Monthly Archives: June 2009

Pickerel in Port Stanley

PDVD_329The movie Stand By Me greatly impressed my 1986 self, particularly the characters’ usage of the word “pussy”. I thought the word was really funny, and assumed that it simply meant “scaredy-cat” or “chicken”. After calling friends, strangers and even my older brother “pussy” one too many times, my dad took me aside and delicately explained that pussy was also slang for vagina.

My dad has taught me lots of things since–stuff about science, philosophy, art and music. But most importantly, he’s taught me how to swear. With every visit to Port Stanley, where my pop resides with his wife Gillian and step-daughter Rebecca, another original swear is birthed into my world.

Lucky for us, the Beast and I were invited to indulge in some caught-that-day Lake Erie pickerel on Saturday with the three of them, along with Gillian’s brother and niece, and Gillian’s best friend, Deb. There were eight of us in total, and we had a grand time.

Foodie (Trying to impress my 16-year-old step-sister by talking about cool shit): Remind me, you did or did not enjoy the Twilight books?

Rebecca: I did NOT enjoy them. And I hated the movie.

Foodie: But you read the books, right?

Rebecca: Yes.

Foodie: You liked them at the time though, didn’t you?

Rebecca: No.

Gillain (yelling from the kitchen): Yes she did!

Rebeca: At first I liked them I suppose. (Pause). But I think that anybody who likes Edward Cullen has “daddy issues.”

Foodie: How’s that?

Rebecca: Well, he’s so protective and over-bearing. Only a certain type of girl would want that.

Foodie: Oh I don’t know about that. I think he’s simply behaving like an old-fashioned gentleman.

I mean, how could a 16-year-old possibly begin to understand the lost art of chivalry? Besides, Edward is 108 years old and was born in an age when men opened doors for women. And he has to be over-protective because there are vampire out there trying to KILL Bella. I’m sure once Rebecca matures, she’ll have a better understanding of all this.

As Gillian prepared our pickerel, the rest of us sat outdoors in the garden drinking beer and wine and nibbling on snacks. We yelled and laughed our way through a gamut of conversations: from the Middle East to the rise/fall of secularism to Jimmy Carter (hero or villain?) and finally, to movies: my dad declared that the documentary Man on a Wire is “dopey,” Gran Torino is a “horribly contrived cliche,” and Synecdoche, New York is “quite likely the most important film ever made.”

photoWhen we were called inside to eat, the table-replete with bottles of red and white wine-greeted us. Some of the younger dinner guests (Rebecca) nearly emptied a jar of Kraft’s tartar sauce on top of their fish. I passed. Thank goodness too because the pickerel was encrusted with rice flour, salt, pepper, cayenne, paprika, and a little garlic powder, and fried in a mixture of both olive oil and butter. These nuanced flavours would have been lost with the addition of tartar sauce.  But I guess when you’re SO MATURE and you think only IDIOTS love Edward Cullen, you probably couldn’t give a shit about the balance of flavours. The just-pulled-from-the-ground Ontario potatoes were divine; crispy on the outside and fluffy on the inside. And there was a gorgeous spinach salad dressed with a homemade vinaigrette, toasted sunflower seeds, bell peppers and dried blueberries. Finally, Ontario strawberries marinated with a kiss of balsamic were served with a choice of Cool Whip or real whipped cream. I won’t divulge who chose what. But I will reveal that I tried the berries with both. The verdict? I can see each of their merits. Personally though, I prefer just a little scoop of good vanilla ice cream.  I guess I’m just so IMMATURE for saying that.  Whatever.

After our meal, the slightly-intoxicated adults went for a walk with the Beast to buy cigarettes. Somebody spotted a very tiny and colourful snake on the road. We were fascinated, and we all crouched down to get a better look, except for my pops.

Dad: Oh come on! It’s a snake for chrissake! What do snakes do? They can’t even walk!  You know what? A snake is basically a fuck-brain.

Beast: Did your dad just say fuck-brain?

Foodie: Yes, he said, a snake is a fuck-brain.

Beast: That’s the best thing I’ve heard in a long time.

And it was the best pickerel I’ve had in a long time too.

Foodie: ***

Beast: ***

Flank Steak on the Fly

I picked up a flank steak on the weekend from Rowe Farms without having a plan for what to do with it.  Thank goodness inspiration struck last night.  The Beast read somewhere, Martha Stewart’s Living I believe, that it’s best to douse flank steak in some sherry vinegar and course sea salt. He was practicing the saxophone at his rehearsal space until late so I did  the dousing when I got home from work.  I stuck the marinating flank in the fridge, opened up a bottle of that Ontario, Rosewood Estates pinot noir that I’ve raved about and, get ready for it, I booked our flights to Italy online!  That’s right folks:  the Beast and I are Europe-bound from September 26 to October 11.  I gleaned over the details on the computer, making sure our dates and personal information was entered just so, and because I was so nervous doing it, I drank my wine too fast.  By the time the Beast got home, I was dancing and squealing with drunken delight.  

Foodie:  It’s done.  IT’S DONE IT’S DONE IT’S DONE!  I booked the flights!  Just this very instant.  Look–you can still see it on the computer screen!

Beast:  Great!  That’s just great!

Foodie:  Look at the screen!  See it there?  Ohmygodohmygod.  We are going to Italy mister!  And I can’t wait to start planning but I won’t be bossy about the planning; I’ll allow a little wiggle room here and there but I can make reservations to visit the Uffizi….ohmygod….I CANNOT wait to take you there.  I’ve given tours of the Uffizi, you know that right?  AND Assisi!  Ohmygod you are going to LOVE LOVE LOVE Assisi.  And charming Settignano too.  BUT the forum.  I think I might cry just thinking about:  the two of us walking through the Roman Forum together.  Can I have a cigarette?

Beast:  I thought you weren’t smoking.

Foodie:  I’m not but I feel like celebrating a bit.

Beast:  I see you’ve had some wine.

Foodie:  Pardon?

Beast:  Is the steak marinating?

Foodie:  Of course it is.  You gave me strict instructions and I followed them AND I BOOKED OUR FLIGHTS TO ITALY.

Beast:  I’m excited that you’re so excited.  Man oh man are you excited.  Are you hungry?

Foodie:  Starving.

Beast:  Do you remember the cooking time for flank steak?

Foodie:  I think it’s six minutes per side.

So the Beast heated up the BBQ and for some reason, despite his usual preference for barely-cooked beef, he cooked the flank steak for eight minutes aside.  (I think it may have been that he was distracted:  he was hungry for attention and kept trying to distract me with hugs, song-playing, and dancing while I was trying to email my friend Michelle in Italy to tell her about our trip.)  After letting the meat rest for a good ten minutes, the Beast sliced it up and was a touch disappointed that there was only a slight trace of pink.  I, on the other hand, couldn’t have cared less.  

photoWhile the steak rested, I whipped up a cilantro-garlic sauce that our friend Paula first fed to us years ago when we spent a week on the beach with her and her family in North Carolina.  It’s very easy to make, and even easier to eat.  We arranged a pile of wild arugola on each of our plates, divided up the flank steak on top of this, and then finished the plates with shavings of parmigiano reggiano, cracked pepper and a drizzle of good olive oil.  

Foodie:  I love the cilantro sauce, and it goes so nicely with steak, but I don’t know if it’ll go with the arugola and parmigiano.  

Beast:  Only one way to find out.

Timidly, we dunked a few forkfuls of our steak salad into the sauce.  Silence followed, and a few satisfied grunts.  Half-way through the meal, the Beast had an epiphany:  He ripped off half a baguette, filled it with the remainder of his steak salad, and then carefully drizzled the cilantro-garlic sauce into the sandwich.  I was very proud of him, and  I sort of wish I had done the same, but I’d already finished my dinner.  photo[1]

That’s what happens when you’re in love with a Beast:  One minute they might be playing the saxophone with no pants on, and the next, they’re making gourmet sandwiches fit for a pseudo-foodie.  

 

Foodie:   ***

Beast:     ***

Canned Soup and Processed Cheese

Beast:  (on a walk to the video store with me, the Foodie): Tell me something: during your gossip website research, have you come across the brand of “tonic” that Matthew McConaughey supposedly uses to keep his hair looking so fine?

Foodie:  I think  Kate Hudson told US magazine about Matthew using hair tonic as a joke.  I don’t think he really puts tonic in her hair.

Beast:  Yes he does.  Do me a favour will you, and find out the brand please.

The Beast has always enjoyed Matthew McConaughey.  For one, he has great hair.  For two, he plays bongo drums naked, which is something the Beast would enjoy doing very much.

Foodie:  I don’t know what to make for dinner tonight.  It’s not going to be fancy though, I’ll tell you that much.

Beast:  That’s fine.

Foodie:  What about canned soup and grilled cheese sandwiches?

Beast:  That’s the best idea you’ve had in a very long time.

photoIf I was going “to make” canned soup for dinner, it would have to be the fanciest canned soup ever.  So we picked up two cans of Mr. Wolfgang Puck’s organic “Hearty Lentil & Vegetable” soup.  And if I was going to make grilled cheeses, they would have to be the un-fancy kind.  What I mean is, no fancy bread, no fancy cheese, and no fancy chutneys or other condiments.  I’m talking about white bread, Kraft cheese slices, Heinz ketchup and embarrassing amounts of butter.  We had all the fixings at home too, minus a loaf of bread.

Beast:  How about light rye instead of plain white bread?

Foodie:  I need to think about this.  Why?

Beast:  I’m not sure.  I just think it would be delicious.photo[1]

It’s rare that the Beast makes such a specific request so I decided to honour it.  Plus, there’s certainly no shortage of rye bread along Roncesvalles Avenue.  Lucky for him, the light rye turned out to be a wonderful contribution to the meal.  With each bite of grilled cheese, it was difficult deciding whether to dunk it into ketchup or into the soup.  Mostly, I oscillated between the two.

Foodie (while eating):  I hope I don’t lose too much weight now that I’m riding my bike to work everyday.  You might not recognize me by the end of the week if I get too skinny.

Beast:  Wouldn’t it be great if you could just shift fat to particular areas instead of losing it?

Foodie:  Come again?

Beast:  What I meant to say is instead of losing weigh, if you could just move…certain…parts…to…your…behind…….Beyonce.

Foodie:  Wow.  

Beast:  Was that wrong to say?  I think it came out wrong.  What I meant to say–

Foodie:  Well, I guess you have receding hair and I’m rotund in all the wrong places.  Maybe we should just learn to be more accepting of each other’s shortcomings.  And maybe you should stop fantasizing about me as though I were a tube of toothpaste–that you can just squeeze fat from the middle part into the top and bottom parts.

Beast:  That was funny.  Is there any soup left?

Foodie:  No.  This is the best canned-soup I think I’ve ever had.  

Beast:  I agree–that and Campbell’s Beef & Barley.

I think this was a really good dinner.  It was satisfying, comforting, and it was really easy to “make”.  I’m going to give it a spot in the week night dinner roster for a while.  Also, if anybody knows what brand of hair tonic Matthew uses, would you mind NOT making this valuable bit of info public?  I like that the Beast has a mild case of hair recession:  it makes him look closer to my age.

Foodie:  ***

Beast:   ** 1/2

Mangiacake Lasagna

A mangiacake is a non-Italian person.  It translates to cake-eater.  Italians eat cake too, but not like our cake.  Our cake is delicious, especially vanilla cake with butter-cream icing.  Italian cake is usually really dry, not very sweet, flat, and has Nutella in it.  Italians have done some great things in the past, like that David statue and The Godfather, but making cake is not one of them.  

Mangaicake lasagna is very different from  lasagne bolognese.   (Italians are so passionate about their culinary history that they codify recipes.   I’m told that such a codification exists for lasagne bolognese.)  My mom makes mangiacake lasagna.  You’ve probably made it too.  I made it Sunday night.  The trick is to throw everything you think you know about Italian food out the window and let your anglo- instincts take over.  My secret anglo ingredient?  Canned mushrooms.  My mom always uses canned mushrooms and I was missing her on Sunday, so I bought two cans and threw them into my meat sauce.  I didn’t tell the Beast about them.  I just let him eat.

Beast:  Are these canned mushrooms in here?photo[1]

Foodie:  Yes.

Beast.  Mmmn.  They’re delicious.

Foodie:  (sighing) I’m glad you like it.  

Beast:  What’s wrong?

Foodie:  (more sighing)  Oh nothing.  I guess it just feels like I’ve lost all my funny bones.

Beast:  Oh boy.  Is this about The Black Hoof?  (See post below)

Foodie:  (sighing still)  Oh, I dunno.

Beast:  I do think you’re funny you know.

Foodie:  So you’ve said.

Beast:  What can I do to make it up to you?

Foodie:  You can bring out the cupcakes you brought home to surprise me with.

Beast:  But I didn’t buy any cupcakes to surprise you with.

Foodie:  (sighing)  Oh.  

Beast:  What about if I go buy you one of those McCain’s Deep & Delicious frozen marble cakes and we split the whole thing?

Foodie:  And will you go get the load of laundry that’s been sitting in the dryer for three days?

Beast:  (pause)  Yes.

And just like that, the Beast and I made peace.

Mangiacake Lasagna       

Foodie:   **

Beast:    **1/2

Pancakes Please

I can’t sleep in on Saturday mornings. Every Friday I’m up by 7:00am and work 9 to 5 at my day job. Then I head straight to the restaurant and work until about 1:00am. Not to sound like a hero or anything, but that’s an 18 hour day and it earns me sleep-in privileges. Try as I might, I can’t. When I got home last night I was wide awake, so I decided to read a bit, being careful not to wake the Beast. There were books that smart people read by my bedside, along with some back issues of Gourmet magazine, but I craved something else: I’d recently downloaded a shitty pdf version of an interesting book called “Breaking Dawn.” It’s the fourth book in a series called, “Twilight.” Maybe you’ve heard of it. So I sat in bed with my computer on my chest reading (until 3:30am) the story of a human girl in love with a vampire, best friends with a werewolf, and who desires nothing more than for her vampire lover to turn her into a vampire too.

I never wanted to be this person. I used to smugly snicker behind adults’ backs when they told me, “you should seriously read the Harry Potter books. No, seriously. They’re amazing!” Sure thing: I’ll get right on reading those kid’s books just as soon as I exchange my Dumbledore lunch box for a Nimbus 3000 broom stick. Same thing for Twilight. When I heard that girlfriends were reading the books, I felt sorry for them.

edwardagainThen I accidentally rented the movie, watched it twice, downloaded the second book and read it straight through with only one bathroom break–all in the course of about 24 hours. Oh–and I also looked for photos of Robert Pattinson on the internet. I’ve only had three other character crushes as absurd as this one: my first was River Phoenix in The Mosquito Coast, the second was Brad Pitt as Tristan in Legends of the Fall, and the third, oddly enough, was Russell Crowe in Gladiator.

I’ve hidden my addiction from the Beast. Although, I don’t think I’ve done a very good job. This morning the Beast asked me to make coffee and I replied, “Edward would never speak that IMG_0958disrespectfully to Bella. I’m going to make pancakes now.”

And I did, using a Nigella Lawson recipe I found in How to be a Domestic Goddess. The last time I visited my mother, she sent me home with a jug of Ontario maple syrup. That, with a pint of Ontario strawberries, would top off breakfast perfectly.

Beast: May I add sliced bananas to mine?

Foodie: You don’t have to ask my permission for that you know.

Beast: Don’t you think it’s indicative of the sort of paper the Toronto Star is that the Insight section is only three pages?

Foodie: Would you pass the syrup please?

Beast: And they have about 50 pages dedicated to Wheels. Two entire sections every Saturday.

IMG_0961Foodie: It’s the only newspaper we can afford to have delivered. Do you like the pancakes?

Beast: Yes, they’re very good.

Foodie: If I asked you to change me into a vampire because you were already a vampire, would you?

Beast: How old are you?

Apparently I’m old enough to spend my Saturday afternoon making a collage of me and R-Patz using a photo I cut out of Life & Style (see above).
I’m going to shower now in an attempt to wash away my shame.

Pancakes:
Foodie **1/2
Beast *

The Black Hoof

Beast: You haven’t put up the Black Hoof post yet.

Foodie: That’s nice that you noticed. And no, I haven’t. I don’t know how to introduce the first part of our night without sounding like a hot-shot.

Beast: Just say you got invited to Peter C. Newman’s birthday party at the Royal Canadian Yacht Club and you took me along.

Foodie: But people will need more context. Why was I invited?

Beast: Say you’re helping him with some research.

Foodie: That’s true, isn’t it….

Beast: Exactly. And it’s why you were invited.

So the Beast and I helped Peter C. Newman celebrate his 80th birthday along with his closest friends and family, including some well-regarded Canadians from both the political and media sectors. As soon as we arrived, Newman’s adorable wife, Alvy, invited us to have our photo taken with the man of the hour….

Foodie: I’m going to look like shit in that photograph. I was trying too hard and that means when I was sucking in my tummy, I inadvertently stuck out my boobs and I’m going to look like a big-boobed sausage. And I didn’t want to smile too big so instead of looking overly happy I’m just going to look like a frowning, stocky hobbit from ancient Greece. I knew I shouldn’t have worn my gladiator sandals with this grecian Philip Lim dress–it’s overkill.

Beast: What are you talking about? You look great! You’re not the one wearing too-tight-in-the-front pants from H&M.

Foodie: Oh don’t worry–they’re stretching out with every step you take. Do you think that guy from the National Post–what’s his name?

Beast: Shinan Govani?photo[2]

Foodie: Do you think he’ll ask to take our picture?

Beast: Is he here?

Foodie: I haven’t seen him, but we need to be ready if he arrives. Have you practiced posing?

Beast: Do we get dinner or what?

Foodie: I have no idea, It’s from 6:30 to 10:00pm so I assume yes. But just keep being really nice to the servers with the hors d’oeurvres.

Thank goodness a few colleagues from the magazine where I work showed up. And thank goodness they were equally as interested as the Beast and me in eating and drinking. Several of Newman’s former colleagues and friends gave heart-felt and entertaining speeches but the most anticipated speech of the evening was given by Michael Ignatieff.

Beast: Well, Iggy just lost my future vote.

Foodie: Why?

photoBeast: Didn’t you hear how he pronounced “genre”? He said, “gen.” Who says it like that?

Foodie: French people?

After our fill of little spring rolls, lamb kebab things, little melba toast bruschette, goat cheese quiche and my favourite–beef carpaccio bites topped with piave cheese and a drop of truffle oil, the Beast and I were still starving. We thought about getting a hot dog from the corner of St. George and Bloor but then I came up with a better plan. It was time we finally visited The Black Hoof. After a ten minute wait that breezed by, we were seated.

Beast: You know what? I’m going to let you do the ordering.

Foodie: No, no. I think you should. This menu has your name written all over it.

Beast: Exactly. That’s why you should order because I’ll be happy with anything.

So I decided on The Black Hoof’s charcuterie plate, a scallop ceviche, sweet breads with wild mushrooms & ramps, and fois gras on toasted brioche. The Beast had a pint of Creemore, and I had a superb glass of carmenere. What could possibly go wrong? Let me save you the suspense: the Beast made an ill-fated decision to bring up my questionable behaviour at a staff Christmas party last year.

Beast: You know what’s strange? Nick Edwards asked me a few days ago how I felt about you dancing in front of all those people last year.photo[2] 10-19-06

Foodie: Why would he ask you that?

Beast: I don’t know.

Foodie: What did you say?

Beast: Not much. I think I said it was sort of funny I guess.

Foodie: How do you mean sort of funny? Like funny in that you found it hilarious?

Beast: Well, um, more like awkward funny in the way that everybody felt in that episode of The Office when David Brent dances.

Foodie. I see. No I don’t see. What exactly do you mean?

Beast: This ceviche doesn’t taste of much, does it?

Foodie: Do you think the dance was inappropriate?

Beast: I do like these sweetbreads though–even more than the sweetbreads we had at Prune in NYC.

Foodie: So, like, you didn’t think it was remotely funny?

Beast: How do I say this? Okay, I felt…embarrassed for you.

Foodie: (Silence. And fire starting to burn in my eyes.)

Beast: You backed me into a corner! Don’t make me out to be the bad guy now.

Foodie: Well I’m sorry you feel that way. I didn’t know me making people happy through the power of dance was so embarrassing.

Beast: Oh I don’t doubt people enjoyed it. I can’t say that I would enjoy it if I were there though. I’m sure it’s just a case of, “you had to be there.”

A bit of backstory: I accidently started dancing in front of my colleagues, but not in a provocative way or anything, at last year’s holiday shin-dig. There was one woman dancing by herself and the last thing I remember is thinking, “oh I’ll go dance with her so she doesn’t feel so silly dancing alone” But then I was dancing alone. In front of everybody. I knew it was wrong–terribly wrong–but I couldn’t stop. I think terror guided me, and the cheap red wine I’d been drinking all night on a very empty stomach. But it gets worse : unbeknownst to me, the whole dance fiasco was recorded on digital video and the video was sent to me and that’s how the Beast saw it.

Foodie: You did have to be there. It came about organically. It wasn’t planned. I’m not proud of having done it but people really did seem to enjoy the number. I introduced moves I don’t think any of them have ever seen before.

Beast: I’m sure everybody enjoyed it very much, but the video was sort of…sad.

Foodie: Hmm. Like pathetic? Or maybe somebody’s just jealous?

Beast: Let me assure you, it’s not jealousy.

Foodie: Listen, I was born with a gift: a gift of providing others with cheap laughs. If that means melting chocolate in my mouth to make it look like I’m missing teeth, so be it. If it means me making a fart sound when my mom bends over to pick something up, I’ll do it. And if it means me dancing, on occasion, in an unorthodox fashion, just to hear a faint, yet intoxicating chuckle, I’ll do that too. What if Mozart decided to ignore his gift?

Beast: You’re right. I’m sorry. That came out all wrong. I just feel like I know you so well and I can just imagine what was going on in your twisted, sweet little head before you…danced.

Foodie: Well let me assure you–nothing was going on in my head. I can’t explain it. I reckon it’s how other artists, like David Blaine or Michael Flatley, feel when they’re on stage. And don’t over-think this. I wasn’t trying to manipulate anybody. Cheap laughs are just that my dear: cheap. And tasteless and juvenile. It’s WHO I AM!!!!

We’d argued through the entire meal. Worst, we were still starving. The Beast tried desperately to make me feel better. I did my best to make him feel terrible the entire weekend: I moped, sighed, and didn’t make one joke. And then, I decided to see if there was any truth to the Beast’s hurtful observations: I watched the dance video for the first time in a very long time. I physically had to cover my eyes as though I was witnessing a terrible accident. It was humiliating.

I guess you had to be there.

Oh, and The Black Hoof was good, but I don’t think we can fairly award it stars yet because we were so distracted with our argument. Although I can tell you the Beast was right about the lack-lustre ceviche and the stellar sweetbreads. I just wished we’d ordered more food. And that I’d come back from the washroom with my dress tucked into the back of my underwear. The crowd would have loved it.