Nap Time

My old buddy Don Keballs, from early Transport Canada days, will be pleased to read that a recent report suggests that an afternoon nap is beneficial to your health. This is a follow up to a statement made last week by France’s Minister of Health, Xavier Bertrand. M Bertrand wants to look into the benefits of encouraging napping on the job. I, for one, know that when Don had his afternoon siesta he certainly seemed to have more energy when it came time to put on his coat and boots to go home.

In the Garden of Madame Ha

Keeping up the food theme I’m posting a revised version of a short item from Vietnam with links to a few pictures of the cooking class in Hue. Again just click on the link to see the photos.
It was overcast and drizzly but we spent a great morning at Ting Gia Vien attending a cooking class with one of Vietnam’s national treasures – the delightful Madame Ha. Her restaurant has been on the must-visit list for tourists to Hue for 30 years. Her style of cooking is a trifle elaborate for the home cook – unless you happen to have six assistants hanging around to carve carrot flowers and taro root phoenix heads – but great fun to at least try.

Laurent and I were the only two in the class held on the bonsai and orchid crowded terrace of her restaurant/home. The surrounding garden has the appearance of having just grown naturally – trees, flowers, statues and rockeries thrown together with no plan – so unlike the elaborate food we were to prepare.

Madame Ha is one of nature’s teachers – her own joy in cooking, even after all these years, is contagious. We laughed at our mistakes, basked in her compliments on our omelet techniques and created some fun dishes. The Peacock and the Pineapple Lantern were not all that difficult but still labour intensive.

However the Dance of the Phoenix – our centre piece – was an elaborate dish that we laboured over for almost 3 hours. It took an hour alone to make the thin duck egg omelets – 30 in all. Next they had to be stuff, rolled and steam – another hour; then cut, assembled and fussed over. Though the final result was gorgeous to see and tasted great I won’t be serving it at any dinner parties in the near future.

However for anyone who has an extra six hours to spend in the kitchen, I’ll be more than happy to send you the recipes. But you’ll have to pay for your own kitchen helpers.

And that dragon in the picture at the left? It’s a a simple carrot and coleslaw side salad! Of course!

Odds and Sods

In a time when government funding is being slashed and charitable donations are down its nice to see that the Breast Cancer Society can pick and choose who it will accept money from: Exotic dancers’ ‘stigma’ too much for charity.
But apparently they will take corporate donations from companies that employ child labour in third world countries. No stigma there.

And it appears the Government does have a place in the bedrooms of some people in the nation: Refugee claimant ‘not gay enough’.
Just when Health Canada is discouraging indiscriminate sex because of AIDS the Refugee board is denying someone’s claim because he wasn’t screwing his brains out on a road trip from Central America to Toronto? I don’t even want to imagine what sort of proof Deborah Lamont was looking for – maybe something on PornTube?

There’s a programmer out there who is either unemployed or has too much time on his hands. Enter your birth date here and you can find out all sorts of stuff that you can bore your friends to distraction with. I, for example, was born 21,977 days ago in the Pharonic month Menchir in the season of Poret. OK!

If You Knew Sushi, Like I Know Sushi

I know! I know! I should have resisted but I just couldn’t.

Continuing with the food theme, I was sent this by my friend Michael as part of an e-mail exchange about going out for dinner. It took 5 e-mails to settle things – next time I think I’ll just call him.

So far this week we’ve uncovered the truth about General Tsu Chicken, now sushi – what’s next? Mayebe we’ll find out what was really in that Shepherd’s Pie your mother use to make!

General Who? No, General Tzo!

Anyone who has spent anytime there can tell you that you won’t find Chop Suey or Chow Mein on a Chop Suey - Edward Hoppermenu in China. Nowhere in any of the many ethnic cuisines will you find either of these purportedly Chinese dishes. Apparently it was the Chinese cooks on the U.S. transcontinental railways who dreamt them up using some basic Chinese cooking techniques – stir frying – with what they had at hand. Surprisingly Canadian-Chinese chow mein differs from the American-Chinese variety and in Canada we have three different styles depending on where you are in the country. Who would have thought?

Now according to an article in this weekend’s New York Times magazine General Tzo Chicken is also a culinary myth. What we in North America consider the ultimate in Hunan cookery doesn’t fit into that Province’s traditional palate of flavor combinations. They have thoughtfully included a recipe for a version that has the hot-sour mixture that is more truly Hunanese. I may try it for a dinner next week. I’ll let you know how it turned out.