For many of us, living in Toronto is more than just exciting and cosmopolitan:
Rents are always on the rise, along with the price of tokens and the cost of living in general – and I’m betting your income can’t keep up – if you have an income at all, that is.
But when you can’t just buy your happiness, and have to consider every dollar you spend, you’re forced to be creative. You have to figure out imaginative ways of looking at the world. You discover things that those SUV-driving, condo-living, purebred-owning, stockbrokers down the street never could.
I don’t say this because I find the notion of living a “bohemian” life romantic, I say this ‘cause I am currently broke, but I still manage to have a good time.
So, I’d like to introduce you to the concept of a (really) Cheap Date: a fun night on the town that’ll cost you and a friend less than 30 dollars (and still be romantic).
For our first instalment I’m recommending an evening spent at some classic Toronto institutions – that you might not have previously considered to be date-worthy.
First, take your date to the library. I personally find libraries very romantic, and there’s pretty much nothing sexier than smarts.
But what you’re here for is a cookbook. Any cookbook that strikes your fancy, and contains a few recipes that you think you can handle. Ideally you’re looking for something “ethnic,” as that will give a convenient theme to the rest of your night. Given where you’re heading next, I recommend anything Latin American: perhaps simple Mexican for the beginner cook, or something Argentinean for the more adventurous.
Next, head to Kensington Market. Use your cookbook as your guide, and find yourself the necessary ingredients for dinner. Since I gave you that hint about food, you could head to any one of the Latino shops in the market (I recommend buying some tomatillos, limes in season, rich dolce de leche and of course, some fresh corn tortillas), but if you ignored my advice and chose a Latvian cookbook instead, you’ll still find lots of unique ingredients. Diversity is what makes the Market so much fun – and such a great place for a date.
Take your time, wander around, try some cheeses you’ve never tried before, sniff some spices you didn’t know existed – be willing to indulge yourself and your curiosity – trying new things together is one of the best ways to bring two people closer.
Since you are buying the raw materials for dinner, instead of just going to a restaurant, you are saving large quantities of moola – and impressing your friend with your ability to cook (even if you are just chopping tomatillos for salsa).
Finally, on your way back home you should head to the nearest independent video shop. You should have just enough money left to rent something interesting.
The Queen Video on Queen Street is a great choice and just around the corner from Kensington.
To complete your theme, you might want to rent something that hails from Central or South America. Some of my recent favourites from the vicinity include Frida, Y Tu Mamá También or the Motorcycle Diaries (depending on which you think would be more apropos for your date). However, the friendly folks at the shop could probably point you in the direction of something in their diverse selection that is a little more obscure (like maybe an old Mexican wrestling flick that puts Nacho Libré to shame).
Now you two crazy kids can head back to your apartment, cook up a storm and cosy up (or cool off – as the case may be this summer) in front of your feast and your chosen film. By the end of the night, your friend will be so impressed, exhausted and stuffed that they will have no choice but to spend the night.
And that is when you will thank me, because it all cost less than 30 bucks.
Illustration by Beth Maher, Photo from Ronwlevy’s photostream.