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Pea Soup

I tried to discover the difference between yellow split peas and green split peas.

Why? Because My Beloved uses green split peas to make pea soup and last evening we were invited to Harold and Helen’s to dine on yellow pea soup. Now I am able to write from experience and I deem both very tasty. My Beloved provided fresh hot-out-of-the-oven French bread as the accompanying side, while Helen provided the appetisers of shrimp and cheese, the desert of strawberry shortcake and a couple of bottles of Merlot. A simple, excellent meal. And the company (all four of us) was outstanding!

However,whether you like the different taste between them is, it appears, purely personal and, judging from the reviews, whether your mother used yellow or green peas. I do not recall what colour pea soup my Mummy made, but I have already told you that My Beloved uses green split peas, so that is the flavour to which I am accustomed. But, really, at my age the taste buds can’t tell the difference – or can they?. Some people say that one is sweeter than the other, others say that one is slightly more bitter than the other. As, I said, it all depends, I think, on what their mother made.

We are going to do a repeat at our condo for Helen and Harold, but using My Beloved’s green pea soup recipe. No, it’s not a competition: simply just another reason for four friends to get together for a pleasant evening.

I also discovered in my research what pease pudding is, as in the Christmas rhyme, ‘pease pudding hot, pease pudding cold, pease pudding in the pot nine days old”. It seems to be, basically, a very thick yellow pea soup. In the North of England, stotties are sometimes stuffed with pease pudding. Stottie? A new one on me, too, but it is a circular, 5cm thick. very doughy bread, cut in halves or quarters, with a pocket made in them and stuffed with the pease pudding.

It’s time for my yogourt and blueberry lunch with 24 almonds. 


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Planned Leftover

Yesterday, I wrote about Leftovers. Today, My Beloved used a pork chop I had barbecued a week or so ago, one of four which was not eaten: because they were 4cms thick.  One of us ate one, whereas My Beloved and I ate only most of each of ours. Probably, my doctor would have said, I should not have eaten as much as I did. 

So, today, My Beloved provided me with one of my favourite meals: stir fry. She used the chop which was not eaten to provide the basis for the stir fry, adding onion, red peppers, garlic, ginger, celery, carrots and mushrooms, all in a wonderful red spicy sauce.

So, I am using the term ‘Planned Leftovers’, since the unused chop was not, strictly speaking, left over from another meal. It was cooked, not to be eaten with the other three, but with another meal in sight. Whatever!

Anyway, it was delicious.Image


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Who hasn’t any leftovers in the fridge? Particularly after Christmas and New Year and after all those visitors have left.

My Beloved and I have been eating leftovers, it seems, for ever. Not really. It just seems that way. But today’s dinner was an example of leftovers:

  • We had leftover cheese-stuffed sausages from when we had grandchildren and some parents here over New Year – 2013, that is, not 2012!
  • We had leftover mashed roasted cauliflower and sweet potato from a dinner the other evening of huge barbecued pork chops.
  • We had leftover piece of sweet Mayan Onion from a couple of onion sandwiches I had made and eaten for a couple of lunches – oh, yes, not two sandwiches for one lunch. Have you ever had my onion sandwiches? They must be made with sweet Vidalia onions or the others which are nowadays available tasting even sweeter, with a fair amount of salt, a lot of pepper a little mayo spread on both pieces of bread, and sometimes a slice of Velveta cheese. Today, I sliced a jalapeno on it, too. Tonight, however, this leftover slice of onion was chopped up and mixed in with the mashed roasted cauliflower and sweet potato.
  • I’m not sure tomatoes can be considered leftovers when they have just been sitting on the shelf since we bought them a week ago, but, if they can be considered as such, then we also had leftover fried tomato halves.
  • And we had red wine. Not left over from anything, unless you consider the fact that if there is any wine in our house, it is left over and should be consumed.

So, the sausages were barbecued, the mash was fried up and crisped on one side, the tomato halves were also fried, all eaten while the red wine was drunk.

Then we sat down and watched the new young 19-year old American lass, Sloane Stephens, beat Serena Williams to gain the semis of the Australian Open Tennis and the Brit, [Scot] Andy Murray beat the Frenchman Jeremy Chardy.

All the while sipping some leftover red wine. Until it was bedtime.

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From Stygian caves to hamburgers

Many years ago, some 65 or so, I was in bed with pneumonia and my mother was for ever running to the library to accommodate my avidity for reading books. At the time, it could be satiated only with Biggles, a fictionalised World War 1 British flying ace, but I had read all those they had in the local public library in the part of England in which we lived.

However, a best friend, Joyce, was a girl year older than I (oh, no, I had my eye on another girl, an auburn-haired beauty), but Joyce had an older brother, John. To me, John was a real man-of-the-world and he liked the same music I did, such as Borodin’s Polovtsian Dances and other classical music. So, when he suggested I read Zane Grey‘s books, my mother went back to the library. I read every Zane Grey in the library. And have never looked at a Zane Grey since. Until a couple of days ago……

I received a Kobo from My Beloved aka The Treasurer as a Christmas present, Kobo being the Canadian Kindle or Nook eBook. This purchase was rationalised by The Treasurer saying that as we are planning to downsize and move into a condo or something smaller and in town, purchasing more paper made no sense whatever. What The Treasurer did not realise, however, was that I do not have to wait until we go to the shopping mall to be able to buy a new book. Wow! How simple it is. The world of books is at my fingertips.

So, back to a couple of days ago, I had been spending up to $15 for a new James Patterson’s Alex Cross or Peter Robinson’s Detective Chief Inspector Alan Banks – still a bargain compared to the hard copy of a new book. So, The Treasurer suggested that I might be able to find some reading material at a somewhat lesser price, which suggestion sent me to the Kobo store. There, among books categorised by price,  I saw a Zane Grey compendium of 18 of his books – in one download for only $1.99.

Yesterday and today, I have been reading Westerns. What I did not remember was how well Grey wrote. In my estimation, but who am I to know, it is beautiful and riveting prose, albeit dated. But so is Shakespeare’s writing, but who naysays him. The first of the 18 volumes, The Last of the Plainsmen, is a fictionalised version of one of Grey’s actual travels with “Buffalo” Jones, a well-known hunter and guide at the beginning of the 20th century. At one point when they are about to enter a huge cave, in response to a friend’s comment about the size of it, he says, “Oh! Dark Stygian cave forlorn,” a quote from Milton’s L’Allegro. And in further describing the cave, Grey writes, “Thousands of devilish voices rushed at us, seemingly on puffs of wind. Mocking, deep echoes bellowed from the ebon shades at the back of the cave, and the walls, taking them up, hurled them on again in fiendish concatenation.” I found that I was quite entranced with Grey’s story and I have difficulty in putting the Kobo down, all the while thanking John for introducing me to Zane Grey those many years ago.

Before leaving the subject of my Westerns reading, for another $1.99, I discovered a female Western writer and bought a compendium of 26 of B.M. Bower‘s books. The first one I read was Cabin Fever, written in 1918 and it kept me turning page after page. I had no idea that a woman had written any Westerns and, if Cabin Fever is any indication, extremely fascinating ones.

But what would one of my Scribblings or posts be if there were no mention of food. We are, for just this week, staying with Tara, Mike and their three little girls (7, 6,and 5 years) in Vacaville, a 7- to 8-hour drive north from our rented winter condo in Palm Springs, California. So, tonight, with both Mike and Tara returning from work around 5pm, Mike wanting to go to the gym and Tara taking middle-child, ShaeLynn, to Daisy Troop meeting (little Girl Scouts), we had to have an early and quick dinner. Hamburgers, I suggested. Not a particularly healthy meal, but since My Beloved and I eat a hamburger, maybe once every five years, it did not seem too bad an idea and was welcomed by all. The eldest little girl, Falin, was very pleased she had opted to give up chocolate instead of the cheeseburgers she had originally thought she would give up for Lent! Which, of course, started yesterday.

So, I put my memory into reverse gear and tried to remember how I used to make hamburgers. I remembered I had to have ground beef. That was a start. Tara had 5lbs in the freezer, which were taken out to thaw last evening. That was an even better start. I sauteed several onions until caramelised and chopped half a dozen garlic cloves finely, which were sauteed and mixed in with the onions just before serving. I crisped four rashers of bacon and made bacon bits. I mixed a couple of eggs in with the meat and made fourteen patties (I was told that was way too many) with an indentation in the centre of each, reserving about a third of the meat. I cut bouillon-sized cubes of Velveeta and inserted them in the indentation, placed some of the bacon bits on them. The remaining quarter of the bacon bits were mixed in before serving with the onion and garlic mixture. I then took the reserved meat and made a lid covering the Velveeta and bacon bits. After barbecuing the hamburgers, a good spoonful of the onion, garlic and bacon bit mixture was placed on top of the burger, and it was up to the eaters to choose whether to add a slice of Colby-Jack cheese, tomato slice, roasted red pepper slice, sweet relish or ketchup with a spear or two of dill pickle. They were s-o-o-o juicy and lusciously tasty. And those adults who had said they could not possibly eat two hamburgers, all had two each. I guess they were really juicy and flavourful. Wine? Of course.

And I’m finishing this post while still drinking a glass of Merlot. Or is it my third?

Your friend,

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Are children worth $1/4 million?

I ask you: is your child worth $226,920?

The US Department of Agriculture (don’t ask me why this particular Department) every year calculates the cost of raising a child from birth through its first 17 years. That’s up to age 18, if you’re not familiar with the American “through” instead of saying the British “ 18 years of age”. OK, my American pals, I’m not really getting at you for not speaking Canadian, let alone English English.

In the year of 2010, the Department reports  the cost to raise a child through 17 years was $266,920. Hm! That doesn’t even include post-secondary education. We had (still have) five children. Are they worth $1,134,600? More than a trifle over ONE MILLION Dollars?

Darn right they were/are. In this day and age, to have five married families with eleven children – our grandchildren – with no divorces or separations is something of which a parent may be justly proud. Every hour we spent with them was worth more than money can represent.

We enjoyed every hour with our kids – well, almost every hour, except when they got to their teens and thought (nay, knew) they knew better than their parents. After their teens, that opinion modified somewhat, fortunately. Now, we and they just know that each has her or his own levels and individualised areas of knowledge and none of us knows everything.

When they were growing up, we did enjoy going to the Pan Am gamesin Winnipeg, when we lived there; sailing on Lake Winnipeg;

Gimli at Lake Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada
Image via Wikipedia

road trips and camping in the Rockies; a six-week tour in a small, but well-designed camper bus, in Europe; a Christmas and New Year in the Cayman Islands; mucking out stalls when we had a stables in Montreal; riding; going to their soccer, ringette and ice hockey games; watching their swimming events, both racing and synchronised; being proud parents when one of our tribe was tossing batons in the Grey Cup parade in Toronto; seeing them graduate from various schools, colleges and universities; watching their courtships and eventual marriages; and, finally, enjoying our grandchildren.

And after that, seeing pay-back for all we had done so lovingly in their struggles with their own children!

So, it really doesn’t matter from any point of view how much the average child costs to raise, for, no matter how much young people can be told that, they will still fall in love and they will still have their own children. Ad infinitem!


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What’s the word? Oh, I can’t think what it is!

I was in my doctor’s office this morning and she asked me which drug store I used: was it Lawton’s downstairs or Sobey’s? No, I said it’s the one across the street. That one over across where your office used to be! Oh, you mean Shopper’s, she said.

While she was looking up some anomaly about my right foot,  we got on the subject of forgetfulness. I said I hated being unable to think of the right word at the right time and, of course, as we get older, she affirmed, it is usually names and nouns which are easily forgotten. She confessed such an occasion had happened to her last weekend, but before she could tell me what it was, I expressed mock surprise that someone as young as she could possibly forget words. Well, she said, then I will have forgotten many more words than you by the time I reach your age! Then she continued with her example.

It seems she had baked fish in the oven over the weekend for her family and had returned extra fish to the still warm oven in the event that someone wanted a second helping. In that event, her daughter asked if she could have some more and my doctor responded, certainly, it’s over there in the .. in the, not the fridge, that other thing over there – the oven!

Forgetting names has been a real fault in my make-up and has been embarrassing on many an occasion. My Beloved and I ran our own Risk Management consulting business for several decades, but I always made sure that she came with me when visiting a new client. All of our clients were large corporations or governments and we would be assigned to report to a particular officer or manager of the client. She would remember that person’s name, his or her children’s names and how many children he or she had. This would prove very useful in future meetings with the client or our liaison. I was never able to achieve a memory such as hers.

Forgetting names is possibly the worst social gaff one can make, as people love to hear their own name, and can be embarrassing. But forgetting the correct word for the occasion, whether I am with people in conversation, or in writing this post is just darned (I’d like to use a stronger adjective, but I make it a personal rule not to swear) annoying. (It’s ironic that in a post about forgetting words when I know I have a broader vocabulary than many people, I choose not to use swear or blasphemous words for the reason that I believe it shows a lack of vocabulary! Oh, well, maybe that will be the subject of another post.)

I have endeavoured to find a word, a definition, of forgetting words or names, but the best I could find was in Wikipedia, which defined such as “tip of the tongue phenomenon“. But perhaps I should not be concerned or even annoyed at forgetting the right word in the right place or at the right time or, as my blog says, From time to time… In researching this subject, I found an interesting BBC article* and I quote two short parts:

Such forgetting is an important component of healthy memory: without some filtering mechanism, our memory would soon become overwhelmed by the details of every piece of information ever experienced, minute by minute. How would you ever remember where you left your keys?

Forgetting is almost as vital as remembering. In fact without the one, we’d have even more trouble than we do with the other. Latest research suggests that some people may have an inability to forget traumatic events and this is what is partially responsible for conditions like depression and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). If we’re unable to let memories of terrible events fade naturally, how can we move on with our lives?

One article I found on Google was, naturally, related to dementia and Altzheimers. It listed the top ten symptoms and a short paragraph on each. However, following each paragraph was a title, What is normal, and so, in a lighter vein, I was happy to discover that I fitted into all ten normals, such as occasionally forgetting why I left the room and what I meant to get.

*BBC article site

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Computers evolve – and data does have weight!

The very first computer we bought in 1982 was a Xerox 820-II, which Xerox had just brought out.Together with a Diablo printer, it cost the enormous sum of  $11,000. Our Risk Management company, which we had started four years earlier, was in full swing and could afford it.

In actual fact, I bought it while the Treasurer, my wife Beryl, was in England at her stepmother’s funeral. Our third daughter had just graduated from secretarial college (as such was called then), La Salle College, Montreal,  and she helped me decide which computer to buy. When she got used to the 820-II, she repeatedly made it go berserk, because she had, and, as far as I know, still does hold, the record for accurate speed typing at La Salle. Today, it is in our basement gathering dust.

Xerox 820-II

And what could it do? Well, to start with, you had to insert a 5.25-inch disc with the CP/M operating system on it. It was a brilliant OS and I know at least one person today who uses it in preference to Mr. Gates’ Windows. After it booted up, you removed the OS and inserted your program disk. We used both Wordstar for word processing and Supercalc for our numerical and financial entries.

The 820-II had two 5.25 slots (not shown in the photograph) and the second was used as your data disk, onto which you saved your data. When writing in Wordstar, if a word had to be italicised, you entered a certain code, then, when you were printing, the Diablo printer stopped, you had to remove the, say, Times New Roman daisy wheel, insert the Times New Roman ‘italic‘ wheel, press print and, after it had printed the one word, it would stop. You then had to reverse the process by removing the italic wheel and re-inserting the normal font wheel. Ah! As you can imagine, we used italics sparingly. But it worked. Mind you, the screen was only 11 inches diagonally and showed 24 lines with 80 characters per line white on black.

And what can we do now with computers and how fast are they evolving? We all say, if you buy a computer today, it is out-of-date tomorrow. Not literally true, but it is true, figuratively speaking. And the power of today’s computers is amazing. What I hold in my hand today is far superior to the main frames of even ten years ago.

But, here’s an interesting point: did you know that the data you enter actually weighs a part of a gram? I was reading an article from the New York Times, which had been re-printed in our local Halifax “The Chronicle Herald” about the whether an e-reader gains weight as you add books to it. Only the most sensitive scales can record weights as small as 10 to the -9, so it is not quite possible to weigh data yet, but, theoretically, is in the order of an atogram, or 0.000,000,000,000,000,001 grams. Now these numbers are getting beyond my ken, but the article said that that weight is one-millionth of the increase in weight when the e-reader’s battery is charged from empty to full.

That should allow you to sleep tonight!

Dormez bien! Schlaf gut! Duerme bien!


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Remembrance Day

Remembrance Day - Lest We Forget
Image by Enokson via Flickr

Yesterday was Remembrance Day (Armistice Day in the UK; Veteran’s Day in the USA; 11-11-11 everywhere), which is a wonderful day and fittingly a post under the blog name of From time to time…

It was pouring rain here – a tropical storm passing through Nova Scotia and joining up with a low which had been crossing Canada to make a deluge and gale – and I was concerned for those who were in downtown Halifax for the memorial parade and service at the Cenotaph. Beryl and I watched the national Remembrance Day ceremonies in Ottawa, where it was cold, but dry, from the comfort of our chairs. One of the veterans, who was interviewed on the local Halifax TV station, on being asked about the pouring rain and wind, replied that those whom they were commemorating at the service served in rain, mud, wind, snow and desert heat, so the least he could do to honour their memories was to stand in the rotten weather for a brief hour or so.

Such a thought from a veteran made me wonder if this commemoration could continue for years to come, or would the tradition become stale as the memories and the veterans faded away and the past was dimmed. But then I saw another clip later in the day, which told the story of how our teachers in our schools are devoting as much as a week to the facts of the various wars and the whys of the wars, instead of the old, perhaps, one hour which used to be given to talking about Remembrance Day. And yet another clip said that over the past few years, the celebrations have been growing in numbers and that on Parliament Hill in Ottawa this year, the crowd was very likely a record with over fifteen thousand present.

I am glad that people are remembering, for, although I never saw combat, many people I have known have died in actual combat. And why did they die? For the most part to ensure that all of us in many countries have the freedom to speak out, to proselytise, to protest, to celebrate, to not fear secret police. I say, for the most part, for there are those of us who ponder over the reason we went into Iraq or Afghanistan. Yet, having gone there at our government’s behest and orders, our fighting services tried their best – and did well – at the task with which they were presented, upholding and distinguishing their and their countries’ honour.

My memories of World War II are childlike, for I was six years old when the war started in September 1939. I had a large map on the wall of my bedroom on which I stuck pins: “The RAF bombed Dresden last night and suffered minor losses of aircraft….” the BBC would report  and I would stick a pin in Dresden. Or, later in the war: “The British 8th army has advanced toward Tobruk amidst heavy resistance…” and so I would stick a pin in Tobruk.  [Just en passant, Wikipedia says: The siege of Tobruk was a confrontation that lasted 240 days between Axis and Allied forces in North Africa during the Western Desert Campaign of the Second World War. The siege started on 11 April 1941, when Tobruk was attacked by an Italian–German force under Lieutenant General Erwin Rommel, and continued for 240 days up to 27 November 1941, when it was relieved by the Allied 8th Army during Operation Crusader.]

My mother and I were evacuated from Southampton as the bombing of the docks worsened, simultaneously with my father, a teacher of a certain age, thereby excused military service, being evacuated with his entire school to a rural town. Dad was not that distant from Mum and me, being able to cycle home to us on some weekends. Mum and I were about thirty miles from Southampton, so on some really bad blitz nights, we could see the glare of fires. But, mostly, for me, the war was something happening far away. Sure, there were lots of convoys of army trucks and the train I had to take daily to Queen Elizabeth Grammar School in Wimborne was frequently held up at a station while a troop train would go through, it being only single track outside of the stations, but even the rationing was not as severe in the rural areas – if you got to know and help a local farmer or two. And my best friend, David Pattle, and I would play “army” with our wooden rifles in the woods, or play with our toy army trucks, soldiers and airplanes in the sandy cliffs of the abandoned brickyard behind our house. In the summer, we would sail a lovely steel-hulled model sail boat my parents had given me for a birthday in one of the ponds in the brickyard. Or, at harvest, I was allowed to drive a horse pulling a rake and had to make rows of the cut grain, so it could be stooked. Yes, well before the days of combine harvesters in our part of England. Besides, there was no petrol for machines such as they.

So went the war with me. But every Remembrance Day since, I have remembered those who gave their lives in order that I could live a somewhat carefree life as a child and to be entitled to grow up and live in countries where my rights are protected.

We will remember them!

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Delectable dinner with delightful guests

The sun was setting when the guests arrived, all four in one car. One was cold, so, after all had admired nature, a doe and a fawn on the lawn along with the beautiful, fiery sunset, she sat on the hearth right in front of the roaring fire. Her husband, though, immediately took command of the punch bowl. To the pleasure of all.

The dinner was a Caribbean dinner, so the punch was a Planter’s Punch. Not having made any punches for years, since the heyday of punches way back in the seventies, I had to look up recipes. I thought that Planter’s Punch would be the most appropriate for our Caribbean dinner party. You cannot believe how many recipes for Planter’s Punch there are. However, I came across a little West Indies rhyme, which goes:
One of sour,
Two of sweet,
Three of strong,
Four of weak.

Apparently, as long as you follow that recipe, you can call whatever you have made a Planter’s Punch. So, into the punch bowl went

500 ml of lime  juice. Then, 1000 ml of a combination of mango and pomegranate juices. 750 ml of dark rum and 750 ml of coconut rum for a total of 1500 ml equalling three of strong. Topping off four of weak were a 635 ml concentrate of passion juice plus two of water – it was supposed to be diluted with three containers of water, but 500 ml of Nestlé‘s Iced Tea with Lemon worked as the fourth part of weak. I could have used another water, but I thought some other type of flavour would work and the iced tea was the first can I came across in the downstairs fridge. And yes, you mathematicians, I know 3 x 635 = 1905 + 500 = 2405, which is almost ‘five’, but, in our house, even the best printed or on-line recipes can be varied according to our will or taste. In any case, the punch must have been deemed good, for we all had several glasses of it.

And we all sat around the fire, sipping punch and nibbling on almonds, wasabi peas, two dips, one of spicy guacamole, one of puréed white beans and roasted garlic, with lentil chips, and the topper, salt cod balls with Barbadian Hot Yellow Sauce.  Mmmm! Before we knew it, over an hour had passed and we called our guests to the dinner table for grace and then soup made from butternut squash, apples and onions with a mixture of maple sugar and light soy sauce (50-50) poured over it.

Differences between Carménère and Merlot grapes
Image via Wikipedia

The two guests who asked for white, were poured a Sauvignon Blanc. However, the four who had

asked for red got my home-made Carmenere, which I thought did not taste quite as good as another of the same batch, but My Beloved deemed it just as good. Must have been the influence of the punch and hot sauces.

As the main course, My Beloved had marinated boneless, skinless chicken thighs (much tastier, we think, than breasts) in jerk spices, and these were cooked just before we had the soup, giving them time to rest. I’m never sure why we use the term ‘rest’ for dead meat: can dead meat really rest? Along with the jerk chicken, we had a slaw with red cabbage, green cabbage, apple, onion and a few othe

r ingredients, and a sweet potato salad with cucumber, green onions, olive oil, cilantro and lime juice.  No potato, but spinach roti on the side was a fair, if not good, substitute.

As for dessert, the host prepared, and was watched intently by his guests, bananas flambé. In one cast iron fry pan, halved bananas were sautéed in butter and a little olive oil for about three minutes per side. After removing the bananas and setting them on a plate (actually Spanish earthenware dishes) along with a scoop of vanilla ice cream, a quantity of pomegranate juice was poured into the butter and oil mixture along with a teaspoon or a little more of corn starch, which was whisked into the sauce to thicken it. Meanwhile, in a second small cast iron fry pan, a quantity of dark rum and coconut rum was heated with several guests ready to use the fire extinguisher!! Oh, ye of little faith! Then a match was set to the liquor.

Only, it didn’t catch fire. Oh, the shame of it! I had let all the alcohol evaporate while whisking the sauce and pouring it over the bananas. Not dismayed, I grabbed a bottle of my favourite Spanish brandy, Fundador, and poured a good quantity into the liquor in the fry pan. Well, the lighted match really did the trick this time and, no, the fire extinguisher was not required, so the flaming sauce was poured over the bananas. The final touch was to grate dark chocolate over the ice cream. Everyone enjoyed. Someone remarked that it was the quietest time of the dinner.

Tea and coffee with more Carmenere for one, Drambuie for one and Fundador for me.
The driver and a couple of other guests declined.

We moved back to the more comfortable seats around the fire and for the next hour and a half we sorted out the world’s problems.

A delectable dinner with delightful guests, who are always welcome at our house!

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by Nuntius

My Beloved and I had never been to Fid, a restaurant specialising in local products in downtown Halifax, Nova Scotia, ( so, when the invite came one day recently, we readily succumbed to our primal instincts.

So, last evening, the god of parking spots was watching out for us and we found a niche for the car not a hundred metres from the restaurant. At least, that’s what we thought on seeing the Fid sign overhanging the sidewalk. And, sure enough, right under the sign were some steps up – but they went straight into a wall containing a window through which we could see people dining. Well, we couldn’t go through the window, so how on earth were we to get inside. Was this some sort of mean hoax by our host and hostess, Paul and Betty? Were we simply to stand outside and look through the window to watch them engorge themselves? Surely not. Then I remembered that the invitation said Fid in the Courtyard and, there, another twenty metres further was a small, almost insignificant sign, saying ‘Courtyard’ with an arrow pointing into a narrow alley. Ah, success!

We were the first to arrive and were seated a few minutes when Robert and Tracy arrived, subsequently followed by Peter, sans wife, and, finally, our host, Paul, accompanied by his wife, Betty. It turned out that Peter’s wife had gone to Oxford. Well, what is she doing in the UK, I asked, only to be laughed at by most at the table. No, it was Oxford, Nova Scotia, the blueberry capital of the world, to which she had gone to see relatives, not THE Oxford. As my pal of German heritage said, only a Brit would think of the UK when Oxford is mentioned: any Nova Scotian would think of Oxford, Nova Scotia. Well, I have been in Canada for more years (55) than he has been on this earth, but, I guess, I still have Britroots. Which coined word brings me to the dinner and ‘beetroots’.

We started with a white (of unknown cellar, as it was at the ‘white’ end of the table) or, if you chose, a red wine (Australian Shiraz at our ‘red’ end of the table). Before switching to the Shiraz, I actually started with a Virgin Caesar, which arrived, as requested, very spicy.

According to some at the table the basket of bread contained some very interesting-looking and provingly tasty breads.

As appetisers, the host and hostess chose a Caesar Salad with a poached egg on it. Some of us were overwhelmed with the huge size of the salad, but the two who had ordered them, declared them excellent and ate them. My Beloved ordered the Tuna Tataki, which came as a thin slice of tuna, rolled in mushroom dust, seasoned with ginger and very rare, like sushi rare, which delighted her. Another guest, Tracy, ordered the Fid cakes (salted cod fish cakes), while another guest and I ordered the half-dozen Eel Island, Nova Scotia, oysters. These arrived with a curry and balsamic vinegar sauce, but we both asked for hot sauce, which was home-made, but added a bit of spice to some very tasty oysters. Malpeque , you have competition!

Although we had ordered the main courses at the same time as the appetisers, we had a fairly long wait before the mains arrived. This was filled in with chat, however, although as we seven were at a long rectangular table, those of us at one end could not, without shouting, which some of us were forced to do from time to time, engage in conversation with those at the other end of the table. Nevertheless, chatting with friends is always good.

Finally the mains arrived. Two of us chose the rare grilled swordfish, which came with baby bok choy and spicy corn relish. The swordfish was done to perfection: lightly grilled with fine grill marks on the outside and not done at all inside – perfect. Some might say the bok choy should have been done a few more minutes, but I prefer to have underdone vegetables than soggy overdone ones.

Three of our companions ordered the Hanger steak with roasted garlic mashed potatoes and greens. Unfortunately, the greens, actually beetroot greens, contained a lot of what was described by all three companions, as ‘grit’. On reporting this to our server, a very pleasant young woman, two of the plates were returned to the kitchen and reappeared completely new with steak and kale, which were fine. The other companion (no name) continued to eat his grit with bravado.

My Beloved chose the halibut with exploded cherry tomatoes and olive oil cooked carrots. The fish was tasty, but a little bit dry. However, the exploded tomatoes were a real hit.

Unfortunately, I cannot recall what our admirable host chose for his main course, but I do know he ordered churros with chocolate and caramel for dessert and certainly cleared the plate! Our hostess chose the sorbet of the season with basil/lime shortbread, while another guest chose the deep-roasted coffee creme brulee. Another guest ended the meal with a Halifax coffee, a concoction specially ordered instead of the usual Spanish or other coffees, but which, on tasting, might have been a Spanish – oh, how distrusting of the bar staff are we! Others of us just sat and sipped the remains of our wine, watching the others enjoy their desserts, perhaps with a touch of envy, while watching our waistlines.

Altogether a fine evening with great company, some of whom we see only once or twice every year, and should see more often.