18 May 2014

An Ode to Berries

Summer is upon us and berry season is right around the corner. I started writing this poem two years ago and have only just finished it.

The sun was shining on the shrub
To everyone’s delight:

He did his very best to make

The berries plump and ripe--
And this was odd, because it was
The middle of the night.

The freezer was acting sulkily
Because she thought the sun
Had got no business ripening
What she had frozen by the tonne--
“It’s very rude of him,” she said,
“When berry season’s done!”

The strawberries were red as red could be,
The blueberries, blue as blue.
The blackberries were overgrown
And cast a purple hue
Raspberries were protected by their thorns:
Only the bravest could get through

The Sista and the Sista
Were empty and with ache
They wept like anything to see
Such a bland pancake
“If it were only filled with berries
Our hunger we could shake!”

“If seven maids with seven mouths

Picked for half a year.
Do you suppose,” said Sista One
“They could get the bramble clear?”
“I doubt it,” said Sista Two
“And shed a happy tear”

“O Berries, come and walk with us!”
A Sista did beseech.
“A pleasant walk, a pleasant talk,
Let’s spend the day in speech!

Come and fill our pails,
There’s room enough for each.”

The eldest berry looked at them
But never a word he said:
The eldest berry winked his eye,
And shook his heavy head--
Meaning to say he did not choose
To leave the berry-bed.

The strawberries were the first to come,
Their seeds pressed flush to flesh,
Green caps secured upon their tops
Ensured the fruit was fresh.
They eagerly awaited an afternoon
Free from any stress.

The blueberries from their small bush home
Were next to get in line
The raspberries came afterward,
All red and plump and fine.
Eventually the blackberries
Sauntered over in due time.

Together they strolled until
They found a clearing, nice and neat.
A blanket was lay upon the ground
On which to rest their aching feet.
And all the little berries
Jostled for a seat.

“The time has come,” one Sista said
“To talk of many things:
Of daughters and of nieces
And of sistas traveling.
Of adventures of the past
And of what the future brings.”

“But wait a bit,” the Berries cried,
“—Although it’s just a hunch—
We believe it’s half-passed noon
And yet we haven’t had our lunch!”
They turned their heads and all implored:
“Mightn't we have a bite to munch?”

“A bowl of cream,” one Sista said,
“Is what we chiefly need:
And some sugar and some chocolate
Would be very fine indeed—
Now if you’re ready, Berries dear,
We can begin to feed.”

“But not on us!” the Berries cried,
Releasing beads of sweat.
“A day of friendship you said:
A promise made is a promise kept.”
“The day is long,” said a Sista
“And the sun has not yet set.”

“We are so glad we’ve met you!
We hold you in high esteem!”
One Sista lowered her eyes and said:
“We’re running out of cream.”
Another bowl was brought
And her eyes were all agleam.

“It seems a shame,” a Sista said
“To play them for a fool,
After we took them from their homes
Where it was nice and cool.”
But from the other Sista’s mouth
Issued only a stream of drool.

“I apologize,” one Sista claimed,
“For acting such a brute.
It really tears me up inside
And your services I salute.”
With sobs and tears she sorted out
The very plumpest of the fruit.

“O Berries,” said a Sista,
“We’ve had such a pleasant break!
Shall we get you home again?”
But none of the berries spake—
And this was scarcely odd, because
They were all in a pancake.

14 May 2014


For the most part I have nothing but good things to say about Iceland: it’s a beautiful country with beautiful people and has one of the most consistently impressive musical and literary outputs of any country. But there’s something rotten in the state of Iceland (the quotation is relevant because Iceland didn’t become fully independent from Denmark until 1944), and that something is shark meat that is intentionally buried in the ground left to rot because the meat itself is poisonous because it’s bloated with urea and the only way to safely consume it is to let it rot first. All other reasons for disgust aside, there is something seriously wrong with a food when the only way to eat it without dying is to ensure it is thoroughly rotted through first.

It goes without saying that I would never try this food, but the question still remains: why is anyone else eating this? I get that when you’re living on an isolated volcanic island with very limited contact with the outside world and not the most extensive list of edible food readily available, sometimes you have to do what you have to do. And I guess, one of those things might be eating shark meat that you’ve left to rot underground for a few months, but… is it? Look, I would never advocate eating any kind of seafood, but I just feel like if you have access to a shark brimming with urea, you probably also have access to a lot of different kinds of fish and shellfish and whales and that, as disgusting those things are, they aren't quite as disgusting as this rotten shark and also do not have to be consumed rotten. And furthermore, Iceland clearly isn’t the isolated volcanic rock it was in the sixteenth century, so I really can’t understand the continued consumption of this revolting dish except as a misguided commitment to a culinary past that is no longer relevant today.

Does it look like I am driving this forklift? Whatever. I don't even care.
This food is too disgusting to waste any time on a picture.

I've been thinking about hákarl for the last few months. I kept planning to write a post about it, but I couldn't see the point. Of course this is something I would never eat, but I'm also not even totally sure that this can be classified as food. It's just weird, slimy, chunks of urea that for some unknown reason a very, very small percentage of the world's population sometimes puts in their mouth. Additionally, based on the Wikipedia article, it seems like no one else can stomach hákarl, so it's probably time for Iceland to own up to the fact that this gross Greenland shark was not meant for consumption. (Like, really, it was not. Because it is poisonous. I really want to get that point across: it is poisonous because it is so full of urea that if you eat it fresh, it will poison you.)

One of the most important things that a nation can do is to hold itself accountable for its mistakes in the past—to bury them in the sand and let them rot, so to speak. The most important thing that Iceland can do now—nay, the only thing Iceland can do now—is to admit that it was wrong and to move on. The sooner Iceland does that, the sooner we can all forget that this horrific rotten urea-shark ever existed in the first place.

The beautiful nation of Iceland
Once plucked from the sea a shark of Greenland.
Poisonous when fresh,
So they rotted the flesh,
And hákarl has since been universally panned.

12 May 2014

Dear Food Thoughtz: Hotdog Sushi

A not-so-special Dear Food Thoughtz which isn't really even a Dear Food Thoughtz at all, but the pickings are so slim these days, that I'll take whatever I can get.

Dear Instagram User That I Know In Real Life,

Thank you for tagging me in this Instagram picture. Although I have already alerted you to my thoughtz on this food, let me reiterate here that I think this is wrong and an abomination. I am not even sure if it's a real thing or if you just made it up because a hotdog, some pastrami, pickles, mustard, and cream cheese were literally the only five things you had in your house tonight. I will say that with the exception of the mustard, pickles, and cream cheese, this looks like it might be an improvement on traditional sushi—which, as I have previously discussed, is truly disgusting and awful.

That said, I applaud your resourcefulness. It is often said that the only path to success is one riddled with failure, and while I don't personally live by that ethos, I nevertheless approve of your commitment to culinary failures with the promise of potential success in the future. Bizarrely, if the rumour mill of Grand Forks is to be believed, you are already a wildly successful Vancouver chef, so forgive me if I am confused as to why you're wasting your time with this mustard-meat-tube when you could be devoting yourself entirely to Baked Alaskans (one of your own is pictured below) and apple pies.
Did everyone else know that this is what a Baked Alaskan
is? I had always assumed you just put a whole cod in
the oven for a few hours. #themoreyouknow.
I would also like to point out that despite multiple pleas for pie-mail, I have yet to receive a single pie in the mail. Consider this a strong hint that you should mail me a pie. (You can tell it's a strong hint because I've put the text in bold.)

08 May 2014


Despite being Spanish appetizers, tapas just remind me of Kelowna and the type of Kelowna girls who would go out for them (you know what kind of girls I’m referring to) because they live in a ~*BiG cItY*~ and that’s what you do in ~*BiG cItY*~. That’s reason enough to avoid this culinary sub-genre, even though I have no idea what it consists of.

After a long shift at Orchard Park
Observe a haggle of Kelowna girls embark
On the adjacent parking-lot Milestones,
Pull out their Guess purses, pull out their phones,
And devour some tapas-inspired small-bites
Because, wooo!, ~*GiRlS nIgHt*~!! ;)

07 May 2014

The Zucchini

The only interest I have in zucchinis is telling people that “zucchini” is the first real word that I learned how to spell. I learned how to spell it sometime before entering kindergarten, and I’ve been talking about that accomplishment ever since. Other than that, this vegetable is just not on my radar. I have no desire to try it. It has nothing to offer me. People keep talking about how you can just sneak zucchini into things—especially sweet baked goods—and you won’t even know it’s there. But there are a few things going on here. I mean, first of all, if you won’t even notice it, then stop trumpeting its presence. That completely negates your intended purpose. Stop doing that. And really, zucchini is not important enough to any healthy diet to warrant a “spoonful of sugar” approach. Second of all, if its presence in a baked good really is not noticeable, then why is it there? Is it really just to sneak some vegetables into an otherwise fairly unhealthy snack? Why can’t I just eat a normal serving of vegetables for dinner and then have a sweet snack without any zucchini in it for dessert?I think we’ve developed a pretty good system here, and I can never figure out why people are so hell bent on messing with it. There are so many healthy and sweet/delicious treats in this world that I really don’t think it’s necessary to come up with new, stealth ones. Like, you could just eat a strawberry. Alleged health benefits aside, I think it probably just comes down to the fact that zucchinis just won’t quit. Everyone is always trying to get rid of them during the summer because a single plant usually produces enough zucchini to feed an entire village—especially when you consider that zucchinis aren’t even a good vegetables, so probably only 5% of the village is eating them. If you find yourself with one hundred zucchinis on your hands, don’t try to deal with them by messing up an otherwise perfectly good dessert option. But also, by no means should you just throw them in the compost, because they’ll probably just thrive in there and produce ever more zucchinis.

Not unlike the mythical hydra defeated by Hercules,
The zucchini poses a similar self-rejuvenating emergency.
Just as when you rub a lamp, there appears a genie:
Discard of one in the compost, and out pops several more zucchinis.
It's not enough to cut off where the fruit and plant met:
The key to defeating it is to cauterize the courgette.

05 May 2014

Review: Azores Food Round-Up

About a month ago my sister and I embarked on an ill-conceived journey to the Azorean island of São Miguel. If, like me, you have only heard of the Azores but have no idea where they are, the short answer is they are in the middle of nowhere, and the even shorter answer is that you can just google them. Initially I thought I would write a diary post every day about what I had been eating but that plan failed immediately when I decided instead to spend all of my spare time reading in front of a raging fire.

São Miguel was a pretty nice place. Sometimes it looked like this:

And other times it looked like this:

Portuguese cuisine has never been something I’m even remotely interested in it. I don’t know much about it beyond that they have a lot of roast chicken, custard tarts, those ceramic rooster that probably are not for eating, and fish. But the Azores seem to be a bit different. I don't recall seeing any roast chickens or even very many custard tarts or ceramic roosters, but they did have piles and piles of disgusting fish-products and a few other things that made me sick to even be in the vicinity of.

I think the best way to tackle this post will be to divide up the food I encountered into two categories: the food that I ate while I was there and the food that utterly repulse me. So here we go!

The Food I Ate:

When we first arrived at out cottage—which was the absolute best—out host greeted us with some Easter chocolates and a delicious Easter cake, which was so delicious that we waited until Easter was over and then bought a second, discounted Easter cake which we couldn’t finish and ended up throwing in the garbage at the airport.
At first I was kind of hesitant to try the Easter cake because it looked like a small turkey covered in cloves and waiting to be stuffed. My sister tried it first and we were both pleasantly surprised that it was just a mound of sweet bread dotted with chocolate chips and some chocolate cream filling. It was delicious. That said, I wouldn't put it past the Portuguese to sell small turkeys as "sweet Easter treats" based on some of the other things they tried to pass off as Easter delicacies.

For our first dinner we had silly ronis with meat sauce. I have to be honest here. Even though my sister was kind enough to cater to my every need on this trip, which more often than not included feeding me, this was not my favourite thing. I love the silly ronis of course—they were as silly as I could have ever dreamed of—but the sauce was just too sweet. I can't even remember what went in there, but I guess maybe there was too much red pepper? I'm not sure. It was just too ... tangy. And I really don't like that in a pasta sauce. But it also definitely was not the worst thing, and the pasta shape was so novel to me that it almost made up for the tangy sauce.

One experience definitely worth talking about is that I had a kiwi for the first time in over twenty years. I seem to recall eating kiwis at my dad's when I was very little and I had probably had them once or twice since then if they were in a fruit salad, but kiwis are fruits that I typically avoid. I'm not exactly sure why, but I think it probably has to do with the labour involved in preparing them which, admittedly, is quite minimal. The kiwi I ate had been peeled by my sister, presumably for my benefit, but I honestly don't think I would mind eating the skin. It seems like it might be a bit thicker and tougher than peach skin, but I really like peach skin and think it's disgusting and wasteful when people eat the peach without. Anyway: the kiwi. The kiwi was just fine. I don't really feel comfortable saying much more about it, and I'm not convinced that I will eat another kiwi in the next twenty years. It was certainly good, but it just wasn't good enough to warrant eating again. I'm so used to eating the same thing over and over again that I have never felt the need to really change up my diet, so I would never eat a kiwi just because I wanted a change from the regular fruit I eat. But whatever. I guess it wasn't really worth talking about. Anyway, it looks pretty great sliced up here:

Because the island was so small (so small: it was only 15km wide and 60km long), we never really found ourselves in the position of needing to eat out very often. We typically ate in our cottage. In addition to the pasta on the first night, we also ate rice with some sliced up ham coil, roasted cauliflower, buns, those delicious chocolate flutes, and pineapples.

The rice was fine. I specifically requested that we have rice with pepper and onion fried in a pan, but once again it was just a bit too sweet, and once again I am blaming the red pepper. It's my understanding that if you want to have rice with pepper and onion, there has to be a bit of jalapeño because red bell peppers are just too sweet on their own. The rice was served with roasted cauliflower, which my sister assured me would be the best cauliflower I had ever tasted. But it wasn't. I didn't really like it. It was at once too crunchy but also too mushy. It just didn't work for me, although I will admit that when it came out of the oven, it certainly looked like something I would like (the picture of it looks disgusting).

We had the ham coil cut up and fried with the rice, which was probably the best part. But later I tried the ham coil on its own, and I didn't like it. It was too salty and too something else.

I will probably go out and buy a pack of these right now.
By far the culinary highlight of the trip were these chocolate flutes that you can find everywhere but that I have always associated with "Europe," probably because they're often marketed as a European delicacy in here. They did not disappoint. I love these things. If I could stop gobbling them up for just one minute, one day I would like to see what it's like to use one as a straw for drinking coffee. They're probably one of the best cookie-foods that are on the market today, second only to Dad's chocolate chip cookies (the ones made by Mr. Christie—definitely not my dad's cookies, which if they exist, probably have zucchini and cayenne in them).

 We did go out to eat a few times on this trip, but usually only for a quick lunch or for multiple galãos, which are essentially just lattes. A fun fact about our linguistic adventures in the Azores is that galão is the only Portuguese word either of us bothered to learn on our entire trip. I guess my sister probably ate a few different things, but I only ever had fries and one time a burger. The fries were pretty hit and miss in Portugal. The first plate I had was in the town of Furnas, which is famous for its geothermal activity. One thing I learned about myself is to stop being lured to a place by the promise of geothermal activity. I hate geothermal activity. It stinks and is disgusting. Someone described it as "earth farts," which is 100% correct. At one point we drove through an unexpected cloud of sulphur with our windows rolled down, and I was certain that I was going to throw up. All of this is relevant because each time I brought the fries to my mouth, they seemed to smell like sulphur and it made me sick. I still ate all of them. The second plate of fries I had was in Ponta Delgada and were delicious precisely because they tasted almost identical to McDonald's fries, but with the added bonus a delicious pint of beer on the side (the Portuguese seem to be pretty into lagers, which is great for me because generic lagers are pretty much the only beer I'll drink). Last, but certainly not least, on our last night on São Miguel we went out for a great dinner at a restaurant recommended to us by our host. I must admit I had my doubts about this place: it looked like a weird and not very good beach snack-hut, but it turned out to be really great. I had a burger with fries, and was relieved when the burger came just as I ordered it: totally plain with cheese. By no means was the burger great, but it was pretty solid and I don't really have any complaints about it.

Left to Right: sulphur fries, McDonald's imposter fries, and the best fries of the trip.

 Before moving on to all of the gross food that I didn't eat, I want to speak briefly of the pineapples. I don't want to spend too much time on them because I am tentatively working on a separate post for them. For whatever reason, the Azorean islands grow pineapples. Not because they grow naturally there, but because they used to grow oranges, but then some mysterious orange-plague wiped out the entire crop on the islands, so they switched their focus to greenhouse pineapples. And you guys: these pineapples are no joke. The Azorean pineapples are, hands down, the absolute best pineapples I have ever tasted in my life. Maybe this has to do with filling the greenhouse with smoke, which has the exact same life-restoring qualities as an eighteenth century tobacco enema. These pineapples were so sweet, so juicy, and so adorably round and small that we couldn't even bring ourselves to care that they were twice the price as the imported Costa Rican pineapples.

My sister tried to rouse me from my slumber with this plate of freshly slice pineapple - and it worked! I would get
out of any bed just to taste that delicious pineapple once more.

 That pretty much covers everything I ate on this trip. I had a bag of chips once and some yogurt, but they didn't seem work talking about. I also tried a bite of my sister's Mister Corn chocolate bar, and I wasn't sure whether to put it in the "Food I Ate" category or the "Gross Food" category, so I'm going to opt for the latter because it is actually pretty gross.

The Food I Didn't Eat / Was Afraid Of:

Turns out Portugal in general and São Miguel more specifically has a tonne of really disgusting and frightening food on offer, most of which we observed at the grocery store and some of which I observed my sister eating.

The first gross food I encountered was this horrific bread loaf with whole eggs in it. It's called folar and is eaten in Portugal during Easter because bread was served during the Last Supper (also: every other supper) and because the eggs are supposed to be a symbolic representation of the Resurrection of Christ. Except it's not really all that symbolic of anything and I would rather take a bite out of the literal body of Christ, even after it had been sitting in that dank cave for three days, than to be unpleasantly surprised by an entire egg in my bread.

We also saw these pig heads on display in the grocery store, and I'm going to be totally honest with you here: I have absolutely no idea how one would go about actually eating the head of an animal. Do you just scrape the flesh off the skull and onto a plate? Does each person get their own head and you just gnaw at it like one of those giant jaw breakers? Does anyone actually eat them at all, or are they just for decoration? I really don't understand. It's not even that eating flesh off of a skull disgusts me that much more than eating ribs or a drumstick, but I just can't understand how it's done, and I am too afraid to watch a Youtube tutorial of it, although you can be guaranteed that one exists. If any of you know, please don't tell me because I think I am happier not knowing.

The grocery store also had a huge fish display, and each day the display was more disgusting than the days that had preceded. In addition to the consistent offering of what appeared to be dumb and revolting group fish, there were also daily specials, like silver eels, some giant yellow python-eel, squids, and on one day, two giant rays layered on top of each other. Every day that fish display was a more grotesque parade-of-horribles and seeing it had a really profound effect on me. I have always known that I hate everything that comes out of the ocean, but I don't think I had ever seen this kind of sea garbage on display before, and certainly not as something that could possibly be edible. What does one even do with a ray of that size? Do you grill it? Will there be a crab inside of it? And if there is, do you have to pay extra for the crab?

My sister and I more or less ate fairly similarly on this trip, but on our last night (when I had the burger and fries), my sister ordered a disgusting, fat tuna steak covered in pumpkin seeds. She said it was good, but I'm pretty sure it was disgusting. There's something about "steaks" of fish that just doesn't sit right with me, and not only because I hate all fish. I guess I don't like thinking about how some fish are large enough to actually provide a slab of meat that could for all intents and purposes be referred to as a steak. Anyway, here is a picture of it. The potatoes did look pretty delicious though. I was too afraid to try them because I couldn't be certain they hadn't touched the fish at any point.

Finally, my sister bought a Mister Corn chocolate bar in the grocery store. It really was just a chocolate bar with corn nuts inside, in the same way that you might get a chocolate bar with almonds or hazelnuts inside. I did actually try a square of it, and it wasn't half as disgusting as I expected it would be, but it still wasn't for me and I still think that the idea of combining corn nuts and chocolate is a mistake. I get that some people like sweet and savoury together (I think it's a disgusting combination, with the notable exception of salted caramel), but ... I don't know. Corn nuts?

The good news is that they really didn't skimp on the corn nuts.

A Few Stray Thoughtz:

We also went to a tea plantation. I think the Azores are the only (or at least one of the few) places in Europe with large-scale tea plantations. The Portuguese even brought over two Chinese tea masters to teach the locals how to farm tea, and then I believe they had them build a massive rail system and then sent them on their way. The tea really wasn't very good. I'm not sure if that's because tea wasn't meant to be grown here or because the Portuguese have never been able to manage it properly, but the safest bet is probably to blame the two Chinese tea masters who clearly weren't very masterful at all.
I wore this military for the duration of our trip, and it was great.

So... anyway. That's it. That was the trip. At least in terms of the food I ate and the food I avoided. It was pretty good. I would recommend it if you can find a $300 return ticket.

02 May 2014

The Jackfruit

A couple of days ago I posted a picture of a strange mystery fruit that I encountered in a large crate on the street in Chinatown. Each fruit was the size of a watermelon, a sickly yellow colour, and covered in soft spines like a weathered pinecone. This fruit, I discovered, is the Jackfruit—and I discovered this immediately because there was a sign directly above the crate of fruit labelling them as such.

Even though I saw this fruit in real life and subsequently read about 1/10th of the Wikipedia article on it, I have a hard time believing it is a real thing. First of all, it’s called a “Jackfruit,” which is just about the worst name for a fruit. Second of all, why is it so big and why is it covered in those weird spines? And thirdly, and most importantly, why, if it is the size of a watermelon, does it grow on a tree and not on a vine? Because this giant, monstrous fruit—that can weigh up to eighty poundsgrows on a tree, making it the largest and heaviest fruit that grows on a tree. How is this even practical in terms of spreading seed? Doesn’t all the fruit just fall off from the tree in one big heap (because the fruit can weight up to eighty pounds each) and then rot in a pile? I guess a lot of seeds are spread by animals, but what kind of animal—and this includes you, humans—would ever approach this monstrous fruit that kind of resembles an enormous, poisonous caterpillar and think, “Yes, I am going to eat this fruit. And then I am going to do it a favour by dispersing its seed throughout the land”?
At first I was going to write a comment like, “$2/lb!? Buying one of these fruits would
cost like $40!” as if that was a crazy exaggeration. But these fruits weight 80 pounds, so…
On the inside, the flesh looks like the horrific offspring of a rotten watermelon mating with an oversized pineapple. Apparently it tastes like a cross between an apple, a pineapple, a mango, and a banana—which sounds delicious, but unfortunately I will never receive any confirmation of this because I will never eat that putrid, rotting flesh. Also, it seems like the flesh comes out in weird clove-like clusters that resemble either garlic, cashews, or wisdom teeth.

This fruit is the worst and I hate it.

It tastes like an apple, banana, pineapple, and mango in one
But looks like a watermelon coated in hardened corn niblets
And it weighs anywhere between eighty pounds and a tonne:
It’s impossible to imagine that eating this fruit could be deliberate.