Dog Days: In which Fleur explores Whiffen Spit Park

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Fleur: Hi! I had a BIG adventure today! An’ I wanted to tell you all about it! And Jack wasn’t there because he didn’t wanna get up in the truck, and it’s because he’s OLDER but I’m not old yet so I got to go!
Across from my house we can see this lighthouse and Mommy said it’s a “dog-friendly” park! I’m a dog! I’m friendly! So we went over there!IMG_6225

An’ when we got here, I saw a LOT of dogs! And right there in front of my very eyes was a Landseer like baby Jack! Her name is Emily and she is SEVEN today! I sat for a birthday picture with her and her friend Lucy, and their mom made a BIG fuss over me and said I was BEAUTIFUL! Which I AM! So that Mommy is a smart Mommy like mine! But Mommy made such a fuss over her–Mommy, I’M the prettiest, ask Grandma Dee!

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We walked WAY out the LIGHT! We saw LOTS of people on the way an’ this woman said to Mommy “Are you taking your bear for a walk?” and I looked around for a bear but there wasn’t any just me! And Mommy laughed but that same laugh when people ask her how big our poop is! The polite laugh!
Then some animals came by I hadn’t seen before! I barked and barked but Mommy said they were horses and nothing to be afraid of. And one of the ladies on the horses said “Well look at you, you’re almost as big as a pony yourself!”
Then a girl came by an’ said “Your dog is not gonna eat mine, is he?” What kind of dog was that Mommy? Started with F? (Yorkshire Terrier, Fleur) No Mommy I think you said an F-word!
(do you want to finish this or not Fleur?)
Anyway, I was insulted because FIRST of all I’m CLEARLY a GIRL, and second I wouldn’t want to EAT that thing–all that long hair caught in my teeth, yuck!
So we looked over at my house from this side then we started back.
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And I got to swim LOTS! It took us two times as long to walk back because I swam lots!
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And then the BEST part, because Mommy stopped at the store to get us beef jerky treats.
I took some home to Jack. I told him ALL about our adventure so he will be SURE to want to go next time!

Unbearable

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Upon settling into our temporary home, in a fairly secluded cottage outside Victoria, one of the first things we did was have friends over for dinner. I’m big on all the gathering round the table and breaking bread business, and my girl friend is hilarious, and quite frankly, after an 11 day drive across the country with two dogs I needed a good laugh.
There are limitations to cabin cooking, and to our energy levels at the end of the drive and so hotdogs and hamburgers it was. Now, in this part of Vancouver Island, there are bears (not grizzlies, but black bears), lots of bears, and I was doing research to ensure we didn’t do anything to inadvertently invite our new ursine neighbours for dinner too. This safety guide provides great advice and one thing jumped out at me: “Be watchful at barbecues. The smell from cooking meat attracts bears.” So…should I set another place at the table, I wondered?

Unbearable

The great black shadow moves easily
through old growth forested landscape
catching a scent in the breeze
he turns and moves in close
hears laughter sees smoke
mouth watering
hunger peaks
no one
sees
as he
approaches,
unaware of
what circles, watching
then melting back in trees
having recognized grill smells
beast grumbles and slowly moves off
them no wiser for close proximity
what’s wrong with these creatures-hot dogs, again?

East vs. West: Battle Salmon

Sockeye sizzling in butter

Sockeye sizzling in butter

Moving from Halifax to Victoria gives me a great opportunity to compare and contrast foodstuffs with their opposite coast counterparts. This idea came to me as I was cooking the lovely sockeye fillets, above. Without further ado, I present Battle Salmon.

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Atlantic Salmon (salmo salar)
Canada’s east coast is home to one salmon species, known widely and simply as Atlantic salmon. Interestingly, these salmon do not need salt water to survive, and landlocked populations (ounaniche) are not uncommon.
Sadly, due to overfishing and habitat interference, the wild Atlantic salmon numbers dropped to critical levels by the 2000’s, and there is no commercial Canadian Atlantic fishery. Recent numbers have indicated, however, that the native population is surging back thanks to conservations efforts. We should have taken the cue from Scotland, where Alexander II passed legislation protecting Atlantic salmon in 1318 (yes, thirteen eighteen).
What’s available on the open market is farmed salmon, and there’s much debate about the viability, environmental concerns, food safety, and ethics of fish farming–so much so, that I’m not scratching that itch here. Taste-wise, the aquaculture industry has managed to produce a fish that does stack up well to wild salmon and especially if prepared using stronger ingredients or cooking techniques that prevent detection of flavour subtleties. But, in weighing desire for salmon against the potential issues, my scales come down on the side of caution, and I prefer not to eat farmed fish.

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Pacific Salmon
There are seven species of Pacific salmon, two of which are indigenous to Japan, the other five found here in BC.
As I type this, sockeye salmon fishing boats are poised and ready at the mouth of the Fraser River, where 23 MILLION fish are estimated to leave the sea and head up the river to spawn. The catch window is 3pm to 6pm local time, so about an hour from now.
Sockeye, aka red salmon, turns blood red with a green head when it returns to spawn. Landlocked sockeye are known as kokanee.
Coho, or silver salmon, are popular ocean game fish because apparently, they put up quite a fight and are very exuberant in their pursuit of lures.
Chum salmon is also called dog or keta salmon, has the largest range of any Pacific salmon but is the least commercial.
Pink, or humpback salmon are the ones the colour “salmon pink” refers to–they eat a lot of shrimp and krill, which gives that pink shade. They have the shortest life span and thus are the smallest of the Pacific salmon, topping out at around 6.5kg.
The Chinook, or King salmon, is the largest of the Pacific species, weighing up to 61kg and is prized by anglers. Certain Native American tribes value the Chinook highly; it is the salmon around which most native mythology revolves. Chinook is also called “Spring” salmon locally.

But how about taste? Widely available, sockeye and coho have very red, sometimes reddish orange flesh, and a rich taste, great for the table and most commonly sold whole, fillets or steaks. Chinook has more limited availability, and is a lighter colour. It has the highest oil content of these five, and as such is most often smoked. Certain chum populations are also red, with firm flesh and medium oil content, also great as fillets. Pink salmon is very mild, soft, and typically sold canned or used in other salmon products, like fishcakes. The locals have told me that fresh pink salmon is very good and should not be discounted too quickly, and I will follow up that with more research (for me, research equates to cooking and eating).

I’ve had the opportunity to enjoy the three most common table fish (Coho, sockeye, and Chinook), and would argue that wild Atlantic salmon can stand up taste wise to any of these.
Farmed salmon, however, pales in comparison in both taste and texture. As farmed salmon is the only one easily found on the market on the East Coast, I must concede the victory to the West.

Battle Salmon: West Coast for the Win.

Cottage Drawers

Cottage kitchen drawers are interesting; they can tell you a little of who stayed there before you, and lead you on flights of fancy as to what they ate–no? Just me?
There are certain things that are always present (or should be, if the rental advertises itself as ‘fully equipped’). IMG_5919IMG_5914
A basic set of utensils? Of course! Although these are the most brightly coloured I’ve ever seen. A Swiss Army knife and corkscrew? Yes indeedy; the corkscrew, essential for the romantic getaway.
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Measuring cups and spoons have been in every cottage we’ve ever rented; I’m not exactly sure why. Do people go to baking camp? Are measurements key to precisely flavour cookout food? But nevertheless, they are always there and so not unusual to find out here. Likewise the wire whisk–I can’t think of anything cottage-related that a fork couldn’t do just as well, but they do seem to appear so someone must think they’re a good idea.
Then there are the things that are fun little extras, that you could do without but could perhaps come in handy–I give you, the pizza cutter and the silicone bbq brush:
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And then, as I rooted through the drawer, things got a little more specialized.
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The shellfish pickers on the left, I’ve seen in East Coast cabins for getting the knuckle meat out of lobster and I’m sure here on the West Coast, they do wonders at scooping crab legs. And from the looks of this lovely oyster shucker, I’m guessing a lot of oysters were eaten here at some point. Perhaps the oyster shucker should be paired with the corkscrew?

 

 
Carrying on in the specialized seafood utensils, there’s a very nice thingy that used for pulling the pin bones from fish, especially salmon. A lot of professional cooks have them in their toolboxes, but this is the first one I’ve seen in a cottage.And really? Not one, but TWO lemon zesters?

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By far, three of the oddest cottage kitchen drawer finds I’ve ever made:
The first, this old-school cake decorators tube, complete with piping tips.
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Now, I can sort of see where maybe you were here with the kids, and one of them was having a birthday, and wouldn’t it be fun to decorate the cake yourself? But these last two?
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Top, a boiled egg slicer
Bottom, a melon baller
I don’t know what sort of parties these previous occupants were having, but they have to be the swankiest campers ever.
What’s the strangest thing you’ve found in your cottage drawers?

Road Trip: Mission BC to Victoria BC (The end of the road)

Fleur: Sleepy head! Get up! Last day on the road! GET UP GET UP GET UP!
Jack: I’m tired.
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Fleur: We left Mission and went for a boat ride! It was the ferry to Vancouver Island! We were on it!
Jack: Yes, yes, we were.
Fleur: Here we are at the terminal! There was vending machines RIGHT NEXT to us but I didn’t have any change!
Jack: (eye roll)
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Fleur: Then we got off the boat and saw this sign!
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Fleur: Our new house isn’t ready! We’re going to be living on the ship with Daddy!
Jack: No we’re not.
Fleur: We’re not?
Jack: No we’re not. We’re going to be in military quarters. Not on a ship.
Fleur: Oh.
Jack: We’re hanging out here for a few weeks. It’s a place called East Sooke.
Fleur: Mommy says I am Daddy’s sook! This place is named after ME!
Jack: No it’s not.
Fleur: We went swimming! In the other ocean from our old house!

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Fleur: There were geese! Canada geese! I don’t know what they taste like but I’d like to see!
Jack: No you wouldn’t.
Jack: I like driftwood.
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Fleur: Then we went swimming again later! We have to walk across a bridge to get to the beach and it’s fun! Maybe it’s that Rainbow Bridge!
Jack: (side-eye) No, it’s not. Really, it’s not.
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And so the journey of Jack & Fleur’s Road Trip comes to a close, 6049 km and 8 provinces away from where it all began. Thank you for following along, it’s been quite an adventure, and we enjoyed the company.

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Road Trip: Revelstoke BC to Mission BC

Fleur: We got up this morning in the Rockies! And tomorrow we’ll be at the end of our trip! And we had a hamburger and Jack didn’t want his half so I had ALL of it! What a great day!
Jack: It was hot.
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Fleur: We drove along the Columbia River! There wasn’t anywhere for us to get in and Mommy thought we might get swept away so no swimming!
Jack: It was hot.
Fleur: Then we saw this and it turned out that it’s like the desert! It’s a town called Kamloops and they have something called a rain shadow so it’s super dry!
We got out to pee but had to get RIGHT back in because RATTLESNAKES!
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Jack: It was hot.
Fleur: Then we stopped at a town called Merritt for our lunch. Mommy thought it was really charming and full of Western character and Daddy didn’t like it so much he said it was the Lower Sackville of British Columbia. I don’t know what that means. But there were murals everywhere because it’s the Country Music Capital of Canada! It really is! Elvis was on a building! He liked peanut butter and banana sandwiches! I LOVE peanut butter! I love bananas! I’m all shook up over Elvis!
Jack: It was 34C. It was hot.
Fleur: Then we got to the Fraser Valley and they grow stuff! They had one of these drive throughs but I’m not allowed to have corn because it just poops out!
Jack: (side-eye)
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Fleur: Tomorrow we are going for a boat ride to our new home! I’m excited!
Jack: It’s hot. I’m going to sleep.

Road Trip: Airdrie AB to Revelstoke BC

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Jack: We had a rest day yesterday, Mom took off to see some place with dinosaurs, and it was so hot we just hung out in the hotel room with Dad.
Fleur: I didn’t like just hanging out! I wanted to be on the road! Get up Mom! Wake up sleepy Jack! It’s BREAKFAST TIME!
Jack: We don’t eat breakfast.
Fleur: We could though.
Jack: (eye roll) We got on the road. Soon we saw these mountains in the distance.
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Fleur: We were headed to a giant chocolate shop!
Jack: No we weren’t.
Fleur: Yes! Mommy said it was the Rocky Mountains, and that’s a candy factory!
Jack: Not that Rocky Mountain, THE Rocky Mountains.
Fleur: Can you eat them?
Jack: (side eye)
Jack: We drove through Banff National Park and saw these bridges, called wildlife crossings.
Fleur: Mommy said elk and deer and moose and stuff walk over them! But we didn’t see any! Or any mountain goats! Or bighorn sheep! Or grizzly bears! Or chocolate!
Jack: Banff park turns into Yoho national park on the British Columbia side.
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Fleur: We were hot! We stopped at a lake and had a swim and it was so much fun! ‘Member Jack? ‘Member how much fun that was? We swam a lot! Water was cold and felt so good! But there was no fish! Remember when we were leaving and that lady pulled into the lot and asked Mommy and Daddy if we could have a treat and she gave us a treat? Remember that?
Jack: Yes.
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Jack: We stopped in Revelstoke for the night. Dad says we are taking our time and not driving as far on our last couple of days.
Fleur: And then we had more treats waiting at the hotel! And a sausage room! Imagine a whole room full of sausages!
Jack: That doesn’t say “sausage”. It says “massage”.
Fleur: Oh.
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