That’s a so-called wrap

11256468_757402374375414_817857624_nA girl’s gotta eat.

Even when it’s specialty foods delivered frozen in giant boxes stuffed with ice packs and Styrofoam noodles, a girl’s gotta eat. Even when some of the food items are as appetizing as the Styrofoam noodles, you know what a girl’s gotta do.

Abby gets these foods shipped to her as supplements to her diet, which is severely limited in protein due to her metabolic condition, tyrosinemia. The companies that concoct these food substitutes – faux pasta, faux rice, faux hot dogs, faux ever young – they do the best they can, given that the kids with this condition can’t even eat tofu. Imagine a child unable to eat tofu! See? Every cloud has a soy-free lining.

But sometimes these foods do lack, shall we say, authenticity.

Take that hot dog, for example. I’m not certain what it’s made from because we long ago ditched the package we ordered, never to be sampled again. It was as though someone had been instructed to devise a non-meat, non-soy hot dog based solely on a description of what a hot dog ought to taste like. This imagined hot dog was then assembled in a refurbished smelting plant in Belarus. And finally, a project supervisor, offering input for input’s sake, said, “Needs more aftertaste.” That’s what a tyrosinemia hot dog tastes like.

They’re not so much foods as approximations of foods. However, having never tried real meat in her life, or a real bagel for that matter, or real cheese or real scrambled eggs, Abby is usually content with these substitutes, despite their wonky taste. Except that hot dog. Blech!

At the same time, she enjoys cooking and the exotic flavours that can transform potato and cauliflower, for example, into aloo gobi, a delicious vegetable curry.

So when the genetic clinic organized a one-day cooking course in Montreal featuring some of these specialty products – how to goose up the grossness, if you will – we signed Abby up. It was also a chance for her to meet a few other kids her age with the same condition.

I joined her for the class and learned a number of tips myself, including this: if you put a bulb of garlic in a solid container and shake it violently, not only will all the cloves come apart but also the cloves will lose their skins. I don’t know what you’re going to do with all that naked garlic now, but MIND BLOWN!

I was one of several dads at the event, which was good to see at a cooking class, I thought. Very forward-thinking, very involved, a reminder that nothing enhances the pleasures of learning quite like the feeling of self-righteousness.

Our chef-instructor was lively and engaging as he showed us how to make guacamole, risotto, custard and a breakfast wrap, all using low-protein specialty products. The wrap included, you guessed it, the hot dog.

Another dad and I got to talking about the products, including that hot dog, which we both agreed was very much not at all good. But we said these things in hushed tones so as not to influence our children, to whom some day we may have to say, “Hey, how about a ‘hot dog!’ Yum!”

“Have you tried the hamburger?” he asked me, grimacing.

“I don’t find the hamburger too bad,” I said. It’s a portobello mushroom burger bound together with wheat starch and industrial-strength aftertaste. “Abby doesn’t like them at all, but my wife eats them.” (She’s been eating them, I found out later, because she hates the idea of throwing them away.)

“Remind me to never come to your house for a barbecue,” said the dad.

When our chef and his kid helpers finished assembling the wraps, they divvied the portions among the participants. Abby and I took one each. I smelled it. Eek. I took a bite…

“It’s good!” said Abby, who’s used to this stuff.

“Not bad,” I said. It was a lie. But the wrap had been so enthusiastically prepared and was such a great example of how Abby and her fellow tyrosinemia patients can be creative with their limited foods, I didn’t dare put it down.

Instead, I shoved the remainder of the sample in my mouth and chewed with the determination of someone eating eyeballs for cash on a reality show – fake hot dog, fake cheese, fake egg, fake tortilla, real nausea.

I looked up. The other dad was chewing too. We made eye contact. We didn’t say a word. We just kept chewing.

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Glamours of publishing


I asked my erstwhile publisher if he could send me some copies of my book, as I had run out. He sent me 80.

Writing, it turns out, is easy. Publishing is not so difficult. Getting books in stores and into people’s mitts, on the other hand, is not for the timid or easily discouraged, particularly for the small or self-published.

After some cajoling and begging, my erstwhile publisher managed to convince the Quebec stores of the Chapters/Indigo chain to stock my 2013 collection of columns, Don’t Everyone Jump at Once. And that, it seems, is where they sat: in stock. I never saw them on any shelves. Eventually, Indigo returned the unsold books. And now I have them, lovingly stored in my attic, in all their glorious redundancy.

Anyone want one?

Regular $18.00, yours for only $16.00 (plus postage). That’s a guaranteed laugh per dollar. (I guarantee nothing.)

Willing to negotiate and commiserate in the comments section.

Posted in It Really Did Happen!, Writing | 45 Comments

Rugby: not for the faint-hearted (parent)

abbyrugby01In the 11 years I’ve been writing a newspaper column, I’ve received hate mail only two times. These being Townships readers, though, it was more like strong-dislike mail. Peevish mail, tops.

The first was when I suggested that curling, like golf and bowling, was a game that improved with drinking. I realize now that such a statement is ridiculous; I forgot darts.

The second angry letter came when I wrote about my two older daughters having taken up rugby. I said that no one really understands the rules of rugby and that those who claim they do have probably been bashed in the head one time too many. There were also references to binge drinking. Clearly, there’s a trend here. Continue reading

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Who is Garland Faunt-Lubberly?

Why is he British but living in Quebec? What’s gardening got to do with drinking? Is this for real? And where on earth is St-Alphonse-de-Couchetard?

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The only workout you’ll never need

Learn how to fall down in style.  Photo:

Learn how to fall down in style.

One of the main reasons people avoid going to the gym is because gyms are stupid.

If people need another reason to avoid the gym, it’s because, like many things we try for the first time, gyms can be strange and intimidating, the difference being that most other things we try for the first time don’t involve tight shorts and being harshly judged by strangers.

That’s why I’ve perfected the You Don’t Have To Go To The Gym To Work Out Workout™, or YDHTGTTGTWOW™ for short, or The Ross Workout™ for even shorter. Honestly, I don’t know why you’d call it by the longer name at all, unless you want to work out your tongue. HA-HA!

(Please note that the YDHTGTTGTWOW™ does not work out your tongue. For more on tongue workouts, read my best-selling pamphlet “Ithn’t There Thomething I Can Do to Thtrengthen My Tongue? Yeth!”) Continue reading

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That ’70s Room

Sometimes I have a hard time getting going. No, not that. Please: this is a family blog. I mean writing. Sometimes getting down to the writing is so difficult that I run out of things to do to avoid writing.

One of the reasons for this, I’m convinced, is because I don’t have a designated writing space. There is a desk in our living room where our laptop is set up, true, but it’s in the middle of traffic and within earshot of the braying television in the next room, not to mention within walking distance of that bag of jujubes in the kitchen.

Sometimes I’ll put headphones on to tune out other sounds, but more often than not I unplug the laptop and relocate, maybe to an easy chair or propped up in bed where the only distractions are a snoring cat and the lure of sleep. Continue reading

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A kick in the aphorism

If you’re in search of inspirational quotations, the Internet is a source of infinite examples, along with infinite accompanying photos of sunrises, seascapes and rainbows. Strangely, you rarely see an inspirational message paired with a photo of a cup of coffee, which really, most of the time, is all the inspiration any of us need.

The thing about these inspirational messages is that they are often mis-attributed. For example, you’ll frequently hear people quote Gandhi as saying, “Be the change you wish to see in the world.” However, there is no evidence that the father of modern India ever said this. The closest we come is Gandhi saying:

mohandas-karamchand-gandhiThis, of course, was during Gandhi’s so-called Mopey Period. Continue reading

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