Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Belgium comes to Vancouver, sort of

Travelling around Europe with our Swiss friends, the Nicolets in 1980, we found ourselves in Belgium. Fumiyo and the Nicolets ordered beer, I stuck to white wine. "Try the cherry beer," Fumiyo told me, "you'll like it." I found that hard to believe, but indeed she was right, and it's been to my delight that Belgian beer is increasingly available in Vancouver (25 years later!). The Georgia Straight raved about Stella's Taps and Tapas, so of course I had to check it out. The Straight article was particularly taken with the Philippine pork dish called Tosino, which I paired with a beer I often drink at home, Bellevue Kriek, a delicious and commonly available cherry beer. Alas, the Tosino was FAR TOO HOT for my taste buds. I asked the waitress for something not spicy, hopefully of the prawn persuasion, and was delighted with the butter poached Black Tiger prawns, roast garlic lime cream. Unfortunately it didn't go too well with the fruitless beer I had 2nd. The prawns were so good I ordered more. Unfortunately, the new server (I had moved inside to escape the sun) brought me Thai-spiced jumbo shrimp, which took me back to the fiery hell of the Tosino. The glass of chardonnay I'd ordered with it would have been perfect with the butter poached prawns, but was utterly defeated trying to put out the heat in the Thai-spiced shrimp. Still, there are things on the menu I plan to try the next time I go there. The correspondence of the Ginsberg's , a book called Family Business behind the fiery Tosino in the picture, more than kept me company. A very pleasent place. Hopefully their Belgian beer list will considerably expand.

Saturday, July 23, 2005

dim sum shines

Our visiting friends the Hofers, the self-described Ghenghis Kahns from Burns Lake, hoofed us off for Dim Sum at the nearby Westview Oriental Restaurant.
The whole herd enjoyed the wonton soup. What possible harm can be done to broccoli?
The kids stuck themselves to the sticky rice. Prawn shumai were a bit rubbery for my taste, but all rapidly consumed by the hungry army. Some odd tofu-scallop thing appeared, and another scallop attempt, only vaguely edible even without its tobiko toupee.
The dumplings on your left however...
not the ones with the orange tobiko aborted fish topping, the plain ones
and you're on a plane
into warm memories.
Nikkuman, hot pork buns in glass cases in little stores throughout the cold days of Japan. Cheap, filling, your tongue suddenly plunges into instant nostalgia.
When I lived in Japan, when it wasn't humidly hot, it was humidly cold. Home heating is actually room heating. From the luxury of climate controlled buildings of employment or commerce, one went forth into a variety of unpleasentry to and from anywhere. A long wait in a cold train station or a long walk to one's destination could be luxuriously ameliorated by a nikkuman. For a few coins, a feast. A portable hearth. Instant health.
Tastes take you back in time, and bring back all necessary memories. That's how we evolved. Our ancestors had to know what fruit was available where and when. In North Vancouver, one needs to know that the pork dumplings are not be missed for Dim Sum at the W.O.R. Our ancestors from a million years ago salute us, steal a dumpling.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

New flowers

Some newly blooming, others newly purchased. They bow deeply to each, and dance.

Monday, July 18, 2005

Visiting Microdog

Chanel, a dog considerably smaller than our cats Jazz and Blues, is staying with us for the summer.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

What are all these Mexicans doing here?

Watching a DVD of the new flick A Day Without a Mexican reminded me of a great line from the 3rd Firesign album, Don't Crush That Dwarf, Hand Me The Pliers. In the album, it's graduation day at Peorgie Tirebiter's Morse Science High. Upon arriving at school with his friend Mudhead, the boys discover their high school has dissappeared, and they are surrounded by people with Spanish accents, telling Peorgie, "You're a white man, you have to help us," as Mudhead says, "What are all these Mexicans doing here?"
The LA I grew up in, in the 50s and 60s had a few Mexican elements (Tacos were a favourite meal when I was in high school) but actual Mexicans were rare in my San Fernando Valley neighbourhood. Going back there recently, the schools I attended now seem to have all their signage in Spanish and the main language I hear in stores, hospitals and restaurants is Spanish. It's as if California has gone back to its former identity as part of Mexico. This is delightful. The Mexican food is MUCH better than it was 40 years ago, and I'd much rather look at Chicana women with their natural skin colour than Caucasian women with temporary tans. Maybe that's just me.
The reason I love Mudhead's line so much is that it duplicates my experience, moving to Japan in the summer of 1971. Suddenly surrounded by an alien culture and a variety of English that was utterly mysterious to me, I felt just like Mudhead surrounded by people who were alien and unexpected for his situation. This is not a cry of dismay. I'm sure Mudhead and Peorgie enjoyed the sudden company of Chicana beauties as much as I would have had they suddenly taken over my high school. There are multitudes of Firesign lines, not to mention lines from songs, flicks and popular culture in general that suddenly capsulize and anthemize a situation you find yourself in.
A Day Without A Mexican takes an ugly city (LA) and makes it visually interesting. The story is political science fiction very reminiscent of Firesign, although the writers probably had a list of all the things they wanted to cover in it and stuck to covering their list more than the story could comfortably sustain. It reminded me of the list Coppola made of all the facets of the Vietnam war he wanted to cover in Appocalypse Now. Occasionally the acting was painful to watch (the TV director) or just tedious (the border guards). Nonetheless, I enjoyed this flick as much as any I've seen for a couple of monthes (maybe a dozen). Unlike most flicks, it is about something Different (ala Being John Malcovitch) and Important (Michal Moore's docs). The glass slowly filling with water was a delight for this apprentice cinematographer. Maybe people who see it will vote differently, surely the intent of its creators. Sure beats the usual Hollywood agitprop glorifying the American military.

Monday, July 11, 2005

Fast Food Fantasia

As rain threatened at a quarter after four or so on Canada Day, my hungry friend agreed with my suggestion we venture over to Frenchies, a Quebec take out joint a few blocks away that I'd just seen an ad for in the Straight. Alas, it was closed, and the rain drops were starting to fall. Neither of us had been to the Crepe Cafe on Granville but it was close and we wanted some vaguely French food.
My friend luxuriated in her sweet crepe. I had some sort of grilled veg thing. Very tasty but in a fast food sort of way. Eggplant in a wrap is redundant, but exhilirating sudden mushroom erupted the posibility of transcending the fast food, food court genre that has colonized the downtowns of the first world, at least.
Frenchies was open when I returned the following week. Though they normally sell it by the slice, I was able to buy a whole Tortiere, as well as a smallish Montreal Smoked Meat sandwich. The coleslaw alone is worth moving to Montreal. Cabbage leafs have never been as succesffully herbally caressed. Signs abounded in the restaurant, warning the patron that Montreal Smoked Meat was Not Corn Beef. Yeah, that's like saying the sun isn't the moon. Within the orbit of pastrami, and the spiced meat dreams of butchers in the fullness of time. A stylish flavour, like Orson Welles in a cape. Too much of it can be overwhelming, but just the right amount ...ah.
And then we had the Tortiere.
Ok, this is something that Kerouac would have to come back from the dead to describe. Memere would have be resurrected first to bake it, and then he would be lured out of the time machine by the smell of it wafting him back to life. The meat would remind him of the rest of his life, he could live either forward or backward because it was all in the pie. R squared, cubed, bottled and corked, pour Ti Jean another life and let him describe the Tortiere.
I ate far too much.
Tormented into the soreness of dawn with dreams of gas clouds of zeppelins under the comand of the Red Baron, endlessly shooting at Snoopy in his flying dog house, forever imperiled, but never a dog.
Awakened with barks of real dogs and hunger meows of real cats, resolved never to OD on Frenchy's Tortiere again, but in moderation, like all good things, it just makes your life better.

Saturday, July 09, 2005

Saturday Cat Blogging

I thought it was autofocus. Oh well. Blues actually looks better blurred and Jazz in the window looks postively windowesque.