Richard Todd Canton describes himself as a working man. Never one to sit around for long periods of time, he’s made a habit of keeping busy—and paying attention. He entered the working world at twelve, when he stepped through the back door of a restaurant and asked for a job.
Since then, he’s learned from some masters and has applied that knowledge to every aspect of his life. Along the way, he’s also met some interesting characters—and you’ll meet many of them in this collection of anecdotes from his colorful and unusual life.
As one of nine children, he learned early on that the observant person can find inspiration in every person he encounters. His brother, seven sisters, and widowed mother were among the first to inspire him.
This memoir invites you to join him on a journey through life, love, and other lessons. He shares some of the experiences and lessons he learned growing up in the food business (and in business in general). You’ll meet some intriguing characters who have influenced Canton in one way or the other; you might even recognize yourself or your friends within the tales.
Take a journey with him back through time as you meet some of the magnificent people who have made an impact on his life.
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Food for ThoughtA Working Man's Guide to Life
By Richard Todd Canton
iUniverse, Inc.Copyright © 2012 Richard Todd Canton
All right reserved.
Chapter OneFood For Thought A Working Man's Guide to Life
Hello, from the east coast of Canada in beautiful Nova Scotia. I am Richard Todd Canton, at least that's what my mother named me. Up until I was five years old, I was Richie. Beginning school that year friends started calling me Todd and the name stuck. At six pounds, I was born on a snowy December morning, the fifth of seven natural children born to Bert and Vivian Canton. That was Amherst Nova Scotia. We lived on Russell Street in a house our father built and our mother turned into a home.
As a boy I suffered a great emotional blow in the death of my father. It left me lost to say the very least. Naturally I turned to my mother for comfort and grew to admire her greatly. As a teen, I later found true love in the arms of the only woman I will ever care for, Sherry Benjamin. She was able to see inside of me and knew when to rein me in and when to let me run. Thank God she came along when she did.
Life is a struggle at the best of times. Think about it, weren't we put on this earth to climb one mountain after the other? It all starts with birth. We have had to fight our way out of our mother's body, fight for your first breath of air. Even learning how to walk is a struggle. Toss in a disease or two, learning to ride a bike, entering relationships, and life in general, it really is really one hurdle after another. Having said that, it always surprises me how whiny people can be when forced to face life and all it has to offer.
I was told as a child that a man in India might face a monsoon that will literally wipe out his home and family and yet he seems to pick up and move on. In this country, a man might break up with his wife or lose his job and bam!, he jumps off a roof. Coping mechanisms don't seem to be in place when needed most. So, what to do? Give up? Of course not. A man should think about living, not concentrate on dying. After all, it is the last thing you will ever do. I have a strong desire to live, to never stop trying and honestly, I fear death. It took my father at an early age and left us all to mourn. I am not ready to go anytime soon so I keep trudging along, making the most of situations and if nothing else, I learn from them.
In living one's life, you really have to make the best of some very bad situations. You have to learn that the sun is not going to shine everyday and despite any dark clouds and the subsequent rain that ensues, you really can weather any storm, so do it! The sun will come up eventually and when it does, you might appreciate it all the more. Ok then.
Don't be discouraged if you try something and fail. Do be discouraged if you try the same thing over and over and you continually fail, then you are doing it wrong. A person should learn from their mistakes and then hopefully somewhere along the line, sensibility will set in and realization as well. On the other hand, don't let any kind of failure keep you from trying new things. Wow, to hear me tell it I sound like a hell of a guy.
If the truth be known, I certainly have made my share of mistakes. It seems that I was a misfit in school, both socially and academically. I truly fit in no where. So I had to realize that I was on my own, that there were few others out there the same as me and to 'just keep going', there really are better days ahead'. And as it turns out, there were.
So I take all of my misfortunes that I struggled with as a child and do my best to turn them into something positive. In that area of my life, I am successful. So, one might ask, did you learn so much that you can qualify writing an inspirational book about life? Yes! I truly believe I have something to offer the world.
Now, in doing so, I can offer sound advice with some very delicate situations but if you are not willing to heed what is offered, what good does it all do? Every one of us has sought out advice and because we did not like what was told to us, passed it off. Following instructions is not a favourite of most people in crisis. Think about it. How many times has someone told you to settle down when you are upset? Do you? Really, give them an adequate amount of time to vent and then try to talk to them. If they are still unreachable, then perhaps they are the type that enjoys life most when they are the most miserable. Hey, it happens.
Some people enjoy poor health, other are constantly crying woe and somewhere in between, are the rest of us. The average intelligent person suffers from a sore back until they see someone in a wheelchair and then without thinking about it, straighten up. I know I do. It is the same with just about anything. Adopt a philosophy for life. I have and I must tell you that it works. Life is a banquet, life is a celebration.
So what if I were here talking about food and life. Would you understand where I was coming from? Growing up in the food business, I certainly was quick to realize how important food is and just how important life is. To me there is not much difference between the two. I need food to live and I tend to live for food. I possess certain philosophies where life is concerned and they are really comparable with food. Life can easily be compared to a fresh egg. If you treat it with care, and let it live up to its potential there is no telling what could happen. It could possibly end up in a souffle for the future King of England, but if you are not careful with it or you abuse it, then you have nothing more than a great big mess on your hands, that no matter how you try you cannot put back together. Ask Humpty Dumpty!
There would not be much point in moving forward if I did not at least introduce you to my mother, our mother. Our mother Vivian Gillis was born to an unwed mother and given up to her father's family in Springhill. A coal mining community and a coal mining family. Her father urged her not to marry a coal miner as the future is nearly always filled with a sick husband, resulting in an early demise on his part and a lonely 'rest of your life' for the widow. She met and married my father in Amherst and they began a life together.
My father was one of twelve children raised on a farm on Russell Road which stretched out onto the rich and vast marshes near the New Brunswick/Nova Scotia border. This fertile land was good for farming and that's exactly what it was used for. A rural life was comfortable for a large farming family. A century before, the Acadian settlers dyked the land to keep the water back and to allow the richness of this soil to be their bread and butter, so to speak. Wise choice.
Over time and with progress things changed. After facing WW1, the Great Depression and then WW2, and all they had to offer, things in our little town changed. Over the course of the years factories and businesses had moved into Amherst, the Enamel and Heating Aircraft factory, the Foundry, Bata Shoes, and with them a healthy post war life was afforded by all. By the time the war was over, rezoning caused it to become a residential area now known as Russell Street.
I have always said that my father built our house but it was our mother who filled it with life, laughter and love. She, our mother, was the centre of our family and was all we lived for. So with a house so full, our mother found her true calling. She was needed. At forty-three years of age she suffered a terrible blow in the death of our father. We all suffered, together. That situation brought us all closer to her than we had ever been before. I, the middle child and the youngest of two boys, suffered immensely. Painfully shy and insecure, I withdrew into myself and found it to be a safe place. Music was my medicine and my mother, my angel. She had enough to deal with without adding the misery of an overly sensitive child. Still, she made the best of the situation. That and everything that was ever thrown her way. My mother will always be remembered as an upbeat, resilient and tenacious soul. We learned from her example. Food for thought!
So, with a financially strapped future facing our family, we all went to work young. While in one person's eyes this may seem unjust, in another's it seems appropriate. We are all still working today. Being in the workforce kept us from stealing, out of trouble, and out of jail. It also helped to instill in each and every one of us, a good work ethic. Nothing has ever been handed to us, we have all worked for what we've got. One tends to appreciate it all the more. Work I do, I am a teacher's assistant in junior high, I work weekends and summers as a waiter, I am a writer of human interest stories, and I also happen to be the host of a local television show. Along with all of that I am a husband and a responsible pet owner. I work hard and I work lots. In doing so I have acquired a large appetite for life and for food. It seems that it is all I think about.
Food has never tasted as good as when a person is hungry. I mean hungry. There is a young man I have had the pleasure working with in a busy and successful restaurant. He states emphatically that 'no vegetable will touch his lips'. Once, in our hot kitchen, he fainted. We revived him and for the most part he was ok. Off to the doctor was my suggestion. He informed us that he had already been and that the doctor warned him of an 'early demise' if he did not change his lifestyle drastically. Talk! Talk! Talk! Stubborn as he is, he tried living life in moderation but after living his entire life fighting the establishment, his parents and defying all of God's rules he soon fell back into a diet of greasy and salty foods. You know, the brown ones, every deep-fried item out there and be sure to wash it down with pop. Add a few vices to that and make sure there is not a green in sight. He wouldn't eat my 18-hour spaghetti sauce because there were peppers in it.
Works on you after a while. It also didn't help that he ignored the multi-vitamins prescribed for him as well. So now, he doesn't sleep well, he's lethargic and suffers from severe pains in his gut.
All I could think of was, wouldn't it be something if he was air dropped in the middle of Afghanistan and had to fend for himself for two days only. Left to his own devices, would he survive? Probably not. If he couldn't stand the heat of a hot kitchen then the desert would probably do him in. Lack of water wouldn't help either. Not that he drinks enough as it is. Then, scrummaging around for bits and pieces of food might be a chore. If he didn't get poisoned, he might just make it. Then, in a final act of kindness, bring him home, sit him down and give him a big helping of Grandma's potatoes, veggies, both orange and green, and watch him go. Food for thought.
I like to eat. I love to eat. I don't just head for the fattening stuff, I head toward the food. You cannot punish me with a salad as I like all vegetables. You just can't guarantee that I will be full when finished. So add some protein to the mix and a carb or two. Multi-grain or whole wheat, not a problem! But, I would like to be reasonably full when finished. OK then.
I wrote a story for school once and it piqued the interest of the teacher. The kids got a kick out of it too.
Today's status: My wife Sherry is off to the gym for an early morning workout, I am off to the fridge for the same.
I Like to Eat!
"It's a wonder you don't weigh 500 pounds" Do you know how many times I have heard that statement? And with just cause. I like to eat. At 6ft.3" and 235lbs I look tall and slender. I am also quite active so it doesn't tend to sit there.
I can't help it, I like to eat. I find it one of the most enjoyable experiences in my life. That is probably why I married who I did. While I am a good cook, my wife Sherry is a great one. She enjoys cooking as well so that makes it all the more fun. We are not the only ones who enjoy food. We have fed the neighbours and friends on many occasions and as a result are considered culinary experts. A man that works at the junior high school that I do says that I make the best turkey stuffing and gravy that he has ever tasted and that is saying something since he is from Cape Breton and they are widely known for their down-to-earth approach to home cooking.
So where do we start? Eggs are a very big part of what I consume daily. I enjoy egg salad with a little raw onion diced up in it but I also enjoy a western sandwich. My eggs can be any style but sunny-side. I don't prefer having my food staring at me while I'm eating it . It's enough that the cat stares at me. I never had Eggs Benedict until we started serving them at the restaurant where I work, but let me tell you they have become quite popular with me.
My wife Sherry cooks a nice roast, either beef or pork and I like gravy with my meals. New potatoes are worth the money and there isn't a vegetable on earth that I won't eat except parsnip or so I thought. Sherry informed me one day that she had been putting it in the stew for years and never let on to me what it was. So, I guess I do enjoy it because I love her stews. We thicken our foods with corn starch rather than flour so you still get full but do not have the feeling of being weighed down after eating.
Roasted turkey is by far a favourite of mine. Sherry makes a beautiful stuffing and that is exactly what I am doing at the dinner table, stuffing my face. I enjoy both dark and light meat off the turkey and don't feel one bit guilty about eating it. BBQ chicken (or BBQ'd anything for that matter) is healthy and tasty. If it is done right that is. I learned the hard way. No one told me it was a good idea to parboil chicken before cooking it on the "barbie" and don't put your BBQ sauce on until the food is almost done otherwise the sauce catch fire and the food can be ruined. Once I learned all of this the mystery was solved. So we have the BBQ chicken, now comes the baked potatoes, onions and mushrooms and even broccoli can cook up nice wrapped in aluminum foil. I prefer real butter over margarine but let's face it, both are tasty.
Sherry makes good burgers too. We usually use medium ground beef, add an egg and a little bread crumbs but be sure and sprinkle in a little onion soup mix. It makes for very favourable and tasty burgers. Top them off with cheese and a tomato slice and away we go. Potato salad on the side and an ice cold glass of ice tea and voila it's summer! Garden salads with lots of tomato and cukes are healthy and tasty. You can fill up on fresh veggies and not feel guilty about it.
Isn't it sad that something we love, like eating, is also taboo to so many people who put weight on and can't take it off? My advice is to eat sensibly and in moderation and exercise. Take your body out for a brisk walk, let it breathe in some fresh air, give it lots of water and feed it according to the Food Guide and you will be okay.
PS. Eat blueberries, they are soooo good for you!
I like to drink Pepsi with ice and a squeeze of lemon or lime. I also like Coke and of course, root beer, cream soda and ginger ale. Keith's Light is my beer of choice although I like draught and Truro has the best. Perhaps it tastes a little too good if you know what I mean. Dairy Queen has the best vanilla milkshakes and the King Lam Restaurant in Bible Hill is just about the best around when it comes to Chinese food. They egg rolls are the best I've ever tasted and I should know, I like to eat. One other thing I think the King Lam does, is they don't put a lot of curry in their food and that's fine with me (because it gives me heartburn) .
I tell the truth, people!
Note: I have never had food poisoning in my life and have never refused a meal. I have never choked on food but an awful lot of people have and I have witnessed it. At Kmart, (I was a Cafeteria manager) a significant number of years ago I came across a gentleman in the washroom who had been eating in the Café and when food got lodged in his throat he quietly exited the table and went to the washroom. This may very well have been the end of his life had I not come in when I did. I knew something was wrong but when he put his hand on my right shoulder I knew exactly what was going on. Although I was unfamiliar with the life saving techniques of today, I did my best and the passage-way was cleared. He was grateful and shaken and I was just plain shaken.
Food for thought!
Every morning, like every other North American, I go to a local shop for a large double-double. Coffee, that is. It is always fresh and hot and I feel it helps me start my day. Me and millions of others. I keep reading that there isn't anything addictive in it but I have to wonder. The lineups are long and consistent and it is the only business that I can think of where there are 8 to choose from in our town alone. So how many does that make in the whole country? Now that spells money. Note: McDonalds is giving them all a run for their money in the coffee dept., it has won me over.
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