Count Your Blessings Instead of Sheep


keep calm and gobble onHappy Thanksgiving weekend! Hopefully most of us will be lucky enough to be gathered together at some point with friends and family to share the bounty of the harvest – or at least the goodies we’ve bought from our local grocers — and that most precious of commodities …. our time.

It’s crazy how fast the days and years go by. That’s not an ‘old people’ thing anymore; even kids in grade school find it hard to accommodate all of the information and entertainment they need to constantly absorb in order to successfully process their world. Those of us with much to remember don’t stand a chance, post-retirement, of guessing the day with much accuracy. (Helpful hint: Write everything down!)

Although I’m not a religious person, I consider myself blessed. I have a roof over my head, food in my fridge, and a husband, family, and friends that love me. I also have a keen awareness that I am more fortunate than a great many people, who often lack the things that a lot of us take for granted.

While I do try to do what I can to help others, this weekend I’m grateful to be enjoying the hospitality of two lovely friends, who asked us to share their respective feasts.

toronto-skyline-nightOn Saturday night, we joined long time friend and writer Ira Band for dinner at the Island Yacht Club, on Mugg’s Island. It was a beautiful night, with weather more like August’s than October’s. Earlier this summer, the island was horrendously flooded, but is now back to being it’s luxuriously landscaped self. After a delicious Thanksgiving buffet, we alternated between enjoying the fireplace inside, and the view of the Toronto skyline from the comfy lounges outside. A perfect evening!

Today, we’ll be joining fellow scribe/photographer/Energizer Bunny Pat Blythe for her amazing festive spread. That woman can cook most people under the table, and still sparkle as the hostess with the mostest. We will enjoy the company of friends, and Pat’s famous pies, and who could ask for anything more!

i-came-in-like-a-butterballMonday will be Bring On The Fat Pants Day and let it all hang out. I can live with that.

But let’s talk about Canadian Thanksgiving. I like when we celebrate the holiday. Let the Americans have theirs on the fourth Thursday of November; ours is just better positioned. We’ve got Halloween at the end of the month, which acts as a speed bump before we get on the tilt-a-whirl that is the countdown to Christmas, and that’s just fine by me.

So why aren’t our holidays celebrated simultaneously, you ask? It’s all about history.

According to wiki, “the first Canadian Thanksgiving is often traced back to 1578 and the explorer Martin Frobisher. Frobisher, who had been trying to find a northern passage to the Pacific Ocean, held his Thanksgiving celebration not for harvest but in thanks for surviving the long journey from England through the perils of storms and icebergs. On his third and final voyage to the far north, Frobisher held a formal ceremony ifrobisher-thanksgivingn Frobisher Bay in Baffin Island (present-day Nunavut) to give thanks to God and in a service ministered by the preacher Robert Wolfall they celebrated Communion.”

Over the years, succeeding waves of immigrants brought their own harvest traditions and delicacies to Canada, and we gratefully blended those new foods and tastes into what we now call Canadian cuisine.

And of course, we cannot forget how new Italian/Canadians brought their own tradition of the Spaghetti Harvest to our great land.

What we think of today as a traditional Thanksgiving feast owes a lot to what American film and TV has idealized as the proper fare… the groaning board that begins with pickles, olives, and hot dinner rolls (Pillsbury Crescent Rolls are a favourite for me) and carries on with mashed potatoes , roasted vegetables, cranberry sauce, stuffing and giblet gravy, all but the preliminaries to the guest of honour, the roast turkey.

And when you’ve had your fill, and have moved your belt buckle over a notch, lo and behold, the desserts arrive – pumpkin or cherry or raspberry pie, carrot cake, ice cream …. Ahhh … yep, sounds like Thanksgiving at Pat’s!

I’m happy to have a day designated for giving thanks. We’re an entitled bunch of gits, and having to stop and actually think about what’s good in our lives is rare; we’re far more likely to be complaining about what we don’t have. This is a day – or a long weekend – on which Canadians can all agree that they are blessed to live in a country which, because of or in spite of current leadership, allows us freedom in so many ways.

thanksgiving-gratitudeI try to have an “attitude of gratitude” as the platitude goes. No matter what life brings, I try to remember that there are people on this planet who would kill to be in my shoes. Which is not to say that I don’t occasionally complain, but I do value what I have, and I thank those who make my life better, just by their presence and love.

 

“When we neglect to require our children to say `thank you’ when someone gives them a gift or does something for them, we raise ungrateful children who are highly unlikely to be content. Without gratitude, happiness is rare. With gratitude, the odds for happiness go up dramatically. The more you recognize and express gratitude for the things you have, the more things you will have to express gratitude for.” Zig Ziglar

grateful-for-everythingSo, what are you grateful for in your life? I’m grateful for my husband, my children and grandchildren, and my family and friends, who continue to love me despite my many, many quirks and odd behaviour. I’m grateful for the food in our pantry and the roof over our heads. I’m grateful that I’m getting older, because the alternative sucks. I’m grateful that I get to write this column every Sunday, and some of you actually read it and even discuss ideas with me, whether you agree or disagree with my points. I’m grateful that I’ve never lived in a country ravaged by war or pestilence or famine, and probably never will.

Little girl asleep in bed.I’m grateful when I lay my head down on the pillow at night, and know that the odds are good I’ll be waking up in the morning to another day filled with possibilities. I’m grateful for every bit of my life so far, and the wonders that still await my discovery. For as long as I am on this planet, I want to be cognizant of the beauty that is all around me, and never take for granted the gift that is existence.

Even when the going gets rough and it seems like there’s nowhere to go but down, it’s best to consider the good you have in your life, and be thankful. That small shift in thinking can put things into perspective.

Never underestimate how important it is to have people in your life who are kind and loving and thoughtful. When all else fades away, love and kindness are the greatest gifts you can give or receive.

There’s a reason why this song has over 52 million hits … the simple lyrics, and the joyful delivery remind us of the things that are most important in our lives.

Have a wonderfilled Thanksgiving weekend, everyone, however you choose to celebrate.

 

 

Temptation Redux


Much as I have tried to pull together at least a preview of a project that I’m working on to share with you, it is not to be; there is much back burner simmering to be done before that column is ready to be savoured.

Hmmm… back burner simmering … sounds like something good to eat! Speaking of eating … here’s something I wrote in the Spring of 2013, and have revised and updated for your dining and dancing entertainment. Bon Appetit!

The Last Temptation

Mmm … food. Can’t live with it, can’t live without it. For some, food is a sensual pleasure, as delicious and desirable as sex. To others, feeding themselves is a chore; if they could, they would be content to fill their nutritional needs by swallowing a tablet.

Gourmet or gourmand? That is the question. I believe the essence of human sensuality is embodied in one who not only enjoys good food, but revels in all its glories; heaven on the palate, a visual treat, and a tactile experience. To me, there is little as delightful as a feast for both the eyes and the stomach. Good food, in all of its 3D wonderment, warms the cockles of my heart, quickens my breath, and eases the tensions of life.

Oh yes, I know. Everything in moderation, and if I ever figure out how to do that, I’ll get right on it! But the warring culinary DNA factors in my blood and heart crave lashings of French cooking, with a shanty Irish reliance on carbohydrates swimming in butter, and a British sensibility that encourages such brutal delicacies as steak and kidney pudding. I love food. pomegranateNo – I am in lust with good, honest, fresh, beautifully prepared, delicately seasoned, lovingly plated and brilliantly presented food.

I grew up when food was only available in season, and then just in the grocers for a very small window of time. Pomegranates, black cherries, tangerines … gifts from the gods! We snapped up these delicacies, pressed them to our breasts, and rushed them home to be enjoyed in the loving spirit in which they had been grown.

dragonfruitTimes have changed, and for the most part, I applaud the growers of the world, who now bring old favourites and new sensations to our tables and taste buds all year ’round. I approached my first Dragon Fruit with apprehension, but fell to its creamy goodness. I still have yet to cook an artichoke, so fearful am I of bruising its delicate heart. I weep for the people of South America, whose primary staple grain and protein, quinoa, has fallen afoul of North American foodies and vegans – their lust for this important protein supplement is now one of the two main causes of deforestation in Brazil.

Oh brave new world that has such wonders in it!

The flip side of this global food consciousness is, of course, the prolific rise of fast food – an abomination in my eyes – and the voraciousness of the gaping maws of people who apparently no longer have an OFF switch on their hunger. shopping nightmareA visit to the grocer the day before a holiday will have you convinced that we’ve just been alerted to an impending weather disaster, zombie apocalypse or nuclear holocaust. Carts crashing into each other, shoppers strip the aisles clean of all available food stuff like piranha. It is to weep.

Food has always been woven into our culture, enshrined in art, music and literature.

Today, trained and novice chefs compete for our attention in an orgy of food porn on their own television channels. From the likeable Jamie Oliver, intense and so well meaning, to the scatological ravings of kitchen madman Gordon Ramsey, to the ‘en garde!’ insanity of Iron Chef, or the folksy drawlings of now diabetic Paula Deen, you can scarcely spend an hour in the 500 channel universe without being reminded that you’ve not eaten in at least fifteen minutes.

nigella lawsonNigella Lawson is embraced and acknowledged as the courtesan of TV food; although neither a trained chef nor cook, her softly curving figure and clearly erotic attention to the food she prepares seduces the viewer into a relaxed and loving appreciation of goose fat and Riesling.

But it is in classic film that the connection between food and sensuality is best exhibited, in a veritable moveable feast.

In 1963, a lascivious dining scene in Tom Jones, of Albert Finney and Joyce Redman devouring a chicken, left movie goers gasping.

Or consider … Alan Bates describing the best way to eat a ripe fig in Women in Love (1969). Phew! “Like a prostitute, the bursting fig makes a show of her secret.”

In 9 ½ Weeks, Kim Basinger and Mickey Rourke played sensually with jello, pasta, grapes, cherries and strawberries and the surprise of an jalapeno until her face was sticky with juices and she begs, with mouth agape, for more. Not very subtle, but very effective.

Babette’s Feast, (1987,) a film based on a story written by Isaak Dinesen, showed the healing properties of glorious, delicious food on a religious community divided by fear of strangers. Big Night, (1996,) Stanley Tucci’s film about a New Jersey restaurant, exalted in the remarkable healing powers of a shared meal.

Is there a right way to eat ramen, that glorious noodle soup? Why yes – and Tampopo (1985) showed us how to give respect to the ingredients. “Appreciate its gestalt. Savor the aromas. Jewels of fat glimmering on the surface. Schinachiku roots shining. Seaweed slowly sinking. …” More than a haiku to the food, it is total appreciation. There’s also a nod to drink, with the sipping of sake from a woman’s navel.

“Leave the gun. Take the cannoli.” Goodfellas –  a celebration of food! “Pauly … had this wonderful system for doing the garlic. He used a razor, and he used to slice it so thin that it used to liquefy in the pan.”

La Grande Bouffe is nothing more than a story of four friends who set out to eat and screw themselves to death in the French countryside. I’ll spare you the visuals on that one. Nor will I include scenes from the shocking waste of butter in Marlon Brando and Maria Schneider’s romp in Last Tango in Paris. Butter aficionados will find it on their own.

No Reservations (2007), starred Catherine Zeta-Jones as a sexy chef who made her puppy dog underling sit up and beg for treats.

You’ll never feel the same about quail after watching this scene from Like Water for Chocolate (1993) Tita uses her suitor’s gift, seasoned with her blood and longing, to make quail in rose petal sauce. Her passion is communicated through the delicious food to Pedro, her potential lover, while her haughty mother dines in salty disapproval. Eventually, her heat causes an outhouse to erupt into flames.

In the similarly themed Chocolat (2000), Johnny Depp and Juliette Binoche enjoyed the magic of lovingly handmade chocolate candies. In Woman on Top (2000) Penelope Cruz, playing a chef, has phallic-looking chilli peppers rubbed on her lips.

You remember the shimmering, shadowed, shower, but do you remember Jennifer Beals devouring a lobster tail in the seduction scene in Flashdance (1983) ?

A full menu of films that piqued our appetites would leave us overstuffed, so I’ll stop there.

We all hope to age gracefully and beautifully, like a fine wine. But many of us will eventually come to the point where, for health or dietary reasons, we can only look longingly at a delicious spread, and whimper into our hands.

harvest.jpgAs harvest time nears, and before political correctness, weight gain, national health, and propriety wipe these elemental pleasures from our memories, bite into a ripe strawberry, bury your nose into a bushel of fresh tomatoes, nibble at the edges of a freshly cut pastrami or hold a mouthful of champagne against your taste buds, reveling in it’s effervescence.

And raise a glass and a fork to one of the most basic and natural joys of living … the enjoyment of food!

 

Party For One


Toronto’s been sweltering in +90 degrees heat for the last several days. I’m not complaining… heat I can handle, it’s cold I can’t take.

But this is, of course, a time when the city’s electrical system is drastically over-loaded, with every home’s air conditioning units roaring. Our area is particularly hard hit; I’ve been having little brown outs and power cuts for months. I’ve been increasingly worried over the toll that this is taking on my computer and other sensitive devices.

broken-fridgeBut I hadn’t thought about the fridge.

With no warning, our fridge’s compressor decided to die. The inner fridge light still works, so we hadn’t noticed that everything in the side-by-side freezer was slowly thawing. Until last night.

cocktail foodAnd so today, I’m cooking up a storm in that same 90 degree heat. I’ve cooked dim sum and chicken wings and mini meat pies and sausage rolls and pizza and anything I think I can feasibly cook and keep chilled for a day or two.

I’m so glad that I’m able to save some of food. The shrimps and scallops won’t make it, which is a terrible waste of both money and resources. And I sure wish I hadn’t wanted to start a diet today, as the cooked goodies are really too hard to resist.

But it’s the saddest cocktail party I’ve ever attended.

Fighting For The Right To Protest


One week ends and another begins. It’s been a tough couple of weeks for many, even more so than other weeks. After a bitterly cold and seemingly unending winter, Toronto’s spring has yet to settle in, as it jumps from sweltering daytime highs to overnight lows that wreak havoc on wardrobe choices and spark terror in the hearts of gardeners. Yesterday’s cold rain came and went in great sweeps and gusts, ripped my umbrella inside out, and left me soaked and miserable as I waited for that most elusive of creatures – the dreaded Lawrence Bus. It’s a hard rain, baby.

C51 pinsI had intended to join the thousands protesting Bill C-51 at Queen’s Park, but the downpour, a lack of bus fare, and a husband increasingly concerned by possible repercussions due to my outspoken opposition to our government, kept me home.

BILLC51 protesters Toronto

For those who think that opposition to the Bill is melodramatic and all conspiracy theorish, ask yourselves; is your concern that the protesters will be beset by terrorists? Or that the protesters will be stealthily added to a police file, arrested for attending a rally, audited mercilessly, or simply have their characters assassinated, and their passports taken away?

Think I’m exaggerating? A new law became effective on Friday. “The Ministry of Citizenship and Immigration says it would revoke citizenship for anyone found guilty of terrorism, treason and high treason, and spying for a foreign government.” And bear in mind, terrorism as defined by the bill includes “activity that undermines the sovereignty, security or territorial integrity of Canada” that includes “terrorism,” “interference with critical infrastructure” and “interference with the capability of the Government in relation to … the economic or financial stability of Canada.

Which means that protesting the Pipeline, or even Monsanto, is loosely covered under the bill, as terrorist acts interfering with Canadian economics.

WW2 vet against c51There will, if this law is not blocked, be no checks left on state power. State Security will operate outside the law. Citizens will be convicted on secret evidence in secret courts. Citizens will be subject to arbitrary searches and arrests. Due process will be eradicated. Internal security organs will serve as judge, jury and executioner. The outward forms of democratic participation — voting, competing political parties, judicial oversight and legislation — will remain, but become meaningless forms of political theater.” Chris Hedges on Bill C-51.

The Canadian arm of Amnesty International indicated that the anti-terrorism bill could be used to target environmental activists and aboriginal protesters, or any other form of protest without an official permit or court order.

Bill C-51 “opens the door to collecting, analyzing and potentially keeping forever the personal information of all Canadians,” including every instant of “a person’s tax information and details about a person’s business and vacation travel.”

It’s pretty ironic that Canada is set to ramp up security, just as America’s NSA has been told to stop collecting citizens’ private information.

senate votes to kill NSASo basically it all boils down to a Senate debate between those who say we must give up some liberty to keep us safe, even though it doesn’t, and those who believe we must protect our liberties, even though they won’t.” — Jon Stewart

Yep. And same thing here. In a matter of days, the Senate will vote on whether to accept the Bill or not. Ergo the protests across Canada, as 67% of Canadians do NOT want the bill passed. At this stage, official word is that “A Senate committee is offering to conduct a review of Canada’s new anti-terrorism powers five years after Parliament adopts Bill C-51, and is calling on the government to quickly adopt new measures to fight terrorism and improve its existing counter-terrorism operations.”

And that’s very daunting. And a real blow to Freedom of Speech and Canadian democracy.

But don’t take my word for it … ask the Raging Grannies of Ottawa.

They’re game, these Grannies, if a little distracted. And brave.

Or ask Cathy Cook, who wrote and performed this blues, empathizing with victims of Stephen Harper’s contempt of aboriginals, women, environmentalists, and veterans.

Or the Ontario based singer/songwriter Terry Tufts, who’s written several songs on our messed up government, and lack of choice in the upcoming election.

Dirty Little War – Written And Performed By Terry Tufts

If nothing else, it seems like we’re finally getting new Canadian protest songs. What is concerning, however, is that the new protesters all seem to skew to the higher end of the age spectrum. Like Dennis Jones, a musician and songwriter based in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, who’s been playing guitar and singing for 48 years.

Or Ian Patton, a 5-string banjo player/composer from Edmonton.

Or Halifax based Mike Chandler and Margaret Anne McHugh of SolidariGLEE

I find it interesting that the songwriters protesting this Bill are middle-aged and older. People of all ages are attending rallies for this and other protests, so there are certainly younger voices available. I’m not sure if the lack of participation is due to apathy, a dread of the folk music scene, or a lack of information. Maybe it’s a mix of all three.

Let’s close out with Stevie and the ConserviCats singing the praises of the new Secret Police Bill C-51.

Right then, enough with the politics … How’s about some new music?

This moody ballad is from Vintage Trouble’s first album. Their next release, 1 Hopeful Rd., is due to drop August 14th. Currently, the band is opening for AC/DC in Europe. Live, these guys are monsters, as several of us here at DBAWIS can attest.

Quirky singer/songwriter David Celia has a record release party set for June 4 at the Great Hall. Here’s a taste of the new CD.

Rats! I missed Food Revolution Day, Jamie Oliver’s global campaign to put compulsory practical food education on the school curriculum, on May 15th!

At least we can watch the video. Here’s Jamie with Ed Sheeran, Paul McCartney, Jazzie B, Professor Green, Alesha Dixon, Jamie Cullum, Mr Hudson, Hugh Jackman, Us the Duo, George The Poet, Che’nelle, DJ MK and The London Youth Choir

And of course, don’t forget that Xprime will be playing their new album at their CD release party at the Rivoli on June 4th. See you there!  Xprime CD Release June 4

(originally published at bobsegarini.wordpress.com/2015/05/31/roxanne-tellier-fighting-for-the-right-to-protest/)