Thursday, February 6, 2014

My Oral Fixation

Honestly, I really don't feel like writing today, but the whole point to building a habit is doing it even when you're trying to find excuses not to.  Besides, it's good for me.

So I was thinking today, an awful lot of my life revolves around food.

That's true of a lot of people, so it's not like it makes me some sort of amazing person, or History's Greatest Monster (tm) or anything.  It's just something I've noticed in my case.  I've always loved to cook, and I've always loved to eat, and generally food and drink are happy things in my life.  I've been fortunate not to have a lot of unhealthiness tied up in eating, where eating itself is a difficult thing or emotionally tied to difficult things.  

What got me thinking along these lines was the fact that I had a job interview today.  Which, in itself, has nothing at all to do with food.  In fact, it wasn't even an interview for a specific job, but for a temporary placement agency.  See, since I've come to terms with the fact that I'll never be an animator, I need to fall back on the field that I have the most experience with.  Clerical and data entry in my case.

Fact is, I don't really mind doing that sort of work.  In fact, stright-up typing is pretty relaxing for me and when you get into pretty abstract stuff like lists of addresses or whatever, my mind is freed to chew on whatever it feels like.  So it's not really a hardship, it's more just a bit of a disappointment that I turned out not to be suited for the career I'd hoped for.

Maybe it would have been different if I'd gone for CG animation instead of traditional.  I'll never know.

In any case, that's got very little to do with the whole food issue.  The relevant part wasn't that I had an interview, but where.  You see, where I live is a bit of a distance from the downtown.  Owing to how Ottawa is laid out, if you don't want to live somewhere more or less affordable but don't want to go all the way down to the student housing level, you've really got to get out of the heart of the city.  It's not that hard for me to get into those areas though, given that one of the main bus routes goes two blocks from my house, but since I'm not working presently I try to keep those trips to a minimum.  Besides, it's freakin' FREEZING out there!

So a good excuse for a trip downtown like this interview is also a good excuse to go to the Byward Market.  And for me, at least, going to the Market area means one thing: Food!

The Byward Market, for those who don't know, is an area separate from the downtown that's largely a boutique shopping district.  There are a number of bars and restaurants, some fashionable clothing shops nearby, upscale decorating, even the School Of Art is in there.  And a French bookstore that carries a bewildering variety of bande dessinee volumes (I can never remember where to put the accent on that word).  It's quite a nice place to spend an afternoon, and there are a good variety of diversions aside from the culinary sort.

It's the culinary sort that attracts me though, every time.

So today, once the interview was over, started out with sushi.  There's a mid-range sushi shop attached to a nice fish restaurant that I like for lunch fare.  Not too expensive, but well put together and with a pleasant atmosphere.  The quality is rather nice too.  I recognize that sushi isn't to everyone's tastes, but I've been fond of it ever since my first samples back in Halifax.

Sushi is a slow meal, I find.  Not to make, there's usually not much of a wait when you order it in a restaurant.  But it's not a food that really lends itself to rushing when you eat it.  For me, there's an imperative that I take my time, to appreciate the various textures and flavours of each morsel, to savour the sips of genmachai in between bites, and to carefully choose what my next piece will be.  That's one reason I like rolls better than molded sushi, there's more opportunity for variety from one bite to the next.

It strikes me that dim sum is very much the same way, although it has a much different character.  It's also something I haven't done since I moved to Ottawa, must remedy that someday.

In any case, after that it's time to visit my favourite Hungarian deli, which as luck would have it is right next door.  I love these European places, with their weird juxtaposition of meat and candy, both in large quantities.  It's always struck me as surreal the volume of sweets that pop up in a deli or a cheese shop or whatever, facing off against an equal mass of smoked meats and the occasional perogie.  It's like a dietary gang war is going to break out the moment I leave, they're just waiting for a sign of weakness in each other.

My mainstays there are hot Hungarian sausage, which is my substitute for the link pepperoni which is oddly impossible to find in Ottawa, perogies of course (not the kind with sauerkraut in them though) and Inka, which is a coffee substitute that doesn't really taste like coffee and makes a nice late evening drink while reading.  Sometimes I get German smoked sausages there, and they have a nice kielbasa.  But it's mostly the smoked meat and perogies.

After that, a trip to my favourite tea store, aptly names The Tea Store.  There's something that's always grabbed me about the place that places like Teavana (or whatever it's calling itself this week) and David's Teas just can't match.  No, this place doesn't have the modern lines or faux fanciness of other places. It's just a nice, bright little shop that has an entire wall of giant mason jars full of every type of tea you can imagine.  And unlike a certain tea store, they don't lace their stuff with German sugar.  It's all tea, all the time.

I've managed to discover a few mainstays in the time I've been going there:

  • Star of India, a blend of several black teas
  • Roasted almond, with black tea again and sweet as caramel
  • Lapsang, a smoked tea
  • Green tea with jasmine flowers
  • Oolong
  • Milk oolong
  • Genmachai, green tea with roasted brown rice
  • Georgia peach rooibos
  • Ginger lime, a herbal concoction of about a hundred different things, but it tastes amazing.

I also have a couple of herbal chais and I bought this lovely Turkish apple tisane today that's just the greatest thing to drink while writing.

There are other regular food-related haunts I missed today as well.  An international cheese shop that for some reason also has a lot of chocolate-making supplies but also carries this fantastic 5-year-old gouda that's to die for.  The meat shop that carries a tantalizing selection of fresh sausage made of things like duck and deer and buffalo and boar as well as a variety of other lovely meaty treats.  The Italian grocery who carries such a huge selection of stock it's hard to navigate the aisles, but a huge number of people do every day because they're just. That. Good.  

And that's not mentioning that about 2/3 of the year when it's not forbiddingly cold, a good part of the front bit of the Market is home to a literal market, with farm stalls selling everything from fresh produce to maple syrup products, plus another brace of stalls selling crafts, jewellery, henna designs and flowers.  Even on days when I'm not buying, it's great fun to look around and just soak up the ambiance.  

Other girls might shop for jewellery given a free day and some mad  money.  Some shop for clothes.  Others might clear out their local bookstore.  There are even some who might haunt the game shops to see if they can round out their collection of GBA carts.

Me, I'm all about the edibles. And drinkables.  

It's trips like this that really underline how much time when I'm not on a special trip that I spend wandering around recipe sites or simply thinking of what to cook, or wondering what I hadn't made in a while that I might want to revisit, or whether that thing I made last week couldn't stand a tweak or two, or how I could make something that I (or my roommate) don't like some of the ingredients more palatable.  It might not be glamorous, but to me it's pretty fun.

And speaking of pretty fun, I've been typing now for the best part of an hour.  Not bad when you consider that this whole thing started out with me not being in the mood at all for writing, don't you think?

No comments: