Monday, March 21, 2005

Glass half empty?

The reaction to parts of these poll results confuse me. Not entirely - I can easily believe that such a percentage of Canadians has experienced discrimination, and that is terrible! But the article goes on: "Perhaps the most surprising finding of the poll was that seven per cent, or 1.7 million Canadians, would not welcome someone of another race as a next-door neighbour." I might be missing something, but doesn't the flipside of those numbers say that 93 percent of Canadians would be welcoming? That seems spectacularly good, if you ask me. Not perfect, of course, but very, very good, and probably miles ahead of most other nations.

Many Canadians, particularly in northern and rural communities, have had no experience whatsoever with multiculturalism. To ask them to embrace change with open arms, when they have no visible proof of its good in their own community, is tough. So, 93 percent? Rock on! Good for us. Let's keep working for 100, without unnecessary negativity.

Sunday, March 13, 2005

A little sacrilege.

While droning through the Credo this morning, cranky, tired and fueled only by coffee and allergenic cookies scavenged from the church kitchen, I remembered a funny but true story, told to us by the wife of our priest one pub night.

One of our priest's colleagues was celebrant at the funeral of a parishioner named Edna. For Edna's funeral, the church secretary was instructed to pull up the last order of service for a funeral from the computer, find each occurence of the name of the last person, which was Mary, and replace the name with "Edna". This was all fine until the service, when they hit the creed, and read:
I believe in God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth:

And in Jesus Christ His only Son, our Lord, who was conceived by the Holy Ghost, born of the Virgin Edna...

Saturday, March 12, 2005

Me, a sucker for cooking commercialism?

While I'm blathering about magazines, I should give an honoujrable mention to Kraft's What's cooking. It's free, and yes, it's a promotional tool, but the recipes do work, even if they almost invariably ask for the incorporation of salad dressing. Today's dinner was a Spring stir-fry from the latest issue, which used peanut butter and Catalina dressing, and darned if it isn't one of the better stir-fries I've churned out this year!

The Spring issue touts the BEST ever roast chicken, just like Cook's Illustrated and Fine Cooking have done recently. We'll see. Despite the Italian salad dressing in the Kraft recipe, it looks pretty darn simple and good.

Promotional cooking rags get me every time, from historical Five Roses Flour cookbooks to the volumes containing every label-back that ever graced a can of Campbell's soup. I adore the nostalgia of the commercial appeal to the housewife, sponsorship, and the idea of brand loyalty. Not that it's any kind of ideal - it's nostalgia, pure and simple. Gone are the days, however, of the awkward inclusion of brands, some of which were hilarious, like the dozens of uses for Spam. "Test kitchens" have eradicated that charming, clumsy, blatancy, and now Kraft is producing a free, glossy, happy-making and useful mag from heaven, that is just shameless enough to charm me.

No, I don't work for them.

Friday, March 11, 2005

Savoury success, cooking magazines, etc.

Last night I made spaghetti bolognese to die for, with a recipe from a thin, spiral-bound Italian cookbook that I nabbed at the church book sale for fifty cents. It was meaty, savoury perfection. How good was it? As I drove to choir, I had an imaginary conversation with with a fan: "So, Fifth, how did you make the sauce?" Well, m'dear, let me tell you! (Now picture me on the Expressway reciting a complex ingredients list aloud. Yes, I know I should not be allowed to drive.)

I think I've finally hit cookbook saturation point, in that I feel my stomach tighten around used book stores. Having too many cookbooks means losing track of my favourite recipes until I devise a personal index. Now it's magazines; I've been exploring them all and falling hard for a few, particularly Fine Cooking, which practically makes me scream with glee. Given a choice between Bon Appetit and Gourmet, I'd choose the former for reasons I can't quite pin down. It may just seem friendlier, as its content hardly differs from that of Gourmet. I'm also getting a kick out of Cuisine at home, which contains no ads, and which, along with Fine Cooking, is instructional, inspirational and "food-only", with just enough attention to wine and cooking tools. Both seem perfect for me, an avid novice cook. Cook's Illustrated is fine, too - I just like-a the colour of the other mags.

Off topic, Jetsgo has gone tits-up. We booked our flight to BC in April on Westjet, and I'm feeling smug this morning.

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

The genetic chicken aesthetic

My mother was delighted when she discovered she might like to decorate her kitchen a certain way - namely, with chickens, all country-like. Once her friends and relatives were informed, the chickens poured in ad nauseam, for birthdays and Christmas, in the form of notepads, fridge magnets, snowstorms, tea cosies, mugs, you name it. We swam in chickens for years.

Before her death, Mom had the collection pretty much pared down to what chickens she could stand. You know what? I have kept every single one; not because I care to enshrine her memory with these chickens, but because I like the damn things. I actually applauded her choice when she made it. Chickens made sense. I have bought more chickens since her death - a serving tray on our honeymoon and a porcelain one at a house-fluffer show this fall, not to mention a two-dollar rooster canister at Wal-Mart. I faithfully glue any chicken fridge magnet that gets knocked to the ground and loses its beak or a leg; I rescued a useless decorative chicken muffin tin from our old house last spring.

After her funeral her brother, my uncle Dave from B.C., asked if he might take home a trinket to remember her by. More specifically, he asked for a chicken. I cheerfully handed him a trio of ugly chicken figurines - one for each sibling - and he made off happily with them. Thank God she didn't like talking teddy bears or some such shite, or I'd be in therapy. But yes. Chickens. My kids will love them, or else.

curling pr0n

Whether or not you like curling, or even know what it is, you must see this shot, which won the Scott Tournament of Hearts (the Canadian women's championship) for Manitoba on Sunday, and which is as exciting as it gets. I keep playing it over and over and getting misty-eyed.

a disjointed, pre-coffee, Early Music ramble

We are smothering in snow, so there is simply nothing to do today but make reeds. For an oboist in Easter season (Lent, of course, but "Easter season" in your average concert-goer's mind) I have been awfully underemployed. Between now and Easter day I have two paying musical jobs, which is ridiculous. I still need enough reeds to get me through the St. John Passion this week, but the labour is hardly justified by the job. Mind you, I did get a nice phone call yesterday about a job in Montreal in June, which pleased me terribly.

I have mused often about the future of the symphony orchestra, but what of the future of early music performance, which is still on a moderate upswing and draws so many young performers to its ranks?

Most early music ensembles today were formed in a great creative burst by the performers themselves, and are not dependent on our collective minds' expectation of the continuance of a tradition, like the symphony orchestra. It will require constant creativity to keep these ensembles alive for decades to come, and re-education of younger people to make them expect the presence of such ensembles in their musical lives, just as were were taught about the symphony orchestra.

Regarding today's professional early music ensembles, I think that the product is great enough to keep audiences coming for decades; I fear, though, that young audiences won't hear about it until it's too late! Blue hair still dominates the audience for that genre, as it does at the symphony, and its audience could easily dwindle as the symphony's has. With exceptions, the young people in today's audiences for both the traditional symphony orchestra and early music ensembles are typically music students who are hopeful of earning a living on the stage in front of them.

This is not to say that the product offered by the symphony orchestra is not worthy of perpetuation; it has simply run its course. New offerings by the symphony will never again draw the audiences that "new discoveries" of old works by early music ensembles shall bring in. Heaven knows that these discoveries are not necessarily of any great quality. Take, for example, "Le Mozart Noir": Le Chevalier de Saint-Georges, a contemporary of Mozart who led a fascinating life, was black, and a mediocre composer. Our local Baroque orchestra made a killing unearthing him, performing him, and filming a documentary about his extraordinary extra-musical life, while the musicians commented repeatedly, quietly, the music was simply no great hell. Having played it, I must agree.

Eventually, Early Music will run out of ideas. In the meantime, it's full of good performances and good yarns.