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Wednesday, 25 March 2015 14:07

Have char so will travel

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Waterloo, Day One:

After 60 minutes in the air, one package of cookies and a glass of iceless water, I land in Calgary 10 minutes late, and two minutes before the security door closes on my connecting flight to Waterloo.
Two minutes would be plenty of time.
If, that is, when I scurry up to my next departure gate, there were a cardboard cutout of a flight attendant, pointing helpfully in the direction I should run. Or, if not a 2-D human, perhaps some direction-indicating breadcrumbs, to suggest there’s been a change of plans.
 “This is supposed to be my gate,” I say, with some urgency, to the attendant next door. “My flight should already be boarding.”
 “If this is your gate, someone will be along.”
I smile and nod, then bolt for the departures screens.
Half of my two minutes are already gone, and when I do locate my new gate, it’s between the candy kiosk and the plush zoo animals store.
Quite honestly, I could use a lollipop and a teddy bear right about now, but there isn’t time for either sentiment or sugar.
This flight to Waterloo, after all, has been on my calendar, my credit card, and on my mind for many months
Tomorrow I’m meant to read for 20 minutes to 200 university students, starting at 6:05 p.m. Then, a dash across campus to deliver, at 7 o’clock, an hour-long presentation to an un-numbered public gathering.
Finally, there is a class discussion at nine.
If, that is, I make this flight. Tomorrow’s would be too late.
And so, waving my electronic boarding pass in the air, even as my BlackBerry’s screen saver comes on and blots it out, I run.
 “Have a nice flight,” says the woman who finally scans my barcode, checks me in and, a moment later, secures the door behind me.
There are people to climb over before I can settle in my window seat.
They stand, graciously, and allow me past. Minutes later, I look down during take-off, watching the ground disappear beneath a batting of clouds.
Now that we are back in the air, though, a miracle happens.
There are many more seats than passengers, and rather than keeping us clustered towards the front, we’re given permission to spread out.
With a row of seats to myself, I say yes to the next round of cookies, pay for a turkey sandwich that is too sweet with cranberries. I ask for hot water, cream and sugar, and swizzle into it a packet of Starbucks Via. I accept the final offering of cookies and tuck them into my purse.
And then, after three hours above a floor of clouds that reveals only a teasing of a single Great Lake, we are on the ground and in the terminal, where I immediately recognize Hildi and Paul, my hosts while in Ontario.
I’ll get to know Hildi and Paul over the next few days, but within a few hours, when fillets of arctic char are removed from their oven, and served with roasted root vegetables, I know enough: Hildi and Paul are food people, and Hildi is an extraordinary cook.

Arctic Char
(serves 4)
4 5-ounce fillets of arctic char
2 tbs extra virgin olive oil
1/2 tsp Calamondin Balsam (see notes)
kosher salt/fresh ground pepper
1 tbs “Perseus” olive oil (see notes)
Trim and remove any bones from fish. Pat dry with a paper towel.
Place, skin side down, on a large plate. Season lightly with salt and pepper (a pinch each for each fillet).
Whisk together extra virgin olive oil and Calamondin Balsam. Brush onto fillets and let marinate for 15 minutes.
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and transfer arctic char onto this. Bake in a 350F oven until barely opaque in centre.
Remove from oven. Let rest three minutes. Plate and drizzle with Perseus olive oil to finish.
Serve with favourite vegetables.
Notes: The specialty vinegar and oil I used are from Crescendo ( for store locations and mail orders). Calamondin is a citrus, also known as a Panama orange. The Balsam (vinegar) is bright and only a very little bit is needed to add a high note to a delicate fish like arctic char.

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