Monthly Archives: December 2020

In Review: Music Of 2020 (10-1)

And now we conclude my top albums of the year that was started yesterday. There are so many albums that I never got around to listening to – if there are any you’d think I would enjoy, please leave a comment below.

#10 – Róisín Machine by Róisín Murphy

In a year filled with disco, it only makes sense that the first album in my Top 10 would be disco-pop done Róisín Murphy style. Despite loving Hairless ToysI never did listen to the follow-up. However, with Róisín Machine there was no doubt that I had to get on this straightaway.

After all, so many amazing tracks from this album had been released over the last 8 years, it was hard to imagine that this wouldn’t end up being her best album yet – and she got there. I’ll always have a soft spot for her solo debut Ruby Blue for introducing me to avant-pop, but I have a new champion now.

Top Tracks: Narcissus, We Got Together, Kingdom of Ends

#9 – Future Nostalgia by Dua Lipa

Future Nostalgia was one of those albums that I heard very early in the year and knew that it would be a guaranteed Top 10 placement by the end. The fact that an album I enjoyed this much ends up at number eight, shows just how strong a year this has ended up being in terms of music. It was the carefree romp through a number of retro-pop tropes that really would have smashed a year with actual dancefloors. Even some of the questionable tracks on the remix album didn’t manage to dull how cool and fun this album was.

Top Tracks: Physical, Hallucinate, Break My Heart

#8 – Chromatica by Lady Gaga

When I heard the promotional singles and even on my first listen through of Chromatica, I would not have expected that this would end up in my end of year list – let alone this high. However, ‘Sour Candy’ and ‘Sine From Above’ would not stop invading my brain – and here we are. Now I am in love with her electro-pop opus where, at least for me, she’s back at The Fame Monster quality. I may not have loved all the albums in between (although Born This Way got plenty of spins), but I never truly left her – which makes this return all the sweeter.

Top Tracks: Sour Candy, Sine From Above, Chromatica II/911

#7 – Fetch The Bolt Cutters by Fiona Apple

When this album came out, I went to bed with my headphones and listened to this alone in the dark. It isn’t every year that Fiona Apple releases an album, so you have to experience it properly. By the end of the first track I had already cried, by the time it ended I knew that it would need a lot of extraction.

Then the rest of the year happened. In a year where I didn’t have to deal with anxiety and depression, I would have given Fetch The Bolt Cutters even more of a dissection and given it the analysis it deserves. Instead, this is an album I had to fit in whenever I felt lucid and stable enough. Means that the positioning here is going to be lower than if I was retroactively talking about 2020 albums in a few year’s time, but it is what it is.

Top Tracks: Shameika, Under The Table, Cosmonauts

#6 – Miss Anthropocene by Grimes

It bums me out that, upon releasing Miss Anthropocene, Grimes more or less disowned Art Angels. It won’t stop me listening to that, or having  ‘Flesh Without Blood’ as my favourite Grimes track. This was also the Grimes album I feel I waited the longest for as I made the conscious decision to not listen to the version that leaked online four months earlier.

In the end, this album’s dystopian aesthetic was oddly prescient of what 2020 would end up being. Sure, this was meant to be more about the climate crisis than a world pandemic – but really the difference pretty much ends there. At least there will be good industrial inspired pop in the future.

Top Tracks: My Name Is Dark – Art Mix, So Heavy I Fell Through the Earth – Art Mix, Violence – Original Mix

#5 – What’s Your Pleasure? by Jessie Ware

I am still not entirely sure why disco made a comeback in 2020. It’s so weird that a number of artists got the same memo, but I am glad for it giving me the first Jessie Ware that I paid attention to since her debut. What’s Your Pleasure? is such a sexy and euphoric album that is exactly the kind of disco music that I can well and truly get on board with. It feels like what I was hoping for with Honey, but hey maybe that is the album that was needed in order to give me this.

Top Tracks: What’s Your Pleasure?, Ooh La La, Save a Kiss

#4 – Bonny Light Horseman by Bonny Light Horseman

Okay, so I never thought that I would end up falling for an album like this – a folk supergroup that reinterprets a number of traditional folk songs. However, there is some real magic in those songs and these three really managed to make an album that balances the beauty and the melancholy. 

If there was an album that was the soundtrack to my terrible summer and actually helped get me through it, it was Bonny Light Horseman. Singing along to ‘Deep in Love’ and ‘Magpie’s Nest’ – I saw singing, I was wailing – was a regular occurrence and it really helped to lift my spirits.

Top Tracks: Deep In Love, Bonny Light Horseman, Jane Jane

#3 – That’s How Rumours Get Started by Margo Price

Silly as it sounds, I still have a slight regret that I didn’t get into Margo Price’s exceptional debut quick enough for me to be able to put in my Top 20 of that year. Well, here we are a few years later and she’s released yet another album that I adore – and this one has been extra special because of how, like Bonny Light Horseman, it helped get me through the summer.

Hearing her first perform ‘Stone Me’ on Full Frontal in Samantha Bee like a zillion years ago made me so excited for the album – which just delivered exactly the country experience I was needing. No matter what happens, she is a true star and one of the few singers who I actually follow on Instagram.

Top Tracks: Letting Me Down, I’d Die For You, Stone Me

#2 – SAWAYAMA by Rina Sawayama

One of my best friends introduced me to Rina Sawayama last year through the excellent song ‘Alterlife’… and now I think I have become the bigger fan of the two of us. In terms of being a proper pop album, this left all the others in the dust this year. It is such a collision of genres into an album that is incredibly inclusive and is personal almost to a fault. There’s nu-metal, funk, RnB, house, electroclash and pretty much every genre that people have been puzzling over in their Spotify Year in Review.

Top Tracks: STFU!, Comme des Garçons (Like the Boys), Dynasty

#1 – by GFRIEND

This year, GFRIEND have pretty much dominated my listening with their 回 series of albums. For most of my list making, I had their three releases separately and it felt a bit off to have the same artist appear three times. So, I decided to combine them and effectively give them the position of the highest of the three releases – 回:Labyrinth – which was my album of the year.

I have tried other K-Pop this year, but nothing just quite hits the same spot as GFRIEND – which is insane for a group I only listened to because of a funny gif I saw on Reddit. I also love that they have been able to release singles that just end up being repeated ad nauseum for about a fortnight at a time. It has been such a treat seeing their development from their 2019 album (which was the soundtrack to my trip to South Korea). I don’t know where they are headed in 2021, but I will be along for the ride.

Top Tracks: Labyrinth, MAGO, Here We Are

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In Review: Music Of 2020 (20-11)

When the year began (in the beforetime, in the long long ago) I started off with three music goals. Firstly, the goal I didn’t manage to complete, was to finish off the Top 250 Acclaimed Music list. The other two were to listen to 100 new albums in 2020, 50 of which were released that year.

I ended up smashing both targets, with me listening to over 70 albums this year and having to set up an actual shortlist so I could properly make my top 20 of the year. This breaks my own personal record for the most albums that I have listened to within their year of release.

A side effect of this being that some albums, that might have easily made the Top 20 in previous years, have been beaten out by new discoveries. There are also some where they probably got drowned out by others I discovered in the same week where, last year, they may have had more of my attention for longer.

Still though, here I am moaning a bit about listening to too much good music. Considering the trash fire of a year, that isn’t too bad.

#20 – The Otherside by Cam

I have to say that this is the hardest ranking that I’ve done ever since starting on this end of year lark back in 2015. So many albums with great songs not making it, but that’s just where the quality fell – and so the first on my countdown is a lovely piece of country pop by someone I had never heard of until I saw a random Twitter recommendation. ‘Redwood Tree’ may be one of the strongest opening tracks of any album this year, the rest of the album not being quite as swooping but still pretty great.

Top Tracks: Redwood Tree, The Otherside, Like A Movie

#19 – 金字塔 by Reol

I originally picked this album up because of the album art. It’s one of those gambits that has paid off plenty of times in the past and it worked once again with Kinjitou. Every now and then I try and delve pack into the world of J-Pop, really hoping to find a new artist to fall for – especially with Namie Amuro retiring and Ayumi Hamasaki not making a new album for 4 years. I am not sure yet whether I am going to follow Reol with the same joy as my original foray into J-Pop, but I am 16 years older now so will just enjoy the high energy where I find it.

Top Tracks: GRIMOIRE, ゆーれいずみー, HYPE MODE

#18 – Seeking Thrills by Georgia

The first time I heard ‘Feel It’ was back in January when offices were still open – the pre-chorus and chorus leaving me a mess of goosebumps and ASMR shivers whilst surrounded by my now-distant co-workers. The rest of Seeking Thrills has the air of a collection of works rather than a cohesive album, which lets it down slightly and does distract from some of the dizzying highs that make me think of Tegan & Sara at their best. Still, it’s hard to argue with any album that features an utter smash like ‘Feel It’ and doesn’t fall apart in its wake.

Top Tracks: Feel It, About Work The Dancefloor, Never Let You Go

#17 – color theory by Soccer Mommy

I am not sure an album has made feel older than color theory has. I know there are songs I now listen to who are remarkably younger than me (looking at you Billie Eilish), but weirdly it was this album that forced me to accept that I am no longer part of that generation. This album is a stunning piece of dream pop whose centre is a devastatingly beautiful song about her mother whose eyes were yellow with a terminal illness. It’s gorgeous when you don’t know the background, with the background… it’s one of the songs of the year.

Top Tracks: yellow is the color of her eyes, circle the drain, night swimming

#16 – I Disagree by Poppy

When I waxed lyrical about Am I A Girl? I knew that Poppy had metal leanings, but had no idea that this would be the direction. Then ‘Voicemail’ came out the following year, which pretty much showed this is where we were headed – and I loved it. There are still the elements of the sugary Poppy of old, but this album also acts as her emancipation from that previous image and shows that she is a woman of multitudes that is still finding their voice. I said two years ago that I would be keeping my eye on her – well it isn’t moving.

Top Tracks: Anything Like Me, Fill The Crown, I Disagree

#15 – Women in Music Pt. III by HAIM

We are now entering the territory of albums that, in most other years, would have been top 10 contenders – it’s just that good a year. With Women in Music Pt. III, I was finally back on board the HAIM hype train – even if it was a last minute listening resurgence in November that finally got me back on board.

I think that, when I first heard Women in Music Pt. III in the summer, I was not in the market for their particular brand of sunny California indie pop. Now I’m in a better headspace, this is exactly the sort of music I like – so guess I’ll end up having a proper voyage of discovery in the coming months.

Top Tracks: The Steps, Up From A Dream, Don’t Wanna

#14 – some kind of peace by Ólafur Arnalds

Many albums end up having a place, for some kind of peace that place is as the ambient backing music to a distance learning course about psychometrics that I did in the last few months of 2020. I needed calming music with an ambient and classical bent – which this album delivered in spades. Before this, I had dug up Digital Rain which had the side effect of me needing the bathroom. Instead, this album found ways to soothe and engage me in a course that regularly left me scratching my head and feeling stupid. Honestly, without this man from Iceland, I probably would have ended up panicking and failing.

Top Tracks: Loom, Spiral, The Bottom Line

#13 – folklore by Taylor Swift

Just when I count her out, Taylor Swift pulls me back in. I loved 1989 and then all her music since then turned me off completely – even cameos from some of my favourite Drag Race girls weren’t enough to entice me. All she had to do was drop a surprise hour long folk album which pretty much captured the zeitgeist of what it meant to be in lockdown. No gimmicks, just showing how great a lyricist and storyteller she is – especially on ‘the last great american dynasty’ which lead me down such a Wikipedia hole it isn’t even funny.

Top Tracks: the last great american dynasty, cardigan, seven

#12 – NO DREAM by Jeff Rosenstock

Having not listened to neither Bruce Springsteen’s nor Bob Dylan’s highly acclaimed albums this year, I know that may have missed out on some of the best male-led music this year. Still though, Jeff Rosenstock and Ólafur Arnalds are the only all-male albums to end up on my end of year list.

I know I am pretty female-orientated at the best of times, but 2020 is the first time no albums in my Top 20 were 100% male. And this is year where I have listened to both Sufjan Stevens albums – who is one of my favourite musicians of all time.

Good thing Jeff Rosenstock is here to keep the faith alive with this thrashing politically conscious power pop album.

Top Tracks: f a m e, Nikes (alt), N O D R E A M

#11 – Heavy Light by U.S. Girls

Despite the disco-influence and the track that makes a not unwelcome sidebar into ‘MacArthur Park’, Heavy Light is very much the quieter and more contemplative cousin to U.S. Girls previous album In A Poem UnlimitedSome of the anger is still there, but there is also thoughts around the trauma many of us collect as we grow up and the trauma our own species inflicts on the planet around us. It’s brilliant experimental pop that I cannot believe didn’t crack my Top 10 in the end – because this really on a heavy rotation in spring.

Top Tracks: Overtime, Denise, Don’t Wait, And Yet It Moves / Ye Se Mueve

XL Popcorn – Gimme Shelter

List Item: Watch all of the “1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die”
Progress: 840/1007Title: Gimme Shelter
Director: Albert Maysles, David Maysles and Charlotte Zwerin
Year: 1970
Country: USA

Well, this film wasn’t on my radar at all until I read an interesting article by The AV Club about documentary films that had to change course during filming. I’d seen a bunch of them before (including The Queen of Versailles, My Kid Could Paint That and Sherman’s March) and it spurred me on to finally check out Gimme Shelter.

Before reading that, I assumed it was another one of those star vehicles to try and make Mick Jagger an actor (like Performance). Instead, Gimme Shelter is a film that documents the moment when the counterculture movement came crashing down. Originally meant to be a documentary about the end of the Rolling Stones’ incredibly successful 1969 US concert tour culminating in a major Woodstock style free concert, instead it’s a 90 minute build up to the moment when a gun-wielding stage invader was stabbed to death by a Hells Angel.

The tension is palpable for most of the film as you watch live performances by the Stones in Madison Square Garden and the lead up to an incredibly poorly organised free outdoor concert where 300,000 are said to be in attendance. Even in a ticketed environment there are still stage invasions, but at least those could be dealt normally. At the free concert, however, everything was just adding up to catastrophe. I mean how many concerts have people giving birth and someone drowning in an irrigation canal thanks to them taking LSD.

Given that this was a film commissioned as a concert film for The Rolling Stones, there is a question about how impartial the coverage of the incident was. But, no matter how you slice it, this is one of those great time capsules depicting the actual moment a major cultural movement started to crash time. It is also an opportunity to see some of the big acts of the time dealing with adversity – the speech of Jefferson Airplane’s Grace Slick after her bandmate was punched in the head by a Hells Angel being a highlight.

XL Popcorn – Captains Courageous

List Item: Watch all of the “1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die”
Progress: 839/1007Title: Captains Courageous
Director: Victor Fleming
Year: 1937
Country: USA

It’s so nice to be seeing a film from this era of cinema again. It’s even better for me because it wasn’t even me who decided this pick, but my increasingly well trained husband. Off the bat, it’s easy to see why this film has appeared on the 1001 list. At this time in Hollywood you had a number of child stars making pictures, as was apparently the fashion of the time.

Captains Courageous is one of two films of this ilk to appear on this list, the other being It’s A Gift whose appearance is more down to it being a W.C. Fields film rather than because a literal toddler has second billing. In any event, Captains Courageous is one of the most decorated and better reviewed Hollywood films of the 1930s that featured a preteen as the lead. It is also an interesting offshoot of the swashbuckling trend that led to the earlier Best Picture win for Mutiny on the Bounty.

I am pretty much on board (nautical pun unintended) for any film with Spencer Tracy in a major role. The fact that this is the film where he won the first of his two consecutive Oscars (despite a piss poor accent) made this one of extreme interest for me. Thankfully, unlike The HustlerI really enjoyed this one. Helped that child actor Freddie Bartholomew was excellent as the spoilt brat-turned fisherman.

The story is a pretty simple one – spoiled boy is expelled from school and, en route to Europe with his tycoon father, falls overboard and has to cope with a few months on a fishing vessel after being picked up by Spencer Tracy with a suspicious ‘Portuguese’ accent. It’s one of those classic family films from this era where lessons and humility are learned. Perfect for a slightly grey Wednesday afternoon after you’ve come home from the dentist.

World Cooking – Uganda

List Item: Cook something from every countryCountry: Uganda
Progress: 82/193

I love the Ugandan flag. Sure, the stripes are a little bit busy but how many national flags are there with such a majestic bird on it. I’ll save you the time, none. There are none with such a majestic bird. The only way I can see that happening is if we suddenly get part of Japan breaking away and they use a white egret as their symbol.

Whilst I was doing my research for what to make for Uganda, I had a sudden brain wave. You see, for many nations left on my list in most areas, there is a lot of sharing of national dishes. For Uganda’s immediate vicinity, the main foods that come up are those I have done for other countries (such as ugali and groundnut stew) or some that I wanted to keep in my pocket for more relevant countries (like samosa). Also, there’s ingredients that I just can’t acquire, for good or for ill.

So I thought it would be cool to go down the street food route for Uganda and something particular to Uganda immediately came up. This might be one of the easier things I have made, but nothing in the challenge said that every nation needed to be a feast that took me all day to cobble together.

Main: Rolex

With a name like Rolex you would expect something rather decedent. Then you find out that this dish is a corruption of the English words ‘rolled eggs’ – which makes a lot of sense when you say it out loud. It’s a pretty descriptive name too, considering that this is a dish made by rolling up an omelette in a chapatti.

This variation of the recipe (that I found on Cookpad) feels a lot like making a Mexican omelette before you wrap it up in the chapatti. It’s pretty filling for something that only takes about 10 minutes to make from beginning to end. Made all the better with some spicy mayonnaise or some chilli sauce.

I think that’s a mission accomplished on the ‘make street food’ angle – so this may be something I end up trying to include in some of my more immediate searches for the nations that I have trouble with. Next time for the world cooking, I will finish what I started with Canada by cooking for the holidays we had to cancel. Time for some Maltese cuisine.

(✿◠‿◠) Anime!!! – Slam Dunk

List Item:  Watch the 100 Anime to See Before You Die
Progress: 53/100Title: Slam Dunk
Episodes Aired: 101
Year(s): 1993-1996

Figured it was time to get back into the world of list anime, so why not dust off one of the longest ones that I have left. 101 episodes of a basketball anime where they have a whole episode about the final two minutes of a game. Yea, I clearly didn’t watch all the episodes of this – and I don’t think I’m going to continue on after writing this.

This is the first sports anime that I have watched since I swapped anime lists over a year ago. I have purposely avoided this one because of the number of episodes that I would have potentially had to watch and because I remember how burned out I got watching too many episodes of Hajime no Ippo thanks to how MyAnimeList does their rankings.

At 101 episodes long, there really needed to be more happening more episode to keep me watching. I get that this is the series that helped to make basketball popular in Japan, and that’s why there are sections of explaining the game, but this could have been done in a more entertaining way like in HaikyuuAlso, by the time you are 20 episodes, the explanations are still about very basic aspects of the game – to the point that I (who have never watched a game of basketball) still knew exactly what they were talking about.

I also had an issue with the protagonist. This is a very generic kind of semi-delinquent character, that was heightened in GTOthat I always find an issue with liking. In the case of Slam Dunk, he is just so full of himself and in his own abilities that I could not warm to him. Especially when everyone is commenting on his natural talent, which makes this more an anime about polishing a diamond rather than someone truly training to be better.

There is still another basketball anime for me to watch, so I am interested to see how things have moved on in the 20 years since. Maybe I’ll like it? Who knows, but at least it’s divided into seasons with sane episode counts – so you know there’s got to be proper contained arcs going on.

XL Popcorn – The Hustler

List Item: Watch all of the “1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die”
Progress: 838/1007Title: The Hustler
Director: Robert Rossen
Year: 1961
Country: USA

I have been sitting on The Hustler for a few years. When I got so far behind on films from the 1960s, many of them were New Wave or something that I didn’t think of as sure things, so wanted to make sure I tore through those before getting to what I assumed would be a surefire win. Paul Newman in his gorgeous prime in a BAFTA Best Picture winner with Piper Laurie and Douglas C. Scott seemed like a good watch for a lazy Monday afternoon.

Thing is, despite the very high public and critical opinion, I was pretty bored throughout most of the film. I think I overestimated how interested I would be in a film about a pool shark that is over two hours and how much Paul Newman’s charisma could carry me through. I’m not denying the performances and the spectacle of seeing so many trick shots, but it was just too long for the film it was trying to be.

What also didn’t help is that, at the centre of it, is a guy who is just a bit of a prick. Sure he’s a conman, but so many cool characters can do that whilst being likeable and easy to support. With this film, I just couldn’t help but feel that he got what he deserved with that initial loss and afterwards he was just a proud idiot who took advantage of a people in order to satisfy his ego.

It sucks when you look forward to a classic film only to think about giving up part way through. I guess that the high critical opinion and the way that that show a bunch of the trick shots are the reason it is on the 1001 list, but for me it just didn’t work.

XL Popcorn – A Tale of the Wind

List Item: Watch all of the “1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die”
Progress: 837/1007Title: Une Histoire de vent (A Tale of the Wind)
Director: Joris Ivens and Marceline Loridan
Year: 1988
Country: France

What is a documentary? That’s the question that A Tale of the Wind confronted me with. When I think of a documentary, I immediately think of something like Blue Planet or Capturing the Friedmans i.e. a film or television series that tells a true story through the use of filmed footage, found footage or recreations. Whilst The Gleaners & I slightly stretched my internal definition, it still stuck true as Agnes Varda’s question of her role as a director seamlessly blended in with the other subject of her film.

Then there is A Tale of the Wind. It’s the ultimate in an unreliable narrator as we embark on a film ostensibly about documenting the wind in China, only to have dream sequences and a Peking Opera representation of the Monkey King weaved throughout. Like many directors towards the end of their career, Ivens is concerned with his mortality this film becomes a strange retrospective as we see him talk about his asthma and try to make a film that would act as a followup to his nearly 13 hour documentary about the Chinese Cultural Revolution.

One of the larger sections of the film centres around him being refused permission to film the Terracotta Warriors of Xi’an as he originally wished… which I am still not sure about how it links to the original premise. Gave a funny resolution involving live models and some tourist souvenirs though. How it relates to the wind is beyond.

Then again that’s sometimes how film making goes. It is an artform which, as long as you get something from it, is a worthy pursuit. I have no real interest in checking out Ivens’ 13 hour documentary film, but maybe some of his earlier works. After all, The Spanish Earth and …A Valparaíso were both interesting enough when I watched them many years ago.

XL Popcorn – Archangel

List Item: Watch all of the “1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die”
Progress: 836/1007Title: Archangel
Director: Guy Maddin
Year: 1990
Country: Canada

This late in the game, I was left with only two Canadian films (at least I think so) to watch with my poutine. Rather then having potential food aversion issues by watching the final David Cronenberg film on the list, I opted for this very odd film by Guy Maddin. This is the first Maddin feature film that I have seen, having watched his short Heart of the World many years ago. Still wasn’t prepared for this weirdness.

Watching Archangel is like watching a movie from a parallel universe where cinema techniques haven’t moved much after 1928, but the rest of the world and technology has. The types of shots and effects used in much of this film are such throwbacks to the world of silent cinema, especially Russian ones, that it is really disarming that not only is there dialogue but it is also perfectly synched up.

When it started out, I was totally on board with the premise of this strange story set in Archangel, Russia during the time where Canada got involved in the civil war. There was a surreal humour to a lot of it that made me laugh out loud a few times. Then we got multiple overlapping amnesia romance storylines and I started to get a bit lost to the point where the weirdness made the film more hard to digest.

That aside, this is one of those incredibly different films that I am super glad to have seen. Aside from some of the dreamy sequences in David Lynch works, I don’t think I have ever seen cinematic sequences quite like this. Despite not being completely on board with this film, I would also be very interested to try other Guy Maddin works like My Winnipeg. There is something about seeing the works of someone this distinctive.

World Cooking – Canada

List Item: Cook something from every countryCountry: Canada
Progress: 81/193

If you can’t beat them, join them – and if you can’t join them, eat them. This was meant to be the day that we landed in Quebec City and began, what was set to be, an amazing two weeks in the great nation of Canada. Alas, it was not to be so I thought that it would only make sense to have them as my next food nation. Planning to have a vaguely Canadian day helped take some of the sting out.

When looking at what to make for Canada, I really wanted to make sure I made things that were quintessentially Canadian whilst not just languishing in one area. After all, this is a vast nation with major food influences from the indigenous populations as well as the British and French colonisers that invaded and took over. This is also a country with an established enough East Asian population that California rolls are included as top tier Canadian fare.

Since I can’t exactly get my hands on seal meat to make flipper pie (although, I am now super curious to see what those taste like) I wanted to go for something found on both sides of the country. This means that I looked to Quebecois cuisine to provide me with the iconic main dish of poutine and then to British Columbia in the west to give me a dessert that was truly delicious.

Main: Poutine

There was not a chance in hell that, when I came around to Canada, I was not going to make poutine. I have had poutine a few times before (when there used to be a monthly visit from the Poutinerie at a nearby food market) and I fell in love with it in a big way. The idea of chips with gravy and cheese curds is a bit of a weird one at first blush, but then again most chip shops in the UK offer chips and gravy and cheesy chips – poutine is just the next step.

First I had to actually get my hand on cheese curds – through a special order from a dairy over the internet where I also ordered four wedges of cheese. Once I had those, it was time to find a good recipe for poutine gravy (from Seasons and Suppers) and then perfect making chips in the air fryer. I know that chips would be better if I fried them in oil, but this is rich enough as it is so why not cut the calories where I can.

So glad that I have enough potatoes, cheese curds and butter to make another batch of this tomorrow. This was glorious to eat whilst watching a Canadian movie where the dialogue would occasionally be interrupted by some squeaks from the cheese curds as I chewed them with my back teeth.

Dessert: Nanaimo Bars

I know I’m having time off when it’s midnight and I want to make sweets. It helps that these sweet treats, named after the Canadian city of Nanaimo, are no bake and just need time to set in the fridge between layers. The base is a glorious coconut-biscuit-walnut-cocoa crust, the middle is a very rich custard and then the top is dark chocolate. I used a whole stick of butter making these… so of course they are bloody gorgeous.

Looking at mine and those from The Endless Meal, I can tell that I got some timings wrong because of it being 1:30 am and me being a mix of tired and very high on sugar from all the taste tests. The custard wasn’t entirely set when I poured the chocolate on the custard, then the chocolate was too set for when I cut them into pieces. Doesn’t change the taste though because these are rich and delicious. I am having to ration these because of how much butter is in them and how I would probably feel sick if I went with my poor impulse control.

Since I am now off for two weeks, I am going to try and fit in two extra food countries to be cooked for a weekday lunch. Both are countries where I found it hard to find specific recipes and ended up with just one – the first extra county being Uganda where I found a cool recipe for some street food.