Tag Archives: food

Gravy, My Nemesis

The other day we were having supper when Hubby mentioned that the recently revamped Canada Food Guide shows a plate consisting of 1/2 fruits and vegetables, 1/4 protein sources, and 1/4 whole grains.  As we chowed down on a particularly delicious pork roast with gravy, I inquired, “And what about the ‘gravy’ food group?”

“They didn’t mention that,” he said, looking up from his plate, which was neatly divided into half meat and half mashed potatoes drenched in pork-flavoured fatty goodness.

Clearly there’s been a mistake somewhere, because gravy is an essential food group.  But if it isn’t shown on the official Food Guide Plate, that must mean…

Hey, it’s a beverage!

That would work for me.  I eat a healthy diet with lots of whole grains and fruits and vegetables, but gravy is a non-negotiable part of my meals.  And so is ice cream, which is basically just sweet frozen gravy, amIright?

Mmmm, and now I’m imagining porksicles — frozen pops made of pork gravy.  (Not to be confused with cocksicles, which have been a serious risk for the male population during this latest -50C attack of the polar vortex.)

But, see, when temperatures are cold, you need extra calories and hot drinks.  Gravy offers both, in one convenient and delicious serving!

So if the Powers That Be have eliminated gravy from a ‘healthy’ diet, well, too bad.  We’re all going to die sooner or later; so if something has to kill me, it might as well be gravy.

Ah, Gravy, my sweet nemesis.  I know you’ll get me in the end, but you’re so worth it!

Book 14 update:  Hooray for beta readers — this book is getting whipped into shape!  Off to do more revisions now…

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The Haggis of Salads

Last week, Robbie Burns Day got me thinking about another food that, like haggis, drives otherwise-reasonable people into vehement arguments over whether to love it, hate it, or call up the hazmat team to dispose of the toxic waste-on-a-plate.

I’m talking about jellied salad.

Jellied salad was in its heyday when I was a kid.  My Culross Copper Club cookbooks (published in 1954, 1965, and 1978 by the local ladies in the small rural community where I grew up) are packed with recipes containing the almighty Jell-O™.   If they could conceive of a food combination in even the most hallucinatory of dreams, there was a jellied salad recipe for it.

Some were, quite frankly, revolting.  Others sounded revolting, but were actually delicious.  My particular favourites were baby shrimp in tomato aspic (always molded in a fish shape and served on lettuce leaves) and Golden Glo salad:  Lemon jelly, pineapple, grated carrots, and diced celery.

There are cultural and historical reasons why jellied salads got so popular, but the truth is that they were fun and pretty, and usually tasted okay as long as you could put aside your innate objection to odd pieces of food suspended in unnaturally-coloured gelatin.

I know its day is long past, but I still can’t resist serving it every now and then.  Just one brightly-coloured jiggly blob in a cut-glass bowl is enough to bring back happy memories of my grandparents’ big dining table extended to its limits, surrounded by a happy hubbub of family.

It was prettier in the cut-glass bowl…

Anybody who didn’t live through the golden age of jellied salad reacts the same way when I put it on the table.  First there’s a furtive glance:  What is that?  Next, a longer, more incredulous look:  Is that… Jell-O… with STUFF in it?!?  Finally, they avert their eyes in a polite effort to ignore my embarrassing faux pas.

When I explain what it is and that they’re not required to eat it unless they want to, everyone relaxes.  Some even sample it cautiously, but I have yet to hear anybody sing its praises; or, for that matter, say anything at all about it.  They just eat the small portion on their plates and tactfully turn the conversation elsewhere.

So I guess jellied salad is firmly relegated to the same status as haggis:  If you grew up eating it during happy times, you probably still like it; but the rest of the world thinks you’re nuts.

Or maybe everybody has moved on to more sophisticated foods; and I’m the only nutcase left.

It wouldn’t be the first time…

Book 14 update:  Off to the beta readers this week!  Then I’ll be putting on my ‘production manager’ hat, so stay tuned for a title, cover art, and a release date announcement soon!

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Just A Nutjob

I have to confess:  I’m obsessed with nuts.  All sizes and shapes and colours; from soft to firm to rock-hard, and everything in between.  Such a glorious variety… mmmm!  And there’s nothing like that delicious crunch when I crush them between my teeth.

Guys, stop wincing – it’s nothing personal.

The other day I checked the grocery list and chuckled.  There were only three items on it:  Peanuts, walnuts, and pine nuts.

This was in addition to the dried-fruit-and-peanut mix that’s always in my car in case I need a snack while I’m on the road; the can of salted cashews in the snack drawer; the almonds and almond flour in the baking cupboard; and the big bowl of unshelled nuts that takes up residence on our counter every year as soon as fresh nuts become available.  (And you know I’m secretly snickering at “fresh nuts”.  There’s nothing better than cupping a nice big handful of… okay, I’ll stop now.)

And there’s always at least a gallon of peanut butter in the freezer in addition to the jar that’s currently in use; but I don’t actually include that in my nut count – peanut butter is a staple food that transcends nutdom.  (If only I could say the same about myself.)

If there’s peanut butter, there’s hope.  If there’s no peanut butter… *shudders at the thought*  I’m not even going to go there – it’s too traumatic to consider.  I’m sure most guys would agree that a nutless day is a bad day indeed.

Hubby is bemused by my love affair with peanut butter.  If we eat the same leftovers a few days in a row I get tired of them no matter now delicious they might be.  But peanut butter?  I eat it for breakfast every… single… day.  And I have for decades.  I just tell Hubby he should be glad that when I find something I truly love, my commitment problems magically disappear.  😉

I do realize that peanuts aren’t actually nuts at all – they’re legumes.  But I’m still nuts for them.  I know; sometimes I’m such a goober.

And now I can’t get the song “Goober Peas” out of my head.

Any other nut nuts out there?

Book 14 update:  I made it to the end of Chapter 21, and circled back to tune up some details in earlier chapters.  It’s fun to weave in all the little loose ends!

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Cheesy Sasquatch Fries

* Note:  The first part of this post may require a front porch, a rocker, and a cane to wave at the young whippersnappers.  The second part may require anti-psychotic meds.

Hubby and I were sitting at the table the other day, talking about cheese.  (Yes, I realize that “Let me tell you about the cheese I ate the other day” is the conversational gambit most likely to make listeners lapse into a coma.  I hope you’ll bear with me.)

I bit into a tasteless piece of rubbery orange-ness and announced, “You know, this so-called ‘old’ cheddar is what we used to call ‘mild’.  It’s really sad that there’s a whole generation out there who thinks this is actually ‘old cheddar’.”

“Huh,” Hubby replied.  “Never mind; there’s a whole generation out there who thinks that the orange plastic stuff on their fast-food burgers is cheese.”

Not to outdone by crotchety complaints, I upped the ante.  “And most kids don’t even know that their french fries are made from potatoes.”

Then (as it frequently does in our house) the conversation veered sharply off-course and scuttled down the nearest rabbit hole.

“They probably think french fries grow on trees,” Hubby grumped, then brightened as inspiration hit.  “Groves of french-fry trees… but they’re all hidden behind government-controlled park areas so nobody has ever seen one.”

“That’s it!” I exclaimed.  “The government is in league with the forestry companies.  That’s why the logging companies have such tight controls on their land.  All those security measures and radio check-ins and restricted roads… I mean, seriously, how many logs do they really haul out?  We’ve seen maybe two or three trucks carrying logs in the year since we’ve been here.  They’re actually just hiding all the french-fry trees.”

“And those two logging trucks we saw are only decoys!” Hubby rejoined, getting into the spirit.  “It’s the same two trucks with the same logs, just driving back and forth.  The real money is in the french fries they’re shipping out in unmarked reefer trucks.  And…”

He considered for a moment, then laid down his most compelling argument yet:  “You know that guy who petitioned the Supreme Court to have sasquatches declared an endangered species?  He was onto something, because guess who’s picking the french fries?”  *imaginary drumroll*  “It’s the sasquatches!  They have a treaty with the government that gives them the sole contract to harvest from the secret french-fry trees in exchange for living in seclusion and having no contact with the rest of the world!”

So there you have it:  We’ve figured out the mystery of why some french fries bear no resemblance to an actual potato; and we’ve also explained why all official sources categorically deny the existence of sasquatches.  Are we brilliant, or what?

(Don’t answer that…)

Now their secret is out!

Book 14 update: I made it to Chapter 17 this week and I’m chugging along.  Aydan gets a nice surprise for a change!

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Pickles, Peeves, And Daniel Craig

It’s been one of those weeks.  I’ve been trying to fit ten days of work into seven, and my brain has rebelled.  I knew I was in trouble a couple of nights ago when I dreamed of Daniel Craig.

That might sound like the quintessential female fantasy; but it wasn’t… because of the pickles.  Yes, I dreamed that Daniel Craig was plying me with a plethora of pickled cucumbers.

Freud would nod sagely and point out the phallic significance.  Normally I’d snicker and agree; but the truth is that I’ve been inundated with cucumbers lately, to the point where I’m even dreaming about them.  The garden is going crazy, and every second day I lug in a basket of strawberries, a basket of cucumbers, a basket of tomatoes, and a basket of corn.  And now the beans have found their second wind, too (no pun intended).

Don’t get me wrong; I’m thrilled that our garden is doing so well.  But I’m also a teensy bit overwhelmed, which means the chances of me writing a coherent blog post this week are somewhere between ‘Nil’ and ‘Not a chance in hell’.

So instead, here are a couple of random thoughts that flitted through my mind this week:

I love food, cooking, and eating; but some days the futility of it nearly brings me to my knees.  I spend SO MUCH TIME (and money and energy) acquiring food, preparing it, eating it, and cleaning up afterward… and four or five hours later I do it all again.  And again.  Repeat the next day, and the next, ad infinitum.  And it all ends up in the toilet anyway.  Wouldn’t you think we’d have found a better solution by now?

And one of my pet peeves:  Stinky soap in public washrooms.  Seriously, Dairy Queen, Wendy’s, and MacDonald’s:  Can’t you buy hand soap that doesn’t reek like some unholy combination of burnt transmission fluid, old gym socks, and rotting flowers?  You post big signs reminding everyone to wash their hands, and then you provide hand soap that nobody wants anywhere near their skin.

But… kudos to the PetroCanada at the corner of 17th Street and Cliffe Avenue in Courtenay, BC – their soap smells nice.  And BIG props to the Flying J truck stop on Portage Avenue in Headingly, MB for providing GoJo mechanic’s hand cleaner in the women’s washroom – hooray!

Despite my pickles and peeves, I’ve had some wins this week, too:

Our bookshelves are finally finished, woohoo! It’s been nearly two years since I last saw my beloved books. Thanks for all your hard work, Hubby!

The tomatoes have been FABULOUS. That’s one sammich-worthy slice! (This is the heritage variety ‘Brandywine’ – definitely the flavour winner this year.)

Book 14 update:  It was a busy week, but I still managed to get to Chapter 13.  Poor Kane is discovering that fatherhood can be a dirty job…

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Brain Food

I’m SOOOO close to finishing the draft of Book 13!

Each time I start a new book, I promise myself that I’ll write steadily within a realistic timeframe.  And each time, I end up writing day and night to finish in time for some self-imposed deadline.  In my quest for energy and inspiration this week, I’ve uncovered new FactsTM (see footnote below) about brain food.

Earlier civilizations believed that foods resembling a particular portion of the anatomy provided special nourishment to that anatomy.  So cauliflower, lumpy and brain-shaped, was ‘brain food’.  (This theory also explains the popularity of bananas and cucumbers; but I digress.)

Modern medicine informs us that ‘brain food’ doesn’t, in fact, resemble the brain; instead, the secret to smarts comes from complicated things like omega-3s, antioxidants, and flavonoids.

But after extensive research (a couple of hours at least) I’ve discovered that both ancient and modern beliefs are wrong.  Brain food isn’t brainish-looking.  It’s not complicated or difficult to obtain.

It’s…

*suspenseful drumroll*

Junk food!  And I have FactsTM to support my conclusion!

When I’m plotting a book, I usually pace; although I may also stand stock-still staring into space or drape myself over the furniture in odd positions.  (I bet you thought you were supposed to sit with your butt on the sofa cushions and your feet flat on the floor.  Pshaw.  The correct position is:  Belly on the cushions, arms draped over the sofa back, toes on the floor.)

Pacing is my favourite creativity stimulant; but even better is Pacing With Brain Food.

I can think better when I’m chewing; probably because jaw muscle contractions stimulate my brain.  My research supports this, because I’ve found that crunchy foods provide much more inspiration than soft foods.

I love gooey goodies like cheese and ice cream, but they offer no inspiration at all.  Likewise, chocolate (while ever-so-yummy) doesn’t help me.  In fact, the more chocolate I eat, the less I can think; until my entire mind is subsumed by four words:  MUST… HAVE… MORE… CHOCOLATE!

Tradition holds that booze is a veritable fount of inspiration; but not so.  A moderate amount of booze completely drains my brain; and too much booze fills it up again with ideas that seem brilliant at the time but when reviewed the next day make me say, “What the everloving f…?”

So once again, the FactsTM bear me out:  It’s gotta be crunchy.  You can’t chew booze.

Fruits and veggies?  Meh.  They’re better than nothing.  But…

Popcorn.  Chips.  Beer nuts.  Pretzels.  Cheezies.  OMG!!!!

My brain goes into overdrive.  I pace frenetically, gobbling handful upon handful of crunchy brain-stirring goodness.  Ideas flow, like belly fat breaching the waistband of too-tight jeans.

It’s a good system; but it’s not really sustainable unless I want to buy a whole new wardrobe to accommodate my… *ahem* expanding creative process for each subsequent book.

So in a few more days I’ll be back to my usual sensible diet; but just remember, you heard it here first:  Junk food is the ultimate brain food.  It’s a FactTM!

*

1 FactsTM is a trademark of The Fake News Generation Corp., a wholly-owned subsidiary of The Bullshit Consortium.  FactsTM is defined as “any random statement, however ridiculous, which is shouted loudly enough to be reported by the media”.

P.S. I’m travelling today, so I’ll be checking in later – ‘talk’ to you soon!

P.P.S. It’s spring on the Island!  Hooray!

 

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Well, I’ll Be Spatchcocked!

It’s odd how I can go for weeks or months without running across anything particularly funny on the internet, and then suddenly I get inundated by snicker-inducing goodies:

I was browsing Amazon for Christmas gift ideas, and I didn’t realize some vendors have such a tenuous grasp on reality (and good taste).  Check out this “Lovely silhouette art for baby nursery”:

Awww… how adorable. Not.

Um, guys… it’s a panda waving handguns.  In what world is this ‘lovely’ or in any way appropriate for a baby nursery? Although if this is how parents are decorating their nurseries these days, it does explain a few things.

So I abandoned the Amazon vendors to their delusions and went to catch up on my blog reading instead.  And within minutes I ran across the word ‘spatchcock’.

If (like me) this is the first time you’ve encountered that word, I know what you’re thinking.  I can practically see your thought-bubble from here.

You’re thinking, “There goes Diane down another dodgy research rabbit-hole that leads to a kinky sex website.”

I’d act all indignant about that; but there’s not much point since we all know it’s happened before and it’ll probably happen again.  But I swear, this time I wasn’t reading anything dodgy at all – it was a cooking blog.

There was no definition or explanation; only a note that you could “spatchcock the chicken” if you wanted.

Well.

I’ve lived for over five decades, and I’m pretty sure I’ve never wanted to do anything that sounded like that to a chicken.  Or to any living thing, for that matter (with the possible exception of a couple of guys I’ve known).

I did a Google search for ‘spatchcock’, braced for who-knew-what perversion.  And I found it immediately:  Jamie Oliver spatchcocking a chicken.

I’d love to say that it was as lewd as it sounds; but sadly, it only means ‘to butterfly’ – to remove the chicken’s spine so the carcass can be flattened for cooking.  I’m not sure why they didn’t just say that in the first place, but it’s nice to know there are cooks out there who share my childish appreciation for salacious-sounding words.

Apparently the internet was on a roll, because after serving up panda pranks and chicken chuckles, it rounded out the amusing animals with a plastered possum that broke into a liquor store and went on a bender, a scofflaw squirrel that got charged with criminal mischief and was released on bail, and some hostile hagfish that slimed a car so badly it looked like a remake of a Ghostbusters movie.

But ‘spatchcock’ is my most prized discovery of the week.  I don’t find words that are new to me very often, and I consider it a serious lapse of my professional puerility that I’d never heard of a word with such great comic potential.

’Cause now I’m imagining a new verbal expression of shock:  “Well, spatchcock my ass and call me a chicken!”

Gotta work that into a book somehow…

P.S. Just a bonus to this week’s bounty of beasts:  Yesterday I saw two women walking across the Canadian Tire parking lot in Parksville.  One was walking a large dog on a leash.  The other also held a leash… attached to a goat.  They were going for a walk.  To Canadian Tire, apparently.  Now I have yet another reason to laugh uncontrollably at the word GOAT!

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Schrödinger’s Leftovers

Today I’m opening the fridge doors of my brain and combining my questionable leftovers to create this week’s meal… erm, post:

The bright spot of my week came from jenny_o’s blog, Procrastinating Donkey.  She mentioned an article about a raccoon that climbed over 70 storeys up a construction crane and then took a dump (or, as the media delicately described it, “made a poo”) before climbing down again.  The article is over two years old but somehow I had missed it the first time around, and I laughed until I could do nothing but slump in my chair clutching my aching belly and wiping away tears of mirth.

It’s tempting to believe that the raccoon was stating its opinion on human construction in general and the crane in particular; but the truth is probably much more prosaic.  Its sphincter was likely clenched during the whole climb, and when it arrived at the top and looked over the edge it had a perfectly natural response.  I’d probably shit myself, too, if I looked down to see nothing but 700 feet of empty air under me.  Just looking at the photo makes my butt pucker.

And speaking of terrifying views…

I was walking past the book display in Superstore when I glanced over at the books in the children’s section.  I froze in mid-stride, my jaw dropping as a horrific thought flashed through my mind:  “Good God, somebody published a children’s book about Donald Trump!”

An understandable mistake, yes?

Fortunately for my sanity, I was wrong.  But I’m still shuddering at the thought of a ‘touch & feel’ book that includes a swatch of Trump’s hair.  Blargh!  Now I need to go and wash my hands for about half an hour.  And while I’m at it, I’d like to rinse out my brain, preferably with brain bleach.

And on the topic of rinsing out icky stuff…

The other day I was cleaning the Soggy-Something-Or-Others (SSOOs) out of the drain after washing dishes.  I removed them gingerly (that word always makes me smirk, since I am a ginger) with my fingertips, ’cause, ew; right?  Then I had to chuckle over the fact that less than half an hour ago I’d been gobbling that very food with enthusiasm; and after floating around in hot soapy water the SSOOs were actually cleaner than what I’d just put in my mouth.

But that just proves Schrödinger’s Law of Leftovers:  If you believe a leftover is safe to eat in any given instant, you can eat it and be perfectly fine.  But if you believe it’s rotten, that same leftover eaten at that same instant will make you sick.

Which creates those awkward moments where I look in the fridge and think, “Yeah, it’s probably okay to eat that… but… maybe not.”

And I don’t throw it away because it’s probably still okay; but Hubby and I each know in our heart of hearts that we won’t eat it.  I don’t know why we don’t just figure out that if we’re having doubts about eating it now, we sure as hell won’t eat it after it’s been putrefying and/or petrifying for another 24 hours.

But that would make too much sense.  And hey; Schrödinger’s Leftovers.  It’s probably just fine…

What’s cooking in your world this week?

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Better Never Than Late

Usually I’m a ‘do-it-now’ type, mostly because I have a shitty memory and if I don’t ‘do it now’, I’ll forget about it forever.  Or, if not forever, at least until somebody says, “Weren’t you supposed to have done that last week/month/year?”

But sometimes I know that a task needs to be done, and I just can’t bring myself to do it.  Usually I suck it up and do it anyway after a bit of procrastination, but sometimes… I just… don’t.  Even though I know I should.

For example:

My step-mom lives over 2,000 kilometres away, so I only get to visit her about twice a year.  When I was there a couple of years ago I made cioppino (a kind of seafood soup/stew) for supper.  The leftovers got stashed in the fridge, and the next day I went home.

Six months later, I was back.  My step-mom lives alone, but she has two fridges.  And what did I find, lurking at the very back of the very bottom shelf of the fridge that rarely gets used?

You guessed it.  That bowl of leftover cioppino.  Covered with clear plastic wrap that displayed all its grotty black edges and fuzzy white spots, while sealing in what was undoubtedly the stench to end all stenches.

But I didn’t deal with it right away.  I was only there for a few days, and we were busy.  I forgot all about the Black-Death-In-A-Bowl.  (That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.)

Six months later…

It was still there.

I’m not normally squeamish.  In our household I’m the one who guts the fish, butchers the meat, bandages the wounds, and cleans up the vomit.  But I avoided The Bowl That Shall Not Be Named.  I didn’t even mention it to my step-mom, because that would have meant admitting I had known it was there all along… and then one of us would have to deal with it.

A few days later I cravenly fled home.  Cringing with shame, but not ashamed enough to actually deal with that vessel of festering putrefaction.

Six months later…

It was gone.  I heaved a huge but secret sigh of relief and said nothing.

Later I was yakking on the phone to my niece, who had been out to visit my step-mom just before I’d made my latest visit.  “Yeah, we cleaned out the fridge,” she said blithely.  “There was a bowl in there that was just…”

I burst out laughing.  “That was you?  You finally dealt with the bowl?”  I confessed the whole sordid story and added, “I just couldn’t bear to open that up and wash out the bowl.  You’re a better woman than I.”

She started laughing, too.  “No, I’m not.  I buried it.”

Buried it?  Bowl and all?”

“Yep.  I just carried the whole thing out behind the shed and dug a hole and put it in.  I nearly puked when I covered it over and it squished up through the dirt…”

By then we were crying with laughter.  Dang, I wish I’d thought of that solution a year ago!

So, tomorrow I leave for my step-mom’s again.  By the time I arrive she’ll have read this and I’ll have to offer my abject apologies; but I can’t promise I’ll never do it again.

And I think cioppino is permanently off the menu.

What your finest example of procrastination?

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Flying Food

Last week’s post reminded me that I’m no stranger to flying food.  In fact, it may have contributed to my lifelong antipathy toward dressing up and attending formal functions.

First, a bit of background:  I grew up on a farm ‘way out in the sticks.  We dressed up for church, weddings, and funerals, and the rest of the time I ran wild outside.  So dress-up occasions came with considerable tension and discomfort: “Don’t do anything to get your good clothes dirty” meant ignoring my most fundamental personality traits.

When I was a teenager, my cousin’s wedding reception was held in the Fort Garry Hotel, the grandest historic hotel in Winnipeg.  There was a buffet, and I was on my best behaviour in my best dress.  We were working our way through the buffet line and my dad was ahead of me, chatting to whoever was ahead of him.

Remember the restaurant scene in Pretty Woman where the snail shoots off her plate only to be fielded by a deadpan waiter?

Yep, you guessed it.  Not versed in buffet etiquette, I had just taken a piece of pineapple with my fingers.  As I moved the slippery morsel toward my plate, my dad gestured animatedly.  (Apparently it runs in the family.)  His hand smacked mine, and the pineapple sailed across the fancy ballroom to disappear under one of the white-skirted tables.

I envied it at that moment.  I felt like vanishing under one of the tables, too.

Fast-forward to my first year of living in residence at the University of Manitoba.

Thanks to Chris K., a mature student who took this wide-eyed country bumpkin under his (platonic) wing, I finally learned some basic table manners such as holding my fork between my fingers instead of clenched in my fist like a weapon.  My image makeover continued while I observed and copied the fashion choices of my oh-so-sophisticated interior design classmates.

By the time I went on my first date (!) to a fancy restaurant (The Keg – hey, it was a whole lot fancier than anywhere I’d ever been), I was prepared.  I wore fashionable clothes; I knew how to hold my fork; I even successfully identified the bread-and-butter plate.  It was winter, so I was wearing my best (okay, my only) full-length coat.

Dinner went without a hitch and the bill was uneventfully paid.  When we finally rose from the table I turned to leave, swinging my coat dramatically over my shoulders… and it caught a full pitcher of ice water on a nearby ledge.

I didn’t look back to see whether it had landed on the floor or the neighbouring diners.  Head high, I swept out of the restaurant in my dramatic coat, the clattering of ice cubes and cries of dismay fading behind me.

It was a long time before I felt even remotely comfortable in a nice restaurant.  And I’m still VERY careful when donning my outerwear near other diners.

Anybody else have food-flinging tendencies?  (Remember the snail scene from Pretty Woman?  It runs from 1:50 to 2:35 in the video).

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