For a person living on a low income I must confess that I eat out more than my budget allows. I have two problems - I really do not like to eat alone (does that come from growing up in a family of six persons where we almost always ate together?) - nor do I enjoy cooking.
A couple of weeks ago I went to a Food Court which is in a mall beneath a department store. There are at least two dozen eateries there which serve up all sorts of different types of food. One of my favorites is 'Soup-It-Up' where there are ten or so tureens each containing a different soup. Also available is a slice of white or multi-grain buttered bread. I had a bowl of clam chowder along with the buttered chunk of the 'brown' bread.
In the center of the court are a few dozen tables and chairs and - during the noon hour - seats at these tables are hard to come by. Rarely does a person sit alone but shares a table with others who, often, are complete strangers. The other people who were already seated at the table that I chose soon left as did the party who were seated at the next table. They were replaced by a group of men who - by the looks and complexions of each of them - were of different ethnic backgrounds. Also, a fifth member of that group came along later and sat at the table where I was. We passed some amusing comments with each other but did not enter into actual conversations. What intrigued me was the different ethnicities of the food in front of each of us.
Each of them had a different ethnic food in front of him and - by the looks of each of them - not any of the foods consumed was of the ethnicity of the diner. One had souvlaki, another sushi, another spring rolls, and so on.
My mother was a good - but not exceptional - cook. Her background was British while Dad's was French Canadian. Mom had a few of her own recipes and, as time went by, these were added to with recipes from friends. There was the odd dish that Mom served which I did not care for but most of them I really enjoyed. For instance - Mom often cooked a roast of beef or pork on the weekend. The beef was always juicy, well done on the outside and pink in the middle. The pork was well done - as pork should be.
Both of these roasted meats - as did cooked fowl - left a lot of juice in the pan. The juice from roast beef was turned into a wonderful gravy while the juices from the roast pork were left to gel and became a wonderful spread called 'pork dripping' which, when cooled, became a spread to put on a piece of bread with a little salt and pepper on top. Probably these two foodstuffs lead to clogged arteries but they certainly were good!
Later in the week - after the roast beef dinner on the Sunday evening - Mom would cut up the cold beef into cubed chunks, brown them in the skillet and put them in a pot. To that was added sliced carrots which were also browned, browned onion slices, the left over gravy and some water. The pot was left to simmer on the back burner and then served with boiled potatoes for supper. I liked that recipe so much that I made the same dish with the left overs from a roast beef dinner. I have taken that dish to potluck suppers to the appreciative comments of other diners.
When it came to Christmas, Mom always made her own Christmas cakes as well as both shortbread and 'overnight' cookies and they - along with cold turkey and cranberry sauce - were the staples throughout the week between Christmas and New Year.
My partner, Ric Reed, is an exceptional cook and I have enjoyed a number of dinners which he has created. The most memorable of these was a dinner party at his apartment in Oakland, California on New Years Day, 2009. He cooked a leg of ham as his Mom cooks it back in Arkansas and, with that, he served vegetable dishes which are commonly found on tables in that State. There were eight or ten of us at that dinner - it was a buffet - and Ric received a number of compliments. What did I contribute to that dinner? I washed all of the dishes after the guests had left.
There were a number of other enjoyable meals which we shared in Oakland. For a year or two there was a restaurant not far away which was owned by a black man from Louisiana. His kitchen cooked food in a Louisiana style and the dinners were oh so good! I became friends with a black woman who - while she lives in the San Francisco suburb of Richmond - is originally from the mid-west. She recognized the recipes offered in that restaurant and had quite a lengthy and amusing conversation with the owner/chef.
Being a Canadian and growing up in a culture of British food - with a little French/Canadian thrown in - it is wonderful to see all of the people from different ethnic backgrounds who now live here and have the opportunity to taste all of the different ethnic dishes.
A block from where I live is located one of a chain of Vietnamese restaurants called 'Ginger'. They are 'fast food' restaurants and, among the staples served there is 'Pho' (a beef soup served with rice noodles and bean sprouts) as well as spring rolls and a bowl of food stuffs which is a melange of salad, barbecued beef and topped off with the usual spring rolls. A good healthy fast food.
Along the block between here and Ginger is Sushi Club where I often eat. Usually I order the menu item which includes sushi, beef teriyaki and tempura (tempura is deep fried vegetables which have been covered by a batter before being cooked).
Both Ginger and Sushi Club are east of here and there is another ethnic restaurant - the New Yorker which is a Jewish deli - up the block form here towards Bloor Street. More food to die for - and the slices of dill pickle served with the main menu items are absolutely delicious!
I cannot leave this topic with out mentioning souvlaki - a Greek dish consisting of a skewer or two of braised pork which is served with a white yogurt-based sauce.
Now I am hungry so I think that I will close and go to get something to eat.