Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Southern Ontario Is A Gigantic Elephant!

I can just imagine the reaction of anyone who might stumble across this blog: "What in tarnation do these damn posts have to do with snow shoveling — and what the hail does it have to do with Canada?!!!"

I must admit, I have strayed off the titular subject matter just a tad since I started this blog. But rest assured you snow shoveling fans, that it has snowed a great deal here in this part of Canada so far this year, and I've done my fair share of shoveling.

Although Antler River lies almost midway between Windsor (which is across the river from Detroit) and Toronto, we get much more snow than any of those cities. That's because we lie in a region known as the snow belt. You can see where Antler River is located on the map below.

Southern Ontario doing a great impression of an elephant

I have the map oriented in such a way that north is pointing east. This is to show you that Southern Ontario is an elephant! Windsor is at the trunk. Toronto and its suburbs (Scarborough, North York, Richmond Hill, Etobicoke, etc.) are located on one of the back legs. Antler River is located at about the base of the neck, or where you would imagine the elephant's ear might hang down to.
Personally, I think our geographic elephant is far superior to Italy's geographic boot. And although Italy is known for manufacturing fine footwear, I don't know of anyone who would want to purchase or wear a boot that looks like that.

But back to the subject of winter precipitation. The snow belt that we lie in is due to lake effect snow (or squalls) blowing in off Lake Huron. The squalls are usually heaviest in December when the lake waters are still relatively warm. We've really had some doozies this year.

Although Antler River receives a lot of snow, we don't hold a frosted candle to Owen Sound in that department. That city is the snowiest in all of Ontario. You can see that Owen Sound is located... ahem.... its position is at the... uhh... well... let's just say that it sits at an undesirable part of the elephant's anatomy. It gets lake effect snow from both Lake Huron and Georgian Bay.

From the musical Owen Sound!  —

The snow is as high as an elephant's rump,
For this town sits where you might expect a good dump...

An elephant doing a great impression of Southern Ontario

Still, the fact remains that Antler River does get a lot of snow. My wife and I — on a trip to Mexico a few years back — ran into another couple from Canada, and I commented to the husband that it was nice to get away from the snow for awhile.

"Where are you from?" he grumbled.
"Antler River", I gleefully responded.
His short retort was a scornful snort, "Hmpfh, Antler River."
"Why, good sir? Where are you from?" I amiably inquired.
He was snide, and replied with ironic pride that he was from Winnipeg.
Urbane and sane, I refrained disdain and explained, "Antler River gets much more snow than Winnipeg, my good fellow."

And we do. Almost twice as much. But unlike chilly "Winterpeg", the snow here melts frequently, and so it appears as if we have less.

Yet we have more. But not right now. It melted again today. Still we get more. But they might have more right now. But we will get more. And so will they. Theirs will stay. Ours won't.

But we do get more. Believe me.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Introducing the Canshovel.Blogspot.com Bowl

Christmas dinner was more than two weeks ago, but we still have some leftovers in the refrigerator. As I mentioned in a previous post, I "volunteered" to do the cooking this year.

I did have a little trouble however with the gravy. For the life of me, I couldn't get it to thicken up. At first, it had the consistency of very thin water. After adding what seemed like a cornfield of cornstarch, it thickened up to the viscosity of consommé. Undaunted, I added more and more cornstarch until it had at least a modicum of resemblance to gravy. I didn't realize that it would continue thickening on its own from pan to gravy boat to dinner table.

By the way, would you find a gravy boat in the galley of a navy boat? Just curious.

Anyway, after I finally sat down to dinner, I asked my niece to pass the gravy. "It's kinda thick", she said. After attempting to pour it on my mashed potatoes, I then asked her to pass me the ice cream scooper. I'm saving the leftover gravy until the spring. Then I'll use it to patch up any potholes in our driveway.

Dinner is just one of the highlights of the holiday season. For me, the college bowl games are always a treat at this time of year. Unfortunately, I live in Canada where ice hockey reigns supreme. Many Canadians are probably not aware that other sports even exist.

Popular beliefs notwithstanding, not all Canadians are fans of ice hockey. For example, on my list of favorite sports you'll find it somewhere below seniors snooker and celebrity curling, and just ahead of celebrity seniors hurling.

Hockey's World Junior Championship tournament takes place during the holidays, and so fans of the game get what they want. What they don't want is for Canada to lose. That happened this year as the Russians took the crown. There were so many long faces around afterward that I felt as if I was smack dab in the middle of a Modigliani exhibit. I was half expecting Stephen Harper to declare a day of mourning after the loss.

"The Canadian Hockey Fan" by Modigliani

One consequence of all the televised hockey was that a great many of the bowl games were not shown here. I missed the Gator Bowl, the Orange Bowl, and the Sugar Bowl. I even missed the Beef O'Brady's Bowl!

Can you imagine how honored the teams must have felt to play in the Beef O'Brady's Bowl? The trend these days is to name the bowl games after the company sponsoring it. There are even some games named after dot-com companies — like the Insight.com and the GoDaddy.com bowls. There are so many college bowl games that I'm considering starting a new one next year called the Canshovel.Blogspot.com Bowl. Of course, that game will be played in the snow.

So next year, I might just park myself in front of the TV, grab a boat of gravy, pour it on my bowl of Beef O'Brady's, and watch the Canshovel.Blogspot.com Bowl. If it's televised.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

I'll Take My Fruit In A Bowl Of Smoking Bishop

Another Holiday Season has come and gone. New Year's Day I had a severe case of the fuzzies and woozies brought about by the previous night's revelry where — as Bob Cratchit would say — "I was making rather merry". However, the mind-altering liquids that I was quaffing had a little more smoke than the smoking bishop enjoyed by Cratchit and Scrooge.

Fruit is well represented in a bowl of smoking bishop — oranges, grapefruit, and fermented grapes.

Winter pretty well marks the end of the fruit eating season for me. Not that I eat much fruit anyway. I've always felt that they — along with vegetables — are the most overrated of your basic food groups. Let's face it; they're either too ripe, not ripe enough, have too many seeds and pits, are too sour, are too sweet, are too bland, or they're just plain yucky (like papaya).

I'd like to eat more fruits and vegetables and cut down on my intake of meat, I really would. I once even made a miserable attempt at becoming a vegan. I subsisted mainly on bread and water. But after a week or so, I felt that I was getting a little fuzzier and woozier every day. My wife (upon realizing that this was not the result of a New Year's Eve-like aftermath) insisted that I return to the world of carnivores.

I am aware that fruits and vegetable are essential to good health, so I do try to incorporate them into my digestive routine. A couple of times a week I'll partake in a glass of vegetable cocktail and maybe a dill pickle to go along with a grilled cheese sandwich. The cocktail takes care of several veggies. Could the dill that's used to flavor the pickle be considered a vegetable? How about the vinegar? I'm sure it's made from some fruit or vegetable (or by-product thereof) that's been fermented.

Apple cider is one way that I get all my monthly fruit requirements. I'll savor a glass now and then while it's in season. But, like apples, good cider becomes harder to find as winter progresses. Don't get me wrong; I'm no great fan of apples either.

I remember a day trip a few years back when my wife and I happened upon an apple orchard that had a roadside store. They had an impressive variety of apples and apple products. My intention was to buy some apple butter and be done with my pomaceous fruit needs for the year. The proprietor of the place had an enthusiasm for apples that would have made Johnny Appleseed proud. He could discern the subtle differences in each variety like a wine connoisseur. However, unlike the verbose wine aficionados, this guy used the same adjectives to describe each variety and just scrambled his descriptive order.

McIntosh:  Sweet, yet crunchy and tart.
Empire:  Tart, yet sweet and crunchy.
Idared:  Crunchy, yet tart and sweet.
Spartan:  Scrunchy, yet art and tweet.

Personally, I would never describe an apple as art, nor would I think it anything worth tweeting about. I think our apple expert was a little put off when we hightailed it out of there with our only purchase — the apple butter.

Another reason I dislike fruit is the fact that some of them have a very, very, very short shelf life. Bananas are the most blatant representative of this fact. I swear that I have on occasion bought five extremely green bananas, and by the next day they were lying there looking like an old brown baseball glove.

In order to really enjoy bananas, they must be eaten at a very precise moment. You must stare at them from the moment they are bought. Sometime overnight you will notice that they have become ready for consumption. You'd better like bananas however, because if you don't eat the whole bunch, the rest become ingredients for banana bread. I'm sick of banana bread.

I do admit that I like cherries and watermelon, but these are only enjoyed in the spring and summer. Until then, I have a container of prunes in the fridge. That's enough fruit to last me for me for the next four or five months.