The Waiter And I

It’s day 8, the city away from the tourist core is alive with city culture, groups of friends and food which reminds me of home. Finding a little restaurant on a side street that is playing 90’s hits and churning out dinners to write home about. I love that part of Milano, but I miss my people, I miss my home, I miss my coffee shop and I miss my dojang.

Tonight I stayed in the hotel to dine and broke down and ordered the Burger off the dining room menu, comfort food. The hotel dining room was quiet with a few fellow guests and for the first time in 8 days I found myself dinning Milano time – fashionably late, after 8pm.

The waiter has been here all week. Maybe he sleeps in the hotel? I can’t escape him. He servers me breakfast, I see him flitting around at lunch and he is always there in the evening. They know my last name and my room number. I enter the room, they nod, circle my name on their list of hotel guests and I find myself a seat.

I won’t lie, that’s a nice feeling. They know who I am or at least HE knows who I am.

He’s been watching me and I take blame for accidentally initiating it the first night I arrived.

Not hungry after my flight I decided to do some grocery shopping and picked up fruit, granola, yogurt and other easy snacks for my room. It wasn’t until I was settled into my room when I realized ‘how was I exactly planning on eating the yogurt?’

I showed up in his dining room well after closing time asking for a spoon. He looked at my quizzically, walked over to his sidebar, opened the drawer and pulled out a serving spoon.

“This?” he asked in uncomfortable, broken English.

I gave a little laugh wondering why he would choose to pull out a serving spoon of all spoons, why would anyone want a serving spoon? He was confused. I was confused. He looked at me then back at the spoon in his hand, ‘I’d asked for a spoon, what was the problem?’

Desperately wanting to eat my yogurt and feeling panicked I reached out, “Yes, perfect” and I took the serving spoon and immediately thanked him in Spanish, “gracias”.

Right there I made my impression. Who was this bizarre North American entering his dining room at 10:30 in the evening, asking for a spoon, laughing, accepting a serving spoon and thanking him in Spanish!

And so it began. Standing at the elevator bank, mindlessly playing on my phone, waiting, I’d get the feeling of being watched and instinctively I’d look to my right. There he’d be, far off in his dining room, sporting a most serious face, his dark rimmed eyes boring into me.

I’d shiver, was I in trouble for borrowing the serving spoon?

I’d imagine him thinking, “What is that girl doing with the spoon? Something sinister?” Followed by him requesting the cleaning staff check my room while I was out.

The elevator doors would open and I’d dash into safety.

Yes he was my server tonight and as expected he was watching me, not out of the corner of his eye, he was looking at me squarely. I felt uncomfortable. I didn’t know what to do with his seriousness. It was freaking me out. If you know me at all, I prepared myself to do what I most often do when I feel uncomfortable….I prepared myself to crack a lame joke in hopes that I’d get an eye-roll, an annoyed smirk and then he’d leave me alone. From experience it works and it was a good plan.

What I wasn’t prepared for is to be one upped by an seemingly super serious Italian waiter.

“Can you put it on my room please,” I asked after I finished my meal and then for good measure added my last name as he was walking away from me.

He stopped, turned slightly, a hint of a smile on his face and he said in his broken uncomfortable English that made it difficult to understand, “You are the boss then!” And his hint of a smile went to a full-on smile, I could see his teeth.

He just cracked a joke!! A lame joke!! Maybe he’d been preparing it all week and he finally had his chance!! I should be so proud, but unprepared to be outdone I replied in the most serious businesslike voice that I can muster, “No, not the boss.”

Immediately I saw my mistake as his face went from beaming to ultimate disappointment as he quietly acknowledged that I didn’t think he was funny. Not wanting to disappoint the waiter who had lent me one of his many serving spoons and who had spent the last 8 days glaring at me, I smiled broadly and quickly recovered, “Oh but I pretend to be the boss.”

This pleased him and off he disappeared behind his counter, giant smile on his face.

The Italian man had made a joke!

I am good to come home now.

P.S. Over the next few days when I catch him glaring at me with his serious face and piercing eyes, I am going to imagine him thinking up his next lame English joke. So pleased 🙂

A Famished Runner

Besides motivating me to get out and run, one thing I like about my running group is they are committed to their coffee.

Who wouldn’t want to join a group of solid runners committed to their coffee and on some runs, brunch.

Today’s run started and ended at the coffee shop.

It is a coffee shop.

It has the basics of a coffee shop. Coffee, a small selection of muffins, sandwiches and cookies. However, it is also an eco-friendly coffee shop and they sell local organic diary products like milk and eggs.

One of the runners arrived back from the run famished.

He waited in line at the cash for his turn, twisting and turning. When it was his turn he leaned in and asked the barista, “Do you have any eggs?”

The barista innocently replied, “I can sell you a dozen eggs if you’d like.”

I almost died laughing, imagining this famished runner, sipping his coffee with a bucket of a dozen raw eggs sitting in front of him.

His hunger neglected.

He passed on the dozen raw eggs.

The Crabapple Tree

It was a medium tree. It was unruly. It was messy. But all in all it produced some really delectable treats.

Spicy crabapples, Crabapple jelly, Crabapple chutney, Crabapple sauce, Crabapple pepper jelly, Pickled crabapples, Candied crabapples.

During the fall when the apples ripened and started falling off the tree, dad and mom would pack the trunk with “blueberry” baskets, and the six of us would cram into the car and off we’d visit Lee and Muriel’s to help pick the crabapples from their tree.

We’d never get all the apples. The one’s at the top of the tree being the most difficult. They’d eventually fall off the tree, landing in the drive and all fall they’d go “squish-squish” under the car tires when we’d pull up to visit each week.

The years following a pruning the tree would respond by having a tremendous number of apple blossoms in the spring and an equally colossal number of crabapples in the fall.

One year following a pruning, the tree responded excessively. So many apple blossoms with an equal number of crabapples, so much deliciousness.

Ahh fun childhood memories.

Picture from Northern Ontario Flora

The Untitled Day

Ninja training is in full swing and I really am developing that six-pack that I never wanted. But not to worry today is turning out to be the day I turned my back on discipline, and fueled myself with something, ANYTHING beyond my own cooked meals.

Perhaps it’s boredom or that I am an unimaginative cook or perhaps a bit of both.  Or could be that from the start my day has not gone as planned and this was my terrible reward.

First off my phone informed me “It’s time to find a boyfriend!”→ exclamation and all.

Confused?

So am I. I sat an extra few minutes in front of my coffee shop not sure, how, why, WHAT!  l shook my phone and pulled the battery and the message disappeared.

Second, there was that flurry of confusing conversations about how, what, when I should be spending my time. I sat back on my heels, crossed my arms, squinted, uncrossed my arms and replied ”You decide.”

Best sentence of my day → well besides convincing the random Jazz Guitar player I really wasn’t interested in how he spends his evenings. I am sure he’s a nice man→ I am not taking my phone that seriously.

In any event, a whole chunk of my day was freed up to do as I pleased, within reason → smiling again inside I began my journey of treating that six-pack to a host of fatty, sugary, wheat-laden food.

I can report as it gets further into the evening → the sugary, fatty experience was fun but I'm over it.

Back to boring, same daily diet of my unimaginative cooking.

Nana’s [cocaine] Caramel Cake

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Cocaine? Cake? What?

Let’s back this up.  Last week I nearly had an nepisode.  An episode meaning my heart almost gave out from receiving not one but two potluck invites.

This is how I feel about potluck’s as expressed to my sibling:

” So, my place of work has decided that we should have a potluck as a social event…

I don’t know about you, but I dislike potlucks for the sole purpose that I am expected to cook.  I only think a very small portion of the population, 1% to be precise, actually enjoys cooking up a storm and bringing their goodies into the workplace so their coworkers can chow down on THEIR well crafted, perfectly garnished dishes.

I don’t believe this 1% even tries all the other potluck dishes, no that’s for the 99%’ers who hate potlucks.  But us 99% are forced to bring something in anyways and we will stand around the table of food, politely taking a little something from people’s offerings.

I am the grinch who stole office potluck day.

My first instinct was to email you for suggestions on easy-to-make potluck dish that is within my level of skill – level 0.

THEN I had an even better idea, why not just ask you, pretty please, to make my potluck dish for me…in return for…I don’t know! But I could purchase the ingredients and keep you entertained with stories while you use your kitchen, your pots and pans and your expert dinner making skills to create the best potluck dish in the history of potluck dishes!

Now you are probably thinking, “what’s the benefit to me”, I am still trying to work that one out as I believe this plan only benefits me 🙂

Sincerely with much much love, your sister”

Both potlucks have come a gone and no, my sister did not make a dish for either of them.

In fact I missed both events and neither was my doing! 

However, being a good sport about the dreaded potluck, I did make Nana’s [cocaine] Caramel Cake for the first one.

I missed it.

No worries, potluck number two was planned for the very next day, saves me washing the pan and baking another cake. And so with much deliberating, I planned to bring along the untouched  potluck dish one to potluck two.

Potluck day two arrived.   I looked out my window – massive amounts of snow.  Way more than New York didn’t get! 

I was trapped in my condo.  Nana’s [cocaine] Caramel Cake staring me down. 

I couldn’t resist any longer.  I ripped off the cellophane and within minutes devoured…..that much cake.

*note: there is no cocaine in Nana’s [cocaine] Caramel Cake, it simply enslaves you to devour everything in sight regardless of the outcome…gut expansion. 

Breakfast at CANADIANA

Breakfast at CANADIANA

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Weekends are for adventuring, specifically trying out new brunch locations.

This past weekend I convinced a friend to go for a walk to my favourite coffee shop.  I like to think he wanted to spend time walking, talking, looking at all the houses we pass but I know the real motivation for his joining me was to try out a new brunch location he’d spied a few weeks back.

The exterior of the restaurant is dark, hidden behind a few signs from other stores.  If I was to describe it in one word I’d say it looks = shady.  After seeing multiple coppers on multiple days dine at the little place, we decided to give it a try.  At least we’d be “safe”.

Turns out it was to be one of the more stressful eating experiences of my life. It wasn’t a fear-for-my-life experience like the other place I’d tried once and the Hispanic guy was yelling at the Caucasian woman about what he perceived to be her eight year-old son’s racist stares, “do you want me to go out to the trunk of my car and come back in?!”  At which point I left the restaurant – that morning I wasn’t in the mood to see blood spatter.

It was stressful in another way.

The interior of the restaurant had the appearance of an old 70’s diner. A stucco ceiling, exposed beams painted brown complete with a bar that included a polished brass foot rest.  There are two distinct rooms, divided by a half wall and window-like spaces.  The front half is mostly bright from the front windows; the back half of the diner is darker with light filtering over the half wall.

We were seated in the back half of the diner, right outside the kitchen, in front of the bar and the pass station.

There are four ladies on duty.

–        One owner/co-owner, we aren’t quite sure but she looks to be “running the place”

–        Two seasoned staff members who spent a significant amount of their time running around heckling the co-owner with random outburst such as, “well at least I didn’t kill the boss; I just hurt him so he can still pay us our wages!”

–        One newbie who was running around silently, filling up coffee mugs and shuttling plates back and forth throughout the restaurant.

After being seated for 15 minutes our order was taken by one of the more seasoned ladies.

Once our order was taken, she moved to the next table, leaned towards the seated bleached-haired lady and scolded, “I told you your food was going to take 30 minutes minimum . Let that be your expectation, I don’t want to hear any more complaints!”

We should have known right? But we stayed seated.

Good thing we’d overheard our server or else perhaps we would have been getting a little anxious ourselves. Leaning back in my chair, I to peeked into the kitchen….no wonder it took 30 minutes a plate, they were cooking each egg in its own frying pan!  Amusing.

Not everyone in the restaurant had our service knowledge.  Too bad because their expectations were just too high for this place and they up and left after waiting 30 minutes for their food.

A kerfuffle ensued.

It was the newbies table!  What to do?  The customers just UP and LEFT.  What was she supposed to do?  She was panicking, running up and down her aisle of tables at the front of the restaurant, yelling towards the two seasoned waitresses in the back.

“The food is on the table,” she shrieked.

“Who’s going to pay for their food,” the seasoned lady replied to the non-question.

“The food, the food, I’ve put it on their table,” the newbie’s voice went up an octave.

“Just take it back to the kitchen and have someone else buy it,” barked one of the seasoned ladies.  Apparently this restaurant doesn’t believe in food hold time or in safe food handling practices.

The new lady didn’t follow the instructions and instead continued to flap up and down the aisle, fretting about who was going to pay for the food.  She ran outside to see if the customers were outside smoking, they were long gone.  I don’t know what happened to the food.

Thankfully we’d already received our breakfast – but not the food we’d ordered.

When my friend pointed this out to our server, she took his plate off our table, went back to the kitchen where we overhear her sarcastically inquire, “Does this look like Sunny Side up to you!!!”

The cook said something in return and out she flew from the kitchen, back to our table.

She slid the same plate back in front of him and said, “It’s not what you ordered but its good enough to eat.” And away she went..

I do not suggest CANADIANA to anyone except perhaps coppers who likely get their breakfast for free!

🙂

Portland

Portland

20130604-165843.jpgI was pretty excited to travel to Portland Oregon last month. I was looking forward to the brisk Pacific coast air, mountain sides covered in lush greenery and the windy roads.

What I hadn’t anticipated after travelling for 12 hours was:
1. Having a GPS from Dr. Suess. The GPS telling us we were just a block away from the hotel when we were really 40 minutes in the wrong direction from the hotel in a dilapidated neighbourhood.

2. The number of underage homeless people. To be fair I’d been warned.

3. After a gruelling trip, arriving at the hotel with the following food choices:
a) Grilled lamb tongue salad
b) Potted duck confit
c) Chicken liver …

When all I wanted was a sandwich.

The case of the Empty Paper Bag on Valentine’s Day

What I love most about Valentine’s Day are the memories.  Valentine Day memories from grade’s 1 to 6 where in our innocence we made Valentine’s Day cards, Valentine’s Day Garland, ate red frosted sugar cookies and cinnamon hearts.

I fondly think of the pink and red construction paper, diligently cutting out heart shapes, stringing together our creations, white paper doilies, glitter and glue.

This Valentine’s Day I spent with my family.  What better way to celebrate the day of Love.

My nieces were pretty excited to show me their paper bags full of Valentine’s when their dad dead panned, “I was that kid who usually had an empty Valentine’s Day paper bag.”

“Seriously!” my sister and I said in unison.  I could hardly imagine my brother-in-law going home empty handed each Valentine’s Day.  It made me sad to think some child might be going home without Valentine’s Day cards!

Both my nieces sat quietly, contemplating.

After a few moments of trying to think up all the possible reasons for her dad’s Valentine’s Day misfortunes as a child, one of my nieces posed the question.

“Dad” big pause, “did you used to fart then too?”

Dad didn’t hear the question and asked her to repeat it again.

“Did you used to fart?” she emphasized.

My morning muffin

My morning muffin

I feel guilty eating my banana nut muffin this morning. As I sit here outside, minding my own business, writing, there is a flock of 30 or more small birds hanging out on the patio stone. They get so close that by moving an inch I would undoubtedly touch them.

This birds are sitting around me picking up the little crumbs that are falling to the ground. I admit I am a messy eater! Isn’t food suppose to be enjoyed all messy instead of neat and tidy 🙂

The little brown birds make my heart swell and I have no idea why. I guess perhaps it’s this bizarre connection with nature, one I didn’t go seeking out.

A seemingly inconsequential simple pleasure and it made me smile; sharing my morning muffin!

Oh America…

Oh America…

Its 104°F, 40°C. Its a dry heat. I imagine this is what Arizona should feel like.

I wonder what it would be like to stare into the Grand Canyon, to ride a donkey to the bottom and camp between the rocks. One day perhaps but today I am not in Arizona, instead I find myself in the mid-West experiencing atypical summer weather.

One thing I like about America, when visiting it is good manners to act like an American, walk like an American and above all eat like an American: lots and lots of Mexican inspired food – La Piedad, The Tamale Place, La Parada, Tortas Guicho Dominguez y el, El Camino Real, Riviera Maya Bar & Grill, Puerto Vallarta, El Rodeo, La Hacienda Mexican, La Hacienda Mexican, El Jaripeo, El Meson, Adobo Grill, Margarita Grill, El Rodeo, El Sol de Tala Mexican, Tijuana Flats, Guadalajara Grill Mexican, El Meson, El Puerto de San Blas, Chile Verde Mexican, Casa Grande Mexican Grill, Cancun Mexican, Qdoba Mexican Grill, El Camino Real, El Jaripeo, Tequila Sunrise Mexican, Mi Pueblo, Los Toros, El Nopal, Lucero’s Mexican Restaurant, Little Mexico, Red Habanero, Carniceria Guanajuato‎, Los Cotorros Mexican, Pancho’s Taqueria, Friaco’s Mexican Restaurant, Cancun Mexican, Revolucion, Las Chalupas Mexican, Abuelo’s, Fiesta Ranchera, Chipotle Mexican Grill to name a few…

I might be unrecognizable by the time I arrive home and a little confused; shouldn’t I be wearing a sombrero while eating my over-stuffed burrito instead of this cowboy hat?

While on this latest American adventure, I asked myself why I like coming to America. It partly has to do with being able to see my family, but it is more than that.

Is it the extra large portions? The overwhelming number of retail stores that stock everything you could possibly imagine? The specialized stores such as: The Anaesthesia Pain Clinic, the Animal Dermatologist, Hemrhoid Clinic? Or is it the Red Vines Licorice that tastes a little certs?

Whatever you could want, literally you can have and I haven’t yet deciphered why I have a crush on America, but I do.

On this trip I ended up in a giant baby warehouse and here is what I found:

A CD full of songs. Not just any songs. Songs that have your “Childs name in every song”! This is where my parents went wrong, if only I could have had my own Hip Hop CD shouting out my name every third word. I would have been a much more self-absorbed child and why isn’t Rihanna sayin’ my name too!

The sheer selection. I mean honestly which stroller would you buy? And can I try each of them out, maybe have a turn around the store? What you close at 10pm, but I have 8 more strollers to try.

Forget about ME checking out Arizona and the Grand Canyon, a book on the 500 places to take your kids before they grow up.

Lastly, and this IS my favourite, the DOUBLE breast pump.

The double breast pump isn’t just convenient for feeding your child, it also doubles as a way to increase work productivity.

Not only does productivity increase while having both breasts milked by a machine, it increases endorphin production. You know the natural opiates that make us extremely happy and smiling.

This is the medical establishment’s best kept secret to solving North American Women’s productivity issue’s and postpartum depression, the double-breast pump, I mean that’s what this packaging says, no?

What would make a new mom more happy than to have a suction cup attached to each of her breasts, squeezing out prime breast milk while she create’s a Sales presentation for the next day’s executive meeeting?!

I think I’ve just been convinced to have a child!