Thursday, September 30, 2010

Thanksgiving and the rise and fall of home cooking

My childhood memories of thanksgiving were always about the turkey that my mother would smother in butter and roast slowly in the oven. It was always glorious and served with mashed potatoes and sweet potatoes. We even had cranberries. I never liked cranberries but I knew it was part of the dinner. In those days, sweet potatoes were only available around Thanksgiving. I looked forward to our Thanksgiving dinners and remember being driven almost mad by the tantalizing smell of the roasting bird when I lived at home.

In fact as a child, our food menu did not have the choice we have now. I can stroll into my supermarket and choose over 100 kinds of mustards. As a child there was French's mustard. I can have suishi, mexican, thai. When I was a child, tacos were considered a very exotic treat and not always available. In fact my culinary experiences were very limited!

It started with breakfast,for years I was served creme of wheat. It was white and there were invariably large chewy lumps on my plate. It was lukewarm and pretty horrible. I preferred red river cereal. The choices were creme of wheat, and red river cereal. Today, there are entire sections of our supermarket devoted to this genre of hot cereal. There are dozens of choices!

Eventually my father decided that cold cereal was easier and we had puffed wheat. If there was ever a boring cereal it was puffed wheat. A bag that was 3 feet long weighed a few ounces. It looked like pussy willows dumped in honey. It immediately turned to mush when you poured milk on it.

My mother always packed my lunch for school. I had deviled eggs everyday and it took me years to learn that deviled eggs are an appetizer and not a staple. My soup was invariably Campbell's creme of mushroom and I was convinced that mushrooms were tiny square little brown sponges. The little sponges would float in a sea of salty grey gelatinous material that formed the bulk of this soup. My lunch would be topped off with a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. The jam or jelly would always run over the sides and my sandwich would be a soggy mess.

For years my mother cooked dinners with various degrees of protest. Dinners were usually beef or steak of some kind, with the occasional pork chop. I don't recall eating fish. My father was always keen on innovation and gadgets and was the first to introduce us to Swanson's TV dinners. These marvels, came on a sheet of tinfoil with little sections for each food. The salisbury steak had its own section and the dry, tasteless selection was smothered in dark brown gravy. Next to it, was a section called mashed potatoes. The potatoes were smooth and covered with a stiff yellow oily film, presumably to mimic butter. There were a few peas and carrots and a desert of some sort, smothered in a jam like sauce. My father thought they were wonderful, they were fast and they were balanced they had desert. Gradually we saw less of his corned beef hash and our freezer filled with these processed horrors.

As I matured and left home, I came to realize that cooking on my own from 'scratch' gives much better and healthier results and my husband is also of that opinion. We never have puffed wheat, we have never had a TV dinner and certainly no can of Campbell's soup has ever darkened the walls of our pantry!

I have experimented with being a vegetarian and for the past few years eat locally and as much as possible organically. I try not to eat processed food of any sort. I buy Thai food and the occassional suishi dish. I make my own soups and my mushroom soup has large chunks of actual mushroom that swim in the savory broth that I prepare for my soups. I don't eat creme of wheat...ever, and my oatmeal is not chunky.

And yet, as we approach Thanksgiving, I find myself looking forward to a roasted turkey with sweet potatoes and mashed potatoes. My culinary experiences have come full circle!

biking jackets and rain SOLVED

For anyone who cycles, there is a perennial problem with bike jackets and in particular rain jackets. If you wear a jacket and exert any effort you get wet on the inside. Wet and therefore cold!

If you don't wear protection, you get wet on the outside which will soak through. Wet=cold.

I have tried gortex, rubber, aquatech, vapour tec, soft shells and nylon shells of all sorts. I have had expensive rain jackets with sealed seams for commuters, waxed cotton cycling capes from the UK, Gortex jackets, jackets with zip off sleeves and ventilation,jackets with illuminite and even jackets with lights. I have also used very cheap ultra thin and lightweight jackets. After 3 years of research, I now have solved the problem!

The answer is a wool sweater. Wool is able to regulate your temperature far better than any artificial fabric. Polartec is windproof but will trap any moisture next to your skin, keeping you wet, nylon of any sort does much the same thing. I found the best way to stay dry and warm is to have a baselayer (I use Marks Work Wear house dry tech) followed by a wool sweater. If it does rain, you can put any kind of cheap nylon jacket on top and the moisture will be wicked by the wool away from your skin.

I went on a 65k ride yesterday. I had a baselayer and a wool jersey and was fine, whereas others complained of cold and wind, my combination worked perfectly.

So don't spend money on costly bike jackets. They are not worth it! Go to value village and invest in a few wool sweaters instead!

Friday, September 17, 2010

Sunday, September 12, 2010

The way all bike tours should be

This weekend I had the great pleasure of participating in the Ottawa Bicycling Clubs Summer End Century Tour. What a fantastic tour, from start to finish this was a tour worth doing.

The route is gorgeous. We cycled through small communities and splendid countryside en route to Cornwall. We passed sun dappled fields, herds of grazing cattle, horses and in one case a deer. The roads are quiet and the temperature not too hot.

We began at Kelseys which I can walk to. I decided to go with touring 2 and 130km. When you are riding with a group, it is better to go one up from where you can ride solo. In my case, I should have gone touring three. My group was wonderful. There was a former director Tom, John Reilly, Geotz, Gilles, Fletcher and a few others whose name escapes me. Riding in a double peleton as we do, enables wonderful conversations and the time flies.

A few hundred yards out of Kelseys John Reilly had a flat. I tried to help but had one tire iron and his tires appeared glued on. The others were ahead waiting but clearly puzzled. I walked up and explained we needed help. Tom and the others came back and John was set to rights as the group gave John a tire changing lesson.

Our first lunch stop on Saturday was in the Finch arena. We were served toasted bagels and given a banana and juice by an enthusiastic little girl and her grandmother. The little girl has a smile for everyone and seemed dismayed if someone did not want the banana!

This was my first exposure to NavCan. We approached the training site which is along the seaway. What a fantastic place. Our group arrived at 1pm and this gave us plenty of time to find our rooms, check out what is available. We met at outside patio and shared beers and stories. The weather was perfect, the scenery splendid, the site luxurious.

My room had a nice bed, desk, dresser and bathroom as well as a TV. The on site pub named the Jet set had a celtic motif, lots of beers and Karaoke.

Dinner was served near the dining hall. We had large round tables, with white linen tablecloths overlooking another garden and outside patio. Our dinner consisted of salad, roasted potatoes, lasagna, angel hair pasta, roast beef and stewed zucchini in a light garlic and butter sauce. For desert there was apple pie, blueberry pie, lemon meringue pie and assorted smaller treats.

We were served in elegance and our group congratulated each other on a great ride. At this point, I started asking people "why is this tour not more popular". I got various answers but none really satisfied me. Some felt $170.00 was too much. Well for great accommodation, great meals and a great weekend tour, I disagree.

After dinner I decided to check out the famous pool. What a pool. It is 25 meters long, with a working slide, lots of underwater sponge weights and after a swim of 5 lengths (Yes the lifeguard was laughing), I used the whirlpool hot tub. There is nothing like that after a ride. After the whirlpool...what else but the sauna!

There was also a fully gym with weights but by this time, 800pm it was time for Karaoke. I sang Titanic and a few more songs, had a drink and went to bed.

Breakfast was at 630 and the serving lady filled my plate with scrambled eggs, waffles and bacon. I topped it off with coffee and yogurt and was set to ride all day!

We left at 745 (this morning!) and rode at a minimum of 30km/hr. I had heard about the famous carrot cake with creme cheese icing at the OBC picnic in Russell and darned if I was going to miss that! We arrived at lunch at 1030, so it is brunch.

Unfortunately as we entered Russell there was a stop sign in town and gravel. I was leading but bikes were everywhere. I hesitated and fell, cutting my knee. Gilles came to the rescue (he is a ski patroller) and using my first aid kit restored me.

When we arrived at the marquee for the OBC lunch in a picnic ground we were greeted with cold cuts, cheeses, bread, lettuce, tomatoes, salads, juices and drinks of all kinds and....two huge dishes of homemade carrot cake. I had a

We arrived back at Kelsey's shortly before 1pm where I had a drink and spoke about the future of this wonderful tour.

As a first timer for this tour, I was very impressed! The food quality was very good. The picnic was wonderful, the carrot cake outstanding. The people I rode with were kind, helpful, lots of fun and were wonderful to ride with and socialize with.

Anyone who has not done this tour before is truly missing a great time.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Packing for Bike Trips

After years of canoe camping and a fair amount of travel, I consider myself to be a good packer. I don't pack radios, or heavy books or anything that I will not use, I don't pack clothing for all occasions and yet invariably, my bag on any overnight bike trip is much bigger than anyone else's bag and at least twice as heavy! What is the reason for this?

I consider the following items essential

a) Good first aid kid
b) Bike repair kit, tools, inner tube and pump
c) A journal
e) sweater for cooler weather and a rain jacket
d) Comfortable shoes and change of clothing

On my last seven day bike tour I brought camping equipment in one bag and clothing etc in another. The clothing bag had wheels or I doubt if I could have lifted it. The camping gear was bulky and awkward but not that heavy.

How can cycling clothing made of lycra, nylon and spandex be so heavy? On the Bon Ton trip I even packed a polartec rather than my standard wool sweaters. Still, the bag was a challenge for me to lift!

I am left therefore with the following conclusions:

1) I need to vacuum pack my bags to give the appearance of a smaller compass and do more weight lifting
2) Other people bring one set of clothing and wash it each night in a sink, hoping it will dry
3) Other people rely on the shampoos and soaps available on site (school washrooms)
4) Other people have faith that it will never get cold and never rain, hence no sweaters or rain gear
5) Other people believe their bikes will never break down, hence no repair kit

If all else fails, I will bring my usual large and heavy bag but put a fake name on it and quietly collect it when no one is looking!

Karine's Blog

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