Catherine Ford Gets Personal

One year: A challenge for change


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Obviously, there are apologies to be made to the fans of Samuel Taylor Coleridge who will recognize in the title of this chapter, a paraphrase of the Rime of the Ancient Mariner in which appears the phrase: “Water, water every where/ Nor any drop to drink.”

That sort of explains both the state of my refrigerators (doesn’t every modern house have at least two?) and the state of my mood at the moment.

The “grey-beard loon” of the poem, who recounts his dreadful days on the ocean — “Alone, alone, all, all alone/ Alone on a wide, wide sea!” — has no resemblance to my own greybeard, who has managed to stash 14 chocolate bars in the upstairs refrigerator and 14 in the downstairs one. The reason the 28 bars are split between the two fridges is because each of them is 400 grams in weight and won’t fit all together. (And yes, there are more in the cabin.)

There wasn’t always such a cornucopia of chocolate in the house, but when Ted thought maybe Wal-Mart was getting out of the business of dealing in Belgian chocolate he panicked and started to buy whatever he could find.

“Hoarder” is the word that comes to mind. I suggested once that perhaps in a previous life, Ted was Mormon and is still compelled to keep a year’s worth of food stashed in the room we refer to as “basement storage.”

(Explanations here must include the fact we live in an inner-city bungalow first built in 1921 on the original Canadian Pacific Railway lands and subsequently renovated into a back-split. This means there is an original basement, now is part of the office/laundry room level and an additional crawl space half a level below, just tall enough for one of us to crab-walk through to check the furnace and big enough for all the stuff people normally store in their basements.

Therefore — by way of a long explanation — the original basement only contains stuff we use occasionally, like suitcases, the Christmas decorations and Ted’s horde of foodstuffs.)

The thinking in the family is that “come the revolution,” they’re all heading over here to be assured of having enough food to eat. Except they really haven’t itemized the horde, as I have. At the moment, it includes 14 one-kilogram cans of vacuum-packed coffee bought at fire-sale prices; 25 cans of salmon (ditto the sale price); assorted cases of pop; three jars of tomato sauce, the last case of Stretch and Seal (out of about seven 12-roll cases bought at liquidation prices); the last three-kilogram box of Sunlight dishwasher detergent; three boxes of brown Sugar Twin sugar substitute; assorted cans of fruit, smoked oysters, a single large jar of sauerkraut (yuk), three different sizes of tomato juice in tins, a few cans of diced tomatoes and half a dozen cans of beef consommé.

There are also various other “essentials” — stuff we couldn’t find in Calgary when we were looking for them, such as two large cans of Old Bay seasoning brought by a friend from Arizona; four jars of colossal queen olives (for Ted’s martinis) from Edmonton, and three jars of special bourguignon sauce brought from Montreal. Oh, and a case of beer, four cases of wine — three from the Opimian Society; one the leftovers of various purchases (who buys one bottle of wine at a time) — and a case of bottled water.

The water was purchased after Toronto had a black-out that cut power to the city for days. Our friends were prepared with an emergency box (actually labeled by Marie as “for emergencies.”) Her family scoffed at her until the power went our and stayed out. The story caused me to buy the water, check to make sure the house had non-electric equipment (like a can opener) and stock up on batteries for the radio and flashlights.

So, yes, we are prepared for emergencies. You’ll notice I did not mention the chocolate in that list. That’s because chocolate doesn’t keep well in the heat, as Ted learned the only year he decided to buy me a chocolate Easter bunny and stored it in his car trunk, so it wouldn’t melt in that year’s unexpected April touch of summer. Apparently he did not understand the physics involved in tin cans and heat from the sun. When he retrieved it, the bunny had melted down into something that resembled a solid chocolate turtle and was about the same texture.

Ergo, the chocolate bars are stored in the refrigerator. (I suggested the freezer, but Ted pooh-poohed the idea.)

All of this may explain why Ted is moved to buy in bulk and why I prefer not to go grocery shopping with him.

On a trip to Wal-Mart on Macleod Trail, he rounded a corner of the aisle where I was looking for something or other, brandishing an entire 12-bar case and a cheek-wide grin. “Don’t tell anyone,” he said, when I started to laugh at his “find.” Naturally, I told everyone.

He returned from a weekend visit to the grandchildren on Denman Island, off the coast of Victoria with a suspiciously heavy overnight bag. Heavy, because while on the island with his younger daughter, Laura and her family, he had paid a visit to the Wal-Mart in Comox and took the opportunity to stock up.

These aren’t just any chocolate bars, but extra dark Belgian chocolate, each weighing nearly a pound. None of them are mine. They constitute my husband’s love of extra dark chocolate and surely must be among the best bargains available at just over $4 each. (Although I noticed the price has increased recently from $3.79. Still, they are a bargain.)

One would think all of this chocolate in the refrigerator would pose a too-close-for-comfort temptation for someone on a campaign like mine. Not a bit of it, which may explain my sour mood — a houseful of chocolate and nothing I like to eat. Alas, I don’t like dark chocolate, even when its health benefits are explained.

So Ted contents himself with a midnight snack of dark chocolate, getting all the benefits and not gaining any weight. Combine the chocolate with the red wine he loves, and Ted’s “bad” habits turn out to be good ones, at least according to my friends and colleagues at the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Alberta, NWT and Nunavut. I say “colleagues” because for some bizarre reason, they’ve invited me to be on one of their boards. They talk about “flavonoids” and “good” cholesterol as opposed to “bad” cholesterol and all the health benefits of eating dark chocolate.

Mention Ted’s chocolate bars and whammo, information up the yin-yang. Flavonoids, in red wine and dark chocolate, are not a strong breath mints, but antioxidants which “protect the body from free radicals which can cause damage leading to heart disease.” (I didn’t want to ask about free radicals in case I was buried under another flurry of paper.)

And red wine? Talk about the “French paradox,” according to researchers who noted “there was a 40 percent lower mortality from ischemic heart disease among people in France despite the high amount of saturated fats in their diet.”

Here comes the best part: Moderate consumption of red wine and dark chocolate increases good cholesterol and blood flow, lowers blood pressure and reduces the effect of bad cholesterol.

I’m in, I nod my head enthusiastically. I should have stopped reading right at that point, before I got to the sentence that announced that such benefits were not found from white chocolate, milk chocolate or dark chocolate consumed with milk. And then I read that the Heart and Stroke Foundation recommends a maximum of one to two servings of alcohol per day. I guess drinking half a bottle of red wine (Ted drinking the other half) is not considered copacetic.

The bars Ted buys are, I discovered through a blog called Filberts and Chocolates: “artisan chocolate from Belgium. They are made in the small Belgian town of Aarschot, made exclusively for WaterBridge. It can be debated, and is, that Belgian chocolate is among the best in the world, but the proof is in the tasting. With their large size comes a small price, surprisingly, about $4.”

Another Web site talks about dark chocolate and how one’s palate has be matured to come to appreciate dark chocolate. “You will soon realize that it is full of subtle distinctions similar to wine . . . Cocoa is harvested, fermented and blended, just as grapes are. Like fine wine, good chocolate has terroir . . . Give it a try; chances are you actually never tasted real chocolate before.”

Maybe I need to take another taste of Ted’s chocolate. (When he isn’t looking, of course.) Maybe I have an adolescent’s palate, unused to the fine taste of extra-dark chocolate. And just to be really helpful, the writers also include some hints on how to “work off” the 180 calories in three pieces or 100 grams of the chocolate.

Here are some of the more amusing ones: To burn off 180 calories: Sit quietly in church, meditate or watch a movie for 165 minutes. Take a shower, be an usher in church, or sew by hand, for 83 minutes. Scrub the floor on your hands and knees for 44 minutes. Try lawn bowling or being a stagehand in a theatre for 55 minutes. If time is a concern, you’ll burn off the chocolate calories by skiing downhill for 28 minutes, belly dancing for 37 minutes or playing handball for 14 minutes.

No calories burned for looking at the treadmill on which I should be walking at the moment.

NEXT: Back to reality with Helen and her fiendish lunges.


Written by Catherine Ford

April 22, 2010 at 3:26 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

One Response

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  1. Free radicals – could be healthy elements – or could be activists just released from lock up.
    So glad you’re taking a healthy approach to your heart by considering dark chocolate, I too suffer from an unseasoned palate. As for red wine portion control – I’ve always believed if a little is good, more is better. NOT the official HSFA party line – but I’m hoping by drinking the Ehlers Estate biodynamic red wine called “One Twenty over Eighty” I’ll have dispensation.

    Jennifer Diakiw

    April 22, 2010 at 4:04 pm

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