Friday, November 25, 2011

Life’s a talent show

Without wishing to blow my own trumpet, I am a man of many talents; albeit most of which were honed when I was a child, and as such, involve sticks, string, elastic bands and bogeys, or boogers, as you Canadian folk like to call them.

My other ‘arf, ‘er in doors, as she’d variously be known if we still lived in the east end of London, is somewhat different. She has a varied and valuable skill set, which it seems, is shaped perfectly to serve Little Z and me most handsomely in everyday life: and we appreciate this greatly I’d like to add, before anyone accuses me of chauvinism.

My wife cooks like an angel; she is charming and witty, although Little Z has yet to truly grasp these talents (he usually grasps her hair); she is not afraid of spiders, a trait that I greatly admire and am very relieved that she possesses; she is well versed in the realms of nutrition and health (she has a university degree, no less); she is a wonderful mother and the ideal life partner; I could go on but if I do she’ll undoubtedly become very big headed, in her own beautiful way, of course.

But I tell you this not in simple homage to my wife but to highlight all of our uncelebrated talents; though often they lie dormant until some event kick starts them, coughing and spluttering back into life. And so it was that a trip to the city did just that for me. A trip to Burlington, no less: that shiniest of suburb, where an old English friend has chosen to reside.

With our children playing happily and wives nattering busily (chauvinism alert!) us men were sent out to buy supplies, i.e. two bottles of red wine and a nice roasting joint for the evening meal. On the way to the grocery store, my host said: “there’s this great little shop nearby with all kinds of cool stuff in it, want to go see?” I couldn’t refuse.

An hour or so later we returned home with two bottles of red wine, a nice roasting joint for the evening meal, an electric chop saw, a pillar drill and the Hog Stuffer (the nickname for my new sausage maker, for those of you who didn’t catch last week’s missive).

Initial wifely amazement soon turned to annoyance, and then, thankfully, to the usual weary resignation following one of my ‘inspired’ purchases. However, the wine revived spirits and the weekend passed off without further reference to the chop saw, or my assailant’s new pillar drill.

Now, I can hear you asking: “a chop saw, is he mad? What could a writer want with a chop saw?” Well, dear reader, remember I mentioned those dormant talents. In a past life I was a carpenter, and as such, I am relatively handy with tools: I just never had the space to keep any, much less wield them effectively, during the fifteen years that I lived in a two-bed apartment in London. To have owned a chop saw would have meant forsaking the collection of fine wines and spirits that was tucked in the space under the stairs and that was never going to happen!

And so it was, back in Haliburton, in a house so big that I can glug spirits and wield power tools to my hearts content (you’ll notice I have one less finger than I used to), that my chop saw and I set out on our first mission: a toy box for Little Z. This project turned out relatively successful I am pleased to report. But, as I turned from admiring my work (glass in hand, blood still dripping from what used to be an index finger) I caught my lovely wife’s eye and in it a gleam that could only mean trouble.

In a stream of consciousness so long that I think I napped for a while during it, she listed the plethora of things that I could now make, jobs I could do, “seeing as how you have an electric saw and have remembered how to swing a hammer!”

Ah, those hidden talents… My back began to ache at just the thought of it. As she turned and left the workshop I sunk down against the wall, unplugged the chop saw and reached for the bottle.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Hairy chins, hogs and hiding out

I shaved off my beard and bought myself a crazeee-powerful piece of machinery that I like to call the Hog Stuffer. The wife laughed when she saw it: or was her mirth directed at my rediscovered chin? She claimed I’d got a bad dose of mid-life crisis but I knew it might be a case of life or death.

You see, it all started a couple of weeks back, following the printing of my missive on pig butchery and the unconventional transportation of dead porkers in a rental car. First, the episode was talked up on the radio, joked about, even but, beneath this seemingly innocent humour I sensed something more sinister. People began to stare warily at me in the street (this was before the beard shearing, remember) and I started to get emails from folks I didn’t know. Then, my lovely wife was accosted in the grocery store. “Which car did you rent from Curry Motors?” demanded the stranger. “I gotta pick one up this afternoon,” a car we presumed, rather than a pig, “and I’ll be damned if I get one that stinks to high heaven.” We still weren’t sure which.

That incident was the final straw. Things were getting too hot for me in Haliburton village, and so, kissing wife and Little Z goodbye, I packed up the pig meat, took the Hog Stuffer and high-tailed it out into the bush, hoping my newly unearthed, whiter-than-white chin wouldn’t spook the wildlife.

Now, until last week I wouldn’t have had a clue where to skedaddle to but following my meandering road trip I around the County’s roads (also recently reported upon in The Highlander: woe betide you if you missed it!) I had a new found knowledge of the region’s highways and byways. I roared off down Porky’s Road. I took a left on Bacon and then a right into Cheddar (always did think the two went well together in a sandwich) but quickly found myself disorientated on Lost Trail. Then, a sign appeared, Another Chance Lane it said, and so it was. It led to Camp Gayventure Court. Surely, no one would look for a swarthy pig chopper (masquerading as a clean shaven guy packin’ plenty of pork) in there.

HAHA! You think I’m that dumb. I took no such route, or did I? I’m not gonna give that away when the rental guys may already be after me. And, before any super sleuths try to track me via my electronic fingerprint, I’ll have them know that I was careful to send this latest missive from deep in the bush via an untraceable email. No one will be able to home in on my whereabouts by triangulating the position of my cell phone via transmission towers like they do in cop shows on TV. Why, because there is only one damn tower and the reception from Rogers is sooooo poor I can hardly ever get a signal anyway.

So, here I am, hidden in the bush (I’m tempted to tell you that I’m on Toenail Trail but it’d be a lie. I just wanted to mention it, as possibly the worst and as such best named trail in the County). I’m incommunicado but I’m eating well: I have an entire pig’s-worth of evidence that I’m chopping up and devouring before anyone else catches up with me.
And that’s where the Hog Stuffer comes in. My new sausage-making machine is making short work of the pork and only the telltale smell of frying bangers could give the game away.

What? You thought I’d gone out and bought myself a Harley Davidson! Jees: I may be approaching midlife but I’m not that old or desperate yet!     

Monday, November 7, 2011

Makin’ Bacon

You’ve heard the joke about how many elephants you can get in a mini, yes? Well if not, don’t worry it’s not very funny anyway. Here’s another one for you, though. How many pigs can you squeeze in a rental car? And, before you ask, yes they were full size pigs and no, it wasn’t an SUV or pick-up, far from it!
The answer is two, just about, so long as you saw one of them in half.
That wasn’t very funny either, was it. Then again, the fellows at the abattoir just about laughed their blood soaked aprons off when I turned up to collect my freshly killed pigs in the aforementioned, rather compact rental car.
“In there! HAHAHA… Really? HAHAHA…” guffawed a burly chap holding half of a 200lb pig.
“You need a bigger car. Or a smaller pig!” quipped his sidekick (who was also laden with a hefty load of unbutchered pork).
But, with some gentle persuasion and the help of a saw to chop the second porker into quarters, we managed to load my beloved but now very dead pigs into the car.
Little Z wasn’t overjoyed. Sitting in his seat in the rear of the vehicle, he was now confronted by two trotters, two ears, a snout and the ominous but rather vacant expression that I imagine most pigs adopt on being cut in half. “Daddy, think its smiling?” he asked tentatively, his brow furrowing and lip quivering slightly as he spoke. “Yes,” I boomed with an overconfident smile. “He’s really looking forward to us eating him!” I’m sure Z saw straight through that.
And so it was that the wife, child and I, plus our two not very talkative companions wended our way home for what was to be a mammoth evening of hog molestation.
But perhaps I should back up a little to explain. When living in the city I yearned to have the space to grow my own food; everything from chives to chickens, mustard greens to Muscovy ducks and parsley to, you guessed it, pigs. And so, on coming to Haliburton, I leapt wholeheartedly into that quest. I’ve grown vegetables; reared and dispatched chickens; and now, thanks to the help of some lovely friends in Gelert, raised big, fat, hairy, healthy pigs.
That said, they were for eating and so off to the abattoir they went. But, I’m no fool if not an enthusiastic one and the chance to butcher them myself was not something to be passed up. And so, here I was driving home from Lindsay, with my two year old sharing the back seat with 350lbs of unsliced bacon.
Back at the ranch, I extricated the pigs from the rear of the car and hosed down the interior to remove the blood and gore (it’s OK, it’s just a rental. Or should that be ‘sorry Curry’s!’) and heaved the large and evermore daunting carcasses into the garage, where my adhoc meat processing station had been set up.
“They’re quite big, aren’t they,” said the wife, drastically understating the situation. “Pigs still smiling, Daddy,” said Little Z, looking on from a distance. But, you gotta do what you gotta do, and with a wink at Z, I set to the task of chopping up our hogs into rather more bite-sized portions.  
Five hours later, with the little chap long tucked up in bed, the wife wielded the knife and sliced the last chop. It was gone midnight as I tied the knot on the butcher’s paper wrapped slab of flesh and the two of us fell into bed blood stained, exhausted but rather proud of our first foray into butchery.
I’ve taken these things from the experience, too. In addition to having a freezer packed to the gunnels with lovely, if slightly raggedy cuts, of home grown pork, I now have the utmost respect for the likes of Norm (of Smoke House fame), Mr Coneybeare and all you hunters who butcher your own meat.
And, I guess I have some explaining to do to Curry Motors!