It is early in the morning in Toronto. I am sitting in the lounge of my future mother in law’s house, everyone still asleep upstairs, everything quiet and still in that particular early morning way. I have not had a moment to sit down and write since arriving in Toronto on Saturday, but this morning got up earlier and tiptoed down to the kitchen and made myself a cup of tea, at home already.

I flew out on my own, my fiancée already here from a week before. So you can imagine how high my sense of anticipation and excitement and I have to admit, my anxiety levels were as I finally stepped onto Canadian soil after a very long flight, stopping over in Frankfurt for 5 hours to boot. But when I walked in here, and saw my love’s mother walking towards me with her arms outstretched, I knew that all would be well.

As it has been so far. On Saturday evening I had an introduction to some of the family at a meal cooked by M, my 85 yr old mom in law to be. She grilled fresh Canadian salmon on a cedar plank on the gas barbeque out on her patio, served with red skinned baby potatoes. I don’t think I have ever met an 85 yr old person with more energy and lust for life and curiosity. She organised an informal engagement party for us for the next evening, where I met all of the family and some friends. The menu: home made cold avocado soup, and borscht, eaten or drunk rather, from glasses, then corn on the cob and grilled marinated brown field mushrooms served with the most delicious hamburger patties, made by my fiancée’s brother and cooked by him on the selfsame gas barbeque to utter perfection, served with salads made by my two new sister in law’s to be. A nice blend of a South African braai and seemingly Canadian tradition, the hamburger patties were served on special hamburger buns, unlike the soft white buns which never hold together, and everyone helped themselves to sauces and mustards and salads.

As an unexpected but wonderful finale to the evening, M revealed a cake ordered from a local confectionary with our names and Mazeltov! piped onto thin slivers of marzipan on top, and I could not resist enacting that American tradition of feeding one another a slice of cake, to much encouragement and hilarity of all.

And so I was welcomed to the family, ex South Africans living in Toronto. And here I am, only now really beginning to get a sense of the vastness of this country. Toronto is a sprawling city, with seemingly endless things to do, with restaurants offering every conceivable style of food: Oriental, Middle eastern, French, American, Italian, Polish, Jewish, Indian: the list is endless; and fresh food to buy at enormous supermarkets and other fresh food markets. So far we have had Thai, and Jewish Deli style food at a place appropriately called Caplansky’s, Austrian food in Unionville, a quaint restaurant in an equally quaint historic village, and generic American food out at a fantastic cinema complex where I simply had to go and watch: El Bulli: Food in Progress.

This trip is still in progress too. A supper in downtown Toronto tonight, a day spent in the country tomorrow with an ex South African wine aficionado and owner of a wine farm in Napier in the Cape, on Thursday more art galleries to see, photographs to be taken of the unique Toronto cityscape with towering glass encased buildings… On Friday I have agreed to cook for us here, so I have to think about a menu. On Saturday we will see the newest Cirque du Soleil show, on Sunday off to Hamilton to spend time with my lover’s brother and wife: he is a good cook, so another good meal or two I guess coming up. Then off to see the Niagara Falls, then back to Toronto for a final goodbye.

And then Paris…. which this Toronto leg of the trip is subtly preparing me for, as I read the French words for all the products and services and in stores and on streetcars and in trains and on the half-and-half milk carton…

So, next post(a nice word play on “stop” don’t you think?): Paris….