Huh


Never assume a client appreciation cocktail reception hosted by a wealthy cosmetic dentist is going to be dull. Swanky venue, meticulous client, ice sculpture, money no object floral arrangements and enough food to feed an army. What could possibly go wrong? We’re on our game, everything on time and in place, staff graciously passing breathtaking canapes, copious platters of stationed cheese, antipasto and charcuterie artfully woven along the spine of a central table.

Wait a minute, what’s wrong with you people? See that tiny plate on the table, small plate means small bite. No one invited you to dinner, why are you behaving like this is your last meal? Congratulations on a new set of teeth, but I’m begging you, show some self respect. Forty minutes into a three hour reception, we’re out of food – oh crap! Time to inform client, ease concerns and dispatch a chef to secure reinforcements. Momentary lapses in unabashed consumption ripple through the crowd. One of my servers reports guests ate all the garnish on his platter. WTF!

Thirty minutes later two behemoth platters of deli meat and cheese hit the table, my chef sets a timer – gone in 22 minutes. Now client wants more dessert, politely drawing the line I decline and head back to the kitchen. Along the way a guest asks for a moment of my time.”What’s your favorite colour?” she asks, clearly surprised when I answer “green”. “Oh my, don’t know if I have green” she mumbles while digging in her purse. Now she’s holding one of my hands in hers, pressing a cellophane wrapped cross in the other and declaring “close enough”.

What’s happening, please let go of my hand! A missionary you say, made this cross yourself, sent 100,000 crosses to Haiti after the earthquake?  Please let go of my hand! Propriety kept me from calling bat shit on 100,000 Haitian crosses, I heard myself say “that was a kind gesture”. Thanking her for the gift relaxed her hand long enough to remove mine from her clutches.

Never let it be said that mine is a predictable profession.

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Pondering Foie Gras


Recently work asked me to layer dry spiced cherry, pistachio, foie gras and a single fava bean flower on toasted brioche crisps.”Do you know where Foie Gras comes from?” blithered a rotund woman between exuberant returns to the appetizer platter.”Try it” she cooed to her friends. “Melts in your mouth. very expensive, did I tell you they force feed geese” punctuated goose liver bliss. Despite or because of her now brashly annoying commentary, foie gras appetizers languished in gastronomic oblivion long after guests were seated at the dinner table.

Alone in the kitchen, “fair enough” preceded popping a foie gras appie in my mouth. Pretty sure my toes curled in delight, absolutely certain I didn’t wait for the goose liver swaddling my tongue to dissipate before consuming another bite of perfection. Flickers of ethical doubt were no match for mystical properties of foie gras.

At home, foie gras research started with a history lesson (who knew the practice of force feeding ducks and geese to produce fat laden liver dates back to ancient Egypt ), meandered through pages alternating praise and condemnation, came to a screeching halt at a site promising definitive vegan foie gras replication.

Best Vegan Foie Gras

This image from https://fullofplants.com/the-best-vegan-foie-gras/ is said to show finished product with optional “grease coating” made from refined coconut oil and turmeric powder.

What the hell vegan recipe man, why foie gras? How many vegans seek deliverance from foie gras fantasies? Dream of satisfying foie gras voids thrust upon them by lifestyle choices? The answer was right in front of me – foie gras recipe man wrote –

“I’m not going to go into details, you know how foie gras is made, the ducks are force-fed with a metal tube that is inserted into their mouths and then killed. If you have never seen how the ducks are treated, make a quick search on Google images, I guarantee you will feel disgusted or might even shed a tear. It really pisses me off that some people have no problem inflicting such treatment to animals. I did eat foie gras in the past, and I really liked it but I was not aware (or maybe didn’t want to know) of what was really going on.” “Making foie gras vegan is quite a challenge, the real one has a silky and soft texture with a buttery and subtle taste. This vegan foie gras has that rich and creamy texture that melts in your mouth just like real foie gras. This recipe is the result of over 10 trials, testing with tofu, flavorings, herbs, agar-agar, mushrooms, chestnuts, and many other ingredients until achieving what I believe is the most accurate vegan foie gras.”

I get it – irony of lifestyle exuberance was lost on vegan foie gras recipe man. His self declared admission of tireless vegan experimentation to recreate foie gras majesty, plucked at my heart strings. Foie gras is a powerful master, an indiscriminate culinary demon capable of compelling fervent lifestyle opponents to fixate on replicating its glory.

Don’t Think That Cake Will Serve 50


Myself and two staff, 50 guests, corporate golf tournament/Canada Day BBQ at a golf course.Tight timeline for set-up, no problem, not our first hustle. Buffet dinner of salmon, flank steak, Caesar salad, pasta salad, cut melon slices and cookies to open at 6:15. Chips and salsa on each table, bar open and notified guests would arrive in small groups relative to their tee-off times. Tournament prizes to be awarded after dinner, followed by our staff cutting/serving a Canada Day cake provided by client. Running a bit late due to venue not having tables/chairs in place – no big deal. Sorted it out and opened buffet to 20 guests at 6:30. Twenty guests, 20 pieces of salmon and half the beef, gone in the blink of an eye.

Silly me for assuming budget conscious client mentioned to invited guests free dinner was a choice of, not both proteins.Never mind that for the same price of salmon and steak, each and every one of them could stuff their belly with 2 burgers and grilled corn. Nope, they were adamant and customized the menu – 40 salmon fillets, 37 portions of beef (Why 37 is beyond me ) 40 portions of Caesar and pasta salads. This is supposed to feed 50 people? As always, our kitchen sent 4-5 extra goodwill portions of both proteins – drop in the bucket, this was an all you can eat pig fest.

We were in trouble. While not my responsibility to slap buffet hands, disgust left no choice but to shame ignorant second helping morons into waiting until first plates had a run at the buffet. Now client is in my face, angrily demanding to know why we didn’t hold dinner till 7. “We’re going to run out of food!” she shrieks, followed by “everyone is supposed to give you a ticket for choice of salmon or beef”. Excuse me, what ticket? Do you see mention of tickets in your contract because I don’t. Did you tell guests it wasn’t all you can eat? Do they realize how little food you ordered? Is your contract different than mine? Mine clearly states dinner at 6:15 and protein tickets are news to me.

Never mind. Client is beyond reason, demanding a refund, calling me a disgrace for cheating them.In the middle of all this my bartender interrupts – “What’s with these tickets? People keep asking if it’s for a free drink.” OMG!  A dozen guests go hungry, not so much as a cookie crumb left on the buffet, time to move on. I suggest we cut their cake.

How I managed to keep it together, calmly saying “don’t think that cake will serve 50” is beyond me. A team of comedy writers couldn’t script a more suitable punchline. Riveted, I watched as client ripped plastic cover off the naked 10 inch angel food cake, stunned by futile attempts to jab a small paper Canadian flag into the hard plastic center.

“Can you buy us a cake? We’ll stall tournament awards while you go for a cake”. Holy crap! How would you like to pay for it? I’ll send my chef for  cake when we sort out payment. Client agreed to put cake receipt total on her credit card. Chef made good time, back with what he could find in just over 20 minutes, a smallish slab cake and second small layer cake.  Client forgot about the stall. Awards over, only a dozen or so guests remaining. “That’s too much cake, I’m not paying for it” client announces. Oh yes you are!

Happy Canada Day

 

Sleepy? Don’t Blame The Turkey


This time of year, STD means seasonal turkey disorder. Popular assumption fueled by word of mouth scientific surety has solidified “turkey coma” myth as fact. Consider that myth busted.

Myth central credits amino acid Tryptophan for comatose misunderstanding. Our bodies use Tryptophan to make proteins essential to life, it doesn’t occur naturally and must be ingested. Without it there wouldn’t be Niacin or neurotransmitters Serotonin and Melatonin. Serotonin facilitates production of Melatonin, Melatonin is a sleep regulating hormone, favoured of late as a natural sleep aid, and used by some to combat jet-lag or depression. Turkey coma myth was born of Tryptophan in Turkey.

Truth is, turkey has no more tryptophan than chicken, beef or any other meat. Blaming Turkey for sudden onset lethargy, amounts to grandiose denial of excessive carbohydrates consumed, high fat content of holiday meals and alcohol intake. The average holiday turkeyfest has 3,000 calories. Stop blaming turkey for catatonic holiday trances – nobody gets sleepy after a turkey burger or clubhouse sandwich, doctors don’t advise insomniacs to eat turkey before bed – turkey doesn’t make us sleepy, and that’s a fact.

The Truth About Turkey and Tryptophan

Hating Turkey


Hate is a big word, temper that to strong dislike. Strictly a holiday meal, Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter demand roast Turkey and all the fixings. Nobody plans a dinner party in May with “hey, a Turkey would be great”.

The idea of Turkey eclipses reality. There’s a reason we say “I hope it’s not dry” – everyone knows it will be. Turkey requires gravy, cranberry sauce, or mayonnaise once it lands in a sandwich. Families believe size matters, holiday Turkeys linger for days. Soup is Turkey’s greatest gift, immersing that carcass in water means the end of Turkey for another year.

Restricting Turkey to once a year wasn’t easy. I blame myself, stuffing is practically a food group in my home. Nothing fancy, half bread, half sausage meat, onion, celery, and sage. Preparing copious amounts, even though the “cavity” only holds a few cups is lost on my family. I’ve tried to explain stuffing can be served anytime, pointing out almost all the stuffing is baked far from the demon Turkey. No good.

All day “don’t overcook it”, “I hope it’s not dry”, “are you watching the bird”. It’s a damn Turkey! Have you ever had one that melts in your mouth? Turkey is an obligation, if it rocked our world we’d be roasting them all year long.

Potatoes


How many potatoes have I peeled? Measured by vegetable jackets we doff, would a life heap of potato skins greater than all other vegetables combined betray age, rural childhood? Do ponders of what to eat salivate anticipation over a plain boiled potato – of course not. Texture aside, try describing a plain boiled potato.

Growing up, unless a rare spaghetti night broke the monotony, dinner included a pot of potatoes – 7 people, 7 potatoes plus “one for the pot”. Skinning potatoes was easy, summoning root cellar courage was another matter. Lurking beneath the kitchen floor, it existed in another dimension. Ten steps down to audible protests of a wood plank door, passage into cellar’s domain called for swift adherence to entry protocol – one deep breath to mitigate cellar’s earthy assault on senses, focused determination to locate light bulb’s string, followed by fixation on tidy mason jar rows of peaches and tomatoes. Glass caged peach optimism derailed packed earth floor and walls long enough to snatch potatoes and run. For a few weeks each summer “new potatoes” escaped the cellar, thin skinned delicacies boiled intact with a handful of fresh mint.

I love potatoes. Perfect recipient for butter or gravy, enthusiastic sponge for dinner plate juices. Mashed, scalloped, shredded, fried, stewed, caked, salad – a food staple champion. History found potatoes in Bolivia and Peru, cultivated in the Andes for up to 10,000 years. Apparently the Inca thought slices placed on broken bones would speed healing, carried in pocket prevented rheumatism and measured time in potato units – time it took to cook potatoes. In 1537 Spanish conquistadors introduced potatoes to the known world. Per person North Americans eat 110 pounds of potatoes a year, double that consumption for residents of Europe. Ireland was introduced to potatoes when Queen Elizabeth 1 gave Sir Walter Raleigh 40,000 acres of land to grow tobacco and potatoes. Prior to the Great Famine of 1845-1852, average Irish families consumed 10 pounds of potatoes a day. Close to a million people starved to death, another million emigrated during an outbreak of crop failing potato blight – the potato credited with Ireland’s population falling by 25%. Below a source of little known potato facts –

http://nppga.org/consumers/funfacts.php

In primary school most of us cut potatoes in half, carving designs to make stamps. Did you know potato water cleans silver – after cooking remove potatoes, immerse tarnished silver in potato water for an hour. Remove rust from cast iron pans or baking sheets – rub with a cut potato, acids in the flesh wipe it away. Last night I found instruction on growing rose bushes from cuttings inserted into potatoes –

How To Grow Roses From Cuttings

High Above The Forest Floor


If Saturday morning demands jumping out of bed at 5 am, the job site should always be high above the forest floor. Guests were met at Capilano Suspension Bridge in North Vancouver with chocolate biscotti and a mug of grand marnier hot chocolate. Steps before the 137 meter long, 70 meter high crossing of the Capilano River, mini scones topped with seared pork belly and a fried quail egg fortified guests. Reaching solid ground called for smoked salmon lollipops. Meandering trail gave way to a series of steps, up to the “tree house” for a bite of mini quiche. Up, up, up across the canopy – I’m waiting with candied lemon topped smoothies.

Presiding over the last nibble, my boss carefully places sculpted noodle “bird nests” on a tree stump. Park staff warned us of cheeky chipmunks – nary a peep until filling nests with ginger doughnuts. Let me assure you, cheeky doesn’t begin to describe the goal oriented tenacity of that chipmunk. Given countless opportunity to stand down, pleas of polite reason, stern admonishment, it simply wouldn’t listen. No one punches a chipmunk in the face without good reason. Instinct, not malice, sent that chipmunk flying 3 feet to the ground. Regrettable but necessary, chipmunk shook it off and graciously relented.

If you have to get out of bed at the crack of dawn, I recommend it be for a perch high above the forest floor.

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My perch, 110 feet high

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Good morning Mr. Banana Slug

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Care for a smoothie?

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As seen from my vantage point