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More often than not, our lunch is a sandwich, ham and cheese, grill cheese, tomato and bacon, egg salad or chicken salad. I also like to have several types of bread on hand. Also different types of cheese, from old cheddar, gouda, havarti, etc…

I have never one to like a ham sandwich but a few years ago in Dublin, we stayed at the Gresham Hotel on Upper O’Connell street. James Joyce mentions the hotel in his short stories, The Dead, the reference being that the good or people who had come up in life would stay there.

One night after the theatre, it was late and the dining room was closed but the Writer’s bar was open and so we came in for a drink and asked our waiter if we could get anything to eat. Kitchen is closed he said but you can get a sandwich, would ham sandwich be good, he asked. It was one of the best ham sandwich I ever had, served simply as it was, with a glass of scotch. Since then I always remember that when I have a ham sandwich.

As we prepare for a more quiet Christmas, there is still shopping to do and some baking. Will make a tourtière and we have a small turkey. For dessert there is Plum Pudding with hard sauce and Will is making Chestnut Ice Cream. Getting the chestnuts was a major undertaking, since there is no chestnuts available in ”regular” markets in town. Someone suggested I look at the Asian Markets and sure enough they had them fresh and in a paste.

This is something that is changing in PEI rapidly, food items and supplies are far more diverse than just 15 to 18 years ago, when even parsley was seen as a luxury. The influx of large contingents of Asians and middle-Eastern population has seen the opening of new food markets catering to their cuisine. We now also have many Africans and Caribbean people living here, they have their own rich cuisine. This is a blessing because now finding ingredients and spices is no longer the chore it was once.

Just to give you an idea of items still novel in PEI.

Radicchio which is often confused for red cabbage, not the same thing and not the same price.

Clementines at Christmas are popular but don’t be surprised if the cashier at the grocery store asked you if they are navel oranges and may want to charge you accordingly.

Unsalted butter, is not common, most butters either salted or double salted. If you find unsalted butter its in the frozen food section, people believe that it spoils quickly otherwise.

Chestnuts, despite the fact that chestnut trees existed on the Island until a blight some years ago wiped them out, today it is not available unless you go to an Asian market which imports them from Toronto.

Veal, almost impossible to find, only one supermarket has it but not on a regular basis. Why is it rare, because most people think it is expensive.

Lobster served other than boiled in sea water. There are many recipe for preparing lobster, however restaurants do not offer it. It should also be remembered that lobster was poor people food or food for pigs until about 40 years ago. It only became a staple with American tourists demanding it.

Goose and goose liver, not available though we have wild geese, no one actually eats them. Same with duck, it is not popular and can be found but is considered exotic.

Fresh river fish, yes we have lots of seafood but all of it is ocean caught. Fresh river fish is not available, unless you fish it yourself. This could have to do with pesticide pollution due to intensive potato farming.

But the situation is changing gradually and rapidly, it all comes down to a question of demand and changing demographics on the Island with more and more people coming from other parts of Canada and the world. Yes PEI in this year of the Pandemic has become very popular because we appear to be spared from Covid19. People want to move here, as a more sane place to live.

Our 43 year old Nutcracker made in East Germany, when such a place existed. Hand painted in mint condition, he only comes out at Christmas time. We got him when it was not yet popular to have such an item in Canada. He has travelled all around the world with us. If he could talk, he would have quite a tale to tell.