F 1 D 0 -- 2002 01 27 at 14 00

Food experiences.

Over the last week, food has played a 
major part of my life.

I met with Jeff for lunch at Mandarin
near where I live. The next day I met
my brothers and parents for lunch at
Mandarin Eglinton for lunch. Last night
I had late night dinner with Nathan at
Kom Jug Yuen.

For those of you not in Ontario, Mandarin
is not only a Chinese food buffet, and is
not only of high quality, but seems to be
a chain which only has locations in Ontario.

They tend to be large. Lots of food, but
more to the point, many places for customers!

The Don Valley Parkway is the south extension
of Woodbine Avenue in Markham. This is about
half a mile from Victoria Park.  About a mile
north of Steeles Avenue (that is the boundary
for Toronto) is where the Mandarin is close
to me. 

Jeff and I went hunting for another place, 
called Town and Country buffet. They used 
to be on the corner of Woodbine and Steeles.
I'm SURE of it. But we drove and drove, looking
as we went. We didn't find it.

Jeff would have preferred it - he's not a
huge fan of Chinese food (he eats it!, but 
would rather have other things).

I like Mandarin for all of the meaty things
it has. I started by visiting the barbecue.
Steaks, chicken sticks, and other BBQ things.
They don't do them with sauce, but have a
half dozen there for you to help yourself to.
I like how they make them- just plain, as they
are. After I've had my meat fix, I relax. I'm
not in a hurry to have anything to eat any more.

Jeff and I talked about shared customers, and
current customers, and the problems. He's been
doing far too many courtesy web customers! Now
we all have a reason now and then to do work at
a discount, or even for free, but for some reason
he's been taken advantage of. 

A lawyer we've both done work for has decided
to not pay me, and was really rude to Jeff. 
Actually, the lawyer's husband. He is the
quintessential power user. Someone who adjusts
his computer quickly and fatally. And often.

Now people can do this, and call their trusty
techguy over. But they shouldn't try to blame
shift. We all have our strengths. Jeff and I
are good at rescuing a sick windows computer,
without actually erasing everything and starting
from the beginning.  But when something goes wrong,
and it is clearly because of hostile applications,
just make a fresh appointment. Don't try to suggest
we didn't fix it right the first time.

So Jeff won't go back there.

Me? they keep promising that they'll pay me! That
they should pay me.  I'm straight up, "So do it.
Please do it. I need the funds."  More promises.
"Just send it to the address on the bill." Oh, money
is tight today. "Tomorrow is good." It has been
bad all week. "End of the week is good. Just do 

Well, imagine this being drawn out over months,
and the story remaining the same. I just decided
to stop returning their calls. I'd get all sorts
of pleading, with wonderment about what happened
to me. Where are you!?  Please call back and discuss
payment. (I decide with this message that it is
just a bad debt. Pay it and I'll phone you).

I do a lot of work for another legal firm. When
Jeff used to call there, he'd have to bother them
to pay bills. So do I, but when I do, they just send
the money. They'd waste his time, and so he maxxed out
the way I did (above).

On the way to the buffet, we managed getting
some smiles from drivers. Jeff has an interesting
latex mask on the headrest of the passenger's 
side.  Now, if nobody is there, it looks
like there *is* somebody there. Only on closer
inspection is the somebody a MONSTER.  But it
is very strange when I'm seated there. Now it
looks like the monster is breathing right down
my neck, and looks strangely real. People do
double takes, and then laugh.  This is very
good. I love it.

It is too bad we couldn't find a local Town
and Country, or anything other than Mandarin.
As good as it is, I knew I'd be doing that 
again with my family soon enough. 

I've been trying to do the family get together
thing for ages. I'm not sure what kept me from
trying until now, but it was moving away that
motivated me to do something promptly.

I asked my folks to pick me up, as that would
save lots of time. One of the hardest things
for me is to actually escape. I've given this
much thought.

Something about having to leave makes me effective
at whatever I was working at prior. In a way, that
sucks, as the hour just before departure is my 
most productive one. If being productive is 
important, as it often is, than I will try to 
squeeze in just a bit more work before I go. This
invariably makes me a bit late. 

All of that changes when someone comes over to 
take me away. I may still be involved in something
when they show up, but I'll leave within five
minutes, not two hours. 

I called Ari to confirm, or he called me. I figured 
if we met for 1pm or 130, then he'd have his
morning to get the financial work done. Well, when
we talked and he wanted a noon lunch, so he'd have
a morning to work, and an afternoon as well. Fine.

I called Nathan as soon as I knew what we were
doing. And that didn't change the time for when
the folks would get me. So far so good.

I chose the Mandarin at Eglinton Subway station.
That would be close to downtown, and right
on Yonge Street. Central to east west, and 
central to north south too.

This Mandarin was also a big place. And it also
had a barbecue. And everything.

Nathan liked it more than he figured originally.
If we were talking about something and he wanted
to escape the chat, it was perfectly good manners
to just stand up and head for the servery. Or the
bathroom, or anywhere. It made it possible to have
anyone's ear for a moment in private, or just get

He complained that the food didn't agree with him.
Too bad, he's been having a lot of trouble with
food and digestion. He's become sensitive to anything
of medium to low quality.

But we were talking about how low the quality must
be. We often leave food on the stove over night. No
problem. We have leftovers in the fridge and freezer.
No problem.  

So why is it that when I eat at Pizza Pizza, or he
eats at almost any burgery, he gets low grade illness?
We were guessing that they use non-food preservatives,
such as Sodium Benzoate. Now this stuff is a Benzene,
right? It is not good for bacteria, but perhaps it
isn't good for anything with living tissues. We talked
about how hard it is to get sick on stuff we have 
prepared on our own, and how easy it is to suffer on
fast food.

My guess is how almost all foods are cultures. 

For example, we could make a puree called Babaganouj
with eggplant. I don't get sick on mine, and Nathan
doesn't get sick on his. He goes to a middle eastern
restaurant of good repute, and the stuff tastes wrong,
and he's not well for two days following. Why? I'm 
thinking that they make perhaps 20 servings, and sell
only 10 of them. Before the store closes, they will
make 10 more servings, and combine them in the container.
The next day maybe they'll sell 15 servings, and 
make up that amount to replenish, mixing once again.
I'm wondering if the Baba stuff is just a culture 
medium, with some of it perhaps months old?

Sourdough starter is made that way, but that is
part of the deal. And I know some people who really
hate it just for that reason.

I won't purchase from bulk food stores where
I can see them filling up bins which are partially
sold. Same thing. Ever eaten a pistachio, which
tastes ten years old? Well, it could be. It might
be right beside a fresh one too. But as long as
they just keep filling bins and mixing old with
new, this can and will happen.

Ari has always watched his weight, and been
active. When he was young, he used to coach
diving. Now he doesn't get as much regular
activity, so he is careful not to get more than
a taste of things. He is careful in particular
with dietary fats. So he really doesn't care
for the buffet experience at all.

I remember visiting his home. He was showing how
effective titanium cookware was.  It made good
stuff, but didn't require fat, and wasn't as bad
for you as teflon and other plastic coatings.

I remember how people who keep birdies aren't
supposed to use teflon products. At high temperatures,
it melts a bit, and releases a toxic gas which 
has a lot of active fluorine compounds. It has
no smell, no taste, no colour. While it is very
bad for people, it makes exotic birds stop breathing 
and die suddenly. This is awful. It doesn't happen
every time, but whenever it does, everyone in the
pet community reminds themselves of how bad it is
to use plastic coated frypans. 

Titanium uses a different principle. Teflon works
by creating surface tension for water and oil so
that nothing sticks to it. Titanium is so nonporous
that when heated to frying temperature, foods cannot
touch the surface. 

Ari liked it because he could enjoy the same
things he did before, but no longer were they
fried in oils. 

Mom and Dad were happy to be with us at this lunch.

I was worried. Sometimes if it feels to elegant
they will be uncomfortable. I'm reminded of chats
I've had where I felt weird ordering from a menu
where appetizers were 10 or 20 dollars, and entrees
where three or four times more.  It didn't matter
that someone else was buying. It felt wrong and 
I had to learn to relax and enjoy the moment. So
I wanted that my folks should be comfortable
with decor. Mandarin, while well organized wasn't
ostentatious and didn't make anyone uncomfortable.

Talking with more than two people at the table
is an interesting exercise. You see, at some 
point, someone decides that their long story
is important. That means they talk for longer
than everyone else is prepared to listen. Long
lectures and stories just don't work, unless 
everyone is really invested. Long live buffet
tables, huh?

Also, I decided not to talk to much at this
thing. It was enough I brought everyone together,
I didn't have to be a major speaker. But when
I did talk, I wanted to be heard, not shushed.
Sigh. It's ok. I decided that I wasn't going
to be subdued. "Just let me finish, huh?"

My parents had just talked about retirement,
and how they chose to buy apartment buildings
so they'd be busy during that time. Also, they
were talking about burial arrangments.

Nathan thought it was funny that the folks
have belonged for years to the Linitzer Benefit

Now when my folks first joined, it was a little
like health insurance. If someone took ill, the
club paid out a weekly sum of money for a while.
But it wasn't just insurance. They had regular
dances, regular bowling, dinners, breakfast meetings.
See? It was a social club.

Eventually the province of Ontario introduced
health insurance, and with that, it became against
the law for anyone else to offer sick benefits. 
So the first thing was they had to change the
name from The Linitzer Sick Benefit Society to
its current name. 

Another important benefit is that you can be
buried in their part of the cemetary. A benefit
was a place to die!  Wow, this was special. 

That was when I wanted to tell my story, and
without much interruption.

Opa, my old father-in-law, retired at 55 years
from a design and engineering firm. Within weeks
of retirement, his liver went from bad to worse.
It was never great, mind you. He'd been a prisoner
of war. I forget how, but he spent two years in
a Russian POW camp. He contracted hepatitis there.

He didn't talk too much about it with me. But I
recall one time. He hid a razor blade in his shoe,
and it was there the whole time. He didn't tell
anyone. He used it only for health concerns, like
nails. He'd seen other prisoners unable to work
because of long toenails, and who suffered, just
on that account, and he decided to take care of 
his feet, and they'd take care of him.

Well, anyway, after he retired his liver caused
bouts of dementia. Nobody at the table believed
me, but he was fine only weeks prior. He'd get
into the car, everything fine. At midnight, or
2am, he'd telephone. He'd explain that he had
no idea where he was, but was at a payphone 
somewhere, and needed to find his way back. He 
had no recollection of why or when he began the
joy ride. Things like this happened twice a month.

Other times, without a lot of warning, he'd 
pass out, sometimes while talking over 
dinner with Oma, his wife. She panicked the
first time, but it became a bit of a routine
after that. Once or twice a month the toxic
chemicals the liver is supposed to filter maxxed
out, and Opa would go strange. 

Other times, his personality would alter. As I
heard about this second hand, I cannot elaborate.
I suspect that he changed from the mild man that
he was into an angry guy, who was unreasonable. 

The last time he was taken to the hospital, he
suffered kidney failure during the visit. It was
then he chose to NOT get dialysis. He was warned
that he would die. He insisted that living this
way was not living, and would only make a difficult
life for him worse. He figured he would have a
week left of life.

So right away, he called a meeting of the whole
family. I was there, and my wife and children. 
Oma, Opa, and their children and their wives.

At this meeting, Opa announced his last wishes
to the crowd.

"I don't have too much money saved, but I have
some. It should take care of Oma at least for a
while. Listen. Don't spend a lot of money on a
funeral home burial for me. Keep it simple. If
you want to do something, arrange it with a hotel
please. I'd prefer that. It will save money, and
it won't make any difference for me here."

Sure, Opa. 

It took two weeks. He was happy and talking to
us all during the first week. 

He was experiencing emotion for the first half
of the next week, but was unable to speak any
more. And for the last half of the second week,
his health just got worse. Susan and Oma would
just stay there. Susan went to the bathroom, and
when she returned, he was no longer breathing.

Opa was dead. Now Frank and Tom's wife Linda 
had decided Opa didn't know what he was asking
for and had no right to demand a simple burial.
The two kids hounded Oma until she just let them
handle the whole thing with the funeral home.

Opa's wishes were not only ignored, but were
handled in exactly the opposite way. I think they
spent over 40,000.00 on the funeral arrangements.

I dunno. I really believe in last requests, and
Opa was even asking for common sense. I have no
respect for these people now. 

The story I told the table was shorter, as it only
included Opa, liver, kidney, 2 weeks, last request,
last request ignored. 

The table insisted that Opa should have done it
in writing. Wow. He needs a lawyer to do this, huh?
It wasn't enough that he arranged a bedside meeting
in front of the whole family?

I never talked about this, but wanted to.

In our own family, there was an uncle. He had
a son who had little or nothing to do with him.
He had a wife, I think his 3rd wife. He was a 
nice guy. Mom would take us visiting to his home as
children often enough.

When he was getting sick, as in to die, everyone
in the family had meetings with this uncle in order
to help him with his will.  Gawd, it was awful.

My brothers and I, the three of us, were pall bearers
with the funeral staff. We talked at that time. We were
aghast with who we had as family.

In the end, it was the son who got what he wanted
from the will. The wife was crying, as she was cut
out. Other aunties present were crying, as they too
were cut out. 

And there seems to be some hubris. This son? He could
have worn something penitent. Everyone else male was
wearing some kind of tie and pressed pants. Any of you
who know me will understand that I'm not man of fashion
nor elegance, but still.  This guy wore nylon shorts,
the kind with mesh pockets, and a white golf shirt with
writing on the back and the front pocket. I'm certain
there was a message in that.

I got together with Nathan recently. Monday?
After Niagara Falls with Mark.

The day was a bit frustrating. Niagara Falls interuptus.
I hope Mark figures out how to be late without ruining
his own plans. Of course, others would say that we folk
who run late should learn to NOT be late. Well, I understand
the forces at work here.

I was talking with Christine at English dance, and we
get our best work done in the hour just prior to when
we should leave. This prevents us from leaving on time.

(I feel like I ranted about this on a recent
journal, but anyway)

This affects Mark too. But in our case it
caused us to be within shouting distance
of Niagara Falls NY post office, but unable
to get the work he needed done there. I'll
have to ask him if he succeeded.

After checking a snack, we headed back to
Toronto, only to find an accident in our
path. It kept us on the highway for a 
couple of hours before we could move on.

I was hoping to move some packages to the
bus station. Bus parcel express is supposed
to be very good. Well, it is, perhaps, if you
can get there.

In every other town in Ontario, BPX is in the
same room as the bus station. No problem! Show
up with your stuff, pay your money, wait for
the bus if you want to, and away it goes. Maybe
even for a reasonable price.

Toronto has a BPX centre. It is only open from
8am to 8pm weekdays, and less on weekends. It is
at Front and Jarvis. That's a part of town nobody
goes unless they want be alone.

Mark took me to the bus station, where they gave
me the phone number to BPX, and we decided that
doing the parcels made no sense now.

So I made it to Pat's Irish Dance. He does the
same Irish sets each time. That's a good thing.
Clare Lancers, Plain, Cashel, Caledonian, Callemara.

(I love to call the last one the Calamari set.
It was from Greece. Uhm, no).

I maintain his teaching style is wonderful. Less
is more. He gets our attention by almost whispering
what we have to do. We dancers listen with all our
might to memorize it, and do it when the music starts.

I'm pretty good with Clare Lancers and Cashel set now.
In fact, I hardly have to get the talkthrough. I know
it, and that's just as well.

Oh, I still mess up. But I can still say I know it.

It was after dance I got together with Nathan,
and we talked about much of the things in the
journal you are reading now.

Food at Kom Jug Yuen isn't what it used to be.

We order almost the same things each time around.
Half Crispy Chicken. Singapore Style Vermicelli.
And we had Duck Congee for a change this time.

The staff has been pretty much the same there
for more than 20 years. Same lady and gentleman
run it. How do I know they RUN it? They are the
only two who operate the cash register. Every day
of the year from 11am to 4am. What a life.

But the chicken used to be crisp outside, moist
inside. Not always now. It used to always be
with shrimp chips, and lemon, and toasted salt.
Nathan figures that most people discarded it,
so they may as well not bother spending the money.

The noodles were right, I think. Cannot complain.
The congee was right. Can't complain.

But the presentation was lacking I guess. Our
server didn't seem to understand the menu? No,
maybe he did. I wish I could put my finger on
what was wrong. I just know we had more fun and
better food here years ago.

That's all I know.