Articles By Gord
As I see it... A Taste of Adventure

December 2010 issue of Vibrant Magazine, view the actual article (including images).

As I see it... A Taste of Adventure

Sounds like good solid advice. My brother Michael and sister Joanne and myself frequently had this phrase shoved down our throats by our Mum, ‘The Old Doll', at dinner time. Unfortunately ‘ The Old Doll' applied this phrase to everything, including brussel sprouts.

Brussel sprouts: there is nothing anyone can do to these mini-cabbages to make them fit for human consumption. I've tried them with gobs of butter, loads of salt and even doused the nasty little beggars in a vat of vinegar. Whether they're overcooked or undercooked they are just not edible.

Am I being too hard on this little green sprout? No. If they were deemed to be any good wouldn't they have appeared on the table in at least one painting of The Last Supper?

I am game to try most things. But perhaps without that nagging spur from ‘The Old Doll', I would have deprived myself of some amazing dining experiences. Everywhere Cath and I have traveled, food has played a major role.

Recently in Singapore, Cath and I had whirled about the city, discovering its Chinatown district, its Arab quarter and a section called Little India. Our choices for dinner were overwhelming. With so much variety we could not make up our minds. In the end it was our hotel staff that nudged us in the direction of Muthu's Curry in Little India.

Where the cabbie dropped us off there were a string of Indian restaurants. They all had their menus posted out front and they all had a smiling staffer posted out front working over the passersby. (I hate those smiling creeps, their schpeils always the same.) “Come. Come in please. What do you like? We have everything.” I always feel like we're being suckered into some crappy tourist joint.

After fifteen minutes of strolling the strip, we decided on Muthu's Curry. That was very typical of us, wander about, humming and hawing, consult the zodiac and then go back to the first place.

I ordered the house special, fish head curry.

A whole honking fish head laid out on a generous bed of basmati rice and swimming in a spicy hot curry sauce. The smell was fantastic and I couldn't wait to dig in, but how did I eat a fish head? It wasn't like eating a hamburger. I couldn't really pick it up and just start gnawing away at its nose or cheeks. And I knew a knife and fork weren't going to cut it.

Our waiter perceived my dilemma and rose to my rescue. He patiently dissected the head, drawing out each delectable morsel. Chunk after chunk of fish appeared on my plate and under his watchful care I devoured that entire head. I was sweating, but savoured every mouthful, tasting beyond the heat to discover the subtlest hints of spices. And thankfully, I had an icy cold King Fisher beer to help wash it all down.

Satisfied, I sat back.

“Well, what did you think?” asked Catherine. “Would you order it again?”

“Are you nuts? No, never. . . . I mean who in their right mind would want to eat an entire fish head?”

At that moment our waiter reappeared, the fish head bones, jaws, skull were strewn across my plate when he asked, “Sir, you've left the eyes. Don't you want them?”

Don't say you don't like something without trying it first.

Well at least as a blind person I hadn't suffered through the entire meal with the thing gawking at me with those big sad old fish eyes.

The eyeball had a hard, almost plastic-like exterior and cracking through it the interior was just a pulpy mush with no taste at all. At best it was disappointing. In fact, I'd say it bordered on disgusting. I was relieved that I still had some curry sauce and rice left to mix in with the eyeball, but I declined the second one, not wanting to appear greedy and thinking I might donate it to the food bank or perhaps the eye bank.

In Hong Kong, food once more took centre stage, sparking a familiar disagreement between Cath and I. It began just as I was pulling open the door to an Irish pub.

(It doesn't matter where in this wonderful world we've traveled we have always found an Irish pub, in Munich, Paris, Thailand. . . . Although, I don't think we've ever discovered one in Scotland.)

The door was partway open, my foot on the first step and I could almost taste that first lovely pint of Guinness, when Catherine said, “Wait! We're in Hong Kong. We should try for something more local. Traditional Chinese food.”

I swore under my breath because I know how the rest of this ‘something more local' would play out. We began to wander up and down the narrow side streets, stopping at every little restaurant. Lots and lots of local cuisine, but we had no idea what they were offering. Maybe we're just not that adventuresome, but I also know that if we had braved to go inside and ordered, most likely what ever appeared on Catherine's plate would very likely have found its way to mine.

I learned that lesson a few years ago in Montreal when Cath ordered seafood linguini in this posh Italian restaurant. She envisioned a plate of shrimp and crab and a lovely piece of sole. She got a shrimp and some sort of mystery fish, but also got a generous serving of muscles, oysters and squid. These last three items Catherine can barely stand to look at far less eat. And so as not to offend the chef, my dish of veal was suddenly buried under a mountain of muscles, oysters and squid. I was determined not to let that happen in Hong Kong and so on a bustling sidewalk, both of us way past hungry and teetering on the brink of irritable, our conversation exploded, ” Well then, Gord, don't just get angry. Tell me where do you want to eat?”

“EAT! I wanted to eat way, way back there at that Irish pub. You remember it don't you, Cath? My hand was on the door handle when somebody chirped, ‘Wait!'”

The pint hit the spot, the fries were home cut, hot and spicy, my entire body relaxed in comfort and familiarity of that Irish pub.

The following day we did try an authentic Chinese meal. I was not sure if it was a soup or a stew that I'd ordered , but it was loaded with vegetables and bits of pork. Our waitress placed the enormous, steaming bowl before me and put down my chop sticks.

I immediately discovered that three things were required to use chopsticks successfully: confidence, dexterity and... eyesight! My manipulation of the chopsticks sadly revealed I had none of those three gifts. I maneuvered them like I was exercising some sort of wrestling hold. I tried spearing, stabbing, poking and twisting the wretched sticks in the food, but got nothing for my efforts. I was so frustrated, I even tried rubbing the two sticks together, praying for either a genie to appear or a fire to start, something, anything to get me out of that mess. That was when the waitress brought over a big, old fashioned spoon. And with that, calm returned. I knew which end of the utensil to grip and more importantly, I got food into my mouth.

And now I can proudly say I have tried fish head curry and I have tried eyeball and have tried chopsticks and I don't like any of them.

And I still don't like brussel sprouts.

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