal from someone else's eyes!! ;))

  29. Erica says:

    yes, yes, exactly.

  30. Pamela says:

    Nikole – Thank you for the font info. It really strikes a chord with me!