Indulge yourself! Create a ritual around your favourites. On my latest trip back East, these three ingredients made my mornings magical: a bowl full of blueberries, a huge hunk of brie cheese, and one mammoth September Vogue. Although I’m sure Anna Wintour would smack me upside the head for the size of that piece a’ cheese, I’ve always believed in maximizing the moment. Who says we can’t have it all! Well, at least on vacation~wink.
My walk to work takes me through one of Calgary’s swankiest neighbourhoods. Wandering through The Better Homes and Gardens Theme Park so early in the morning can be pretty demoralizing to those of us not booked on a flight to Cannes this week. I can deal with picturesque window treatments and carefully landscaped lawns. Current model BMWs cutting me off on the sidewalk? No problem. But…
A line was crossed today. There is one house on the route so magnificent, so architecturally breathtaking in all its cedar shingled glory, that even its Home Depot outdoor potters transend our reality to honour the sublime. Anyways, that house, that family, was cooking bacon at 7:10 this morning! Is it really so much to ask that there be just a little pinch of justice for those of us with empty stomachs trudging by in beat-up sneaks?
But then again, what a wonderful way to find out, at 7:10am, that yes, it is possible to have everything.
I cut under the entrance awning of the retirement home beside my office building on my way to work this morning. There was an ambulance parked in front, right outside the home’s dining lounge windows. I took a peek at the breakfast crowd as I darted by. I know the drill; an ambulance that early in the morning usually means only one thing: there will be one less tea biscuit on the tray.
There was a smattering of elderly residents in the lounge, some chatting, some alone, all nibbling on delights far more tasty than the frozen peas with cheese that were waiting for me next door (don’t ask). One woman was sitting close to the window, all by herself. She was looking past me absently, chewing on the end of a thick butter coloured biscuit. Her wrists were wire thin, and the dyed reddish curls on top of her head were politely spaced with plenty of breathing room in between each translucent twist.
I couldn’t help but wonder if it was one of her table-mates who wouldn’t be making it down for breakfast. The woman didn’t seem all that concerned about the ambulance, or even all that interested in what she was eating. What did the scene mean to her, if anything? With mortality waiting just outside the window – I kept asking myself – why wasn’t she savouring the darned tea biscuit? There is so much I don’t yet know about life, but I can tell you one thing…
My frozen peas with cheese were absolutely delicious.
“Want to go out for Dim Sum?” my husband asked me. “They have chicken feet!”
I couldn’t believe how excited he was to try this rather bizarre sounding delicacy. He talked about it with the same breathless, bright eyed anticipation he normally reserves for the newest (and all too frequent, if you ask me) innovations in golf club technology. As for myself, I’m a gal as thrilled by novelty as the next, and chicken feet are about as novel a breakfast treat as you can get around Calgary.
Except of course, for the fabled monkey brains my hubby was also looking forward to trying. At least, until the two friends treating us to Dim Sum explained how they are traditionally served…The monkey is sedated, then its skull is sliced open and the brains exposed through a hole in the table while the poor animal dangles underneath. Thankfully, I didn’t find any suspicious holes in our table. Believe me, I checked! Just imagining my knee brushing against something soft and furry (and still warm!) under the table makes my skin crawl. Yep, I’m all for novelty, but playing footsie with my food (while I’m munching on it!) is where I draw the line.
Cart after cart of steaming, bamboo cradled, deliciousness was wheeled by our table. My husband waited eagerly for the chicken feet, tiding himself over with shrimp dumplings, sticky rice wrapped in lotus leaves, beef balls (not the prairie oyster kind!), and all kinds of other goodies. Finally, the feet arrived.
All eyes were on the round bamboo steamer as my George lifted the lid. Inside was a glistening pile of what looked like thick spongy sprigs of red coral, smothered in a sticky sweet and sour sauce. Our friend Bill, at a huge advantage being Chinese, dug right in. Chicken feet were old news to him, and he happily started slucking off the skin and spitting out the bones.
“Oh,” I said, in an unbelievable moment of idiocy, “they have bones?”
After sticking my own foot in my mouth with that bit of genius, I figured sticking something else’s foot in there would be no great leap. I stared at the strange sticky toe thing in my fingers – too slippery for my chopsticks. All I can say is thank goodness they trimmed the nails! After a moment’s hesitation to get my courage up, I slipped the foot between my lips. “AAAGH!” The closest description I can give you is this: imagine a ‘Parisian’ kiss with your husband/wife gone terribly, terribly, wrong. I’m squirming just thinking about it. I tried biting down through the spongy, goose-bumped, tongue-like mass, but I had to spit it out as soon as my teeth touched bone. I will say, though, the rest of the table got quite a kick out of my full-body-spasm reaction.
What did George think of the chicken feet?
“They’re ok, I guess,” he told me after, “but really, they’re just skin and bones, so what’s the point?”
I smiled. Yes, any woman would be tickled pink to hear those words from her husband. But in terms of other toes to tickle, I think we’ll stick to our own, at least for a while : )