‘Living is hard, dying is easy’, goes a rock’n’roll cliché. By living I don’t mean the mundane, everyday routines like paying bills, maintaining relationships and watering the garden but living in the face of a short lifespan, with only a relatively short time left to go before it’s all over. And why exert myself at all if it’s all so transient? Sartre theorized that it’s ok to constantly be challenged by life, be forced to make daily decisions, be afraid of the dizziness of life. There is no golden rule for a successful life, no guarantees and no single path to fulfillment.
We jIt’s finally summer, and unlike Europe’s heat wave here it’s what they call rich men’s weather: Warm, sunny and no bugs. This coming Saturday, July 7th will be Camp’s big day. He and Muriel are hosting a garden party at Muriel’s house and they are going to formally tie the proverbial knot and says nice and endearing things to each other in front of family and friends. With that in mind I decided to be in an upbeat mood and not dwell on the usual misery and word-wide discord but instead focus on harmony, good vibes and love.
Finally we got some much needed rain, and it just cleared up enough for my walk along the shore to the pub. The long Canada Day weekend is coming up and the sunshine will be back in time for the summer to start in earnest. The kids will be out of school and the population here will grow with cottagers, campers and tourists, which will mean that our quiet corner table will most likely already be taken. But not today. I could see Camp from below, intent on his smart phone, which he quickly stashed away when he saw me.
Mankind vs Nature
While I walked along the rocky shore towards the pub at the harbour for my weekly get together with Camp I was struck by the gap of the natural beauty around me and the precarious and tenuous nature of the modern world we made for ourselves.
As soon as I walked into our pub I could tell there was something else besides drinking beer going on. The place was packed and all the screens were tuned to a basket ball game. Game 6 just happen to be on during our Thirsty Thursday after noon tea at our regular watering hole.
Campbell, or Camp to us regulars, was in good spirits this evening and he didn’t take long to let me in on the reason for his ebullient mood.
‘You know what’s happening in June?’ he asked rather cryptically.
‘Well, let me see, in June the official summer starts, it’s also the longest day of the year and school is out for trillions of kids.’
‘Yes, yes, all of that. I’m talking more personal, like what’s happing in my life in June,’ Camp said.
We just returned from our yearly camping weekend to Lund, our favorite spot here on the west coast at the end of highway # 101. We always go the Laughing Oyster restaurantfor the great food, music and view of Okeover Bay. A provincial campground and recreational shellfish marine park is right next door and we waitedfor low tide and then joined the king fishers, herons, eagles, ducks and seagulls and some other scavengers like us, all feeding off the freshly uncovered bounty along the seashore. In a matter of minutes we picked our daily allotment of hand sized oysters. Once shucked they’re as big as an egg yoke. We also checked the DFO site for red tide, which is a paralytic shellfish poison and invisible.
We met a local who looked at our bucket full of oysters and wanted to know how we intended to eat them. I consider myself an experienced oyster-shucker from several years of picking and proudly told him so. It’s a grimy, tedious job and these big babies are tough to open.
He shook his head and said: ‘Just put them into boiling water for a minute and they’ll open up by themselves. Now they’re also pre-cooked and no mess to deal with. It’s the only way unless you’re one of those crazies who eats them raw.’
The best advice I ever had. I did exactly that and these big fat oysters just popped open and practically fell out of their shell. Other times I also shucked them fresh and froze them, a dozen to a small container.
Then I looked for recipes on the net. It seemed everyone had a different idea for Oysters Rockefeller. The original recipe was a serendipitous invention by chef Jules Alciatore at Antoine’s in New Orleans ano 1889. He was short of escargots and replaced them with the plump local oysters, baked in their shells. Somebody said they were as rich as the Rockefellers and the name stuck. Jules took his original recipe to the grave and left it therefore wide open to create them a hundred different ways. It dawned on me that oysters are really a personal thing and you’re free to create your own recipe. Bread them, smother them, cover them, bake them.Here is my simple version of the legendary Oysters Rockefeller recipe. 6 each is a meal, half of that is an appy.
Place shucked oysters (or pre-cooked) on a half shell on a cookie sheet. (I don’t use the original shells because they are full or barnacles and embedded rocks. Instead I collect the sun bleached half-shells where the local Oyster Bar chucks them onto the beach and I sterilize them in boiling water.
Mix up creamed spinach, onions, garlic, bread crumbs and some Tabasco or hot sauce. Spread mixture over oysters.
Top with pre-fried bacon pieces
Sprinkle with grated Gruyere cheese
Bake at 350° for 20 minutes then broil on Hi for 1 minute
Serve the oysters on the half shell or just by themselves
Goes well with a butter lettuce and/or potato salad
You’ll feel as rich as Rockefeller when you eat them
Serve with any wine you like but goes best with a white wine or bubbly
Clare and I went out for lunch at the pub today. She had a spinach salad and I opted for the beef dip. When I asked for half fries and half salad the waitress said: That will be $ 3 extra.I declined. A glass of white wine for Clare, a pint of the in-house lager for myself. The bill came to $ 50, add 5% for the tax on food and 10% for the alcohol and then add the tip on top of it all. I peeled off three twenty-dollar bills. When I told Camp about our rather expensive pub lunch he just shook his head of grey curly locks and said: ‘That’s why you’ll never see me eating out. I just can’t afford it. For sixty bucks I can buy a whole weeks worth of groceries for myself.’
Walking along the quiet shore here in Gibsons it’s hard to believe that in Alberta 800 square kilometers are burning, displacing over 4000 people and it’s only May. That’s about 16 times the size of Bowen Island or 2½ times the size of Texada Island. It’s going to be a hot summer, bad for forest fires, good for breweries.
Everybody and their dog heard by now about the BC governments report on money laundering. I asked my friend Camp about it but he seemed to be a tad distracted because he looked out at the harbour for a moment before he sat down at our usual table on the still sunny veranda, just steps away from the pebble beach.
It has been a stellar week as far as the weather goes. Not a drop of rain and balmy warm days. It stays light until 9 o’clock and all the flowers and birds are in full spring mode. I rejoice and luxuriate in my good fortune. I’m doing all right but is the rest of the world doing fine? My friend Camp, who is much more cynical than I, doesn’t think so. He believes we’re doomed to failure because we’re too successful as a species and instead of living in harmony with nature we are abusing nature’s finite resources through over consumption and thereby putting us all in peril.
Camp is back and looking relaxed and he had some extra zip in his step. ‘How was the road trip?’ I asked, as he sat down.
‘Fantastic country,’ Camp said, ‘this province is such an awesome place. We went from an urban environment into rugged park land, then across the Okanagan desert up into pine forests, along the pristine Kootenay lakes and rivers, rimmed by snow capped mountains. Most importantly we had time to talk.’
‘Sounds wonderful,’ I said. ‘Better then yoga and beer. Well I’m for one am glad you’re back. As you know the world kept turning in your absence.’
Camp is away with Muriel this week on a road trip to the interior. I’ve volunteered to shop-sit the bookstore for him, since after Easter it’s a pretty slow time of year. I actually enjoy it and get to chat to all kinds of interesting customers. And I get to sit and read for hours while at the same time feeling useful and engaged. Not such a bad life. The bills and ads I just file away for Camp to deal with.
Despite the persistent rain I walked by the Granthams Wharf today and marvelled at how efficiently and quickly our small community was able to rally and get it fixed and even improved. Donations of money, time, materials, music and art made the swift reconstruction possible. A true testament to our community spirit. The pier was practically destroyed in a perfect combination of high tides and gale force winds, which washed tons of driftwood off the beaches and drove the watery logs into our wooden jetty. Disasters unite people, goes the saying. Just look at Paris and France and how the nation and its people, indeed the world, came together as one community, mourning the fiery devastation of Notre Dame Cathedral. Within one day enough donations were pledged to rebuild it. I vowed to raise a glass with Campbell in honour of community spirit. Also I had an interesting topic for tonight’s discussion, sure to raise an eyebrow or two.
When I arrived at ‘the pub for our weekly peeve session over a couple of pints, Campbell or Camp for as long as I know him, was scribbling away in his Moleskin note book while checking back to his phone, obviously doing some Google-research.
‘What’s up Camp, checking your investments?’ I asked, knowing full well that all his eggs were in one basket, his ‘non-profit’ bookstore.
‘Yeah, I wish. I’ve read a book ‘How Democracies Die’ by two Harvard professors and it’s got me worried.’
‘Never mind world politics,’ Camp said to me, holding up a hand to stop me from even thinking about anything outside of our small peninsula community. ‘I don’t want to hear about the Brexit fiasco or Trump closing the Mexican border after he cut foreign aid to Central America and we can’t do anything about the whole of China acting like one big company or the rise of fascism throughout the world. But we have plenty of local issues which divide and engage people, we have our own politicians whose motives and allegiances are questionable and once in power toss former convictions out the window and we also have misinformation and differing opinions on every conceivable subject, public and personal, right here at home.’
‘What do think about the ferry ploughing into the dock last Tuesday,’ I asked my friend Camp who was no friend of the ferry system. He has over the years bitched about many unpleasant incidents with the ferry as most of us coasters have. Like constant delays, the ongoing game of chicken trying to wiggle and slalom into the left lane from the parking lot across three lanes of oncoming traffic or being cut off at the ticket booth while the boat was still loading.
Unseasonal warm, August like temperatures, have banished old man winter for another year it seems. The skies are blue, the coastal mountains frosted with snow and Vancouver’s beaches are crowed with sun seekers.
‘Hey Camp, know what day it is today?’ I asked as soon as took my seat at our table with the view of the harbour.
At least it’s light now when I walk along the shore to our weekly chin-wag, I stopped by our storm damaged wharf which is getting fixed, thanks to a strong local community which came forward with cash, art and music. In fact there is a ‘Raise the Wharf’ fundraiser on Saturday, 16th March at the Gibsons Public Market.
“We live in a fantastic and immediate world,” I said to Campbell, Camp as we all know him, when I saw him fold the newspaper he was reading.
“Yes, it is so instant that today’s headline has a half-life of 24 hours before it decays into opinions and then further into non-sequiturs,” Camp said.