Saturday, April 23, 2016

Food and Drink

"'Shall I tell you the saddest words I ever heard?'...
'I always wanted to go there...and do that...but I never did.'
'To go what place, Mordecai? To do what thing?'
But Mordecai said no more. He was dead.
'I am sorry, Mirza Esther.'
'So am I. So was he. Here was a man in the very last flicker of his life, lamenting something that had once piqued his curiosity, but he had neglected to go and see it or do it or have it -- and now he never could.'...
Hoping to make her feel better, I said, 'But if he had seized the chance, you might be sorrier now. I have noticed that sinful temptations abound in these lands. In all lands, I suppose. I myself once had to confess to a priest for having too freely followed where my curiosity led me --'
'Confess it if you must, but do not ever abjure it or ignore it. That is what I am trying to tell you. If a man is to have a fault, it should be a passionate one, like insatiable curiosity. It would be a pity to be damned for something paltry.'
--THE JOURNEYER, Gary Jennings


My faults are anything but passionate. My lack of passion is actually, probably, my biggest fault of all. It's laziness mixed with risk aversion, and its effects are noticeable in my life to anyone with half an eye to look. It even trickles down into my eating and drinking habits.

I like comfort food. I like food and drink that I already know I like (particularly when I have to pay money for it). My palette is bland, boring, meat-and-potatoes:  the essence of old WASP.

I'm not a teetotaller, but you can count my alcohol servings per year on one finger, usually...and sometimes you don't even half to lift that finger. That's because I've been seriously drunk once, and something happened that would never have happened to me sober. That I actually enjoyed it was even more unnerving, because I like to plan my enjoyments and be in control of myself when they happen. What excess alcohol does to me is take my inner risk analyst, bind him head and foot, and shove him in a room deep in my spine, where I can't even hear him screaming.
Before you ask, yes, I can handle my liquor: it took a nontrivial amount of it to subdue Mr. Risk Analyst. I distinctly remember thinking, "um, I should definitely be feeling drunk along about now" and it still being half an hour before I suddenly did. And quite often, when I do venture out of my gustatory comfort zone, I discover I enjoy foods I never thought I'd try. But Mr. Risk Analyst insists on chittering at me that just means you're overdue for something gross and disgusting. Don't try anything else, you might hate it.

Well, you know what? Enough of that. That attitude is so deeply engrained I have no idea if it's fully removable... but it can be subdued. And sometimes it should be.

Eva and Mark and I went to the Waterloo Region Food and Drink Show this evening (not sure how long that link will be live: the show ends tomorrow). It was held at the Kitchener Memorial Auditorium -- "The Aud" -- and I figured it would be an excellent time to take some small steps into the odd, at least for me.

This food show wasn't anything to rival the scale of the Good Food Festival that used to take place at the International Center in Mississauga. We went to that one three years running, and each year it declined: more money to get in, less free stuff, until one year it wasn't worth it anymore. I'm not the only one who felt that way, because it seems as if that show no longer exists. The first year, though, you honestly felt like you were scamming the vendors with their eager permission and participation.

But back to the here and now:  there were quite a few local restaurants and purveyors of gourmet food, along with craft beers, wines, and spirits of all sorts.
We figured on going there around suppertime, thinking the crowds might be a little more manageable. If that was indeed the case, I'm glad we didn't go at any other time, because ugh. I used to be a people person, but then people ruined that for me. The noise crashed in on me from all angles, making it impossible for me to discern whatever it was Eva just said to me. And that hubbub was leavened not at all by a squealing saxophone (on one side of the Aud) and a bluesy swagger of a guitarist (on the other). You won't often hear me say this, but the music could have up and gone away and improved the general atmosphere.

But the food. And the drink.

Pulled pork is evidently The Thing this year: it was everywhere. At least seven vendors I saw were offering pulled pork on a bun for a token or two. I like pulled pork, I liked the pulled pork I tried, and...okay, let's move on to something more interesting.

Zoup. I have heard amazing things about this place in uptown Waterloo, but never gone. The soups on offer at the feswere chicken pot pie, tomato basil and lobster bisque.
Everybody, including me, was expecting me to go for the chicken pot pie. That's the epitome of comfort food. There was no risk at all involved in it: I knew I'd love it. Eva and Mark both got some of it, and I opened my mouth and said

"Lobster bisque, please."

Then I hurriedly slapped a gag on Mr. Risk Analyst, who was bleating something about how I'd never tried anything like this, the closest thing I'd ever had to it was clam chowder, what if I hate it, I just wasted my m--"

It was good. It was really good. Creamy, redolent of the sea, a little bit of pepper that actually seemed to enhance the flavour rather than drown it (and that in and of itself was something of a revelation to me: my atttitude towards spice can charitably be called get it the fuck away from me.)

I almost can't wait for winter again just so I have a climactic excuse to go in to Zoup for some hot creamy goodness. (That sounds dirty...what can I say. It's basically a mouthgasm.) I'm not sure hot and sticky weather lends itself to a soup place. Hmmm. Something to think about. I may not be able to wait that long.

Incidentally, I did get to try the chicken pot pie soup (one of the nice benefits of a wife who has gone through weight loss surgery is that even the samples are too big for her and I get a bite or two of anything she tries. It was every bit as good as I expected...which put it on par with the stuff I'd never tried before.

It is not easy for me to haul ass out of bed at the equivalent of three in the morning to go to a place full of babbling crowds and eat food that isn't breakfast. I was trying not to fall asleep. Out of the corner of one drooping eye appeared something called "bulletproof coffee." Sounded like just what the doctor ordered.

Now, I share the world's addiction to go juice...but it has to be heavily adulterated  for me to be able to drink it. Story here if you're sick of this one already. My standard coffee prescription is now three cream, one sugar, and in a pinch I can get by without any sugar at all. But that cream is essential, because black coffee tastes like a giant cup of asshole.

I inquired as to what this bulletproof coffee was, and was told it was high octane beans -- "no mould"...

Mould in my coffee? This put me queasily in stomach of the day I found out what's in  cheap vanilla (DON'T READ THIS IF YOU DON'T WANT TO FIND OUT THAT YOUR STORE-BOUGHT VANILLA ICE CREAM HAS BEAVER TAINT JUICE IN IT).

But she said this bulletproof coffee did NOT have mould in it: just high quality beans and assorted fatty oils. Nobody mentioned the butter, but that would have actually been a nice buttery selling point.

She told me to come back in a few minutes, as the coffee had to steep. And when I returned and exchanged four tokens for a goodish size cup...I didn't see any colouring agents. Or sugar or sweetener, for that matter. There were people pressing in on me like those trash compactor walls in the first Star Wars movie and I had to get some air before I suffocated and well I guess I'm going to try black coffee.

Have you ever taken a tentative sip of something, expecting to spit it across the room, only to find out it tasted absolutely nothing like you expected? For a minute you hate it anyway, and then you get a rush of brains to the head and you think wait a minute, this doesn't taste like hate, this tastes like...good.

Really good. As good or better than my Tim Horton's or McCafé with a whack of cream.
Now...was it the butter? Butter makes everything better, right? Was it the fact I've never had a quality cuppa in my life? Dear God, let me not turn into a coffee snob.

Moving on: let's have some alcohol. The sedative effect will counteract the caffeine stimulant. Here are some vodka coolers...I've had those before, they're good, I'll get one of th--


--e nice big glasses of blueberry wine over there.

Oh, dear, this stuff is intoxicating.  In more than one sense of the word. Surprisingly complex flavour: blueberry is just one part of it. I want more. I want. I want! This stuff is positively lush-ious!

Money isn't such that I can easily afford a wine habit. But I'm going to create one. A small one. Because that was worth it.

I'm kind of proud of myself. These were trivial departures for me, but the journey of a thousand miles does begin with a single bite. Or sip, as it were.

Thank you, Eva and Mark. That was a wonderful evening.

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