An appetizing holiday

What do you do on a one-column, snowed-in holiday? Indoors sports, is what.

What do you do on a one-column, snowed-in holiday? Indoors sports, is what.

Among other things, we schmoozed with readers, engaged in the alchemy of transmogrifying Irish whiskey into a new cocktail, shucked and slurped shellfish and another addiction, blissfully shaved away, and told and showed.

Next week, the serious reader schmoozes. …

Because I feared my weakening hands could no longer shuck oysters, we bought two dozen frozen Malpeque oysters on the half shell from Fisherman’s Pride in Red Deer. They proved not as good raw as freshly shucked, but were superb for our traditional Christmas Eve oyster fry and oyster stew and scalloped oysters. …

Mac Johnson came by with his usual great gift-wrapped bowl-basket of live Malpeques, and I did just fine with my Halifax oyster knives. These I have been savouring raw, on their half shells on a dish of our abundant clean snow, with lemon and a dab of Danish Trout Caviar.

Unlike last year, the caviar order from International House of Caviar in Vancouver was not misdelivered umpty times in Anders Park by Canada Post; a good thing, too, because I don’t want to contemplate the possible loss of my splurge of one ounce of Asetra (Caspian Sea Sturgeon) Caviar. The price of that one ounce has me thinking evily about the growing numbers of sturgeon in some of Alberta’s big rivers. A sturgeon-caviar book on order will no doubt enlighten us on the caviar-producing possibilities of fresh water sturgeon species.

For Christmas last year, Herself gave me a superb, but relatively inexpensive Japanese chef’s knife from Knifewear in Calgary that is sharp enough to shave with . . . if I had the guts. That one knife now does most of everything in our kitchen.

Sometime in the late 1980s I lost my last safety razor on a holiday, and then discovered that while the blades were still available, the safety razors were not. Now Knifewear has recently moved heavily into shaving gear and offers dozens of safety razors from all over the world, of which I was gifted with two, a Feather and an Edwin Jagger.

With both razors I have been enjoying my closest shaves since the professional straight razor job I was getting from Bobbie Thompson in the old Capri barber shop in Red Deer, when someone rushed in and told us that President Kennedy had just been shot in Dallas. Now I am steeling myself to junk the razors from companies that compete only in how many dull blades they can cram onto one head cartridge.

So I’ll know who to thank, I’ve been showing everyone the note dated July 19, 2013, that accompanied an orphan bottle of fine single malt left on my casting deck at Prairie Creek: “Knot (sic) sure if you’ll find this before the next flood, hope so. Enjoy. Best Regards. Nait” (I think). Does anybody know?

Earlier in the year, reader and friend Todd Irwin of Patricia asked about my dry fly version of the legendary McGinty wet fly, a bee or wasp imitation; eventually we agreed that “Dry McGinty” was a great name for a drink. I promised in print to work on it, and many readers are holding me to it.

Several sports in the Patricia Hotel Bar recently invented and tested a McGinty shooter of Jameson Irish Whiskey and Baileys Irish Cream. They admitted their confection could hardly be called dry and suggested I should get on with my Dry McGinty, because the world needs more drinks named after famous fishing flies.

Because the origin of the name. “McGinty” is Irish, that country’s whiskey is the major ingredient, and some “bite” of dry Vermouth should be sharpened by a dash of orange bitters. I also wanted to replicate the tongue and lip tingling numbness I experienced the time a live wasp infiltrated my ham sandwich ages ago on a fishing trip to Shunda Creek during which my dry McGinty was the fly of the day.

What I now do is add three tablespoons of Sichuan peppercorns into the whole bottle of Jameson for 48 hours in a bowl, strain, and then return the whiskey infusion to its bottle. Sichuan peppercorns contain “sanshools,” a compound that acts on various nerve endings to produce a “neurological confusion” and a warm-cool tingling.

So, an ounce and a half of the Sichuan-peppercorn-infused Irish, half an ounce of dry Vermouth, a dash of orange bitters in the glass, and two hours in the freezer now produces my Dry McGinty. Garnishing with a few slices of Sushi ginger, especially if you munch them at the end, enhances the pleasant tingling-numbing.

The old Martini rule is in force: “Beware the deadly third McGinty.”

(Notre: Sichuan peppercorns and Sushi Ginger are available in most grocery stores. I order my bitters and peppercorns online from Silk Road Spices in Calgary.)

Bob Scammell is an award-winning columnist who lives in Red Deer. He can be reached at

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