Urrrm, just a pack of Sapporo’s thanks, I said to the young, balding man behind the counter – two adjectives made exponentially worse when used in the same sentence. His patchy hair reminded me of a racoon, but his face was quite fat and rosy – definitely no older than 28. His forearms were the size of my thighs, but despite his prison-esque appearance, he seemed kind. Mournful, yes, but kind. I love this town! I offered, smiling. I just walked all the way around the bay and it is gorgeous. Oh yeah?! He perked up. You should see the waterfalls, they’re about a 25 minute walk that-a-way. He flailed one of his bear-sized hands toward the door. I doubted seriously that he’d ever walked there himself, but I thanked him for the suggestion regardless. What are you doing here in Owen Sound? He asked. Just visiting my brother who’s holed up here working, I smiled. Hang on, I’ll grab your beers, he said. Tall cans ok? Sure! I said. While he was out the back, another youngish guy wearing a hunting hat, huge brown trench coat and motorbike boots walked in. He stared at me through his grubby glasses and shot me a grimey smile. Don’t see many people riding mopeds anymore do ya? He asked. No sir you don’t! I said. Is that what you’re riding? Yes. One from 1970, he said. That’s old, he added, just in case I wasn’t familiar with the chronology of time. How’s your day? He asked. It’s great thanks! I said. And yours? It’s great thanks, he said. And yours? I wasn’t entirely sure how long he could keep up this conversation, but I figured it was somewhere between 100 years and eternity. Thankfully the big guy came back with my beers. As I left The Beer Shop (yes, literally called that), I passed the moped, which was still running. It shuddered against the flimsy looking bike stand, like it might take off on it’s own any minute. Huge eagle feathers poked out of the handlebars and it sort of reminded me of my first bike with its hot pink tassels and trainer wheels.
The next night I had to go on an even bigger trek to buy a spaghetti squash and some wine – from The Wine Shop (obviously). I walked along a muddy track, through an eerie park and up a giant hill past some whistling hooligans. A tiny black squirrel shot across the road, staring despondently at the base of a tree for nuts. I feel ya buddy, I thought as my thirst for pinot grew ever more aggressive. I’d never seen a black squirrel before, but the further I walked the more I realised they were all black. Along the trail I counted no less than seven churches (and about four Tim Hortons’). I could understand the Tim Hortons surplus - I mean, that joint is a real institution, but religion on the other hand… I strongly doubt Owen Sound even had the population to fill one pew in each. I am normally someone who tries my utmost to avoid any sort of religious propaganda, but I couldn’t help noting that not all of were created equal. Take the Anglicans for example, their sign – Let’s all love each other – was lovely. Generic yes, but lovely. And the Catholics – From lowly to glorious – kind of ambiguous, but most definitely inspiring. The Baptists were really sweet, welcoming the Guzman family from Bolivia. But it was the Nazarenes who really stood out. Their sign read; Bodily exercise profits a little, but godliness profits for all. I thought the whole purpose of religion was about connecting people, not eating Tim Hortons and sitting around getting fat and godly. Later that afternoon I was on the phone to my parents – who advised me it was ok that I continued to run every morning, just so long as I prayed at the same time.
But as I selected a juicy looking spaghetti squash from the supermarket, I actually felt comforted by Owen Sound’s…. quirks. If it weren’t for life’s little differences, I imagine it would be very difficult to understand our place in the world – who we are and what we value. We would all just be the same. Buying our wine from The Wine Shop, our beers from The Beer Shop, our shoes from The Shoe Shop and so on. I drink Sapporo’s because I’ve tasted Fosters and I know I don’t like them. But how would you know you’re a black squirrel if you’d never seen a grey one? Or how would you know a moped is meant for children if know one’s ever told you? How would you know churches are places of damnation if you never read their signs? And why are you thinking to yourself right now – Ew, squash is gross – if you’ve never even tried it?
- 1 large spaghetti squash
- ¾ cup Parmesan + extra to top
- 1 pear, grated
- 1 medium brown onion, diced
- 3 cloves garlic, finely diced
- 4 tablespoons chopped fresh sage
- ½ cup panko breadcrumbs
- Salt and pepper
- Juice of 1 lemon
- Four rashers bacon, finely chopped
- 5 tablespoons butter
- Halve the spaghetti squash and remove seeds.
- Place facedown on a lined baking tray and bake at a moderate heat for around 30-40 minutes - or until you can pierce the skin with a knife. Remove from oven and allow to cool.
- For the sauce, fry butter until it bubbles and browns. Add bacon, garlic and onion and sauté.
- Add sage, pear, Parmesan and lemon juice and fry until most of the liquid has evaporated. Season with salt and pepper.
- Remove the ‘spaghetti’ from the squash by gently scraping the strands out with a fork.
- Toss strands with sauce until evenly covered.
- Scoop mixture back into the two squash skins and top with extra Parmesan and panko crumbs.
- Bake at a high heat for about 10 – 15 minutes or until the cheese has melted and the breadcrumbs are golden.
- Get it in your belly!!