Vanity Fair

On Friday, I decided to end my work day with a walk downtown for a much-needed haircut.  It’s always a pleasant experience for me at Icone Coiffure.  Brenda Desmarais has been cutting my hair for approaching ten years now  – it’s a sure thing.

Another sure thing is that afterwards I take the Sainte Catherine street route home.  Contrary to my wife, Carol, I really like visiting the shops.  So I went that way.

I must say I was disciplined to walk right on by the audio shop where I most recently purchased a centre speaker for my home theatre system.  I considered whether I should look at the next possible addition to the home theatre system, but, like I said, I was disciplined and stayed away on the other side of the street.

Immediately after, I crossed over the street for the H & M store where they promised special one-day only bargains.  H & M specializes in cheap fashion.  When I found the men’s ware – moved from the top floor to the basement floor I thoroughly investigated. I tried on one dark green shirt – seeing if it would go with the dull green pants I was wearing and also enjoined a blue shirt and similarly coloured T-shirt.  Trying them on was a revelation.  Not a pleasant one – my belly, which Carol used to comment on as “cute” now was making me take a pledge to cut down on the food that I’m eating as well as maintaining the winter skating and skiing.  So I decided to leave H & M with no purchase.

Next block – H.M.V.  The liquidation signs in the window were real.  Montreal is losing its last dedicated music store – I mean for CD’s and now DVD movies and TV series and concert DVDs and all kinds of frivolous music and movie merchandise.  I really thoroughly looked through DVD’s.  (Why would I want to own a movie or TV series when I can stream it on demand?)  Descended to what was left of the music industry on CD’s in the basement.  (Why would I want to own music on CD when I can have anything I want for $10 per month on Spotify?).  Left H.M.V. with nothing but a mild depression about the limited revenues left to artists (like Jireh) from recorded music.

When I skate or ski, there is nothing better than to have the right clothing for staying outdoors comfortably for hours.  Decided I might need a better toque and sought to fill that need at Sports Experts.  Up to the third floor where I found where they were hiding winter apparel.  Contemplated the high prices and inadequacy of the toques available.  Looked at high quality long underwear.  You can never have too much of this stuff.  Prices in line with what I might have spent at the audio store.  Decided that the old-fashioned Stanfield long johns that I got from dad were retro-cool.  Left this store down the stairs (they were renovating the escalator) with nothing.  Woops – why do I still have this knit neck warmer still in my hands.  Back up to return it….and exit with no purchase, and no criminal record.

I had a reason to go into Indigo Books, but I don’t recall at the moment what it was.  They have some reasonably-priced books…$6 or so and I looked through those.  Remembered when it used to take a lot longer for this sale browse.  Remembered when I used to occasionally buy books before the e-books at the library became so conveniently available on my iPad.  Similar reflections about the limited revenues left to writers as I had in the H.M.V. store about recorded music.

Then I left Sainte Catherine street and went inside to the parallel underground inter-connected malls.  I can’t remember stopping much here.  Briefly in Winners – but they had no winter-ware.  Into the McGill metro station skipping the last couple of malls and then a brief last chance past racks of clothes in the men’s section at the Bay, up the elevator and north toward home.

At the supermarket just 2 blocks from home I refreshed my memory of my earlier belly-reduction resolution and didn’t buy the 10 lb. bag of potatoes for $2.49 or any of the clearance baked goods.  A bag of quick oatmeal and a can of coconut milk (Kayin’s rice cooked in coconut milk made an impression) and I was on my way home.

skate

This Saturday morning, January 28 I set out, not quite “bright and early” but [cloudy] bright [skies of winte] and at an hour that was just slightly before the Lebanese green grocer on Avenue de Parc opened.  I set out with good intentions to make myself a Saturday-style good breakfast.  That meant finding a dozen eggs, and, you know, when I go out, I always like to accomplish two things, so…[productivity boost]…I had done a major closet cleaning three weeks ago and then left the culled clothes obstructing the closet space and our best clothes basket.  This would be the morning the odd assortment of clothes is released from my hoarding ownership.

The eggs accomplished, I dressed for another sure-way-to-make-it-a-good-Saturday….and here I am writing a Saturday morning blog, now in the Old Port of Montreal and at my favourite winter place,  the skating rink.  Pieces falling into place….I see the skating regular who recommended “L’artiste du patin” to me [see my blog on that – when it comes out there would be a link HERE]….On the ice and, may God be praised, there is not only excellent ice and few people, there’s this guy, Chris, with hockey skates [I think I’ve seen him here before] and I love his skating style….I ask him [he has to take his music out of his ears]….I say, “I like your skating style.  Can I take a short video?”

You know, that all went so well, and I spoke to Chris shortly afterward, getting his name and asking what kind of music he was listening to [Reggaeton – something with a beat].  Went back to skating to the rather mellow Harmonium [I LOVE it when they play quality Quebec music] and then quite soon they announce that they are bringing out the Zamboni to resurface the ice and so I grab the laptop [new, with a solid-state drive and battery life to boot] buy a cookie at the cafe, and starting putting down the blog in my head.

At about the point where the last paragraph started, I thought I might check just how good the video was….I really have to remind myself that I have to press the red button twice….I have nothing but Chris skating away after I [thought] I stopped the video.

Ice resurfaced….I skate….Oh, look….Chris is back doing his thing!

Sunday blog and Ted in 2017

Sunday, January 1, 2017 brings the renewal of my commitment to write a Sunday blog.  These will be, at the best of times, posted on the Saturday-preceding so that those in time zones further east (Europe, Africa) can read it first thing on Sunday and be blessed all Sunday.

I began my Sunday blog commitment on June 26, 2016, largely inspired by my nephew, Micah Dettweiler, who was writing an almost-daily blog while studying for the year at Oxford University.  My blogging record to that point was sporadic, so I decided to commit to a schedule of posting once a week.  I reasoned at the time, “How hard could that possibly be?”.  Today I counted and I hit my target of once per week roughly half of the time, posting 13 Sunday blogs over 26 weeks.

New Year, new commitment:  for 2017 I purpose to write 40 Sunday blogs – that gives me roughly 3 whole months of holidays.  Not bad, eh? How hard could THAT relaxed schedule be?Jesus is coming

Often Sunday blogs are reflections on things that are on my mind.  In addition, as a believer in Jesus Christ, Sunday blogs might be a good venue to dialogue some of my beliefs associated with Jesus.  To the right is the perfect photo that I took one morning at Payne’s Bay, Barbados: “Jesus is coming!” cleverly posted next to a bus stop sign.

I do believe that Jesus is coming.  I believe in his “imminent” return, which means he could come at any time.  Along this well-traveled road leading to Speightstown the buses passed every 5 minutes or so.  I could say to my fellow traveler, “the bus will soon come” based on my observations that there were plenty of buses traveling this road.  If I say “Jesus is coming soon” what would that assertion be based on?  I don’t have a schedule, so “Jesus is coming” is not followed by “at 3:25pm on February 26, 2017” or any such date.  I say “Jesus is coming” because it says in Revelation 22:12 “Behold, I am coming soon” and again in 22:20 “Surely, I am coming soon.”.  Both passages in my Bible are marked in red – words of Christ.  The same author of Revelation, John, in his gospel summarizes the completed purpose of his writing in  John 20:30-31. “Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book;  but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, and that by believing you may have life in his name.

Yes, I believe.  I believe that Jesus is the one promised by God, the Christ.  I’m convinced, with John, writer of the gospel and of the book of the Revelation that Jesus is coming (back) again.

“Yes”, I say.  “Come again, Lord Jesus”.

 

Angel choir, shepherds, manger, Jesus

Manger scene

I strongly believe that the Bible was written by people. Today I want to consider a very well-known passage in the gospel of Luke which includes the 3 main characters in my blog title plus some heavyweights that I left out (angel of the Lord, Mary, Joseph). Luke’s purpose in writing his account of Jesus is to give certainty to the believers about the things they have been taught (Luke 1:4). He does this by consulting eyewitnesses and writing the story in greater detail than we have in any of the other three gospels.

Manger sceneThere are details of Jesus’ story that only Luke has: an angel choir appearing to shepherds to announce the Saviour’s birth and the angel of the Lord giving instructions that they will find this Saviour, newly born and wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger. God, who is in control of all things, could have arranged that an angelic choir-backed birth announcement be staged somewhere that would have a bigger audience – the temple in Jerusalem comes to mind. If Luke were making this up this kind of setting would have been more spectacular, of greater import.

Sheepherding was not a respectable occupation, yet God either ignores things like societal status or, perhaps actually prefers communicating with those humbled into doing lowly work. David, the greatest of the kings of Israel, learns everything he needs to know about God while tending sheep. Here we are, back where God chose David – Bethlehem, the city of David (Luke 2:4). Here is born a worthy successor in David’s line, but in this coming as Saviour it is announced to the most humble. This is the Most High who has angel armies (and choirs) in his command. A birth so humble that only God could, only God would choose to be among us as a humble servant.

img_2380The family manger scene that we had in our family (pictured to the right) received a lot of attention as little hands loved to wind up the music box attached to the stable structure and listen to it play ‘Silent Night’.  This amazingly durable piece of workmanship was made in Italy and must be well past 50 years of use.

It was in Italy in 1223 where Francis of Assisi created the first ‘presepio” (manger scene, or crèche).  He recreated the scene with living animals so that people would refocus on the meaning of Christmas and could picture this ‘Holy Night’ when God became flesh.

 

 

Image

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.

Engagement

engagement rose

The roses at my local-preferred flower shop, Florateria on des Pins in Montreal, are magnificent and fittingly they have names to inspire the imagination.  “Engagement” did that for me.  It brought to mind the time, 19 years ago, when I had entered into an engagement for life together with Carol Bernard.  Such good memories of being on the edge of a permanent life change and enjoying every anticipatory moment.  I had to buy the rose – it had singular beauty, one was the only appropriate number, five or a dozen would only diminish the glory.

In the months between the day when Carol accepted my proposal and the the day we married we searched out and found a home that will most likely be the only place we will ever need to call home.  We didn’t know just how perfectly it would fit with our future lives.  I knew at the moment that I carried our first Christmas tree two blocks home from the supermarket that I would enjoy bringing my country ways home to our condo in the city.

Engagement rose on dining tableOur engagement to each other has, from our very first moments together, always included the engagement to a joint “projet de société” of being in, about and all through a gospel choir.  As friends, we began Jireh together out of being brought together in Union United Church Gospel Choir.  The years added River’s Edge Gospel Choir and then Montreal Gospel Choir.  This Sunday, that last choir and its’ 90-some singers will be blowing the lid off of the church that Carol and I call home.  We didn’t imagine something big like that when we began our life together but with God life has been ordered, blessed and the kind of thing you could describe in the most positive words the prophet Jeremiah can muster, “a future and a purpose”.

Market and me

Pen & Ink sketch of Kitchener Farmers Market

This pen and ink print signed “Paquette 72” hung on the wall just above some Group of Seven prints in my parents dining room. It was well placed near the table where we celebrated special occasions as the meat business that the Dettweiler family has been associated with for several generations was founded on taking our meat to market and we still continue doing that.

My father remembers his earliest market experiences at the Preston market.  Sales began with the ringing of a bell at, I’m going to say, 6 am.  Seems early, but in that era the first sales would already be lined up for waiting purchasers and with the bell the money could change hands.  Farmer vendors like my grandfather had work to do at home and in the day of early morning markets they may have been back home by 9 am.  If you weren’t an early riser in that day, you did not get to buy the meat and produce brought to market by hard-working farmers.  At St. Catharines market, if you want Dettweiler’s sausage in the 21 century, you can come as late as 11 am – but no later, as at that hour I will already be packing up in order to get on with the work of my Niagara-on-the-Lake deliveries.

My father would make deliveries of meat after the brief market hours, perhaps to customers in the neighbouring town of Hespeler and certainly in the other direction from home to Breslau customers.  When he eventually built his own meat shop, maybe 1/4 mile down the road from the family farm, he called his business “Midway Meat Market”.  This name took advantage of the name of the Breslau telephone exchange.  When you picked up your telephone in those days you didn’t need to know any numbers.  You spoke to the operator and asked for the “Midway” exchange and then asked to be connected to the meat market there.  Presumably, picking up the handset and specifying “Midway Meat Market” was all it took to be connected to my dad in those days.  There you could order a pound of bacon, a nice chuck roast and 2 pounds of pork sausage and my father could arrange to deliver it to you at your home.

If you would like to order some of Mennonite smoked sausage these days you can contact us by emailing “info” followed by the domain name of the website you are presently looking at (which is our family name) and the “.ca” ending of Canadian domains.  We also have a store on Victoria Street, just across the Grand River from Kitchener and the phone number for this Breslau, Ontario location is the exact same one we have had since the day that they discontinued telephone operators for local calls.

Many things have changed over the years, but you can still get quality meat from the Dettweilers which will make your meal times to be special occasions.

I have a heritage

Harold Dettweiler, first-born son with (oldest to youngest) Margaret, Mary and Ruby. Year - 1925.
Harold Dettweiler, first-born son with (oldest to youngest) Margaret, Mary and Ruby. Year – 1925.

 

This photo of my father speaks volumes to me.  I love reading and contemplating history.  The best kind is the history that has shaped your own life.  My father is still with us in 2016, passing his 94th birthday!

In the midst of the “roaring twenties” my grandparents had the family put on their Sunday-best clothes and document themselves at a photographer’s studio.  Dad knew the Great Depression of the thirties. There’s a story of my grandfather going to market with piglets and coming home later with more than he took as someone else had slipped their own that they didn’t have the means to feed in with the Dettweiler stock.  The Christmas gift one of those lean years, shared among his sisters was a simple enamel or steel comb for their hair. Dad was finished his schooling at the Riverbank school, just down the road from home, in 1936.Harold, Clark, Ward and Glen Dettweiler in dad's teen years  The future, from that point was working on the farm.  My Mennonite heritage, through my father, is evangelical Christian.  His father’s barn impelled passers-by with the words of John the Baptist from Mark 1:15, “Repent, and believe the Gospel”.

In 1942, my dad was sent, along with other conscientious objectors to alternative service which began, for him, at the Montreal River camp in Ontario, on the north shore of Lake Superior.  An autograph book my father kept from those times makes me think that my father experienced an extended bit of camp-comradery as his co-workers there in the 6 or 8 months he spent there shared on those pages scripture verses or perhaps a witty poem.  His alternative service then continued near home as he worked for the local dairy right through the very end of the war in 1946.

After the war, life continued on the farm.  Dad travelled several times during those years between the war and the meeting-my-mom and marriage in 1952 to Alberta, at harvest-time to work on harvesting the grain.  In winter, when farm work was less intense he attended this Bible School held at First Mennonite in Kitchener.  The photo below is only half of a huge panorama shot of the students involved with him in learning from the Bible in January of 1948.  My dad is in the top row the second from the right hand side of the photo.My dad among other Bible School students at Kitchener in January 1948

From all this history of dad, I learn that I didn’t invent life out of nothing (ex nihilo?) I just continued it.  Like I would walk behind my dad as he tilled the soil of the garden in spring with the roto-tiller, I followed in the way that he had established.  If I like to dress well, I continue the lines established by father’s very non-plain ties.  I eat simple food and enjoy it; I love adventure that takes me from home and I love returning.  I can make my own way through life and I’ve been informed by God’s word.

Thanks, Dad for all of this.