Category Archives: Food

Shop & Spent

Shopping is at best a confusing experience for me. I don’t like it. I don’t hate it.

But it gets to be overwhelming.

Something about having my behaviour come to back to me in such material form. Something about how much things cost, or don’t, or shouldn’t, and the way savings fluctuate so that they are good one day and terrible the next.

Sometimes my purchases confound me.

The time I just had to have an industrial-sized jar of roasted red peppers (which were eaten slowly, and then too fast). The rug that didn’t go anywhere. The time the cart was empty, save for a loaf of whole wheat bread and a bottle of Drano®.

You wouldn’t think that those two things would go together. You’d be right, of course.

The incontrovertibly of those items haunts me still.

The bread I needed; the Drano® must have been on sale.

I never even used it. Just left it untouched under the bathroom sink when we moved.

The rug? I could never get it to work. Yet, there it sits in my living room, insisting that it does, and is, and in the end who am I to say otherwise?

 

 

 

 

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Filed under Food, Routines

Open Secrets, Vol. 3

– Big heavens, small miracles.

– Sometimes it’s not hard to forget.

– Suggestion: “Tuesday Tacos.”
Also: Thursdays. And: Today.

– Meaninglessness can mean anything.

Noble Truths: TBA.

– Alternate worlds vs. Alternative realities.

– Without gusto is fine too.

– Good intentions, bad results.

Absolute Truths: BRB.

– It’s hard not to care, except when it isn’t.

– (Just tuck it in already.)

– There’s moonlight. And then there’s serious moonlight.

ALWAYS CHOOSE THE BOX.

– Double negatives are often not not easy to not undo. UNLESS.

– Everyone is from the past, at some point or the other (or another).

– Watch those caveats!

Half-Truths: LOLZ.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Filed under Food, Interruptions, Philosophy

Noodle Soup

Ah, all the noodle soups I’ve had in my life! The hot, the savoury, the lukewarm and questionable.

When I’m feeling down, or bored, my thoughts often turn to noodle soup.

Where can I get some? Where must I go?

Beef Noodle Soup. Ramen. Phõ.

Oh, Phõ!

(Often pronounced, by some, in anguish, as a low, almost guttural, “P-OE” or “PO-HOE.” Sometimes “re-imagined” or “deconstructed” by others into a dish only very remotely resembling what could only very generously be called Phõ.)

I don’t begrudge them. It’s, frankly, not all that important (not really, not always). Just don’t mess the ingredients. More: don’t intrude on the scene expecting more than you give. Than you can give.

Don’t insist. You don’t even have to call it Phõ!

There’s more than enough for everyone, but not if you insist. Not in the way that you think.

(Trust me.)

The taste might be different each time, the experience. But not its standing. Consider the weight of the Thing, the ingress, the import. The majesty it imbues. Be mindful.

Do or do not do.

(Trust me.)

Some things in this world are not to be taken lightly.

Listen:

The broth is key.

The broth is life.

Trust.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Teeth (Part 1)

We found ourselves across the street from the famed Peters’ Drive-In, just off of 16th Ave, NE, Calgary, Alberta.

Peters’, “The Drive-In You Can’t Drive By.” Peter’s, the with its thick, custom-made shakes and flame-broiled burgers and “Family-Sized” fries that could easily satisfy a small battle-worn army. Peters’, a virtual institution (established 1962, though under new ownership as of 2015) – politicians eat here (on campaign stops), weddings (plural, yes) have been photographed here, birthdays (children’s, even) happen in its adjacent parking lot – Peters’, in short, THE go-to place to go to if you happen to be on that particular side of Calgary at any particular moment.

Or not.

*CASH AND DEBIT ONLY*

(Debit since 1990)

Peters’, unfortunately, only had outdoor seating and it was cold, a blustery, grey day in the city turned cold, unfriendly evening, and this place, a bubble tea bar with à la carte snacks (fish cakes and yam fries and wings and fried dumplings) thus seemed warmer, more welcoming.

Staying at Peters’ would have meant having to eat in the car, a tiny, overpacked Corolla that would not have comfortably seated four adults let alone a box of Family-Sized fries, a couple of shakes, a burger a piece. Staying at Peters’, institution or no, meant fighting what appeared to be a mostly teenaged crowd (and a scraggly one at that) for position and territory (seating was available, but limited). Staying at Peters’ made us feel exposed.

This is not a story about Peters’.

Yet, I wonder what would have happened if we had stayed there instead of going to the bubble tea place.

***

It had been a long day in a series of long days during which time our plans to take a road trip through the province had finally been made. In a day or so, we’d be off.

Terry[1] was in a mood. He’d come out West to see if he and his girlfriend, Mae, [2] could make a go of it; try and start a new life, etc. Easier said than done and even then, the dream was difficult to articulate.

Why out West? Opportunity, maybe, but wasn’t that years ago? What was it, anyway, to “start a new life?” Was he so completely over, and done with, his last one? Was Mae? 

When does this one life end and another, the other, begin?

Terry and Mae found temporary housing renting a unit at the nearby college (it was summer, the students were long gone from that place). Just was well, since the plumbing was busted and the electricity was spotty, at best, due to construction. Terry had a couple of leads but nothing confirmed, nothing solid, in terms of work. Mae was having a harder time even finding places to interview for. The city was indifferent to their plight; the people seemed strangely withdrawn (at least compared to their counterparts out East); the moon (Terry swears it) scowled at them from above, looming large, inescapable. It had been weeks.

So, when we visited and then agreed to join them on the road trip, Terry was in a mood. He was animated as he always was, with that look about his eyes that could only be described as “dogged”; he was even amiable (for Terry), but worn around the edges, slumped, a little, at the shoulders. Frayed, picked-over Terry.

Our server set our order – a smattering of snacks and four custom made bubble teas – on the table. I think mine was Strawberry Something. Stephen had something with mango in it. Mae’s was purple (very purple). Terry brightened at the sight of our glorious repast. He reached past Mae and speared a dumpling with a chopstick, popped it into his month, and screamed.

“My tooth! My fucking tooth!”

Terry had chipped his tooth, and badly (or to hear him tell it, the fucking dumpling chipped his tooth and so very badly).

This is a story about Terry’s teeth.

 

… TO BE CONTINUED

 

 

________________________________________________

[1] Not real name, though he really could be a “Terry” if he wanted. Alas, “Terry” wants for nothing.

[2] Not real name. No sense veiling “Terry” if I’m going to out “Mae,” is there?

 

 

 

 

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Filed under Change, City Life, Food, Friends, Holiday, Interruptions, People, Places, THE PAST

The Sandwich

 
He didn’t so much eat the sandwich as fall into it. An architectural wonder of a sandwich it was, layers of meat and cheese and those expensive sprouts you get at the Whole Foods stacked primly yet precariously one after the other, like magic, like wonderful, luscious stratigraphy.

The sandwich was a sensation.

Held together by great dollops of fancy mustard and glistering with just a hint of artisan olive oil, the kind that comes from an island, somewhere far away.

As he bit down his face slowly vanished, embedding itself in sandwich almost to the bridge of his nose, and with laboured chewing and a mighty exhalation he resurfaced again, like an orca cresting the waves against a magnificent sunrise, the light of the midday sun hitting his face just so.

Our eyes locked.

“Oh!” he said, and I marvelled at his audacity.

Don’t say anything. Don’t you dare ruin this.

“Is that all you’re having?” he said, indicating my own pathetic lunch (nothing at all compared to his), sandwich juices running down the sides of his mouth.

He dabbed at them with the palm of his hand.

He took another bite before I could say anything, his face disappearing again into the sandwich, two great slabs of ham dangling from between thick slices of bread, mercifully blocking my view once more.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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Perfect Eggs

 
“I don’t know anybody who likes hospitals.”

Caitlin from work said this.

Which reminded me…

The white walls. The echoing hallway. The bleach smell and the urine smell hiding just under the bleach smell. That unfiltered light.

Gran wasn’t waiting for us after school like usual. We waited on the porch, not knowing what to do. My sister sat on the stairs with her head in her hands. It seemed like a long time before my dad pulled up by the house, bringing the car to a sudden stop in the driveway, sending Mr. Corn’s husky dog, Panda, into a fit, froth forming at the corners of his black mouth as he choked himself on the short chain that kept him on his side of the driveway, barking his head off.

Then, those walls, that bright, flat light. My dad ushering us through the corridor and my mom standing there, waiting for us. Or maybe she appeared from around the corner. Or from behind the double-push doors.

She pulled the both of us into a hug. She was crying, had been crying, and when she pushed herself away from us she grabbed me by the shoulders with both of her hands.

“Your Gran has a hole in her heart,” she sobbed.

Then, all of us as we waited, sometimes sitting on the floor. My cousin, the oldest of the kids, got up after a long time and went into the closet. He pretended to sob, cried at the top of his squeaking vocal chords, banged and scratched on the door, stomped his overgrown feet and then came out with a smile so full of teeth it was obscene. He stood there and said nothing, bracing himself against the dingy wallpaper, smiling all the time. No one said a thing.

I remember his hanging stomach and him fingering the exposed bellybutton peeking out from just above his sweatpants.

Then, the room, everyone around the bed looking, some crying. And there was Gran with a sheet pulled up to just under her neck. Her eyes were closed.

She was cold.

Then, the eggs.

“Eggs have too much oil,” said my uncle.

“Your Gran ate a lot of eggs. Too much,” said my aunt.

“Eggs are bad for the heart. No more eggs,” said my mom.

Then, for years and years, no eggs. Eggs in other things, for cooking and baking, but not on their own. Never. Eggs were off limits, taboo. Eggs became unmentionable.

Years and years then slowly, with time, they were back again.

Boiled only.

Then, scrambled.

Then fried, sunnyside up.

And finally as another everyday thing, just another option in the fridge, next to the cheese and carrots.

At breakfast the other day, I made soft boiled eggs. It took a few tries, but I finally got the method down perfect.

An inch of water. Boil for one full minute and 15 seconds. Then, perfect eggs.

I carefully peeled back the delicate shell and dug into the softness inside; yolk overfilling my spoon, warm and golden. I was running late but still took the time to make the eggs and eat them without hurry. So good, so good!

So good, I wondered why on earth we hardly ever had eggs growing up.

And then I remembered.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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The Luckiest People in the World

 
When you know enough people, eventually you come to owe people favours, whether or not that was your intention in actively knowing them, as people. Not all, but some, which is a lot when you get right down to it.

That’s how I found myself in the park that hot, insufferable day in June. Dead centre in the beating black heart of something known as the “Multicultural Festival”.

It was a place where you could purchase $8.00 giant barbecued turkey legs and $5.00 lemon drinks (cherries and lemon slices and ice and water, served in a plastic cup so wide and squat it is a cube, a small tank of refreshment). A place where you could buy Vietnamese springrolls and Chinese eggrolls and Thai springrolls and watch traditional dances and buy handicrafts, and visit Madam Miasma’s psychic palm reading booth and sign your kid up for Ka-ra-te.

People, being people. Together.

It was a kaleidoscope of elaborate authenticity and good manners. Where everything was up for grabs and within grasp, and words like “DIVERSITY”, “TOLERANCE”, “CULTURE” and “HARMONY” slipped easily from the mind and off the tongue and screamed at the senses from colourful banners flapping here and there.

Hey. It’s a living.

I was with someone who wanted me to give someone else, whom I actively disliked, another chance. To get me to get to know that other person better so that the three of us could function as people, together.

(I owed that that someone a favour, see.)

We killed most of that hot, hazy afternoon wandering from booth to booth, lost in a crowd of open hands and mouths. The sun was unrelenting, the heat absolutely punishing. There was nowhere to sit, no shade to be found.

Garbage everywhere; the discarded remains of the day.

The setting matched my mood completely, gave my surroundings and me an awful, terrible symmetry.

Inevitably, we approached giant barbecued turkey leg booth. I was told that buying and eating a giant barbecued turkey leg was something like a tradition at the Multicultural Festival and had no reason to think or believe or imagine otherwise.

We got in line…

… and watched as the women running the both quarreled animatedly over how the giant barbecued turkey legs should be placed on the grill and whether they should stock up on refreshments and whose turn it was to take their 10-mintue break. They prepared the food, cooked it, took orders and exchanged bills with such speed and efficiency that their patrons stood as the only hindrance to perfect service.

The line moved forward at a brisk clip…

…the women quarreled some more, at times in English, at times not, at times gesturing at the food, the sky, themselves, each other. At times smiling, at times not.

We made it to the front of the line.

I didn’t want any food and neither did the person I owed the favour to. That left the person who the favour was being used up for.

“I have to do this!” he said. “You literally can’t get these anywhere else,” he said.

He ordered, holding up his index finger for emphasis. The woman serving him barely batted an eye as she wrapped up one end of his giant barbequed turkey leg in rough paper and handed it to him. He shoved money into the woman’s hand and grabbed the giant barbequed turkey leg.

But instead of leaving right away, he held his giant barbequed turkey leg in the air for a moment like an oversized lollipop as he paused to watch a particularly lively exchange between the two women before, finally, shuffling off, away from the line.

“See,” he smiled tiny candy teeth at us and nodded behind him, indicating the women, “that’s why we have immigration laws.” Puffed up, proud, grotesque in his overwhelming satisfaction, he smiled just a little wider, mouth sagging ever so slightly at the corners under the weight of his remarkable jowls.

Despite the odds, his performance was the most real, unadulterated thing I had seen that day.

It was undeniable.

He lowered his giant barbequed turkey leg to his face and began devouring it with a gnawing/sucking motion, equally remarkable.

She laughed, shook her head – what can you do? HAHAHA! – and changed the subject.

I watched him eat and eat as we headed back to the salvation of the parking lot, favour over, fulfilled and done with.

Watching and hoping he’d choke on it, even though I was sure it just wasn’t going to happen.

I knew everything, at least, that I needed to know.

We did not become friends.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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Franchise

 
Sunday in deep afternoon in a coffee place in a small town in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by highway. Not that that makes that much of a difference. It doesn’t matter.

These coffee places spring up everywhere and nowhere. That is their, for lack of a better word, charm.

These coffee places are – this coffee place is full of people who don’t stay long; they come and go in perfect turnover, replacing each other like a low shuffling tide.

The uniforms for the employees… they are supposed to be able to wear them home, on the bus, to the mall, on the way from school without arousing the notice, suspicion or contempt of others. That’s not a lie, really, but it’s just not true, either. You can spot them easily, pick them from the crowd so fast, when they do any of that.

Actually, most of the employees at these coffee places are not fresh-faced teens but people about the exact age and build of my mom. My mom could be working here, and probably yours as well.

A lot of moms like our moms work here. They repeat orders dutifully to make sure they got them right, and then go out back when it’s time for their break.

There is an Indian family sitting near the door, eating from Tupperware filled with food from home. No one is bothering them about it (as long as they eat fast and somewhat furtively); they have already bought their coffee.

A trio of teens, draped in fading black t-shirts and determined sneers, plop down into their hard plastic seats, hands full of donuts and extra-large something-somethings. They sing along with songs they say they hate.

…I came in like a wrecking ball…All I wanted was to break your walls…All you ever did was wreck me…

(It is obvious they will be back here later, if they can’t get a ride out tonight).

… I came in like a wrecking ball…

Dog-eared newspapers can be found here and there, brought in by people from the outside. They are the only thing people seem to read in these coffee places.

There is an old man sitting next to me, thumbing through a section of newspaper. He stops to scratch his beard. He finds the Sudoku and does it with his finger.

I have a pen in my bag, but I do not offer it to him.

Obits

I read the obituaries until my coffee gets cold, which seems faster than can honestly be expected.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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The Meatloaf

 
In my dream, I made Stephen a meatloaf.

“I am going to make Stephen a meatloaf!”

That was the thought that echoed inside my head inside the dream that I was having, and if I was struck – inside the dream, inside my head – by the banality of the situation, I didn’t mind it.

I was going to make Stephen a meatloaf!

I was in a kitchen. It was my kitchen, but it wasn’t my kitchen – far too many familiar Things slightly askew and all manner of angles and proportions totally off or absent. Yet, it was a near perfect square of a space – four walls, but only three that I could see. I never turned around, but I remember feeling the fourth wall at my back even as I looked in from above, in the dream, to see myself facing walls 1, 2 and 3.

Everything was yellow and blue, I think. The floor was blue, I’m sure of it. The oven was yellow, dated: a 1970s-ish nightmare with an opaque, greased-over-from-a-million-uses cube of a window protruding from its exact centre.

Yellow or yellowed?

Yellow or yellowed?

I watched myself toss, throw, hurl and dump all manner of ingredients into the silver mixing bowl that I bought in Chinatown and that I keep in a cupboard by the sink. Into the bowl went globs of indiscernible brown-bridge goo, torrents of indistinct liquid, clouds of indistinguishable powder.

Meatloaf into meatloaf tray –> meatloaf tray into oven –> oven turned on high-highest.

The meatloaf started to raise, immediately (I did not know they rose. That was a dream surprise for me). It soon over took the tray and threatened to very quickly overwhelm the inside of the greasy-1970s-yellow-cube-oven.

But I waited.

I waited and I waited and I waited for it to get big, big, B-I-G enough!

A stephen meatloaf had to be big, big, big B-I-G, or it couldn’t be Stephen Meatloaf!

When it was done, it too was an almost perfect cube. I pried it out of the oven with two thick black plastic spatulas.  I plopped the Thing on the table by the sliding door that, I knew, wasn’t just there before.  And then, looking down at the meatloaf, I was wreaked with a kind horrific epiphany.

Even though I knew exactly what I was doing, it came out completely wrong.

The meatloaf was too messy; stuff was mixed and blended everywhere. There was no separating them; no hope of returning to basic elements.

No going back to the time before the meatloaf. Before I made Stephen a meatloaf.

The puzzle had been pulped.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~

I remember gasping myself awake. Then being awake and staring at an empty ceiling in the near dark of the early morning, listening to the blood rush in my ears.

Stephen was sleeping soundly beside me, totally unaffected.

I reached over and poked and squeezed him.  He was all there, intact and snoring lightly. He was turned towards the wall with his back to me. Rather loaf-like, if I had to admit it.

Eventually, I tried to fall back asleep again, with the hope that I would not finish the possibly unfinished dream.

Still, I wonder…if I had gone just a bit further, in the dream, what could have been.

Possibly, it would have been delicious?

“Interesting” is not the word.
 
 

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Black and White Cookie

The thing about eating the Black and White cookie, Elaine, is you want to get some black and some white in each bite. Nothing mixes better than vanilla and chocolate. And yet somehow racial harmony eludes us. If people would only look to the cookie all our problems would be solved – Jerry Seinfeld, Seinfeld

Of all I ever learned, all I needed to learn can be found in the cookie.

Known to some as the “Half and Half Cookie,” others as the “Half Moon Cookie” and, perhaps, among your grandparents and others hopelessly mired in an actually not-so-distant past, the “Mulatto Cookie”, the Black and White Cookie stands out to me as the ultimate embodiment of all Things Great and Tragic.

It is a bittersweet, sweet.

A world of harmonized oppositions onto itself.

Microcosm.

BEAUTIFUL!

Heartbreaking.

Because the only way to get black AND white in each bite of a Black and White Cookie is to eat it down the middle…to find subsistence through an ecstatic, crunching – indeed, VORACIOUS – destruction that ultimately, inevitably, irrevocably breaks the lovely union in two.

The reason we come together is they very thing that will, in the end, rip us apart.

Must the cookie really crumble so?

YES! And NO! 

These are Things I truly know.

If people would only look to the cookie all our problems would be solved.

Look to the Cookie, my friends.

Someday...someday...

"And yet somehow racial harmony eludes us".

Amen!

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