Saturday, October 30, 2010

Saints and Sins

I would like to draw attention to a large event taking place today in Washington, D.C. - the Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear, organized by Jon Stewart and Steven Colbert. While this may seem to be merely a humourous stunt, it actually carries a serious message: that people, especially in the US, need to understand they are being manipulated by the powers that be. Stewart and Colbert use humour to illustrate how messed up government has gotten and how the moderates are being ignored in favour of radicals.


Many of the blogs I am reading draw attention to Catholic priests that have abused children. Recently there have been events in Montreal that have caused me to look at this issue from a slightly different angle. I am a little hesitant venturing into such topics as I am not Catholic and in some ways my knowledge is lacking, but I certainly have plenty of opinions and will rely on those.

The story begins very far away from sexual abuse. It is the story of Frère André, a well-known priest from Montreal who was canonized earlier this month in the Vatican as Saint André, the second saint to be born in Canada. Frère André grew up as a child of little means or evident ability in a large family. Eventually he joined the church and found employment as a doorman at a Catholic school. Then he started to become known for having “healing hands”.

At this point, I would like to interrupt the story to editorialize somewhat. I do not really believe in this concept of healing from religious laying on of hands, just like I do not believe in the “miracles” that are required as qualification for sainthood. I feel the belief in these abilities promotes the practice of medical quackery and unresearched patent medicine. These practices harm more people than they heal. While in most cases laying on of hands probably won’t do any harm, it lends credence to practices that may.

Frère André did not take any credit for the healing of his “patients”; he attributed all power to his patron saint, Saint Joseph. In fact, Frère André’s legacy to Montreal bears the name of Saint Joseph. Andre raised money throughout the Catholic community to build a shrine to his patron, the St. Joseph’s Oratory, a truly magnificent structure near Mount Royal that is one of the city’s best known landmarks. In fact, in the Monopoly world edition game, the picture chosen to represent Montreal (which occupies the Boardwalk space) is of the Oratory.

As I said, Frère André became Saint André this month and, this weekend, there will be a mass held to honour Saint André. There is a huge number of faithful expected to attend, and it will be held at Olympic Stadium.

There is a group of survivors of clerical sexual abuse that have asked the Catholic church leaders of Montreal to divert the admission fee of five dollars apiece to benefit those who have suffered at the hands of Catholic priests. There is a debate over whether the Church should agree with this. First, it should be pointed out that Frère André was NEVER, in any way, accused or even suspected of ANY inappropriate conduct and was never in a position where he might have been complicit with hiding the misdeeds of others. As far as anyone knows, he has nothing to do with this issue other than being a symbol of the Catholic Church. The group promoting this concept acknowledge this and want to stress that they are NOT protesting the mass, they simply would like attendees to make a contribution. As of now, the church is refusing this request.

I think the survivor group has a great idea. I have heard some argue that doing this is tantamount to absolving the church officials of the responsibility of providing restitution and putting the burden on parishioners who should not be blamed for what happened. My opinion is that giving a contribution is something every Catholic, and in fact, any caring person, should do. It acknowledges every person’s personal responsibility to make things right and do the “Christian” thing and it does NOT absolve the Church itself of any wrongdoing or responsibility to make restitution. We are now aware of the problem and should do what we can to make the situation better. The same rule should apply to the church itself, which did more harm in this matter and thus should do even more to make up for their sins. They certainly should take some initiative as a current civil law case illustrates how far behind Quebec is in dealing with the issue of sexual abuse.

A recent decision by Canada’s Supreme Court has called into question a part of Quebec’s Civil Code, the rules relating to lawsuits, as opposed to criminal cases. In criminal cases and in civil cases elsewhere in Canada, there is no statute of limitations for cases of sexual abuse - as it is acknowledged that many victims take years to be able to tell anyone and to seek justice. In Quebec however, there is still a time limit of 3 years to launch a civil lawsuit for damages related to sexual abuse. The case recently considered concerns a woman who was abused by a priest as a child and, over two decades later, sought damages. When it happened she did tell her parents, but when they confronted the church, the priest was simply moved to another diocese and the family was urged not to press charges. The priest involved pled guilty to criminal charges and is currently in jail, but the victim is also seeking civil damages. The Supreme Court ruled that the Quebec courts should not have dismissed the claim based on a time limitation without giving an opportunity for the claimant to explain the delay. The lawsuit will now go forward to trial. Oh and, by the way, the pedophile priest’s sentence for sexual abuse that occurred multiple times over at least two years, was 18 months in jail. There have been so many cases of sexual abuse of children in the last few years where the punishments seem to be far too lenient given the damage caused. In a well known case in Canada, former youth hockey coach Graham James was convicted of sexual abuse of his players, served a short sentence and, when new accusations were raised by other hockey players, it was revealed he had been granted a pardon, wiping his criminal record clean, and had moved to Mexico. Fortunately he did return to Canada last week, and was arrested on new charges stemming from the recent allegations. I could go on, but it will get me too depressed and I think you get the idea.

P.S. I just read on Twinny's blog that his grandfather passed away on Friday. Please leave him your condolences and best wishes on his blog. Love and Hugs to Twinny and to all.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Cream Curry Chicken

Before I get to the recipe, I would like to draw your attention to a couple new links I have added. First is a new blog just started this month. Twinny’s Hideout offers a little bit of everything, some music, tech news, economics and probably more in the future. Everyone check it out. Second, the It Gets Better Project has grown substantially recently. In an effort to prevent gay teen suicides, there are youtube videos from all kinds of people, including President Obama, telling teens that “It Gets Better”. I’m very impressed at how many contributions they have received and hope it will do something.


This is one of my personal favourite recipes. It is another childhood memory and one of my favourite meals as a kid. It is so delicious and also quite easy to make. The techniques are not complicated and there are only six ingredients. That being said, this is in no way a healthy recipe. The dominant ingredients here are butter and cream, so don’t eat this too often. But with the weather getting colder, it is the perfect time for a rich, warming and comforting meal. As it will not take long to tell you how to make this, I will add a few lessons in ingredients and technique along the way.

Cream Curry Chicken

1.3 kg. Chicken breasts, bone in
2 lbs onions, sliced
large pinch salt
1 ½ sticks butter
2 cups cream
3 tblsp curry powder
1/3 cup brandy

Split chicken breasts in half. Melt butter in a large pot on medium-low heat. When melted, add curry powder and stir in. Add chicken and coat in curry butter, then add onions and salt. Stir carefully and cook covered for about 20 minutes. This is a French technique that is quite old, and not much used. It is called fondue, from the french for melted (not to be confused with cheese fondue), as the onions are sort of being “melted” into liquid. Another thing happening is that the chicken is slowly poaching in fat. By this point only the outside surface of the chicken should be starting to cook and the onions should be softening.

Add cream and brandy and increase heat to medium. Simmer until chicken is fully cooked, another 15-20 minutes. Then remove all chicken from the pot and set aside. Using a slotted spoon, remove the onions from the pot, transfer to a food processor. Blend until pureed. Meanwhile, increase heat to high and reduce the liquid in the pot by at least half. When reduced, return pureed onions and chicken to pan, return to a boil. What is happening here is something of an imitation of Indian technique, having the cooked onions thicken the curry broth. Serve with saffron rice (see Guinea Style Chicken recipe, posted July 20)

Because there are so few ingredients, the quality of each ingredient is very important. I have already said plenty about chicken in other posts. The key for the onions is to make sure you use enough of them. Onions are mostly water and will cook down dramatically. The sharpness of the onion is all you have to cut the extreme richness of this recipe. Sweet onions are unnecessary - cooking onions are perfect for this. For cream and butter, I always try to buy organic, despite the expense and difficulty. I am concerned about hormones and other stuff that is fed to cattle. These things show up in the animals’ milk, and dissolve readily in fat. Also, I find the taste to be enormously better. Therefore, the higher the amount of milk fat present, the more important it is for that dairy to be organic. Unfortunately, items high in milk fat are very difficult to find as an organic option. Butter can often be found in health food stores, but organic heavy cream is very difficult to find. It seems organic food producers are under the impression that people who eat organic only want health food. Another reason I try to find organic cream is because conventionally produced cream has tons of preservatives, thickeners and additives in it, which I would rather not have.

I love Indian food and blend my own spices to produce curries. However for this recipe, I only use store-bought curry powder. This dish, while it has a curry taste to it, is in no way Indian. This dish actually uses French technique and is from a time when English curry powder was the only form of curry known to western cuisine. I use a British brand, Sharwoods hot.

For brandy, the key is to find a balance between good flavour and reasonable price. For this reason, it is often good to look for a non-French brandy as you will pay more for equivalent quality for a French brandy. I prefer Spanish Brandy from Jerez, the region that also produces Sherry. However, in Quebec it is almost impossible to find any brandy that is not from France, so I have found a V.S.O.P. Brandy that is not too expensive but has good flavour.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

My Montreal - Montreal Botanical Gardens

View Larger Map

Another of my favourite places in Montreal is the Botanical Gardens. I would go there constantly except that it is in the East end, very far from my home and there is an entrance fee. It is more than worth it. The Garden is huge, encompassing 72 hectares and includes an exhibition greenhouse, over 30 themed gardens and a 40 hectare arboretum. It is quite easy to get to: the metro (subway) is the best way to get there. Take the green line from downtown to Pie-IX station. The entrance to the garden is one block from the metro station. You can also drive. There is pay parking near the main entrance at 4101 Sherbrooke St. E., east of Pie IX boulevard. It is directly across the street from Olympic Park and Olympic Stadium, Montreal’s infamous white elephant of a stadium.

The garden was established in the 1930's by Brother Marie-Victorin, a professor of botany at the Universite de Montreal. The building of the garden, begun in 1931, was conceived in part as a make-work project for many people left unemployed as a result of the Great Depression. It was delayed by political squabbles but was eventually opened in 1939. The Arboretum was added in 1970 and some of my favourite parts of the garden, like the Chinese and Japanese gardens, were built even more recently. The most recent addition was a First Nations Garden, opened in August, 2001.

The garden is open year-round, but the price of admission varies by the season. From May 15 - November 1 entry is $16.50 CAD for adults (less for Quebec residents), dropping to $14 CAD for the winter months. There are discount prices for children, students and seniors. However, during the winter, the outdoor gardens can be entered free of charge. You only have to pay to enter the exhibition greenhouses. You may be wondering: but why would anyone want to visit an outdoor garden in the middle of a Canadian winter? Well that would explain why it is free of charge. But entry to the garden area remains free until May 15, and winter generally ends well before that. In fact, I really enjoy visiting the garden in the early spring. To be sure, nothing much is in bloom in April and sometimes the trails can be rather muddy or even still have some snow on the ground, if it is a shady area. Towards the end of April, some plants in the Alpine Garden begin to flower, and throughout the off season, I notice that people like to use the main, paved, paths as a jogging route. The one not-to-be-missed event during the winter is the Butterflies Are Free exhibit in the main Exhibition Greenhouse, which typically runs from mid February until late April every year. They have all kinds of impressive butterflies and moths from around the world on display.

If I were to discuss all the places to visit at the garden, as I did with Mount Royal, this post would go on forever. Instead I will focus most of my attention on three of my personal favourite areas of the garden: the arboretum, the Chinese Garden and the exhibition greenhouses. These locales are very different and showcase the wide variety of forms the various gardens can take. The arboretum represents the garden at its most natural. While it is organized by species of trees, it really feels like a forest. Much of it is also quite a distance from the busy roads that surround the garden, making it a very quiet and peaceful place. If you want to explore the arboretum, you will need to do a lot of walking. It is the furthest section from the main entrance. However, if you only want to visit the arboretum, it might be more practical to enter at the north entrance on Rosemont Boulevard. From the main entrance, there is a tram that runs every 20 minutes that circles around the entire garden. I prefer not to take this tram, as I prefer to do as much walking as possible when I am there. This is because I know I do not get as much exercise as I should and walking is one of the few forms of exercise I enjoy. You may also see some wildlife. There is a pond with plenty of waterfowl, and I have personally seen foxes, in addition to other more common urban wildlife in various places in the arboretum.

In contrast to the natural feel of the arboretum, is the organized and carefully ordered construction of the Chinese Garden. There are many structures here, including a pavilion, a courtyard, ponds, bridges and footpaths. It was built in 1991 and designed after a style of garden that was popular in China during the Ming Dynasty. An interesting note is that all the buildings and structures were manufactured in China, taken apart and shipped to Montreal to be reassembled.

One of the must-see events at the Chinese Garden is the lantern festival that takes place every fall. Thousands of handmade paper lanterns are made every year for the festival by artisans in China and are shipped to Montreal in time for the festival. Lanterns that actually look like lanterns are strung up in massive numbers along every footpath. Larger lanterns depict people, animals and structures and are in keeping with each year’s theme. They are positioned at various places throughout the garden, with the most impressive display placed on pontoons in the main water feature. During the festival, the garden’s hours are extended until 9pm. The reason is the garden is normally not open after dark but, to get the full effect of the lanterns, it is best to see them in darkness. Actually, I prefer to go in the late afternoon and see other parts of the garden, as well as the lanterns in the Chinese garden in daylight, then go back to the Chinese Garden when it gets dark. During the festival, they sell tea and moon cakes, a pastry filled with lotus bean paste.

Another must-visit location is exhibition greenhouses. There are several greenhouses each with different collections. There are tropical plants, tropical food plants, orchids and ferns. There are also greenhouses for desert plants, which also includes an area where the garden’s various bonsai and similar dwarf plants are housed during the winter. Those plants are displayed in several of the outdoor gardens in the summer. Finally there is the Main Exhibition Greenhouse, which typically hosts temporary exhibits. For instance, the butterfly exhibition mentioned earlier is housed there. Also in October, they hold the Great Pumpkin Ball, where the greenhouse is filled with painted pumpkins, mostly submitted from local schools.

The other gardens are also very much worth visiting. My favorites include the Japanese Garden, the First Nations Garden - consisting of a hardwood and softwood forest and an arctic plants garden, the aquatic gardens featuring lotus and water lilies and other species, the rose garden, the alpine garden featuring plants from the world’s mountainous areas, the flowery brook and the lilacs. The exhibition gardens are interesting too, some of which feature food plants, medicinal plants, and even a display of toxic plants.

Obviously some of these gardens are better to visit at certain times of the year. Lilacs bloom in May, the flowery brook is best in early summer, the roses in late summer, etc. Another place to visit within the botanical garden is the Insectarium. It displays and celebrates the world of insects and other bugs. They have lots of educational stuff that really appeals to kids. Unfortunately this summer the Insectarium was closed due to strike action from city employees. This situation closed the Insectarium and the Biodome, another of my favourite places located in the Olympic Park. This job action has recently ended and the Insectarium is now open just in time for Halloween (a good time to go see creepy crawlies) and the Biodome will reopen in December, once some renovations are completed.

Friday, October 15, 2010

The Celebrity Chef Phenomenon

Although I have always loved to cook, for a long time I was convinced I never wanted to cook professionally. Similarly, the image of a chef in the general population was not the glamourous one it is now. About 30 years ago, chefs and the cooks who worked for them were very much on the margins of society. A person would find work in a kitchen if there was no other viable options in civilised society. A chef would be considered the captain of a band of pirates, nothing more.

Obviously, things have changed a great deal. One of the driving forces of this is food television, which created the persona of the Celebrity Chef. Of course there have been chefs on TV for years, going back to Julia Child. Julia, however, was more of an icon for home cooks. Her recipes were geared towards housewives, who were now able to attempt more sophisticated preparations with confidence. Many chefs also took inspiration from Julia, but her presence did not do much to glamourize cooking as a career choice. Cooking shows following Julia Child followed in a similar vein, gearing the recipes towards home cooks. At some point between then and the turn of the century, a transformation took place. There were more and more cooking shows on TV, some of them featuring chefs cooking recipes from their restaurants. This is not something that most home cooks would dare attempt. Around the same time, restaurant reviews would focus almost as much on the chef than the restaurant itself. More chefs were writing cookbooks, many of them oversized with big, glossy pictures, to showcase the intricate plating of their complicated dishes. With the writing came TV appearances, print articles and a general increase in visibility. What had happened is that the culinary arts had somehow become a glamourous occupation. Culinary schools filled with young aspiring chefs who a generation before would have considered kitchen work to be an abject embarrassment, and more schools were founded to accommodate the swelling ranks of the industry.

Is this phenomenon of celebrity chefs a good thing? Kind of a strange question, but I ask because I see both positive and negative effects of this trend. The obvious positive is that, as I love cooking, I am pleased to see more people interested in cooking and more esteem granted to cooking as a career. If I tell people I am a cook or a chef it is not a source of embarrassment. It also gives me TV programs I can enjoy, as I find a lot of what’s on TV unwatchable. On the other hand, these TV shows seem to have given a certain kind of glorified status to a chef that is not all that realistic. The celebrity chef you see on TV that owns the swanky restaurant portrays the image that he is the one cooking your filet and preparing the sauce for your special Saturday night meal. This is just not the case. If a chef has risen to the level that he has a media profile, chances are he does very little cooking any more, especially not during service. IF the chef is even on site, they will be checking the plates for quality as they go out or sitting up in an office doing things like designing menus, planning new ventures and media appearances. That is not to say that an executive chef that works in the office is not doing important work. Furthermore, many celebrity chefs have multiple locations, so chances are they are not even there on the night you are eating. Not quite the image they project in their books or TV shows.

Many cooking shows these days are going the direction of reality TV. If you are familiar with the show Top Chef, this is a very good example of this new trend. While it involves cooking, there is a lot of conflict, win-at-all-costs strategy, and “surprising” twists like Survivor, Big Brother and all those others. If you have been reading my blog for a while, you know how I feel about reality shows (if not, check out my post from July 13, The New Freakshows ). Now I do like a very few of these shows, and Top Chef is probably my favourite. However, like any successful TV concept, the one good show has spawned several bad clones. With this emphasis on conflict and entertainment, chefs are becoming like Hollywood celebrities, some enjoying the media exposure more than what should be their true passion, cooking.

Back on the positive side, chefs becoming celebrities have led to an increased demand for books written by chefs, be they cookbooks or literary works. One day I think I might like to take advantage of this and write my own book. I don’t really ever expect to be a celebrity chef or any book I write to be a best seller, but I may be able to get a small piece for myself.

So are celebrity chefs a good thing? I would say yes. In addition to increased exposure for the culinary arts, it provides talented chefs to be “promoted” to a more elevated status as celebrity and culinary ambassador, allowing others an opportunity to be a chef when they may previously been stuck as a sous-chef or line cook. Also, it allows aging chefs to remain in the industry for their entire working lives. A chef’s job is very physically demanding. You are on your feet all day and can work upwards of 12 hours a day. You work until the wee hours of the morning every night, work every weekend and almost every holiday. The physical exertion takes a toll on the body and can accelerate the normal effects of age. A 50 - plus year-old chef may have trouble keeping up with a busy restaurant service, but TV appearances and book tours allows him to keep getting paid while still being involved in the culinary field.

So despite a few annoying aspects of the trend, I am enjoying the rise of the celebrity chef, which is interesting as ordinarily I do not much care for celebrities and wish they would just go away. Celebrity chefs, on the other hand, seem to actually have a positive impact on the world of food, or at least more positive than negative. Since I care about the culinary scene being viewed in a positive context, I am all for this.


A couple additional thoughts: Tomorrow is my birthday, so I have been thinking about everything that has happened the past year. In some ways it has been very difficult but there has been one thing that was very positive was my discovery of blogging. When I first came across Amar’s World, it inspired me and showed me a new way to look at who I am. I was able to admit openly to myself that I am gay, came out to my parents, and, finally, started this blog. I am very happy to have this little space of my own in a very friendly online community. Thank you to my readers here and also those who read my comments on other sites. Thank you also to my parents, who do read this blog. I really enjoy blogging and plan to continue for a long time to come.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Timmy Abbros, P.I.E.

There is sad news in the blog world. Today I learned that Timmy Abbros, author of the blog “Timmy - Still Waiting” passed away on October 3rd. Timmy’s brother Lee posted a lovely tribute to his brother, bringing us the news. Timmy’s blog was rather different than mine, but I greatly enjoyed it because of his great humour and the blunt, raw style of his writing. While he had some serious medical conditions, he was a young man with much to look forward to and he will be missed, both in his real life and in cyberspace. Below is a reprint of a comment I made on Timmy’s site earlier today.

Lee, I would like to express my deep condolence for your loss and your family's loss. From his writing, I came to know such a fun person and I can only imagine how much greater he was in real life. It is so tragic to lose a young man with great promise so early in his life.

I have been reading Timmy's blog for less than 2 months now but, as soon as I read it, I realized how special this blog was and how special Timmy must be. Most impressive was how his humour infused everything in his life, even his medical problems, which was evident all the way to his last post. Behind the humour, I also noticed a great mind and intellect just beginning to assert itself. A blog that is humourous, engaging and well written is such a rarity and your brother's blog was one of only a handful of such gems out there. He and his writings will be greatly missed.

Lee, I wish you strength and comfort and P.I.E. Timmy.



Lee wrote in the post that Timmy didn’t like the term RIP, standing for Rest In Peace. He wrote “I remember he once said why do people say rest in peace? I don’t want to rest in peace I want to party in enjoyment. When I die I want to make Pie.”

So P.I.E., Timmy, you will be missed. And I encourage everyone to take another look at Timmy’s blog, through the link on the sidebar. I don’t know how long it will stay up, but the writing is quite enjoyable so I encourage everyone to see it while they can.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Salt Cod Cakes

This recipe takes a great deal of time and planning, but is actually not all that difficult and is really worth the effort.

1 pound salt cod
½ litre milk

Mashed Potatoes
3-4 large russet potatoes
2 tblsp butter
fresh nutmeg
black pepper

Vegetable Mix
1 large leek, cleaned and sliced
1/4 cup slab bacon, cut in lardons
1 red pepper, diced
½ head garlic, minced
1 cob sweet corn, niblets cut off
olive oil*
2 tsp smoked paprika
1 tsp harissa **
1 tsp thyme
1 small bunch chopped chives

2 eggs
panko bread crumbs

Dipping Sauce
1 cup sour cream
1 tblsp prepared horseradish

* this is a Mediterranean-inspired dish, so do use a good quality olive oil everywhere it is called for.
** harissa is a very potent chili paste originating in North Africa. It can be made yourself from red chiles, garlic and oil. I purchase mine at an Arab grocery in Jean-Talon market and it is very strong. It can also be found in jars or tubes in many supermarkets. You could substitute Asian chili-garlicpaste, but you may need to use a little bit more.

While eventually all parts of this recipe will combine into a single unit, these components are made separately, so it will be less confusing and intimidating to approach these tasks one at a time.

The first thing to mention is the amount of time this will take. Preparing everything from the start will take several days. It can be done in as little as three days, but I would recommend spreading it out over 5 days - you will get a better product and it will be less stressful. So obviously you need to plan this well in advance.

First, the cod needs to be prepared. Put the salt cod in a large pot/casserole and cover with cold water. Leave in the fridge to soak for 2-3 days, changing the water at least 4 or 5 times. It is especially important to keep changing the water early in the soaking process, to make sure the salt level of the soaking water does not get so elevated as to slow the extraction of more salt. The flavour will be a little stronger if you only soak for 2 days - it will also be saltier but should still be acceptable. I soaked the fish for 3 days, changing the water at least every 12 hours. When the soaking is finished, cook the cod. Place the cod in a large pot and cover with milk - you can dilute up to 50% with water and it will still be fine. Simmer the cod in the milk for 8-10 minutes and drain, reserving about 1 cup of the poaching liquid. Flake the cooked cod into small pieces - do so carefully because there will possibly be bones running through the fish that need to be removed. Reserve the cod.

Peel and slice the potatoes into disks about ½ inch thick. Put in a very large pot (it will seem to big for the job but you will see why) covered with water and boil until tender, about 15 minutes. Drain the potatoes and return them to the pot. Add the butter and mash, then add just enough poaching liquid to create a smooth mashed potato. Season with nutmeg and pepper. Then add the pieces of salt cod and check for seasoning. If you soaked for 3 days, you may need to add a small amount of salt. Set aside.

Vegetable Mix
Heat a frying pan with olive oil, add the lardons and cook until crispy. Add leeks and red peppers and saute until soft. Add garlic and cook for 1 more minute. Then add the corn and the spices. Cook for a minute or two longer, then add the entire contents of the pan to the cod-potato mixture. Mix well. Add about 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil, chives and check for seasoning. Chill mix in the refrigerator at least 4 hours, overnight is much better.

Set up a breading station as I mentioned for Fried Chicken. Flour in the first dish, 2 eggs beaten with a bit of milk in the second dish and panko in the third dish. Make sure you have a lot of panko. Also try to work as quickly as you can, since the more the fish cake mix warms up, the more difficult it will be to keep together. Take a tablespoon of mix and shape into a disc. Coat it in flour, dip in egg and roll in panko. THEN, put it back into the egg and coat again in panko. This double breading will make the finished product so much crispier and easier to eat. This will make a lot of fish cakes, so if you don’t want to make that much, you could just reheat the mix and eat it as is.

Put about 1/4 - ½ inch of olive oil in a frying pan. When hot start adding fish cakes. Do not overcrowd the pan. A standard home-sized frying pan will probably fit 4-5 cakes at a time. There should be enough space around each cake so that the temperature does not drop too much. Cook 2-3 minutes per side until golden brown.

While the fish cakes are cooking prepare the sauce. Mix horseradish into sour cream. Done.

When the fish cakes are done, drain them briefly on paper towels. If you are frying more than about 4 or 5 batches, you may want to hold the fish cakes in a 200 degree F oven to keep warm. Serve with dipping sauce.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

The Anne Frank Tree

Before I get on to my post, I would like to add a further comment related to my last post. This week a Rutgers university student, 18-year old Tyler Clementi, committed suicide after some twisted individuals secretly taped him having gay sex and posted the video online. This is not an isolated incident. Just this month, at least four teens have ended their lives because they were being bullied or otherwise harassed about being gay. There have been several other incidents earlier in the year. I feel a little conflicted about even mentioning this because it is well known that media reports of suicides often lead to spikes in the suicide rate. Imitative behaviour and such. In this case, however I believe it is more important to tell the story so we can get the message out that bullying hurts and sexual harassment is NEVER acceptable. Let us remember Tyler Clementi and the other young people who were driven over the edge by cruelty. And I’ll say again what I said last time. Things WILL get better so PLEASE don’t give up. If you suspect someone you know is contemplating suicide, a site that can be a help is The Trevor Project. They also have a toll-free hotline (only available in U.S.).


This week there was an important event in Jewish history that took place in Montreal. On Monday afternoon, a chestnut sapling was planted near the Jewish Community Centre and Holocaust Memorial Museum. The significance of this little sapling is that it was grown from a chestnut from the Anne Frank Tree.

For those who do not know, Anne Frank was a teenage girl (originally from Germany) who was forced into hiding from the Nazis with her family in an attic in Amsterdam, the Netherlands for two years, until they were discovered and sent to a concentration camp, where she died. Years later her father Otto, the only one of the family to survive, found her diary and published it. Since then it has become famous around the world, translated into myriad languages, and made the Holocaust very real for people who would not otherwise have had any understanding of it.

In her diary, Anne makes mention multiple times of a large chestnut tree that grew in the yard behind the workshop, above which she and her family were hiding. It was one of the few visions of the outside world to which she had access during this time. She was able to take comfort in its beauty and majesty. In the decades following the war, the tree has remained as Anne’s attic hiding place was transformed into a museum, the Anne Frank House. At over 150 years old, the tree was thought to be one of the oldest in Amsterdam. A couple years ago, it was discovered that the tree was dying, consumed by fungus and parasites. The tree was originally going to be cut down, but protests succeeded in saving the tree for the time being. A steel support structure was built to keep the tree standing. Unfortunately, last month a strong wind storm finally toppled the old tree. As it was known the tree was dying, over the past two years, many saplings have been grown from the tree’s chestnuts, to be planted in many locations around the world. Many were planted in Amsterdam and other places in Europe, and one was planted on the White House lawn in the US. This sapling recently planted in Montreal is the only one in Canada. Montreal was chosen because of the sizeable population of Holocaust survivors and of the Jewish community in general.

I have already been to visit the tree. I could not get as close as I would have liked, as the museum and the community centre in which it is housed have very limited hours this week, due to the holiday of Sukkot. Therefore I could only see the tree at a distance through a gate. I was still able to get a couple decent pictures which I am sharing with you here.


In my last post I also mentioned Canada’s charter of rights and freedoms. I have since learned that the United Kingdom yesterday enacted the Equality Act, which forbids discrimination based on age, gender, race, religion and sexual orientation, among other things. Good for them and it’s about time. Read the story at It's Getting Better.