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And Now For Something Deliciously Different…

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You gotta eat… right?

OK, well, other than Karen Carpenter… What? Too soon?!

Food for me is like the rest of my existence… it’s an ADHD kind of thing…

I detest mealtime rehashes (at least in the short term).

Every meal, every night… better be something very different from last night or the night before or the …

And something else… you could be forgiven for thinking that as a former lab guy, I would be extremely precise and scientific in my cooking adventures.

That I’d follow recipes to the T like some Julia Child or Child of Julia… BUT, sadly… you would be wrong.

Perhaps I was born to be a lab researcher because I’m constantly tinkering with food preparations… add some turmeric here… more tomato paste there… definitely another teaspoon (although WHO uses an actual teaspoon?) of cinnamon…. less cumin today but let’s throw in some fenugreek leaves.

………….

A man who measures life, never knows his own measure”… from Today’s Special (movie)

………….

And of course the magic ingredient to any dish – savoury or sweet – is a smidgen of sugar.

There’s still more lucky magic for this spoiled late-model westerner…

… beyond my early-life acquaintance with WASPy European cuisinery styles, I’ve been exposed to a hodgepodge of ethnic approaches to cooking through neighbours, friends and relatives…

… but also from various journeys afar to play in the kitchens of cooks from San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua to Havana, Cuba, from Marrakesh, Morocco to Udaipur, India, from Cusco, Peru to Xian, China.

Guinea pig (cuy) in Cusco, Peru
Curry preps in Udaipur, India
Chicken Tajine making in Marrakesh, Morocco

But this COVID era has metaphorically abducted the frying pan from my hands, so I thought I’d review and reflect on some of my favourite “victuals” movies … food flix are a socially acceptable form of sensual porn, don’t you think?

Just this morning, after deciding to write about this topic, I shockingly realized that I’ve missed out on a cornucopia of delectable comestible cinema… why have I missed so many of these yummy selections?

Sure, I’ve absorbed Ratatouille, Fried Green Tomatoes, Chocolat, The Hundred Foot Journey, Julie and Julia… plus most of TV’s Anthony Bourdain, Stanley Tucci in Italy, and The Great British/Canadian Baking Shows… sorry Gordon Ramsay… your food porn is too much like a sexual assault to make it onto my food-lovin’ playlist.

Today, for fun, I thought I’d list a mere few of the movies for you to consider watching that different sites and reviewers think are the Best of the Best, Most Delicious of the Delectables, Chewiest of the Chows.… with a helpful international cuisine guidepost so you can pick your favourite dish from a country of your choosing.

So, here goes… some wonderful calorie-free cinematic morsels for you to chew on and digest:

FRENCH

Babette’s Feast

Julie and Julia

Chocolat

Burnt

Ratatouille

ITALIAN

Big Night

Dinner Rush

MEXICAN

Like Water For Chocolate

Tortilla Soup

CHINESE

Eat Drink Man Woman

BBQ

Fried Green Tomatoes

Uncorked

INDIAN

The Lunchbox

The Hundred Foot Journey (French/Indian)

Maacher Jhol

Nina’s Heavenly Delights

Today’s Special

KOREAN

Always Be My Maybe

Antique

CUBAN

Chef

JAPANESE

Tampopo

The Ramen Girl

Sweet Bean

GERMAN

Mostly Martha

• And finally… to finish off this culinary erotic expedition… a movie about PIE!!

WAITRESS… who could go wrong while sampling these classics… MARSHMELLOW MERMAID PIE, FALLING IN LOVE CHOCOLATE MOUSSE PIE, NAUGHTY PUMPKIN PIE, OLD JOE’S HORNY PIE

… try feasting your palate on some of these cooking movies… a lusty love story in every bite.

The Torture of Your Choices

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We’re a mystery to ourselves…

🎶nu nu nu nu🎶… your next stop is…

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What cup of coffee or tea do you prefer?

Starbucks?… Tim Hortons?… Costa Coffee’s?… your own?…

Decaf? Oat milk? Hazelnut shot? Cold Brew? Green or black tea?

Frappuccino? Acai? Hibiscus? Mocha? Guava? Passion fruit?

OMG, caffeine-waterboarding… it’s torture! Choices and more choices… everyone’s different, yes?

And still more choices… when you read my posts.

I understand that you reading this is a privilege for me because you have the choice.

That you vote to take a few minutes away from 100 other things you could do or read or watch is humbling. It’s the nature of our 21st century multi-choice universe that the option to flip past me is the easiest thing ever.

What makes me so special to deserve your eyeballs? I’m not John Krasinski handsome or Malcolm Gladwell insightful.

After 9 years of writing these weekly missives, I know that readers come and readers go, and a brave (or foolish!!) small number of you have stayed with me from Day One… I thank you.

But honestly, as much as I appreciate you, I don’t write for you as my #1 motivation. I’ll tell you what is in a minute…

This is fortunate because I don’t earn a living – hell, even a pittance… sniff… not even a penny – from my weekly word count.

Of course I peruse the number of views I have on my posts each week and from which country you originate (that’s it… I don’t get your name or city, just your country)…

…the social part of me, like Sally Field (YOU love me!), loves the recognition that you read my words, or make a comment, or click a LIKE.

But I don’t obsess over or tailor my words to suit any individual or group.

Now I do sometimes read my posts as if I’m “possessed” by one of you (will I channel YOU this week?). I put myself in your shoes and try to interpret what I’m saying through YOUR filter (or what I perceive as your filter).

I like to present and challenge ideas without offending – there’s space for us all.

I accept that each of us sees the world in a slightly different way. However, I will choose reason and scientific fact over rumour or rhetoric where facts exist.

Emotion and opinion have their place too, but they should be secondary to fact. The internet has hugely challenged our ability to think rationally with roiling oceans of pseudo-truths (alternative facts).

Back to me navel-gazing…

Motivation #1 for this blog?

My thinking and personal understanding happens when I write… I access ME when I put words to paper, or screen, or song.

Really… I’m ultra-clumsy in interpersonal verbal interactions… I fumble and stumble and say inappropriate things that I would never do or say if I had a minute or an hour to think and reflect. Fortunately this “woke” dude has learned to NEVER ask a woman when she is “due”.

I also try NOT to be inspired by the misogynistic male judge (John Michael Higgins) from the movie Pitch Perfect commenting on the female singers: This does not look like the fresh-faced nubile Bellas that we have come to know. Is it me, or are those skirts just not working anymore?

I know many others who can think faster than a blink of the eye, who explore their inner thoughts and opinions while speaking… their brain functions best through the spoken word. I am in awe of the fast thinkers of the world.

I’m a slow thinker. Whatever “intelligence” I possess happens while I write… I find my insights and perceptions while writing my blog posts, and in my personal e-mails, and in my songwriting.

I’m constantly shovelling/writing to delve further inside myself looking for understanding – of myself and of the world around me. In that moment I’m Stephen King with magic powers.

This intelligence typically takes me 500 or 1,000 words to surface… anything less and my head is spinning like I just got off a fast Merry-Go-Round ie. no substance or understanding…

A miniskirt-short blog post is like a Twitter post…

Jerry Seinfeld says: “Twitter is good. Why say a lot to a few people when you can say virtually nothing to everyone?”

… but more than 1,000 words in my post and it’s just VD (verbal diarrhea). Maybe that’s one thing I learned from Hemingway’s brevity.

Back to Seinfeld… he’s my philosopher of the week… for some obvious reasons I can’t use Bill Gates for awhile now.

Seinfeld observes that people who are comedians work at understanding themselves, while actors observe people in order to play different characters.

I would add to this that poets and songwriters also look inside for understanding of themselves and the cosmos. Do you see yourself in any of these roles?

So, this week’s “Larry Wisdom”?

If, at some time, you feel introspective, “choose” a cup of your favourite espresso or oolong and think about your best route to “finding” the you that lies deep beneath the surface. It might be your best Twilight Zone experience ever.

One last Seinfeldian observation of this crazy world to ponder:

If aliens are watching us through telescopes, they’re going to think the dogs are the leaders of the planet. If you see two life forms, one of them’s making a poop, the other one’s carrying it for him, who would you assume is in charge?”

How An Atheist Gets To Heaven…

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Rejoice… Heaven exists!

I’ll bet you didn’t expect that from me, right?

Yes, there is a heaven, a place where we’d like to exist eternally … for the believers – the Christians, Muslims, Jews, Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists et al… AND even us atheists too!

…….

(WIKIPEDIA: “Heaven is often described as a “highest place”, the holiest place, a Paradise, in contrast to hell or the Underworld or the “low places” and universally or conditionally accessible by earthly beings according to various standards of divinity, goodness, piety, faith, or other virtues or right beliefs or simply divine will. Some believe in the possibility of a heaven on Earth in a world to come.”)

…….

You likely have your own vision of heaven, and I hope you are, or will, get there… in my head and heart, spring is unassailably a synonym for what I conceive as heaven.

Spring – a spiritual moment, a world, I never want to leave.

Spring – my forever place.

Spring must have fine things
To wear like other springs.
Of silken green the grass must be
Embroidered. One and two and three.
Then every crocus must be made
So subtly as to seem afraid
Of lifting colour from the ground;
And after crocuses the round
Heads of tulips, and all the fair
Intricate garb that Spring will wear.
(Hazel Hall)

If a year taken by season was a musical LP record, then these past two weeks have been nature’s most beautiful love song with frills and beauty akin to what Antonio Vivaldi bowed his violin to centuries ago in his Four Seasons.

To saunter down my rural Okanagan road in the early evening sunshine with its long shadows brings a clear understanding of fierce hunger in a fine Italian cook’s kitchen…

… to be assailed by May’s potpourri of delectable scents… first the lilacs, next the lily-of-the-valley, finally the sweet mixture of blushing apple and plum blossoms.

Flickers and robins, red-winged blackbirds, white-crowned sparrows and goldfinches, provide the musical choir… spring’s Hallelujah Chorus.

A blind person need never see a bird in flight, nor bloom in their lifetime, to revel in the symphonic and aromatic air.

My wife Maureen’s childhood home surrounded by multi-toned lilacs

But the moment passes far too quickly…

Like Jim Croce, I want to save Time in a Bottle.

Stop the clocks.

If there is a perfection in time and place, a memory emblazoned like a first kiss, this is it.

Do I sound like I have Seasonal Twitterpation Disorder? (STD?... hmmmm… maybe a more suitable acronym exists for this!).

Of course I do.

It’s as sensual as any carnal activity (although the trees and flowers are putting on their “clothes”, rather than shedding them).

Annually, as winter grows long-in-the-tooth here in the Great White North, I find myself craving in the early evening’s darkness … I eagerly anticipate the arrival of warmer temperatures, longer languid days, profuse blooms, new avian visitors.

Then one day it emerges… I close my eyes and drink it in greedily, soak in the warmth, absorb the energy that abounds in the air and in the ground…

… and then, eventually, I breathe out as swirling white blizzards of blossom petals drift and sail – like a pillow fight unleashed in the air – and the moment all too quickly subsides, the winds grow still and the ecstasy begins a slow “return to earth”…

…….

Inelegantly, and without my consent, time passed.” (Miranda July)

…….

Akin to reincarnation or re-birth, I get to live in my paradise for a few weeks once every spin of earth’s cosmic calendar, a tempting and luscious amuse bouche that leaves me just a wee touch short of sated and always looking forward to its reappearance, like a dream… of heaven.

McIntosh apple blossoms in a neighbour’s orchard

YOU’RE A UFO – The Song

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In the distance, they hear ruinous bombs detonating near the house they fled only an hour earlier.

Fear and worry overwhelm their hearts and heads.

The ground they walk over is rough and difficult to manage when carrying a one and a 3 year-old… but happily the Jordanian border is just another kilometre or two over the next hill.

Flash floods of humanity rush and surge and overflow upon us… still.

Syria, Central America, Venezuela, South Sudan, Myanmar, Somalia… the list goes on…

Conflict and climate and economic refugees of different stripes and colours and ethnicities continue to pour across borders and oceans like sand slipping between our toes on a warm southern beach.

For many or most of us, this is a distant reality… we see it on TV and read about it in our internet news feeds, but we rarely really touch it with our own eyes and fingers.

For 3 and a half years now, I’ve been getting together once or twice weekly to work on English studies with a man whose life and whose family’s lives have been torn apart for no reason of their making.

He’s a Syrian refugee – one of 5.6 million of his countrymen since 2012 – who was “fortunate” enough not to be one of the hundreds of thousands killed by their own government with Russian complicity.

His parents and siblings have fled their generational homes and are spread far apart in Syria, Jordan, Canada, Denmark, and Britain.

He and I have become good friends, and I’ve gained a tremendous amount of understanding and compassion for the plight of refugees because of our time spent together.

We’ve shared birthday celebrations, and the joy of an additional two births within their family since arriving in Canada.

All of the children speak fluent English (in addition to Arabic) and are now Canadian citizens, while Mom and Dad study in preparation for their citizenship tests which will come up soon.

He didn’t know one word of English when he landed at Pearson Airport in Toronto – but he absorbed “thank you” quickly.

One thing he has since learned – NO, not from me – is the “F” word.

He grins and laughs about it because he knows it wields great power in the English language, although he’s not quite sure why… I haven’t explained that one well to him so far, but I advise him to keep it inside his head (or at least to voice it ONLY in our sessions)!

Today, after 5+ years in their adopted country of Canada, they continue to struggle daily with the sea change that befell them. The confusing blend of cultural and religious differences are akin to mixing oil and water for them.

They are like UFO’s coming to a planet

they have never seen before.

They try. They grapple with totally foreign ideas and social norms, strange foods and ways that people dress. They appreciatively wonder at the acceptance they encounter, and fret about the dark, overt racism that also comes their way.

While appreciating the freedom and safety to raise their children in peace, they can’t help but miss their old lives tremendously.

Canada (government, private sector, and individuals) has done an admirable job of keeping them aloft with financial support for their home, healthcare, educational opportunities, children’s activities… not perfect, but … I am proud of this country that brought them to safety and is able to share its wealth in ensuring they are reasonably comfortable.

For my own small part, I help them over the many hurdles of Western life and government bureaucracies, yet I often feel impotent and powerless to “make things right” for them, even when I know there is much I just cannot do.

Which all brings me to….

… a blog post I wrote on October 19, 2019.

I wrote and posted these song lyrics about this family’s journey to where they are now.

Today, I’m sharing this song with music attached… I’ve removed two of the verses because it was becoming too long (BIG size is a favourite trait of mine that I’m trying to kick (at least in music)).

Finally, in case you’re interested in the anatomy of a song’s production, here are a couple of things to digest.

I’ve added in an underlying deep cello “drone” to hint at slow plodding (like refugees walking) and suggest drama.

And in the chorus, I’m doing a vocal harmony that is a I-VII interval that gives the music a more unsettled or uncomfortable feel that hopefully matches the lyrics. This is instead of the more typically melodic I-III or I-V harmony that we usually expect. Bonus points if you notice.

YOU’RE A UFO

by Larry Green

Schoolyard dust a daily friend
farm that held no borders
The air was calm and warm
your brothers’ calls familiar
then a new day broke hell
with clouds that lit a storm

You packed a bag and wandered far
along quiet lines with others
left your home where soldiers warred
where bombs and bullets threatened
bully tyrant who ripped your life
your tears he never cared for

CHORUS

You’re a UFO that landed
in this universe apart
in hibernation from your nation
soul burned from your heart
and a home that’s just a house

….

Years slid by in sun-baked camp
your eyes so shy, smile drained and dry
yet morning breaks another day
phone call beckoned with your chance
one week later you climbed the steps
to a westward craft of hope

Aliens greeted you with smiles and promise
strange words that made no sense
trembling smiles over months and years
memories crushed under winter’s ice
through long night’s darkness cloak your kids
they never saw your tears

BRIDGE:

How long will this prison hold you?
when will the air smell sweet again?
and carefree gossip with your neighbour
turns your hair to grey

You feel the stares, the daily threat
stories ripped from the news
wander streets with kids in tow
schoolbooks under arms
others spy your covered head and shake
about the dangers you impose

CHORUS

You’re a UFO that landed
in this universe apart
in hibernation from your nation
soul burned across a border
and a home that’s just a… house

As Different as Poutine and Apple Pie

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Guest Post by Jim Ferguson, Oregon, USA

Welcome to something new and something different… a guest post…

Jim Ferguson is a Baby-Boomer-Physician-Assistant-Canuck who lives in Yamhill, Oregon with his wife Deborah, a Physiotherapist. He is also the part-time co-founder/tender of the “Sheltering Branch Farm”, and a huge Montréal Canadiens booster.

Jim is a long-time friend of mine from our 1970’s days working in the Arctic at Stanton Yellowknife Hospital, and is a frequent commentor and supporter of my blog with many insightful, positive, and compassionate thoughts on the state of our world.

OK, I’ll let Jim speak for himself…

Larry Green here back for another blog installment…Heh…wait a second…you are not Larry Green! What are you doing high-jacking Larry’s blog?

Is this some weird episode of the Twilight Zone?

Well not exactly…Larry asked me to contribute a guest blog about some differences/similarities between living in Canada vs the U.S. and I offered to step up to the “blog plate” and give him a wee mental rest.

Larry told me to keep my verbal diarrhea in check and keep it under 1,000 words so here goes.

Have you ever wondered just how different Canadians and Americans are?

I have and not just a passing thought either.

I am a Canadian who has lived in “the states” for the better part of 40 years and happily I might add (inserted in case my American trophy wife Deborah happens to read this) and I have had a front row seat in observing differences and similarities between us.

I take great pride when, even to this day, the majority of people I encounter recognize me as Canadian by my accent and the familiar “oot and aboot” and “eh” and other language nuances that are unique to us Canadians.

My Canadian pride runs deep even after four decades away from “home”.

While I am a Naturalized citizen of the U.S., I am Canadian right down to my bleu, blanc, et rouge Montreal Canadiens hockey sweater and my current Canadian passport. You can take the Canadian “oot” of Canada, but you cannot take the Canada “oot” of the Canadian.


I am here to tell you that Canadians and Americans are different in many ways.

We Canadians are NOT simply a kinder and more respectful version of our American neighbors! Us Canadians have our own unique “culture” which runs deep in us.

You might be asking “what culture is he referring to?” Though we live on the same continent separated by an imaginary border running along the 49th parallel, there is much more than that which distinguishes us from Americans. Here are a few examples.


The most glaring difference that struck me upon my arrival in the summer of 1980 is this feeling that Americans are “#1”!

Many Americans (not all) see themselves as better than everyone else and when one listens to the political posturing here during election years, it is obvious that this image of “America is best” is a major platform issue of every candidate.

I mean, which politician is going to have “Don’t Make America Great” as their campaign slogan? That will be the death knell of any campaign in a nation where people see themselves as better than everyone else in the world.

I quickly realized that if America was #1 then other peoples and nations are 2nd, 3rd, 4th, and the list goes on. This feeling of national superiority struck a nerve with me. I observed the divisions so prevalent in American society (social status, class, race, gender, religious, etc) as people came here from every nation in search of the “American Dream”.

The feeling was palpable that no matter where you came from or how long you lived here, if your family didn’t come over on the Mayflower then you are “not as American” as those that did, this despite the requirement to renounce allegiance to your former country when becoming naturalized (I refused to utter those words during my ceremony).

Coming from Canada where we are proud of our nationality and have a culture of being friendly with and open-hearted to all nations and peoples, I was a bit taken aback by this brash exclusivist nationalism.


The political systems of each country and the story of how they got to this point in history are different.

I was aware of this since childhood growing up in Nova Scotia and studying about our neighbors to the south.

We have a parliamentary form of government with a Prime Minister fashioned after Britain’s government, while the U.S. broke away from Britain through a bloody revolutionary war and established a constitutional federalist republican form of government with a President. Canada has a 3-party system while the U.S. has a 2-party system.

One other interesting observation – I remember learning a lot about U.S. history in school.

When I arrived in the U.S., I felt I was well-educated about the U.S. and could hold my own in any Trivial Pursuit game where questions about the U.S. were posed – politics, sports, geography, history- no problem! I am a wealth of knowledge on things American (thanks Ms. Callahan for the excellent history classes).

This was not the case with my American friends and their knowledge of Canada. Most knew little about Canadian history and our way of life.


I cannot tell you the number of times I have heard the phrase “as American as baseball and apple pie”. Baseball is considered the great American pastime with stories of “the Babe” and “Say Hey Willie Mays”, etc known to many.

Well, that saying does not cut it in Canada…more like “as Canadian as hockey and poutine”. Most here in the states have no clue about the “Stratford Streak”, “Chicoutimi Cucumber”, the “Rocket”, etc (or poutine for that matter).

While baseball is part of American culture, hockey is a MAJOR part of Canadian culture (it has now spread to the states but is well down the list in importance and fan interest after baseball, football, basketball, NASCAR, tiddlywinks, and lawn bowling).

We are not baseball ignoramuses in Canada thanks to the Expos and Blue Jays, but hockey and Canada are synonymous.


Well…there you have it! Some observations about Canadian and American life from a Canuck who fell in love with a Yankee and ended up south of the border. Let’s hear your observations in the comment section. AND Larry…under 1,000 words too! Boooyyyaaahhhh!

Jim and Deborah Ferguson