She was no saint, but she sure made sinning look awfully fun.
Miriam Braidberg - "Mimi" to all who knew her as the operator of the hole-in-the-wall breakfast joint just north of Queen on Bathurst, beside the sketchy Oak Leaf Steam Baths - died this week, leaving a hole in the music community bigger than a bucketload of the blintzes she served her special friends.
I was one of the lucky ones to have passed whatever internal screening process Mimi assiduously employed. She loved who she loved, and the rest, well, they could go to hell.
Her stunningly delicious and hearty breakfasts cured more hangovers and soothed more bruised egos and broken hearts than an iPod full of love songs, until she had to hang up her spatula in September 2007 because of nagging arthritis.
Mimi was one of the biggest music fans this city has ever seen, and her appearance at any gig, especially in the 80s, when Toronto was learning that our music did matter, was a vote of confidence a band could bank on.
It also meant that even if your gigs weren't selling out and no label was lining up to write you a cheque, you could drop into her diner and be made to feel like a star for at least as long as it took to munch down some eggs, chili and bacon with a great cup of coffee. And don't forget the home fries; they never tasted better than at her place.
Her free breakfasts for down-on-their-luck musicians were offered with a grace that never felt like charity.
"The first time we thought we might be turning into celebrities was when we heard Mimi had named her chili after us," says Blue Rodeo's Jim Cuddy, a huge Mimi favourite.
Mimi owned the first Blue Rodeo vanity licence plate, and the fact that Cuddy reminded her of another hero, Ramrod Rowdy Yates (Clint Eastwood to the rest of you) just added to his good fortune.
Not just a pushover fan, Mimi never entirely forgave the Rodeos for letting keyboard-playing Bobby Wiseman get away, but she tried.
No one was ever exactly clear about her diner's hours, but I, along with Cuddy, was one of the blessed Monday Hockey Boys for whom Mimi would open the restaurant.
We would roll in to find the handful of booths and the counter adjacent to her stoves jammed with platters of fruit, the air filled with the sweet smell of weed from the giant joint perched between her lips, as she fiddled with her skillets, the idyll only interrupted when some poor straggler came in looking for a meal.
"We're closed," Mimi would bark without even looking up from her work.
"But, but," the poor fool would stammer, pointing at a room full of happily chewing chumps, trying to understand.
"Closed," she would bellow. We all stared deeply into our plates until the confused reject would wander off muttering and we could get back to our banter and bacon.
She'd play us videos and tracks of her latest discoveries or, more likely, long-term obsessions, sometimes even tossing up highlight reels of some of the ex-NHLers who made their way to her legendary spot after skating with us.
She figure-skated as a girl and was especially thrilled the year Paul Coffey made it to Mimi's every Monday. But her star system was hers alone, and she wasn't impressed even if every one else was.
When Cuba Gooding Jr. showed up post-hockey, he was just another guy wanting home fries.
Fred Eaglesmith, Lyle Lovett, Mike Plume, St. Joni Mitchell, Rickie Lee Jones, Carolyn Mark, Neko Case, Oh Susanna, Frank Gorshin (?!) and, top of the charts, Bob Dylan - these were her heroes, and if she could feed them a meal, all the better.
"She loved and fed the people who fed her imagination," says Cuddy. "It was never about money. She just thought it was payback, a way for her to say thanks to those who had fed her soul."
"Just a cowgirl cookin' with love," it said on the cover of her wise-ass- worded menus, and you knew that was true.
Mimi was in touch with the intimacy of making and serving food, and from behind her counter she nurtured hearts and souls, not just bodies.