From the time we were in Dubai, while visits to that country have been somewhat infrequent, in peddling my teas around, various cities in Canada have always been a regular port of call.
There being a couple of close friends who over the years had emigrated to Canada, as part of my regular travel circuit pounding pavements hawking my wares, I would always keep a couple of days free to let my hair down and spend time with one or the other. One of Kitty’s aunts having relocated to Toronto way back in the 1960s, on one of my trips I went across to meet her, which led to me being introduced to her family and resulted in my striking up a friendship with her daughter and son in law. Tina being a rather small built lady, Neil Stokes her teddy-bear like husband, a very tall and burly Toronto cop (now ex cop) towers over his petite wife. Over the years and over many visits to their home, the friendship with this fun-loving couple reached a point where without any qualms I would happily end up spending the night curled up on their living room couch and in later years, after they had moved to a larger home, in their guest bedroom.
Years after we first met, on one of my visits to their home, very proudly Tina declared to me that she had decided to change her dietary habits and that now she was an established vegan. Which was all very well till I realized that in the bargain this somewhat diminutive little lady had inexplicably managed to drag along Balloo the bear Neil in her wake. I mean here we had this gentleman built along rather generous lines, who probably grew up wolfing down 16Oz steaks for breakfast, wistfully and longingly imagining chewing on those succulent chunks of red meat while actually shoveling in all sorts of greens and other indescribable stuff which vegan’s thrive on, simply to try and keep body and soul together.
That Tina was a driven and rather passionate vegan became obvious when she, with somewhat missionary zeal, worked on trying to get me to also toe the line, feeding me with all sorts of rather graphic, bloody and gruesome information to get me to see the light. While I had to admit that some of the reasons she shared with me for her having converted were pretty logical, her trying to get me to follow suit was a wasted effort. Like water of a duck’s back.
Following what could only be described as this metamorphosis in their lives, whenever I visited the Stokes home, I’d end up feeling so sorry for the obviously suffering bloke that I literally had to curb this very strong urge to pat Neil on his head, as you would a child to convey to him that he should keep his chin up and not to lose hope and that ‘this too shall pass’.
Then this one time when I found myself in the delightful company of Mr & Mrs Stokes when Tina announced that it being Thanksgiving Day, we were going to have a turkey roast for dinner! Surprising though the statement was, so as not to offend Tina I somehow managed to restrain myself from running around in little circles.
All dressed up for this very special occasion, we sat ourselves down at the beautifully decorated dinner table with me pretending not to, but eagerly eyeing the array of weaponry on either side of each plate which seemed to suggest ‘carving ahoy’. In came an overflowing salad bowl followed by a large rice dish ringed by a small platoon of baked potatoes with the center piled up with some rather colorful and exotic looking sautéed vegetables. Wanting to not stuff myself and mess up my appetite ahead of the arrival of the much-awaited entrée, I had served myself a tiny portion of the starters which I nibbled away at, washing it down with generous gulps from my wine glass which Neil happily kept topping up.
And then the grand finale!
Out of the oven emerged this rather obese looking ‘bird’ glistening with the olive oil which it had probably been bathed in. Neil did the honours of carving and put a decent sized chunk garnished with filling on to my plate. Considering the prompt reaction from Tina with her rather gleeful “isn’t it yummy?”, my guess is that the look on my face as soon as the first bite had entered my mouth, must have given me away. Chewing on what tasted like nothing on earth while trying to smile, which probably ended up more like a hideous grimace, what followed was an hour of the most tedious meal I have ever been through. I spent that hour pushing bits and pieces of the ‘turkey’ around my plate trying my best to camouflage that tasteless gook by hiding it under lettuce leaves and slices of garlic bread with which I kept piling up my plate.
Main course over. Having rushed, in undue haste I admit, to the garbage bin under the kitchen sink and sitting down again, I was ever so thankful for the dessert. To save me the embarrassment, thankfully while not commented upon, my having been playing around with the ‘food’ on my plate had obviously been noticed.
Having cleared up the table and having moved to the den, Neil said he need to take his dogs out for a walk and that would I like to accompany him. Would I? No sooner were we out of the front door and had closed it behind us, out tumbled words which were like music to the ears and which have remained etched in my mind “Hurry up, there’s a Burger King just around the corner!”
No wonder that big, burly Neil Stokes was managing to keep himself alive and looking like a well-fed bruin while going ga-ga over his darling wife’s ever so delicious ‘meat’ dishes!