Thursday, September 06, 2007

Camping at Sandbanks - August 6-9, 2007

It’s become a tradition every year to get together and go camp for a couple of days. During the first couple of years, we used to eat bacon, eggs, toast, hamburgers, hot dogs and stuff fried or floating in butter. All things you expect to eat when you camp. We used to stay at campsites that didn't have any electricity either. We didn't need electricity - we were camping!

Well, 5 years ago, our camping experience changed. We started bringing a rice cooker, soy sauce, fish sauce, and other things that weren't typically found on a campsite. Some of my relatives don't like "white food" so we had to accommodate them by making Chinese food. We'd have BBQ meats, Chinese coleslaw, rice, soup, leftover bacon and sausages. Oh, how I hated eating rice when we were camping. Thankfully we still had loads of fun. We could be found running around, swimming and playing on the beaches during the day. By night, we were playing with the fire (which was just us poking the fire with sticks we found in around the camp site - with supervision of course), toasting marshmellows, or trying to slap the mosquito that just bit us.

Day 1: Aug. 6th
We left for Sandbanks around 9am. After checking in and getting our permits, we went straight to the beach for some lunch. It took us probably an hour to get a picnic table, as most of the people on the beach were spending their last long weekend day at the beach before heading home. I can't remember what we ate, but it was something that had already been prepared at home. After lunch, we were in the water. This particular day was windy, a bit cloudy and warm.

Wet and hungry, we left the beach to set up camp and prepare dinner. We had booked 3 campsites beside each other for our large group, and made the middle site our main site. The main site was our dining area and kitchen for the next couple of days, while the other two sites were reserved for sleeping. For dinner, we had leftovers from lunch. After dinner, we just lounged around talking and snacking around the fire.

Day 2: Aug. 7th

I fumbled out of the damp tent, from the morning dew and humid air, and greeted everyone who was up. Sizzle. In a split second, my eyes went from watching my cousin running around the campsites laughing, to the fire, to the pan and finally to the contents of the pan. Bacon! Breakfast! Until that moment, I didn't realise how hungry I really was. To ease my hunger, I made myself a drink. With the second pot of boiling water, I decided that I would make myself a mixture of hot chocolate mix, instant coffee and coffee whitener. As soon as I reached for the kettle, my cousin crowded around me wanting some hot chocolate of their own. After I made all of the drinks, I started helping out with breakfast. Bacon, breakfast sausages, eggs, toast for some, rice for others, and coffee, mocha or hot chocolate was our first meal. There's nothing like eating breakfast by the fire.

Once we finished breakfast, we made some BBQ pork for lunch. It was marinated in soy sauce, salt, sugar, pepper and rice wine. The kids ran ahead with my brother and dad, while everyone else changed into our bathing suits and packed some stuff up for our afternoon on the beach. It was quite windy in the parking lot, soI assumed there would be large waves. However, once we got past the dunes, there was barely a breeze. Bleh. Sitting on the picnic table tanning, I joked around with my parents and grandparents that if it were to rain before dinner, I wanted to go to Toronto for some of my noodles.

[It didn't rain before dinner. It rained after everything was prepared. Some luck, huh? Well that night, everyone was teasing me about that. That was all I heard until I went to sleep. ]

Day 3: Aug. 8th
"Hahaa, Christine will be happy that we're going to Toronto. Then she can eat her noodles." "Here that Christine, wake up, we're going to Toronto!" "Noodles!" That’s all I heard my grandpa and mom say over and over again that morning. It wasn't a nice morning anyway - cloudy and humid. After breakfast (leftovers from the previous morning), we packed up and left for Toronto. As we started leaving the campgrounds, the clouds parted and the sun came out. Luck was on my side today! In the van, my mom teased, "Lets turn back. It’s a nice day outside now." There was no turning back. My noodles were calling.
We went to the Oriental Food Mart for lunch, as there was too much traffic to go to Chinatown. This grocery store is like Costco in terms of its size and how busy it gets. The similarities end there. Instead of bulk food products, fresh produce is the main attraction here along with anything Asian. Get them fresh and cheap!

On the left side of the store, there's a small bakery and an eating area. So many delicious baked, steamed and deep fried goods can be found here.

The prices are a lot cheaper than Ottawa's because there's a lot more competition in Toronto, as you can imagine. The picture on the left has croissants, pineapple buns, and something else, all on the rack that came from the oven not too long ago. They were still very warm to the touch. As you can see, there are a lot of different choices here. Just look at how far the other end of the wall is, in the picture below.
Just like the two small stalls outside the mall, they sell BBQ meat and other things like rice, sweet and sour pork, and Shanghai noodles. They even have a small area where they have steamed dim sum items. We got chicken feet, har gow, siu mai and Shanghai noodles. My uncle also went out to one of the stalls and got my noodles and some stir fried veggies. The sauce of the noodles didn't have enough smoky flavour. In order to finish the noodles, I poured some of the juices from the chicken feet and mixed it into the noodles. They were surprisingly good mixed together. I made sure to skim off most of the fat beforehand. Overall, the dim sum was impressive considering where we were eating - a grocery store. If you compare it to the dim sum we usually get at restaurants, it wasn't that great. Ottawa is in need of a large grocery store like this, but I'm not sure the Chinese community in Ottawa is large enough.

After lunch, we split up into little groups and shopped for groceries. Later, it was decided we would walk around Pacific Mall. Before we all met up and left, I bumped into my two cousins and my aunt. They had a huge cup of a mango shake. I tasted some and was shot up to mango heaven. Cold, smooth, tasty mango puree on a hot day. It was so amazing, so good that I decided that I'd pick up some myself. After walking around in circles with my little cousins for awhile, we found the place (I don't remember the name). I ordered myself a mango shake, which was the special that day. As I waited for my drink, I watched the lady take out frozen pieces of mango, put it in a blender with some simple syrup and ice. While she started to blend it, she added small chunks of mango into my cup - this was part of the special. Once the blender stopped, she poured the liquid gold into the cup, put it through the sealing machine, and then handed me the jewel. My stomach was still full from lunch, but there was no way I was wasting any of my drink. Unfortunately, I don't have a picture of the drink because I had to meet up with the rest of the family and I just totally forgot to snap one.

It was around 4pm after our shopping trip and it was decided that we'd eat dinner in Toronto. No one wanted to go back to the campsite and eat leftover BBQ meat when we could easily eat here. We drove to Markham Place for some shopping and dinner. About two hours later, we met up in the food court for some dinner. We ordered a bunch of things from a couple places, but the only place I wanted to order from was Wah Lam Food Expert. To share with my two brothers, we split some soup with noodles and of course my order: #9 beef and vegetable with rice noodles, without bean sprouts and with extra sauce. Although my brother didn't order my noodles without bean sprouts, the dish was still amazing. I couldn't stop eating, until I came across bean sprouts. The sauce was smoky, there was extra sauce, and the meat melted in your mouth. Every time I look at the picture, I start to get hungry. It's torture just looking at it when I know I can't get it. If you wanted to know what everyone else ate, I couldn't tell you. I was too busy consuming my noodles.

So with full bellies, we all pack into our vehicles and drove back to the campsite for a good night's rest.

Day 4: Aug. 9th
I woke up to the chirping of birds and the low murmur of chatter. I felt so good that morning. So happy that I had the best sleep, of the trip, and that I got to eat my noodles. My noodles, which we ate the previous night, recharged my batteries and seemed to pump endorphins into my system. That day flew by. All I remember was helping pack up, tan at the beach, and sleep on the way home. This was probably the only time I was happy that I got to eat Chinese food when I went camping.


R.R. #1
Picton, Ontario
(613) 393-3319

1661 Denison St
Unionville, ON
(905) 513-1666

First Markham Place Food Court
#3255, Highway 7 East
Markham, Ontario
(905) 305-0030

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