The Wisdom Found in Hen’s Teeth by Jules Torti

What do hot dog-eating contests, lost wedding rings, and Belinda Carlisle have in common? They’re just a sample of the topics explored in Jules Torti’s humour collection The Wisdom Found in Hen’s Teeth. The book contains Torti’s musings on matters ranging from the every day to the off-beat. Pets, relationships, and our relationship with nature are among the topics examined, and there is a generous sprinkling of pop culture references. Chapters are endowed with intriguing titles like “Fudge + Flying Saucers,” “The Fainting Goat,” and “Rocking Horse Manure.”

“This book contains Torti’s musings on matters ranging from the everyday to the off-beat.”

In the hands of some authors, a book like this might read as a set of disparate units. Torti, however, makes smooth transitions from one chapter to the next and often links back to ideas mentioned in previous sections. This makes The Wisdom Found in Hen’s Teeth read like a connected whole.

Torti mentions Brantford and Mount Pleasant as childhood locales, just a hop, skip and jump from my hometown of Simcoe, Ontario. Her description of family trips to a famous Ontario landmark brought back memories:

 . . . our family made an annual pilgrimage to the enigmatic Niagara Falls, generally on the hottest day of the summer. Air conditioning then meant rolling your window down, tangled hair and being unable to hear what anybody else was saying due to the wind tunnel created from travelling eighty kilometres an hour in the Cutlass on the highway.

But the book isn’t just about Ontario. Torti is widely travelled, both within this country and elsewhere, and she references experiences both within and beyond our country’s borders.

Since Torti is the former editor-in-chief of Harrowsmith Magazine, it’s no surprise that the writing is smooth and entertaining. Torti’s writing style, in The Wisdom Found in Hen’s Teeth at least, includes sometimes irreverent, and often witty, humour. As an example, the chapter “Timberdoodle Dance” begins with the line,

I guess personal ads have gone the way of acid wash jeans, blue eye shadow and Los Del Rio. Who? The group that made the Spanish dance number “Macarena” an earworm (that turned into a nuisance parasitic worm by the end of 1993).

Torti serves the laughter with a side of facts—she shares information about Alexander Graham Bell, turtle taxis, a man who makes stainless steel balloon animals, and other topics both familiar and obscure. I’ll freely admit that The Wisdom Found in Hen’s Teeth exposed me to a lot of things I didn’t know about.

Despite the rampant humour and Torti’s encouragement to readers to celebrate their “weird” side, some of the chapters deal with serious matters. Torti notes that, as a child, she had a deep admiration for Dian Fossey and Jane Goodall. In later life, Torti volunteered in Entebbe, Uganda with the Jane Goodall Institute. She’s the type of person who picks up dehydrated worms off the sidewalk, stops the car to move a turtle off the road, and will “cradle birds that have been struck by cars and tuck them beside rocks or fallen trees in the ditches.” Torti’s passion for living things and her concern for the well-being of our planet shine through in sections that deal with the environment and mankind’s degradation of it.

Torti ping-pongs from one idea to the next without losing the reader, thanks to her ability to make linkages between seemingly disparate topics. If you’re looking for an entertaining, informative, and thought-provoking read, The Wisdom Found in Hen’s Teeth just might fill the bill.

Jules Torti is the author of Free to a Good Home: With Room for Improvement, Trail Mix: 920km on the Camino de Santiago and Been There, Ate That: A Candy-Coated Childhood. She is the former editor-in-chief of Harrowsmith magazine and has been published in Cottage Life, Coast Mountain Culture, Our Homes, NOW, FASHION, The Globe and Mail and Vancouver Sun. Torti is currently the chief content creator at Wild Women Expeditions and is mostly at-large in destinations like Tanzania, Indonesia and anywhere due south. She lives on the 45th parallel in Lion’s Head, Ontario, halfway to the North Pole and (better yet) halfway to the equator.

  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Pottersfield Press (Feb. 17 2023)
  • Language ‏ : ‎ English
  • Paperback ‏ : ‎ 196 pages
  • ISBN-10 ‏ : ‎ 199077010X
  • ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-1990770104

Lisa Timpf is a retired HR and communications professional who lives in Simcoe, Ontario. Her writing has appeared in New Myths, Star*Line, The Future Fire, Triangulation: Habitats, and other venues. Lisa’s speculative haibun collection, In Days to Come, is available from Hiraeth Publishing. You can find out more about Lisa’s writing at