Category Archives: JANICE & JIM

MUGGING

POSTED: August 1, 2022

I really love Malta. It is a great place that I have adopted and many of my posts reference how nice it is. But its not perfect and like most of the world there are times when… well, shit happens.

Such was the case last week when an older woman, Isla, who lives on an old vessel in our marina was out later at night and confronted by a young woman on a scooter who tried to steel her bag. In so doing she did not get the bag but did knock Isla. She incurred a few multiple fractures from the event when she tried to regain her balance she fell over a high curb.

The marina community has rallied to help her with her chores and some financial help and I have taken over some prepared meals.

But the community has also taken to talking about their various encounters with people who attempt to rob others, and are prepared to get into a physical confrontation in doing so. The experience is quite traumatic for most of us and the effects linger for some time, even if we were not physically hurt or financially impacted by such an event.

One such experience sticks in my mind from when I was just out of high school. As regular readers know it has only been in the last year that I have connected with my old high school friends and only a few years since reconnecting with Jim. If you are not familiar with that aspect of this website you should read the ABOUT section.

But back in the spring of 1974, it was less than a year since graduating high school and I was still very much in touch with many of them and was off and on living in South Florida with a bunch of people as I was working on a cruise line that went out of there. My buddy Jim had contacted me in early March to see if I would be around as he was contemplating a trip to Ft. Lauderdale over university spring break coming up in a week.

The trip, like most things that happened to people like Jim and me and most of our friends had come together quickly and with not a lot of preparation.  The background is that Jim and another high school buddy Bo had really enjoyed their photography hobby through high school. Bo was off to college for it and Jim as teaching a rudimentary, non- credit course in it to pay for university. So with a few bucks in his Jeans from that job and doing some freelance work for UPI, the wire service that bought photographs from freelancers like him, he had been saving to go to New York to the camera district and buy a Nikon F2 Photomic. At the time, unless you were going to mid or large format cameras like Rolleiflex,  Hasselblad or Linhof, this camera was one of the best in the small thirty five millimeter film format.

Now sometimes a variety of things just come together as if they were meant to be. His girlfriend at the time had made the decision to fly to Ft. Lauderdale with a few of her girlfriends for the spring break. At the same time Greyhound, the American bus company had announced a new promotional programme. For $99 you could have unlimited travel on Greyhound busses throughout North America for seven days. Jim figured he could take the bus at midnight to NYC, spend the day shopping for the camera, then get on another bus heading out late at night for an all-nighter and much of the next day on the bus as well to get to Ft. Lauderdale. He would have a few days there with his girlfriend, see me and then get back on the bus in time to make it back to Ottawa within the seven days.

There were other motivations as well. This girlfriend was a bit of wild card and not super predictable. He thought that her time in Ft. Lauderdale would be quite the messy business.

So the plan was hatched, the Greyhound pass purchased, and Jim was off to the Big Apple.

Today NYC is a fairly safe, major city but in the 1970’s this was classic Gotham. Hoods and gangs roamed the streets. The police, city officials, some ambulance services and most of the public had given up large portions of the city to drug dealers and gangs. It is hard to believe today.

The fourteen hours overnight to New York worked out but left him a big groggy for the wheeling and dealing that went on in the camera shops of the day in the Camera District. People would bump into each other at the counter and there was a lot of haggling and brinksmanship etc. They sold lots of new gear but the haggling really came to the fore when a purchaser would bring in a piece or two of used gear. The best deals happened on buying a new camera where there was very little flexibility on price, when combined with trading in something used, or buying something used in addition to the new camera. The used equipment aspect attracted lots of questionable characters and sometimes purchasers were vendors and haggling with people behind the counter or beside them at the counter with something to sell or trade.

As Jim tells it one huge fellow who looked like Samuel L. Jackson on steroids, wearing black jeans and sweater and a long black leather cape who was pretty loaded down with gear dropped one of his cameras and Jim happened to be right there and caught it. No big thank you or shaking of hands or anything, just a nod. If you are from Ottawa this is not the amount of recognition you would usually receive for such a fortuitous catch, but it was New York and when in Rome….  The guy behind the counter told him to check to see he still had all his gear as sometimes one person distracts you while another picks your pocket. Nope, he had it all, but when he looked around the huge guy with the cape was not to be seen.

The buy went off without a problem and after walking around Jim found himself Uptown. It was late afternoon and the sun was retreating quickly and he thought he might get a chance to see the Apollo theatre before heading back to the bus station.  But as he walked and the sun withdrew the park started its evening shift. Guys were appearing from almost nowhere and they were in little groups of two and three. This was not going to go well, and he wisely tucked his new prize camera into his coat as he picked up the pace to get closer to the parks edge where he could see there were more passersby.  But his timing was all wrong and a few of the little groups had become larger and it was very clear that it was not only the loss of the camera that would be at risk.

But just as quicky as the strange falling camera events had unfolded in Downtown Camera, the guy with the cape strolled along and asked if he knew where he was. “Uptown… wanted to see the Apollo… Jim struggled to get the words out. “You’re a dead white kid in Harlem” was the low octave reply. But as he spoke, he asked “are you the one who caught my Leica in the store? ..you all look the same to me”. After establishing that yes, he was in fact that spindly white kid who had done the big camera catch, they walked together out of the park while sharing a couple of thoughts on photography. Well as Jim tells it he was chattering nervously and there was little said in response. And then after a pause as Jim turned to thank him the expanse of black leather cape moving into the subway was all Jim saw of angel.

He caught his bus, and after about another twenty hours of bus ride to Ft. Lauderdale stopping to drop off and pick up along the way, he made it to the address his girlfriend was staying at. It was clear to him pretty quickly that they were no longer together and her interest was elsewhere. I had been called up for a cruise on an unscheduled basis as someone had quit so we didn’t connect either. He didn’t have anywhere to stay and little money. I understand it was a long bus ride home for him.

My direct experience with this kind of perilous world of muggers and beatings was more recent.

Regular readers of my posts know that early in the Pandemic I went to Ireland to have a chat with a lad who was the ex-husband of my captain, Ciara. I did not say a lot about that in earlier posts and I won’t say much more here as it was a fairly unsavoury experience for all concerned.  But in my efforts to find the fellow I had not realized just a how tight the communities are in rural Ireland. If you walk into a village pub and are not recognized you might as well as be wearing a Bugs Bunny costume as the stares will be the same. If you then ask someone behind the bar if they know where to find a particular person you are quickly sized up and determined to be a long lost relative from America, which is not the best, or someone looking for another purpose, which of course is worse. You are also measured in terms of the quality of the person you are looking for. If it is any sort of low life scoundrel you are put in the same category. This was the case here of course.

So when the woman behind the bar told me he wasn’t around much, but that she would ask around and served me my pint, she gave me one of those piercing looks like film directors like to capture that cut out about a few hundred words of dialogue. I had two addresses of his relatives and decided to head off to find one of them before it got too late in the day. It was only mid afternoon but the two lads who met me as I stepped out to the street had been waiting. After a dialogue over why I was looking for their brother it was clear that they were not there to help. It didn’t help my case asking them to repeat some of their questions as if I needed a switch for close captioning to understand them.

I did not see the first punch coming. It was to the area not in my back but on my side just behind my stomach. Two of these guys were really not needed. One could have beaten me up on his own. But after falling over and catching myself on the stone wall of the pub, I nervously blurted out something stupid. “Well I guess if I have some super powers I am not familiar with, this would be a good time for them to kick in wouldn’t it.” They both looked stunned for a moment and then started to laugh uncontrollably. They both had gone through a lot of beer that afternoon I expect and I thought one of them might piss himself or have a heart attack they were so out of control in their laughter. And then after looking behind me and seeing we were being joined by a few people leaving the pub they sort of ran and stumbled away.

After a bit of searching, I found where I was going and did my business with Ciara’s ex.

I got off pretty easy on that one. The psychological effects of the actual meeting I had were worse. And that is a common result of these assaults, or attempted robberies. We are not as comfortable being out around people, we often look at strangers with more suspicion. It is a bad combination with aging where we are sometimes more reticent to get into any conflict.

My neighbour in the marina who was knocked down is certainly shaken, but she seems like a fairly resilient sort. Isla was from Utrecht originally. She is old enough to be my mom. She came here originally with her partner who was not well and has now passed and has lived on a boat for the last couple of decades so I am think she has some serious inner strength. I think she will be ok.

Django

THE EARLY MORNING PANIC CALL

Posted: July 1, 2022

We all dread the call in the middle of the night. As we move to respond and open our eyes we make up stories about what it could be about.  A loved one who is ill ….a friend in trouble…. It amazes me how many fast thoughts you can process in just a second or two. I think this conditioning is normal. Its way out of the ordinary to get a call at some ungodly hour so it must be important. And not the good version of important.

But in my case both my parents and my grandparents have passed. I don’t have siblings or children, so it has to relate to a friend. While a have a lot of friends and acquaintances I don’t have very many friends I am so close to that they would be calling at this hour. That I think is partially because I am a Canadian and living in Malta so if it was one of my friends in Toronto or Ottawa, I am not really in a position to help them get to the hospital, or to post bail in Montreal. And anyone having a problem in the middle of the night in Malta that I know well enough to be soliciting help would just rap on the hull of the boat. I looked over and Ciera was in the bed sleeping (she sometimes comes into my room for company) and looking out a porthole I did not see any special lights on.

So, in that few seconds of processing time, I concluded it would be my buddy Jim calling from Toronto. This time of year, the spread is six hours so at 4:54 am it was only 10:34 pm the night before in Toronto. That timing is fairly consistent with his questionable timing in calling me. If this remained true to previous calls of this type, he would have had a glass of wine or two and be exceedingly stressed about something. Previous all time great calls have been about Trump, the mistreatment of indigenous people in Canada, Justin Trudeau in Blackface and similar topics. I have documented this behaviour before – check out my post on September 2019, for example.

The phone was on its second ring and as I picked it up, I was already processing the topics of the day that when combined with a nice bottle of Amarone might generate such a call: Putin and the war in Ukraine, mass killings of kids in American schools and the lack of gun control…… My imagination was interrupted when the call connected.

Yes, indeed I was correct and yes, two for two, he was intoxicated and sure enough he had some big thoughts on his mind. But unlike previous calls where it is a big issue of the day that has him incensed, enraged or otherwise stimulated, this time his tone, while still with slurred speech as usual for these calls, was more subdued. “I have done something really crazy” he began.

Now beyond these unscheduled late-night / early morning calls I chat with Jim regularly at normal hours. Usually, it is during his mid afternoon so it is after my chores making dinner for Malcolm, Martha, Gerhardt and Gabrielle, Ceira and myself or by email. So when he said this I knew instantly the range of craziness it might encompass. Janice and Jim have had many lives and relationships but they have all been with each other. They change things up every now and again and evolve into new activities, businesses or pursuits but always seem to be able to do it together. I envy them that ability to change their lives but go off on the adventure together.  In some of my recent chats it has become clear that Jim in particular is really chomping at the bit do try something new, and half jokes about restoring a lighthouse on Prince Edward Island or restoring an old Airstream trailer and with Janice and their dog Tuli going on a road for a year. But these are the kinds of things they have always done – a record label, a cooking school, Janice going to grad school in her sixties, so would not be characterized as “crazy”.

In that moment I processed the other things he has chatted about recently. Over the pandemic, like much of the world they have watched a lot of films on the various platforms out there. And like most the spectrum of what they have watched has broadened. Some of it is a bit dark and I have heard him muse more than once about Ozark and what it might be like to deal with a Mexican drug lord, or what it would be like to kill someone.

“Have you taken up money laundering” I quietly asked.

There was a pause.

“No, but something equally questionable” he responded.

My mind was now fully engaged and racing. What the hell had he done? Ciera was now up and making coffee for me so I could be equipped for the ensuing trauma.

Well, it turns out that he had not killed anyone, Janice was not laundering drug money, or any of the other things that I had imagined. No, it turns out he had bought a jerk marinade and cooked up some pork and used the mixture rather generously. To hear him tell it Janice’s head spun around, steam came out of her ears and his lips looked like he was just back from a Botox convention.

My hopelessly whitebread buddy had spiced up a dish too much and this was the crisis!!!

It is not the first time my imagination had run ahead of me. I don’t know if it is age or the pandemic but I have noticed that the risks or possible negative outcomes or anxieties bubble up more often than in the past.

Ciera and I enjoyed our coffees on the upper deck looking over the other boats, listening to the sail lines singing and watching the sunrise and sharing a chuckle over my buddy who gets a sunburn when walking by neon lights and who was feeling he might need be hospitalized over the spiciness of a jerk sauce.

Django

 

TORONTO ART.ca

POSTED: FEB 1, 2022

For some time you have heard me chatter on about meaning to get to writing up a couple of sections on this website. The two in particular that I have been really bad at getting to are The Chef Upstairs, and TorontoART.ca

Well at least for The Chef Upstairs I introduced the topic in some detail in a post on July 7, 2020 about the bombing at Kings Cross in London that Janice and Jim had been involved in. No, they didnt set the bomb- they were just in the tube at Kings Cross when it went off.

But the TorontoART.ca website section has been one I have avoided. While it was a massive part of my buddy Jim’s life it had a lot of moving parts and I was not clear that I could do it justice. That is partially because it had six hundred members and whenever one would contact Jim to ask if there will be any write up he would forward me the emails.

So here we are in 2022 and I am dedicated to getting into better shape, getting a few of my short stories published and grabbing the bull by the horns on some of these tasks that I have procrastinated on.

So check out the new section TorontoART.ca in the tabs and you can see what I have done so far. As there were about six hundred active members on the site I am not going to put in images of all of them but have started with putting in some to get rolling and will be working on adding more artists images over time.  This of course is a classic procrastinators commitment.

Django

GETTING AWAY

POSTED: SEPT 28, 2021

When I started this website I just posted my pieces at random times. Sometime a month or two would pass between posts and then I would go for a while where I was posting multiples a month. Now that I am in something of a regular gig teaching little cooking classes and making lunches and dinners as a paying routine for my neighbours I have slid into a regular thing of posting always on the first of the month.

So why am I posting today on the 28th?  Well, I am in a bit of a scramble as I am off to Ireland for a day then on to Ottawa Canada for a weekend. I am sure I will probably have something to say on the adventure when I return but for now my thoughts are on the whole notion of getting away.

Early in the pandemic I had a little trip to Ireland to speak to Ciara’s ex, which was eventful/frightful (see various posts from March 2020) but other than that I have been here in this little spot in Malta and for the most part don’t go much further than I can easily get to when walking or riding my little fold up bike. Even En Plein Air only gets me out on the ocean occasionally these days. So I have not had the benefit of getting away as many people have enjoyed during this pandemic.

Most have gone to their cottages, some have gone camping and some on vacation. All of these approaches  have something of the same effect but the people who have really had it good are ones who have had a regular place to go to, whether modest or grand, whether for a few days a week or to move to for months at a time, especially if that destination is a special personal place with memories and alternative experiences.

When growing up in eastern Ontario Canada we had the wonderful benefit of a lot of little lakes all around. The population of Ottawa was not large, about three hundred thousand when I was a teenager. When Canada changed over to metric in the early 1970’s many of us joked that in metric it might be about four hundred thousand!  The result of an abundance of lakes and not a big population was that most families had a cottage of some description. Wealthier people were on the best lakes, with the best waterfront, and the biggest shoreline and beautiful classic cottages.

But even those with more modest incomes, particularly those people who had some manual dexterity or worked in the trades would get a small lot and build some kind of place to get away to.

And it is the getting away that mattered. For a kid the big change was the different activities – swimming, boating waterskiing, bonfires, fishing, canoeing. But more than this it was a change in norms and expectations of behaviour, a change of neighbors and friends, and generally a place to cut loose and not be as structured in your life. For adults it was also that change in behavioural expectations as well, where the conventions of city life were left back in the city and everything was more relaxed. Even parents in serious endeavours left their business cards at the office. And of course this predated smart phones and even the internet, so people who were away, truly were away.

The result of course was that people might change houses often, or move for a better job in another city, but the cottage – well that was somewhat sacred. It was also often a meeting place of various family members for holidays and celebrations.

In northern climates it takes on a special significance as the long winter months take their toll and the summer is a time to get outside with nature that has reappeared after her nap. Spend any time with someone from Canada, Norway or Michigan and you will soon learn of their cottage life.

A lot of cottages are handed down in the family, creating some crazy partnerships as most families would have more than one child but only one cottage.

In my circle of friends most families had a cottage they went to and imagined going there for the rest of their life, but few aspired to having their own. Not my buddy Jim.

As soon as he was working and had a bit of extra money he and Janice bought their first cottage lot. It was up on a small lake close to Parry Sound which for those who don’t know it is a community on the eastern shore of Georgian Bay, a very large  bay (190km x 80km) of lake Huron, one of the Great Lakes.

It was about 3.25 hectares (8 acres) with about 125 Meters (400 feet) of waterfront. A couple of years later with a few more bucks in his jeans the road went in, and a dock. Then one Thursday he was siting on a flight from Vancouver flying home to Toronto as he did every second week in those early days of his business, and noticed an ad in the paper he was reading for a little log cabin that was available, but it would have to be moved.  It was not expensive, but more money than he and Janice had at the time.

Over the flight he pulled the little cut-out add from his pocket a few times and looked at it. When the flight  landed in Toronto it was about 11 pm and he called the number in the ad to see if he could come to see it then. It was located about two hours away from the airport in Toronto in a little village called Mount Forest so he could be there by about 1:45 AM he told the bewildered fellow on the other end of the line.

The owner of the place was older, and assured Jim that:

  1. there was no frigging way he was letting Jim come over in the middle of the night and
  2. that on Saturday they were having a showing to all interested parties from 10 to 2 and they would then determine who they were going to sell it to. The fellows tone also suggested that they would probably not sell it to a nutbar who calls at eleven pm expecting to come to tour a house at 1:45 or 2 am.

By Saturday Janice was as pumped about it as Jim and as they drove to Mount Forest where the place sat, with little Jade in tow, they talked about the endeavor of moving a log cottage about 300 km  to their property and the tasks involved to be ready.

As they drove in the road to the place, as Janice tells it, they were so excited to see the little log cabin,  but all along the driveway in were the cars of the other potential buyers. The array of BMW’s, Porsches, and Mercedes were quite a contrast to their Isuzu Trooper with a kayak on the roof.

The little log cabin was just as represented. Built from large logs using the Scandinavian scribing technique instead of the north American chinking technique, pine floors of 2 x 12 tongue and groove planks, a little loft for sleeping, one small bathroom and a woodstove/fireplace for heat, it was an adorable little place with a footprint of about 660 sq. ft. and total area of about 800 sq. ft.

Things were a bit chaotic as the little cabin was overrun by all the people looking at it, poking around and asking questions. And then the process began. Everyone had to go outside and one by one the people who had registered to see it had their chat with the owners. Most of the potential buyers were confident they could cajole, coerce, or convince the owners to sell it on the land where it was sitting, next to a stream and idyllic pond, and one by one were rejected. The existing owners were selling it because it sat on the best part of the lot, and they had decided to build a much larger place to retire there so that is why it needed to be removed.

It came down to only a few potential purchasers left and for some reason the couple decided Janice and Jim should get the place for something less than the asking price instead of a much higher bid from another couple who were going to have to find a lot, buy it and then be ready for the move.

It was fall and over the winter Jim worked up the drawings and got the building permits and contracted with a local contractor in Parry Sound to build a foundation. While this was going on the owner of the little log place, who was an engineer and pretty handy himself, was removing the inside of the place (flooring, kitchen windows interior doors and trim) and storing it in a barn.  By spring they were ready and a log builder with a big boom truck had been hired to mark the logs, take it apart one log at time and put it on a sixty foot flatbed to be moved to its new home.

Lots of challenges occurred when for example the flatbed could not get in the road Janice and Jim had built and they needed to hire a smaller boom truck to move the logs in one at a time. But eventually it was assembled in place fully exposed to the rain that spring. So, the race was on to get a roof on it and get the windows and doors back in. Jim’s dad, Janice’s cousins husband John,  who was a carpenter, and various others worked away with Jim to get it enclosed.

J. & J. Log Cottage

For that first summer, Jim took all his holidays as Fridays and Mondays and for each of those four day weekends he would drive up from the Toronto area,  the two hours in the morning early and drive home late so he could see Janice, Jade, and newborn Jason, and did that for every four day weekend for ten weeks. He put over 85,000 km on that Izuzu Trooper that summer, but by September it was ready for them to use that winter. Over the next few years Jim worked away on it, putting in the floor, the bathroom, building new kitchen cabinets etc.

With time, and his business growing they bought the next two lots so they had 1,200 feet of waterfront, more boats came along, the “barn” was built on the next lot over they had bought, and plans were underway for a larger cottage. They went as far as designing it with an architect  but then when they could not find a builder who had the skills involved to build it, decided to build a ski place outside a little ski town that Jim had done some development work in when he was first starting out. They already had a little house there to stay in for their ski weekends. Having spent about nine months designing their dream cottage of about 9,000 square feet for the cottage lot they spent only about five weeks designing a smaller  post and beam ski house for that 15 acre site.

They went in the ground on labour day weekend and by December 31st 1999 this five thousand foot place was finished.

J & J Ski Place

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So why am I going on about these places? Well they were both pretty important to Janice and Jim, and recently there has been a real milestone in their cottaging life.  To understand the significance, I will need to go back in time a bit.

Jim retired on his 48th birthday and he and Janice thought they would try living at their big ski place and eventually downsize their home in Toronto. It did not work out well.

They felt much too isolated, particularly in the winter, and neither of the kids were coming up to the ski place or coming to the cottage. After some reflection they sold the cottage, and eventually sold the ski place and then downsized their house in Toronto. For the first time in their married life they did not have a second home, but Jim had this idea to find an old farmhouse in Provence, Brittany or Normandy and to rebuild it.

And that’s where Key West came in. Every year the artists collective that Janice was associated with in Toronto would take her work to show for the Art Basel Miami weekend and she would have lots of art sales. Each year she and Jim would tie into going to that show in South Beach a trip to Key west, a place she had lived as a child in the 1960’s. They liked France better than Key West, but with a dog, they could drive to KW from Toronto with Tuli. So Key West became the Provence project.

The right “borderline derelict” house was found, acquired, and they set about to restore it. It was from the 1880’s and had a colourful history as a private home, then a general store, then a few apartments, then back to a single home and in the 2008 mortgage mess, an asset handed back to a bank.

The first few months saw them drive down pulling a big two axel enclosed utility trailer each time with furniture from their cottage and ski place to “seed the memories”. Some trades were hired for the regulated stuff or things Jim was not up to – electrical, plumbing, a new metal roof, and pool digging but otherwise it was all about Janice choosing finishes and Jim executing the work.

J & J Key West Cottage

In the first summer Jim went down to work on it alone when the pool was under construction but otherwise it was all done when they would be there from January to April each winter for the last six years.

So that brings us to early March 2020 when at a big ceremony in Key West Janice and Jim were awarded a nice plaque for their restoration and preservation work on the house. The ceremony occurred at Truman’s Little White House where the president spent much of his time in Key West.

It was the culmination of a lot of work and when the other recipients for 2020 went up to receive their awards with their architects, historians, contractors, specialty sub-trades and consultants it was just Janice and Jim in their case.

The reason I am writing this piece today is because of what came after that ceremony. Yes , Covid really hit hard in  the next week of March, 2020 and we all got messed up by that, and in Janice and Jims case they scooted back to Toronto before the border was closed. But during this they also made a decision to sell. Difficult health insurance issues with Jim’s neurological situation, and climate change that does not bode well for a flat little island in the middle of the hurricane corridor, are what pushed them to sell a little place they loved. They had even tried to find a purchaser who would let them rent it back in the winter but that did not pan out. So a buyer was found,  their things were moved to a storage unit and they are now people without a place to get away to.

I don’t find this strange as I have never had a second place. At times I have barely had one place, so its hard for me to get my head into their situation, but I know that without a second place, and more importantly without a project, they may be feeling  a bit adrift, especially with lots of Covid restrictions.

 

Django

After writing this little post, I was speaking to Janice about the arrangements she had made for my upcoming trip to Canada and she says that Jim is looking at ads for barges and floating homes, and has also remarked at how much fun it might be to restore a vintage Airstream trailer, or to renovate a lighthouse on Prince Edward Island….. stay tuned.

MEASURES

Posted: Sept 1, 2021

I was cooking one afternoon a couple of weeks ago for our usual evening dinner with Malcolm, Martha, Gabriel and Gerhard and was watching the Olympics. I am a bit of an Olympics junkie, watching whatever event the live feed is spitting out  and absorbing all the minutiae offered whether about the athletes personal bests to date, their training regime, the diets, previous records or performing in different weather conditions. Now when the Olympics are not on, I have no interest in diving or running or throwing a shot put, but during the Olympics … well that’s anther matter.

So leading up to the Olympics I go into training. The exercise of watching hours of coverage is just the opposite of exercise so you need to be in shape. Nevertheless, by day three or four of competition my gut is large, my eyes the size of saucers and I should not be allowed to operate heavy machinery.

To offset these perils of binging the Olympics, I try to do other things while watching, like cooking or refinishing part of the mahogany on some of En Plein Airs trim. It is actually a nice combo.  While cooking and enjoying the heptathletes competing in the long jump I  realized how my relationship with measurement has changed over the years.  The Olympics is all about measurement of course. Whether it is the length they have flown through the air on a pole vault, thrown a javelin or the time it takes to run 400 meters it is all about those measures.

Growing up when I did (born in 1954) and where I did (Canada) we had a legacy of Imperial measures from before the enlightenment (when we changed to metric in April 1975) so like many of my age from Canada, I use a crazy mix of measures. I drive in Km/hr, do my carpentry in inches, think of temperature in Celsius and weigh myself in pounds. Add to this the other common  measures  – teaspoons, tablespoons, cups, half cups, B cups and C cups.   I envy the younger people who have a more streamlined life.

It got me to thinking about an old buddy who has an interest in measurement. He collects various old instruments for measuring and has a particular fixation on those measuring or calculation  devices that were the state of the art – until they were not.  Its tough to decide where his interests fit on the fetish spectrum. Watching the Olympics from Tokyo reminds me that the Japanese have a term Otaku which means: an interest that is more than a passion and less than an obsession. Good term if you don’t want to call it a fetish, I think.

Of course, he as an Astrolabe and a Sextant, the original GPS devices for sailors to determine where they were in the ocean from the location of the stars and would be seriously messed up on cloudy or rainy nights.

Slide Rule With Holster

He has several slide rules of course. The slide rule was the device that was the best tool we had until electronic calculators took over that role.  Right up to the early 1970’s  this was a compulsory math instrument for high school students. It was what many of the calculations were done on for the Americans to put a man on the moon. If you were an Engineering student in the 1960’s wearing one in a holster on your belt indicated you had a license to calculate.

This took on a competitive aspect of course when various universities would compete for doing calculations and these competitors would use both their eye/hand coordination, and muscle memory skills with much too large a mental processor to zip the sliding parts back and forth to come up with the answer in record time.

 

 

 

One of my buddy’s valued objects is a slide rule he bought from the University of Chicago Engineering School of computing.

Engineering Lab Slide Rule

It is almost eight feet long and was attached to a wall behind the instructor in a large lecture hall. The professor would demonstrate its use to the eager engineering students and they would follow along using their regular sized slide rules.

Tech Nerds In Foreplay

 

 

So what happened in 1974? Well, the electronic calculator cost had come down enough to make it suitable for general use by the public and overnight the slide rule was not only second fiddle, but was eliminated. Poof.

Some measurement devices do endure of course. He has an Omega Seamaster Professional Chronometer– the same one that James Bond had in one of those thrillers but my buddy claims his malfunctions because all it does is tell time. And the time it tells of course while not as precise as the least expensive of smart phones today is pretty damb accurate and based on a technology that has not changed essentially in hundreds of years.

I think that part of his interest in these technologies and their obsolescence is looking to find what are real measures that last and have meaning, like the measure of a person. Relationships, integrity, loyalty. It is interesting that none of these are really quantifiable yet are more highly valued as measures than the quantifiable ones.

When I worked on the food prep areas of cruise ships, we had to be precise in our measures so Mr. Mcgillicutty’s  soup would be exactly like Mrs. McGillicutty’s and so when he raved about it over cards, Dr. Garfunkel would  order it the next day and have the same dining experience.

And as a guy who likes to cook and occasionally bake, I get the importance of the use of measures, but increasingly I am drawn to those things that are more fluid or nuanced than precise. If you read many of my posts you will know of my bromance with Jamie Oliver and Jacques Pepin and the whole movement to experimentation, adaptation, and interpretation. Those concepts require some structure, and a goal but not as precise a measurement.  Now I am talking cooking here, not baking – and measures in baking are a bit fixed.

It was only after I wrote this and was relating to Ciara the focus of this piece, that Ciara pointed out the obvious.

Django’s Measuring Cup

I use a measuring cup that was given to me by my Bebe. Now, if you don’t know who that is I would suggest going back to my posts from 2020, 2019 and few from 2015 and earlier.  She is my paternal grandmother, from  a little island off of Brittany, who has now passed. She gave me an old glass measuring cup when I was first starting to work on the kitchens of ships and she mistakenly thought that my job related to making food, more than the truth of it which was working in a food preparation plant for pigs at sea. It was very tired even then, and over the years with use, and too much time in dishwashers, all the numbers have worn off completely but because it was from her it is one of the few measuring cups I have on En Plein Air, and it is what I use almost exclusively and  think of her when doing so.

But the point here is that it is reflective of my take on the world today. I know that when it is largely filled, its one cup, and when its about half full it’s ….well you guessed it – half a cup. It is important that we get things largely right and measure them properly but perhaps not as important that we be precise and beat ourselves up or beat up others for not being as precise. This “sorta measure” is where I am today in trying to understand how to move forward in understanding life, particularly life in Covid times.

After reflecting on this clear glass object a bit, I decided to introduce another item in the Django shop. It is the Django Bisous Measuring Cup. There are no measures, but you will still know how to use it. Coming soon….

 

Django

 

Measurement Park

P.S.

After posting this I received a note from the partner of the buddy who is into collecting all the measuring stuff.

I had called it an interest and his partner pointed out to me that when they moved to their current house they did so partially because the little park that is close to them is called MEASUREMENT PARK and has various measures shown on poles.

Ok, so that definitely puts his interest on the fetish spectrum.

 

 

FORTY-EIGHT

Posted: August 1, 2021

In the spring of 1973 I graduated from Champlain High School in Ottawa, Canada. That was forty-eight years ago. And about a week ago I received a note from my longtime buddy (and classmate) Jim H. who still lives in the Ottawa area, letting me know there was a movement afoot to have a reunion on October 2nd , the first for our year.

Wow.  A high school reunion. There are few things that conjure up such a mix of emotions. I know that for some the nine weeks from hearing of this until the actual event will be the period to: lose 40 pounds, get a facelift and win a Nobel prize for physics. Well, I never was much good at physics. Physics and a few of the other sciences did various cameo appearances on my high school F column with the regulars Math and French. Yeah French, and I have a French heritage. I am kind of squeamish when it comes to surgery so that puts the face lift out of the question for me as well. Forty pounds? I think it might be easier to get that Nobel prize in the nine weeks.

Now while high school is a pretty crazy time in the evolution of teenagers it was particularly strange in that period when I was there – 1968 to 1973. Yes, that is a five year period because at the time Ontario Canada offered a four year high school diploma for anyone wanting to pursue the trades or community college and a five year diploma for most people who aspired to go to university or had parents with such aspirations for their offspring. I had such parents.

And what was happening in that 1968 to 1973 period? Well at the beginning of that period the Cold War was still hot, the war in Viet Nam was heating up as both a war and effectively a civil war in the United States as well, and  Martin Luther King had just been murdered in April of ’68.  In 1969 gay rights in Canada were opened up, the Americans put a man on the moon, and by October 1970 the War Measures Act was used in Canada to try to manage the FLQ,  a Quebec liberation group. Women were fighting for their liberation, race relations were poor, particularly in the U.S., and as we now know, the Canadian Government with the Roman Catholic Church ramped up both the Residential Schools and the forced assimilation of our indigenous peoples with the sixties scoop. Shameful. It really was a very screwed up time on most fronts and many of us had parents who had no idea how to cope with the perspectives their teenagers were developing regarding many of these issues.

In contrast to those turbulent times the soundtrack for our high school life was amazing. It started with The Beatles releasing The White Album and then Abbey Road and the Stones releasing   Beggars Banquet and Let it Bleed. Led Zeppelin was formed.  By the summer between grade 9 and 10 we had Woodstock. If you are new to this website you may want to look back in the archives ( MY VERY FIRST POST,  posted December 14, 2013) to Jim C’s Woodstock experience and the recent follow up to that  (WOODSTOCK: 50 YEARS LATER, posted August 15, 2019). Every week a new album would come out that today would be considered epic. And as if to celebrate our graduation in 1973, Pink Floyd released The Dark Side Of The Moon.

Of course, that flood of new music was also reflecting growth on some amazing music from before and I have great memories of sitting at Jim H’s living room listening to Gene Vincent Rock and the Blue Caps Roll, or his fathers Dave Brubeck albums.

And that’s the really fun part of memories. It is not just the music but the link of that music to what we were doing at the time.  I have fond recollections of lounging in the dark listening to the Moody Blues in Myles C.’s basement after a warmup joint outside, and singing along to The Who, Rush  and Black Sabbath  while riding in Bo M’s amazing Datson 240Z with the music just loud enough to have the whole city turn to listen.

Ahh, the cars. Bo always had a nice ride, as his dad was in that business and Bo would clean the cars and sometimes bring them home. Jim H’s parents had the ’66 corvette stingray fastback, and Steve Z. got a brand-new Corvette for graduation. The rest of us mortals, rode bikes, motorcycles, took transit, walked, borrowed our parents’ cars or had really old junkers. I had an 80 cc Yamaha motorbike, that spit and coughed and farted all the way to wherever I was going. My main man Jim C. had saved a lot  so that in January 1970 when we both turned sixteen, he had bought a three-year-old Volks Beetle  and drove it to the driving test – Yeah, don’t ask.  He delivered pizza with it part time and loved that thing. But one sunny Sunday morning in August  of that year on a tight bend near his parents’ cottage he rolled it.  That turned him on to doing autobody and worked on a lot of other guys cars over the rest of High school.

For some of us we did not do high school well. At the time, what we now call Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder was in its early stages of identification and treatment,  and the confusion for most practitioners was that some inflicted with this had  a big attention deficit while others had not as much but a lot of hyperactivity. For most of us with it , the identification only came much later than high school, after some seriously disastrous experiences. I have ADHD but unlike my buddy Jim C. who was given an extra dollop of the H part I got an extra dollop of the AD part. It meant that I was laid back and identified as “mentally lazy”  and he was identified as “overwound”. I just cruised through high school failing stuff and for him the behaviors are as if you took  a regular kid, gave him a bunch of amphetamines, a couple of double espressos and send him off to school each day.

He channeled it into track and field – literally to run it off. I, on the other hand, would self medicate. Both of these techniques work to a degree but only partially. Each of us only figured out we had this later in life and much too late to have a very positive high school experience – at least academically.

Our high school  was a little weird as well. We had a real range on the socioeconomic front – some not very well off, some exceedingly well off and most of us in the middle. When we were in grade 10 the school board decided to turn our school into a Francophone school and the English school would be phased out. We were the second last graduating class as the year behind us was the last intake of the English students.  I think it was a Canadian application of the U.S. bussing program that had been so successful. LOL.

The result of this phase out of the school’s intake was that each year the scale of the student body dwindled, and as normal attrition was also occurring with some families who would move away, the number of students in our year also went down in size, as no new families moving to the area  could have their kids join us as this strange orphaned school.  There were positives to this small size of course in that we were a tighter group and could do some things that at the time were unique like moving the whole bunch of us (students, teachers, admin people)  to camp together, but in general we could not put together a football team or have as many extra curricular clubs etc.

Looking back over almost half a century is also scary. We look at the choices we have made, the experiences we have had since high school and how we might have done things differently. I spend a lot of time writing on this website  reflecting on life, looking back and looking forward. I think if this reunion happened twenty years ago I would have been pretty uptight about it,  but now it has been so long it is just a novelty that we have made it this far and will be fun to get reacquainted. But it has taken me this long to get to that point that I can see my high school years more  objectively and pull out those positive memories. It is as if over the years I have gone through a set of slides and year after year thrown out one or two of the bad memories only to be left with mainly slides of the good times and the positives that have come out.

Forty-eight years is a long time. That number has significance for Jim as he retired on his forty-eighth birthday and significance for me as the trip we did in June 2004  was En Plein Airs forty-eighth trip moving people to safe points as I described  in THE NEW MILLENIUM, posted March 26, 2017.

My buddy Jim C. has a lot of travel points and has got me a ticket to come over, see my doctor, dentist, and go to the reunion. The flight is by way of Ireland so Ciara is joining me for that leg as both of us need to sign statements at the police station regarding the death of her ex husband and then she is staying on for a few weeks as she needs to do something to keep up her medical accreditation. I will be in Ireland for just a day and then off to Canada for a few days of quality time with my doctor, dentist, and people I have not seen in about five decades.

I am now off to the library to sign out a bunch of physics texts.

Django

High School Django

P.S. As regular readers know I don’t usually put in pictures of myself as I like to keep a low profile but here is one of me from my high school days in grade twelve or grade thirteen. I am going to spend some time trying to find some images of my classmates and if they are cool with it, I will post them here as well.

WHAT IF?

POSTED: May 1, 2021

Lately I have spent a bit of time reflecting on the idea of What If? It is that  notion of the choice when we are at that fork in the road. In some cases, the concept is making us reflect on whether our past choices were the right ones,   congratulating us on the good choices we made, or challenging us to move bravely forward with a new initiative.

What if exists in all three tenses. What if I had chosen to join the circus,  what if I go back to university today, and what if I have a stroke in the future? But it is largely a decision linked to future consequences, whether looking back to when a decision was made or looking forward from making a decision today. The decision to do something or not do something is linked to the results that come from that decision. I wish I had known this in high school.

It is also a notion that can be applied equally by optimists or pessimists – What if I get cancer in the future, or what if they find a cure for my cancer soon?

Young people have more future based what if questions, older people have a disproportionate number of backward-looking questions about other paths they might have chosen.

When touring about I like to take photos of street art, graffiti, and signs as they often are simple yet profound statements or homilies that make us take pause and think about the topic. Like most good poetry they have usually been reduced to the essential elements without a lot of extra chatter.

The image shown here is one that I saw in Vancouver. It captures that notion of What if  fairly well. We all have the chance to change and evolve and if we don’t like elements of what we are, well -change them. Looking back at our mistakes or bad decisions, can either eat us up, or be a helpful tool to inform where we might go or how we might evolve for the better.

There is a woman who lives on a really small keelboat a couple of slips over. I don’t know her very well, but she was telling me one day when she came over to sign up for a cooking class that she runs marathons. I have seen her going out for runs and it always surprised me. She has one of those stocky builds that is not the physique of the traditional whisper thin, taut  long-distance runner.

One day many years ago she was pretty stressed from work, and decided that running would be a good way to both build up her tolerance for the stress and to potentially drop some weight. Well since that time she has worked up her performance to competing in marathons in Boston, London, Berlin and lots of other big name races. She is largely the same shape and weight but incredibly fit and able to  deal with the stresses and rigors of life much better.

Similarly, Janice, who had been home raising the kids while Jim was raising hell in the investment world, decided to go back to school. She had started life as a fashion designer after studying that at college. She and Jim worked at her fashion line together in fact. But working six to seven days per week when Jim was also exceedingly career focused was just not compatible with raising kids so she reluctantly gave up her fashion baby when she had her first real one.  By the time the kids were well into high school, and Jim was home, having retired early, she went back to university to pursue a degree in fine art. She had always been an artist but was a bit insecure about it and wanted to increase her depth of knowledge and perfect her studio techniques. It was also something of a personal test for herself. When she came out of high school and went to fashion college she did not choose the university route so pursuing a BFA in middle age was also an adventure and a challenge.

Beyond doing well with it and getting a strong fine art career going, in the academic side of the program she learned that she loved to write. That led to a certificate program in creative writing and poetry at the University of Toronto. The poetry interest really took hold and in her late fifties she decided to enroll in a graduate program – an MFA program in creative writing and poetry at the University of British Columbia.  She completed the program a few years ago, when most people her age are thinking of retirement.

It reminded me of a conversation on the topic  with one of my aunts. She did not have kids and as I was her only nephew we were quite close. She liked to share with me her life experiences and what she had learned over the years. One day when I was a teenager and almost ready for university myself but considering taking a year or two off before going that route, she told me of a friend of hers who was about her age and who had just been accepted to study engineering. Of course I was shocked and asked how old this guy would be when he finished. “The same age he will be if he does not go” was her wise response.

When I started jotting down these thoughts I was also quite dismissive of the people we all know who live in the dream world extreme variation of What if. These are the people who fantasize about winning the lottery or moving back in time. But even for them the concept has its applications. If the first thing you would do after winning a lottery is to quit your job, well perhaps you should consider what line of work you should be changing to and take action on that – not on buying lottery tickets.

Some things are not the big initiatives I have been chattering on about here. They may be the seemingly simple goal of being a better friend, having more tolerance, or thinking from a broader perspective. Sometimes these simple things however are tougher than learning to run a marathon.

I think all of these reflections, both negative or positive, and whether looking back in time or dreaming forward are all good. They are healthy ways to us to test what is important to us today and to ask ourselves the real key question: What if today I …..

Django

ONE ROOM SCHOOLHOUSE

Posted: April 1, 2021

A few weeks ago, I had nice email from my buddy Jim. He had included some pictures of his recent walks with Tuli their Shapendoes (Dutch sheepdog) in their local park. Toronto is the fifth largest city in North America but functions residentially as a collection of neighborhoods. Each one has its own little collection of retail storefront streets, and most feature a park as an important part of the community.

Where he and Janice live is close to the beach along lake Ontario so that beach and the two kilometers of boardwalk are the main park area but even with that they have another little park with some play areas, a bandshell and a couple of ponds. Those ponds are the home of ducks, turtles, frogs and birds in the warmer seasons and sit largely just as inactive frozen ice cubes in the winter. Not this winter.

Jim’s picture was of kids on the pond – skating, playing hockey, etc.  The part that impressed him the most was that in these times with the conventional indoor ice facilities closed and most of the outdoor rinks closed as well, and no organized hockey or figure skating going on, this little pond had become a place for kids of all ages to just go, lace up and cut loose from their isolation inside with their parents. Young kids playing with older ones or adults in pick-up games of hockey. The scene of older kids teaching younger ones to skate and everyone just enjoying an unorganized bit of athletic fun could be an image from a small rural village in the 1930’s from any northern community around the world.

Yes, it’s true there are not a lot of masks to be seen but for being outdoors, with a bit of distance and for all the mental health advantages, it really does seem like a good solution.

The aspect of the older kids working with the younger ones really struck a chord with me. I am an only child so my experience with siblings is artificial -the odd older neighbour kid, or younger family friend experience is really not the same as a sibling. But recently I have been going to one of our local parks that’s adjacent to the marina where I live and bumping into a family from the marina I know a bit. They are from Norway and were away for a sailing trip in the Mediterranean when this Covid nonsense hit a year ago. The decision was made to hunker down and stay in Malta until the summer (last summer) when Covid would be over, and to teach the three kids their schoolwork on the boat,  and then sail back to Norway. They have revised that by a year and are now planning on sailing home this summer. Over last spring and now through the fall and this winter they have been co-existing as a family on their liveaboard. What makes it work is the great climate Malta has. Their oldest, a teenager, “camps” in a large tent on the deck. When I was growing up in Canada it was the fashion for teenagers to move to the basement of their parents home to have more freedom and independence. Well, this is like living on the roof!

I know them all somewhat as all three of the kids have taken cooking classes with me. So when I saw them all working at a picnic table in the park, the mom came over to say hi and explain their school week. On Monday to Friday they all have school online in the morning and she and her husband try to get some of their own online work done. Then in the afternoon the kids work away on various school projects or assignments. The oldest one is getting a school credit for teaching the younger two – often being a resource really, more than teaching a class but at times teaching as well. By teaching you learn the subject yourself more comprehensively. Its sounds like the Norwegians have a handle on this online learning business.

She was also telling me how well it works for some subjects that are reading based  or even some subjects like history and geography. The whole thing is based on the layers of understanding. So while the youngest one is learning the names of cities and regions in the world, the middle one is learning more about the general politics and culture of the places and the oldest one is focused more on the culture and evolution of those centres or regions. Similarly when they read a story geared to the youngest one who is just enjoying the story and trying to read along, the middle one is more focused on the grammar, and the oldest one is trying to pull out whether there is a more hidden message or metaphor from the piece to share with the middle child.

Most days they do it in the park just to get a change from the boat and to let their dad or mom have some zoom time with the office, but on rainy days they do it in the pilot house. Large old powersailers like mine have a pilot house that is on the top level for seeing where you are and navigating, while staying out of the elements. Newer boats like theirs have a similar but more luxurious bridge level with lots of windows but enclosed as well. One advantage is that the pilot house or enclosed bridge are the brightest inside place on the boat, so it lends itself to a nice learning environment. In smaller boats this area is usually only really big enough for one or two people but on older boats or really large ones like theirs it is big enough that they have moved their dining table up to that area as these days their enclosed pilot house is not needed for its designed purpose and it is their one room schoolhouse during the day and dining room at night.

I had never understood how a one room schoolhouse could work before. At times each of these kids needs to just work on their own material but on other occasions they can all benefit from working on the same material in different ways.

While we all can readily list off a string of  negatives from Covid, I think in the hands of people who really put their minds to it, there are some real positives as well, particularly with focused and committed parents. My dad used to talk about growing up as a young person in the depression and how his parents, particularly his mom, my Odie, had made the whole experience something of an adventure. These kids may remember this time, despite all its terrible attributes,  as the best of their school years.

Django

JAMIE OLIVER SEVEN WAYS

POSTED: January 15, 2021

I usually have a bunch of ideas on the go for my posts. Some are things I will start and then let sit and simmer for a while as if they are a stew, or bouillabaisse, while others just slop out. For some time I have had a little post on the go on cookbooks. The range of topics they can cover, some weird ones I have seen, some recommendations etc. The problem is that I have gotten off track on a regular basis – that pesky U.S. election last year for example.

So now I am off track again and that’s because of Jamie Oliver and Jacques Pepin. They both have new cookbooks out and I have borrowed them from the library and am consuming them like mad.

 

Now this discussion of Jamie’s new book Jamie Oliver Seven Ways,  is not a very objective review. I love this guy. So the most critical I get with him is in comparing one of his books that I LOVE in contrast to another of his books I might LIKE.

Janice and Jim’s daughter Jade does book reviewing for her regular gig and brings lots of insight and depth of knowledge to bear so the reader is not only introduced to the book but often many of the same genre or focus or at least a few that she will use to compare and contrast. So I am going to try to do that as well.

So where do we start?  He has written twenty-four books including this one. Of those, some are just his regional diversions – Italy, America, Great Britain, Food Escapes etc. I like those as reading about the area as a bit of a travelogue and intro to the regional or cultural aspects of cooking.

 

Some are theme based: Superfood, Christmas, Friday Night Feast, Save with Jamie, Ultimate Veg. These are all good reading and interesting and fall into my LIKE category. He does as good a job as most current celeb chefs on these topics.

But where this guy really comes alive is in teaching self confidence in the kitchen and that just oozes out in his books on bigger themes. In this regard three of his early ones really stand out.

The Naked Chef, from 1999

Happy Days With The Naked Chef, 2001

Jamie’s Kitchen, 2002

Jamie at Home, 2007

Jamie’s Food Revolution, 2008 (UK) 2009 (everywhere else)

I referenced earlier Janice and Jim’s daughter Jade, the book reviewer. Several years ago when she had just moved into her first condo, a very small studio unit, she would come home each Sunday to Janice and Jim’s big kitchen and make a dish or two to get her through much of the week for her main dinners. She worked from Jamie’s Happy Days With The Naked Chef.  It was when the movie Julie & Julia had just come out and those Sundays were called Jade & Jamie Sundays.

Most of those other books I referenced in the LIKE Category were written during the period 2004 to 2016.

 

Then in 2017 he wrote the book that I think  he will be known for long after he is gone. It is the one that I recommend to anyone who has not spent much time in the kitchen and really wants to enjoy themselves and produce some great meals with not a lot of effort: 5 Ingredients – Quick & Easy Food. If you are buying just one Jamie Oliver book – this is it. If you have the space and money for a second one – Happy Days With The Naked Chef would be the next one to get. Later in this piece I will do a bit more of a ranking of his books.

So where does this new one fit in?  Well I think Jamie scared himself a bit with the 5 Ingredients book. He was on a regular thing producing good cookbooks on various themes and running a business and being a good dad and all that and then that 2017 book just flowed out of him and bam – he was back at what he does best – building confidence in the kitchen in lots of people new to this cooking hobby. In it he takes five conventional ingredients and makes a fabulous dish.

Since the launch of the 5 Ingredients book he has put out four books the last one being Jamie Oliver 7 Ways. It is really (and he acknowledges this in his intro) a sequel to 5 Ingredients and building on many of the same elements. Instead of starting on the premise of only using five ingredients in a dish he has identified the 18 ingredients most of us keep on hand and then packaged each of them up in chapters with seven recipes featuring each of those individual ingredients.

He has structured the book with a good index at the front organized as : Fakeaways, Onepan wonders, Traybakes, simple pastas, Salads, soup & Sandwiches as a quick reference to the recipes. But the body of the book is built around each of those 18 ingredients most of us have: Broccoli, Cauliflower, Avocado, Chicken Breast, Sausages, Salmon Fillet, Sweet Potato, Eggplant, Eggs, Ground Meat, Potato, Peppers, Shrimp, White fish Fillet, Whole chicken, Mushrooms, Steak, Pork.

The list would suggest a lot of carnivore  dishes but the reality is that about half are vegetarian.

What also makes it attractive is that for the most part he is focusing on ingredients that are not expensive, prepared using simple cooking techniques and as always teaching a lot of “cheats”, those shortcut tricks that every person who has prepared thousands of meals commercially has learned. Traditionally for example cookbooks from celebrity chefs never referenced a freezer for anything other than chilling your sorbet. Well Jamie gets it – we are busy or we live in places that don’t always have fresh components on hand and being able to take something from the freezer to make a great meal is a lifesaver.

For some time Jamie’s books have been formatted with the text on the left hand page showing the ingredient list, the technique & description and a generous image on the right page, and that format continues with this book. On the bottom of the page with the text the components of Fat, protein, sugars etc. are detailed.

So what’s left to tell you? Well, at this point I have made several of the dishes and they have all been crowd pleasers.

The image below ranks Jamie’s books from my perspective.

Ranking Jamie’s Books

 

I have a few other posts I am working on but sometime in the next few months I will review Jacques Pepin’s new book. I am just starting to try some of the recipes.

Django

BETTER WITH TIME

POSTED: DEC 1, 2020

I really like wine. I mean I REALLY LIKE WINE.  But during these anxiety-ridden times it has scared me a bit how much.  I will drink then eat, then drink then eat, and if I am with friends it can get out of hand.

Some days I will say to myself – “no wine for you tonight Django” and not have a drop for a few days, but then once I have a glass – yikes, right back at it. Now you have to understand, this is not an alcoholic talking here. Some people have some serious medical problems and I have seen how bad it can get. This is not that. But it is still worrisome how one glass can lead to three. I am rarely incapacitated, never hung over and the magnitude of my consumption is three glasses. It just is a bit scary how easy it is to do that and how often the anxiety about the world and the future makes it happen these days. So I try to be disciplined but don’t beat my self up if it doesn’t always happen.

One thing I have been trying to do is to buy better wines and drink one glass of a really fine one instead of multiples of bad ones. I was sharing my thoughts on this with my buddy Jim, as he suffers from the same gaps in discipline and he related the story of his wine cellar.

When he was working in the investment industry, he was a fiduciary. For those who don’t know this stuff that’s someone who is entrusted with acting for others and protecting their interests. He managed money for big pension funds. As a born again Marxist he interpreted this as Nouveau Marxism and working for the greater good of the common man because all the investments income, other than a small management fee,  was going to the pension funds and in turn to the workers relying on that income in their retirement. Ok. A bit of a stretch but I guess it got him through the night.

In managing investment funds for big pension funds he dealt with two groups. Clients – the pension funds he invested for (what he called upstream) and the people and opportunities pitched to him by the investment community to buy (what he called downstream).  His time was divided equally to  these upstream interests to keep his clients happy and his downstream activities to keep feeding the machine with good investments to achieve that happiness and with his partners managing his team to make that happen.

So as a fiduciary he could not accept any gifts from the downstream investment brokers or property developers he dealt with. The most that he could accept would be a nice dinner or something else that could be consumed like a nice bottle of wine. Every time his little (later to become medium and then huge) company would do a deal he would go to an expensive dinner or get a nice bottle of red wine, as these would be collector wines that would improve with age. The suggestion of course is that the investment he had made would stand the test of time as would the relationship with the company or individual they had transacted with. You know -shameless symbolism.

Jim likes red wine, but he likes Janice more, and during much of this time she was having issues with occasional migraines and she was not drinking much wine at all and certainly not the tannin filled reds. So the nice bottle he would receive would be lovingly placed in a very nice cool dark wine cellar for a future time when she might want to enjoy it with him. I guess this is one of the secrets to four decades of marriage.

Time would pass and the collection grew and going into the wine cellar with Jim was a trip down memory lane as he would talk about the person he dealt with, the transaction involved, the pension funds who participated, and how the investment fared over time. He must have consumed some of the wine as all of the stories were about positive returns if not exceptional returns.

As time went on the various bottles were aging along nicely until one day, not that long ago, Janice got it in her head to have nice glass of red wine having been migraine free for a few years. Jim was thrilled and went to the wine cellar to open one of the oldest, best “old world” wines, from the 1980’s.  The way he tells it there were several trumpets, red carpets, decorations and endorphins involved as a celebration during the removal of the cork, and then some decanting and into two glasses and …. it was awful. Not only well past its peak, but not even consumable.

Clearly this was an anomaly, and a second bottle was opened – anomaly two… then anomaly three. At this point he was in the wine cellar frantically opening bottles with Janice looking on in disbelief. I think the guys with the trumpets and red carpet and decorations had gone home.

The anomaly was the norm. All the really vintage ones were bad. As they worked their way through to finally hitting a good one my buddy really started to get it. Like me, he is desperately trying to understand what life is about. Some things that you put off to enjoy another day you build up too much expectation for. Deferred gratification is good but in reasonable doses. Deferring too long just misses the mark. Some gratification is needed now.

He hated pouring all that wine down the drain but loved the learning in the experience.

 

Django

P.S. and a tip of the hat to all our friends from Down Under: The old world (Italy and France) “big reds” – Amarone and Cabernet Sauvignons etc. were the ones that did not hold up but the New World Australian reds (shiraz in particular) were past their peak but very good.