Learn a New Language … Now!

Le chat est noir et blanc!

This is a bit of a diversion from my usual dietary woes but I thought I’d share a little something that could have turned into an even bigger regret than it already was. About thirty odd years ago, I was paralysed by my inability to decide between learning French, Spanish, German, Japanese or Chinese. So I didn’t start learning any of them. Inertia is a powerful thing!

Since Canada is a bilingual country, & I already had the English bit, I thought I should probably try French. Finally! After all, it would be easier to find francophones to practice with. We have plenty of local language resources. And we have French TV channels & radio that I could learn from. Logical, eh!

After 30 years of deliberations, I then did what everyone with an engineering background does … I did another comparative evaluation exercise on which French language course might be more useful for me. I lost another year doing that. But I finally picked one & splashed the cash. It was my 2017 Christmas gift from me to myself!

I did the first lesson the day I purchased the course. And then I did nothing. Again!

It wasn’t ’til after a family trip to Québec that I was reminded of some things I’d forgotten. Seeing things through another’s eyes, those of my daughter, was an eye opener! She loved Montréal &, no surprise this, the stunning beauty of Québec City too. She began learning French. Towards the end of last year I blew the digital dust off off my French course & got stuck in. But this time, so far & fingers crossed that it continues, I’m staying the course.

I’m lucky enough to have to travel to the francophone regions of Canada for work &, finally, I overcame my reluctance to speak my first few words of French in public. In a restaurant, of course! I had diligently practiced my opening lines. Those that warn people that I’m just learning French & to please have patience with me! They worked. People took their time, they spoke slowly & clearly, & they helped me. And I managed to get breakfast to boot!

There is a quote, a touch inaccurately portrayed as something said by Nelson Mandela, that says … If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his own language, that goes to his heart.

That is one of the true joys of speaking, no matter how poorly, another’s language. I am awed by the tolerance, the patience, & the kindness elicited by my early efforts to speak French. I hope that, one day, I’ll be able to make it sound like the beautiful language it is. Meantime, my fingers are hurting from being crossed so that I might sustain the effort.

You know that I like to beat up on myself from time to time, so I’m just a tad annoyed that I didn’t start sooner. But I’m also kinda quietly proud of my progress so far.

I wonder if I shouldn’t think about doing a little Spanish on the side too? I really like the food in all the Spanish speaking countries I’ve been to too. And, who knows, maybe it’s not too late to give up on the notion that I might aspire to, one day, play that old dusty guitar like Carlos Santana!

Hope you’re all having a great weekend! 😜😁

PS … If you’d like to try something a little different for your next vacation, I highly recommend a visit to Canada’s French-speaking regions. It’s like a little touch of Europe, right here in North America. And give it a try, test drive your few words of French! And wait ’til you try the food, I’m going to do a post later on the fast food in Québec. Mmmmm! ! 🤪

Disaster Management on Vacation

Disaster Management on Vacation

I mentioned vacation eating in the 2nd month’s results post but this deserves some space of its own. It’s very important that our diets allow us the luxury of eating well, really well, while on holiday. Or is that really badly? We all need to fulfill the desire to be just a little wicked every now & again!

My recent vacation put that theory to the test.

A quick plug for Canada’s Maritime provinces & Quebec here … they are all amazing. We left Ontario, by car, with stops in Quebec City (you’d think you were in France!) & Fredericton, New Brunswick. All on the way to Halifax, Nova Scotia. We were in Nova Scotia almost a week, a stunningly beautiful place, before taking the ferry across to Prince Edward Island. Yet another gob-smacking adventure of one postcard-like scene after another. After a few days there we went back to the banks of the Saint Lawrence river, in Quebec. One last stay in Montreal was the perfect finish to a great vacation, before we reluctantly headed back home.  Amazing scenery, incredible food & great people everywhere we visited. I can’t wait to go back. The “incredible food” component is what concerns us most here, of course!

My plan was, & deliberately so, very loose. I wanted to see the impact of a pretty free flowing approach to eating while on vacation. I generally tried to avoid known bad things. For me, those include processed & packaged snacks, doughnuts & other such food-like products. Normally, I would consider bread off limits. Not only because it more closely resembles a modern snack food than it does a grain-based food, but primarily because it doesn’t agree with me. For me, it is both mood altering & gut damaging. However, I know the Maritimes are famous for their lobster rolls. And Quebec is famous for its smoked meat sandwiches. I wasn’t missing out on either, I was committed to indulging in the full experience, bread & all!

During the first week of the adventure, I generally tried to make better choices. I had my lobster but with a salad. Though I did have those breaded Digby scallops with French fries. And I seem to remember some beer battered fish & chips along the way! I’m pretty sure that I left some fries on the plate for one of those meals. Not something I’ve been know to do very often. As time progressed, I was allowing myself a little more freedom. Typically, & during times when I’m trying to lose weight, I tend to avoid eating significant amounts of starchy carbs with my proteins & fats. This strategy sometimes went out the window!

The traditional maritime “lobster supper”, for example, included the starch-laden seafood chowder, the endless bucket of mussels (for three but I was the only one eating from it & almost finished it!), the PEI potatoes swimming in butter, & the lobster (all shown in the bottom left, center, & top right pics in the collage above). I did manage to avoid the freshly baked bread, & dessert, on this occasion. Primarily because I was stuffed! The lobster roll (bottom right) was delicious. And the smoked meat & chopped liver sandwich (top left), with fries, is still a mouth-watering memory. I actually left some fries on the plate this time too. While getting fat, I was never leaving anything on the plate so this involuntary action is a pleasing outcome of the diet. Along the way, I did have one ice cream, cone & all. And a bar of chocolate that was less dark than it ought to have been. Okay, I admit it … it was a totally bad bar of milk chocolate. But it was different & it had bits of vaguely healthy ginger & fruit in it!

Ironically, one of the poorer meal choices of the trip happened when we got home. There was a big bag of frozen, & breaded, calamari in the freezer. These were even quicker than ordering in so I had I had two panfuls of those. OMG, the heartburn & indigestion! What do they put in that breading?

To counter all this, I only had breakfast on 4 or 5 occasions during our holiday. No big sacrifice this, since I almost never eat breakfast at home. And I skipped lunch, probably about 3 days a week. This was unnoticeable on driving days, when I was quite happy with my coffee. With cream, no sugar, of course.

My control “group” for this “experiment” was my skinny wife, who effortlessly maintains a BMI of 19. And she does this while eating all sorts of garbage. I know, infuriating, eh! While I was sometimes making good choices, & skipping a meal here & there, I still out-ate her by huge amounts. Yes, I’m bigger. Yes, my resting metabolism will burn more. But I still ate with the kind of freedom that I thought appropriate for a big guy on vacation. And I thoroughly enjoyed it.

At the outset, we both weighed in. And at the end …

My wife had gained 5.2 lbs … while I gained 0.4 lbs!

Come on, tell me you’re not impressed! LOL

Of course she has already, without thought or effort, returned to her normal weight. While my body really has no idea what normal is any more. I should probably try to outline a more detailed vacation diet but with a result like this, who cares! Though next time, I will try to have something waiting in the freezer that doesn’t punish me like those breaded calamari did!