Yukon Books - Whitehorse, Yukon
Yukonbooks.com > Ellen Davignon: Lives of Quiet Desperation

  Ellen Davignon: Lives of Quiet Desperation

Food for Thought

January 1, 2002

Is it better to mix the curry powder in a bit of cold water before adding it to the sauce or should you toast it in the dry pan first and then add the fat and flour to make a roux and so on? What, in your considered opinion, is the best way of cooking spaghetti, with a splash of oil in the water or no?

How do you stop a soufflé from soufflopping before you can get it to the table?

One might think that the subject of food would not come up too often in a bookstore. But I have to tell you, one would be wrong. At Mac's, not only is the topic of food presented for discussion on a regular basis, quite often the food itself is displayed, dissected, and shared. Opinions are offered; appraisals tendered. No money changes hands but bartering is the name of the game and the basement its bailiwick.

Not that food questions don't arise "on the floor," from time to time. With a large cook book section (Aisle 2, right hand side going to the back; about halfway down…to the right... your OTHER right….!)) offering everything from Healthy Muffins to Sushi: Fast and Fancy and the glittering star of the Books For Everyone Christmas catalogue, Nigella Bites, as well as several dozen magazines catering to the average garden-variety cook all the way up to Le Cordon Bleu cuisineres, we're bound to get culinary requests. After all, it is assumed by most that if we sell cookbooks, we have read each book and are ready and willing to critique recipes and assist in major decisions with regards methods and oven temperatures.

Similarly, when we display a variety of travel guides, we'd better be prepared to stack Lonely Planet's Things to See and Do against Fodor's Hot Spots, and explain why.

But it is in the basement where the matter of comestibles holds sway, primarily in the tiny cooking area that shares space with forty-eleven cases of Gold Fields of the Klondike remainders that are not exactly flying out the door even at the fire-sale price of $9.95, GST not included. The doors to Accounting open at right angles to the lunch table; Receiving and Mail areas are separated from it by a few feet of empty space and three in-coming freight pallets labeled This Week's, Last Week's, and Oh Good Lord! A short distance down the hall is the Book Buyer's office, the hall entrance to the Special Orders' Desk and Downstairs Bookroom, and Antiquarian Books. It's a largely open concept and staff members, noises, and aromas tend to flow forth and back, like flotsam on an ocean swell.

Because Mac's Fireweed keeps long hours, open most days from 8 AM to 9Pm, and until midnight in the summer, staff work hours are staggered and breaks are arranged for no more than one or two at a time, thereby ensuring no lapses in customer assistance or, God and/or Chris forbid, a lineup of more than three at the till. It follows, therefore, that beginning at 11:30, the lunchroom is in business nearly all day long.

Not everyone brings lunch, of course. And not everyone goes out to partake in a 'bought' meal. But eaten out or in, cold or hot, homemade or it's production supervised from in front of the counter at Subway, each meal is analyzed and discussed with the intensity normally reserved for childbirth experiences and results.

"Mmm, smells good, Natalie…what are you having today?"

"Oh, I didn't have time to cook anything, I just brought a Chicken Salad from D.Q. It's so good with this honey-mustard dressing. What do you have there, Deb?

"Oh, this is a stir fry made from last night's roast. I just chopped some, threw in the leftover veggies, a bit of plum sauce and a dash of soy. I see that Nick's made spaghetti again…looks yummy, too, Lise."

"Yeah, my private little chef's been out-doing himself, lately. Spaghetti last night, halibut with crab and tomatoes the night before. Hey Mom, come and taste this sauce, you'd never know it was made with moose."

I leave off weighing parcels and saunter across the freight area to peer into Lise's divided Tupperware dinner-saver. "Moose, huh? No thanks, you know I don't eat game. Smells good though. What did he use, fresh basil?"

Brett wanders in, drawn from the depths of his Antiquarian pied-a-terre by the savoury smells wafting down the hall. "Basil? I thought I was smelling barbecued ribs again. We had them last night but I think they had oregano in the sauce, maybe it was basil. Whatever, I know I ate too many. All I brought today was that diet drink Diane makes with yogurt and soymilk and stuff. You can lose a lot of weight in a couple of days…."

"I tried that," Michelle calls from the office. "All it did for me was give me gas and make me cranky." She peers over the divided door. "If you brought any of those ribs along, though, I'd trade you for some low-fat turkey meatloaf sandwich…"

I wander back to my station, noticing that as he works, Jim is noshing on a thick sandwich made with grainy bread, ham and a lot of sprouts and salad greens. A bowl of potato salad imparts its egg-y, onion-y aroma into the atmosphere. "If you're still hungry after that…" I gesture at his bowl… "I brought in some of those banana-nut muffins you like… they're on the table. There're lots."

There's also a jar of peanut butter on the shelf, homemade raspberry jelly and margarine in the fridge, crackers on top of the microwave, in case anyone gets the munchies in between lunch breaks. Lise is always good for extra fruit, Christine's friend, Luz, sends us delicious Asian spring rolls and noodle dishes, and Jeannie springs, from time to time, for an assortment of doughtnuts from Timmies. Cookies are unabashedly used as bribes, fresh eggs are shared after a particularly intense period of "getting the backlog cleared," and little jars of antipasto appear out of nowhere and beg to be taken home for holiday feasting. Dishes of Werther's Choco-Crunchies invite double dipping.

It's funny about our Epicurean preoccupation. Most of us come from pretty ordinary homes where food appears on the table several times in the course of a day and when I look around, I don't see too many obvious signs of deprivation so it isn't that.

Could it be boredom? Or, perhaps, a variation of SAD, given the amount of time that many of us are stuck in the cellar without ever seeing the light of day - dark when we arrive, dark when we leave; whole weather systems coming and going without our knowing; the faint wailing of sirens barely grazing our consciousness, knowing, as we do, that the Fire Engine/Ambulance/Patrol Car will be long gone before we can make it to street level for a look?

It might very well a gastronomically intellectual predilection, all of us missing our calling in the field of nutritional science by some wee cosmic glitch.

Yeah, it could be any of those things. Or it could be that most of us just happen to enjoy the subject of food in anyway, shape or form. And have the figures to prove it.

But if there is one subject we all love to discuss more than food itself, it is the latest method for dealing with the after effects of our fascination. To that (sic) end, I have encouraged Brett to share the recipe for his diet drink with us. It is, as follows:

1 c. plain, low fat yogurt 1 T. flaxseed oil
1 c. cranberry juice 1 T. wheat germ oil or
1 c. orange juice 2 T. wheat germ
1 c. soy vanilla-flavored milk

Shake or blend well.
Sip over two days along with lots of water.
Don't get too far from a bathroom.

(Editors note: My wife actually found this recipe in the December 2002 issue of Women's World magazine, along with the warning that if you do this as a weight-loss plan and this is ALL you consume, that you are absolutely NOT to do it for more than 48 hours!!)

Good luck.

Oh, and about that soufflopping soufflé? Anyone? There are at least two of us who would really like to know. Call us during lunch break…

Print Preview


[Special Order Desk]
Great Deals
New Arrivals
Special Offers
Recover password
Contact us
Privacy statement
Terms & Conditions
Shipping Information
Special Orders Desk

Copyright © 2007 Yukonbooks.com