February 11, 2019
Today would have been the 93rd birthday of Paul Bocuse, named by many as the Chef of the twentieth century, a genius. I am privileged to have the memory of a glorious meal at his restaurant in Lyons so many years ago.
For reasons that escape me, in about 1974 or 1975, I was working on marketing for a haulage company in Bristol, England. One of our major customers was a huge steel company in Lyons. A meeting was arranged for a group of us to travel to Lyons, tour the factory, and, hopefully, to sign a long term haulage contract. I have a very hazy recollection of a huge engineering works, with furnaces and hundreds of workers; and no recall at all of the negotiations for a new contract. But things must have gone well because on the second morning we were driven to Paul Bocuse’s restaurant.
I remember we arrived at about noon. By the time we emerged more than five hours had passed. I have a vision of a grand rustic hall and a central table seating at least twenty-four. I don’t remember any women being in the party, though that may just be a fault of memory. What we ate, and what we drank — vast amounts of both — I cannot possibly recall in detail but there were many courses. Before dessert was served, as I recall, M. Bocuse came to the table and we each solemnly shook hands with him, offering our thanks.
I knew two things by the end of it: I had certainly never eaten so well in my entire life maybe never would again, and, I would always crave creme fraiche.
I haven’t returned to Lyons since then. Paul Bocuse died about a year ago.
February 9, 2019
This morning I watched a so-so game of rugby in which Ireland beat Scotland. Because I wasn’t transfixed by the game on the screen, I managed to finish doing the taxes for the Everloving and me. This is definitely the earliest I have ever got them done.
I have to say that one of the benefits of being old and poor (along with bus passes, free drugs, and grocery deliveries) is the lack of paperwork. None of those complicated deduction and benefit schedules for us, oh no: just the basic form to fill out and enjoyment of the “zero balance payable” before licking the stamp and sending it off.
Now I can sit back and watch Wales rugby destroy Italy without a care in the world. Except … I am delaying having to deal with the major damage to our patio caused by the gale-force winds last night. I have some confidence that Wales will put me in a mood sufficient to face that freezing ordeal.
February 8, 2019
I started my movie going in the 1950s and early 1960s when British screens and stages were newly dominated by socially-realistic kitchen sink dramas and a group of actors and writers who became known as the Angry Young Men. My father loved this stuff and took me to see everything that we could. It was from this early exposure that I first got to see the prodigiously talented Albert Finney in Saturday Night and Sunday Morning.
Like any actor with a long career, there are movies of Finney’s that I don’t care for. But his extraordinary performances in Saturday Night, The Dresser, Miller’s Crossing, Under The Volcano, Erin Brockovich, and Big Fish among others are always worth the time.
He’ll be missed.
February 2, 2019
I had a decent small radio from a very early age and it was a lifeline for me.
In the late 1950s in London, I laid in bed late at night listening to crackling baseball games coming from American Forces Radio, Voice of America broadcasts in “simple English” (or “slow talkers of America” as my Dad and I called them), Radio Moscow propaganda, the glorious voice of Garner Ted Armstrong and his Worldwide Church of God, lots of boxing matches where I had to imagine the impact of the blows, and early rock and roll, Radio Luxemburg. It was wonderful.
When I first came to Canada in the late 1970s, I worked up in Stewart near the Alaska border, and there wasn’t much TV that I recall. But that was when I discovered the wonder of late-evening and early-morning CBC Radio. Allan McFee’s Eclectic Circus (going out to “all those in vacuumland”) was my end-of-day sleeping pill, while a time-shifted Morningside with Don Harron woke me up (I stopped listening once Gzowski took over).
Great days they were.
January 24, 2019
When I was eleven years old I lived in Ruislip Gardens which is a tiny suburb of Ruislip which, in turn, is a small suburb hanging on to the western edge of London. I had a newspaper route which I took care of seven days a week starting at six each morning.
In London in those days we had a dozen or more daily newspapers and each subscriber to our delivery service could receive any permutation of papers. Most houses took two papers, and some many more. Sorting the right papers into the the right order in the right bags was a vital part of each morning’s routine at the shop.
By Christmas 1960, I was one of the senior delivery boys and had thus inherited a long route that covered the main road from Ruislip Gardens to Ruislip and included several side streets along the way. It took almost two hours and I sure earned my breakfast every day. On school days, it was split between two boys.
One of the side streets to which I delivered newspapers every day was Cranley Drive. And at 45 Cranley Drive lived a Canadian couple, Helen and Peter Kroger. I know I delivered papers to them but I don’t recall them at all, not even from the Christmas tip. However, in January 1961, the Krogers were arrested, and I do remember the street being closed off one cold morning by police cars and constables. It was revealed over the next few months that the Krogers were really Russian spies Morris and Lona Cohen, and that their basement on Cranley Drive included a sophisticated radio communications setup with Moscow.
It seemed exciting to a young kid in those dangerous days of Atom spies, the Third Man, Checkpoint Charlie. And I have kept my fascination with moles and sleeper cells ever since.
January 23, 2019
One of our favourite breakfasts is vegetable samosa served with a fried egg on top, along with Thai chili sauce and creme fraiche on the side. For some years, we have bought our samosas from the corner store at Commercial and Venables. Unfortunately, some weeks ago, one of their coolers broke down and they haven’t had samosas for sale. We have felt deprived, especially as they can;t tell us when they will be restocking
Luckily, Chef John of Food Wishes came to our rescue with his new recipe for samosadillas — a tortilla-based alternative with a powerfully flavourful filling. I made several this morning and they were brilliant! I usually only use my own photos for these food posts, but my camera let me down today and so this is from the Food Wishes site.
I thought I would miss the solid crunch of the deep fried samosa batter but, frankly, I enjoyed these even more. Thank goodness I made a bunch!