I like dining in. I like dining out. I like dining.
The word I have used above is “dining”. It doesn’t say food; it doesn’t say snacking. While I like food, I am not much of a snacker and my food has to be delivered in relatively civilised and refined places. I am not one who will buy a hamburger at a food truck and eat it standing on the street. I am one who might buy a hamburger in a well-known chain of restaurants and sit down and eat it there. My preference, however, is to enter a restaurant with or without a reservation and be seated by the maitre d’ in order that I can then “dine” well.
Or, I do not have to ‘dine’ in a restaurant, as it could equally be in a home, could be ours, could be someone else’s, and dine on well-prepared food. Food that has been chosen by someone and prepared by someone for the relaxation and refreshment of others.
I like to think of myself as a gourmet rather than a gourmand. Perhaps a number of decades ago I might not have minded the moniker of gourmand, but not in recent decades. The difference is that I no longer eat when I am full, see food and continue to eat, as is the habit of a gourmand. Gourmet, epicure, gastronome, bon vivant might more appropriately be applied to me, although bon vivant sometimes includes one who enjoys parties. That’s not really me, although once I am there at a party, I seem to enjoy myself. It’s the getting there that is ofttimes a challenge.
Let me provide an example of fine dining I recently enjoyed very much.
It has been a few years since we last dined at Gio, in Halifax, so we thought it was about time that we returned there. A daughter and her 11-year old son were staying with us, My Beloved and I were all going to the Royal Nova Scotia International Tattoo and Gio, being a short walk from the BNS Centre, was a good choice.
Christy, who took our phoned reservation, was at the reception desk when we arrived. She very cheerfully greeted us and proved to be a delight throughout the entire two hours of dining. She was very knowledgeable about the menu items and the wines.
After preliminary drinks of Kir Royale for our daughter, Pinot Grigio for My Beloved, a sort of Virgin Singapore Sling concocted by the barman for our grandson and a bottle of 2012 Cotes du Roussillon Villages – a Grenache, Syrah, Carignan blend – by Carmel & Joseph for me, although I, of course, shared it with the ladies after they finished their preliminary drinks, we looked around. Everything impressed. The ambiance was attractive and totally different from that which we remembered several years ago. And now splendid! Bright, cheerful and well-spaced tables, although we were seated at a booth at a large window. And beautiful lights.
As appetisers, our daughter chose the poutine with polenta fries. She found the poutine gravy and cheese tasty, but the polenta fries disappointed: nice and crisp on the outside, but as soon as they were touched by fork or mouth, they crumbled under the crust. She assigned an A for trying, but a C for result. We all sampled the fries and agreed with her summation.
Our grandson and My Beloved chose the seafood chowder and declared it was full of different seafood, including several mussels. And was deliciously creamy. It was definitely not a stand-up-your-spoon-in-it sort of chowder.
I elected to sample the catfish tostada, which was pan-fried catfish on toast with refried beans, guacamole, jalapeno crema, and a grilled lime on the side. I thought I had made the best choice, but that’s only my opinion.
Following the plates being cleared, Christy appeared with yet more complimentary items, three for the adults and one for our grandson. They comprised a very tasty little shotglass of sorbet to clear the palate and the grandson downed his as if it were a shot!
The menu is very extensive, the Chef being innovative and adventurous, and it had taken us all a little while to decide on our mains courses. However, our daughter chose the Beef, seared tenderloin and tempura cheek, with pancetta-stuffed roesti potatoes, Brussel sprouts, and sauce chasseur. Although it was all very tasty, she said she just couldn’t get enough of the potatoes.The tenderloin was tender, and just cooked and rare – just as requested! Our daughter prefers her Brussels sautéed: however, these were steamed.
Our grandson and I both ordered the Elk, which came having just been seared, leaving it true blue on the inside and double-wrapped on the outside with bacon. It was exquisitely tender, tasty and not at all gamy. The accompaniments were beet and Beemster (a cheese) pierogi, lemon and caraway crème fraiche, cabbage, elk sausage (small pieces in addition to the tenderloin), oyster mushrooms and sauce soubise (a sort of onion sauce based on Bechemel). Everrything made my mouth water for more.
The grandson had to have some dessert, of course, and selected an ice cream concoction with wafers and seven or eight miniatures of the soufflé.
It was a superb dinner, made all the better an experience, as our daughter treated us to this feast fit for a Gourmet.
In most homes in Nova Scotia,there is no air conditioning. After all, how many days in the year does it get above freezing?
But they have heaters, maybe forced air, which could be fueled by oil, gas or electricity. Or, maybe the home may be heated by electric baseboard heaters.. And a few unfortunate homes may have only wood fired stoves.
But few indeed would have air conditioning. Anyway hot air rises and cold air sinks, so our floor vents and baseboard heaters would have to work mighty hard to get cold air up to the ceiling. Oh, if you are rich enough, you would have air conditioning, but only for status. No real Nova Scotian would admit to wanting air conditioning for the two days in the year when the temperature rises above “pleasantly bearable”.
But things are different in Palm Springs, California, where we spend our winters to get away from the ceaseless cold and damp. Yes, here the outlet for the air conditioning is in the ceiling for the reasons I said above: cold air sinks.
But My Beloved does not like air conditioning, so we wrestle at night in the bed – no, we are not experimenting 50 Shades of – but what to do with the duvet. I throw it off: she pulls it back. We get down to some nights when even she throws the duvet off, but then we are left with a sheet and a blanket. I throw the blanket off: she pulls it up around her neck. I throw the sheet off: she complains I’ve left her shoulder out in the cold. Those are the nights when My Beloved wants the doors to the patio to be open, leaving just the screen doors closed to stop those marauding insects and creepy crawlies and to let in the desert night air. Which, I admit, is frequently cool.
But for the past February and March, the day temperature has been high twenties and now in the upper thirties – Celsius. Or, in other terms, approaching triple digit, as the meteorologists here say, Fs. And that’s when the desert nights stay much warmer, I would love to have the air con on, but…. Yes, you know, don’t you? If we have the air con on, then the doors must be closed and My Beloved ends up with a stuffed up nose: if we leave the air con off, then I am throwing the remaining sheet off.
If we were not so compatible and so much in love, we would be looking for a divorce lawyer. I would venture to say that the air con manufacturers are in the marriage business selling recycled wedding gowns. Some university should award a huge grant for some professor to write a paper and a study on the marital stress caused by air conditioning in the USA and resulting divorce rate. Isn’t that what many of these university studies are? Professors getting grants to study common sense issues and proving something the communi hominum. or we average Joes, believed all along. We wouldn’t need that study in Nova Scotia for aforementioned reasons that nobody has air conditioning.
Quod erat demonstratum, the divorce rate in Nova Scotia is mightily lower than that in the USA and air con is the reason for the higher divorce rate in the USA..
How we grow attached to our cars! They are inanimate objects made up of thousands of pieces of metal and plastic or, if you are lucky, wood, too. Yet they are sexy. We caress the steering wheel, we stroke the hood, we don’t let anyone smoke in them and, yes, we even talk to them, gently, sometimes angrily. And we love them.
Thousands of pieces of metal and plastic were brought together in a Chrysler plant some time in 1997 and the sum of all those pieces was delivered to a dealer near our home.
I fell in love with her one summer day.
There she was, in all her silvery glory in the dealer’s yard, her lovely eyes appealing to me. Yes, we knew at once that we were meant for each other. She had a sliding roof and all sorts of electronics. I well remember the salesman taking My Beloved and me out to her and pressing the key to unlock her. “Oh,” he said, “there must be something wrong with the alarm, for it should have sounded when I pressed the key.” “Not at all, ” responded My Beloved, “He’s already found out how to silence that while you were putting the papers together.” If there’s one thing I cannot stand with alarms, it is that they make rude noises when you approach or leave the car doors. I consider such noises impolite and a lady, such as she I had just purchased, should never have to utter such rude sounds.
This 1997 Chrysler LHS (then Chrysler’s top of the line auto) had no name and we could not come up with one which seemed to suit her. Until, a few days later, we drove across the continent from Nova Scotia, to pick up My Beloved’s sister and husband at Seattle airport and immediately on to Victoria, British Columbia, for our son’s wedding. We had crossed into Maine, passed through Hartford, Connecticut, the Adirondacks, by-passed Chicago, and entered Montana, all at sort of around the legal speed limits. However, Montana had no speed limits, so….
……yes, you guessed it. I had to discover what this LHS would do. So, foot pressing on the accelerator, she moved up quickly from a sedate 130kph, through the 150s, then through the 160s and 170s to 180. She was flying along, so she and we agreed on the name Fly.
But, again, as she got to 180 kliks,….
…..Oh no! The engine cut back and she slacked off to 170kph. I depressed the accelerator again. And again, like the beautiful woman she was, clockwise went the needle until, once again it registered 180kph. Oh, no! The engine cut back and I realised she had a governor preventing her from showing me the full extent of what the lovely 4.2 litre heart under her hood could do.
Despite having a governor, Fly was fast enough for us generally. She did Trojan work for us and we enjoyed the wondrous ability she had of traversing the continent seamlessly from Nova Scotia to Palm Springs, California, with a fully loaded trunk and back seat, a round trip of 17,000 kliks, including detours to visit family in Atlanta or Denver or Vacaville, six times, including one memorable trip along the real Route 66 from Chicago to Los Angeles.
Fly flew other long trips to Montreal and often to the neighbouring province of Prince Edward Island and served us magnificently, whether we were travelling near to or far from home.
But, there always comes the day when, as she grew older, much like us humans, she had aches and pains, some of which cost a lot of money in the auto hospital. And there is no national health program for distraught cars, so we had to pay for the fixing. Then came the day, the very sad day when it was just not worth the money to fix Fly, who seemed to have died overnight, peacefully in her sleep. We phoned the car funeral home; the hearse came, loaded her beautiful silver body on to the back of it and…..
……we teared up as we saw her depart down the driveway, through the trees, and off to car heaven.
Our sadness is ameliorated by knowing that all her parts are donatable to other cars and will live on.
RIP Fly – 1997-2014
I had a friend, Barry, who would stand, while waiting for an elevator, as close to the door as possible without touching it. When the doors opened, the individuals would be greeted by this face staring at them and saying “Good morning, all!”
Of course, he didn’t always get a laugh or a reciprocal greeting, but he never got punched in the face.
So what do you say when riding in an elevator? Do you say , “Good morning,” or “What a great day it is,” or do you just turn around and stare at the floor numbers as you ride up or down? The point is, we should all be taught from childhood that small talk is acceptable, useful, courteous and, often, fun. Yesterday, I was in the Dollar store buying a box of Beef broth My Beloved needed for a sweet potato salad. I chose the line in which just a couple of young woman were buying a stick each of chewing gum. So, I should be out quickly. However, it developed that they were in the line-up really to buy three gold balloons and three other balloons, all of which had to have the helium injected by the cashier. Oh, my! This is going to take a while, I thought. I turned around and faced the man, a Spanish American, and said to him, “I always seem to choose the slowest line!” He responded by saying he did, too. And we started a little conversation. Then a voice from the next cash desk said, “I can take the next person.” As a result of that little friendship we had struck up, the gentleman backed up out of our line, smiled at me, and asked me to go over to the new line, holding back others behind him, before he himself followed me.
It was gracious of the man. But would it have been the same reaction had I not introduced some small talk? I think it may well have been different.
Back to the elevator, so many people are afraid to offer even the smallest bit of small talk. Or, they might feel embarrassed; or they could be in a bad mood. What is small talk? A dictionary definition misses the point, I believe, when it defines it as “polite conversation about unimportant or uncontroversial matters, especially as engaged in on social occasions.” [Emphasis added] In my opinion, while it is useful on social occasions, it is more necessary in day to day contact with people whom we do not know or those whom we may know from work, but who are not our friends. More than one article has been written about the necessity of small talk in business, particularly in two situations: in interviews for a job; and in negotiations. The person who is able to open up with commenting on a current news event, the traffic hassle getting here, how the Leafs actually won a game, or even the traditional standby, the weather, is going to be more interesting for the interviewer or other party in a negotiation. The interviewer can get a better feel for the person inside the body sitting in front of him or her. The atmosphere will more likely become more friendly and, in the case of a negotiation, who doesn’t prefer to do business with a person you like, a friend, rather than someone other.
Small talk is not a waste of time: it establishes a good first impression and imbues a person with confidence. When you talk about movies, travel or the concert you attended last night, it shows you are a friendly person, one who is easy to talk to or converse with.
So, next time you negotiate a ten million dollar deal, make sure you look the person right in the eye (eye-contact is important) and say you murdered your grandmother last night. It is reported that President Franklin Roosevelt occasionally greeted a guest by saying that and the response was usually a polite nod of the head, until one person actually replied, “She probably had it coming to her!”
So, next time you are in an elevator, look around at all other passengers, speak up and say a big “Hello and good morning!”
I make no bones about it, I am a Luddite when it comes to the English language : or, am I?
I have been having a short emailed debate with a friend and we both agree that the English language is in the midst of changing times regarding everything about it: spelling; grammar; syntax; and even pronunciation.
Here is what I wrote to her in one email:
I said I am a lover of words. I do not like the new words funner and funnest. I dislike them intensely and those who know me best will say my use of the English language is truly English. I stick all the time with labour and centre and their ilks. And I will be using neither funner nor funnest.
I fear that some of our educators are at fault, for they themselves are insufficiently familiar with correct grammar and syntax and, furthermore, they fail in having a limited vocabulary. The TV programs to which children are addicted, particularly pre-schoolers, favour the American slang. One has to listen to any newscast to hear split infinitives, which, when I was growing up were anathema to our English teachers, or the use of ‘me’ when it should be ‘I’: “me and my friend saw the accident”.
Then, again, there is the constant use of ‘none’ as a plural, when it is singular: none of those apples is good. I drilled into my five children that none really means not one and you would not think of saying ‘not one of those apples are good”. (Oh, maybe some person would.) Neither nor is another example: ‘neither this bowl nor that is suitable for dessert’.
Perhaps the greatest influence in today’s society is texting. I get texts from people using awful abbreviations, u for you, the use of 2 and 4 for two and four, 2nite for tonight, and so on ad nauseum. When I text, I make absolutely sure that I write the text as I would write a letter to someone. I am appalled at my own children (with one notable exception, Jenny, in Atlanta) and my grandchildren using these shorthand symbols. Ugh!
I can go on with example after example of how the language, my English language, is changing. Of course, all languages change as new words have to be invented to describe new practices, customs or technologies, but the rate of change today in the basic language is very lamentable. [End of email]
I may be 82 next month, but I do not believe I am a Luddite and, until I get irate about this again, which could be sooner rather than later, when someone texts me with something like “ur 2 unreal”, this is the last on the subject.
The title of my blog, From Time to Time, has really been overextended, since I see the last time I wrote one was over a year ago – way back in September 2013.
So, what’s on my mind today and why has the spirit suddenly urged me to say something – well, it , my blog, was no longer evitable.
What’s more is that we, My Beloved and I, have been away for three weeks becoming parents of little children again. Oh, dear, we had forgotten how busy a parent’s schedule can be. And after two weeks, we were….well, let’s just say, we honour all parents for what they do.
One of the three sisters, Shae, 9 years old has had a recurrence of a brain tumour and she and her mother, Tara, had to spend over a week in a hospital two hours distance from their home. Dad, Mike, was working, so we stepped in to look after the other two girls, Falin, 10, and Catlyn, 8.
We started the day by being told by their mother to wake the girls at 6.30. In the morning, of course. In the dark morning, before any sun has shown any light. Well, that meant I had to get up at 6.15 to shave and do the usual ablutions one does after trying to get your eyes open. We, My Beloved and I, are notorious for not getting up early, so this was the first challenge. I mean, why would any sane soul get out of a comfy warm bed when you can’t even see where the bathroom is?
That aside, the challenge was met. The first morning, I rose and dutifully awakened the sleeping pair, moved on into the kitchen, went to put the kettle on, only to be obstructed by the guardian of the home, Samson, the big, strong black cat. He kept so close to my legs that until I got him his portion of a can of cat food, I could not safely move. So, having got the kettle going and two tea bags in the tea pot, I then started on lunch for Falin. And asked her and Catlyn what they would like for breakfast. Catlyn chose a corn dog with maple syrup: Falin, a piece of toast with some of that special strawberry-maple preserve we had sent in a Christmas CARE package to them from Nova Scotia ere we had left those foggy shores back in November. I put the jar back in the fridge, only to see Falin go into it and move the jar. On enquiring why she was moving it, she showed me that she had put it further back and some larger jars of marmalade in front of it. “Just to hide it from others,” she said guilefully with a grin on her lovely little face.
So, while Cat was maple syrup dipping and munching on her corn dog (a hot dog wrapped in pancake on a stick) and Fal was enjoying her toast, I had spread some paper towel on the counter, put two slices of bread on it, buttered them well (Fal likes butter as much as I), slavered them in Nutrella before folding them together and wrapping the sandwich up in the paper towel and, finally, slid it into a zip-lock plastic bag. This was her lunch, along with some apple fries, apple cut into french fries shapes, if you can find them in the stores, otherwise apple or pear slices and some cheesey things in a cayenne-hot powder, a a bottle of cold iced water. Cat gets lunch provided by the school, so no lunch had to be made for her, but Fal likes to sit with her friends and exchange foods. Still, an iced water bottle had to be filled for Cat, too.
Then, “Both of you, go and get your teeth cleaned – and, Falin, are your swimming things ready in your other backpack?” For, after school finishes at 2.30pm….well I am getting ahead of myself.
Next, we didn’t know what to do with ourselves. We had over half an hour to wait before i had to drive them to school. Well, might as well get some homework done, kids. So they did. Then, at 7.50 precisely, we drove to school – just a three or four minute drive. There we got out and I talked to Miss Heather. Miss Heather is the 75 or so crossing guard. She rules the intersection with a steel whistle and a stop sign. She gives one sharp blow on the whistle and off she marches, defying all the vehicles wanting to preceed down or up the road. And woe betide you should you place a foot off the sidewalk before she blows the double whistle once she is established like the rock of Gibraltar in the middle of the road.
After a couple of days, Miss Heather and I had something going. She came up to the car window and Falin rolled it down, and told the girls Poppa, the name by which she called me, and I, she said, have a romance going. However, she told the girls, she was much too old to try to get Poppa away from their lovely Gramma. She, I am convinced, is a saint. Over her lifetime, she has looked after 58 foster children and adopted three of them, all three mentally challenged. She empathises with Shae and her family, as her husband died a few years ago of brain cancer.
So, I walked Fal and Cat across the road and into the school yard, where, after a few minutes, they all line up in their respective classes, pledge allegiance, and, some mornings, do ten minutes of physical exercises or dancing.
Then i went home, where My Beloved was preparing our breakfasts. Now, after a couple of days, My Beloved decided to get up at the same time as I did and that led to an expansion of the breakfast menu for the girls. While I was feeding Samson and making the tea, she would be frying an egg and putting it on toast for Fal, who thought this was a great idea, instead of just a piece of toast and jam. Perhaps to mother Tara’s chagrin, as that means she will have to compete with Gramma and fried eggs for Falin, once she is back to running the house.
Then My Beloved and I would go and do some shopping, she having decided what she will cook for dinner. And, of course, she was also doing laundry. And you should see how many clothes the girls dump in the laundry basket. Our five children never produced as much laundry as these two could and did.
On Mondays, a snack for Falin of half a dozen little pizza puffs or a corn dog from the yellow box with a small container of ketchup would be prepared by me or My Beloved, another bottle of iced water drawn and then I drove back to school around 2.20pm complete with swim gear, chatted with Miss Heather, went into the school yard and waited for the girls. Then, we drove to the open air pool, the temperature being not hot, varying daily around 12C to 20C, dropped Fal off and returned home with Catlyn. She would have had lunch at school, but she probably wanted a snack, too. Then, help was given to her with her homework, which might be math or writing a few sentences on a book she would read to me. When we arrived, she was struggling with her reading, being able to sound out the syllables, but not able to string them together. However, after a lot of reading and coaching by myself, by the time we left, a couple of days ago, she was reading much better. Her mother, Tara, says there was a vast improvement. And I believe there was.
Falin had to be picked up from swimming at five, having been training for an hour and a half. She does that every week day and has achieved Junior Olympic standards in breast, fly and free style. Between Shae’s first operation, almost two years ago, and until just before this second one, she, too, was swimming well. It is her favourite sport and thing to do. Catlyn, has improved tremendously since we last saw her swimming almost a year ago and so all three will be challenging for the Olympic team in the future, we hope.
On returning with Falin from the pool, Gramma, My Beloved, had dinner ready, grace is always said by this family, whether at home or in a restaurant, and after which the kids clear up the table and settle down for more homework, with which they almost invariably need help and at least another half hour of reading with Catlyn. She did very well with a series of books my Dad bought for our children way back in the 1960s and which served our children well.
After the girls went to bed, it was time for Gramma and Grampa to relax with a glass of wine and retire themselves very shortly after.
Tuesday was different – WOW – in that Catlyn went swimming after school, as well as Falin, so snacks had to be prepared prior to picking them up. Sometimes, I would stop and watch Falin for her ninety minutes, after which Catlyn was in the pool for an hour, so we would drive home after 6 pm.
Wednesday was different again – another WOW -, as school finished early at 1.30pm, so they came home, did some homework, before I took Falin back for her lessons at 3.30pm. Catlyn would go also, but only to play in the play area with friends from the swim team.
Thursday was like Tuesday.
And Friday was like Monday.
That’s how the week went. A huge WOW on Saturday, for Grampa, Gamma and the kids did not have to get up early. Mike did go to work, however.
The first Sunday we were alone with the girls, Gramma and Grampa overslept, so we did not get to church.
However, on Tara and Shae coming back from the operation to remove the regrown tumour on a Thursday, we all went to church on the Sunday.
Gramma was still preparing the meals and some laundry, and Grampa still insisted on continuing his duties of school and swimming runs and helping out with homework as well as a big project Falin has to get in before near mid-February. She had chosen to make her project, the River Nile. So we researched its history, animals, people, culture, and geophysics, all of which was of great interest to Grampa.
As for Shae, when we arrived just over three weeks ago, she was obviously having trouble with her right side arm which had become powerless and leg, which was dragging. However, since the tumour was removed, she has been making truly remarkable strides, being able to walk without support. All due, we contend, to the syncretic beliefs and support from hundreds around the world.
And Gramma and Grampa came back to the warmth and sun of Palm Springs and slept really late until after 10 am Friday, which, because we had neither eggs nor bacon, we went to Pinocchio in the Desert for brunch.
And if you want to see what we ate there, go to http://www.tripadvisor.com/members/MelvilleP_13#CITY_TILES in a couple of days and search for it under Palm Springs.
In three days I will have attained the age of 79 (I drafted this 7 March 2012).
I don’t often think about my age, but when I do, it is to thank God for all the blessings of this life: My Wonderful Beloved of (in 2 days) 57 years; five exceptional (in my biased parental view) children and their equally exceptional spouses and their 11 children; as good health as one can reasonably expect at this time of one’s life (I have just returned from a few-mile walk to the Dollar Store with a friend); the ability during my working days to have accumulated enough to finance our retirement and to give generously to the church and a number of other charities; and to be living in a country where we can speak our mind and feel safe perambulating the local area – wherever that might be at any given time. There are, of course, many other blessings of this life and I am thankful for all of them.
But, at the same time, the title of this post is one to consider well, whether you are a believer in a supreme being or not, for we are on this earth for a finite sojourn and it is well that we do make the best of being here. Not just for our self-satisfaction, not for the benefit of specific others, but for the benefit of the world and future generations of people. If everyone who has lived on this earth had used his or her talents to the greatest advantage, if they had been generous with love of others and friendly to the environment, can you imagine in what Utopia we would be living today?
So, that did not happen; it is not happening today; and with the knowledge of that had I myself used every minute of my life to the full, I may have made a very small difference to the world in which my grandchildren will live, but I did not use every minute as it could have been used, then does that make me sad or depressed? No, for I, too, am human, as was the psalmist. He was not expecting us to be perfect: he was urging us to live our lives as well as we can, in the full knowledge that we can never be perfect.