The company which provides my email has also decided to change my surname. So maybe you can understand why I dislike being in North America in general, and why I have a special hate on for the Beach Boys?
It is maybe not as specific and passionate a hatred as I have for Canada Post, that government agency which has the bare-faced cheek to charge tax when it sells us stamps, and who took my money for holding my mail and then sent a selection of it back to Italy. So now I can choose to enjoy playing a complicated long-distance game of hide and seek in Italian with Poste Italiane during the Christmas rush.
However. I did have an outstanding meal in London before I left, at La Trompette. Here’s the evidence:
A starter of mixed leaves – endive of two colours and rocket – with roquefort, walnuts and poached quince:
Followed by an exquisite piece of sea-bream, crunchy and melting, on a bed of pureed potatoes with a darling lettuce heart and perfectly roasted parsnips for company, in a chicken jus with capers.
We would not dare to call this delicious morsel Pineapple Fluff, but superficially, and passion fruit aside, the resemblance was striking…
And on my first visit to an Italian grocery in Vancouver, which shall remain nameless for the moment, I was able to spot my first instance of cheese fraud. They had vac-packed Grana Padano and were selling it as Parmigiano-Reggiano; you can tell by the markings on the rind, which are diamond-shaped for Grana, whereas Parmigiano-Reggiano simply has its name spelled out together with the production date (which makes it annoying not to get a specific answer when I asked the seller how old their Parmigiano-Reggiano was: basically you are looking for something in the 24-36 month range, but all she could tell me was the piece in my hand would be between 2 and 4 years… since the producers will have charged the wholesaler more for a 36 month wheel than for a 24, it does matter to me the consumer which I am buying).
Grana is a cheaper, industrial version of Parmigiano-Reggiano, so it is more than cheeky to try to pass it off as its higher-priced cousin. I told the clerk at the cheese counter that the cheese had been mislabelled; she looked confused but gamely started filling a basket to get the offending merchandise off the display. But when I looked again, most of it was still there. I will hold judgement and whistle-blowing until I have a chance to check them out again. I greatly fear that my year’s experience has only served to make me potentially unwelcome everywhere I go.