Topline: Connecting to community through food

Half-vaxxed picnic season is here

Hi there! I’m Riley Sparks, and I work on videos at Xtra. This is my second time writing the “Topline,” and I’m coming to you from Toronto, where it’s finally starting to feel like summer. 

Remember, “Topline” is just a dash of the whole experience—don’t forget to subscribe to Xtra Weekly to get the full newsletter in all of its glory.

What’s the buzz 🐝?

After a lot of stops and starts—and after watching our neighbours south of the border get widespread access to the COVID-19 vaccine, like the kid who skipped class all semester and then cruised through the final exam without studying—more people across Canada are starting to get their shots. (I got mine at a pop-up clinic, thanks @VaxHunters!) If you haven’t yet, I hope you can soon, too! 

But as Xtra’s Mel Woods said last week, even if it does seem like things are turning around, we’re still waiting for something that looks like the “after times” (that is, at least here in North America; unequal access to vaccines will leave the rest of the world waiting even longer). 
So given all of that, it wasn’t surprising to hear that big events like Pride would likely be cancelled again this year. My condolences to those of you still blessed with a shred of remaining optimism after this past year (although that said, there may be hope yet for Vancouver, where Pride isn’t scheduled until later in the summer!).

What were we thinking 🍰?

But maybe we can start meeting friends outside for picnics soon. And, on that note, I want to talk about a new (well, sort of new) series we’ve started at Xtra with our pal Jennifer E. Crawford. 

Hopefully you’re familiar with Jennifer’s series My Queer Kitchen and all of the beautiful work they do around food and community. If you’re not, I strongly recommend you take a sec and at least check out their Instagram—it’s a guaranteed shot of serotonin that will make you want to drop everything and move to an isolated farmhouse in the woods of Nova Scotia (if you didn’t already). 

Earlier this year, when we were talking about what they wanted to do on the new season of My Queer Kitchen, Jennifer said one of the things they’ve missed most during the pandemic isn’t just getting together with friends or cooking and eating together, but the moments before you leave the house, when you’re getting all dressed up and ready to go. 

It’s been so strange not having that—not just with friends, but also losing those casual acquaintances you used to run into every couple of months (or even new friends). A lot has been written about this idea that the pandemic has removed all of those people you kind of knew but weren’t really close enough to keep hanging out with virtually or in a bubble from our lives. I think I can count on one hand the number of new people I’ve really talked to for more than a few minutes in the past year (as an unapologetic water sign, this is obviously deeply unsettling to me). Our communities have all shrunk. 

So when Jennifer suggested that the new series would travel (virtually) and meet new people and learn about their cooking stories and the communities they love, this sounded like exactly what we all need right now: An excuse to bring back what they called the “pomp and circumstance” of getting together with people. It’s a little taste of that missing community that hopefully we can all get back to soon. Their first video with the multi-talented baker and drag queen Sheldon Lynn is available now. Lotus pastries! A 24-carrot necklace! An edible terrarium! They have it all. And stay tuned for more soon. 

Okay, sorry, one other thing: I told myself I wouldn’t talk about it too much because Chelle Turingan already dedicated a whole newsletter to it, but our film Small Town Pride premieres at Inside Out next week. It’s a story about people across Canada who love their small communities and want to make them even stronger, more welcoming places to live and love—but it’s also a time capsule from the before times, when we could comfortably get together and celebrate in person. 

So if you’re yearning for that, and for a reminder of what life looked like and will look like again soon, watch the film starting May 27 here. Tickets are free! (One unfortunate note, though: The film is only available in Ontario for now, but we’re working on getting it out to the rest of Canada and everywhere else as soon as possible!)

In other Xtra news 🌎

👉Speaking of getting ready to see each other in person again: Siena Liggins should be on the playlist for your first backyard/park party.

👉Kai Cheng Thom takes on a big moral question: Is it ever okay to ghost someone

👉“It’s time to recognize ‘sides’ as a legitimate sexual identity,” Bobby Box says.

👉Just in time for summer, Mel Woods has a big roundup of all the great YA novels you should check out

👉One more from Mel: It’s almost June and corporations are serving up their annual offerings of rainbow capitalism.

👉Want more headlines? Subscribe to Xtra Weekly.


Just patiently waiting to hug my friends again:

Riley Sparks is a journalist based in Paris, and a former producer and story editor at Xtra.

Keep Reading

7 queer and trans storylines to watch at the 2024 Paris Olympics

From Nikki Hiltz to the Olympics’ first openly gay male judo competitor

In ‘The Default World,’ Naomi Kanakia skewers the hypocrisy of progressive rich kids

REVIEW: The novel is scathingly funny, painfully realistic and relentlessly critical in its view of the world

‘Fancy Dance’ finally gets the release it deserves

REVIEW: Lily Gladstone stars in the tender and arresting queer Indigenous drama
A close-up of Celine Dion's face, looking emotional, in I Am: Celine Dion

‘I Am: Celine Dion’ tackles the icon’s legacy from her own point of view

REVIEW: The film highlights an icon sorting out her life without the very thing that built her career