Friday, December 29, 2006

Home Sweet Home

What a welcome sight the CN Tower was after spending 21.5 hours en route from Delhi. It felt like a miracle that we could literally fly around the world and be back in Toronto. The month in India was full of adventures and we were so ready to be home. Marcelo said the first thing he was going to do was go to Lick's and get a huge beef burger with Guk. As for me, I was dying for a turkey sub on white from Mr. Sub.

We actually landed 40 minutes ahead of schedule, so we had to wait around for like 20 minutes while a gate became free. The snooty couple behind us (who said they hadn't flown economy in 20 years and was pissed that they couldn't use their upgrade coupons) complained enough for all of us. When we finally got off the plane, someone said, "smell that Canadian air", and I did, and it was glorious.

Everyone had been asking me how I was going to deal with taking care of myself again after being coddled in India. Well, Darcy had bought all this wonderful food, done the laundry, and cleaned our entire place, so the pampering continued. I'm so spoiled. He left me to shower while he ran up to Mr. Sub for my welcome home meal. :)

After eating, I fell into a coma for about 6 hours, ate dinner, and then slept again for another 9 or so. I had thought I was handling this jet lag pretty well when I realized that I was running a fever. I took my temperature and it was about 103. Then came the gut-wrenching cramps. The next 3 days I alternated between blistering hot and freezing cold. During the chills, my teeth were literally chattering and my bones felt cold and sore. I probably took 10 each of codeine and Advil every day just to stay alive. I asked Darcy to call Marcelo to get the leftover Cipro, but he had already thrown it out. And he was sick too. At one point, I seriously thought that I had gotten malaria. Poor Darcy took such great care of me and fed me ginger ale and water through a straw.

On the third day of sickness, we were booked to fly to Halifax for Christmas. The fever was gone by that time, but I was a bit dizzy and still had the cramps. We briefly considered trying to change our flight, but even though the change fee was only 40$, we would have to pay any difference in fare, which was gi-normous at Christmas. So, I steeled myself, ordered Darcy around to pack our suitcases, and got on the plane. The turbulence was worse than any I had experienced before but it was only a 2-hour flight, which after flying from Delhi seemed like commuting distance.

It was so good to be in Halifax. The air was so cold and fresh that it was almost sweet. I remember when we came back from Japan when I was a kid, we could smell the pine trees as soon as we got out of the airport. My mom and dad are still living in the same house that I grew up in and they aren't into renovating, so it's exactly the same, which I love. My room is bascially intact with all my books, notes, stuffed animals, and even dolls. The only difference is that my twin bed has been replaced with a really awesome queen with immaculate white sheets and the puffiest goose down duvet. This was exactly what I needed after the long trip and the sickness.

On Saturday morning, my mom and dad went to the Halifax Farmers' Market, which they have been going to for at least 15 years, I think. It is the best farmers' market ever and it's only open on Saturday mornings. They have amazing vegetables, meat, deli, fish, cheese, bread, desserts, pizza, coffee, flowers...and it goes on and on. Since my mom and dad have been going there for so long, they know exactly which vendor to buy the best stuff from. My favourite is the Buddhist vegetable guy who sells eggs, but not to just anyone. They are under the counter and you have to know to ask for them. However, you're not allowed to say 'egg'; you have to hint at it like you're buying smack and then if you're high enough on his unwritten priority list, you can have some.

At lunch my mom made my favourite -- udon noodle soup, which is thick wheat noodles, seaweed, spinach, thinly sliced pork, and boiled egg in a bonito fish broth. It so yummy, warm, and gentle. Perfect recovery food.

By Christmas Eve, I was completely back in the game as far as food goes, so we went to our favourite dim sum place in Clayton Park called Zen Chinese Cuisine. There aren't any cart type dim sum places in Halifax because they are all too small. But, it's kind of nice because you can be sure to get all your favourites. We ordered the same items we always do, which were: har gow (shrimp dumplings), siu mai (pork dumplings), shrimp and cilantro dumplings, tripe with ginger, curried squid, black bean ribs, fried taro, pan-fried radish cake, shrimp rice rolls, and chinese broccoli with garlic. I still haven't found a really good dim sum place that I like in Toronto. Please send me your suggestions! Although, don't say Lai Wah Heen because I'm not interested in expensive, howaito-san dim sum. I want the real deal. For more pictures of Zen dim sum, please click here.

Something else that I always have at home is sushi. My dad works part of the year translating for Japanese tuna fishing ships that come to Halifax and St. John's and they always give him fresh (well, flash frozen) tuna. My dad uses the maguro and toro as well as shrimp, scallops, and surf clam to make nigiri sushi. It's so good. My mom makes the sushi rice, which is mixed with rice vinegar and salt and then fanned for a little while (I read it is supposed to make it shiny).

On Christmas day, we always have 2 turkey dinners -- one with Darcy's family and one with mine. Darcy's family's dinner is usually early in the day -- sort of at lunchtime, so we can space them out. Darcy's mom is an amazing gardener, so most of the vegetables are from the year's harvest, including green beans, beet greens, and carrots. There's always plenty of starch too, which I love: rice, mashed potatoes, bread stuffing, sweet potatoes, and squash. I gained back all the weight I lost with that flu.

My parents' Christmas dinner is so different from Darcy's family's that it's not hard to have it on the same day. :) The best thing about my mom's turkey dinner is the sausage stuffing. The recipe is from the Margaret Fulton cookbook -- do you know it? I think my mom got the book as a wedding present from my aunt. The stuffing has sausage, celery, onion, breadcrumbs, and spices in it. It is the richest thing in the world, and I love it. Again, gained back the weight and then some.

On the way back from Delhi, we had a stopover in Zurich (most amazing airport) so of course I bought some chocolates. I got this box of truffles and pralines as well as some chocolate biscuits/wafers for Darcy's family. They were all to die for.

Every year, my mom makes a very traditional Christmas pudding (recipe also from the Margaret Fulton cookbook). Darcy's parents and grandfather really like it. Darcy's mom tells me that I'll like it when I get older. I'm still waiting. What is always fun is that we light brandy on fire and pour it over it. Check it out.

On Boxing Day, my parents and sister went to the valley to visit some friends. I wasn't up for the long drive in my delicate condition, so Darcy and I stayed at home and I spent 12 hours writing that final India blog entry. At one point we took a break and picked up Chinese at this place in Cole Harbour called Fong's, which has been there forever. It is the whitest Chinese food in the world, but sometimes it hits the spot. The best is what we call 'dog food egg rolls'. They are egg rolls with this meaty paste inside that really doesn't resemble food, but it's good in the way that Kraft dinner is good.

On the 27th, we flew back to Toronto. By this time, the life-threatening flu was gone but I caught a cold. The next morning, I had the worst congestion headache and all I could do was lay in bed, pop codeine, and pray for death. By Friday, the headache was gone, but not the couging and sneezing. I used to never get sick. Darcy thinks that my whole body has relaxed since I've been back, including my immune system, so that's what I'm catching everything.

My sister arrived from Montreal on Friday for New Year's weekend. Since I'm still under the weather, we've sort of been just hanging out, eating (again with the weight gain), and watching movies. Koto brought Montreal bagels (from Fairmount Bagel), cream cheese, smoked salmon, liver pate, smoked meat (from Schwartz's), and rye bread. I love Montreal.

Well, I should be back to work finally by Tuesday. Happy New Year, everyone. Hope you enjoyed the first installment of the Toronto blog. Hope you're interested in food. :)