As things begin to open back up, we’re in a perfect point in time for cycling. We’ve progressed enough that going out for take-out food is less worrisome than it was at the beginning, but the roads are still not as packed with traffic so cycling is quite pleasant.
And so it was that last week I decided I would ride out to one of my favourite restaurants in the city, Hopper Hut. This place serves Sri Lankan food and is one of the few places I know of that will not take one look at me, think “There is no way that guy can eat chillies.” and then make the food bland. In fact, their food is unapologetically spicy. They make the food they make. You can eat it spicy or you can go somewhere else.
I’ve never cycled there before because any route I take would involve a great deal of travel on busy six-lane suburban arterial roads with cars and trucks normally speeding by. But these are not normal times and so I gave it a try.
The busy roads were, as expected, not so busy. Drivers gave me tons of space and we peacefully coexisted in a place I had always assumed was a no-go zone for bicycles. But what I didn’t expect was that aside from maybe 500 metres of riding on busy streets, the majority of riding would be on the Gatineau Hydro Corridor – a path recently built in the shadows of high tension power lines. Here, cyclists rode and families had their evening walks. In one case, as I slowly rode by a mother and her small daughter (about three years old), giving loads of space to them I heard her say “ध्यान से…” (Carefully!). Was she talking to her daughter or to me? In the end I slowed, gave even more space, smiled and called back “ठीक है !” (OK!).
Eventually, after a bit more cycling on the trail followed by one last busy road I find myself at the restaurant.
The restaurant has, like so many places like it, changed since I last went there. The seating is, of course, off limits now and the employees are now behind plexiglas. Where it would often be packed with as many people as it could hold waiting for vadai, hoppers or lampries to take home, there was only one other person and a limit of two customers at a time. I made my order and then waited outside on the grass for about ten minutes for my food to be prepared.
I ordered several vadai (savoury lentil donuts) and two lampries in to my pannier, surprised at just how heavy the parcel was. And then I literally rode off in to the sunset, back to our house. In about 30 minutes I was back inside.
Daegan and I unwrap our food (Sage isn’t comfortable, yet, with take-out). I got a veggie lamprie an he a mutton one. Lampries are a delicious and relatively cheap (for the quantity of food) meal. Each one consists of a mound of rice, 5-6 curries all wrapped in a banana leaf. I find that the spices used in Sri Lankan food are a little different than the food I’ve had even in South India – there are some tastes I can’t identify. But they’re all good and very flavourful. The eggplant curry is a particular favourite of mine. And as expected, not only is the food itself spicy, I’m pleased to see that they’ve also provided us with a small paper sack filled with deep fried red chillies – crispy packets of heat for when the food isn’t quite spicy enough.
The trip was a definite success and is making me think that as much as the traffic has improved, perhaps I have been too reluctant to cycle to some places – especially on a lovely day such as this one.