There’s an oft-heard phrase in town: “Only in St. Marys…” What comes after the ellipsis can be positive, negative, or perhaps a bit of both, but regardless of the connotation, it’s a comment on our community’s inexplicable uniqueness.
You must admit, St. Marys is a special place. Maybe it’s the electromagnetic waves produced by the layers of limestone beneath our collective feet, maybe it’s because of the concave nature of our topography (both have been suggested to me in the past). Or perhaps we feel so singular because we are; not only are we separated from the county system, we’ve also chosen to flout proper grammar, keeping that apostrophe out of our name for 150 years… and counting.
I’ve found myself musing “Only in St. Marys…” lately, but it’s all good. I chuckled upon reading Stew Slater’s editorial on canoeing last week, as only in St. Marys might the news editor’s and recipe columnist’s subject overlap. I was “this close” to writing about my own canoeing experiences for, after a few years of debate, and relying on the generosity of the Ruthig brothers, Andrew and I finally bought our own canoe.
Only in St. Marys does the confluence of a river and creek make for a perfect canoe launch and lake to cruise in. On Victoria Day, it seemed that half the town had the same idea: get out on the water, and early. We spent most of our trip greeting fellow paddlers, and as we enjoyed a lengthy mid-lake chat with some kayaking friends, we started up a second conversation, via shouting, with someone on the Sarnia Bridge. Only in St. Marys…
For such a small town, we’re blessed with some cool connections, which brings us to Thursday night. Andrew and I enjoyed a night out at the Westover Inn — a welcome combination of dinner and a fabulously intimate concert by Trent Severn, featuring St. Marys’ own Emm Gryner. Only in St. Marys does a mom you typically see at the library’s Tales for Tots morph into an internationally acclaimed musician and leave the crowd wanting more (along with equally talented bandmates Laura and Dayna).
Only in St. Marys does a stately inn host such a cool concert. Only in St. Marys do you end up sitting beside fellow Journal ARgus columnist Mary Smith, whom you’ve been trying to touch base with for a few days regarding some volunteer work, but she broke her wrist so it’s been a challenge. Coffee date set; concert enjoyed.
Only in St. Marys, too, does a klutzy girl like me end up as president of our town’s fledging tennis club. It’s a long story, but sufficient to say that I’ve had a lot of help. One of the key players is, unsurprisingly, Rob Favacho. He’s played on those tennis courts since they were built 60 years ago, and has been an ample source of inspiration and information as we work on getting the courts resurfaced and the club going again.
Only in St. Marys do you have a guy like Rob, and his extended family, all of whom are infected with the tennis bug. Only in St. Marys does Rob’s sister-in-law, Ruth come out of a long retirement to play in our doubles tournament at the last minute with son Tim, trampling many teams (including mine!) in their wake.
Saturday night, after said tournament, Andrew and I decided to tackle our garden. As we toiled in the twilight, two figures walked towards us, our friends Emily and Kevin. Only in St. Marys can a few visits turn into a desire to move here, permanently. They moved here from London a few months ago, but there are folks from all parts who came here for the wonderful lifestyle benefits and eccentricity this town has to offer (It’s also why so many stay).
Only in St. Marys? You bet. And only St. Marys!
This tangy, crisp salad is great in warm weather. Local radishes will come into season shortly!
Fennel & Radish Salad
(From The Naked Chef)
2 large fennel bulbs
½ bunch radishes, thinly sliced (about a half pound)
1/4 cup plus 1 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
2 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. freshly ground pepper
Trim the top and bottom of the fennel bulbs, reserving the excess from the top for another use. Remove and discard any tough outer layers. Cut the bulbs in half lengthwise and very thinly slice them crosswise. Add the sliced fennel and radishes to a bowl of ice water and let stand for 15 minutes, until very crisp.
Meanwhile, in a small bowl, whisk the extra-virgin olive oil with the lemon juice, salt and pepper.
Drain fennel and radishes and pat dry. Toss fennel and radishes with the dressing and let stand for 5 minutes before serving. Serves six