Trade Customers click here
← Back to Book Main Page

Introduction by Peter Gzowski

My favourite way of getting to the Sechelt Festival of the Written Arts is to show up at a dock I know in Vancouver harbour, and hop a sea-plane flown by a guy named Klaus. Klaus flies you the scenic route. Every flight path between Vancouver and the Sechelt peninsula is stunning, of course: mountains and islands and the sun glimmering off the waters of Howe Sound. But Klaus's own joy in the trip he has made a thousand times adds to his passengers' pleasure, and by the time his magic carpet, after a few swoops down to check out the hovercraft on its way to Victoria, or to see if Bruno Gerussi's out sunbathing at his house at Gibson's Lannding, settles into your destination, you feel as if you can't help but have a good time.

The pleasure rolls on when you're ashore. Writers come from all over the country to gather at Sechelt. You never know who you'll run into. You never know what they'll do either. Ostensibly, we're all there to read and be read to. But when someone like Tom Berger, say, steps to the podium in the airy and spacious outdoor pavilion, set among the cedars and the firs, his talk is liable to turn into a stimulating hour-long seminar on the future of Canada, with people hanging on every word (I eavesdropped on that session from the balcony of my room in the Rockwood Centre). Or when Lorna Crozier opens her latest book of poems (Lorna actually followed Tom one year, as I remember), it can take off into a session from which the laughter wafts out over the salty air, and people call out requests like patrons in a familiar bar.

Before and after - and, if the truth be known, sometimes during - the formal sessions, there's still more talk. Breakfast, lunch and supper (all one form or another of buffet) are constant colloquies. So are the breaks. If none of the conversations at any of the umbrellaed tables strikes your fancy, you just take your tea somewhere else amid the rhodendrons and magnolias and settle down. Soon, someone will join you. Everyone - writers, patrons, volunteers (when they have time) and just passers by - feels free to drop in on everyone else. I remember once, right after I'd dropped out of the sky in Klaus's plane, checking into my room and, just to make sure I could do some entertaining during my stay, heading out for the local emporium to pick up a bottle of wine. On my way I met the poet Patrick Lane. We shopped together and decided to hit the beach. There, as we parked on a log and watched the breakers roll in while we solved the problems of the world, Jeffrey Simpson, The Globe and Mail's keenest political writer, came strolling down the path. We waved him over, and for much of the next three hours, the poet, the pundit and the broadcaster talked of baseball, boyhood, landscape, friendship and-well, okay -women. I can't think of anywhere else in the world where three such disparate people could have done that.

This lovely book is as varied and unpredictable as a visit to Sechelt itself, with recipes that range from the sublime (see Umberto Menghi's osso buco, for example, or try to read about Robert Kroetsch's tyropitta without your mouth watering) to the... well, to Robin Skelton's. It has therapeutic soups, tangy salads and desserts that should probably be illegal. It has childhood memories, family secrets, kitchen misadventures and a fish ceviche (from Paul St. Pierre) that sounds as if it would cure pneumoniai The only thing I can think of, in fact, that could be more seductive than spending some time contemplating its charms-and sampling them-would be heading down to that dock again, and seeing if Klaus is idling his engine.