Wednesday, 7 October 2015


Locally Sourced Processed Meat

There’s a small backdoor vestibule or mud room off our kitchen. Tucked into the little area along with the boot rack and the cats’ dishes is a bookcase whose shelves are crammed with Ann’s cookbooks, cooking magazines and binders full of clipped recipes. Some delicious dishes date back to Methuselah’s salad days or at least 1931 when Joy of Cooking was first published. The other morning Ann remarked that lasagna or spaghetti and meat sauce were considered ‘foreign fare’ in some of her older publications – yet not that long ago for people creeping toward retailers’ seniors’ discounts.

The grocery industry has been good to me. The Great Atlantic and Pacific Tea Company put me through university. Provigo paycheques kept me going through the 80s while I flamed out as a writer (two published short stories, four drafts of a novel consigned to a green garbage bag). Canada Safeway granted me my entry into the notoriously insular world of advertising. The grocery business has changed tremendously since the days when I wore an apron and even a shirt and tie. Private brands transformed into premium ones, the array of goods on the shelves has become more exotic and specialty retailers’ modest chains grew into attractive takeover targets.

A large part of the attraction of going out for a meal or ordering it in was the treat of eating something you couldn’t put together in your own kitchen. That’s not the case now. The domestic chef, with a library of tips and advice, and access to now commonplace ingredients, can pretty much replicate any eatery’s plate, ‘foreign fare’ even. The proof is in the pudding as restaurants, whatever their niche or designation, attempt to top each other with increasingly bizarre and eclectic fusions of offal and strawberry jam, hot sauce and dirt.

We don’t go out much anymore. That’s not because I dislike people so much as that we don’t have to (or maybe I don’t want to). When we do, it’s because the philosopher’s stone of kitchen alchemy remains eternally elusive: I’m talking about the mighty, mighty donair, the planet’s sloppiest sandwich. Let us celebrate the main ingredient, that spiced, mysterious and magical conical meat; I believe the morsels sliced or shaved from the roasted mould are probably beef or beef-like – suffice to say, you cannot make this stuff at home.

Sometimes called a Halifax donair, the pita-wrapped sandwich is apparently a Canadian take on the Turkish doner kebab (lamb) and the Greek gyro (pork). Topped with onions, tomatoes and a garlicky sweet sauce, they’re impossible to eat with manners or dignity. The donair is one food that really should be consumed in the privacy of one’s home. Delivery is not an option as I can’t eat more than one and I’d have to order at least four to make it worth our local pizza joint’s while.

There’s a solution for everything and happily the answer to my donair dilemma involves a pub. Atlantic Trap and Gill is a local refuge for homesick, transplanted Maritimers. The Thursday special is Halifax donair. Cheese and extra meat are of course extra, but I can eat like a god (and taste it all again for several hours), enjoy a pint of Moosehead or Keith’s for less than $20. Ann typically orders fish and chips, another savoury dish difficult to get right in a standard kitchen. We don’t go to the Trap every Thursday, mainly because I’m concerned that Ann might become too accustomed to the sparkle, glitz and glamour of the high life and exotic ‘foreign fare.’ I believe it’s critical to the health of our relationship that our designated date nights remain infrequent and therefore special occasions.

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