The Regina paradox

I’m working in Regina these days. It has been very difficult to find flights and hotels, even booking four weeks ahead. If the downtown hotels are so full, why does downtown look deserted?

I’m working in Regina these days.  It has been very difficult to find flights and hotels, even booking four weeks ahead.  I’ve finally got a OK hotels for the next four weeks except that one I‘ve never heard of and can’t quite remember the name (“Joe’s hotel, stables and barn” – something like that) and is a mile out of town.

So if the downtown hotels are so full, why does downtown look like this at 7:00 p.m. on a Wednesday night?

Regina street
I thread my way through the crowds in Regina

The three restaurants on this street were full but as they were a bit noisy for dining alone and reading, I chose one on the next street:

View from my table at a popular Regina restaurant

Yes, there was another customer whose shoulder you can see behind the pillar.

Jamaican Patty Day

Our “traditional breakfast” is a spicy Jamaican patty.  This is a good source of protein to get you through the morning, is easy to eat while reading the paper or driving to work and tastes good.  It warms you up in the winter, but we eat them year round; Jamaica isn’t known for being cold.

Unfortunately, the nearest West Indian store is 40 minutes drive, so we get them frozen from the supermarket, and the quality has been declining; some had so little filling it was just a smear on the pastry and even that was half gristle.  In some packages, the pastry was also hard.  Finally, way too much salt, like most packaged food.

So how hard could it be to make some?  As it turns out, not much.  A quick google for a recipe, a bit of chopping, mixing, rolling and frying, and they were oven ready:

Jamaican patties raw
Jamaican patties raw

Twenty five minutes later, out they came:

Patties emerge
Patties emerge

Verdict? Even though I have to say so myself, much better than the store version even on my first try, though I can think of several things next time to make them better.  This is what they look like:

Patties finished
Patties finished

The other secret ingredient was that I played reggae while cooking. Mostly old Bob Marley tracks.

Something completely different…

It was -15°C again this morning when I woke up.  Why this squirrel wasn’t back hibernating I don’t know.

Red squirrel on snow

He’s sitting on the official squirrel-and-chipmunk rock on the back deck.  I put it there a year or so ago when I dug it out of the garden, and found that small mammals like to sit on it to eat; perhaps the extra few inches gives them a better view of predators.  So I left it for their convenience.

Making Pho – when does “ethnic” food become just food

I seemed to have turned into a global cook with my “in memory” dishes spanning continents.

Making Phở
Making Phở

I’ve now learned to make a passable phở (Vietnamese noodle soup) without a recipe after doing it enough times.  So I think that makes it officially just “food” without a qualifier.  Although I still have the standard British Worcestershire sauce and HP sauce, I also have fish sauce, soy sauce, tabasco sauce, hoisin sauce and more for those busy days when I don’t have time to make everything from scratch, as well as having vegetables like bok choy along with brussels sprouts in the fridge.

Unfortunately, being a person with limited memory, a few old favourites from where I grew up, like Yorkshire pudding, now require a look-up in (usually) Joy of Cooking, one of my more long-standing kitchen friends.

I often hear about the places in Toronto (about 80km away) where many of the more exotic sauces are made locally but unfortunately our rural stores only carry the imported ones.  Still, I’d rather trade recipes and sauces than weapons.

Something fishy about this sauce

Fish sauce bottle
Fish sauce bottle

I’ve been making phở at home recently (Vietnamese noodle soup for those not familiar with this delicious dish) but the recipe calls for fish sauce, which I didn’t have, so I went and bought a bottle.

I was somewhat intrigued to find that below the picture of crab, shrimp, pomfret and squid was a note saying that it “does not contain crab, shrimp, pomfret, squid”.

I’m looking forward to my next bowl of phở, as, fortunately, I was reassured by another notice on the side that warned me “allergy warning: contains fish”.  Normally, I would have been content to assume that fish sauce did in fact contain fish, but the front label had reduced my confidence.