Monday, July 26, 2010

Happiness is dancing tastebuds!

I love food. More to the point, I love food as a topic, an area of study. When it comes to actually eating, I'm pretty good with whatever's around and not terribly picky. I've been known to survive on cold cuts and granola bars. But the art of preparing food fascinates me. Whether it's some elaborate spectacle of food porn on TV or a group of First Nations people preparing bannock and pemmican over a camp fire (a highlight from the Calgary Stampede a couple of years back), I can't get enough.

As you might know, I also write a cooking blog ( as a hobby mostly, but also with the slim hope I can impart my love of the art of food preparation to someone who might not otherwise have thought about it.

Now, I've come to learn something even more wondrous about the cooking experience: sharing it. I used to feel like I should everything myself and keep everyone out of my kitchen, DAMMIT!!! (a trait acquired from my mother). But, after dating some fellow foodophiles (which are different from foodies, because foodies only eat the BEST, foodophiles will take guilty awesome pleasure from a feast of Chef Boy-ar-dee or other "lowbrow" items) and sharing the experience of cooking with them, I’m starting to change my tune. Add to that my recent ‘promotion’ to the head of the Cook Shack at the Blue Skies music festival, I’m starting to see the value in communal cooking, the joy of sharing ideas and building up to some of the best meals ever.

This, of course, is outside the confines of professional line cooking, which I did for 5 years and, while I learned an invaluable set of skills from that experience, it was more hard, annoying work than anything else. Perhaps I’ve taken such a shine to cooking for fun because it’s at my pace and I get to do it my way, sort of am “after the fact” form of revenge on the oppressive kitchen environment.

Today’s post is a sort of thought and word association exercise of some of my favourite foods and flavours.

August 7 2010

Kalamata olives are a weird fusion of black and purple, gilded in a silken skin that hides a luxurious meat of salty, buttery wonder.

Boiled squid marinated in a tangy mix of oil, vinegar and herbs has a bite that is simultaneously rubbery and flaky. It was the best thing to ever come out of the salad station at the Old Fish Market.

Take the time to break down the flavours of a Thai red curry in your mouth (it might take some time) and revel in the symphony of lemon, lime, coconut milk, chilis, galangal, garlic and so much more…

Have you ever eaten an entire package of salami or capicollo without ever putting it on bread? You know you have!

Childhood can be summed up in a single sandwich: peanut butter and honey.

Nothing in all of existence can top my mom’s crab tartlettes: a crisp pastry shell, surrounding a gooey steaming cheesy mess of crabmeat and sauce.

There’s a naughty pleasure in eating a thic
k, rare/medium-rare steak. It’s when you take a big bite and tuck it into your cheek, sucking out the juice before chewing and swallowing. Yeah, it sound a bit gross in writing, but try it once and you’ll know what I mean.

Do you have a food you have to avoid before it adds 30 pounds to your waistline? Mine’s Heavenly Hash ice cream…

Thursday, July 22, 2010

The Age of Narcissism (and the related irony of blogging about it)

It's true, we live in a time of holistic masturbation. The entire self is now a glowing bastion of self-indulgence and amorality and we stroke ourselves on a nearly constant basis for the world to see. Everything goes, it seems, there are no boundaries to taste or modesty. I feel hypocritical writing this, since I'm partially DOING THAT VERY THING! But, I get easily bored at work and feel like a diatribe. Call the hypocrisy police on me if you wish, IF YOU CAN FIND ME!!!! MWAHAHAAHAHAHAH!!!!!! (Side Note: If you recognize your own hypocrisy and identify it as such, is it really hypocrisy? Probably. Dammit...)

A friend once told me that they have a 'public self' they portray on the 'Net for networking and business purposes and a private one that is only seen by those close to them. This makes total sense, but it also raises the fact that this public persona is completely in the author's control. No one gets to see you screw up or lose your temper, so everyone comes across as this utterly magnificent person who is super-awesome. No one gets to see the warts. Now, if you're a fairly conscientious and self-aware human being (and I'd say the friend who told me about it is, so if they're reading this: you know who you are, don't get mad; this is not a diss on you!), this isn't a problem as you'll be able to know the difference. But, alarmingly, I've observed a LOT of people who have taken their online persona and brought it into their real lives, flaunting an unearned smugness because they have more than 200 followers on Twitter, or because they write a bunch of blogs, or because they pwn noobs in WoW. It's brought an entire segment of the population out of its shell, but what good is being able to come out of the glow of your computer lit basement based on confidence imparted through the Internet, if you have no social graces?

Lord knows I've had enough female friends tell me horror stories of men they meet off the 'Net who can talk the talk on a dating site, but when it comes time to meet face to face, they have the charm of an ornery moray eel...

So what's to be done about it? Plug sites like Art of Manliness? Remind people to read their Miss Manners and Martha Stewart posts? Bollocks to that noise! I'm not going to resort to the Internet to help fix the problems it causes.

My advice? Treat strangers in person the way you'd treat your grandparents or nephews/neices, but without the ageism. Think about it. With that point of view, you don't have to put on airs, but you'll show respect, or at least kindness. And remember: NO ONE is out to get you, stiop being so damn defensive! Stop trying to show how cool and hiply aloof you are. And don't get angry if you're not sure how to act, just wing it as best as possible. Better to try and fail than automatically fail by not trying.

So, in that vein, I'm writing about the oddity that is the human exchange.

July 26 2010

Logged off and unplugged. I slammed the laptop lid shut a little too hard, with a sick little twinge of delight at the thought of the whole machine splintering into fragements beneath my hands, finally freeing me of this crazy digitized shadow of a world. But, the twinge passes and I remember the hundreds of dollars poured into this cursed machine and the necessity of it. So, I soften my movements, and gently let the lid close. I stand up relieved, and look out my window to a brilliant summer's day.

My bike's calling my name and there are dozens of kilometres of trails and paths awaiting me.

Two hours later and I'm wreathed in sweat and drunk on endorphins. But I'm also exhausted. I need a little rest before chugging that last 5 k home. There's a small park on the way where groups of children play soccer with parents sitting on the sidelines, encouraging their little ones to get the ball towards the net. Scoring a goal is about 3 years down the line. Not that these people seem to mind.

I figure this is as good a place to sit, drink some water, and catch my breath. I park myself on the grass, some 6 feet away from a mom in her 30s. She's radiating a genial energy and I feel myself drawn to speaking to her.

"Which one's yours?" I ask.

She turns to me with a puzzled expression.


Dammit, from that look, it's obvious, she's asking herself why a single man, obviously not a parent, is relaxing in front of a group of small children. You can almost hear her brain screaming PEDOPHILE!

But I've been fighting the Age of Paranoia my whole life and won't let the fear stop me from being friendly.

"Oh, just making conversation. My nephew plays soccer, but he's eight, so he knows what he's doing a little better."

She smiles and responds. Somehow mentioning Christian (my nephew) always eases tensions.

"Well, I don't really care if Ben ever gets good at it, I'm just glad he can do this and get away from that damn Gameboy."

"They do have that effect on the little ones, eh? My neice is 12 and it's like she can't look up anymore, what with texting, browsing, etc., etc."

"You have to wonder if Bill Gates knew what he was unleashing 15 years ago..."

"Oh man, who knows? I ask myself if half of us would even have jobs if he hadn't..."

"You work in computers?"

"Yeah, Help Desk for Health Canada. It sucks to have a job you hate but be very good at it."

"I completely understand."

"Well, I gotta finish my ride. I hope your boy scores a goal!"

She smiles sheepishly.

"Thanks! Have a good ride."

We lock eyes for a brief moment and there's no attraction or romantic twinge that is summoned, but rather a shared sense of "what kind of a world are we part of where this sort of exchange is exceptional?"

And chances are we will never see each other again, except maybe on a dating site or facebook.

Monday, July 19, 2010

The Great Divide

Ask anyone who's known me for a while, and they'll tell you that I sometimes get some pretty far out theories to explain how things work in the world. And I'll admit they're sometimes pretty cockamamie (or downright fantastical), but there's one theory this amateur philosopher/sociologist refuses to give up, because, frankly, it's pretty unoriginal. I just googled it and there are a number of pieces dealing with the topic. Especially in the socio-political context of the post-9/11 world.

My theory is this: Almost all conflicts in this world can be boiled down to two sides: freedom vs. security.

I'd further venture to say that schism, that "Great Divide", applies not just to the political or macro-socio-economic spheres, but also to most human relationships.

Here's my prime example: gender roles and interactions. Men and women generally want different things (and I'm talking hetero for the time being since I will only speak about that which I know, I'm not sure how this debate translates into GLBT relationships). Women, in the context of their biological imperative, want a mate who is a secure provider, who can help her build a home where children will be secure. They want someone who will ensure their security. On the flip side, most men, in the context of their biological imperative, want the freedom to go out and spread our seed to as many fertile recipients as possible. That isn't sexist, it's nature.

But it makes life confusing in the context of figuring out how to have positive, long term relationships. Yeah, I'm polyamorous/non-monogamous, but I'm pretty sure I can't stay that way if I want to raise a family, unless I become a Mormon. So, obviously, my desire to mate for life and raise a family flies in the face the 'freedom' impulse. I'm going to have to pick one.

Unfortunately the story doesn't end there. All too often the freedom impulse comes back, reinforced by Grass is Greener Syndrome (see earlier post), which leads to cheating, divorce, thrown frying pans, pediatric psychotherapy and so on... It hurts my mind to think about how much of a Catch-22 being in a serious one-on-one pairing can be! Espeically when baby makes three...

Another tangent of the Great Divide is professional/financial. Often, 'freedom lovers' will take the most profitable job first and foremost, even if it is a lousy job satisfaction-wise, because of the freedom a good salary can provide. So, in a way, financial security serves the cause of freedom of action. It's pretty hard to enjoy the sense of physical freedom that skiing or sky diving might provide if you're broke! Conversely, I know many people who make very little money at their jobs, but feel comfortable and secure in them and have the freedom to express themselves through their job/business/craft/art, etc...

Now, I've noticed that, in the grand scheme of things, the pendulum has been swinging a bit too far onto the security side and have been selfishly waiting for it to swing back into a forced freedom that would come after some cataclysm. But, the Powers-That-Be keep screwing up the Earth-shattering kaboom!

But, with that in mind, and with the love I have for post-apocalyptic thought, I give you today's entry.

July 19 2010

When the governments fell in on themselves, the people began to panic. They abandoned most forms of law and order and began to loot the cities for whatever they needed to keep their families safe and fed. Within scant months, after millions had died, groups of kin and neighbours banded together and ensconced themselves into forts built of the rubble of the fallen civilization.

The bonds of affection, blood and respect brought them together under an unspoken social contract and no rules or laws were set down. The shelter they built as a community held strong and no one feared for their safety.

Then came the Marauders. They were men and women tempered by the pain of surviving outside the safety of forts. They had learned the hardest lessons of survival, they had broken every social convention, they had regressed to being nearly animalistic. And it had made them strong, had taught them a pack mentality. And they descended like a human swarm onto the forts, stopping at nothing to defile and consume.

Who was free? Who was safe? What did it matter when vultures were picking your bones clean?

Friday, July 16, 2010


We all have them, those particular spots that certain words, people, events or combinations therein. And wow, once they get pushed, WATCH OUT! Craziness ensues. I'm talking Mel Gibson tape rant craziness... Ok maybe not THAT bad, but still. I've said things with my buttons pushed that I scarcely believe.

I have a couple of people who push mine like you wouldn't believe and vice versa. It begs the question as to why I bother being anywhere near them. I guess it's because 'buttons' usually are one side of a multi-faceted emotional entity that comprises lots of wonderful things too. Like passion, like learning from each other, like crazy-ass arguments that deep down are kind of fun... But in the end, I think the buttons win. Hence the astronomical divorce rate, hence restraining orders, hence toasters in the face.

Now, all that being said, what can we do about it? Anger management is a hard thing to... manage... Sometimes, when we've been pushed, we feel like anything we say and do is justified in order to get back at the button-pusher.

I guess the only thing I can offer as advice is this: learn to forgive as quickly and calmly as possible and try not let the 'pusher' get the satisfaction from seeing you lose it. Lord knows it's too late for me with a lot of people, but maybe I'll never repeat some of my worst offences.

July 16 2010

When I first felt the surge in my heart, the intense flush of unrestrainable anger come over me, I thought I was going to punch a wall (and maybe I did?). Then came the words. Hurtful, pointed, accurate (in my addled mind). And then the response: fierce, unrepentant. Some things can never be unsaid or undone. So, might as well take this madness as far as it can go.

Next I knew, both of us are in tears and shaking with rage. Every weakness thrown out there for the world to see over the Internet or pool table gossip.

And the horror of it breaks your spirit.

How do you forgive such hurt and malice? You just do.

How do you come back from a point of no return? You take a well-measured step back.

How do you stop it from happening again? You just do.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

En français!

Bonjour tout le monde!

Il faut que j'écrit un examen cette semaine afin de mesurer mes compétences en composition en français pour combler à un nouveau poste de réviseur-rédacteur avec le gouvernement fédéral. Étant donnée que je suis bilingue mais que j'ai plus d'aise en anglais, je suis un peu nerveux.

Mais afin de pratiquer écrire en français, cette édition de mon blogue sera seulement en français. Désolé, mes osties de têtes-carrés!

Et donc, il faut demander la question : Pourquoi tellement de canadiens ne parlent pas les deux langues officielles?
Alors la pièce que j'écrit aujourd'hui traite de la beauté des deux langues.

11 juillet 2010

Ce n'est pas facile de juger une langue comme ayant plus de valeur qu'une autre. Au Canada nous avons le plaisir d'avoir deux langue officielles, mais plus souvent que non, les differences entres les langues, les cultures, les patrimoines des Canadiens et Canadiennes sont plus évidents que la beauté des deux langues peut apporter.

L'anglais : si simple mais impossible à se fier sur ses règles, les exceptions étant toujours présents.

Le français : structuré, musicale, passionné; mais toutefois étant si compliqué et frustrant que la majorité des étudiants ont lancé leur Bescherelle à un mur au moins une fois.

Ce que le bilinguisme offre est la capacité de penser à deux 'vitesses'. Ce n'est pas la traduction d'une langue à l'autre qui identifie la personne bilingue, mais plutôt être capable de penser dans la langue convenable.

C'est un défi, mais ça vaut la peine.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Values... and a poem?!!

Values are tricky. We all have them, some of us are completely ruled by them and have them forged into our psyches forever, others are more adaptable with their values. They can change with us, change us or even ruin us.

We get them from our families, our work, our environment, our friends, TV (yikes!) and, of course, religion.

I definitely have pretty firm values on some subjects and far more loosey-goosey on others. Not lying is probably the firmest one I have. I suck ass at lying and finding out that I've been lied to is usually the best and most lasting way to invoke my ire, or, at least, make me lose respect. But that's me. Others are far better at coping with dishonesty, but not, for example, insensitivity. Or bad hair... All depends on your values!

I'd say that for me, most of my values are taken from the Catholic upbringing I had, highly flavoured by the Blue Skies community-building experience, and continuously refined by the people and events around me.

It's hard to articulate the vast array of values that we have as people, especially since they're variable. I'm far more aware of the need to be direct, honest, compassionate and sweet to my Mom or a girlfriend or a child than some guy at the bar. And really, is it necessary for us to always have to say "This is important to me"? Every one of us are going to come up against situations where our values are tested. And sometimes we don't uphold them for the sake of necessity.

Likewise, how do we determine the line where not sharing certain values excludes people? I know mine: haters need not apply. And I don't mean 'haters' in the vein of hipsters and others who make a lifestyle of mockery, I mean REAL haters. Racists, sexists, weightists, homophobes, etc... (and I say this as an ex-hater - I used to have major homophobia issues). That also includes misandronists. I dislike other men enough as it is! So, yeah, that's a hard and fast value that probably will never change and my values and haters' values make it so that, if I knew these were a person's values, I would want nothing to do with them.

On the flip side, I am a fervent pacifist. And yet, I have tremendous respect for soldiers. I am surrounded by ex-military folks at my job and I think they're pretty effing cool. Yeah, our politics will probably be at opposite end of the spectrum, but how can you not respect someone who risks their life for a living? So, my pacifist values are probably not as firm as my anti-hater values. Especially true when watching wrestling...

Now, I was in a relationship with someone who liked to reinforce that we had very different values and I think that difference was the driving force behind it not working out. Which begs the question: Are similar values necessary for successful relationships? And, if so, how is it that we can fall in love with people who have such different values? If anyone can find the answer for that sucker, please tell me! There are a lot of avoided fights right there!

All this to say that values are kind of a pain in the butt! Maybe that's why sociopaths have it so together... um, wait a sec...

July 3 2010

Told to be yourself,
Promised love and acceptance
What the mirror is telling you
Is never explained
So, you're either wearing a shield
Or a really intricate mask (and it is lovely, isn't it?)
But eventually the flecks of consciousness

This is who you are,
This list, this sum
Of how your universe should unfold, and
How others' should be unfolding alongside you.
'Of course you should value this, why wouldn't you?'
Then you learn the universal value we all share:
No one likes being told what to believe.