Jennifer Podemski savours some of her best moments in the strip malls of Bathurst and Wilson where she grew up and now resides. Recognizable from her roles in Bruce McDonalds Dance Me Outside, and Degrassi: The Next Generation, the Native Canadian-Jewish actress spoke to Zosia Bielski about the charms of Torontos early burbs.
Corner store nostalgia: I grew up a few blocks from where I live today near Bathurst and Wilson. Im two blocks away from where my dad still lives, two of my closest friends live on either side of me, my sisters live across the street from me.
Its ironic because for the last 15 years, I vowed to myself that I would never go north of Bloor, ever. As an urban professional, I always saw myself downtown and this place I always saw as retirement. Sure enough, turned 32 and I ended up buying a house here.
When Id walk to the corner store, that corner store had been there for my whole life. Last week it closed down. It was depressing; I think I took it for granted that Id been going there for 25 years. The sense of community was really nice and suddenly its not there anymore…
They tore down Earl Haig [the original building was demolished in 1996], which was pretty devastating – my highschool and all those memories. Sarah Polley was in class with my sister but we were friends.
Mixed bag: For a long time it was known, and probably still is known, as the Jewish area. Its actually really multicultural, lots of Orthodox Jews and Israelis like my Dad, plus a lot of Filipinos, a lot of Jamaicans, Caribbeans – just a microcosm of what Toronto is. The No Frills imports all the food from Israel and across the street, theres a Filipino bakery. There are lots of kosher restaurants, Jamaican restaurants, a lot of good Mexican places.
If you really want down-to-earth, homegrown cultural food, this is a great area. Im actually right behind a family-owned restaurant thats like a landmark in Toronto – Steves Restaurant [3788 Bathurst Street]. Its the place that Ive been going to since I was like one or two years old. Its a place where people congregate. Even when I lived downtown, I would drive up to Steves to have breakfast, bacon and eggs breakfast.
Baskin at Bathurst: Some of my greatest moments are sitting on the curb in a strip mall eating Baskin Robbins ice cream. That to me is really home. I had a moment last year when I was sitting at Bathurst and Wilson. Its kind of grungy and gross on the sidewalk but I sat down on a curb and just watched everything in the busy parking lot. People were all speaking different languages, sitting by their cars or outside in the summer time – everyone looks different and sounds different. I just thought, this is life and I love it.
Podemski stars in Moose TV, Thursdays at 9:30 p.m. on Showcase. She also appears alongside Mary-Louise Parker in The Robber Bride and stars in Fugitive Pieces, which opens the Toronto International Film Festival.