Friday, August 3, 2007

An Island of Bliss in a Sea of Buffet Hell

To those who know me it should come as no surprise that when I am hungry I like my food.

Those who know me even better know how much I hate buffets, particularly Chinese ones. The very idea of an all you can buffet sends over me waves of nausea as I imagine the weird, ugly heat of the hot lamps, the stainless steel trays full of rice and unidentifiable meats in unidentifiable sauces, that insult to hens everywhere, chicken balls, and of course those Homerics jostling among us at the steam tables looking for you to nod in agreement when they say ‘You can go up as many times as you want and you won’t have to have dinner either. Just look at all these Egg Rolls.’

Thai Island, in the basement of First Canadian Place, appears on first look to be just such a place. Buffet Hades. You could not be more wrong. Just adjacent to the revolting steam counter with its revolting ‘sneeze guard’ there is another cashier with a small window behind. From a board you choose a Vietnamese (I believe) bowl of delicious soup. The restaurant maintains it is Thai and has a massive orange tray of stuck together Pad Thai cooking under an artificial sun. But sitting in a mild vegetable broth -- if and only if you order from the other order taker, after a small wait holding your number, you find an island of translucent vermicelli noodles, shredded lettuce and carrot (I know the bowls are bespoke as I have often asked them to hold the lettuce), wonderful barbecued strips of pork, great and crunchy spring rolls. Unlike Pizza Pizza there are set combos. How are the noodles? They are so good as to beggar belief, even Dylan Y agrees. Indeed, Thai Island (which Louise first discovered, though knowing her I believe she hit the buffet for the green curry—which may be great, but I’ll never know). I won't be going there today, but we will not long be apart.

(China not quite as shown.)

Robert Graves' Goodbye to All That

I just finished reading my wife's copy of Robert Graves Goodbye to All That, one of those books that you always plan to read but never do. Indeed, the book has been kicking around the various places where we have lived over the years. I finally did read the work with a great long plane ride -- delayed by 30 hours!!! -- to finish it. I had thought it would simply be a war memoriam of a war that I know little about. It was that, but as well a picture of an age of Britain long since gone. And I think, in part, that is what the title implies, Good-Bye to All That. For on Graves' return -- far younger than me -- and the failure of his marriage, he quite simply says, Good-Bye to All That and moves to Spain. The country has changed, so has he, and there is only one option, to leave. The prose is as unfamiliar as is the England and Europe Graves depicts with Graves somehow letting life pass by (and coming home from the war relatively unscathed) as that life passes and the world finds itself another place. I dare not count up all the dead on this text, 3 and 4 on a page at times. Countering the horror, there are also lovely portraits of George Mallory -- who ascended Everest in hob nailed boots and tweeds -- and T. E. Lawrence.
In summary, highly recommended. I don't believe I have ever quite read a book like it.