a picture speaks 1000 words…

… but of course I have a few more to add.

Looks like the Toronto Police Services have been privatised recently…

"Mr. Police Officer, does this mean my Air Miles card is acceptable ID?"

Spotted at the corner of King and Peter this morning. This morning, there are more cops than real people down here.

&#$*@#&$^*@#$*&@#^

As you can gather, I must be really peeved in order to be jolted out of my blog apathy!

Roll on, G-20…right out of town, preferably.

Disgruntledly yours,

Brouhaha

election day!

For some reason, as the 15th election day in the last two years (just kidding – but it feels as though we’re going to vote once a month up here) dawned, I started getting anxiety attacks about ignoring my Super 10 stash.

Don’t let the cheery colours fool you – the yarn itself looks very forlorn.

All my fault, I know – especially since I haven’t had it living in the best of conditions:

Too busy to knit?!?  you frown, questioning my sanity.  In fact, I haven’t even been out shopping for yarn in the past… um… since the early summer!

To be fair to myself, I’ve been busy with a number of things, including trying to start up an award-winning foodie company.

Actually, I’m just kidding about that.  But don’t you love this lovely flavoured olive oil I made this weekend while at my mother’s?  She gave me some fresh rosemary, and I just couldn’t resist:

It tastes as good as it looks, too – I couldn’t wait the two or three weeks for it to infuse, so I did a quickie hot infusion instead.

I’ve also been clearing out the deep freezer and the (rather appalling) vegetable (hah!) crisper by making chicken/pork/chorizo stock:

… and even more stock – duck this time.  Fancy sounding, I know – but the duck, an impulse buy while doing some “shopping while hungry” at Loblaws (an ill-advised move):

And, of course, some more infused oil – using dried mint, which had, until recently, been growing until recently in my mother’s garden:

But the fear dread abject stupidity inevitability of another Conservative government…

(led by our Fearmongeringless Dictator Prime Minister, pictured here with yet another of his hapless – and choiceless – victims – and since when do you read to cats anyway?!?!?!)

…has caused me to break out into a perpetual cold sweat.  Which, in turn, has caused me to start knitting again!

For now, no lacy fripperies for me, though.  My goal is to get through all of the Super 10 stash pictured at the top of this post by 28 November, our moving date – making log-cabin blankies.

(Originally, I had thought about trying my hand at a fabulous mitered-square blanket, as inspired by Amy’s fantastic work-in-progress.  But hell.  I’m just too lazy.)

Think I’ll manage?

At the very least, it will give me something simple to do during the five or so hours tonight while we’re crying in our beers hurling the vegetables which were too rotten to put into the stockpot at the television watching the election returns.

Now, off to exercise my patriotic duty at the polls (and, in case you’re wondering why I’m posting at 1 in the afternoon, I always feel that election day is worth a day off and a few pints – in memory of the days when they still closed the bars on Election Day, if for no other reason.)

Happy Tuesday!

an open letter to Maple Leaf Foods and Michael McCain

For those of you who do not live near me and have not been subjected to seeing the man’s face on your television screens about 25 times a night or reading his open letters in all the newspapers, Michael McCain (no relation to the guy south of the border who is running for president, as far as I know) is the President and CEO of Maple Leaf Foods.  As such, he is currently busy dodging flak dealing with the fact that several people have died eating meat from the Maple Leaf factory which had been tainted with listeriosis.

Dear Maple Leaf:

I do hope the families who have lost people find your recent messaging about the bacteria crisis which arose at your plant 97B comforting. For my part, I find Mr. McCain’s “heartfelt” expressions of sympathy combined with legal @$$-covering to be disingeneous and… well, rather annoying. A prime example of this new “we’re a corporation but we still care about YOU” trend.

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Given all of the talk in the media that it’s going to cost Maple Leaf at least $20million in reimbursements for product recall and God knows what else hush money for relatives of those who died eating some precooked pot roast other expenses related to this crisis, I was flabbergasted to see on CTV News last evening that experts predict there will be no long-lasting damage to you at Maple Leaf – partly, apparently, because of your crisis-management skills.

Colour me stupid, but I really don’t begin to understand how the world of high finance works. However, I do understand that most Canadians will not be buying anything made by Maple Leaf any time soon because of fears (whether justified or not) of contamination – and so it didn’t make sense to me that Maple Leaf would not take a hit.

Until, that is, I had a look at your website (http://www.mapleleaf.ca/Aboutus/default.aspx) and learned that you have some other holdings.   And – lo and behold! – one of those holdings is J.M. Schneider’s Foods!

If I sound catty, it’s because I detest all those Schneider’s Ads featuring an actor playing long-dead Old Man Schneider yakking on about how really Schneider’s is just like a family business, bla bla bla. However, I had also assumed that Schneider’s was actually your biggest competitor – given that they seem to sell the identical line of meats, bacon, frozen foods, etc. to you guys.  (Oh – and it was also interesting to learn that you own Dempster’s breads – so you’ve really got the baloney sandwich market covered here in Canada, eh?)

But instead, I guess that many of those people who want cold cuts but do not want to buy from Maple Leaf any more will end up changing to Schneider’s instead – especially in smaller centres where they lack the choice of goods that I enjoy here in Toronto.

So – and again, I’m rather daft about things financial – it seems to me that you might well end up with more money in your collective pockets as a result of this food scare at Maple Leaf.  But then again, I’m no economist. 

I am, however, someone with a relatively high bullshit meter.   So, phrases like the following, which I read in Mr. McCain’s open letter to the world his customers this morning, make me see red:

This is the toughest situation we’ve faced in 100 years as a company.  We know this has shaken your confidence in us.  I commit to you that our actions are guided by putting your interests first.

As long as “your interests” involve tossing out everything in the deep freeze from Maple Leaf and replacing it with Schneider’s, I guess, eh?

Well, my interest now officially include never buying anything produced by your various outfits again, quite frankly – not because of the bacteria but because I find your approach to the situation rather cynical and calculated.  This might mean I never get to eat cold cuts or bacon again, given that you seem to control the supply. Given my addiction to fondness for bacon in large quantities, this will be not be easy. But I will survive, I’m sure.

And, I would suggest that you, Mr. McCain, amend your little “open letter” to make the link between you and Schneiders a tad more clear. Something like “Our biggest competitor, whom we own, will be happy to take care of your ongoing food needs” would suffice.

Yours very truly,

Kristina M. Brouhaha

Ted

A WEE DISCLAIMER: although those of you who read this blog regularly have gathered (I hope!) that I don’t really talk about intensely personal stuff here. However, in the past couple of weeks I’ve been quite occupied with settling the affairs of my father, who is currently in acute care a couple of hours north of here suffering from Alzheimer’s. So I hope you’ll bear with me for a bit of a personal story – it will be long and photo intensive, and I hope it’s not too maudlin.

I was too young at the time to remember the day that this photograph of me and my father was taken. However, the other day when cleaning out my father’s apartment in Kingston, I came across a bunch of stuff that helped me remember his story.

My father’s name is Theodosios B. Brousalis. In English, they call him “Ted”. I’ve never quite been sure why, except that in the days he came to Canada it was not a good idea to have an ethnic first name.

He arrived in Halifax, Nova Scotia in 1960 from Greece on a boat called the Queen Frederica:

His passage cost $285.30 US and the boat took 14 or 15 days to arrive here. He had no real plan about what to do when he got to Canada. By that point, he had served in the Air Force in Greece and then worked as a cigarette delivery person for some years. He hadn’t done very well in school, probably because he was a smartass who didn’t take direction well. The Air Force experience didn’t really change this, either.

So, he decided to leave Greece. His original plan was to join his mother’s father in Alton, Illinois to get work there. (Ted had never actually met his grandfather, who had left the village when Ted’s mother, Kristina – yes, I’m named after her – was still in the womb. The grandfather came back once more to Greece, impregnated the grandmother once more and then went back to Alton, Illinois, never to return to Greece).

However, in order to get to the US, it was easiest to come to Canada first and apply from here at that point. So Ted came here on a landed immigrant permit having promised to marry someone here – this was something that had been set up as a sham for him to get here in the first place.

However, once Ted got here, he decided he liked Canada. I’m not sure why as he had a bunch of crap jobs in his first few years here. He ended up in Montreal working in a nylon factory for 50 cents an hour – the factory was hot and the workers had to buy water from the boss to keep going.

He then ended up in Kingston, Ontario – where I grew up – when he was offered a job with some friends from his hometown. He had to teach himself English and in this regard went to night school while working six or seven days a week as a dishwasher.

From there, he ended up in the restaurant and bar industry. At the time he came to Kingston, there was no liquor service in Ontario. The photo above with the snappy red jacket is the first photo taken of anyone in the place he worked serving liquor when they made that legal. He was always very proud of that (people who wanted to serve liquor had to take a two week course) and still had the snazzy red jacket hung up in his apartment.

After that, he bought his first business with a partner. It was a burger and snack shop .

Ted introduced the souvlaki to Kingston. At the time, Kingston was a very “English” town. Ted said this to me in 1986 when I interviewed him about his life for a high school project:

I think this… this mixture of multi-nationalities has created some culture in Canada, which no other… not too many other countries have. If is wasn’t for this mixture…well, the first I came here in Kingston, in the restaurants, you could only eat… hot beef, one type of steak, club sandwich, liver… it was limited, the menus in the restaurant… and all these people they came from overseas, and they just brought some of the ideas here which they adapted and started working, and that’s why you have such veriety here… I don’t think you can go too many places in the whole world where you can find this… like, you go to Greece and that’s all you find, some Greek food… everything, and you go to China, you find Chinese food… here, name it, you… whatever type of food you want, you can eat, specially in the big centres…

When I was growing up, Ted was a very hard worker. I didn’t see all that much of him, and usually he was either asleep…

… or handing out rules. Some of the Greek father rules and superstitions can be quite strange, as you will know if you have ever watched “My Big Fat Greek Wedding”. Ted could have played the lead role in that movie quite easily. Ted also had weird beliefs, such as that white vinegar on french fries would give you leukemia.

But I digress. Ted ended up having some other restaurants which were successful for quite a long time.

He and his business partner then ended up falling on hard times due to the recession and other problems, and lost everything.

However, Ted ended up working as an upholsterer and refinisher after that:

He was still working until a couple of years ago, at which point his health started to go downhill.

This is the most recent photograph that I have of Ted, taken in December of 2007:

There will probably be no more photos taken of Ted – at least not by me. At present, he is not looking all that well and his brain is about 20 years in the past, the best we can tell. Before he went to hospital he was not eating or cooking for himself and lost a lot of weight. This makes me quite sad as one of the good things I remember about him while he was living alone is that he loved to cook big meals for people.

AN ASIDE: Like me, Ted liked to experiment with cooking techniques. These either worked out brilliantly or not at all. I remember one Christmas some years back when he had me and my brother over and had decided it would be a good idea to try to cook a 15 pound turkey in a paper bag. This theory originated from a cooking method called “kleftiko” that some Greeks use for lamb chops. It originates from when some Greeks a long time ago were hiding either from the Turks or some other invaders in the hills and buried meat in the ground in paper over coals and cooked it that way to avoid detection. It works very well with lamb chops, but not at all well with turkey. The bag caught fire after two hours in the oven. I forget what we ended up eating, but it wasn’t turkey!

Because I won’t be taking any more photos of Ted, I will leave you with the best photo I ever took of him:

This photo was taken in 1996 in the apartment I lived in during law school. Ted was just leaving on his way back to Kingston from Toronto and had asked for some coffee. I had no coffee mugs in the place and gave him the coffee in the beer stein you see him holding. So, I got a little speech about my hostessing abilities. However, he then asked me to take the photo of him with the coffee in the beer stein and told me he was pretending that I’d actually served him Guinness before letting him make the three hour drive back to Kingston. He then said:

I would have thought that if you only have beer mugs that you would actually have some beer to give an old man before sending him back on a long trip. But no. I guess you drank all your beer even though you knew your baba was coming to visit. Next time, have some beer here for me, plis. And – (raising the coffee/beer mug) yassou! (cheers in Greek).

Yassou, Ted. And I hope that wherever you are living right now in your mind, you’re happy.

when did they change the rules of the road, anyway?!?

During my wee hiatus from the blog last week in which I had to deal with some family issues going on well north of the city, I was forced to drive more in one weekend than in the 15 years preceding it.

Perhaps I’m just naive, but what is happening on the roadways these days made me feel somewhat like this:


Now, given that I don’t drive all that frequently (perhaps once every two months!) and that until four years ago I had not driven at all since I moved to Toronto, I started to think that perhaps the rules of the road have changed since I took my driver’s test some four score and seven 20 plus years ago.

So, I decided to check out this handy Ministry of Transport reference guide which I read back in 1986 and then threw out:

However, I must say that the MTO guide did not really describe what I’ve seen happening on the roads of late.  So, I’ve begun to think that there must be another Driver’s Handbook out there – probably titled “Wankers of the World Unite” or something along those lines!

Anyway, the apparent new Rules of the Road raise some questions for stupid little me:

  • why do the car makers continue to put turn signals in cars if no one actually has to use them?!

This one I actually find very confusing because they actually have these digital signs on the 401 now which flash such useful information as “Don’t drink and drive”, “Follow Ye Not Too Closely” and… my favourite … “Use appropriate signals when changing lanes”.  I actually drove right underneath the latter sign about 30 seconds before being cut off by a bastard driver who – of course – had not used the signals.  To cut him some slack, though, JJ told me that I had missed the part on that sign which read “…except for the guy in the white hatchback”. 

  • when did they start letting you make a left hand turn from the right hand lane on a red light?

 

  • are there unwritten rules as to which people/vehicles those signs which say “Turn ye not left here between 9:00 a.m. and 6:00 p.m.” do not apply to?  If so, where do I register?

 

  • where the posted speed limit is 100 km/h and I’m in the slow lane on the 400 highway and doing 120 just to keep up with the Joneses, why do the people behind me think that I should actually be doing 150 km/h and honk at me and give me the finger then zoom past?
  • is it actually now legal to drive while doing your makeup, consulting your GPS system and talking on your handheld mobile phone?
  • is there some new rule that says you have to let in those people who speed to the front of the merging lane when the traffic is backed up and then try to butt in?

And, one last but very important question indeed:

  • when in God’s name are ye gonnae learrrrn how to parallel park, lassie?!?!? 

 

 

Vote Brouhaha 2008!

Well, I’ve been trying for a couple of years now to become rich and famous. However, the knitting blog/foodie/rant thing is not leading to the big cash grab that I had hoped.

So, I’m going to take another tack. I’ve decided to run for President of the United States.

That’s right.

“President Brouhaha” has a nice ring to it, no? (I actually prefer “The Right Honourable Brouhaha” but I figure the perqs and benefits are better with the top gig south of the border).

And I think JJ would make a stunning First Man, don’t you?

Besides, if Paris Hilton can do it… so can I!!!

I mean, what does SHE…

…have that I don’t have to electrify an entire nation?

Yeah yeah yeah… huge breasts, blonde hair, and billions of dollars. Not to mention a folding lawn lounger. I know, I know. But surely that kind of thing is passe, no?!?

And besides, anyone can become a blonde:

Hey, do you think Paris was born with that colour of hair? Come on. If you’re that gullible, can I count on your vote in November? Because I’m, like, you know, ready to lead too, eh?!

Oh, that reminds me. Oops. I forgot that I’m not an American citizen -so I guess I can’t run for prez after all.

So much for that bright idea. I guess it’s back to the day job now.

Happy Thursday!

an apology from our Prime Minister

Hello all: I should note that the subject line is rather misleading as this post will actually not contain any direct wording from our greatly esteemed PM, the Right Honourable Stephen Harper.

Mr. Harper is the guy on the right, in case you had a problem figuring it out.

WARNING/ATTENTION/ACHTUNG: this post will contain a political rant which might offend some Canajan readers, and which will probably make no sense to readers from other countries.  You may, accordingly, wish to skip to the (blurry) photos at the end.  Consider yourselves warned.

Mr. Harper has, however, spent lots of time in recent months apologising to all and sundry for stuff which happened away back before he was born.  Most recently (and in fact, he managed to pull off this one on a long weekend when people aren’t typically paying all that much attention), he apologised for an incident that took place in 1914 – 376 Sikh and other people from the Indian south continent came into Vancouver on a boat and were not let in to Canada.  Many were murdered upon their return to Calcutta, after spending two months on a dock in the Vancouver harbour.

Now, it’s not for me to say that the Canadian government shouldn’t apologise for that, really.  But, in fact, the community he tried to apologise to has rejected the apology, saying it should come from the House of Commons rather than from Mr. King Stephen Harper trying to gain favour in their community when he shows up for a festival.

And, frankly, I don’t know if these apologies matter whether they come from the legislature or not.  However, it seems that he should have figured this out by now because he’s already issued apologies to the First Nations (without offering up any cash to back it up.

He’s also apologised to the Chinese-Canadian community for a head tax imposed on newcomers between 1885 and 1923 – and offered compensation to those who actually paid the tax, or their children.  Now, correct me if I’m wrong, but wouldn’t most people that got penalised under this old system be dead now?  And I’ve had at least one client who tried to negotiate the compensation scheme and was told “without original documents, you get nothing.

Now, I think that Mr. Harper is actually quite shrewd (or rather, that his advisors are geniuses) by hitting on a great way to deflect from what’s going on now – just apologise for what has happened in the past.  I mean, we are a nation of people who are socialised to say “sorry” if someone else bumps into you on the street.  And – they say “sorry” too and everyone moves on.

So, the apology as a political concept makes a lot of sense… and hey, the guy is apologising for stuff which happened well before he was even born!  How Canadian… and how dishonest.

Why dishonest?  Because this party is doing a whole hell of a lot of stuff right now that someone fifty years down the road will no doubt be apologising for.  Stuff such as decimating our health care system, reducing public pension entitlements for those who have paid in for 40 years or more, and so forth.

But hey, someone’s sorry – so that must count.  But you don’t see him shedding any tears either:

So, Mr. Harper, thank you for apologising, and I’m sorry too.  In fact, I’m sorry that you’re not offering some of my homemade preserves to those who have been wronged in years past, such as my tomato jam:

… or my jalapeno/green bell pepper jelly:

So, Mr. Harper, should you read this, have my people call my people and we’ll set up a proper “apology basket” for you to give to everyone who has been historically wronged.  JJ is, after all, retired, and has lots of time to can produce.

Happy Tuesday!