No chowdown

I’m sporting #sadface.

It isn’t because today I got my second PFO letter (please eff off, for the uninitiated) in two days.

It isn’t because I’ve had only one call for an interview for the 15 or so resumes I sent out last week.

It isn’t even because it’s a full week more before I get to see My American for the Christmas holidays.

It’s because I can’t find a damn jar of chow anywhere in Calgary.

Chow, you see, is a Maritime pantry staple. It’s a mash of green tomatoes, onions, pickling spice and some other stuff. And it is, quite simply, delicious.

For whatever reason, I’ve been thinking about chow — some call it chow chow — a lot lately. It could be I’ve been seeing a lot of ex-pat Maritimers lately and we like to talk about the things we remember from home.

It could be that we’re brushing up on Christmas and I’m thinking a bit about family and tradition.

Wanted: Chow

Dad was a meat-and-potatoes guy. He was a man with simple tastes and Mom obliged with home cooking to suit him.

We’d have home-baked beans on Saturday nights and eggs and bacon on Sunday mornings.

Otherwise, we’d feast on Corn Flakes, generic brand puffed wheat, wieners and beans, wieners and sauerkraut, wieners and rice and, of course, Kraft Dinner. Sometimes with wieners.

It’s a pretty good guess I don’t eat wieners much anymore. Corn Flakes, either.

And we had the most amazing homemade preserves. Mom made best-in-the-world jams with berries we picked as a family in the woods behind our house. (Sorry, Hamish, your jams are a good close second.)

Oh and the pickles … bread-and-butter pickles, dill pickles, mustard pickles, pickled beets …

The pantry shelves in the basement next to the freezer were stocked full of bottled jam and pickles.

And chow. Jars and jars and jars of chow, made with green tomatoes grown in our own backyard.

We’d dump it on our plates, right next to the potatoes. Nothing went better with a good old-fashioned Maritime boiled dinner.

Mmmm … boiled dinner

So, I wanted to satiate my desires.

I went to the London Town Square in Calgary’s NE, thinking Sobeys, the grocery giant based out of Stellarton, N.S., would be the one place — if any — that kept chow on the shelves for ex-pat Maritimers.

My eyes darted around the pickle shelves but fell on nothing I wanted. A little jar of yellow mush claimed to be chow chow but … well … just no.

“Can I help you find something?”

I explained my plight to the gentleman. His shoulders sagged and his face took on an expression that said ‘oh God, not another one.’

It seems I’m not the only one hungry for some pickled green tomatoes. My kindly helper, however, hails from B.C. He has sampled the tasty fare and hated it.

Hated it? Good grief.

In any case, there’s no chow to be found in Western Canada, he says. The only company that supplies Graves Green Tomato Chow outside of homeland territory is embroiled in some kind of legal battle with its western distributor.

Somebody owes somebody more money than the other way around or something.

And so, Atlantic Grocery Distributors refuses to send any chow beyond its Atlantic Canada borders.

Can’t we all get along?

Ah, no. Keep checking back, my new Sobeys friend says. Maybe they’ll start shipping out west again in the new year.



In the meantime, I have four options:

  • Wait out the legal issues
  • Send my mother a sorrowful email and ask her to mail me some chow
  • Find some green tomatoes and get cooking
  • Replace this craving with another one
Hellooooooooo, ice cream.

Family traditions

The tree, the Nativity scene, the gifts piled up to the ceiling …

Aren’t these the first Christmas traditions that come to mind?

Then there’s the MacIsaac household. It wasn’t all that different from any Canadian home at Yuletide.

Obnoxious Santas, elves, angels, the Three Wise Men … all the wonderful confusion of childhood fantasy and Catholic conscience.

And hockey on the TV.

Yep, that’s right. Back when Eric Lindros was Jesus, not Sidney Crosby. Remember?

We would huddle around the floor-model tube TV, the same set which still sits in our living room and casts a greenish hue, and watch the World Junior Hockey Championship.

There wouldn’t be much said, there never was. Dad didn’t like chatter while he watched the game.

Nonetheless, it was a tradition.

All four of us faithfully carry it on each Christmas, I believe. We’re all big hockey fans.

It’s indelibly stamped on my life since I became immersed in the major junior world during my seven years on the WHL beat in Kamloops.

This year, however, I’m going to miss most of it.

The tourney kicks off Boxing Day with the match that’s always one of the best of the round-robin, Canada vs. Russia.

That one, I’ll catch.

But the next day, I leave the country for seven days.

Oh sure, for a few days, I’ll still be in WHL country, hanging out in the land of the Spokane Chiefs.

I don’t yet know, though, if it’s broadcast on TV the same way TSN smothers us with WJHC coverage.

And hockey isn’t exactly the first thing you see on the TVs when you walk in the bar.

Plus, I’ve already promised myself I won’t be connected during my vacation … no laptop, no Twitter, no Facebook, no RSS feeds …

I’ll be north of the 49th again on January 3, probably too late for either of the semifinal games but you can be damn sure I’ll be planted somewhere serving cold Molson beer for the Wednesday medal games.

Just like tradition dictates.

Go Canada.


A Christmas to remember

It’s been a while since I bothered to decorate my place for Christmas.

I never really saw much point. I’m not really the best hostess in the world, so a lot of people don’t drop by for a visit. And, in the past, I’ve never really spent a lot of time around the house, always going to others’ homes and enjoying their decorations.

This year, I made a decision. Christmas is going to be the way I want it to be.

So I went to Wal-Mart to shop for a tree. I saw one for 30 bucks. Three-feet tall. Figured that would be about perfect for my cozy little apartment.

I got it home and pulled it out of the box. I laughed, supposing I should have read the box before I dragged it around the store and then home. The end of each branch has fibre optic strands, so I plug it in and voila, instant lights! Oh and it also has its own glass balls scattered around the branches.

I thought, ‘man, Mom would love this tree!’

I’ve grown quite used to it … although the white star I bought back in Newfoundland seems a little big, maybe too top-heavy. Kinda like me.

And I’ve taken my mini lights and strung them around my windows and a stocking is hung from the window sill with a modicum of care.

So I’ve done it for me to enjoy … not for anyone else. It feels good that way.

I think, however, Shep’s jury is still out on the decision: