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 it." 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 away. 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 Society. 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.