By Karen Datko/Havre Daily News food writer
An old friend of mine, a native of Billings, once observed, correctly, that everything goes better with bacon.
(Check out the potato salad at the bar in Gildford if you need more proof.)
The same also could be said about gravy. Good gravy adds warmth and substance. It's the bonus on top of a large mound of great or even not-so-great mashed potatoes.
There's something to be said for a people who routinely put gravy on their french fries. You know who I'm talking about - our neighbors north of the border. These are people who value both heartiness and the beauty of simplicity.
During a recent vacation in Alberta, I looked forward to sharing the joy of fresh fries and gravy with my traveling companion, a dear friend of more than 20 years.
We were even more impressed with the kindness of the people.
When we got to Medicine Hat in my new-to-me van, I noticed a puddle of water on the floor underneath the gas pedal. We headed to a nearby Canadian Tire store. The crew had a full schedule of appointments the next day, a lady behind the service counter told me, but if I showed up at 7:30 a.m., they'd try to work me in.
They did. It took until about 2:30 p.m. But they were gracious and kept me updated. I think they were determined to help me enjoy my vacation. The manager, the mechanic who worked on my van, and the folks behind the counter all had huge smiles on their faces when they told me my outfit was ready to go. I did a little happy dance.
Also that day, we experienced another example of good service. A restaurant in Medicine Hat had overcharged us for two items on our bill the night before. It obviously was a simple error in communication. When we mentioned the overcharge as we enjoyed lunch at the same place, the manager gave us 40 percent off our lunch bill to compensate us for the inconvenience, an amount that far exceeded the overcharge.
From Medicine Hat, we went on to visit Dinosaur Provincial Park and the town of Drumheller. The service manager at Canadian Tire had given us directions to Drumheller, his hometown, so we could see the dinosaur sites. It is a beautiful little town, one that could serve as an example of how we could restore our old storefronts and dress up our own downtown.
After that, we camped and hiked in the Canadian Rockies. The Canadians maintain the facilities in their parks very well.
Everywhere we traveled, the locals were gracious and kind.
When people are so friendly, you tend to remember it. It's an experience you share with your friends. The wonderful Canadians I dealt with may not have realized they were helping two foreigners develop an impression of their country. It's probably unfair to adopt opinions based on only a few interactions. But that is what people do.
Hopefully I'll have the opportunity some time to return the favor.