Tis The Season For Food And Friendship


IT was bone-chillingly cold, still dark, and far too early to be checking in for yet another flight, in what had been an already hectic year. But there I was, at Canada’s Winnipeg Airport, heavily clad in winter clobber and dragging behind me a duffle bag containing a polar suit and kick-arse thermal boots. I was bound for Churchill, where I would board a tiny, old Russian jet, and land in remote Hudson Bay, to go on a walking safari with the polar bears. I was far more scared of the cold than meeting the King of the Arctic.

This is me and yes, it was THAT cold


I did not know her yet, but I recognised her as part of my group from the same duffle bag she was carrying. She spoke, in a refined British accent, and while I cannot remember what it is she said, it prompted me to say “Hello, you Pommie Bastard, are you on my trip?”. She turned, smiled, and immediately responded with “Hello Skippy!” And from that point onwards, we became friends. I did not know at the time that Karen Burns-Booth was one of Britain’s best bloggers and a renowned foodie, I just knew that I had a new playmate with whom to explore remote, arctic Canada on this travel writing assignment.

Karen Burns-Booth


I told her I hated small planes, so she sat behind me on the flight as we soared over this spectacular winter landscape, patting me on the back when we encountered turbulence. While out walking on the slippery arctic ice, we held hands, to prevent from falling. We stood in unison and cried when we encountered the most beautiful polar bears and laughed till we cried by the warm Seal River Lodge fireplace at night. We shared deep secrets out on that ice. That was several years ago now, she went back to her home in France, and I to Brisbane. But you don’t forget a friendship forged like that.

Karen Burns-Booth has just released her first book, named after her blog Lavender & Lovage – A Culinary Notebook of Memories & Recipes from Home & Abroad ¬– and I couldn’t be prouder of my feisty friend. Just back from a hectic year of travels, I collected the copy she had sent me, from the post office last week. And on those pages, I can sense her soul and smell her cooking even from this far away. Part travel memoir, part cookbook, Karen, who now lives in Wales, gives readers an insight into her full and flavoursome life.
“In this book I’ll be sharing recipes from an old schoolhouse kitchen in North Wales, a farmhouse kitchen in SW France, and from all the other places I have called home,” she says.
“From Cornwall, Hong Kong and South Africa, to the North East of England and numerous other far-flung places, with the aid of my trusty note books and diaries – this is truly a cookbook based on recipes from my suitcase, with notes from all of the countries and British counties I have ever lived and eaten in.”

In this delicious, thick tome, Karen shares some spectacular dishes and travel tales. There’s the “Typhoon” Bacon Butty, made by her father when they were living in Hong Kong during a typhoon; The First Nations “Indian Tacos”; The New Orleans Muffuleta Sandwich; “Panama Canal” Coronation Chicken; and Durban Lamb Curry among a feast of international dishes. Demonstrating her cheeky sense of humour, there’s a whole chapter dedicated to A Bit On The Side, which refers to Salads and Accompaniments; and towards the back of the book, decadent deserts such as Fat Rascals; as well as Sundry Gems such as Hannah’s Chilli Chicken Pasta with Chorizo, named after her daughter.

The gorgeous recipes and tantalising travel tales aside, what really strikes me about this beautiful book, is that I can feel Karen’s lovely soul as I wander through these pages. It’s almost as if I’m in a field, plucking her two favourite herbs, lavender and lovage, after which she named her blog and which launched her into our kitchens. If you’re lucky, like me, you stumble across generous, funny souls who become your friends in the most unlikely of places. The fact she is also so talented, is simply a plus. It’s the Christmas season, and I am reminded of this British gem, the “Pommie Bastard” who held my hand on the ice and whispered secrets in the arctic cold. May all of Karen’s readers, and mine too, be so fortunate to find a stranger who may hold your hand when you need it, and share their souls on those days when you feel its arctic cold and a little alone. This is my Christmas wish for you.

To order Karen’s book, go to Amazon or to read more about her work, go to her blog Lavender and Lovage – https://www.lavenderandlovage.com

Tundra Tinder

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BRISK, crisp days out on the remote Arctic tundra can lead to some funny conversations and so it came to be one afternoon that we were watching the polar bears and pontificating about their defining features. While it’s hard to identify polar bears from each other in general (they are all white with few markings), males tend to be bigger with square heads, while females have softer, more refined features. One thing turned into another and before long we were talking about dating, and I coined the phrase Tundra Tinder. Kind of like real-life Tinder, but far more interesting. For your viewing pleasure, I present the following candidates…
BIG OLD BEAR
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Big Old Bear weighs about 400kg and is 9 years old. He likes to hang around Seal River Lodge and flop about in the tundra grass, fully aware you are checking him out. But Big Old Bear is also a bit of a show off, and one day, putting himself between the lodge and our group, he decided to come for a wander our way. In fact, Big Old Bear got within 10 metres of our group, and it was only when Churchill Wild guides Derek and Josh started to negotiate with him that he decided to keep walking. He then made a new day bed for himself and promptly plonked his considerable bulk down into it. The only difference between Big Old Bear and a Brisbane boy on Tinder is that you can actually negotiate with Big Old Bear.
ARCTIC HARE
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Arctic Hare is a bit of stalker, he liked to hang outside my lodge bedroom window at night, looking a little like the Easter Bunny. By day, he’s a bit elusive, hiding behind rocks, cocking his ears for a brief photo, before hopping off into the distance. A bit of a shady character who would probably agree to going out with you to dinner, but disappear when the bill arrived.
BEAUTIFUL GIRL
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Beautiful Girl sported all of the traits of a pretty female bear. And she was far less showy than Big Old Bear. We found her on the other side of the lodge, peacefully stretching and flopping. It’s here I started to think about polar bear yoga poses that I can deploy back home. Beautiful Girl was happy for us to stare at her for hours, which is precisely what we did, and it was one of the most peaceful moments of my life. A low-maintenance date if ever I saw one.
BABY GIRL
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Baby Girl was possibly my favourite of the bears we saw during our stay. She was also the cutest. Only about 4 years old, Baby Girl liked to walk straight down the gravel driveway leading to the lodge, and right up to the fence which kept us humans in. Yes, she adored her human zoo and had a habit of trying to sniff each of us individually, stare right down the camera lens, and then happily walk off. If you ever felt like you could hug a polar bear (not recommended) this was that moment. So beautiful was Baby Girl, that several of us just stood at the fence and cried in her presence. Saving herself for a male bear who deserves her.
JOSH
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Ok. So not all of the Tundra Tinder action revolved around animals. Josh, 19, from Alberta, was one of our guides. And the photos don’t quite show it here, but Josh had the most awesome head of hair I’ve ever seen on a man, coupled with a great personality. Think Brad Pitt’s sandy, foppish hair meets Hugh Jackman’s soul. As a reformed cougar, it was quite the challenge not to leap onto Josh’s head, the situation being somewhat similar to placing a 1969 Grange in front of a recovering alcoholic. But this trip was not about felines, it was about polar bears, and I desisted. I can tell you, young women of Australia, that Josh is a fine specimen indeed, and either you get yourselves up to Seal River Lodge or you invite him to our fair land. The good news is I did manage to pluck a few hairs from his head as I hugged him goodbye, and I am currently cloning him in my downstairs laundry. And yes, I am taking Christmas orders.
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The Global Goddess travelled to Canada as a guest of Destination Canada (www.keepexploring.com.au) and stayed at Seal River Lodge with Churchill Wild Safaris (www.churchillwild.com)

Canada’s Colourful Characters

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FACT: Canadians are the most polite people on the planet. How do I know this? Having spent three weeks in this beautiful land recently, I can honestly say I have never encountered a more genuine, friendly bunch of humans anywhere in my world travels. Sure, Australians are reasonably happy-go-lucky, but Canadians take it to a whole new level, apologising to YOU if you are clumsy enough to bump into them, which I did both literally and metaphorically on many occasions. Here’s a great bunch I bumped into during October.
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Erika Vader (just like Darth Vader, she told me) is a lovely, young Shishalh Nation woman, who took me on a Talking Trees Tour of Vancouver’s iconic Stanley Park. Erika is one of a number of First Nations Canadians who are passionate about preserving their culture and on this tour she explains the Indigenous significance of animals and trees.
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From Vancouver I travelled to Toronto, where I stayed in The Thompson Hotel. Attached to the hotel was a diner, where I met Dana. Dana in the diner was a delight. Dana and I had an enlightening conversation talking about the advantages and disadvantages of travelling the world from the perspective of a black woman, and that of a white woman. Before I left, I told Dana I was flying to Winnipeg that day. She packed me a BLT to have for lunch on the plane. Yes, Canadians really do this sort of thing.
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I spent a brief night in Winnipeg getting kitted out in polar gear, before I flew to Churchill and onwards to Seal River Lodge to walk with the polar bears. Meet my Churchill Wild guides Derek and Josh, who are better known as the “polar bear whisperers”. Derek and Josh were a bit like Superman. At night, by the fire sipping wine and talking about bears and life, they were just mild-mannered Clark Kent types. But put on that polar gear and strap on a rifle, and boom, Superman. Or, in this case, Batman and Robin. If you’ve never seen two men negotiate with a 400kg male bear who is getting a bit too close to tourists, then this is the trip for you. (Is it getting hot in here?)
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Just when I thought I was going to explode from the testosterone out on the Arctic tundra, I flew to Quebec, where I met Eric. Staying in a monastery is not where you’d expect to bump into “the most handsome man in Quebec” but as we know, the good Lord works in mysterious ways. Eric works as a therapist at La Monastere des Augustines, and before I met him, was told by staff that he was a good-looking cat. I’ll be the judge of that, I thought. But yep, it appears the sacred sisters of the monastery and I share the same tastes. Not only is Eric impossibly handsome, he’s also got a good heart. When he’s not at the monastery giving reflexology treatments to tired travellers such as myself (yes, he touched my feet!), he works with dying patients in the adjacent hospital for whom morphine no longer relieves their pain. Yes, I think I met the world’s most perfect man. And it’s no surprise, as Canada is that kind of place. Kinda like Australia, but with a whole lot more snow. And polar bears. And polar bear whisperers. Did I mention the whisperers?
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The Global Goddess travelled to Canada as a guest of Destination Canada (www.keepexploring.com.au)

To check out more of my Canada pics, including loads of incredible street art in Toronto, head to my Instagram @aglobalgoddess