Saturday, August 31, 2019

Sweet corn, butter & salt

On Labour Day weekend corn-on-the-cob is standard fare. Given its indescribable freshness, having anything more than a piece of bread with it is superfluous. The condiments of butter and salt naturally go without saying! The recipe obviously hasn't the complexity of Osso Buco but both are monarchs of peasant dishes. The secret is the employment of fresh ingredients. It is a lesson in simplicity and a reminder that supply-and-demand is not the key to every success.

The wisdom of this experience was never more evident than today when visiting Andrew Haydon Park on the Ottawa River. Like many parks there is a bandshell; but it distinguishes itself with a windmill and by its proximity to the Nepean Sailing Club (the sporting members of which afford a picturesque scene).

I planted myself upon a south-facing wooden bench in order to absorb the delightful late-summer sunshine. Shortly a couple of about my age asked to seat themselves upon the remainder of the bench. When seated the woman began unpacking baked goods from her knapsack along with Swiss Army knife style plastic forks. The goods were gluten-free pieces of what appeared to be chocolate cake. Though I was offered a piece, I declined. A fairly lengthy conversation ensued in which the 74 year old woman (who did most of the talking) disclosed that she and her husband (they met in 1992) were self-employed (she as an artist and health trainer); they had wintered in Bordeaux, France and Mexico; the husband had crafted a straw bale house which they formerly inhabited on a small lake near Perth, Ontario; they had traveled the Queen Mary off the coast of California; and they now resided in an exceedingly bright townhouse in Kanata.

I shared with them my recollection of what I suspect is a little known detail from a biographical sketch I read years ago as part of a series of LPs given me by the late Dr. James Coupland, DDS that George Frideric Handel (the German musician who became a naturalized British subject in 1727) spent a good deal of his time in Hyde Park, London where he amused himself to collect data about the number of daily visitors and the estimated cost of refreshments they purchased.

This particular memory is part of my relatively narrow assembly of public park themes. The small park behind the Château Laurier hotel - called Major's Hill Park - was a place I occasionally frequented when we maintained a condominium in the nearby By Ward Market. Its central location meant however that it was popular at all times of the year and thus persuaded me to avoid it more often than not. By comparison the park adjoining Mallory Square in Key West, Florida is in spite of its situation within the centre of a tourist resort very inviting for a tranquil bicycle ride. Closer to home Strathcona Park on the west bank of the Rideau River in Ottawa contains the creation of Almonte artist Stephen E. C.  Brathwaite.

I recall this park in particular because of its proximity to Sandy Hill (where resided the late L. C. Audette, QC, OC) and the Cercle Universitaire which was his private dining club.  Further along Laurier Avenue West is the former residence of Sir Wilfred Laurier (seventh Prime Minister of Canada from 1896 - 1911). A similar park was located along the Baltic Sea in Stockholm, Sweden in the neighbourhood of Djursholm. Like the Range Road venue, the Swedish park although public catered to a predominantly select audience. This demographic contrasts with Central Park in New York City although I suspect many from the neighbourhood boroughs are able to bear the deprivation. What it is that makes public parks attractive is difficult to say.  The measure is certainly not solely location; there are many who willingly travel miles to see a particular park. There is some threat that popularity works against the legitimacy of a park.  Usually however my take is that a great deal of effort has gone into the public arena making it worthwhile.  Like corn-on-the-cob, fodder for the herd can be quite tasteful!

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