Learning basic psychology… from a potato

February 13, 2009

There are some people who, when left alone, begin to die. There are others who, given the space to breathe, finally have room to live. The proof is in the potato…

Years ago, I walked into my kitchen and was struck smack in the nose by an awful odour. The source? A long forgotten bag of potatoes under the sink. The rotting vegetable matter had somehow transformed into a filthy fermenting liquid in the bottom of the bag – Gross!

More recently, yesterday to be exact, I was washing dishes when the long ago memory of buying a potato (for a never-actualized dinner months ago) drifted into my thoughts. With trepidation, I got down on my hands and knees and cautiously opened the bottom cupboard door…

I shrieked and fell backwards! Pale octopus tentacle things were reaching up at me out of the bag! AACK! What the? I braved another peek. Sprouts, they were sprouts – finger thick and ten inches long! I never invited them into my kitchen! I must admit, though, I did feel a certain kinship to this introvert potato, who had thrived when left up to its own devices. I even felt a wee bit guilty when I covered it with empty cans and orange peel in the garbage. The more sensitive among us need to be careful about who we let into our space – not to mention our kitchens! We must remember that even a potato’s noble struggle for self actualization must not be allowed to get in the way of our own.

Now, what’s for dinner?


Risking it all atop the Calgary Tower

February 11, 2009

There’s a switch in the cloakroom – forty-five minutes one way, sixty the other. “Is that where you control how fast it goes around?” I ask the pretty hostess.

She nods. “We speed it up at lunch,” she says, “because people have less time.”

I can’t believe the power she has, and here I’d been wasting my time envying her pin-straight, white blond hair. I fight the urge to try the switch. Imagine, one quick flick and somewhere deep inside the tower, giant gears are thrown into motion – diesel? Electric? How do you turn a building? The hostess shrugs it off. But what’s the power over one floor, when, with her hair, she walks out and the city turns to her.

I want a taste of it, and my friend and I have a window seat, so I lean down and pull the grey metal sill slowly round, hauling us hand over hand around the circumference. My friend laughs. I guess that’s why she’s my friend. I’m on top of Calgary, watching a panning shot of New York. Cities are all the same at night, each window a separate distant sun. People from the country say there aren’t any stars in the city. Sure there are, but it helps if you look at it upside down.

My friend orders mussels from PEI. I order the carpaccio. This is a night of firsts, and raw red meat is as daring as they’ll let me get in this conservative town. When our plates arrive, I’m overwhelmed by the sweet buttery scent of my friend’s dish. The heaping pile of black mussels are shining in a pool of pale, summer yellow sauce. The carpaccio? How can a plate of thinly sliced, overly salted, strips of raw meat compare to the vision across the table. Here I am jealous all over again.

“Do you want to try one?” my friend asks, when she sees me eyeing her meal. “They’re so good, slimy, but a good kind of slimy.”

My carpaccio is a bad kind of slimy, and utterly, disappointingly, safe, while the mussels are so irresistibly dangerous. You see, I’m allergic to other shellfish, but, I’ve never actually tried mussels. She would let me if I asked, and the temptation takes all the flavour and fun out of my raw meat. I’m chewing on rubbery slivers of what had sounded so exotic just minutes before. All I can think about is how easily one of my friend’s fleshy nuggets would slide down my throat. Can you have an allergic reaction from your stomach? When would it set in? Would there still be time?

“I’m allergic,” I confess, knowing how easy it would be to lie. But how many of us have it in them to throw it all away?

“But,” I say, “can I dip my bread in your sauce?”

Might as well save myself for dessert.

(Image source)


Geologist Trapped In Calgary Tower!

February 4, 2009

“I would suggest going with Perrier or bottled rather than Calgary tap water,” implored our server, and I do mean ‘implored’.

The revolving restaurant atop the Calgary Tower is a swanky joint, don’t get me wrong, but upselling water? How uncouth! My friend and I were stunned. I would expect that sort of behaviour from a Subway Sandwich Artist (been there, done that lol), but from a debonair, expertly coiffed, professional waiter?

He continued to plead his cause, hand clutching tightly cuffed wrist, to us and to every one of his other tables, with phrases like “overly fluorinated” and “just like sucking on a penny”. We heard him give his well practiced speal a full three times within the space of ten minutes. I suppose I should mention that my lovely friend and I were the only holdouts – Calgary tap water all the way!

Of course, I had to ask about the ice cubes ~wink~

“Distilled water,” he said, and yes, he did use a Brita at home. I began to suspect there was more to our server’s story, especially when he went on to explain why we Calgarians find ourselves using so much lotion after the shower. And no, the conversation wasn’t headed in that direction ; )

Could there be, dare I say it, a “passion” behind his upselling? I’ve always been fascinated by what people chose as their “cause”, that connection to a part of the world that’s wholly theirs and theirs alone. What’s yours?

“I’m sorry for giving you a hard time,” I said, “but you seem to be so…um…passionate about this whole thing. I’m just curious where it comes from.”

He smiled and confessed, rather sheepishly, “I’m actually a geologist.”