The Drive Home: Salting through life one ketchup chip at a time

Haida Gwaii is about many things, but it’s mostly about food (and intransigence).

Halibut baked with sea asparagus, salmon grilled with chanterelles, deer roast with homegrown spuds, a Big Mac you had sent over on the seaplane — these are just a few of the wonderful foods you can find on Haida Gwaii.

Haida Gwaii is about many things, but it’s mostly about food (and intransigence). When I first moved to Haida Gwaii, I couldn’t cook at all. My culinary repertoire included such delectable duds as runny eggs (sunny side up only), sandwiches (white bread only, nothing in the middle), mustard on popcorn, and sometimes, if I was entertaining friends, Kraft Dinner with wieners. I have come a long way since then.

Tlell forced me to learn how to cook because the options for eating out in Tlell are limited at best. I quickly grew tired of the same old homemade tragedies I was diligently digesting and yearned for something less crappy. Sometimes I would mix things up and buy a bag of ketchup chips or a butter tart, but the constant heartburn and debilitating skin problems forced me to rethink my dietary decisions and I promised myself I would at least learn to cook a steak that wasn’t burnt to a blackened crisp on the outside and frozen solid in the middle.

I had many friends helping me along the way. The first piece of advice I got was from my friend Darrell who pointed out that my “timing” was off. At first I took his comments to mean that I was incorrectly assembling the different components of the meal, that I was putting on the potatoes to boil too early or opening the can of beef ravioli too late to have everything ready at the same time. But I soon realized that what he actually meant was that my vehicle’s timing belt was off, which is why it was backfiring. Darrell is a funny guy that way.

The next person to help me out was my friend Beans. Beans taught me about all the different spices a person could use to accentuate a meal’s flavours and ingredients. These spices are called salt. Salt goes well with everything, but isn’t so great just on its own (very important to know before having dinner guests).

After learning about spices, I was introduced to the world of meats by my friend Tuna Can (not his real name.) Tuna Can taught me that meat must “thaw” before it’s cooked. For those of you who, like I was, are unfamiliar with the term “thaw,” it is the chemical process by which meat gets its elasticity and chewiness. If a meat is not thawed, it will tend to be too hard in the middle – a condition known as meatatitus and can lead to a gastrectomy (a procedure where a Red Seal Chef slaps you in the face).

Once I learned the art of thawing, I pretty much knew everything there was to know about cooking. And so, like 98 per cent of Haida Gwaiians, I opened a restaurant, which I quickly closed down three months later thinking I had made enough money to retire. But apparently, $6.97 is not enough to retire (especially after you pay the income tax on it). So now I just cook for myself, and the rare person brave enough to try my food (by “rare person” I mean someone who has not yet been thawed).

I have to say, salt sure makes a difference! Just don’t use it as a main course.

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