The art of cooking a squash begins with the right kind of information
We go to the Jean-Talon, the premier outdoor market in Montreal, to fondle produce before driving back home.
It’s no longer summer, that message made loud and clear by the decrease in foot traffic. The chill. The ease in parking. The brick and mortar shops surrounding the market sporting snow tents for their doors. It doesn’t feel like a party any more.
We hop out and head towards the vast indoors, the weather being about 12 Celcius, but I stop at an outdoor offering, staring at a gaggle of asparagus and thinking about the color of urine. What could I make to go with it?
With the Hosers International tv show blaring, Lola felt able to turn inward. She was devising a way to get the falafel to be both crispy but not grimy. Baked things meant to be fried didn’t always translate. Lola guessed that with a few tablespoons of coconut oil remaining she would have to suck it up and use canola – which as many helpful doctors on the internet advised was poison.
My rideshare dropped me off in the city centre of Braunschweig, West Germany. It was 1987.
Eva said this driver’s exchange service was the cheapest way to get to see Andrea, our mutual friend, though it was a good chance that the driver would not speak English. I was ok with this, though it seemed weird that strangers would offer to drive strangers in their car.
A few days earlier, I had met up with Eva from the train from Amsterdam, gotten lost despite her pitch-perfect instructions, but yet still ended up meeting her in Frankfurt. She was waiting at the station, cigarette in mouth, hands on hips. She had lost weight since I last saw her, but then again so had I.
We had a beer at the bar in the station, me forty minutes in Germany, and I pounded the bar like the guy next to me had done and I also ordered, “Ein alt, bitte.” I imitated the way he did it, using the only talent I had, mimicry, for good.
[dropcap]People Ask Me[/dropcap] “What’s different for you between Canada and the US? What are American / Canadian cultural differences?”
This conversation happened every week, when I drove strangers (soon to be friends) in my car between Boston and Montreal.
IN the late ’90s, when I was in grad school in Vermont I was friends with a few Montrealers. They were francophones; their work was not about differance. But there were a couple of other Canadians at the school, native English speakers, who made it clear that they were Americans, too, though not from the US. Some of their writing contained comparisons between the US and Canada, certain pronunciations and spellings of words, or wourds. And brands of food: for instance Oreo cookies sold in Canada are made by Mr. Christie and not Nabisco. Of inferior quality, I must note, but having the ability to kill you more slowly with the poly-sorbitant hydrogenated concentated oils from the peel of a banana rather than the requisite rim of an old tire.
I queried my pack, my Montrealers, about this and they said, “Yes, this is the difference.” Maybe something was lost in translation. It could not be so superficial. Maybe it was just the beginning of the conversation to be continued. But I dropped out shortly after for non-Canadian reasons, and so, perhaps, missed out on further discussions.
TEN YEARS LATER I began my own exploration of the differences between my giant country directly south of the quieter northern neighbor. Thus began conversations with people from everywhere, on my drives from my life in the US to my new life in Canada. For the first couple of years the drives were pretty much a darkened solo effort. It wasn’t until I looked for the hundreth time at Craigslist, making yet another electronic purchase for the magic lottery number of $20 that I finally saw the rideshare link, which thus changed my life forever.
I was making crème brûlée and thought of you by way of the owl.
The crunch of the burnt sugar top from the last stand of the crème brûlée last night, paired with the fruity taste of my blueberry tea made me think of that Tootsie Pop commercial. How many licks does it take to get to the center of a Tootsie Pop, this little kid who looks like Barney Rubble asks an owl. Then the owl eats the kid’s candy in three licks, being the asshole owl that he is.
Quit, with the proper and not phonetical spelling of her name (pronounced Kwee, as in Bisquit [Beese-kwee], which means Cookie or Cake, as in “I married Cookie Monster”, but that’s a whole other story), told me the crème brûlée we’d served her friend Cri-Cri from France was delicious. However, neither of them finished their dessert that night.
One ramekin sat deserted in the fridge for 2 more days after Cri-Cri stumbled back to Montréal.
I decided to eat this last one while watching Damages. Quit discovered that using my American Netflix account while in Canada enabled us to watch the 5th season of Damages. If one were to log in using an internet shield, say, and watch ‘from America’, one would only have Seasons 4, 3, 2, 1 to contend with.
In the aforementioned show, Glenn Close plays a lawyer who drinks a lot of Bourbon or Scotch, and when I thought about watching another episode I felt a sensation in my chest as though I too drank a lot of said beverages. The color of the alcohol in Glenn Close’s tumbler reminded me of the color of butterscotch. I kept telling myself that they couldn’t be drinking butterscotch to emulate the alcohol, that it was probably iced tea. But my pallet preferred the butterscotch path, which got me to thinking, Hm, what can help with this sensation?
I will be attempting Crème brûlée for the first time ever even though I’ve owned one of those gas jets for the hand for years. Never used it till tomorrow. Some friend of Kwee’s from France is coming over for luncheon. Kwee discovered the wonders of clorox and became a stepford wife cleaning every thing in site (about time). She obsessed over what to do about dessert, as in Hmm, what to do about, what can we possibly serve, we must have a dessert …. till I finally yelled out, For the Love of God I’ll do it just shut up about it.
I’ll report later how it actually tasted.
So then I’ve got all these egg whites and I’m thinking, Knocked one new dessert out of the park why not go two for two. I tried making macaroons. Total failure. I am going to have to scrape the dead macaroon bodies off of the numerous pans. And then wash the buggers so that Madame le clorox doesn’t have a meltdown. I mean, Jesus.
Kwee got her flu shot today. I made her take this hoary halloween candy with her. The worst of the worst – I can’t tell you what flavor any of it was but suffice to say that the word ‘candy’ was on the bag and it cost her maybe 12 cents to buy the whole thing. She hates halloween, hates having anyone coming to our door. So we prepare every year by getting ‘candy’ for 12 cents a bag and then letting the whole thing stay fresh as a daisy for 9 years before I scream, This is Not Candy, and then throw it out.
The turnaround time was faster this time.
Kwee says that there were a whole bunch of Jewish kids also getting their shots and since Kwee spoke English to them they took that as a sign that they could eat this stranger’s candy. Which they did. She said it really got them in the mood for the shot.
All of which to say it’s not candy and I am not getting any bloody flu shot.