Tag Archives: Food

On matters of diet

Regarding comments on the Low Carbohydrate way of life Mrs S and I have recently adopted, I’ve heard about Doctors and Dieticians warning about the risks of dire consequences when ditching most of the starch and sugars we urban humans routinely stuff down our necks and call ‘food’. The general consensus from some expert panels is that we need to ditch fats and proteins for a more carbohydrate based diet. Well, yes, maybe, and then again a resounding ‘no’. Because we’re all different. We grow up with differing tolerances and our digestive systems adapt to whatever foodstuffs are available although even this is not a hard and fast rule.

Now the battle of our respective bulges is seeing real results. Over the last three weeks my belt has come in a couple of notches and I’m feeling much lighter on my feet. Mrs S reports a similar improvement. One of the other improvements is the disappearance of bits of dry skin which no ointment has had any previous effect on. So dropping ‘taters, sugar and starchy stuff seems to have been beneficial. At least as far as we’re concerned. Mrs S’s Cholesterol has dropped well into the ‘normal’ range and her last blood pressure test is well within the ‘normal’ range of 110/70 and 130/80. So all the prognostications of doom for giving up starch and sugar seem to be ill-founded. Indeed, the complete opposite seems to be the case. Could all these dietitians and sciencey (Or at least the ‘educators’) pundits have it bass ackwards? Well, the rising rates of obesity and 30.6% increase in Diabetes II over the last few years would seem to indicate that they have. Despite a plethora of ‘Health’ advice and associated legislation.

A quick over the shoulder glance at our forbears and their way of life would indicate that, well, they didn’t eat much sugar. Not that there weren’t other risk factors in pre modern times, like being run over by a speeding Mammoth on the Stonehenge to Avebury bypass, but at least they were only plagued by things like, well, plague. That and the occasional peckish Sabre toothed tiger. The only real sweetener available to them was honey. Which is still packed with sugars, so we can’t have any of that for our modern Paleo / Keto / Atkins (Whatever, it’s all very similar) type diet to be effective.

A quick word about Gout and similar at this point. Yes it is a risk if you have impaired liver or kidney function, or simply don’t drink enough fluid. But since Mrs S and I drink plenty, it’s not a problem. The possible Vitamin C deficiency we get around by eating stir fried vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower, Bok choy and cabbage. We’ve also taken to knocking back the occasional sugar free vitamin C tab, so that’s us covered. Mrs S also kicks off the day with a fruit smoothie every morning (No banana), so she’s bouncing with health ans at no risk of scurvy. I get some of my vitamin C intake from a little grilled or fried liver, so we’re both pretty much covered on that score.

My sauces now tend to be sour cream based (Although I’ve just found a local supplier of Creme Fraiche! Yay!) and warmed through rather than boiled to buggery reductions. I’ve even managed to make a few casseroles with nice thick meaty sauces without any flour based roux. I’ll write up the method when work doesn’t take precedence although I have one piece of advice for the interim; do not, under any circumstances use Psyllium husk (Metamucil) as a thickening agent. Unless of course you like comedy food that looks like it was developed for a cheap Dr Who slime special effect. In which case, knock yourself out.

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Not your average French Fry

One of the things I’ve been trying to do of late is reduce the amount of carbohydrates (And therefore calories) in our diet whilst retaining variety and taste. To this end, while burrowing around the Internet I found out about the uses of Celeriac or Celery root. At simplest it turns out that you can fry Celeriac like potatoes to make a slightly nutty tasting form of French fry or chips.

Now to look at, Celeriac looks like something dreamed up by a Dr Who scriptwriter with all it’s gnarly tight packed roots and rough skin. You could even be forgiven for thinking it’s some strange sessile alien creature awaiting it’s chance to leap out of the vegetable bin and burrow it’s way into what remains of an unsuspecting cooks brain. But this is not so. This sci-fi looking root vegetable has a firm texture like turnip, without the risk of horror filled school dinner flashbacks caused by mashed Swede or ‘Rutabaga’.

If asked to describe the taste, I’d say it was a mild form of Parsnip with a hint of hazelnut and Crimini mushroom. Actually quite pleasant when you get past the first shock of the unfamiliar, yet definitely superior in flavour and texture to the mouth cloying fries most Canadians are offered in ‘Casual’ dining outlets. There’s no starchiness, and definitely none of that horrible floury aftertaste so many commercially produced French fries leave in the mouth.

Right: Onto the method. Not much to it. Peel Celeriac root and carve off extraneous alien looking tendrils with a knife. Do use a sharp knife unless your vegetable peeling tool is really robust, remembering not to carve off your delicate little pinkies. I refer you to rule 1 of peeling and cutting. Fingers behind the blade edge children. Either that or invest in Bandaid futures.

Once peeled, cut into 12-15mm (About 3/8ths to 1/2 of an inch seems to be optimal) square sections for traditional English style. Put a pint of cooking oil into your oldest and deepest sacrificial saucepan or no more than a third full and put over a medium high heat. Why only a third? It’s very simple, filling less than half your cooking vessel will spare you kitchen fires if you’re called away for five minutes to tell someone on the Interweb that they are categorically in the wrong and you just have to tell them so.

Once your oil goes on the heat, in another pan, boil some salted water and dump your cut Celeriac pieces in. Take off heat immediately you’ve brought them back to the boil and leave for five minutes. Drain Celeriac chip shapes and pat them dry using paper or cloth towels. Check oil temperature periodically by chucking in a tiny piece of Celeriac. If it foams and sizzles immediately, your oil is hot enough for deep frying. If not, patience. All good things come to those who prepare carefully.

When first piece foams and froths in the hot oil, put in as many pieces of cut Celeriac as will fit in one layer floating in the oil and fry for five minutes. Then using a slotted spoon or similar haul them out onto paper towels or into a sieve and wait two minutes for the oil to reheat. Now chuck in the next batch. Follow the same procedure. Let the oil get back up to temperature then put in the first batch again until most frothing and foaming has subsided and the fries are a light browny gold. If you aren’t sure, nick a chip out of the hot oil (Not with your fingers, dimwit!), drain it, dry it off, and when cool enough to eat, taste for desired texture.

At this point it might be a good idea to heat up a serving dish, dry thoroughly and line with paper towels. As each batch of fries becomes ready, drain and decant into this lined bowl or dish to keep them drained and warm. When all batches of fries are done and in the bowl, switch off the stove and serve with Mayonnaise. Or Ketchup. Or Brown Sauce, in fact whatever you want as a dip. Be adventurous. Cook naked if you want (But this blog advises a decent cooks apron, because even a small spot of hot oil on your important little places can really put a painful crimp in the whole experience).

Now serve. Remember, this is a very adult taste, and those under 25 should not bother unless they are as sophisticated as wot you obviously are.

Talking of adventure and I haven’t done this yet, but it’s next on the list; try oven cooking these chips. Instead of deep frying them, after boiling and drying off, roll the cut pieces of Celeriac in a little olive (or any other cooking) oil, dust with dry seasoning of choice, be it salt, salt and pepper, garlic powder, a light sprinkling of curry powder or Chinese five spice, or even a hint (And I do mean only a hint) of Cayenne pepper. Whatever you fancy, but it has to be dry. Then bake, just like you would Oven chips at 220°C/ 425°F for around 30-35 minutes depending on your oven.

Oh yes, a word of warning about Cayenne pepper. Wash hands immediately after handling, just in case you feel the need to rub your eyes. Trust me, you do not want Cayenne in your eyes. Not unless you’re into heavily swollen eyelids and not being able to see properly for a few hours. Cayenne has the same effect as Pepper spray. It stings. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

By bread alone

Man does not not live by bread alone. At least goes the biblical quote from Matthew 4:4. Which is kind of the introduction into a matter of diet. Mrs S and I have given up bread. And rice, pasta, flour, noodles and potatoes.

So apparently have brother and sister in law in the fabled land of Oz. Like us they’ve given up on chocolate and sugar entirely. Which some might find a little extreme, but honestly chums, I feel much better for it. Now you might be forgiven for thinking this expensive, but considering the price of bread over here, the cost of two reasonable quality loaves buys a pound and a half of steak once a week. The elimination of chocolate, sugar and other candy pays for more fish like Salmon, which is almost a basic staple over here. And of course there’s room in the budget for more bacon. Especially as I’ve found a decent butcher in our locale who actually knows their meats. They do four (Thank you God) varieties of proper dry cured bacon although I eschew the sugar maple cured stuff.

For her part Mrs S is eating more full fat yoghurt rather than that awful low-fat garbage with the strange aftertaste, and I’ve even taken a liking to garlic stir fried Taiwanese Cabbage of all things. Indeed our consumption of low carbohydrate vegetables has more than doubled. Which pleases Mrs S because she harbours the idea that vegetarianism is somehow virtuous. Odd how a lot of women feel this way. I of course, choose to differ. Meat is my métier.

Essentially what we’ve done is cut all the fattening starch and stodge out of our diets. Which does lead to a few strange looks from waiting staff when we go out for lunch and stipulate no fries or potato and definitely no bread. However, a good steak with buttered Asparagus is always a sound choice. We snack on Hickory smoked Almonds instead of popcorn or sweets when we rent or go and see a movie. I’ve even got to the point where I can easily out-stare a large bar of Cadbury’s Dairy milk fruit and nut without a single pang.

One issue I’ve been struggling with is sauces. So many require a roux of flour and water as a thickener, I’d almost given up hope of tasting the delights of a good thick gravy like substitute. And I do love lovely thick British style gravy. Fortunately, the jolly old interweb has ridden to the rescue to provide the outline recipe for a remoulade Cajun sauce. Which I have since refined to the recipe below.

A quarter of a large Red Pepper (Fresh Red cabbage can be substituted if no peppers)
Half a stalk of Celery
One Green (Spring) Onion
A quarter cup of fresh Parsley (Not dried)
Half a cup of full on Mayonnaise
Half a cup of full fat Sour Cream or Creme Fraiche (Creme Fraiche is best)
Two heaped teaspoons of Dijon Mustard
Two heaped teaspoons of Horseradish
A shake or two of Lea and Perrins Worcestershire sauce
A shake or two of Tabasco
Two heaped teaspoons of Paprika
Four heaped teaspoons of crushed Tomatoes or two medium size tomatoes
A third of a teaspoon of Cayenne pepper

Throw it all in a blender and puree until relatively smooth. It will come out pink, but this is good stuff which warms the mouth without setting it ablaze. Serve hot or cold. Just don’t boil it on the reheat. If you’ve gone down the red cabbage route, this sauce develops a fresh crunchy texture that never tires.

To serve, put a small amount in a side dish bowl, something about three or four inches across for immediate use at the table. Heat it in the microwave if you like. Stick the rest in the fridge or freezer. This sauce keeps. If it lasts that long. It also survives being repeatedly thawed and heated, even in a microwave. Goes pretty well with Steak, Chicken, Pork or Fish. Which is nice. It’s an all rounder with plenty of roundness and flavour.

Haven’t tried it with poached eggs, but I’ve found a quick and easy way to make fresh Hollandaise which is wonderfully buttery and mouthwateringly moreish over Asparagus. Then there’s the delight of French style omelettes, which kick the dessicated flat North American type into touch.  See Below.

Yes the dropping of starch and sugar has been challenging from a cooks perspective, but I don’t miss the rice, potatoes or starch and my waistline is thanking me for it. As for the substitute for cornstarch for a roux, I’ve been experimenting with Psyllium Husk powder, although so far some of the results have been disturbingly motile.

Will report back on this topic once I’ve cracked the method.

TTFN.

A good edge

As someone who enjoys cooking, I like to get reasonable tools for the job. To be specific, knives. Recently I picked up some reasonable German made knives as part of an end of line promotion, which filled a gap in my culinary toolbox. I needed a decent Santoku for chopping, Japanese style, which was part of the set, but, and this is a big but, they’re not so satisfying to use as my ten inch wood handled full-tang Sabatier K, a handy Chef’s knife I bought when we were down in South Carolina on our 2016 cross-USA road trip.

There’s nothing fancy about it as a cooks knife because it’s simply a stamped and forged flat blank with a riveted hardwood handle. Yet none of my other cooking knives can hold a candle to it as far as holding an edge is concerned. Yes it’s heavy, the web of the blade is over 3.5mm (3/16ths of an inch) thick and the handle is pretty chunky and unrefined, but no other blade out of my serried collection of carbon and stainless steel cutting implements handles so well on the cutting board for day to day slicing and chopping. I’ve even sliced soft bread with it. Try that with a traditional cooks knife without squashing the grain of the loaf. Yet there’s nothing really special about it. Perhaps that explains why this particular piece of kit holds the place of prominence it does on my kitchen counter. Because of the sheer weight of steel in the blade it will also chop and hack as well as a light cleaver. Which is very useful for those days when bone or cartilage needs to be cut through with a single sharp blow. Yes it can and does cut beef and pork ribs. No nicks in the blade so far and it’s seen fourteen months of daily abuse at my hands. I’d say it was good kit.

Yes, and I’ve finally potted out my tomato plants which as you can see by the picture below are doing quite nicely.

So that’s it for the moment. The pantomime of BREXIT continues with the drunken lord making ridiculous pronouncements from stage left and the Demon King pops up and down through a handy trapdoor like a demented Yo-yo. Sterling is rising slowly again, well it has been over the last week, but no doubt one market panic will send it slithering back down again.

To close, I just saw the trailer for this amusing little Armando Iannucci movie which won’t be released over here. Which is a great pity. Rather like with Brian Cox in ‘Churchill‘, there’s no Canadian or US release date. There should be.

Because the cast is terrific and would make a welcome change from the usual Hollywood blockbuster bullshit.

Chips with a twist

We’ve all suffered. Horrible oven chips with that mouth clogging floury aftertaste. Soggy fried potato strips which slip down the throat as though they were greased, but leave no enduring pleasure. Overdone, underdone, wobbling free and all phases in between. The humble chip or French fry is a difficult dish to get right.

Aficionado’s of this often-abused comestible recommend the double or even triple fried potato fries using electronic means to regulate the cooking temperature. Often recommending complex methods requiring washing, patting dry and sprinkling in salt distilled from a virgin’s tears, waiting times and special oils, or a special deep oil fryer that needs a protracted and labour intensive cleaning out after every use. Everyone has their own pet method. Well let me add my own.

Now cooking the humble French fry should not be a complicated or prolonged procedure. Yet getting it right from a standing start to produce a firm but crunchy end product that is thoroughly cooked is often a right bloody mission.

My own method came to me as a happy accident when I was looking at a way of cooking a small batch of fries just for me when I was running out of cooking oil. It’s very simple and you will need the following:
A Russet or baking potato.
1 pint of any old cooking oil.
A pan you don’t mind using for frying.
A microwave oven.
Seasoning to taste.

Method:
Put oil in pan and heat to medium high on stove.
Put potato in microwave oven and cook on full power, depending upon size from 5-9 minutes, turning once.
Leave to cool enough for handling (usually 5-10 minutes) while oil in pan heats up.
Peel loosened skin off Russet potato and cut naked spud into desired shape and size. I cut mine into at least 3/8 inch (9mm) thick slices of potato and strips of a similar cross section so they are square.
This method works best of all for really chunky chips or potato wedges. Almost more roast potato than chip. Throw cut chunks into hot oil and scoop ’em out after ten minutes or so when a light golden brown. Drain oil off using paper kitchen towel or let drain for five minutes in a large sieve. Season if necessary and serve to adoring public. Accept naked adoration (If you’re really lucky) and any concomitant praise.

Works every time and there’s less mess to clear up than with conventional fries. Job done.

And now for something..

…completely mundane. We’ve been nursing our Deer Decimated pot plants back to health, and I am happy to report that our Geraniums and Fuchsias are well on their way to a full recovery. Indeed, here they are. Along with the small herb garden I started a few days ago. Nothing exotic, just some culinary basics and perennials that will survive BC conditions the year round. Sage, Dill, Rosemary, Lavender and a variegated leaf thing that Mrs S liked. You might notice a little white bag at the far right of the picture which is currently sprouting a number of tiny tomato plants. There’s a Basil pot in the kitchen, so during the Winter months I will be potting the resulting tomatoes out so we can enjoy my home made Tomato and Basil soup recipe (To go on the sidebar when I can be bothered to write it up) made from the fruit. No idea where I’ll leave the plants out. Maybe in our West facing kitchen window.

Yes I know tomatoes are from the poisonous Nightshade family of plants, but seeing as you’d have to subsist off the damn things to see any long-term ill-effects, it won’t stop me cropping and cooking them. Just hope I’ve got enough space in the freezer for all the Pasta Sauce I’ll be making.

So, what’s the news from chez Sticker? Well not that much actually. Saw Wind River on Friday. A thought provoking drama which touches on the sensitivities of First Nations North Americans and the scandal of missing young women. Jeremy Renner puts in a workmanlike performance as the Cowboy hunter and Fish & Game officer and there’s just enough detail to give an insight into how the reservation system both protects and harms the indigenous tribal peoples of North America. Worth a view.

Well, travel news. We’re off to see the Ozzard, the wonderful Ozzard of Whiz. Australia is the next venue for the grand touring ambitions of the Sticker family. Sydney and the Blue Mountains first while we get over the jet lag. Then up to Queensland to visit family for Crimbo, thence off to Melbourne for New Year before a small road trip back to Sydney to be packed onto the flight by Eldest in January. Flights are booked and paid for. Which is why I had to walk away from the motorcycle thing. It boiled down to an either / or. Couldn’t afford both. Family takes precedence.

Sorry to hear about the bit of inclement weather the Texans are suffering with. There are the usual voices trying to make political capital out of it, but by contrast there’s the heroism of the ‘Cajun Navy’ turning out to help the afflicted. However, I’ve seen how quickly Houston’s streets drain, so knowing the Texans it’ll be business as usual ten minutes after the Hurricane has gone. One can only wish them well.

Anyone for Venison?

I’m beginning to hate the deer that frequent our neighbourhood. Am currently scouring various sources for flowers they will not devastate. We’ve tried Geraniums, Fuschias and Asters and the little shits have munched merrily on each one. Even our landlords coneflowers, advertised as a bloom that deer will not eat, have been eradicated. Nothing seems to keep the bloody things away.

Yes I know the little fuckers ‘were here first’ (Forty years ago), but like all things, they’ve become a pest species, an anachronism. Rather like the people who encourage the wretched creatures and put up “Watch out for Deer” signs while their neighbours see their carefully tended yards decimated.

What the pro deer faction do not appreciate is that they are encouraging a reservoir of infection for things like Lyme Disease, a nasty condition with a wide range of debilitating symptoms, including meningitis. Put bluntly, Deer are a walking plague pit best killed and cooked properly to dispose of their many pathogens, including Plague, before eating. Having glanced down the list of ickiness these creatures are heir to, I wouldn’t encourage anyone to go anywhere near them without a wearing full biohazard suit.

Frankly, I’m inclined to look upon Deer as a cash crop, a walking larder. It’s worth noting that if the deer are fat, that will need stripping off the meat before cooking because it has an unpleasant taste.

On the upside, here’s one of my culinary heroes on the topic of how to dispose of the carcase with style.

Check out his Youtube archive for lots of tasty Venison recipes.

I love food scares

All this fuss over ‘Chlorinated Chicken’. Actually chicken that has effectively been washed in water with around the same percentage of Chlorine as a swimming pool to get rid of some of the harmful bacteria which fowl is heir to. Hands up who has inadvertently swallowed a mouthful from the local municipal baths? What, never? So you’re a non-swimmer then.

It’s yet another storm in a teacup brought to us by people who whore themselves out, writing nonsense to earn a crust, then for a bunch of room temperature IQ’s to get all incensed about it. Honestly. No, if you eat cooked chicken that has previously been washed in a mild solution of Chlorine pre-preparation you’re probably a whole lot safer than with Chicken ‘au naturel‘ and all the nasty stuff that fowl is heir to. Salmonella, Camphylobacter, E.coli to name but three. Seriously, put a raw, unwashed chicken on your kitchen counter and you might as well have taken a shit on it. It’s why you should always wash your hands properly when preparing fowl. Never mind that accepting US food standards may be part of a putative UK-US trade deal post BREXIT. Seen in this light, the originating articles are all poorly veiled anti-Trump, anti-BREXIT scaremongering. The ‘Chlorinated Chicken gives people cancer’ implication is no better than lefty doublespeak. It’s such arrant nonsense I’m not even going to link to it.

Anyway, that’s beside the point. I absolutely love these silly food scares because most of them are complete bollocks. Especially when some politician gets in on the act and intones that ‘something must be done’. Oh dear, if only they knew how dumb they look.

You see when these scares hit the boob tube (Major TV networks), the first effect is that the gullible stop buying a previously popular product, so the Supermarkets have to get rid of a lot of less salable stock in a hurry before it goes off. Which is my cue to head down to the relevant supermarket aisle and raid the product in question. Result; I save quite a few dollars and my freezer gets a top up. There’s two salmon and six chickens in there at the moment awaiting my culinary mercies. The Salmon are Pinks, which are currently in season, so the price has dropped like a jumbo sized lead sinker, and the chickens? Well, thank the propagandists for that. Cheers, lads. I would buy you a pint, but you aren’t men enough to drink them, so it would be a waste of time and effort.

I’m just waiting for something horrible to be announced about pork ribs. Because I’m rather partial to my own ribs recipe and am looking for an opportunity to stock up cheaply. It’s not that I can’t afford it, it’s just that I’m cheap.

Back in BC

Bloody hell, are we back in Pacific Time? I do believe we are. “Holy crap!” said the Joker as he force fed the Pope Castor oil. Drinking half way decent wine, trying not to watch the news because it’s all drama for the masses anyway.

Although there’s no such thing as ‘the masses’. Just individuals who move, for a while, in the same (Or approximately the same) direction. And despite what some political scientists will aver, many people, including myself, have changed their views over the course of their lives. Some don’t, and never will. This is human nature. We are all individuals. Even if some of you aren’t.

Any old road up, we’re only a day away from Vancouver. The car needs repacking before we head out on another wine tasting day. The wines around the northern end of Lake Okanagan tend towards the dryer, even astringent end of the spectrum because of the climate. However, we’ve identified a number of what we think are good dinner wines. More on those particular VQA’s later.

We’ve also raided a place called ‘the Jammery‘ which does exceedingly good chutneys and jams, which will be consumed over the Summer with various cheese and charcuterie platters. Which will make a light and pleasant change from the often rather stodgy staples of more traditional Canadian cuisine. Honestly, most Canadian ‘restaurant’ food is either fried or smothered in some sugar loaded sauce with far too many competing flavours. Subtlety is not a characteristic of mainstream commercial Canadian cooking. To them, ‘gourmet’ often means with extra cheese. Don’t get me wrong, I like Canadian cheeses. They make some very good ones (Some quite exceptional). Just not over everything I eat, that’s all. Less is more guys, Capisce?

There’s also the issue with being interrogated by the waiting staff mid mouthful. Which to me is the mark of a third rate (or worse) restaurant. The waiting person can see I’ve got my mouth full, so why do they feel the need to ask diners “How is everything?” When we’re in mid conversation or mouthful? I was always taught that butting in to another’s conversation or forcing them to speak with their mouth full is plain bad manners, and when I’m feeling particularly evil, will pause with a pained expression and launch into a long and detailed description of what isn’t quite right with the food. See example below:

Waiter (Enthusiastically, interrupting diner who is in the process of speaking to his fellows): “Hi guys! How is everything?”
Diner (Pauses, puts down fork, glances sidelong and takes a deep breath before delivering this kind of critique in a thoughtful but polite tone): “Mmm. The steak is a little rubbery for my liking. A little over done. I did specify medium, not medium rare or well done. Whilst I’m thinking about it the salad dressing tastes a little past its sell by date. There’s something not quite right, an additional acidity on the back of the palate. Tell me, do you use one of these low-fat or low-salt dressings? That might account for the strange aftertaste. The lettuce is also a little limp at the edges for my liking. Look here, are these the tracks of the Common Cabbage White caterpillar or some other species? Also the fries are a little overdone and floury. They taste like they’re out of a packet.”
Waiter: (Panicking) “Errr! I’m sorry it’s not to your liking. I’ll get you another one.”
Diner: (In the same thoughtful manner) “Very well. But you did ask.”

Expect a visit from the manager or owner shortly afterwards. Don’t take any bullshit, just stand your ground and don’t blink, metaphorically speaking. Make him earn his money.

Especially if the restaurant you’re in is charging top notch prices for poorly prepared food. I can get a half way decent steak at a Denny’s truck stop restaurant for 14 dollars (about 9 quid) and a cheap but tasty burger from McDonalds, A & W, Wendy’s or DQ for around five bucks. But if I’m paying between 25 and 30 bucks per course (15-18 quid) I want a proper steak or piece of chicken, not something that’s been warmed over for two hours and in the process has turned into one of Mr Goodyears or Mr Bridgestones road safety products. I also pay not to be bugged by the staff and having my train of thought sent chugging off into the sidings when dining. I may be talking business or of philosophical matters and don’t want to be interrupted by some room temperature IQ before I’ve even taken a forkful. If there’s something wrong with the food I will quietly bring it to their attention. If all is well I pay to be left alone.

If the waiting staff who butt into my conversations knew how much their interruptions have cost them in tips over the years they would have a collective fit. I’m a generous man and reward good service, but not if someone gets pushy or serves me overpriced crap. I can also pour my own wine, I’m not bloody disabled. And don’t hover. Only drones hover.

I will not go as far as one guy from my student days who notoriously pulled out a starting pistol in the college canteen and fired it at one of their barely edible burgers, shouting “It’s still moving!” Needless to say, he was suspended for this behaviour. Still a good laugh though. Oddly enough the quality of the food did improve after that.

Yes, I’m a revolting diner, but in response to that calumnious slur I have this to say: I’m the customer. The person who pays restaurant staff wages with my custom. Don’t take the piss or I’ll dine elsewhere and tell my friends to do likewise.

Diners of the world rise up! You have nothing to lose but your plague of third rate restaurants serving little better than deep fried leftovers. Canada has far too many of these establishments and a cull is long overdue.

Arrgh!

Woken at ugodly hour by the hotels fire alarm making an ear piercing, screeching noise that propelled me out of bed down to reception. Then there was the additional sound of running water inside the wall between our room and the bathroom. Jesus H Christ on a Speed Twin! I thought the damn wall was going to come in. This morning I felt like I had a serious hangover. Tired, woolly headed and seriously out of sorts. Checked out of the hotel with only an insincere apology from the staff and got the hell out of Dodge. However, an hour, two coffee’s and one Red Bull later I began to return to my usual irascible self.

Eventually we found that the cause of the issue, and thus my lack of blessed repose, was down to a compressor failure on the sprinkler system caused by a lightning strike on a remote power line. The surge had caused the sprinkler system compressor to fail and the failure had set off the shrieking alarm. We were lucky it hadn’t triggered the bloody sprinkler system. Heavens to Murgatroyd! This was a newly built hotel. Had the hotel builders never heard of surge protection? Especially when their electrickery comes from the storm-prone Rockies. Argh!

As an aside, I’m beginning to take a distinct dislike to most hotel ‘breakfasts’. Rubbery scrambled eggs devoid of any real taste and something supposed to be cooked ham, but might as well be salty tofu. In establishments that advertise themselves as having three stars no less. It’s like this particular standard of hostelry are trying to shave more and more off the bottom line and are trying to tempt people in with the promise of a free meal. Better that they didn’t provide anything at all. Tim Hortons or McDonalds provide much better fare. Anyway, we’re moving on, and leaving such unpleasantries firmly in the rear view mirror.

On the plus side, on our way to our next port of call we discovered one of Alberta’s hidden secrets; lake resorts. Small communities off the beaten tracks where there are beaches and water sports facilities hundreds of miles from any coast. Quite smart little places with everything from grocery, drug and liquor stores to their own Police Station. Restaurants, bars, all that is necessary to refresh the hungover traveler. We sat and enjoyed the view at one such, just sitting and reading in the shade. Me ploughing through Ernest Hemingway’s ‘Death in the Afternoon’ and Mrs S enjoying what she calls ‘a right bodice ripper’. I think it’s called ‘Outlander’ or some such. It makes her laugh anyway.

Also on the positive side there is news of a successful temporary treatment for Autism from a group of researchers in San Diego. It’s not a cure, but the old treatment for Sleeping Sickness, Suramin, has proven to bring positive effects for all of those given the treatment in a double blind trial. While it’s not a real cure, what these human trials have achieved that there is hope for the 1 in 68 afflicted, and once they’ve identified exactly which brain chemistry triggers are responsible for ASD, a better and more permanent treatment can be developed.

Despite a rough start, not a bad day, all things considered. And the sun is shining. Yeah.