Dispatches from the iPhone: Small Town

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Farmer’s markets are a major artery for the strange people in a small town. They attract the hippies, the hipsters, the old people and the granola-edgy people. You can usually find a few immigrant families hawking samosa or Thai noodles. Crafts and woollen products are another focus. For some, it is the only way to get out and meet people; they just want to chat and sell enough to break even on the table. For others, it is a way to make ends meet.

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In my explorations, V. and I were there to spend an hour walking around, eating lunch and procuring the best product in Thunder Bay: Thunder Oak Cheese. I felt like a complete poseur when I walked up to their stand and wiped them totally out their day’s supply of the extra old Gouda. The counter man was a little confused, but I know the value of a quality product and Thunder Oak is special. The extra old has to be my favourite cheese in the world, i do not even share it with India and Mingus,and that says a lot.

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Being a practical man, I am always thinking about what skills I have that could see me through a tough financial time. Food is a constant, and the ability to make one beautiful product might mean your survival in a cold winter in a small town. Me, I will always have murgh makhani, aka, butter chicken. I learned how to make the real deal from a few different sources, but have transformed the dish into a unique style that is unbeatable for rich, vibrant flavours. While in Thunder Bay I cooked an Indian feast for her work colleagues, and my chicken was killer that day. Comfort food for a world in need of comforting.

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Next day had me cooking the apples from a local tree with sage from Mae’s garden, butter and brown sugar. My own mother used to make these as treats for us in the Fall, so it was a natural choice to pull out from my sleeve.

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Thanksgiving had me cooking a prime rib roast for five people. In my past, Thanksgiving often had me cooking a giant feast for a motley crew of expat friends. This time around I was the guy from out of town and the cook. It was nice to spend time with a family and their friend, and the beef turned out perfectly medium rare. Perhaps the excitement of a bottle of Drambuie and “breaking into” a neighbour’s house got the better of me. This morning and day was a long crawl back to Toronto and an empty studio. I do have a piece of wild boar belly to cook for my next dinner guests in Toronto, and that is at least one thing to look forward to in great anticipation.

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