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Dining out solo is often avoided but doesn’t have to be a dreadful experience.  Considering the following advice may enhance your chances of enjoying yourself while eating out at a table for one.  For example, you might feel that everyone is watching you.  Show some confidence.  Perhaps they don’t get to see a natural redhead every day, especially one with such an attractive tail.

Choosing to dine at less busy times might make you less self-conscious.  Those pesky chickadees with all their twittering would certainly contribute to your sense of loneliness.   Bring along a book to read but realize that reading The Nutcracker after the Christmas season is over may attract unwanted stares.  Enjoy a glass of wine  as it might make you feel more relaxed.  Just make sure you can hold your liquor.

Once you’ve done it a few times, you might wonder why you ever dreaded eating alone in the first place.  Spared the need to carry on a conversation, you might find yourself appreciating the tastes and aromas of your dinner even more than usual.  Feel free to dig in.

Of course, if you choose to simply eat on the run, the loss is yours.  There will always be those who are more than eager to partake in the delights of dining solo.

Scott at Views Infinitum has extended an open invitation to take part in his food photography assignment.  Deadline for submissions is Wednesday, January 26th at midnight.  Bon appétit!

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garden slug

If we eat escargots, why don’t we eat slugs?  They’re boneless, meaty (likely high in protein) and many species are herbivores, so we’d be eating fairly low on the food chain.

Of course, they might sound tastier in French:

I’d like to order an appetizer of limaces s’il vous plaît, with a glass of red wine. Better make that a bottle.  

Like escargots, slugs (or limaces, if you prefer) would probably taste best cooked with lots of garlic, butter and a bit of parsley, but could also be thrown into a stew, battered and fried or added to a Caesar salad.  

L.E. Adams 1896

L.E. Adams 1896

Slugs thrive in moist environments. I’ve seen slugs near misty waterfalls on the west coast of Canada that were close to six inches in length.  The ones here on the east coast aren’t nearly half that size, but they are nevertheless quite common in the garden.  They’re eaten by birds, reptiles and amphibians.  Although they shrink their bodies when threatened and can be rather slithery to grasp, they are still fairly easy to catch.  Slow food.

A few years ago, on a dare, an Australian ate a couple of garden slugs.  I can see someone doing that, especially after a few beers.  It seems harmless enough.  He nearly died.  Neurologists concluded that he had acquired both meningitis and encephalitis from the leopard slugs he had eaten.  The article cites a couple of other individuals who didn’t survive.  Apparently, the larval stage of the parasitic worm Angiostrongylus cantonensis lives in molluscs, including slugs.  Extreme heat will kill the worm but it may not be worth the risk.  Some slugs would probably be more suspect than others, but to the untrained eye, it would be difficult to tell the difference between one species and another.  The chart above shows types of slugs found in Great Britain. 

Meanwhile, in one corner of southern Italy, it’s believed that eating a whole, raw slug will aid gastritis or stomach ulcers.  Slug mucous is also used there to treat skin ailments.  See reference here.

garden snail

This is the first year I’ve noticed several garden snails in the yard.  Their shells are fairly delicate and the snails themselves are quite small.  An Italian friend in Ontario used to pick and cook land snails she’d find along the railway tracks.  The ones she picked must have been closer in size to the periwinkles found along the shore here in Nova Scotia.

periwinkles on driftwood

To my knowledge, periwinkles are not eaten in Nova Scotia.  However, they are cooked and eaten elsewhere in the world.  Food tastes are cultural.  Meningitis and encephalitis, however, are cross-cultural infections.  There’s a Chinese belief that eating molluscs while you have a wound on your body will lengthen recovery time.  Even Leviticus 20 in the Old Testament warns against eating any manner of living thing that creepeth on the ground.  It might be best to be safe than sorry the next time someone dares you to eat a slug.

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A Lobster Trap Washed Ashore at Silver Sands Beach

Single or stacked, lobster traps are a common sight in Nova Scotia.  They can be found in boats, stacked on wharves or in residential driveways.  I’ve often seen them sitting bashed up on the seashore or sometimes in the woods.  A few homeowners use them as yard decorations.  They are a frequent reminder of the lobster industry in Nova Scotia, a sector that is suffering these days due to low prices at the market.  Stocks are full and demand is low. 

lobsterOne result of the current recession (or depression, depending on your personal situation) is that people are buying fewer luxury items.  Unfortunately for lobster fishermen, their catch is considered in that category.  But lobsters weren’t always considered a luxury item on the menu.

Along with crabs, lobsters are known as ‘bottom feeders,’ animals that survive by consuming the worst of what’s sitting on the ocean floor.  Prior to the mid 1800s, eating lobster was considered a mark of poverty in North America.  Muslims and Jews have also always refrained from its consumption for religious reasons.

These days, if you do love to eat lobster, it can be purchased for a price comparable to that of baloney at the supermarket.  I haven’t seen lobster prices that low at Sobey’s since the 1980s.

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Young Dandelion Leaves in the Lawn

Young Dandelion Leaves in the Lawn

Most North Americans think of Dandelions as weeds, not food.  Considering the state of our health, perhaps we should consider the benefits of this common plant.

You see here what virtues this common herb hath, and that is the reason the French and Dutch so often eat them in the spring; and now if you look a little farther, you may see plainly without a pair of spectacles, that foreign physicians are not so selfish as ours are, but more communicative of the virtues of plants to people.  

~  Nicholas Culpeper (1616-1654)  English herbalist and physician

Dandelions have their uses in soups, wines and coffees but they render their greatest health benefits when served soon after picking in a raw salad.  In fact, the more quickly they can be brought to the table, the more nutrients will be present. 

This common plant is easily identified by the coarse toothed edges on the leaves which give them the name of  ‘lion’s tooth.’  Dandelion greens should ideally be picked in pesticide free lawns in early spring, prior to the blooming of the bright yellow flowers.  The younger leaves are less bitter than older ones. 

Here are comparisons of the nutritional values of 100gr of Dandelion greens with an equal quantity of other foods, known for their exceptional vitamin and mineral benefits:

Vitamin A:  Dandelions ~ 14,000 IU  /  Carrots ~ 11,000 IU

Potassium:  Dandelions ~ 397 mg  /  Bananas ~  370 mg

Iron:  Dandelions ~ 3.1 mg / Broiled beef ~ 3.9 mg

Calcium:  Dandelions ~ 187 mg / Whole cow’s milk ~ 118 mg

Dandelions in a Salad

Dandelion Greens in a Mixed Salad

If you find Dandelions too bitter to your taste, it may be best to introduce them into your diet in smaller quantities as shown in the salad above, where they are mixed with spinach, orange peppers and feta cheese, and drizzled with olive oil.

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