Feed me Seymour
They like meat round these parts. Just meat. Preferably cooked over an open flame and doused in maple syrup based sauce. Anything that isn't meat is considered garnish.
Cheap food in restaurants seems to be pasta based (with MEAT), particularly Lasagne. Not that many meals can be called cheap although the portions are huge and very tasty.
If you see a sign for modern Canadian cooking that appears to be new ways to eat prairie animals and charge high prices- Bison Carpaccio anyone?
Slightly at a tangent - I've noticed that one of the defensive poses of a chipmunk is to puff itself up. Note to chipmunks - it is not frightening it just makes you look tastier to eagles and Canadians looking for MEAT for the barbecue.
Following our Edith Cavell experience we returned home to rest up and have some dinner.
Before we had departed that morning, our hosts (Shannon and Ernesto) had invited us to pop up from our cosy bunker (guest rooms tend to be in the basement of houses) for a drink. They were holding a family event to say goodbye to their daughter (Christina) who was off to a University in Calgary to study Education.
We turned up at 9.00pm (after the barbecue) and presented Shannon with a bottle of wine and some beer as our contribution to the event. It does not seem to be the thing to do in Canada and Ernesto, a great host, proceeded to ensure that we drank at least as much as we had brought - Karen's glass was never empty and I always seemed to have two beers on the go at any one time.
We had just eaten an enormous stir-fry and had very little room for anything else. Nevertheless Ernesto insisted that we eat some of his homemade baked cheesecake. As a cheesecake aficionado I can say that it was superb and was served just the way I like it - no fruit in sight.
Their family was large, ranging from Ernesto's parents through their five children and numerous grandchildren including Christina and Jason (Shannon and Ernesto's son). Shannon's family are from another part of Canada (somewhere in British Columbia I think) so no one from her side attended the event.
As the evening wore on Christina's friends arrived and the party got into full swing. As non-family members we gravitated towards the only others in a similar position, two of the neighbours and their middle-aged son, Bruce.
Bruce was an English teacher from a bohemian suburb of Vancouver who was visiting his parents with his eldest son. They were undertaking their annual father son wilderness bonding.
Bruce was very informative about the best places to day-hike and had some interesting tales to tell about bear encounters in Jasper and whilst he was mountain biking in the woods above the town. He seemed particularly keen that we visit the Bald Hills. I can't think why.
During our chat with Bruce, Ernesto appeared with MEAT (a large mound of salami and other sausage) and cheese he insisted we ate some so all three of us took a small amount.
Shortly afterwards the tequila appeared and this time Ernesto insisted that if we did not have a shot we could check out the next day. With a bit of help from Bruce, Karen drained her glass. As for me, I like tequila so three shots later we were good to stay the rest of the week.
Bruce departed and we finished off the evening chatting with our hosts and their son around the large wood burner. By this time, most of the middle aged adults had departed with the younger children and the party had moved into their large garage. We talked with Shannon for an hour or so more and then departed for our beds.
The Piano has been drinking (not me)
Whilst wine (particularly Canadian) is not too badly priced, most beer is expensive compared to UK rates. Booze is sold from separate licensed stores (liquor stores) and even the supermarket chains have to have a separate store to sell alcohol.
All liquor stores have walk in beer fridges with mountains of beer cases and whole walls providing a multitude of choice from specialised UK type ale to standard American Canadian lagers. These fridges are a fantastic idea but very difficult to find the prices. I almost got frostbite looking for the cheapest beer I could find and was very proud when the Aussie serving behind the counter contemptuously informed me that I had succeeded in my quest!
Most Canadian wine sold in Jasper appears to come from the Okanagan Valley in Southern British Columbia - a region that includes productive fruit growing areas, lakes and desert. We have tried a Canadian sauvignon blanc (Naked Grape) and at £6.50 it wasn't half bad. The Radisson Hotel in Calgary sold this for £17.50 - not a bad mark-up and something that told us not to buy wine in a Radisson Hotel.
That's not my name
Before meat and tequila became a national past-time in the Canadian Rockies, naming things was the main entertainment.
The native Canadians had great names for places ("Head Smashed in Buffalo Jump" is my favourite so far) but we thought we could do better. No offence to those of you with the names of the places I am about to mention but surely we could have come up with something better than the "Colin Ranges" or "Mount Nigel". In the case of the later they were obviously so uninspired that they also came up with Nigel Creek and Nigel Pass.
Other mountains have inspiring names such as Mount Kitchener, named in honour of the great British General, hero of Omdurman and face of army recruitment during WW1. There's also Mount Robson (named after Sir Bobby, England player and most successful England manager since Sir Alf) and Mount Whistler (named after Pierluigi Collina, the famous Italian referee).
Some Mountains have had to be renamed for political reasons. Mount Kaiser for example was renamed Mount Merrick as a result of anti-German sentiment during WW1. Merrick was a notorious ruffian who, after running amok with his sidekick Mandelson in Oxford and Hull fled the UK to set up a succesful chemist shop in Canmore.
The lakes have interesting names too. In many cases they are very literal. We visited Moose Lake and saw Moose (read Karen's next blog and look at the pictures). I imagine that Osprey Lake lives up to its name and appreciate the warning in the name of Leach Lake. I must admit however that I have real concerns about visiting Lake Minnewanke*.
* with apologies to parents