Christmas

stockings

I remember when I was little and Christmas Day was always at home.  Home being the house I grew up in.  And it was always the same.  Every year.  I loved it.

Bright and early Christmas morning the three of us would creep around the corner of the stairs to see if our parents were awake.  Okay, so creep isn’t really the right word.  Perhaps thunder would be more accurate.  It was stocking time.  Stockings were pretty standard.  Trinkets and socks.  Soap on a Rope.  (It was the seventies after all).

Then there was the year that my mom had a couple too many glasses of wine on Christmas Eve and put panty hose in my brother’s stocking and Old Spice deodorant in my sister’s stocking.  She can not hold her liquor.

Once stockings had been unceremoniously emptied, my mom would start breakfast.  Being British we would have eggs, sausages, grilled tomatoes, toast and tea.  If my dad was lucky my mom would have made kippers.  Oh my god they make the house stink.  A kipper is a smoked herring.  Ya, I know.  But they love them.

We almost always ended up leaving the dishes for later as if we didn’t we would be late for church.  It was one of the three days each year that we had to go.  The carols were okay, I guess, but really it was just another obstacle in the way of getting to our presents.  Occasionally a kid would come to church with a new toy that they had already unwrapped.  I was so jealous that they had been allowed to open a gift while we had to wait.

It.  Was. Torture.

When it was finally over and we could go home, my dad would start his time wasting routine.  He would go into his room and get changed, go to the bathroom, find some gift that he had forgotten to wrap, disappear into the basement.  More torture.  Why?  Why did he do that?

When he finally decided it was time, we descended on the pile of gifts under the tree.  A pile of wrapping paper soon emerged in the middle of the living room floor and hugs and thank yous were exchanged.  Done and done.

Time to eat again.

Lunch was always cold sliced ham, cheese, crusty bread and fruit.  Sounds very European doesn’t it?  Really, it was just quick and easy.  Besides we had better things to do.  Toys to play with, clothes to try on and puzzles to do. If I’m honest, this was a time when there was a tiny bit of let down.  All the anticipation and build up and hoping.  Done.  Ahead was a long empty afternoon.

But then there was the annual Christmas walk.  Rain. Sun. Snow.  No matter what, we would put the turkey in the oven then head out the door.  My favorite walk was down 29th Street to the beach, along the beach to 31st Street then back up over the railway tracks to a house that was filled with the scent of food.  As a grown up I now appreciate the fact that I could eat more after that walk.

By now my mom was in full “cooking” mode.  Usually we would have guests for Christmas dinner.  My parents would contact an organization that helped out any sailors/workers who were in port that day and wanted to celebrate the holiday.  It made for some interesting conversations as they didn’t always speak a lot of English. If I thought that English cooking was odd can you imagine what they thought?

Time to eat again.

Bring on the full Christmas meal.  Roast turkey, roast potatoes, stuffing, stuffing balls (meatball size balls of stuffing fried in butter), veggies, gravy and bread sauce.  Bread sauce?  Another British delicacy.  Simmer a whole onion studded with cloves in milk for a couple of hours.  Discard the onion and fold in fresh white bread crumbs.  Yup, savory porridge.

xmas

Christmas Day always, always, ended with all of us in the living room.  A tray of chocolates and nuts (because we needed more food) and my dad pouring us all shots of Grand Marnier, port or brandy.  So what if we were only kids.  This is the one British tradition I enjoyed.

The Best Thing in Life is still remembering these things and passing on the stories to my kids.  They think they are ridiculous but one day they will be our family history.

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I’m Sorry For What I Said When I Was Hungry

thischickshangry

Just after Christmas last year my husband, daughter and I were in Victoria for a little get away.  We had done a lot of walking and sightseeing during the day and it was getting late.  And I was hungry.  No, I was hangry.  You know.  When you are so hungry that the lack of food causes you to become frustrated, snappy and well, bitchy.

We found a cool pizza place for dinner and as we walked in we noticed that all of the staff were wearing t-shirts with the slogan.

I’m sorry for what I said when I was hungry

My seven-year old looked at me and smiled and my husband said.  “You need that shirt.”  What?

Okay, so I get a little cranky if I’m not fed quickly enough.  Have you seen the Snickers commercials?  But who doesn’t?  It’s pretty normal I think.  Okay, so I may take it a step too far occasionally.  Really, is it so hard to just get me some food when I need it?  I’m not a fussy eater so it could be pretty much be anything, so long as it fills my belly.

The whole thing is just basic biology.  Here’s what is happening in your body when you get hangry.

Despite the fact that your brain is only 2% of your body weight, it uses up 20-30% of the energy you consume.  So when your glucose levels are nose diving your brain starts to struggle with controlling emotions.  Since anger is the emotion that most people have difficulty regulating, it tends to be what goes first.  And you get hangry.

In my younger, not so wise days, I thought that the longer I could go without eating the better.  It meant I had will power and didn’t need food.  (Don’t shake your head ’cause I know you did it too). Now I’m not talking about starving myself.  Well, actually I guess I was.  I just didn’t know any better and thought it was good to be a little hungry.  I might even lose some weight if I could do it for enough days in a row.  This may explain a few of those temper tantrums my mom has told me about.

When I started seeing a naturopath a couple of years ago one of the first things she did was test my blood sugar.  It was probably close to 10:30 in the morning.  I had eaten breakfast but was feeling a little rumble in my stomach.  No big deal right?

“Your blood sugar is a bit low.” She told me

“But I just had breakfast. Well, I had breakfast at 7:30 this morning.”

“That was three hours ago.  You need to keep your blood sugar between 4.4 and 6.1.

I’ve learnt a lot in the last year and a half about what my body does and doesn’t need to not only function, but function well and my hangry episode are getting fewer and farther between.  My family may get me that t-shirt from the pizza place but the Best Thing in Life is that they will still love me.  Hangry or not.

FYI – Rungry is the term used when you are so hungry from a long run that you must eat everything you see.  But that’s a whole different post.

Rob

In the business world no endeavor is riskier than opening a restaurant. Few make it. Expensive start up, transient staff, fickle customers and changing trends make it a tough go. So when an establishment makes it, you know you’ve got a good thing. Verdicchio’s Deli was one of those establishments. So why did it close last June?  My friend Rob Verdicchio owned Verdicchio’s for 15 years. When I spotted his new business, Homewatch North Shore, on line, I had to know how and why he made such a huge change in his life.

If you grew up in West Vancouver in the 1970s and 1980s and didn’t know a member of the Verdicchio family, chances are you were living under a rock. “How many cousins do you have?” I asked. “Lots.” Not only where they a large Italian family but they also owned Peppi’s. At the time it was probably one, if not the only, fine dining restaurant in West Vancouver. On the beach at the foot of 25th Street, it was the quintessential Italian restaurant. Red and white checkered table cloths, Chianti bottles hanging from the ceiling and more spaghetti and meatballs than you can shake a stick at. Oh, and even if you were underage, chances are you could get still get a glass of wine with your dinner. So I heard.

peppis

Peppi’s Restaurant

I can’t remember when I first met Rob. I think it was 1981. Rob and I bussed tables at the Ambleside Inn. It was my first job at a high end restaurant and thank god for Rob helping me out or that butter whipper may have gotten the best of me. Both being in the restaurant business on the North Shore, we ran into each other a lot over the years. Many great times. Many late nights at Holidays or Tommy Africa’s. The time Rosemary and I moved all of his furniture out of his basement suite onto his back lawn. That pistachio suit. And of course late nights at Milieu. Good times. So how did he end up owning a successful deli?

Orazio Scaldaferri and his wife Rosana (Rob’s cousin) first opened the deli under the name Scaldaferri’s in Dundarave sometime in the 70’s. Along with another cousin, who came over from Italy, they operated the deli for many years. Rob, at the time, was managing the Beachouse, an upscale restaurant in the building that had housed his families beloved Peppi’s.  When an opportunity presented itself in 1998, Rob purchased the deli and changed the name to Verdicchio’s. It took a few years to re-establish the clientele after things had slipped a bit, but from there business took off. Rob was even able to secure the lucrative, but intensive, hot lunch program for numerous West and North Vancouver schools.

But a few years ago things started to change.  Four years ago Rob gave up drinking. “It was time to end the Verdicchio curse”. Working in the restaurant business and being Italian can be a death sentence apparently. Additionally, his chef was battling cancer.  His kids were getting older, his wife was getting back into her career.  It made Rob realize that life is short.  Owning a restaurant is a hard go on a day to day basis.  Long hours, difficult suppliers and constant upkeep.  So at the end of the day, it was time to move on from Verdicchio’s. A tough decision I would imagine. When you put your heart into something, it is never easy to let go.

So now he’s at home (for now) and his wife is working on her career. “The house has never been cleaner, the laundry is done everyday and heaven help anybody who gets in “my” kitchen.” Rob says with a laugh. After a few attempts at getting back into the restaurant management field, he thought maybe he would try a completely different direction. And so Homewatch North Shore was born. Homewatch is a personalized home watch for absentee owners. As any good businessman would do, Rob has done his homework and the market is certainly there for this service. Homeowners who travel or live oversees can leave their property in the hands of a responsible company and know that it will be looked after.  Check it out.

The last question I asked Rob was if he had an unlimited supply of cash would he resurrect Peppi’s, the family restaurant? “…I would love to. But an updated version.” How great would that be? I think that as we both head into our fifties, we have the Best Things in Life ahead of us. Although, that pistachio suit was quite spectacular.