Golf, Rodeo and Yorkshire Pudding: Armstrong’s Fairways Bistro

Saturday night.

I’ve just finished up my week at Kelowna Art Gallery on Water Street, downtown Kelowna, and my daughter has requested I chauffeur her out to see a friend in Vernon. It’s been a stressful week because my transmission has died on my car, and the vehicle is sitting in a lot awaiting the arrival of parts. It’s been a fun week, because I’ve had to rent a car for work, and so I am driving a 2019 Hyundai Elantra which has heated seats, Apple Play and amazing gas mileage.

By the time I get Sheena to Vernon, it is 6:30, and my stomach is saying, feed me! I realize that with Sheena elsewhere,  I don’t have to cook. Neither do I immediately need to go home. Darren Bezanson and Fairways Bistro comes to mind.

Some years back, I worked, very briefly, for Darren. My life was overcrowded at the time, and so this ended, but I hadn’t forgotten how delicious his food tasted. His bistro is located at Fairways Golf Course in Armstrong, BC, twenty minutes north of Vernon. I’m already halfway there, and I have the dream-team of gas tanks at my disposal. After two weeks of renting cars, my budget for the month is shot, anyway, how much worse can one dinner out make it? I flip open google on my phone, notice that, yes, I have time to get there before closing. No time like the present, I figure, and crank the wheel north.

It is raining and grey when I pull into Fairways, but this doesn’t stop me from snapping a few pictures of the gorgeous log and stone entrance to the clubhouse. Trees drip around me, and there are puffy white mist clouds snagged on the hills across the street, silhouetted by the storm clouds behind them. Parked on either side of my itsy-bitsy silver Hyundai are serious looking trucks with four doors and King cabs and extended boxes. It’s official — I am now in cowboy country.

Knotted pine vaulted ceilings, thick warm cedar beams, rock work, chalet feel, groomed golf course grounds, high and bright windows with natural lighting. These are just some of the words I jot down as descriptions of the place. In summary — gorgeous.

I am sitting in a dining room that is one hour away from closing, and there are only a handful of patrons still here. Dress code leans towards denim and ball caps, t-shirts and work boots. Brett Kissel’s You’re My Anthem gives way to Jordan Davis’ Singles You Up to Chris Stapleton’s Broken Halos. I may look out of place in my art gallery duds and with my lap top slung over my shoulder, but actually, I am feeling right at home as I look up at the twinkle lights caught in sheer tule netting suspended from the cedar beams of the ceiling.

My stomach rumbles in appreciation of the savoury smells drifting towards me from the realm of the kitchen, and I am scoping out the food on other patrons plates as I contemplate my menu choices. In the middle section of the restaurant sits a table of seniors on what appears to be a double date, their plates heaped high with down-home cooking. Behind me, an attractive man my own age who smiles as I walk by — ‘cuz I still got it, baby — sits with an older man with a handlebar mustache who I suspect is his father. I overhear snatches of their conversation about race horses, and when Shawnee, the waitress, brings their food, both plates are full of meat, gravy and Yorkshire pudding. 

Decision made. I follow their lead and order the roast beef. It arrives mounded on the plate, heaps of meat and a gigantic Yorkshire pudding piled high atop a bed of julienned carrots, green beans and slivered zucchini slices which have been sauteed in butter. This huge meal is smothered in thick brown gravy and topped with crystallyzed onions. The food is piping hot — I can actually feel the heat coming at me without even picking up my fork. Next time, I decide, I will try the salmon. For now, the hearty smells are making me salivate. Come to Momma!

There is so much food here and it is piled so high that it is hard to know how best to attack the meal. Darren has been cooking professionally for 29 years, and has worked in a kitchen since he was 14 years old. Trust me, he knows how to do this right. The al dente veggies, which I try first, positively melt in my mouth. They are tender but firm, not the least bit mushy, and taste absolutely amazing. Next, I take a bite of the cheesy twice baked potatoes, and although they, too, are so so good, they are to my surprise, my least favorite part of the meal. That’s not because there’s a problem with the potatoes. No, they are scrumptious, and with the peel in, I know they are packed with nutrients. It’s just that everything about this meal is so overwhelmingly perfect. By the time I get to the meat and the gigantic Yorshire, my taste buds think they have died and gone to heaven.

Chef and owner, Darren Bezanson, tells me his slogan is Food Made Simple. A carrot, he tells me, should be a carrot — not deconstructed and then told it is a carrot. Well, he has nailed it. I dig into the beef, and it is roasted well done and is so tender it melts off my fork and disintegrates inside my mouth. The Yorkshire is huge and perfect and would have done my British Granny proud. It was fluffy and light, smooth with just the hint of egg in the batter. I devour the entire thing.

Darren tells me that on Prime Rib night, everyone is in awe of the size of the Yorkshire Puddings. This is a personal favourite for the chef. He tells me he creates the menu by getting to know the neighbourhood his restaurant is serving then, with a bit of trial and error, he works up a list of comfort food that isn’t complicated, and that people feel good about trying. Fairways Bistro has been open for five years, and although they are currently a seasonal business, the goal is to operate year round. They want to be more restaurant than clubhouse in the future.

For my visit, I decide to be a wanna-be food critic, and in order to do so, I get a take out box, then order dessert without eating my full meal. For dessert, I select the Brownie Cheesecake, and when it comes out looking like a layer of brownie topped by a layer of cheesecake, topped by a scoop of homemade ice cream drizzled with caramel topping, everything inside me wants to stand up and cheer. Since it won’t make the trip home, I eat all the ice cream, and honestly, it is so fantastic that a scoop of ice cream alone would have been a completely satisfying end to the meal. But, as a dutiful food critic, I force myself (This is a lie. I attack it like I might never get a chance to eat ever again.) to sample the brownie cheesecake before packing it up in a second to go box.

I tell myself I will eat the contents of both boxes for lunch the next day. Of course, none of the food will make it through the night. It did make for one amazing midnight snack, though. I decide then and there that in the interest of not weighing three hundred pounds, I am giving up my food critic aspirations.

Check out Fairways Bistro.  You can find more information including menu and driving directions at their website https://www.fairwaysbistroandcatering.com. Every Friday night is Prime Rib Night, and Father’s Day Brunch is happening June 16th from 9:30 am – 1:30 pm. The location is great, and the food is well worth the trip.

Thanks, Darren, and Fairways. I will see you again soon!

 

 

 

 

Honey on My Lips Book Trailer

Hey everyone! It’s been an exciting time for me. Not only does it seem like Spring is finally here to stay — cue travel and daytrips — but also, I am getting set to launch my new novel, Honey on My Lips.

This is the book that started it all. In 2016, when the band I was leading broke up very acrimoniously, I decided I wanted to write some of my thoughts and feelings into a book. I decided that fiction was the best format to take. Honey on My Lips is not autobiographical in any way, but it does feature Dania, a former musician who has fallen down the rabbit hole of addiction, has climbed back out on the other side, and is now in a place of deciding what life she wants out of life. Does she want to go back into the music business full-time? Or does she want to continue teaching the next generation of rockers, while loving on sexy local carpenter, Brandon?

This romance is set in the tiny Okanagan community of Oyama, where my family moved me, kicking and screaming, when I was sixteen. Dad’s job had moved us away from the city of Vancouver, and I was not amused. It took one summer of riding my horse in the hills behind our house, walking down the hill to the beach, and eating fruit picked from the trees in our backyard to convert my to a proud Okanagan girl. Now, it is my pleasure to set novels in this area of the world I love so much.

Here is the trailer for Honey on My Lips, launching online July 19, 2019.

 

Sentences I Never Expected to Say: I Just Got off the Phone with the IRS

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Earlier this week, my first work of fiction was published. Cue fireworks and cheering crowds and confetti falling from the sky. (Smoke. Available on Amazon as a print copy and on Smashwords as an Ebook. Please buy me. Support the arts. Support a starving author). I already have orders for the print version filled and in the mail, and it is pretty sweet that you can produce something, then let the Internet do the rest of the work for you, while you get about the business of the next story.

And then, this morning, Smashwords sent me an email saying my W-8 BEN form was missing information and was rejected by the IRS. If I need help completing the form, please contact the IRS. Huh. Not a real-life experience this little Canadian girl ever anticipated!

The problem, as far as I could tell, was that I do not possess a foreign TIN (Tax Information Number). Although I get to opt out of Smashwords withholding money for taxes from my revenue (because I am Canadian, eh!), they have to submit the amount I earn (which I imagine will be in the millions) to the IRS. On line five of this W-8 BEN form, it wants to know either my SSN (American for social insurance number) or my ITIN (international tax information number). On line six, they want my foreign TIN, issued by my tax reporting country. I understand this to be Canada, but I think, now, that Smashwords means the USA. I blithely enter my SIN in both line five and line six, only to have the form bounce back again with a red message saying the number cannot be the same on both lines.

Hmm.

So, I try to research my way out of the problem. First, I call H&R Block, who has kindly helped me file my taxes for the past five years in a row. Their office closed. Yesterday. Hmm. So, I call the head office number for H&R Block and am put on hold. While on hold I think, you know what, maybe I should just go to the source. So, I type in the web address for the Canada Revenue Agency. I type W-8 BEN into the find me slot. No results. I type ITIN. Way too many results and none that seem to tell me what I need to know. Like, you know, how to apply for one. So, I dial the 800 number provided (nice of them!), and sit through a pre-recorded message of options, none of which apply to me. I push the speak-to-a-human option, and am then asked if I would like to fill out a survey on how well they helped me after my call. If so, stay on the line. FYI, not gonna happen.

So, I am put on hold, which I put on speaker phone. For the next fifteen minutes while I wait with elevator music filling my living room, I cruise the Internet, decide to book the more expensive hotel for my upcoming trip to Kamloops, book said hotel, get up and bring the phone with me for a brief potty break, eat a cookie, pet the dog, nag my son — who has hurt his back — about going to the doctor, and generally realize my day off is not looking anything like I planned.

Finally, a voice answers, and identifies with a name and an agent number, and when I haltingly try to explain what I need, he has no idea what I am talking about. He is nice enough, and wants to be helpful, but he is as confused as I am. Since I am not a business, neither of us know why I need any number other than a SIN to file taxes. He transfers me to someone who will be able to help me. Okay, great, and thanks, and back on hold I go.

I wait for another ten minutes, then another agent answers with name and number. He listens as I read the description off the form and tells me, Canada only uses social insurance numbers. That is the only number they have on file. I know this. Again, he is nice, but not helpful. He does, however, have the number for the IRS, which he gives to me. I thank him, and he wishes me good luck.

And sitting in my little British Columbia living room, I phone the IRS. They are located in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and I am thinking this is going to cost me large in minutes. Which, maybe it did, but not becuase I was on hold. Because, no, in the US, apparently, there are no wait times to pay your taxes! My call was, in fact, answered on the very first ring. I had no time to prepare my spiel, even, and yet, the man knew immediately what I was talking about. Also, he knew he had not been trained to help me, so he would pass me on, and have a nice day, ma’am. Also, just in case I got disconnected, he gave me the number to call, then told me what buttons I needed to push to get through the automated system.

He needn’t have worried. I got through no problem, and once again, the agent picked up on the first ring. Wow. And even with my bumbling, uninformed Canadian schtick, she knew exactly what I needed, and told me I had to fill out a W-7 form, and if I mailed it from Canada it could take up to 11 weeks to be approved. So, okay, not what I wanted to hear, but still, I have to admit, the Southern side of the border was a bit more impressive than my side of the border today. This lady also called me ma’am, which I’ve decided I kind of like. I mean, maybe not if the Canadian twenty-year old at the liquor store is doing it, but in a southern drawl, yeah, it has a nice ring.

I didn’t like to think that all the millions I’m earning with this novel would be sitting in stasis for eleven weeks, so after I hung up from the IRS (!!!), I did what I should have done in the first place — I emailed Smashwords help desk. Turns out, I only need to fill out line five or line six, not both. My SIN will suffice. And Canada carries the day.

CBC’s The Debater’s on Is Easter the Best Holiday

So, it’s been a heck of a week.

In Salmon Arm, a shooting in a church service. In Penticton, a shooter on the streets. In Kelowna, bank robberies and police takedowns at gunpoint appear to be becoming the norm, and yesterday the courthouse next to the art gallery where I work was evacuated when someone pulled the fire alarm. Local news called it a false alarm, but in the gallery we noticed the commotion not because of sirens and flashing lights and hot-bodied men in uniforms wandering the street, but rather because the gallery smelled of smoke — causing concern and an immediate investigation of our entire building. Fire is not the friend of art. And I’m not saying the news is lying to you, but…

In France, we saw Notre Dame burn. In response to Notre Dame… memes? Really people? Is nothing sacred with this generation?

In the US, the Muller report, redacted but released, and showing how depressingly immoral a government and apathetic a democratic country can become. Nixon was gone for a lot less; a poll shows that half the American people determined prior to the release of the report that its contents would not change their opinions. Look how far we’ve come, baby.

On the home front, a broken car, a repaired car, a broken car, a repaired car… and a daughter who came home from school in tears twice because of the social and academic pressure dispensed at this mandatory government institution.

Living in the 21st Century, apparently, is not for the faint of heart.

And then it’s Easter. And in a bizarre turn of events a woman with two jobs (me!) has both Good Friday and Easter Sunday off.

This year, I have found that an antidote to the stresses of life and of media immersion is laughter, and I have been turning to comedy more and more often for relief. Thus, I have become a great fan of CBC Radio’s The Debaters.

When my University profs used to speak about listening to CBC Radio in their cars on their way to class, I privately thought, I will never get that old. Turns out, I did. I even downloaded the ap on my phone. So, for those who aren’t familiar with The Debaters, two comics debate opposing sides of a given argument in a comedic fashion, and a studio audience votes for their favourite. Winners are determined by the volume of the audience’s cheers. And it is hilarious.

With topics such as Are the Toronto Maple Leafs the Worst Franchise in Hockey and Pierre versus Justin: Who was the Superior Trudeau, this show is so funny it often has tears of laughter rolling down my cheeks.

This week’s topic was Is Easter a Fun Occasion, and the debaters were Lara Rae and Derek Seguin. Once again, I find myself laughing, and crying, and I think, I should post this to Facebook in honour of Easter! I wonder which of my friends would enjoy the humour in it, as I do, which would be touched, as I am, and which would be scandalously offended, as I’m certain a portion of the faith community within my acquaintance would be. To post or not to post, this is the question.

Lara Rae, comedian, Artistic Director of the Winnipeg Comedy Festival, and transwoman, is given the side of the debate that Easter is a truly “hoppy” occasion. She is given two minutes to argue for her point of view.

Montreal-based Derek Seguin, a comedian who speaks about getting divorced by saying, “I got divorced…not really divorced, I think to get divorced you have to get a lawyer or file paperwork… I’m not really a paperwork kind of guy. I’m more a change the lock on the house kind of guy. But I’m also Quebecois, and I travel all over Canada, so I’m uncomfortable with the word separate, so I always just say divorce,” is given the other side of the argument.

Lara Rae opens, and it is incredible. She starts by talking about the hunger associated with Lent, then says, “Jesus was the first social justice warrior, and the best.” Continuing, she describes the Easter story in terms that would do justice to the script of an epic movie. “It’s got a rock; it’s got a roll. It’s got Golgotha, which literally means hill of skulls. Awesome. It has courage; it has betrayal. It has three women standing up to a fascist military dictatorship; feminism, and a centurion that gets Van Goghed by a hot-headed disciple with a machete.”

And it’s funny, because although I am laughing, it feels a bit like I am in a really good church service. And if more preachers paraphrased the Bible as well as Lara Rae, I’d likely attend a lot more regularly.

Seguin comes back by wondering about the math in the Bible. “Hey, Steve, if I ask you on a Friday, hey, let’s go for lunch in three days, what day are you showing up for lunch?” When Steve responds, “It seems like Monday,” Seguin agrees. “Steve,” he says, “Is very good at math. A terrible Christian, though. ‘Cuz apparently, in the Bible, Friday plus three days is Sunday. What the hell happened?” Then he goes on to say, “What Jesus did, is come back from the dead! That is so huge. What a huge message! And who did we, as parents, choose to bring this message to the kids? A frickin’ bunny rabbit? What? What?” He says, “Maybe Jesus should sneak into the house and.. hide the secret of how to come back from the dead. Maybe in a Kinder Surprise or something.”

And again, I am laughing, but I am actually thinking, that’s pretty profound, really, and some would even say, is exactly what Jesus did that first Easter, year zero (Another Seguin quote).

The debate continues into the bare knuckle round, and Lara Rae laughs that she was “this close to the priesthood! I was set to be one of Rome’s primary transgender female priests.” Even she can’t say this without laughing, and when the host gives Seguin the last word on the topic he says, “I just, I learned a lot about the Bible I didn’t know,” and he sounds serious, actually. The show moves into the firing line, where the comedians answer questions about Easter with their best guess, then finishes up with closing arguments.

Derek Seguin suggests that we are a multi-culture, multi-faith country so we could have an all-faith free 2019. In order to do that, kids should just stay in school on weekends so that parents can have fun with melted chocolate on the long-weekend while the kids are at school. He knows teachers wouldn’t enjoy this, but says, “Suck it up, you have a whole two months off.”

When Lara Rae closes, her speech is reverent, more serious than funny. I mean, she’s funny, but I could be listening to a sermon. Just, a more palatable sermon than most. She says, “You can’t taint Easter. So, they made a pagan holiday to sit alongside it with rabbits and chocolate. Whether you believe in the resurrection, or have a deep respect, it’s still the centre symbol of Christianity and contains a powerful message of forgiveness the world needs terribly today.”

Listening, the audience is hushed, and I find there are tears in my eyes, not of humour, this time, but of respect, of need. And then, in place of an altar call, she concludes with a joke, but the moment is not lost on me, and I find myself extremely thankful that before I move on with my planned day off activities of sweeping the living room floor and swishing the bathroom toilet with its brush, I have had this faith moment, laughing in the comfort of my living room, yet still reminded why I have this day off today in the first place.

In a week that hasn’t had a lot to laugh about, thank you, Debaters, for making me laugh. Thank you, Jesus, for your love that lead you to sacrifice. And thank you Lara Rae and Derek Seguin, for reminding me of the beauty of faith in a world which is most certainly in need of a little faith.

And Aw-aaay we go!

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The first time I published a book, it was a 140-pager titled Tailgate Church. My brother-in-law had given me a truck, and I decided to take the truck and the guitar, and drop the tailgate and “have church” — and see what random things might occur. Then I wrote the book.

The second time I published a book, it was called “The Little Green Beetle” and it was a children’s book I illustrated myself. What happened was, I was at a low point in my personal life and feeling completely burnt out, and I went on a family vacation. Lying on the pool deck at our campsite, this little green beetle tried to pass me. No matter where I moved my arm, he just kept going, just kept cruising. At the time, this tiny little creature inspired me to hang in there. After our trip, I wrote and recorded this bouncy little song about that beetle, then realized that I’d really written a poem. I laid it out in children’s book format, drew some really amateur (but seriously cute) pictures, and self-published.

The third time I wrote a book, it was a whole lot harder to do. “Quiet Me” is the story of a mother trying to parent a suicidally depressed son. Told with my son’s permission, this book describes my journey through that incredibly bad patch in his life. It was gut-wrenching to write — and people have said powerful to read — and when I published it, I really just wanted to get copies into my hand before the band I was leading at the time went on tour so I could sell them on the road. Although he hadn’t asked, I decided recently that this book had served its purpose. I didn’t want this to become my now adult son’s identity, nor to have him feel that I saw him that way, and so I have removed it from bookshelves for now. Of course, if you are going through similar struggles and feel the book could help, I would get a copy into your hands.

The last time I published a book, I had no intention of putting it up for public sale. A friend suggested I turn songs I had written into a book of poetry, and I decided this would make a great Christmas gift, so I did some formatting work, and “Song Poetry” was born. People seemed to like it, so it is now for sale on Amazon — and let me tell you, formatting a poetry eBook is not for the faint of heart!

This time, it’s different.

This time, I am being strategic. Continue reading “And Aw-aaay we go!”

Smoke – a novella by Leigh Macfarlane

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Well, it’s been awhile since I’ve chatted with everyone on here, and there are two reasons for that. First, the Okanagan has been living through the winter that never ends, and this tends to make writing a local travel blog a bit more difficult! Second, I’ve been busy with the completion of my novella Smoke!

Set in Vancouver, BC, and in Kelowna, BC, in Smoke the art world collides with the Canadian pipeline debate. Love and murder both ensue. Smoke is set to be released as an eBook in April of 2019.

Check out the trailer at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M6frgHlJzyg.

Here is a free excerpt:

Bastard.
Jen could hear him. He was still there. The crashing in the brush behind her was even louder than the sounds made by her own mad flight through the woods. She was two minutes away from civilization. This just couldn’t be happening, not here.
Stanley Park was one of the biggest city parks in Canada, but it sure sounded like the psycho chasing her was getting nearer. Any minute now, he was going to have her.
No chance.
She was moving again, sprinting down a path buried somewhere in the centre of the park. Jen had known precisely where she was when she’d first spotted him, but she’d lost track of her exact location a long time ago. Now, the wind that had been blowing against her while she was jogging the seawall was picking up, and the sky had made a couple of moves beyond dusk. At this point, Jen had no choice but to keep dashing through the darkening forest, hurdling the deadfall and hoping to recognize one of the landmarks soon.
On any ordinary day she would have been safer if she’d stayed on the seawall and out of the forest. With the storm warning, though, the park was deserted. No one was around to help her. And she couldn’t outrun him on the flat. Jen had dashed into the woods, knowing exactly where she was and how she was planning to elude him.
And then Tony had made that single shattering scream, and had dropped, a literal dead weight at the end of his nylon leash. There had been no sound of a shot, but the evidence lay at her feet. Tony lay prone, blood draining from his inert form. Someone had just shot and killed her three-year old Rottweiler.
Don’t cry. Don’t cry.
There was no time for tears. If the guy was good enough to get a clear shot of her dog, he could easily get a clear shot of her. With limited options, Jen veered off the trail and into the relative cover of the bush.
She ran until she couldn’t hear him anymore. But then, she couldn’t hear anything — not even the sounds of her own lungs sucking air past the razor blades in her throat. Sound had ceased to exist other than the screaming wind that was whipping the tops of trees like toothpicks in a cyclone. Even inside the relative shelter of the forest, Jen had to bend almost double to brace against the force of the wind. She really couldn’t see more than a few feet in front of her. The forest had become a dense, disorienting, undulating mass of darkness, and she was staggering around like a drunk inside the bowels of night, trying not to let the freaky wind blow her off her feet.
Her dog – damn it! – was dead. She was seriously out of her element, and some lunatic hired gun was chasing her, and was, she was pretty sure, fully intent on killing her.
Not good. So not good.

Watch for smoke in April of 2019!

 

 

Breaking Bread: Kelowna’s Taste of Home

 

Breaking Bread.

According to the Urban Dictionary, “To break bread is to affirm trust, confidence, and comfort with an individual or group of people. Breaking bread has a notation of friendliness and informality, derived from the original meaning regarding sharing the loaf.”

Another, simpler definition of the term is, “To share a meal with someone.” This comes from Writing Explained, an online site for writing instruction. They go on to state:

This expression means more than just eating; it is sharing a sense of brotherhood with someone or some group of people. It is a significant event that fosters some meaningful connection and cooperation.
Perhaps you are enemies; breaking bread with someone indicates a sense of forgiveness and moving forward to the affair.

Writing Explained (https://writingexplained.org/idiom-dictionary/break-bread-with-someone) states that the term breaking bread has Biblical origins, originating with the story of Jesus blessing, then breaking 5 loaves of bread — and feeding 5000 people. Then, according to Mathew 14:20, “They all ate and were satisfied. They picked up what was left over of the broken pieces, twelve full baskets.” Considering Jesus had twelve disciples, there seems to be a moral in this number. First they fed others, then there was a basket full left over for each. Later on in his life, Jesus would refer to broken bread as his own body. Famously known as the last supper, the instruction given that day was to “eat in remembrance of me” (Luke 22:19).

Food is about so much more than simply fueling the body. That’s why, every year at Christmas, I make the same cookie recipes — they remind me of the continuity of family celebrations.

Some of my recipes were taught to me by people no longer alive. I think of them every time I cook them. My English grandmother passed on roast beef and Yorkshire puddings, my Irish grandfather passed on potato pancakes, and my German Aunt (still with us – hi Auntie Marion!) passed on borscht and plotz — a white cake topped with fruit and butter and sugar crumbles. I still have Anne’s chicken wings and Lois’ chocolate chip cookies and Grandpa’s pastry written down in the little red notebook that I started in my early twenties, when I first moved away from my parent’s home.

I remember fondly the church potlucks of my youth, and Nellie Romeyn’s (my first boyfriend’s mom) Flying Saucer Cookies. I also remember the casseroles the church ladies brought our family when my grandmother died. I was thirteen at the time. And I remember Rie Beugelink, who had a tablecloth cross-stitched with all the names of her dinner guests on it. This inspired me, and when I bought my first home, I painted a patio bench and had it signed by all my house guests that first year.

Food reminds us of who we are, of our histories, our traditions, of relatives and homes which have gone before us. It bonds us. The smells and flavours of shared culinary creations take us back, and when shared, they build our united futures. All of which is why I was thrilled to receive the invitation to attend Kelowna’s Taste of Home event, and to stop in on my way home after work on Saturday night.

The event was held in the New Life church building on Harvey, which is an interesting choice considering the building’s original purpose after construction was as a farmer’s market. The main room of the building has two levels, and flags from around the world now hang from the top floor.

The Global Citizen’s event, which is in its fourteenth year, was packed. I had to park a block away, and almost let the blustering cold wind and my post-work lag change my mind about attending. Once inside, I was so glad to be there. It cost a dollar at the door to get inside, and then I handed over five dollars for food tickets ($1 each) and wove my way in through the crowd.

Vendors representing different countries were arrayed around the edges of the room, while the centre was set up with chairs where it was possible to sit and watch entertainers in traditional costume perform dances from their corners of the globe. It had been advertised that food items would cost between one and three tickets per item, and so my first goal was to do a full pass of all the vendors and decide which foods I would sample. I stopped halfway through, though, to film the Chinese dragon dance.

On my second pass, I purchased my first item. For one ticket, I received a dinner roll sized plate heaped high with pumpkin lentil stew (on a bed of rice) from Columbia. I’d never tried this dish before, and found it to be a delicious mild curry-flavoured meal. For a dollar, it was also quite filling.

Although I wanted to try the Venezuelan pastries and the Caribbean jerked chicken, I wandered past Thailand and Venezuela and Mexico, Japan and Taiwan and the Caribbean, mostly because the lineups were long, and there was easier places to wait.

I found myself standing in Israel’s line waiting to be served a cheese Knish with berries, which also cost me $1, and tasted great — not tart, but not too sweet, either. Because Syria was located next door to Israel, I next purchased a skewer of Falafel for $2. I passed on the hummus, though, as that would have taken my last ticket. The food was delicious — far tastier than the falafel I’d purchased this summer at the Kelowna Fruit Market, although, I have to admit, my motivations for that purchase were entirely political sentimentality. Israel was next to Syria. That, to me, simply had to be honoured.

With one ticket remaining, my options were a bit limited. I could have purchased tea from Taiwan, or an energy ball from Venezuela or gone back for seconds in Columbia. Instead, I decided to support the home team, and bought two somewhat gooey maple tarts from the ladies who were looking a little bit lonely at the Canadian booth.

I’d filled my stomach – and I was, indeed, full — with an interesting assortment of cultures. I didn’t get to try the bannock from the First Nations Booth, and I’m not sure what was being sold from Greece, although I did see some Kalamata olives on one lady’s plate. I didn’t get any gelato from Italy, but I did see that the servings they were giving out were quite ample. You couldn’t get as large a dish for as small a price in an actual ice cream shop, I can vouch for that.

On one of my passes around the food booths, I ran into my boss and her husband. Ady is from France, her husband, a local chef, is from Australia. They are expecting their first child, and at work this week, she was mentioning that since their baby will be born in Canada, the child will be legally entitled to three different passport options. I am second generation Canadian — my English grandmother was one of the first war brides to arrive after World War 2. And yet, here we all were, sampling meals from other people’s homelands.

With my stomach full, I found a spot to watch and photograph the entertainment. Peru had taken the stage, followed by Ukraine, and then Japan. I heard that Mexico was dancing at 7:30, but I knew I wouldn’t be staying that long. I didn’t expect it to be tears which sent me running for the door, though.

The Ukrainian dancers were part of a local dance club, and as a result, they had sets of dancers of various ages performing. This extended their time on stage a bit, and at some point as I watched, my eyes strayed from the performers to the crowd. At New Life church, the stage is accessible by a set of carpeted stairs which run across the front of the podium, and my attention was suddenly captured by the scene there. Children with various skin and hair colours, with various ethnic backgrounds and in various different traditional costumes had stationed themselves in an undulating line along the staircase. Sitting together, seemingly oblivious to exterior differences, or historical animosities, or cultural variation, they watched the performers. This, I thought, as I felt myself choking up, is the world as it is meant to be. This is a picture of my country, of my global community.

And I am very proud to call myself Canadian, eh.

 

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