Sunday, October 29, 2006

arctic standard time

You see, better October weather is one of the reasons why I want to move to French Polynesia. I took this photo early this morning with my Olympus SP-310. Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. (2006). If you're not doing anything later, you're all invited over to my igloo for marshmallows and hot chocolate!

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

mon champs des rêves

Later tonight, the Detroit Tigers are taking on the St. Louis Cardinals in Game 3 of the World Series. Unless you're actually from St. Louis, I assume you're cheering for Detroit because, well, you should be: up until this year, Detroit was so bad for so long, it would be wrong for you to root for anyone but the Tigers, those lovable losers. But I'll have to admit watching the Tigers in the playoffs this fall is making me nostalgic for my all-time favourite, lovable loser of a ball team ... the Montreal Expos.

Florida Marlins pitcher Ismail Valdez delivers to the plate against the Montreal Expos' left fielder, Termel Sledge, in the first inning of the second last Expos game - ever - at Olympic Stadium in Montreal, Quebec, on September 28, 2004. I can't take credit for this terrific photo; it was taken by my buddy Glenn. Note the sparse crowd which, in the end, was what would ultimately doom the hard-luck franchise's stay in Montreal.

Actually, the Expos weren't so much losers as they were poor. Years of apathetic ownership, bad television contracts and a widening fiscal imbalance between small and big market major league teams meant the Expos could no longer compete financially and keep its own players. And, man, over the years, there were some pretty good ball players. Like Cy Young Award winner Pedro Martinez ... league MVPs Vladimir Guerrero and Larry Walker ... perennial All-Stars Moises Alou and John Wetteland ... and Gold Glovers Marquis Grissom and Orlando Cabrera ... just to name a few.

Regrettably, as their favourite players kept leaving town, most fans in Montreal simply stopped caring and quit showing up for home games at Olympic Stadium. Finally, in 2004, the team packed it in and moved to DC, becoming the Washington Nationals. But right up until the end, I remained a die-hard Montreal Expos fan.

For the last few weeks, I've been trying to write some kind of meaningful post on baseball and Montreal but, so far, nothing has sounded right. Maybe there are just too many angles for me to condense into one coherent post. Angles such as ... Jackie Robinson's minor league stint for the Montreal Royals in 1946, a year before making history with the Brookyln Dodgers as the first black player in the major leagues; the important symbolism provided by the Expos for a coming-of-age Montreal during the late 1960's, and the place the team had in Quebec history; the 1994 Montreal Expos, by far the best team in major league baseball that year and the odds-on favourite to win the World Series, only to have its dream season wiped out by a players' strike and; personally, for me, the fact that the only French I can still understand are baseball terms, from years of growing up and watching the Expos on Radio-Canada, Canada's French, public television station.

Maybe on another night, I'll tackle some of these angles in more detail. But for now, I'm just left thinking about what might have been. It makes me a little bit sad that I'll never be able to see the Expos play in a World Series, but there are still a lot of good memories nonetheless. And, I suppose, tonight, that's something to be thankful for.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

sockeyed ... oishii!

Every year, at around this time, schools upon schools of Sockeye salmon return from the sea to spawn in the freshwater, Pacific Northwest streams and rivers of their fishy, fishy youth. With predators at every turn, this dangerous migration provides testament to the awesome power of pure animal instinct and is truly one of the most miraculous sights in nature. Yes, Virginia, this is the dream stuff of Animal Planet and the Discovery Channel. But you know what?

Straight from the dingobear kitchen: Smoked Sockeye Oshi-zushi (on the left) and Smoked Sockeye, Persimmons, & Cucumber Nori-maki (on the right) are a feast for the senses.

I don't care! My interest in Sockeye salmon only goes as far as eating Sockeye salmon, whether it's raw, cooked, steamed, grilled, broiled, baked, breaded, buttered, poached, roasted, filleted, steaked, fresh, canned, cured, marinated, or ... especially, if it's smoked. And if my Sockeye is smoked and served as sushi, well, then that's just solid gold, baby, solid gold.

If you're a longtime reader of starfish and waffles, right about now you may feel another one of our dingobear kitchen recipe posts coming on. Well, if that's the case, I'm sorry - you're wrong, kid. I actually have two recipes ... there's my (1) Smoked Sockeye Oshi-zushi and (2) Smoked Sockeye, Persimmons, & Cucumber Nori-maki.

They take a bit of effort and patience to make but give them a try: the Sockeye-lover in you won't regret it.

Smoked Sockeye Oshi-zushi
100 grams smoked Sockeye salmon
1 cup Japanese short-grain rice
1-1/2 cups water
3 tablespoons rice vinegar
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt

Prep your rice first by washing it. I usually measure mine into a strainer, and then run it under cold water for a minute or two. If you have an electric rice cooker (like I do), transfer your rice to the cooker, add the water, and cook according to the manufacturer's instructions. If you need to cook your rice on top of the stove, transfer the rice to a pot, add the water, bring to a boil for about 5 minutes, lower the heat, then simmer for another 10 minutes.

Whichever method you use, once your rice is cooked, remove it from the heat and let it sit, still covered, for 10 to 15 minutes so the rice can absorb any excess water.

While you wait, prepare your rice vinegar mixture. You'll need this to make your rice sticky, so it'll stay together better when you try to eat your sushi. In a small bowl, whisk together the rice vinegar, sugar and salt. Stop whisking when no sugar or salt granules remain. And that's about it for this step.

Transfer the cooked rice to a large, shallow dish or container and, as evenly as possible, slowly pour in the rice vinegar mixture. Next, use a wooden spoon to further blend in the rice vinegar mixture into the rice. Let the rice cool to about room temperature before making the sushi.

Next, transfer the rice using a wooden spoon, plastic spatula, or your hands, into a rectangular mold - for this, I simply use a 4.5" x 9" x 2" tupperware container. Make sure the rice is pressed firmly and evenly into the mold. Next, layer on your smoked Sockeye on top of the rice. Using your hands, press down on the Sockeye to meld it into the rice.

Using a sharp knife, cut the sushi into 1.5 inch squares. Carefully remove and arrange on a plate. Garnish with lemon and serve with wasabi, pickled ginger, and soy sauce. Eat!

Smoked Sockeye, Persimmons, & Cucumber Nori-maki
100 grams smoked Sockeye salmon
1 medium-sized Fuyu persimmons
1 cucumber, unpeeled
3 sheets nori seaweed
1 cup Japanese short-grain rice
1-1/2 cups water
3 tablespoons rice vinegar
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt

First step: prepare your cucumber. Note you'll only end up using maybe a quarter of the cucumber, the rest you can reserve for something else like a salad. Cut the cucumber into quarters, then cut out all of the seeds. With what's left, cut lengthwise into 1/2-inch, matchstick-type strips. You'll need 3 strips, each with at least one side of green skin on them. Set aside.

Next, prepare your Fuyu persimmons. Can't find persimmons? Then use mangoes or peaches. Really, any sweet, fleshy, orange-toned fruit will do. Slice into 1/4-inch, matchstick-type strips. Set aside.

Prep your rice in the same manner as in the Smoked Sockeye Oshi-zushi recipe above. Put a sushi-rolling mat on a flat work surface, then place one nori seaweed sheet on top. Take about a third of your rice and dump it onto the center of your seaweed. Using your hands or a wooden spoon, spread the rice evenly all over, leaving about a 1/2-inch margin on the far-side.

Next, arrange one cucumber strip across the rice, in the middle. Then, line up some persimmons strips in a single line, right below the cucumber. Finally, take a third of your smoked Sockeye and place it on top of the cucumber and persimmons.

Pick up the sushi-rolling mat from the near-side and roll it to meet the far-side such that the rice stays inside the seaweed. Lift the top edge of the mat. Press and snugly roll the seaweed cylinder you've created just a little bit. The adjoined part should be underneath; it'll stick together nicely due to the moisture from the rice. (If it doesn't stick together well, then dip your index finger in some water and add a little moisture manually).

Remove the cylinder from the mat and, with the adjoined part down, place on a cutting board. Using a sharp knife, cut into 6 pieces. Repeat the above steps with your remaining 2 sheets of nori seaweed.

Arrange your rolls on a nice plate, garnish with baby basil, and serve with wasabi, pickled ginger and soy sauce. Enjoy!

Looking for other dingobear kitchen recipes? Look on the left side of the main page of starfish and waffles for more original food ideas.

Oh no! starfish and waffles' famous editor - a Sockeye salmon-loving Canadian Brown bear - spots and threatens to usurp the sushi I made myself for dinner.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

chasing after october

Happiness is my two-year old nephew running through leaves of chokecherry and ash on an unseasonably warm, October evening. Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada. (2006). My dad, who's still a better photographer now than I'll ever be, is responsible for taking this gorgeous photo.

I turned around only to be transported to some kind of distant, alternate bizarro-world, where everything was exactly the same except on one account: in this new world, they measured time in metric. In every minute, there were 100 seconds. In every hour, there were 100 minutes. In every day, there were 10 hours. In every week, there were 10 days. In every month, there were 10 weeks. And in every year, there were 10 months. And so it was ... and, I was, too, and life continued on just like it would have, had I remained in the world from which I just came.

As luck would have it, it just happened to be the tenth month of the year and, therefore, October. And, as fate would have it, I was among old friends again, a veritable metric decade after the fact. To be precise, there were three of them - and, clockwise from my right, the initials of their first names spelled "ask," though their significance to me had never really been in question.

And so it was.

Over dinner at a trendy, downtown restaurant, we caught up on jokes and stories, wives and girlfriends, work and school, past and future. I was secretly proud of my boys but I never did tell them as much ... because, after all, it was never my way to say aloud what I felt should have already been known.

After dinner, it was on to the high school reunion at a sports bar bordering the edge of the warehouse district. I'd like to say that I'm able to give you a full ten-spot of tales amazing, scandalous, and hilarious but, in honesty, I can't. Everything was just so damn pleasant ... even if it was so in a dreamy, surrealistic sense. It seemed that mostly everyone who came was doing well, and genuinely appreciative of the others who made the effort to show. Maybe, this was a story in itself. Maybe, ten years from now, the story will be different.

And so it was.

In a blink of an eye, I was back in the world in which I was familiar, the one where the measurement of time wasn't dictated by the orderly, efficient ethic of metric, but rather in a disorganized, unstructured tapestry.

Tonight, as I reflect on the past unstructured time period of vivid colours, pretty faces, bittersweet glimpses, and faraway places, I come to the realization that, after all the years, I'm still chasing after October ... and I no longer know how to feel about it.

Meanwhile, outside, October waits.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

my simulated reality tv life: episode sixteen

All of those long summer nights of yearning are finally over because, as of right now, you're only seconds away from the highly-anticipated season première of the most beloved simulated reality series in all the land, My Simulated Reality TV Life! Miss the last episode? Click here. New to the series? Refer to the links on the left side of this page to catch-up on all of the old episodes, or just click here to start at the very beginning. Ok, enough talk ... because tonight's episode begins ... now!

"My charm and good looks paid for this pool ... and my talent filled it with water!" simulated Felix proudly explains to his friend, simulated Penny, who apparently has absolutely no respect for the newly-planted poppies in simulated Felix's flower bed. Meanwhile, on the right, simulated Felix's wife, Bridgette, is getting along just swimmingly.

Episode Sixteen
After a long, summer layoff, the simulated me has been forced to start thinking about getting back into the routine of daily working life. But really, this isn't much fun. And besides, what person would want summer to end? Not the simulated me. And not wife Bridgette.

So in defiance of the upcoming winter, the simulated me and Bridgette do the only logical thing: we shell out the big dollars to install a swank, heated swimming pool in our backyard ... to extend the feeling of summer indefinitely! The possibilities are endless: Bridgette in skimpy-clad bikinis, belly-flops off the diving board, Bridgette in a bikini, pool parties with all of our friends invited, and Bridgette looking hot in a bikini! Oh baby!

Now, a regular viewer of My Simulated Reality TV Life may wonder where the financially-challenged simulated me came up with the cash to buy a swimming pool. I'm not sure, but I think the answer may have something to do with drugs. Oh well, at least the drug money was for a good cause ... I mean, it's a pool, people!

And so the story goes. Make sure you tune in to the next episode of My Simulated Reality TV Life for the continuing saga of simulated Felix!

Romantic pillow-talk between simulated Felix and Bridgette. "The first time I looked deep into your beautiful green eyes, I knew it was meant to be and I had no choice but to turn my back on sumo forever."

Simulated Felix teaches daughter Felicia a few first words. But instead of trying to get her to say old standard stuff like "Daddy" or "Mommy"... or even "cookie," simulated Felix apparently opts for something a little more difficult: "Felicia, can you say 'Fisher-Price Deluxe Baby High Chair Supreme 3000?'"

Two simulated blogworlds collide: simulated Penny, on the left, introduces herself to the mysterious (and hot!) simulated -c on the right. We don't know what to say other than the fact that this groundbreaking tête-à-tête can only lead to moments of hilarious proportions in the future.

Simulated -c daydreams of ... Felicia's teddy bear? Wait, what's the connection here? Stay tuned to future episodes of My Simulated Reality TV Life and find out! (And check out that toilet on her front lawn!)

The fun never stops with Felicia's teddy bear. Here, he tells simulated Felix: "I was at the eye doctor's the other day, and the optometrist guy tells me to read the second row of letters. And I'm like, 'what letters?' So he laughs at me - the arrogant bastard. He laughs at me! Obviously, I don't like his attitude, so I dropkick him right between the eyes. As he clutches his face and falls to the floor writhing in pain, I think to myself: now, THAT's funny. Bwahahahahaha!"