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Wednesday, 22 June 2011

Another Seasonal Reminder of the Importance of Reading and Remembering

. The  Casual Dining Season - in the Just Outside
   I'd heard about them before and even seen them a few times. The
basic idea is this. For a somewhat modest chunk of money you can get
your hands on a honkin big monster of a full grown tenderloin of beef
and cut the thing up yourself for a considerable savings. Well from my
experience it isn't quite as smooth as you may hope. First of all any
piece of meat that either requires you to keep your spine straight
while bending at the knees and or get a friend to help lift it into
the shopping cart is going to be a bit of a challenge. To deal with
it, all you need is a sharp knife, most of a full day, and a skill set
and knowledge that I didn't possess. I thought that all you had to do
was take the thing out of the package, slice it into steaks and then
spark up the grill. Not so. Apparently this thing has parts that you
can name like head, tail, butt, centre cut and even something called a
chain. I was just looking for twenty pounds of fillet mignon thanks.
The Internet is a wonderful learning tool and after only watching
about twenty Youtube videos on how to handle this thing I was ready to
begin carving. By the way, be careful when googling about a what you
can do with a tender loin. Try to make sure that your search has the
word beef in it.
 A not so quick six hours later I not only had my steaks but a
profound knowledge of why they cost so much at the meat counter. I was
also left with what to do with the less than exciting bits that I had
paid for. Since beef tenderloin is a fairly dry meat I elected to mix
it with some organic pork. Usually you don't find the words organic
and pig in the same sentence but around here if you have the wallet
they can find you the organic oinker.  So the ruminants of the two
beasts were put through the grinder, spiced, mixed, and formed into
patties, then tossed in the freezer.(That last sentence sounds like
something out of a crime novel doesn't it?)
 According to my friend who owns a golf course this has been the
wettest March in 70 years and the wettest April since they have been
keeping records. Yesterday the sun came out and the lid on the barbie
flew open.
  You've got to cook  beef tenderloin just right or it goes from
being mouth watering succulent to a study in subtly spiced shoe
leather. Hence I ripped open my new digital meat thermometer that had
been put in my Christmas stocking and began to speed read the
instructions. Apparently it can give you the time in either 12 or 24
clocks as well as count down and up,and give you the current
temperature of the meat or start beeping when the meat hits a certain
temperature.  Very nice but I  didn't have time for all of this.  I
just wanted to stick the probe in the meat and have done with it.
Scan, scan, put the battery in, scan, scan, okay I got it.
 I slid that metal probe into a selected patty with the skill and
grace of the deftest of colonoscopy practitioners. The little
electronic beauty began to read out the climbing Fahrenheit degrees in
easy to read black block digits. The thermometer hit the magic number
and in only a few milliseconds after my bare hand wrapped around the
metal probe I remembered reading, "Always wear heat resistant gloves
to touch the stainless steep probe sensor." The burgers were done to a
perfect medium while I would have to say my hand ended up more medium
 So you see it's not just the reading that's important but the
remembering too. Something to ponder in this newly minted grilling


A Seasonal Reminder of the Importance of Reading and Remembering


 The Casual Dining Season - in the Great Outdoors

 I don't know when they were first available but I do remember my
first experience with them. To not put too fine a point on it I think
it was in the 70's. A good friend at the time and I decided that we
needed a wilderness experience that didn't involve meeting other
people looking for the same thing. In Ontario, Algonquin Park has been
the international  postcard for all things Canadian Wilderness since
as long as I can remember. The trouble is that in mid season it is as
crowded as the 400 highway that takes you there from Toronto. People
book numbered wilderness campsites as if  they were checking into some
sprawling hotel. The fix to having to share the wild with legions of
others is to be found in the calendar. Any time after Sept 4 when the
kids have gone back to school works like a charm and usually the
longer you wait the better.
 This was the theory in play when Bruce and I loaded my canoe on the
car and headed north in late autumn.  The specific timing may have
involved some sort of long weekend but it more likely was the result
of calling in sick with some sort of important but vague illness that
would certainly take care of itself after four days.
 We had planned well. We had paid a goodly amount for special
topographic maps and special canoe route maps and had studied and
marked them up in detail. We had layers of clothing for every extreme
of temperature. We even took "some" food. The theory here was that the
park was full of lakes teeming with fish that would about jump into
the boat given the slightest excuse. Why bring food to nature's
grocery store?
  What we hadn't planned on was arriving in a storm that had made
Gordon Lightfoot's  remarks about  "When the witch of November comes
early"  all too relevant. The force of the wind drove waves high and
heavy, right over the dock. There was no way that we were even going
to be able to launch let alone survive a trip across a wind whipped
near freezing-cold lake. "Let's go where the wind is blowing!" one of
us shouted in the other's ear. Seemed sensible enough no matter which
one of us had said it. The problem was, of course, that we had no maps
that led in that direction.
 The journey down the deep and starless first lake wasn't all that
bad except for getting soaked by the spray coming off of the top of
the rollers. With the wind pushing us it was just a matter of keeping
an angle that kept the following waves from swamping us as we neared
surfing speeds. The portage was a long one, narrow, and boulder
strewn. No lights, lots of root tangles beneath, and tree branch snags
from above. When we finally came upon the next black water lake we
hastily pitched the tent, tossed our food bags beside a tree, got into
our sleeping bags and opened up a bottle of rum.
 As we were busy drinking and telling each other our life stories in
varying degrees of truth and then telling them again in wildly varying
degrees I couldn't help but notice a oddly inconsistent but intriguing
noise that perhaps didn't fit into anything weather related. The
trouble was that no matter how much these sounds may have been softly
ringing alarm bells in my mind, I was both just too drunk and too full
of my own story telling to bother  getting out of a warm sleeping bag
to face whatever strange creature may be on the other side of the tent
 Sun, cold, and persistent wind greeted our hangovers the next
morning. The strange noises had been a small army of the forest's
lesser creatures who had torn our canvas bags to rags and eaten
everything that was not in a tin. Somewhere I have a picture of this,
torn knapsacks, a bottle of rum with two swigs left in it, a few cans,
and thankfully a roll of dry toilet paper. That was it for supplies.
 Since we didn't have any relevant maps and there was no one around
to ask we paddled across the lake and skirted the shoreline.  We
looked in the water for red marks on shallowly submerged rocks. The
scrape marks from the rented canoes painted red and usually overloaded
pointed the way to the narrow paths through the unending blockade of
trees. We used this method throughout the day and to navigate from
lake to lake, all the while fishing while we paddled and paddling
while we fished.  Not a single bite.
 The next day on one of the lakes we discovered another lone set of
travellers. These ones didn't seem the least bit sleep deprived or
cold or tired or lost. They even had a map. According to them all we
pretty much had to do was follow the setting sun and in a few more
lakes we would be fine.  Well this did put us into a celebratory frame
of mind I can tell you. That night we feasted on our bounty of canned
food. In the flames of a campfire on a chilly clear night we fried up
some sort of almost meat concoction along with some beans. I remember
how wonderful it seemed at the time and later tried to duplicate the
meal at home.  (right into the garbage) The real treat of course was
the dessert. A thick yellowish pudding that could be all mine with the
mere insertion of finger into a metal ring, a pull, and a flick of the
wrist. The anticipation was just too much and I gave over to greed and
haste.. "Ooouch!" "Feck ! " Through the stands of blood and pudding I
could make out," N  as e lech le co ver  e". I wiped it with the
sleeve of my jacket. The shining metal was much clearer in the
firelight now.  I pressed my index finger over my hemorrhaging tongue
and in a very flat tone read out " Ne pas se lecher le couvercle"
Although the translation took a bit to materialize in my brain I have
never forgotten what it meant.
 With camping season coming on it may be worth it for you to remember it too.