July usually has little orders at the cuisine collective, so while most chefs are out on vacation, us cook-assistants go out on all kinds of outings! Last month we went strawberry picking North East of Montreal, we went to a goat and cow cheese farm, a honey shop, a buffalo and elk farm near Rowdan, the Jean-Talon market, Chinatown, and the fish stop Odessa.
Strawberry picking was a blast – literally. It was inevitable that we’d eventually all be pitching strawberries at each other, hard enough to hurt! I’m still regretting not having filmed the most epic shot exploding in one guy’s face… I was laughing so hard it hurt. Seriously, I got paid to roadtrip out of Montreal and listen to some good music and be crazy with my coworkers, go strawberry picking and then be treated with soft-serve chocolate vanilla icecream… Try ot beat that! =P We cooked up a strawberry storm at work (jam, gazpacho, smoothie, mousse, meta marinade, pie and chocolate-coated goodies) with our little treasures.
During our day around Rowdan we stopped for lunch at the falls (popular yet I can’t remember the name). Like the rebels we are, we found a crack in the fence system and walked down to the rocky ledge and further down to the edge of the water. It’s so beautiful there! Apparently loads of people used to swim there in the past, but people started leaving a mess everywhere (beer bottles etc) so they fenced it away more and more, eventually asking for a fee to view certain areas…
It was fun strolling through the Jean-Talon market and checking out the awesome spice-shop Anatol nearby, but it wasn’t cool at all to have been forgotten there… Long story short, I was left with barely any money to get back to work on my own because no one bothered to make sure I had a lift back. It took forever for me to get back South to finally ride my bike back up North. Let me tell ya, I wasn’t happy and I let them know it…
I got sad while walking through the cold interior of Odessa when we got to the lobster area. I hear they have no nervous system and therefore can’t feel actual pain, but it’s still not cool for them to be strapped down and crushed one ontop another and flung out of the water for demonstration whenever the desire springs… Nonetheless, their sesame-seasoned wakame seaweed is absolutley amazing, so amazing I’ll have to buy some in the future even though it isn’t cheap.
On a happier note though, I got to pet a buffalo! I’ve always been drawn to these giant beasts for some reason; I really love them. Buffy here was adopted after her mom died when she was young, so the buffalo and elk farm we visited took her in and raised her to become approachable unlike her savage counterparts. She was really excited when we showed up and trotted and jumped around as we got closer, scaring away some coworkers. But she’s a sweetheart. Her head is soft but her body is unpleasantly rough to the touch. It was very interesting watch the buffalo eat some treats later on, to observe the hierarchy they live by. In the last almost 4 years since I drastically changed my diet and stopped eating red meat and pork, I’ve eaten buffalo once and mountain sheep once, so this was the second time I gave buffalo a try, as well as elk. It was eerie to think I almost ate it raw too (I can’t explain the way we did it, but once back at the kitchen we seasoned our buffalo (which is naturally lean and high in iron btw) and then cooked it on the stovetop just for a few seconds each side… Quite an experience!
And a hell of another experience was the variety of service I did for a couple of nights – buffet service, table service, and cocktail service – Yep, I wore a fancy black blouse and walked around with various appetizers to offer to some computer nerds. Haha sorry I don’t know what they actually did, just that it was very technical. That was pretty fun but I admit I didn’t feel comfortable sometimes, I felt like I might be interrupting them. Buffet style was no problem no hassle, but the big service I did last was no pinic – It was badly organized, with a woman who was accidentally put in charge and sometimes rather unpleasant with us, to say the least. It was extremely rushed with negative energy – Totally not my thing, but I kept my cool. We finished off the night smoothly, nearing midnight… Some of us went dancing with the nerds, while I went off to play pool with some guy. Best of all? I came back with a garbage bag full of food… Almost full! I was determined to find a way to fit it all in our little fridge haha. Oh and I guess something else that as cool was an experienced woman who came over to me at the end of the night and said that I specifically was very efficient and did really well – Made me happy. Still, not exactly for me.
I was hoping we’d get to go to the Botanical Gardens but it wasn’t on the list. I still got to go though! Through the Cuisine Collective part of work with the two chefs in charge of that department and a handful of people that used to work there, I’ve been going these past couple of Saturdays, helping with the garden upkeep and harvest of various vegetables and herbs. It’s a really lovely place and I just got lucky on the first day that I went – As a special treat, after a quick harvest, everyone headed out for a tour of the Botanical Garden! I was ecstatic. I’ve been meaning to go back for years. I hear that you can get in free (just the gardens) with a certain special card that only costs 8$ and lasts a year. I’m totally getting that. I’m thinking of shelling out money for the Chinese lantern event happening in October – That’s usually quite a sight to see.
Anyway! We always get to bring stuff back with us, such as tomatoes, spinach, beans, and herbs. I got to bring back calendula flowers this time so I’m planning on dehydrating them and making a tincture with them or something – The use of medicinal plants is a big interest for me but I’m still very new to it. And actually, we got a course on the medicial properties of weeds and how nutritious and helpful they can be for us, and the woman in charge said something that really hit me – Maybe there is a Reason why we’re being engulfed by all of these weeds that we see just plainly as annoying… Maybe there’s a reason why they’re condensed mostly in cities, because they have lots to offer us… So I suggest to you, fellow readers, do some research on the weeds that surround you; You may be pleasantly surprised…
Every time I go to the garden I tackle the berry trees nearby however I can (climbing the bike rack, using a bucket as a stool) to load up on these delicious mullberries, making for an amusing sight for the elder volunteers, especially when I come back with purple hands and tongue haha. Thanks to the load of sunlight we’ve been getting, the apple trees nearby have been bearing fruit early, delicious apples ready to be eaten, waiting for me to pick them off the ground! And I’m not talking small super-sour apples – Some of these were BIG and deliciously sweet! I didn’t know if I could take the ones on the trees so I loaded up all the goods ones off the ground and carted them back home – My bike rack was FULL of apples! Haha. Yep – Apple crisp, applesauce, apple carrot cookies… You name it! It’s comin’ =)