by Craig Campbell –
I well remember when I fell in love with food and its companion, drink; it was the day I was born, thus out of necessity a combination meal at the time being both food and drink. “Great Demeter, goddess of food,” I thought, “this is the most wonderful moment of my entire life!” That, and the poop I had shortly after, made it a perfect first day.
I was an active child (a successive string of doctors used more complicated terms) and thankfully never gained weight, though my appetite was, shall we say, robust. About the only things I did not, nor to this day will not, eat were head cheese and liver. Head cheese – how do I put this delicately? – is disgusting, and liver, well do you know what the liver does? It filters poison. Hey, let’s all eat the poison filter!
My appetite was always large, but when I got heavily into exercise it simply became enormous. When I first went to my wife’s parents’ house for dinner, they cooked what for them was a normal-sized meal. Worried, Julie rushed to the kitchen to tell her mother it was not enough. We ate everything, then they fed me two sandwiches. This is a true story. Even today her brother and sister-in-law marvel at my consumption. Back then running marathons, biking, doing 150 push-ups and innumerable sit-ups held the weight at bay. Julie, a fabulous baker, would make a batch of cookies. I always thought it was incumbent to eat the entire plate, not just two, a lesson I continue to struggle with.
My mother was a good cook, nay, a great cook. I did not begin cooking until my mid-40s. With my mother’s help I learned, and it is something I enjoy, basically as I love to eat. If forced to describe my style of cooking, I guess comfort food sums it up. Our charcoal barbecue is used at least four times a week all year round. I bake my own bread, about which I’m very particular. It takes me all day, and I even grind my own flour! But the end result is totally worth it. As a dinner guest I felt I was appreciated. I ate all the appetizers. All of ’em. And when dinner was called, who was the first seated? Mind you, having everyone politely waiting while I finish off my third helping is sometimes disconcerting.
But on my 50th birthday, my knees collaborated with my memory and quit. Both just up and said: “that’s it, we’re done.” Without exercise my body no longer had the means to rid itself of the massive intake of calories I ingested and the weight commenced. Likewise, I often forgot when I last ate, and just in case I’d eat again.
Vancouver Island is a delight for both the gourmet and the gourmand, the latter being the category into which I fall. It contains more craft breweries, offering a cornucopia of tasty beverages, than one could imagine. Boutique wineries flourish. Every second driveway seems to offer fresh, healthy food: eggs, chicken, strawberries, lamb … the list is endless. Such are the offerings, they are almost salacious. My Ontario hometown, ruled by greasy diners where malt vinegar for your fries was considered epicurean, contrasts mightily to Sidney whose restaurants offer fare from virtually every imaginable corner of the earth. The comparisons between my hometown and here are revealing, Sidney being Nirvana and but one of many places on the Island offering delicious food.
And what has this excess of beer and food done for me? Well, apart from sating my taste buds on a daily basis and expanding my waistline immensely: nothing. Except for knee problems, I only visit my doc once every one or two years and have no health problems. None. While eating too much and doing zero exercise is surely not good for a person, eating good, healthy food must be. And fabulous, nutritious food is virtually everywhere next door here on this incredible Vancouver Island. Freshly smoked salmon anyone?