Book review - Straddling the Hound - The Curious Charms of Long-Distance Bus Travel · 30.08.16 by colin newell
When humanity first put one foot in front of the other and locked its gaze on the horizon, the force of curiosity and exploration would inevitably build nations.
Without a curious nature and desire to follow the sun, we would be an entirely different people living in an entirely different world.
Retired medical doctor, Trevor Watson, is one such 21st-century explorer who finds the attraction of the open road impossible to resist. At a very early age, Trevor would sit in his bedroom and gaze at a large full colour Mercator map; he would imagine ocean journeys between tropical outposts. These junkets would often involve ingenious plans to avoid pirates, bandits, and encounters with malarial mosquitos.
Responsibility and practical demands of life in the adult world settled in and Trevor (in a candid and wry admittance) reluctantly decided on a career in family medicine. It would be a wise choice since it created an opportunity to meet his lovely wife of 46 years and travel and work in some interesting corners of the globe. Being a family physician also led him to write a column dealing with health issues for several Canadian newspapers in the 1990s.
In Trevor Watson’s debut release, Straddling the Hound he takes us on a series of explorations into the American hinterland. He frequently integrates etymological and linguistic analysis of place names, regional personalities and the very industry and infrastructure of the open road.
The book has more substance and surprises than what you would expect at first glance. Straddling the Hound is a very satisfying reading experience – as page after page of first person travel observations reveals unflinchingly detailed explanations of place names, people and the regional origins of successful businesses that ultimately thrived because of travel.
As you would expect, a book about bus travel in North America is not all about smiling faces. This is not the simpler times of the 1950’s and 1960’s. A journey on a trans continental bus is as much about discovering something new as it is seeing the seedier side of the American experience:
One chap particularly caught my eye; he was as stocky as can be; his neck must have been 20” around. He was, I imagined, Carlos “Chopper” Ramirez, out on weekend parole. He had cryptic messages tattooed on his neck and bald scalp. His head actually seemed suffused, as though it was about to explode. Oddly enough, he had – of all things – a huge golden polo medal hanging around his neck. I’ll bet you anything it was stolen, or maybe won in a knife fight.
I found myself drawing the curtains on my suburban home as I fell deeper and deeper into Dr. Watson’s first person dystopian vision of downtown America. That feeling would pass as the writing gave way to a folksier and journalistic treatise on the very fabric of America’s open road, its people, the itinerant among us and the many meanings of our journey.
Straddling the Hound is not just about the bricks, mortar, concrete and blacktop of our interconnecting matrix of highways that connect all the people in their varied splendour. Its also a fearless gaze at the strata of society. Dr. Watson takes us on a sojourn under the soiled fingernails and into the duffle bags of the every day people that ride the bus – heading home, leaving home, and often away from a temporary home. He flirts with often acerbic descriptions of frustrated employees and drivers of Greyhound. He explains the origins of highway-byway diners like Denny’s:
Denny’s was founded in 1953, in Lakewood, California, by Richard Jezak and Harold Butler. The original name was Danny’s Donuts, but a few years later was changed to Denny’s to distinguish itself from a competing chain called Doughnut Dan’s.
More than anything else Trevor Watson wants to achieve his mission; to find out about the very essence of the people that he encounters; to understand them and their history and their place in the modern world. It is, I think, the thirst for knowledge that powers, in part, the motivation of the (as Trevor describes himself) hodophiliac – someone who’s fond of or loves traveling.
Dr. Watson (Photo above) takes us on a dusty road trip leaving us significantly more curious about the world around us. I am very confident that readers of this blog would definitely enjoy putting on their traveling shoes and taking a ride on this bus. Copies of “Straddling the Hound” are available on Amazon.ca and also at Tanners Books in beautiful Sidney, British Columbia, Bolen Books at the Hillside Mall and Ivy’s Books in Oak Bay.
Colin Newell is a Victoria resident, on the southern tip of Vancouver Island, who is constantly in search of a great cup of coffee and a good book to read.
Cajun Oyster Jambalaya - a slight variation · 13.01.16 by colin newell
I love the complex, sometimes rich and exotic flavours of Cajun cooking. Unique to Louisiana, it features French, African, Spanish and Native American influences – depending on liberal application of regional spice blends and with the availability of wonderful fresh shell fish these dishes really shine!
Preparation time: 45 minutes
Cooking time: About 70 minutes
Makes: 8 servings
1/2 lb. fresh dry andouille sausages, about 2 to 3 depending on size
3 Tbsp Canola oil (approx)
1 lb. boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut into 1-inch cubes
6 tsp homemade Cajun spice (divided; see Note 1 below)
1 large onion, finely diced
4 celery ribs, finely diced
1 medium green bell pepper, finely diced
1 medium yellow bell pepper, finely diced
1 Poblano chile, 2 Jalapeno chile, 2 Serrano chile, 1 Habanero chile and
2 Thai red chiles
2 cups Jasmine rice
4 cups low salt chicken stock
2 bay leaves
• salt to taste
12 large prawns – peeled with tail portion left intact, and deveined (see Note 2 below)
Alternately – 2 standard tubs of fresh Oysters (chopped in 4’s)
Heat oil in Dutch oven or wide pot set over medium-high.
Add the chicken and sprinkle with 1 1/2 tsp of the Cajun spice.
Cook and stir until the chicken is cooked through and nicely coloured, about five to seven minutes.
Lift the chicken out of the pot with a slotted spoon and set in a bowl.
Lower the heat under the pot to medium. And the onion, celery and pepper assortment and cook until very tender and slightly caramelized, about six minutes.
Note – you can dial back on the Habanero and Thai chiles to dial back the heat — because these two kick it up a big notch!
Mix in the rice and remaining Cajun spice and cook, stirring occasionally, for two minutes more.
Mix in the stock, bay leaves, sliced sausage and chicken.
Increase the heat to medium-high and bring the mixture to a boil. When boiling, cover, reduce the heat to medium-low and cook until the rice is almost tender, about 18 minutes.
Nestle the prawns or oysters into the top of the rice and cover and cook five minutes, or until the prawns are cooked and the rice is tender. Serve.
Note 1: Cajun spice is available in the bottle herb and spice aisle of most supermarkets.
Cajun spice, in a small bowl combine 4 tsp paprika, 2 tsp dried oregano, 1 tsp dried marjoram, 1 tsp onion powder, 1 tsp garlic powder, 2 tsp cayenne pepper and 1 tsp freshly ground black pepper. Use what you need for the recipe and save the rest for another time.
Note 2: To peel and devein a prawn, hold the tail of the prawn in one hand and slip the thumb of your other hand under the shell between its swimmerets (little legs). Pull off the shell, leaving the very bottom portion of the tail intact. Use a small paring knife to make a lengthwise slit along the back of the prawn. Pull out, or rinse out with cold water, the dark vein. Pat the prawns dry and they are ready to use.
Many thanks to Chef Eric Akis of the Times-Colonist newspaper for this inspiration!
Katie and her World of beautiful cards for all occasions · 15.12.15 by colin newell
Katie is a lovely 19 year old girl who has Cerebral Palsy. Together with her mom, Sue, they have been making stamped cards since 2007. Prior to receiving assistive technology, Sue used to help her daughter stamp the images on the cards.
Katie has a head controlled stamping machine made for her four years ago by CanAssist. She is now able to stamp the images for her cards through a switch control using her head.
Card making is Katie’s thing and it brings her great joy. She loves making cards and sharing them. Making and selling cards has given her a unique way to connect with people in the community. Additionally, this also allows Katie to give back to the community with the profits from her cards. This year, Katie’s cards accounted for 100% of the festive seasonal cards that we sent out – and as you can see in the photo above, they are beautiful.
Katie had hip surgery a year ago which took her out of card making commission. Her story was featured on Global-TV and she was an instant hit – it put a smile on her face and to this day she is still very busy putting smiles on our faces.
At the time, her Mom, Sue and some of the neighbors put their heads together to see if they could come up with a plan to brighten her recovery. Sue suggested, “Since Katie will not be making cards for a couple weeks, I thought that it would be amazing if bright, beautiful cards made their way to her. Near and Far.”
“We have a world map up. Her sisters will open up the cards and we can mark on the map were they have come from. We have also created a box of inspiration. When someone sends a card if they could put in a single button or piece of ribbon – something cute that Katie can put on a card… That would be great. Once she got back to making her cards she had hundreds of pieces of inspiration from everyone around the globe to put on her cards.”
At the time the message was – “Please mark on the back of the cards were they are from. I know that Katie will want to look at each and every one for years to come. We are going to put the world map up in her room so she can always see it.”
If you feel like sending a card (or getting an incredible custom card for any and all seasons) from Katie, send your own card or a request for a price list to:
6898 Central Saanich Rd.,
Katie has a website and point-of-sale PayPal thing for her cards over here
Katie thanks you!
French toast in the comfort of your country kitchen · 26.10.14 by colin newell
I have this thing… about French toast… and I am not even French.
I have searched nation wide and out into the Pacific for the perfect serving of French toast – and I have found it in places like Hawaii, on the Big Island… like the Holualoa Cafe .
But here in Victoria? Not so much. There are promises of a great French toast. Hints of a French toast. I have been promised French toast, but the truth is, it is rarely delivered. I feel that on some menus here in the city, that they should have a French toast offered at one price… as is… and $5 more for French toast prepared lovingly or with a little passion. Because that is what it takes. It’s not rocket science but you need to pay attention to get this item right.
Normally what I get around town is French toast prepared by people clearly angry with the French people for some inexplicable reason. I don’t get it.
All I want is French toast prepared well and tasting like it should; fluffy like a cumulus cloud or a souffle and not drier and chewier than the soles of an army boot.
So here is Andrea’s and my home country kitchen French toast recipe.
Buy one loaf of braided egg bread or a loaf of Challah bread from your local bakery.
It should be bread on the white side – fluffy and fresh to begin with with enough density to absorb the egg batter thoroughly.
Anyway – here goes…
Mix together your egg mixture which consists of:
2/3 Cup milk (which would be a blend of 1/4 cup half-half and the rest skim)
pinch of salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
2 teaspoons vanilla
Put a frying pan onto medium-high heat.
Pour your egg mixture into a shallow pan (like a lasagna pan…)
Take 6 thickly sliced pieces of the bread and place them in the egg mixture – for 10 minutes soaking on each side… that is 20 minutes of soaking!
Put a large dollop of butter into the hot frying – about a tablespoon (heaping)
Put three of the soaked slices of bread into the pan.
Cover loosely with a lid that is slightly ajar – and cook for around 2 minutes each side… until each side is golden brown.
Note: Using a pan cover helps keep the toast from being undercooked or soggy in the middle.
Served with butter, maple syrup, Hawaiian coconut syrup, fresh fruit or sauteed apples in simple syrup – only limited by your imagination!
Oh yes. This toast goes great with a darn fine cup of hot black coffee!
8 years ago I wrote this blog about dairy free waffles. It turned out to be the most popular blog entry here. You can find that recipe over here – enjoy.
Daylight Mind coffee flies Alaska from Kona Hawaii · 2.09.14 by colin newell
Starting October 2014, Kona, Hawaii-based Daylight Mind Coffee Company will supply locally sourced, tropically inspired desserts on all Alaska Airlines flights departing from Kona, Hawaii
Kona, Hawaii September 2, 2014 —Island Thyme Gourmet, caterers to Alaska Airlines, introduces a new line of desserts from Daylight Mind Coffee Company, a Kona artisan coffee roaster.
“We are thrilled to partner with a local company that creates the quality of desserts we want to serve on Alaska Airlines,” says Clare Bobo, owner of Island Thyme Gourmet based in Hawaii.
Daylight Mind’s locally sourced desserts will tempt Alaska Airlines’ first-class passengers and complement Island Thyme Gourmet’s meals. Desserts include their award-winning Kona Coffee Espresso Opera Cake, a gluten-free, flourless, chocolate sponge cake with coffee buttercream and dark chocolate ganache, and a Sacher cake, made with local Macadamia nuts, chocolate butter cream, raspberry marmalade and ganache.
Fodor’s Travel and The Huffington Post list Daylight Mind Coffee Company as one of America’s 25 Best Coffee Shops. Located on the Kona waterfront, this company includes a farm-to-table restaurant, bakery, coffee roastery, coffee school, event space and a coffee house.
“Nowhere else on earth can you find a business that teaches you about growing coffee, trains you to taste that coffee, feeds you a meal that incorporates that same coffee, and then offers you an ocean-side seat to a spectacular sunset while drinking that coffee,” says Shawn Steiman, co-owner of Daylight Mind. Steiman, who has a Ph.D. in coffee science, is the author of The Hawai‘i Coffee Book (Watermark Press, 2008), and co-editor of Coffee: A Comprehensive Guide to the Bean, the Beverage, and the Industry (Rowman & Littlefield, 2013). Daylight Mind Coffee Company’s Founder and CEO, Colin Finn, has extensive expertise in designing and operating coffee houses and restaurants in numerous countries, most recently in Australia.
Alaska Airlines offers the lowest fares from the West Coast to the Hawaiian Islands. The carrier has 30 weekly, peak-season flight to Kona from Anchorage, Alaska, Seattle, Washington, Portland, Oregon; and Oakland and San Jose, California.
And from yours truly: I know: In 8 consecutive years flying to Kona, Hawaii in the Winter time, Alaska has been the number one choice of the CoffeeCrew.com team.
About Daylight Mind Coffee Company
Daylight Mind, open from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily, takes its name from the literal translation of the Hawaiian word for enlightenment, na‘auao. By weaving a love of scientific exploration together with a deep respect for the wisdom and depth of its Hawaiian roots, Daylight Mind is the place to learn more about the art of all things coffee.
For information on Daylight Mind Coffee Company, visit us online at www.DaylightMind.com or in person at 75-5770 Ali’i Drive, Kailua-Kona, Hawaii