Saturday, February 4, 2017

You'd better Belize it!


pics courtesy of Stephen Wilson

That headline had to be written. Trust me, it's not even close to some of the more memorable ones you will see if you just happen to visit Belize, nor does it match the eye-roll inducing moments of some of my previous blog headings. But, you have to appreciate the cheeziness right? No? Ah well, how about we focus on the pics above then shall we? Beautiful, and yet not really a fair idea of what to expect should you drop books, work and trousers and run to the heat, sun and sand of Belize.

Before any holiday vacation, my partner and I always do a fair bit of research. We have our criteria: we usually prefer adult-only resorts on the smaller scale - if it is private, even better. We love clear, warm water and direct access to the breach. I will also add in exceptional cuisine. Pretty easy right? Ok, maybe not, but we do try to aim for the best our budget will allow us.



It sounds like a typical search most couples would do, but as a gay, interracial couple we need to think not only about our dream wish list, but things people generally don't have to consider. We add in to our research what countries are truly LGBTQ-friendly, what resorts or hideaways will except gay couples, and thoroughly read as many reviews as possible. We even take the extra steps to dialogue with staff at whatever resort we chose, to find out as much as we can, and maybe to also prepare the staff for our arrival.

I understand how it reads: two high maintenance, grandiose travel snobs being overly precious about a trip. But let me be clear - all of this done for safety reasons. Please remember that a majority of countries within the hot sun and white sand zone tend to view homosexuality from either an illegal perspective, or just plain, outright hostility. Safety is of paramount importance to us, which is why all of these extra precautions can add an extra hour or ten to what should be a typical search for a vacay holiday.



After all of our research, we decided on Belize. It checked off all of our precautions and wish lists, and the resort we chose - Matachica Resort, had everything we wanted and then some. As this blog is a Hungry Man travels, what else would I babble about but Belize cuisine?

There are two food stories here: the resort and the country. The two do meet, but tend to oftentimes run parallel to each other. How is that possible? I'll explain.

The resort works very hard to provide its guests with the best quality and variety of food. Most resorts want to make sure that its food will please a variety of people, and Matachica does not differ from that viewpoint. The food at the resort is delicious, fresh and beautifully presented, but I found that local dishes on the menu tend to either be buried or not provided at all - unless of course, you ask for a local dish to be made (which Chef will happily comply to when asked and within reason).

The resort menu is mostly focused on fresh seafood, and why not? With the ocean literally beside the kitchen, Chef has to/must take full advantage of that access, plus - who would say no to fresh seafood? What I did find slightly disappointing, was that the food at the resort tended to be Italian influenced - pizza, calamari, pastas. Now I love Italian cuisine, and I didn't mind prior to the trip that it was so heavily featured on the menu - we knew what to expect about the resort cuisine before we picked it. After a few days, however, I started craving a bit more of a Belizean taste in my mouth.

There is hope though my fellow foodies. If you are looking for an escape of resort eating, and crave the true taste of the country, ditch the resort and head to town. As Matachica Resort is located close to the town of San Pedro, we took advantage of the proximity and went for lunch. With Caribbean and Latin influences on the cuisine, there are some great choices in town - from fresh shrimp tacos to Jamaican jerk chicken. We stumbled on Caprice Bar and Grill, and I am so glad we found it - the restaurant provided, hands down, the best meal I had on the entire trip. I had asked for and received a true Belizean local dish - red beans and rice cooked in coconut milk; the most succulent, delicious curried chicken, and beautifully prepared fried plantain.



pic courtesy of TA

Plantain is from the banana family, but unlike bananas it cannot be eaten raw. The best way to cook it is to fry it, although it can be boiled too. Either method softens the fruit and releasing it's sweet taste. Most people would squirm knowing that the best plantains to cook are the ones that are overly ripe. When the fruit skin is black, soft and squishy, that is when it is ready to cook. Peel it, slice it and fry it, and you'll be in sweet, tasty heaven.

With great food, excellent and personalized service at Matachica, not to mention meeting and interacting with incredibly friendly locals, a cabana right on the beach with direct access to the gorgeous, warm blue water you can see in the pics above. We really hit the jackpot, and after a week of hanging out, we started to think about planning a new trip to the country in the new year.

Heading to Belize was the prefect way to end what was quite a craptastic year last year. While I was there, sunning it up and trying to keep my mind in the lazy zone, I couldn't help but think about the future of this blog. I have not been keeping it up to date, but it's still a part of my life.

I may have to change the settings from occasional blog postings to the odd time to time post. Eventually, I know I'll get to the point where I will close it down. But there are lots of adventures to be had, and I do want to record it. So I'll keep going - for now.

Monday, September 12, 2016

Mon Dieu, it's back to school!




image courtesy of www.cafepress.com

We often hear plenty of stories about self-made men and women who forgo a higher education and hit the 'real-world' road to success in the workplace. And to them I say congratulations! For the rest of us however, we can't really rely on our less-than developed life skills to navigate the professional world. So what do we do instead? We put on our big-kid clothes and head out to be taught the fundamentals of life in colleges and universities. This September, as the kids head back to the classrooms and schoolyard to learn as much as they can about life, lets also give a warm hand to all the adults who are essentially doing the same thing - heading back to school. Adults that also include me.

Yes, once again, the ever learning life of a hungry man now currently involves expanding his language skills by enrolling in the French Languages certification program at the University of Toronto.

Heading back to the classroom after already obtaining my degree is not new territory for a hungry man. I have returned to the classroom in culinary management program to re-acquaint myself with the world of chefs and kitchens. I've hit the books once more to receive my public relations certification. But despite these achievements (or insanity depending on who you talk to), you may now be thinking, "really?" "Back to school?" "Again?" "Aren't your current educational achievements working for you?" I can honesty answer that with an uncertain yes, but at the moment it's not. So I am ready once more for another challenge - a shake-up so to speak, and learning a new language will definitely fulfill that need. I'll also add that it doesn't hurt to have a bilingual background in our increasingly global work world.

But here's the deal - I'll admit that with this new educational cycle, I find myself increasingly nervous as the first day of classes approaches. My current French skills - other than a few choice phrases here and there, is quite - ok, severely limited. And I'll also admit to being somewhat older than when I first started to learn the language (I was eight years old!), so I wonder just how this ahem 'older' brain is going to handle all this information received in a language that clearly isn't his mother tongue.

Regardless of those fears, I am very eager to see where this will lead, and in preparation for this new journey I've already began to practice and memorize my new motto: "C’est en forgeant qu’on devient forgeron" - translation: we learn by doing (including making mistakes)!

And remember to keep checking the blog as I get deeper in the course - à la prochaine!

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Talking Italian in Montreal




image courtesy of manoirsherbrooke.ca

I'll admit that life has been a bit of a blur lately. The winter blahs have left, summer has come and finally, the heat is totally on outside. It has been an incredible summer so far, there is no doubt. Yet, I am admitting to being somewhat MIA, particularly with the blog. I definitely can't blame the summer sun for that. So what exactly has a hungry man been doing since his last posting? Well, besides renovations and re-designing our home with my partner, there has also been the oh so wonderful dealings with personal illness that I am finally starting to feel back to normal again. Ugh, being sick is the worst but nothing that a little rest, relaxation and healing by a pool won't cure. And of course travel, which is something else that can soothe the aching soul - and stomach.

Something else has changed the life and affected the musings and babble of a hungry man blog. It's been almost a year since I have met my significant other and in that blur of time my life has gone through some upheaval - some of it absolutely necessary, some totally unpredictable, all of it needed. He has turned my life completely upside down, inside out, and continually excited to see where this path takes us. He has also introduced me to more family in one year than I ever thought existed outside of TV and films. Oh, have I not mentioned that he is Italian? He is, hence the quite large, or I should say super-large, extended family.

Since the start of us, there has been what seems like an endless (but what I am told is completely normal) parade of family events, and this summer has been no exception with a marked increase in various social gatherings. I have to laugh at myself because I used to think my bi-monthly visits to my parents home was more than enough and now I can't help but feel a little bit guilty about that. Anyway it just came time for us to breath a bit on our own, which is why we are taking off to Montreal for a bit - just the two of us, to enjoy the city and also to celebrate Pride en Français .

What seems to become a habit with us when it comes to travelling (and may I add completely NOT the norm of my usual hyper- planning nature) is that we really didn't have anything planned for this holiday other than our stay (Hello again Le Germaine) and of course hitting the Pride parade and checking out Pride events. I did plan one thing for us, and that's to eat our faces off starting at Garde Mange one evening, and a visit to Au Pied de Cochon which translates to "Pigs Trotter" - yeah I know how it reads but don't turn your nose up just yet, believe me, this place promises and is noted to be a serious gastronomic delight, so much so I am literally salivating with excitement as I type this.

Although I literally won't be parlé(ing) Italiano dans la ville de Montréal as stated in the post headline, I will however, be taking in some serious culture et cuisine de français with the absolute best Italian company.

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Tragedy in Orlando: Strength and Solidarity




image by Stephen Wilson

A madman decided that the lives of the LGBTQ2 community in Orlando, some of whom were out on a Saturday night enjoying life on their own terms, should die because of who they are. Someone woke up and decided - that day, that night, that they simply weren't fit to live on this planet, breathing the same air as him. Someone - and he will not be named in this post, made that terrible decision and stuck by it with deadly resolve. This wretched, twisted, sad excuse of a human being, killed and injured people celebrating life in their own space, in the sanctity of their own world. These men and women were not in a public space, they were safe in their world with others just like them. I should rephrase that last paragraph and say that they were 'supposed' to be safe in their world. He took away that safety. As a member of the LGBTQ2 community, you look for that space, you crave that space, that shelter from a (very) hostile world. To be free, with others just like you. The gunman massacred these men and women, and took that safe shelter away from them and so many others.

Thoughts and prayers are not enough. There are not enough words, gestures and actions to help understand just how awful, how horrific this incredibly selfish, evil act of pure, unadulterated hate is, particularly to the LGBTQ2 community. The emotional and physical damage the outcome of this act will do to the community, to families and friends, the shockwaves as it reverberates around the globe, is overwhelming. But it is a reminder that for every victory we in the LGBTQ2 community make in the world, for every step forward we take, there are people who are just as determined, just as vigilant to see that we are pushed back, that want to see us die for who we are, who we fight to be, every single day of our lives.

I am saddened and absolutely heartbroken at the loss of life of my LGBTQ2 brothers and sisters. But for me, I won't be cowed or made to feel afraid to be who I am. He won't win because we are strong, I am strong, and made stronger by the show of love and solidarity both within and outside the community.