King of Fish


As a small child I was fascinated with mimicking the mackerel man. We lived in a suburb of Halifax that verged on rural and the small fishing villages that dot the Nova Scotia coast were only a few miles away. While most of the Atlantic fishery is based on massive ships far out to sea for days or weeks on end, the area around Halifax harbour abounds with fish as well, and during mackerel season, small-scale fishermen with one small boat can make a regular month’s wages in one day simply by heading out to the mouth of the harbour in the morning to catch mackerel and then driving through the residential neighbourhoods at mid-afternoon, selling mackerel from the back of his car or truck – just in time for supper. (This is not exclusive to fish, although the mackerel man is the most memorable. It is still not uncommon to buy strawberries, corn or even lobster from the back of someone’s car in suburban Nova Scotia.)

The mackerel man who frequented my Grandmother’s neighbourhood had a distinctive nasally voice and during the last weeks of June (when the mackerel started “running”), I would wait impatiently for his wood-paneled station wagon to make its way slowly up the street. I would then run out to greet the mackerel man, following along behind him, yelling “Mackerel!” at the top of my small lungs until we got to the point on the street where I was not permitted to go beyond by myself. Then the mackerel man would wave good-bye, and I would make my way home, continuing to yell “Mackerel!” until my Grandmother stuck her head out the window, demanding that I shut the hell up.

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Don’t Eat This Book

As I mentioned a few weeks ago in my opening editorial, I firmly believe that most people who care about good food know that junk food is bad for them. How can you not know that fact? What worries me, and apparently, also worries Morgan Spurlock, is that even though we all know this to be true, people are still cruising through the drive-through and eating McJunk. Even after seeing SuperSize Me, Spurlock’s 2003 documentary, we’re still putting crap into our bodies in place of food.

Don’t Eat This Book is even more loaded with information than Spurlock’s film. In many ways, it’s easier to digest (heh!), as you can take your time, set the thing down, or go back and reread all the interesting bits. Which you need to do on occasion, because Spurlock really writes in the same way that he talks – fast and furious. This can be amusing, or a bit overwhelming, and after the fifth or sixth Simpson’s-esque “mmmmm… food reference” comment, even a bit annoying.

What he does do is give you facts. All the stuff he relays onscreen during his 30-day McDonald’s diet in SuperSize Me is right there in black and white. In fact, Don’t Eat This Book could almost be considered the literary companion to the film, as Spurlock is able to give more detail about what he went through during the 30 days of the documentary, as well as the reaction to the film after the fact, particularly the reaction by the bigwigs at McDonald’s and the various ways that company tried to control the publicity the film got, especially in countries with a smaller, more concentrated market such as Australia and Japan. The Subway chain, clearly not getting Spurlock’s message of “all junk food = bad”, and hoping to divert former McDonald’s customers to their supposedly healthier options, tried to strike a deal to give away copies of the SuperSize Me DVD to customers who purchased $15 or more of their food. Spurlock quickly put the kibosh on this deal, proving his intention to be true to his message, as the deal would have made him a cool $2.5 million. He is also particularly skeptical of the “healthy options” offered by many fast food chains in the wake of SuperSize Me’s popularity, and shows how, in many cases, they are no healthier than the deep-fried, chemical-loaded concoctions those same chains are known for.

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Living Out of Boxes (of Food)

It’s been quiet in these parts, and the food has been unexciting. Too much stuff out of packages and too much stuff out of take-out containers. There’s two more weeks of this to go, and I swear, once we get moved and settled, I never want to see another frozen pizza again.

I mean, it’s not as if we’re moving far – a whole five blocks east. But it’s still easier to weed down your kitchen cupboards and buy new, rather than moving all your groceries, particularly perishables. So we’re trying to use up and clear out, which means no trips to Whole Foods, or the markets (Kensington and St. Lawrence), or swank and lovely Pusateri’s.

Instead, we eat the crap. Salads out of tubs, the ubiquitous frozen pizzas, store-bought frozen vegetarian lasagna, and many things from soy made to resemble parts of dead critters. The plan is to eat the crap for now, and once we’re in the new place, unpacked, and have had time to hit all the grocery places for fresh grub, to do a two-week detox to clear all the gunk out of our systems.

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Lemon Merengue

No, that’s spelled right.

For all of my griping about how much smaller my new place is going to be, including the kitchen, there are a few things that actually please me a great deal. First and foremost, having a kitchen where your work triangle isn’t fifteen feet across. Getting from fridge to sink and back to stove in the apartment where I am now requires an awful lot of hoofing, and makes simple things such as draining pasta a precarious hike. I know most people want huge enormous kitchens with many bells and whistles and huge expanses of marble countertops and sinks every five feet and big bright windows, but I’ve lived with some of that and it’s not as sweet as it’s cracked up to be.

People go ga-ga over the expanse of windows in my current kitchen (it’s converted from a smallish room and an old, unheated sunporch) because it’s so bright and sunny, but the ongoing condensation from cooking constantly is causing the hundred-year-old window frames to rot and breed a weird greenish mildew. The one radiator in the room is in the far corner and doesn’t throw out enough heat to keep the area by the windows warm.

And for all of my devotion to my gas stove, it’s really reserved for the stove top. I’ve never been a fan of gas ovens, and truly can’t wait to get my hands on that brand new electric oven waiting for me at the new apartment. Oh, the things we’ll bake! Most gas ovens, you see, are incredibly uneven, making for poorly cooked baked goods. They also need re-calibration almost annually, as they tend to run either hotter or colder than where they’re set, temperature-wise. Electric ovens also have their broiler element at the top of the oven, not underneath it, as gas ovens do. Which means that this is the very last lemon meringue pie that I’m going to have to balance and juggle and *dance* with, as I get down on my knees to put in under the floor-level broiler to brown the meringue.