That’s Port-aux-Basques for those of you not familiar with Newfoundland’s most famous port of entry for bruised and battered produce. A few days into the first leg of the rural NL tour and we packed up for a week’s stay at Shark Cove Suites. I loaded up on groceries and produce before we left Stephenville; it hit me halfway there that my grapes had left the ferry terminal, traveled to Stephenville and were heading back to Port-aux-Basques again. I felt like an even bigger idiot when I realized that the Coleman’s there actually kicks ass and the produce is all new and shiny and breathing a sigh of relief that it didn’t have to drive to St. John’s. Lesson learned. Strawberries are happier in the PAB than at Sobeys on Merrymeeting Road. They were so happy they lasted a whole week in the fridge.
We spent that week touring surrounding communities. Beautiful little spots on the south west coast that I’d never come close to. Rose Blanche, Cape Ray, Isle aux Morts, Margaree. Doing shows in church halls and community centres, kitchens for our dressing rooms. Church hall kitchens have a dazzling array of giant sized utensils for cold plate suppers and roast beef dinners. We found a potato masher so big it could’ve been used in a game of lacrosse. There was also a giant frying pan in St. George’s that I’m pretty sure was used to scramble eggs for an entire orphanage. Anglican Church Women are like an automatic bunch of nans. We got sent home most nights with trays of sandwiches, muffins and flats of pop. If this was any indication of how the rest of the summer would go I was going to have to invest in a pair of new running shoes. Or some new pants.
And the Catholic ones too. Are like nans. For the record, Anglican nans and Catholic nans are all awesome. My Anglican nan loves tea buns and Jesus and my Catholic nan swears like a sailor. I would like to take them both to Bermuda and make a short film, or feature length documentary.
Sunday off and I was dying to roast a chicken. It was clear and sunny but freezing so I wouldn’t have to take my pants off this time, har har. The Coleman’s was rocking out, even on a Sunday afternoon. The PAB doesn’t stop, I swear (the highlight of my day was hearing Adele’s “Someone Like You” blasting from some fella’s garage while he was out in the sun washing his Ford F-150). The only potatoes at the store came in a ten pound sack so I bought some loose sweet potatoes. Sweet potatoes! I googled a bunch of recipes for roast chicken with sweet pataties, and decided to keep it simple. Salt, peppered and olive oiled everything, stuffed the chicken with a granny smith apple and half a lemon, after putting a few garlic cloves under the skin. Stuck it all in the oven on 375 F or so until the potatoes were tender and the chicken was cooked through. There was nothing fancy pants around the kitchen and nothing in my magic bag of travelling groceries to make gravy with…except bouillon cubes. I know they’re all salty and bad for you but I love them. Plus they travel so well and only cause mild alarm at airport security. Deadly. Anyways, boiled the giblets (gross, they’re so gross and only dads eat them, oh wait, Didi had some) in chicken broth made with the bouillon cubes and some drippings. Turns out my tour gravy turned into a real nice au jus. I hate the word au jus almost as much as I hate the word giblet, but that’s what it was and it was the best thing I made with my pants on since London.
Chocolate fondue was my go to dessert when I lived in Korea. Despite my teeny bachelor apartment I still loved to entertain, but with no oven, fondue was pretty much the only option when people popped by. Everyone would lose their minds when I made it and I felt like some kind of superhero when I melted chocolate and chopped up some fruit. And let’s face it, it’s common knowledge that anyone who doesn’t like chocolate fondue essentially has no soul. I was reared up on the stuff; Mom had the set with the little forks and the pot that you put a tea light under for keeping the chocolate all melty. Anything to get the kids to eat fruit I guess. My trick was to accidentally “lose” the piece of apple off the fork so you had to go fishing for it, recovering it sometime later dripping and oozing so much chocolate it ran down over your wrist and arm. Something weird happens to me when I eat fondue. I get all primal and territorial. It’s an event I can only share with the closest of friends. But after almost three months on tour, I felt the gang was ready for it. Everybody was full after eating and drinking our day off away, but we were still gangbusters for something sweet. Exit light, enter chicken. This shit was about to get real.
Melt your favourite chocolate in a double boiler with a enough two percent milk to make it satiny smooth. I usually never bother to double boil, but our cookware at Shark Cove was all thin and aluminum so I put in the extra effort. This was easy, as there was a strange abundance of big glass bowls (and yet no can opener to be found). Anyways, melt, chop favourite fruit. Affix goggles. Swan dive.
Everyone had a few pieces and sat back in contentment. I didn’t get it. How could anyone just leave a big bowl of melty chocolate? Dark, swirly, still perfectly not-too-hot chocolate? I waited twenty-seven seconds. “You guys done with this?” Nods all round. “Cool. This is gonna get a little disturbing. Sorry.” I ate the rest of the fruit plate, dunking like my life depended on it. The girls sauntered off to bed and when Rob and Darryl turned on the hockey game I nonchalantly grabbed the empty plate and chocolate bowl like I was going to clean up. I huddled in the corner of the kitchen like a hunted animal where no one could see me (they could totally see me) and ate the rest of the fondue chocolate with a spoon. Like a kid eating a pudding cup at lunchtime glee club rehearsal, scraping the sides with the spoon and then a finger. I remembered the raspberries in the bottom of my glass of prosecco. Into the chocolate. Oooh, there’s a boozy little surprise.
As all good surprises should be.