All day, I sat in a windowless meeting room in the basement of a hotel in Halifax, Nova Scotia and listened to very important people talk about very important things. Immediately before the meeting my bowels had erupted, protesting as they often do to the change in input when I travel. I also forgot my acid reflux meds at home in Ottawa. And so the day began.
I sensibly ate half a sandwich at the lunch catered by the hotel, along with a spoonful of quinoa salad and a smidgen of beet and pear salad with baby kale festooning the bowl. Bravo for restraint. But half way through the afternoon, when I realized my audio recording was not working and I was without backup to replay and write minutes teased from the bafflegab zinging around the room faster than an e-coli outbreak, I turned to sugar – a chocolate fudge cake-pop, a lemon square, an oatmeal raisin cookie, and a two-bite date square. It saddened me that I would not be able to replay the sound of the mewing cat belonging to one meeting participant who joined by teleconference, but life is full of bitter disappointments such as this. As I self-soothed with sugar, a happy buzzing invaded my head and I tamped down tomorrow’s worries into that part of my brain swimming in a hot-tub of hormonal happiness.
The meeting ended at 6:30 and I dashed out, sprinted upstairs to my room, peeled off my pantyhose and wiggled out of my dress, pulled on jeans, sneakers, t-shirt, and coat and got the hell outside. That’s when the local smell smashed into my nostrils. Deep fried seafood. Fresh deep fried seafood. Grease aroma hung onto the hot air balloons of maritime mist. A magical alchemy of grease molecules attached to Halifax fog. (YHZ+H20) – glory fucking hallelujah.
I found my way accidentally to a place called “2 Doors Down” which sounded close to “three sheets to the wind” (a town on the Northern Peninsula of Newfoundland) and which is exactly where I wanted to be. The menu posted outside called to me with a Radical Roots Salad consisting in part of “beet hummus”. Yes, it sounds a little like compost you might spread on your spring garden but believe me, the colour, and texture were more like exploded fresh liver (which I like) than sheep dung. And the texture was definitely reminiscent of chick peas, not poo, which, given my day, was a relief.
The beet hummus formed a mattress for the pickled carrot and radish doubloons scattered among leaves of baby arugula and kissed up to al dente barley beads scattered like parade candy across the Shriner’s float of food. I ordered a Chilean Errazuriz “Suav Blanc” (the waiter’s words) chilled to Arctic perfection. I used my pointer finger to clean up the beet mattress. The plate shone with my saliva.
Dinner, two fish tacos coated in panko (code for “you’re in a fancy restaurant and we don’t use breadcrumbs here”) came laid across two itsy bitsy flour taco shells that if you cut a hole in the middle could serve as a poncho for a Barbie doll. A gentle red cabbage slaw with a jab of hot sauce tempered by sprigs of cilantro strategically placed like a fig leaf on Michaelangelo’s David decorated each taco. When the flavour of fresh fish clamped down on my tastebuds I nearly passed out with joy. I had another glass of wine to celebrate, a Demorgenzon DMS Chenin Blanc. I favoured the Z wines hoping for sleep to forget the minutes I’d have to fudge the following day.
Remorse for my choice assaulted me as I read the specials of the day too late. Fish pie. Oh my. And rhubarb trifle for dessert. I wanted to stay and live in a land of no consequences, indulge my inner glutton but then I remembered the bathroom on the Air Canada flight which had much in common with a construction site porta-potty and was so small my knees touched the door when I sat on the toilet. It was a sinkless cubbyhole with hand sanitizer bolted down to a ledge no wider than my wrist. A terrible place to lose your shit – or last night’s dinner. And while it might not be as rustic as a squat toilet in rural China, it ran a close second and was certainly smaller.
At the end of my feast, I hitched up my pants, snapped my coat over my slightly enlarged gullet and stepped outside again. Acid reflux and wine fought for supremacy as I gulped in heaps of tasty deep fried maritime air. Sometimes the risk is worth it.