John hasn’t showed me the sketches yet that he did of me this morning and we had packed up my things and he had left to rent a car because like a lot of people in places like Montreal, Toronto and yes even Quebec it’s not day to day practical to own and keep a car. It’s like that in a lot of cities actually.
I packed up and John’s a gentleman and he carries my things ad we drive down into the edge of the city that’s fairly close to the old quarter. It’s a loft in an older building, five floors and no lift but whatever the place used to be it has been renovated nicely.
The loft is hardwood floors and not the laminate but the original stuff and built solid but with ages of scuffs and scars and character. The walls are bare brick and the support beams are showing all of them are metal but treated with a kind of Tremclad paint.
The wall closest to the staircase and door is the kitchen and he’s got this fabulous island that’s four feet wide and a dozen feet long and is made up of butcher’s blocks. He’s got a lot of older appliances an old fridge really old where you pull on the door handle to unlock the fridge door. It’s been lovingly restored. He’s this amazing set of bookshelves rescued from something or someplace that are at the end of the kitchen and are a free standing pantry. He has a lot of jars of things that look like preserves and stuff all in the old styled mason jars.
“Wow, okay you cook?”
“Not enough but I do like to support the people that make all these things at the markets I mean if you look at it right a really nice bottle of jam’s pretty artistic.”
“You do everything with art in mind?”
“No but I just like the spirit of it all. I really have a sort of deep kind of dislike for the whole deep corporate soullessness you see around.”
“You sure you’re an American? Isn’t capitalism supposed to run through your blood?”
“Hey I’m all for making money but there are ways to make cash without screwing other people over or raping the planet.”
“Not a bottled water drinker then.”
“No, I have a tap and a built in filter.”
“Rarely and usually only when I’m drunk and close to one but we’re in Quebec City the street food here is faster and better than any fast food.”
“I adore KFC how can you not like KFC?”
“It’s not the same up here, you can’t get honey with the chicken and the potatoes are gross, and the coleslaw has carrot in it and there’s buns and not biscuits.”
I grin at him. “I’ve never had KFC in the states I’ve had McDonalds and A&W both were pretty much the same as here.”
“I like A&W more that McCrappolla’s”
“I make a really mean fried chicken.”
“Really, what do you need?”
I look around. “You’ve got most of it here actually.”
“So are you offering?”
I laugh. “Show me where I can unpack and stow the rest of my things and you can go get us some chickens.”
John shows me to the bedroom area a really nice spot off to the corner of the loft with a series of recycled big wooded bookcases like from a library or something that he’s using as shelves for his clothes and his towels and it’s all really kind of a guy thing with one of those cheap tube steel coat racks that have just wire hangers on them and Rubbermaid bins that he keeps his socks and some t-shirts in and other things.
Really sort of nice in a really guy sort of way. I clear some room for my things and carefully fold the things that I have with me and there’s some space on the hangers with John only having a couple of jackets and coats and three suit sized dry cleaning bags.
I get changed too going from the dress and nice under wear to nice but comfortable underwear and yoga pants and…I grab one of John’s football shirts of some team called the Blackhawks…maybe its hockey?
I go barefoot because I’m like that, honestly in any place that I’m comfortable at I’m always going bare foot. I guess you can sort of read into it but honestly I’ve heard it means so many different things from so many different people it’s in the end just me and that’s one of my things.
I head back into the main part of the loft and start to check things out in just the little ways and yeah being a nosy girl in general. John’s place isn’t really dirty and much as it’s dusty and needs some TLC or as some people are prone to saying the place needs a woman’s touch.
Hmmm…not today, I’m so not going to spend time cleaning yet. It’s too early in the relationship for that.
I mean if it’s a relationship.
Okay waay too much of that for right now, this is a…well it is what it is and that’s a very good, very strong maybe.
I head to the kitchen and if I’m making fried chicken then I need to make a few things on the side.
I go through John’s pantry and I get the stuff that I need and I make biscuits I make good biscuits if I have the right stuff and he’s got most of it so I’m making really decent biscuits. One of my favourite tricks is freezing the butter and grating it into the dry stuff. See when the butter melts it’s hot enough to make the steam and that makes them fluffy when the steam escapes.
I get the herbs that I’m going to use in my breading first and their mostly dry stuff so I toast them in the frying pan first. Then I add just a bit of flour only about a table spoon or two to the herbs and the salt. Pepper is key, not the hot stuff but some kind derived from the standard peppercorn. See regular pepper isn’t just spicy it wakes the saliva glands and that makes all the tastes of the food you are eating get more spread through your mouth…more yumminess. It’s something I picked up in Japan.
That and my tempura batter, I use a mutated technique when I make my chicken…It’s gotten rave reviews everywhere that I’ve ever made it.
I make potatoes too. Mashed since he’s just got some Yukon golds which are good for that and they’re also good for fries but I’ve always thought that fried chicken with fries was overkill. I wash them and set them into the steamer. A good potato that’s steamed has more flavor than a boiled potato or it does for me.
It’s not healthier since I add it butter and cream and I add just a bit of salt and just a bit of white pepper and a teaspoon of sugar…just a teaspoon to react with the salt and it really does work. I’m mashing things up when John comes in with these wax paper lined paper bags from a real butcher. So much better than getting things wrapped in plastic and all the wholesale supermarket stuff.
I lived in South America and Japan both with really large populations and neither is as stuck on the mass market pre-packaged stuff than North America. I know there’s a huge amount of it in Japan with like ten to twelve vending machines per person but a lot of their groceries are fresher than ours. Unless you go to a convenience store.
He’s already smelling the air. “Mmm, wow you really can cook.”
“I told you…besides I like busting some stereotypes?”
“There’s certain places I’ve lived where women don’t really cook.”
“Oh…I suppose it’s getting more common.”
“Yeah it is and I like to eat even if I have to work harder to keep it off.”
“I can think of ways to work it off.”
“Mmm, me too. Food is a pleasure and it’s something that you should enjoy…true it’s really easy to over do it but depriving yourself of the basics doesn’t make you a better person it just makes you cranky.”
“I agree, uhm he included everything I didn’t know what you used so…”
I look in the bags and the chickens are butchered and he included the neck, backs and the gizzard and hearts and the livers. I take the softer stuff and toss it in the food processor he’s got and toss the necks into a pot of chicken stock and some of the spices I’ve got ready and the chicken backs go into the hot oil. I want them browned and it’s a good thing too because that pre-flavors the oil with the renderings from the backs and the browned chicken backs are flavor.
I pull them and I take the skins off of them and share them with John while the rest goes into the stock pot with the buzzed up bits from the food processor a quartered onion skin on. The color from the papery skins will get in the stock, some garlic, carrot and celery and I put the pot on full wack and let it bubble away.
The chicken I roll in the seasoning I made up and I then toss it in some beat up egg white and water then I flash fry it. See this is the secret to my chicken the seasoning gets stuck to the bird and sealed in by the egg white and it’s mostly cooked by the time I take it out and I put in into a bowl and toss some more seasoning to it. See the flour added to the seasoning makes a huge difference here in this part because it gives the tempura batter something to stick too and once the pieces are cooled enough that I can hold them with my fingers I dip and fry them again but with the tempura batter and they come out fully cooked, really moist because the first fry seasoned and sealed everything in and it’s double crispy once from the skin on the first fry and the egg white and then again with the tempura crunchiness.
Two chickens and mashed potatoes and my gravy and he eats nearly a whole chicken himself in pieces and the other fixings aside. I have a leg with thigh on it and a wing and potatoes and gravy.
Y’know I love being my age, there’s a lot of women that’ll say they hate it and all of that stuff but…well lets just say I love not being in my twenties. I’m grown up enough and John’s grown up enough that we clean up and dishwasher the dishes and we both get a coffee and retire to his couch area and have no shame like some twenty somethings about laying down and actually watching some TV together and doing the post supper food coma thing.
The next day I get him to walk me around the neighbourhood so I can get a few things and so that I can plot out my running route. It’s just that and me lazing around the loft while he has the music blasting and he paints. He’s doing this series of Quebec and ravens and the city scenes through their POV’s.
I read through some of the books that I got, we have leftovers for brunch…wine and each other for a break around two…until about five thirty and while he paints and I take a long bath we decide to go out for supper.
He plays a lot of rock and roll from the sixties and the seventies and a bit from the other times but John is very much a Stones, Beatles, CCR, Skynnard, Zeppelin kind of guy with smatterings of all that genre…I’m surprised to hear a healthy dose of Metallica and Nirvana and Coldplay too.
Not that I mind, I love this kind of music too. I like mostly everything but country and rap and J-pop and K-pop it’s just really not my thing.
We eat at a nice place in Lower town or Basse-Ville and they’re another café spot with a nice menu. I like all sorts of food but there is just something so nice and normal about a nice simple pan roasted fish. A salad and bread and wine then we head off to this place that he’s been planning on showing me called The Image Mill.
It’s a really nice place to stop and go see this is like part theatre and part museum and gallery all rolled together but made and presented so that it’s as entertaining to the locals as much as it is made for the tourists.
You get to watch this 3-d sort of show projected out onto these huge silos that are lining the waterfront in the area. It’s fascinating and as much as I was kind of like more art? Even as much as I love art this was something else…the silos move and undulate sometimes and the effect is. Transportive… This is a really big undertaking for anyone really and it’s something just amazing about the whole spectacle and there’s even some cabaret going on with the whole thing. The one thing that was iffy was it’s a late show and you’re right down on the water so it’s chilly but John had thought of this and he had me bring my coat which is a good idea in general for Quebec city as the whole city is waterside and you can get a chill fairly quick. Well that and the fact that the city does kind of run itself with things to do pretty late anyways.
We slipped into a few nice bars and had a few drinks and I got to meet some more of the different kind of people that John knows. My french is getting a real workout though and sometimes it’s a bit hard to figure out or follow along in the conversations but I don’t really mind having been through the same thing several times in my life.
Just admit that you can’t really follow along and they’ll either include you or they won’t. More often than not they’ll slow down so you can follow along or switch to English if they know it but some times they won’t.
That happened twice tonight with two of the women that John knew and it’s not like they’re interested in him but they were interested because I was with him and therefore worth competing with me over for that effed up reason women seem to have in some cultures.
I don’t care that they’re flirting with him or not slowing down what they’re saying to him in french, I’m not really into the whole mean girls we hate other women thing. It’s a bit of that female psyche that I’m actually glad that I don’t have.
But I know other women that don’t either so it’s just likely some kind of attention thing. Still we have a good time despite them being that way and we head back to his place and get in the door about twenty passed one and we have a shower together which leads to some lovemaking and a very satisfied comfortable snuggle into the sheets to finish the day.
So far so good…right?
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