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Me and the food business

This week at my 5 à 7 group (Bible study and prayer group meeting in a home), I received a compliment on my cooking, featured weekly in this venue.  “You should start a restaurant, Ted.”

While I always appreciate the intent of this comment, I am never tempted in this direction for these particular reasons:  1) To make outstanding food it takes hours of prep work.  No restauranteur simply buys the best of Costco prepared foods and warms them up for their customers.  Working with the best ingredients you create within a culinary tradition – French cooking with lots of butter, Italian with attention to the vegetables.  Without a doubt the tradition that I would draw on would involve meat.  There are a half dozen meat dishes that I do well and then there are a bunch of casserole, one-dish comfort foods that mostly draw on my smoked sausage as a star ingredient.  If you start with the best ingredients and you don’t mess it up along the way somehow then the result will please the palate.  All of my cooking is a labour of love, which starts at the fact that I like eating this kind of food.  But would I cook to earn a living?  Unqualified no.  2) Montreal is a city of so many good restaurants and yet on any given night you can visit one and find only one or two tables occupied.  I always do the math if I’m eating in an empty restaurant.  Is my $40 or $50 restaurant bill enough to pay the rent in this place, let alone earn a living for the owner?  I’m afraid the answer to that is another “no”.  My restaurant would undoubtedly be one of these that fails to make ends meet.

One of my favourite supermarkets in Montreal featured grain-fed capons in the week leading up to Thanksgiving.  I was fortunate to buy one and bring it home, where Carol set to Googling to find if that bird was a small turkey or a large chicken (yes, to the latter).  Then, as I so often do these days, I went to the internet and came across a restaurant recipe for cooking the capon that I thought made a lot of sense.  In fact, this chef-owned restaurant in Manhattan had produced an entire 400 page cookbook that may possibly cover everything that an aspiring copy-cat restaurant owner would need to put on their menu to have a restaurant serving outstanding food.  The chef owner, Gabrielle Hamilton of Prune Restaurant, also wrote an autobiography which I recently finished reading (see my Goodreads for a few of my comments).  This afternoon I set to browsing through the Prune restaurant cookbook and by the time I completed this I was psychically exhausted from all the detail of running an outstanding restaurant.  I’d counsel anyone who would have their own restaurant to read these two books authored by Gabrielle Hamilton. At one point in her life Gabrielle pursued an education in writing as a way out of the cooking business.  While it turned out that this was not to be her calling, she put her writing skills to work in describing her own life and the result is an education in food and its preparation (and much more).

The pictures in today’s Sunday blog are some self portraits that I happen to like, taken in mid-December 2008.  The equipment is all washed up and I am bundled up against the cold, as it was my preference, for the good of food I was preparing, to work in a chilly shop – just above 0 degrees Celsius.  I’m nostalgic for those days, but it’s a comfortable sort of nostalgia that knows I’ll never be going back down that road of having my own shop.

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_____End of roll selfie

Mirror-produced selfie – end of camera roll ~1983

I do not own a selfie stick…yet…but my long arms and the way that extending them gives me something to do to take my mind off the heavy responsibility of auto-portraiture means I’ve be known to have a picture of two…that I like…of me!  Back in the days of film cameras I might have had a 36 exposure film in my 35 mm camera and the earliest picture might have dated from several months earlier.  By the time you filled the film… So we used to do various things to fill the roll…and the selfie was invented.  This is the way I looked, to me, in 1983 or 1984.  By late July 1984 I bought my first SLR camera – a Canon AE-1.  This is the camera previous to the AE-1 which had a viewfinder and I’m using a mono-pod (I was serious about photography) to hold it steady as I take a picture into the mirror in my bedroom.  I could usually get 26 pictures out of a 24 exposure film but the last one was partly obscured by a number (50089 – I cropped this).  That explains what this was – a picture of me in my coolest shirt (LCF rugby-style) sporting a moustache (which stayed with me until 1996).

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Halloween at Aunt Normas

Scarey woo!

Tonight I was prepared for the kids with a box, no, let’s call it a case of Chiclets. The last time I had a kid show up at my door on Halloween it was 1996 and I lived at 877 Gohier in Ville Saint-Laurent.

But some years, I spot a halloween treat that I would not be averse to eating myself should year add unto year and ‘nary soul flash their countenance at my door. This year I was at Andalos Bakery and they were offering these cases – 20 packages of chiclets.

Scarey woo!

You know I thought to myself, “What might I do with a case of Chiclets?” I don’t spit, or chew or date girls that do. But then I remembered Halloweens and Aunt Norma. We always went (were driven) to Aunt Norma’s on Halloween when we were kids and it seems to me that Aunt Norma always had those little two-chiclet packs. How many of those did we get? How many do you dare take? No, I think Aunt Norma must have allocated the appropriate amount – how much simpler for me to give a full pack of Chiclets, no indecision as to whether I’m stingy or too generous.

And so it was, the perfect Halloween treat. This year, how appropriate that I could buy my trick-or-treat candy with money from a small (neither too-stingy or too generous) inheritance that all the nieces and nephews received from Aunt Norma. I was so wrapped up in these perfect packages of sugared chewing gum with the modern graphic re-design of the Chiclets logo on one side and the Arabic? very-scary Chiclet logo on the other side. Now I can learn to write “Mastic Flavor” in Arabic. Somehow, I think Aunt Norma would have liked that.

Here is to Halloween and my Aunt Norma.

(ps. no child penetrated Fort Knox for the 16 years I’ve called it home. If any adults want to swing by late and pick up a pack of Chiclets (mastic flavor, mmmm) they are more than welcome. The entry code for Fort Knox is _ _ _ _ Oh wait, I can’t give that here!!