Wednesday, October 16, 2019

What a Turkey!

Will he fit or do we operate?

For years we enjoyed listening to Stewart Maclean read his story “Dave Cooks the Turkey” every Christmas. It is a hilarious story and if you have not heard it, you need to do so. It is hard to believe that something as simple as cooking a turkey could be so funny. This Thanksgiving I discovered that real life can be almost as entertaining.

We were invited to Aunt Margie's for Thanksgiving dinner this year. Now Margie is not actually our aunt, she is my daughter's husband's aunt, and we had only met her once at our daughter's wedding. The fact that we were invited to her house for Thanksgiving gives you some idea of what this lady is like. It was a bit complicated; we had invited our daughter's in-laws (Aunt Margie's sister) to visit and they arranged to come after Thanksgiving. Since we were in Ontario on a staycation at Ryan's new condo, we were driving home on the Thanksgiving weekend and so the stars aligned and we were included in the family celebration at Aunt Margie's house outside of Fredricton New Brunswick.

I offered to contribute my famous “Double Jack” pie (Jack-O-Lantern & Jack Daniels), and of course we offered to help in any way. Regis had been chatting with the mother-in-law Mary and she told us that Thanksgiving at Aunt Margie's was an event . . . she was an avid gardener and was planning to harvest all her own organic vegetables for the dinner and had actually raised the turkey which was to be the center-piece of the dinner. Regis then told me that I might be called in to help lead the bird to his actual demise. I had visions of axes and bloody tree stumps, but I was prepared to help out if necessary. After all I had no connection with this turkey and had no attachment to him; he was just going to be Thanksgiving dinner. In fact, Aunt Margie's great granddaughter, while giving me a tour of the estate, pointed to the vacated turkey pen and explained, “That is where the turkeys used to live, but now they are dinner.”

Fortunately, when we arrived, the turkey (he had been named Thanksgiving) had already met his demise and was stored in the fridge in the basement. However, the problems with this beast were only beginning. Over a couple of glasses of wine we started discussing how to process this turkey. It was discovered that it weighed 42 pounds and we tried to decided how long it would take to cook. Then someone suggested we should first see if it would even fit in the oven. A tape measure determined that it might fit although someone suggested we could cut him up and cook just the main body and do the wings and drumsticks separately.

Ready to carve
Next question was if there was any pan in the house that could hold a 42 pound turkey. At first nothing close to fitting could be found, and welding up a special pan out of stainless was suggested. Mike (Margie's husband) refused saying he needed that stainless for more important projects. Finally a HUGE rarely used lasagna pan was located and although the turkey hung out on all sides, he did sort of fit.

Then a search on the internet determined that getting a turkey of 42 pounds to “Done” would require at least 10 hours, so dinner at 4:00 pm required someone to get up at 6:00 am to wrangle the thing into the oven. By the time we got up in the morning, “Thanksgiving” was installed in the oven and starting to brown nicely. However, tenting him in tinfoil was a chore and every time he was pulled out of the oven for basting he threatened to break the oven door off.

Ten hours later, “Thanksgiving” was dinner, and he was delicious, although even with ten people eating dinner we only managed to get through one-eighth of the Turkey.
Now that's a drumstick!

Wednesday, October 9, 2019

Underpass Street Art

Corktown Underpass Park

The bigger cities get, the more traffic congestion is created and one of the ways to help this is with expressways to whisk people in and out of the city over top of the stop and go local traffic. When you build expressways they work best without stoplights and intersections, so they have to go over other roads. This creates overpasses, and many of them become unsightly areas that no one likes. They collect garbage and sometimes slightly unsavoury segments of society. We visited an area of Houston Texas that developed a park under their highways, and it was apparently a constant struggle to clear the homeless from these sheltered areas. Toronto has taken a different approach to utilizing highways 'underpasses'.

In a neighbourhood of Toronto called Corktown, two of the cities major expressways converge, creating a tangle of elevated roadways and the related underpasses beneath them. Rather than hiding them away behind fences to keep people away, they invited local street artists to decorate the concrete support columns and created a park there. Some of it is used to provide parking commuters and a skateboard park was build in another area along with a basketball court. Apparently the area is also used once a week for a local farmer's market.

The result is a clean and attractive area used by the local people. Even the garbage cans have been decorated by street artists. We went there on a weekday, so it was not busy, but there were still people there playing basketball, skateboarding and just enjoying the art.

What a great way to utilize a unwanted area of the city!

Mirrors on the roof

Immortalized on Concrete

Even garbage Cans get Painted

Go Fish

Skateboard Park

Thursday, August 22, 2019


Garlic Ready to go

Garlic is a member of the onion family (Which I do not like), but I have come to love garlic and use it in much of my cooking. It is important in Portuguese and Spanish cooking and is essential to good Italian cooking. It is delicious in a simple Italian pasta dish and and becomes a major item in some of my recipes including a “Chicken with 40 cloves of garlic”. My kitchen always has a couple of garlic heads ready to be added to recipes.

I tried to grow my own garlic, but found it was expensive and really not worth the effort, especially since I have found a reliable source of excellent locally grown garlic. My friend Joanie has a niece who grows garlic for sale on her farm in Gore. On a sunny day this week I was invited down to visit the farm and take part in the garlic harvest and tour the farm. The farm has chickens (egg birds and meat birds), Turkeys, pigs and sheep as well as horses, but I was there to see the garlic harvest.

After Joanie's niece Tina gave me an interesting tour of the farm, I was invited to join in with
Just harvested
processing the garlic which was ready to be harvested. Comfortable folding chairs and a picnic table were set up under a large sun shelter, and piles of just pulled garlic were waiting to be sorted, clipped, cleaned and strung in batches of 50 heads. The weather had been dry, so bunches of ripe garlic was simply pulled from the ground and carried to the picnic table. They were then sorted; a new experiment, where the genetics of the crop were being explored and so the number of cloves were sorted, three, four, five or six with the rare two or seven put in separate piles. At planting time they will be planted in separate sections of the garden to see if five clove garlic will produce more five clove heads next year.

I did all these!
I discovered that four clove heads was the “Normal”and these were being processed for sale. The roots were snipped off and the plants were stacked in piles to be cleaned. Coming from the ground the garlic is of course dirty, and people do not like to buy dirty garlic, so you need to strip off a couple of layers of the outer skins. This is done by finding the first green shoot up the stalk and stripping it down. This removes one or two layers of the white papery skin of the garlic, and if done carefully, leaves a lovely clean white head of garlic. I discovered quickly that the process was not hard; peel the green leaf down and pull the attached layers off. Sometimes you have to rub gently to remove some of the dirty outer layers, and usually enough of the papery outer garlic coating remains to protect the head. The now clean white garlic are piled together. The tops are now clipped off leaving a stem of about six inches. These finished heads are then threaded together with a large needle and strung into bunches of 50 heads which are then hung in the barn to dry before being sold to the hungry public for use in their recipes.

I have always just taken delicious garlic for granted, and I have sampled Tina's local product last fall,
The crew hard at work
so I knew how good it was, and this visit to the farm and getting involved with the process have made me more aware of how garlic is grown, harvested and processed. I spent an interesting afternoon helping with this work and after cleaning a couple of hundred (only a guess . . . ) head of garlic I was ready to head home with a little threaded bunch of garlic to be hung in my basement to dry while I waited for my main order of a couple of pounds of fresh Nova Scotia garlic to be ready to enhance my cooking.

A big thank you to Tina and her family for educating me to the world of garlic. One of Tina's chickens came home with me to wait in the freezer for the garlic to be dry and I think I will do another 40 clove chicken.
Drying in the barn

Hard at work

Sunday, August 11, 2019

Cooking with Rita and Anna

Not Aunt Dora's Kitchen

In Italy we arranged to have a cooking class through our excellent tour guide (and TV star, we discovered), Giovanni. If you have been following my posts you will have read about it in “Cooking With Aunt Dora”. We enjoyed this experience so much we decided to try it again here in Portugal. Ben found the Lisbon Cooking Academy online and they booked a class for everyone. It was going to be hard to beat “Cooking with Aunt Dora”, but it still would be an experience to add to our Portuguese adventure with the kids.

Like everything else here in Portugal, we couldn't get there easily and after many twists and turns and up and downs, our UBER driver dropped us off “close” to the location. Sure enough, it was not on a street and we had to go down more stairs to get to the address. once inside the academy, we were presented with a completely different setting than Aunt Dora's little Italian kitchen. This was a modern spacious cooking classroom. We were greeted by one of the bubbly friendly culinary teachers, Rita and she informed us that we were going to be joined by an
Preparing cod fish
additional four other tourists shortly, but not to worry they had a “Never empty glass” rule to wine, so the wait would not be a trial. Settling in with an excellent glass of Portuguese wine we did not have long to wait until our other participants arrived, four school friends from Germany here on a vacation. Not only were these Germans not the reserved stand-offish Germans we were used to from cruising, these four women were outgoing, friendly and educators, so we got along great. In fact we were told that our preconceived opinion of Germans was because they were from the other side of the country – who knew?

After washing up and getting fitted for aprons, we began the class with appetizers. The normal Portuguese cheese, bread and olives were kicked up a notch with chorizo roasted over an alcohol flame in a special roaster. “Alisha do I have room to bring one of these home in your suitcase?”.

We learned to make a green bean tempura, Portuguese “Punched” potatoes and cornbread crusted codfish, with cabbage on the side. As well, we were instructed in the making of the famous Portuguese egg tarts, pastel de nata, although we were warned that if we did a review on Trip Advisor not to mention this because it was not normally part of a class because they had a separate class just on this delicious traditional desert.

We chopped vegetables, crushed garlic, mixed batter, stirred sauce, pulled codfish bones, and generally got involved in all aspects of cooking this meal the Portuguese way. Then when everything was ready we sat down to enjoy the fruits of our labours, a delicious Portuguese meal.

Friday, August 9, 2019

28 Doors

That's us on the Second Floor

We have been staying in four Portuguese cities and have had a apartment in each city. We thought the place in Cascais was pretty good, but it was small and not that well equipped, but had a swimming pool on the thirteenth floor which Regis enjoyed. In Braga we had a really cute little place with the emphasis on little, but it was modern, clean and well supplied. The apartment in Porto was a modern renovated place in an old building overlooking the river with spectacular views. It could only be reached by either descending 135 stairs down or climbing 154 stairs up! It was on three floors connected by a circular staircase, and had a lovely usable veranda looking out on the river.

Then we got to Lisbon. . . . this place is completely different. It is in an old building on the second
One of Twenty Eight Doors
floor (But you go up three flights to get to it because the ground floor is “0”). This place has been renovated but not modernized, so it retains the charm of an old building. There are nine rooms in total, including a kitchen, a formal dining room, living room, two bathrooms and four bedrooms. There are also three hallways connecting all these rooms as well as a large outdoor terrace. There are a total of 28 doors, most of which are old fashioned double doors. There are 10 windows not counting the transom windows over every inside door. The living room alone has six doors as does one bedroom. All of the windows except those in the kitchen are double opening windows with shutters and five along the front are floor to ceiling with balcony railings. Most of the furnishings are antiques and scattered throughout the apartment are all sorts of interesting items. All in all it is quite the place.
A Collection of Antiques

Very Interesting Bed

Dining Room Light

Ceiling Detail

Old Copper Plate/Tray

Portuguese Dishes from Host's Grandmother's Restaurant

Large Wooden Tray Hanging in Kitchen

None of the doors line up anymore

I did not count these as doors . . .

Real Funky Light

Chairs in Dining Room Windows

Dining Room Side Board

Old Brass Lamp in Dining Room

Thursday, August 8, 2019

The Doors Of Portugal


We arrived In Lisbon yesterday, and I spent the afternoon doing wash for everyone while they started to explore the city. This also gave my knees a welcome break from climbing stairs, as I notice that this apartment is on another steep hill and three flights of stairs up. AS a result I do not have anything to post about Lisbon yet, so as usual I have been collecting pictures of interesting doors from Cascais, Braga, and Porto. I notice that I am attracted to the old tired derelict doors, so I have included some attractive doors in the photo post.