More Bad News for American Foodies

Most of you have never really tasted an “honest to goodness” bagel. 

Just out of the forno di legno.

Einsteins and Brueggers are not bagels! They are not bagels once you have tasted a real Montreal, Jewish, earlock, Lubavitch, hand rolled and tied then wood fired bagel. There is only one word to describe this: “incredible”.

Unlike Tim Horton's, not on every corner

While most vacationers to Canada would recognize this (Tim Horton’s) – one of the coast  to coast  institutions that, like hockey, give the country cohesion and identity – few might give this ugly little place at 2217 Carling Avenue (above) a second glance. The franchise is now owned by a family from India but no matter, they make the same toasty, but gummy, hand-turned, wood-fired delight. The terms New York and Montreal Bagel are not synonymous. Trust me, there is a difference between those bagels that are firstboiled in water with drops of honey, then toasted in a wood oven. Regular bagels are baked in an oven,  like a cake. Though half the size of those other imposters, these babies are toasty on the outside and chewy on the inside. In my view, no one is a bona fide “foodie” until they can tell and prefer the difference.  

Wings and Things

Kelsey, Lynne and Brody

On Thursday evening we visited with Lynne McDiarmid, Lynne’s daughter Kelsey and her husband Brody at their home not far from where we are staying. The last time I saw Kelsey, she was probably less than ten years of age. It is my guess that her parents Lyn and Lynne, along with two brothers, began attending Chapel Ridge in the late eighties. After several years with us, they moved to Wales, back to Canada (Calgary), then back to Wales. So I had completely lost track of the kids. It was a complete surprise to see a twenty-six-year-old and married Kelsey. Kelsey became a Christian while attending Chapel Ridge, so chances are I baptised her but I just can’t remember. Nevertheless, it is so nice to reconnect with folks who, even with the miles and years  in between, go right on with the Lord. Brody, her husband, once attended our sister church Kanata Wesleyan, now called The Bridge. Kelsey met him when she was but fifteen and after all of the years re-met and married him. The flame never died.

Lyn (Mr. Lyn not Mrs. Lynne) was at a church board meeting so we missed him. After lots of catching up we had their famous “hot” wings and a time of prayer before going home. We await the answer!

Entry 28 / Collecchio, Italy

Michela, Anna and Jeanne

After at least eight or more years in the same city I have accumulated a lot of friends. It is rumoured that it is not until you are invited into an Italian home are you really considered a friend and not and simply an acquaintance.

Anna, her husband Stefano and daughter Michela are friends for several years now and not only mine but friends of my children Amy, John and their kids as well. On Saturday afternoon we were picked up in Corcagnano and taken some ten minutes to the south here they live on the edge of the Apinnine mountains which separates the Po Valley from Florence and Tuscany.

Inside Torrechiara

We enjoyed the lunch and then went further into the mountains to visit Torrechiara, one of the best preserved castles in all of Italy.

Entry 26 / Celebrating our 45th at Cinque Terre

On Monday, our friends Emile, Imra, and two of their children came to Parma from Veneto for lunch and a visit. After several hours they returned to their home in the mountains near Trento while we packed for three days in Monterosso.


A few of our hotel from the beach just below

Room with a View and Noise

Though Jeanne was still finding it difficult to catch her breath, coughing throughout the night, and lacking in energy we had planned on this getaway for several months. I had been there on a number of occasions and promised Jeanne that she would love the view of the sea. I went out on a limb and did something I rarely stretch myself to do. To quote the title of one of her favorite movies, I got her a “Room with a View.” Though this seemed like a stellar idea, we later learned at one in the morning that a balconetta room overlooking the sea also meant a balconetta room just above the street that didn’t grow quiet until two in the morning.  It might be worth remembering this fact. No wonder Rick Steeves, in his travel books, recommends getting a room on the back side of hotels. If you are under thirty, you may disregard this advice. The definition of becoming old is simply when one looks forward to a quiet night at home.  

Pictures tell the story

All three days were stunning, with not a drop of rain and temperatures in the eighties.



Everywhere the food was terrific! At least I enjoyed it. Most of the food is straight from the sea so Jeanne, because of her allergy to shell-fish,  had to pick around the menu packed with various crustaceans. Yet, there was plenty of sea bass and other items to choose from. One of our favorite restaurants is CIAK where the owner is the chef and he cooks up everything in about twenty enormous ceramic skillets -all at once. To watch him through the window is to watch an artist at work.

Alessia and Francesco

On one of the days, our friends and  ACCI missionaries,  Francesco, Alessia, and their daughter Francesca Abortivi came up to join us, so we took lounges under the umbrellas and spent the day chatting and eating gelato.

On the final day, Jeanne and I took trains to the other of the five villages and returned later to Monterosso by boat. At Vernazza, I sat on a bench in the shade while Jeanne looked for a few gifts. Down from the inter-village mountain walk came this cute couple. As an extrovert I spoke up and said, “You took the walk, I see.” They happily replied in English with, “Yes, and did you?” To this I replied, “No, you walk, I eat.” This seemed to get a smile and a chuckle so we continued to

Our new friends from Chicago

converse. It turned out that this newly married couple were both doctors from Chicago. When in the conversation they made acquaintance with Jeanne and learned that she had asthma, they both immediately went into their caregiver mode. It turned out that Sashe, the husband, also had asthma and knew how to manage it. We also learned that we were in the same hotel, only two doors apart, so we were able to visit on several occasions. They were a bit of a “God-send” and though we didn’t manage to get to know them well, we really developed a great affection for them.

Important travel note:

We stayed at The Baia. The Baia is long on cleanliness, but short on breakfast items. They seem a little chinsy and only put out small amounts at a time. This is, I suppose, to discourage gluttony and waste, but one always feels that rationing is going on. The price for a room is not cheap to begin with, and then come the extras. They charge 20 euro extra for air-conditioning (insane). The beach (just across the street) doesn’t belong to them and though one does get a discount (10 euro) on renting an umbrella, you do feel it should be included in the room price. Finally, at least one of the front desk staff needs to be replaced. She is just plain rude and nasty. Americans rightly get the notion that the customer is king, but it appears this is not so in Italy. In Italy, businesses feel like they are doing you a favour by providing you with a drink, a Panini, or a bed.

I suggest you try the next hotel over, The Spiaggia (Beach). Spiaggia is just as nice and has the same amenities for fifteen euro less a night. If you prefer to walk a little and use a non-private beach, try Gli Amici in Monterosso for half the price.

Entry 17 / Norway after two weeks

As of  Wednesday past, we have been on the ground in Norway for two weeks. After landing we stayed a day and a half in the Oslo area (The Normisjon Ga Ut Center) catching up on sleep and getting our land legs. We will be going back there tomorrow where on Monday I will teach a day long seminar on “Contemporary Evangelism Methods” or “Communicating Christian Thought in a Post-Christian, Post-Modern World.”

For the last two weeks we have been mostly encouraging, teaching and mentoring students.

Promotional Poster

Last Sunday I preached here at SBI and Oasen on, “The Plague of the Heart – The High Cost of Sin Management” apparently resulting in good fruit especially with two young ladies, C and J who seemed impacted by the call to Christ and righteousness.

On Sunday evening we were at Betel in Halden across the Oslo fiord near Sweden where I spoke on “Justice, Mercy and Grace – The Unjust Steward.”

During the first week I taught everyday for about four hours. If I were to title the course I might have called it, “Rightly Dividing’ or “Discerning the Full Counsel of God,” where first I explained the divisions of systematic theology and the purpose of theological study. After explaining why theology is important, I took denominational distinctions and various doctrinal positions such as water regeneration, universalism, second work of grace, etc. along with statements like, “What Happens to the Poor Innocent Native who Never Heard of Christ,” and provided biblical answers. We were lost at first with a certain air of anti-intellectualism but once they could see it they got on board and we wound up having a good class which I think will greatly benefit them in the future.


Jeanne and Sara sizing up the Mexican food at the local grocery

Jeanne and I also organized an outreach whereby we hope to entertain many first time guests. You can read about it on one of the earlier blogs, “Mexicali Rosa’s, Cafe’ del Sol.” We hope to serve over three-hundred and fifty tacos and burritos today between five and seven pm today.

On the next Friday evening I spoke at a youth meeting on “So What Makes Jesus So Likeable?” Jesus commended the social outcasts (sinners) while turning away the self – righteous. He was and is a friend of sinners. All other religions teach exactly the opposite and this is why the gate is narrow. People simply have to put away their pride which they are not apt to do. People can’t seem to get this concept without divine revelation.

This past Thursday evening I spoke to a combined church, bible college meeting on “Totemism – Living in the Culture of  the King.” All cultures tend to remake Jesus into themselves by making our cultural values his. When we do this we wind up worshipping ourselves. We become God. This is true in America where Jesus is upwardly mobile, successful and wealthy. By putting cultural grids over the New Testament many “Christian’s” wind up as tourists to the kingdom of God rather than immigrants. We should not be forcing Jesus to be the culture learner. He is King.

Last night I talked on the subject, “Who Switched the Price Tags,” using “What does it profit a man if he should gain the whole world and lose his own soul.” All persons, place high value on trivial things and fail to give importance to  the things that  really matter.

I will finish the series on Sunday morning when I have chosen to talk on Hebrews 12: 1-2, “Jason’s Marathon and Laying Aside Every Weight.” Many people need to unload their anger, bitterness and pain. I will also take them to the bitter water’s of Marah in Exodus 14. To sweeten the poison of life we must put in the stick as Moses did. This stick is a type of  the cross of Christ.

Entry 16 / Norway

A Land Full of Surprises…

It’s fascinating to me how many surprises I have experienced on this cross-cultural adventure. And it has just started! A good case in point is how much Norwegians seem to enjoy Italian food. Now in my head I figured my time in Norway would be spent eating lots of fish and potatoes and I would have to wait to get to Italy to have pizza and spaghetti. But in the mere two weeks we’ve been here, I’ve had pizza three times and just a few nights ago Tony and I

Dinner at a Norwegian home (with our hosts and friend Inger)

enjoyed a truly outstanding spaghetti dinner at a friend’s house. The man of the house, Tor kjell (forgive me if I spell it wrong!), cooked up his own marinara sauce and focaccia bread to go with the perfectly cooked pasta and fresh salad (he used rapeseed oil instead of olive oil for the dressing, because it’s not as heavy tasting, he explained). To say we were impressed with his cooking skills would be an understatement. It turns out that he loves to watch cooking shows and read gourmet cookbooks – another stereotype blown out of the water since I thought all Norwegian men were outdoorsmen who would disdain spending time in the kitchen. Our host is a man of many talents… he is a kindergarten teacher with amazing musical talents and is also an excellent translator.  He served as our translator when Tony preached and I gave an impromptu testimony at the Sunday evening service at the school. He and his wife Heidi (also a musical whiz and an exceptional baker in spite of being blind) live in a rented farmhouse with their two young children. Their son, who’s four, really reminded me of our grandson Dylan back home. Anyway, after enjoying the sumptious main course our host shooed us out of the kitchen so he could clean up. (He

We almost ate it all! Norwegian cobbler

insisted he had his own system and wanted no help!) In about half an hour he called us back in for some to-die-for berry crisp served with ice cream and Norwegian coffee. If we closed our eyes we might have thought we were in another country, but I’m beginning to see that Norway’s people have many sides to them and each of them are terrific. Although they have no regular television, our hosts were able to share some interesting Internet sites with us… including cooking shows like “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives.” Heidi leads worship at the SBI church services and has such a sweet spirit. Obviously her disability is not something that robs her of her joy in the Lord. How blessed we are to know them both. Sharing their home and their lives with us was an encouragement to us, the bewildered strangers in their midst.