Sunday, December 25, 2011

on christmas morning a century ago

globe 11-12-25 on christmas morning

Dear readers: may you have better luck finding what you wanted under the Christmas tree than these people did a century ago (I already have).

Unlike Bobby, little Jamie would have been happier receiving a well-illustrated "Lives of Great Men" (or "Lives of Great Hockey Players" or "Lives of Great B-Movie Character Actors") than a pair of skates that might kill my ankles.

Source: the Globe, December 25, 1911

Saturday, December 24, 2011

holiday thoughts from the flaneur, 1911

Flaneur Logo

H.H. Wiltshire, aka The Flaneur, was one of the first columnists to appear in Toronto newspapers. According to historian Paul Rutherford in his book A Victorian Authority: the daily press in late nineteenth century Canada, Wiltshire's Saturday morning musings in the Mail and Mail and Empire "might roam over the woeful condition of France or Ireland, the arts world, Toronto civic politics, displaying a Conservative bias but not in any strident fashion." As Wiltshire's nom de plume implies, his columns read like the thoughts of a man carefully observing his surroundings as he wanders the city and wire reports. Wiltshire readily interacted with his readers, answering their general questions or debating their opinions.

Here's how Wiltshire greeted his readers during his holiday column a century ago:

To all my happy readers I wish a Happy Christmas and a good New Year. For them, "may good digestion wait on appetite and health on both," as the familiar toast has it, and may there be neither headaches nor heartaches through the holiday season. No doubt most of us would celebrate with greater zest if it were a white Christmas, and I have heard many friends bewail the fact that we are not to have real old-fashioned Christmas weather in Toronto. The sad truth seems to be that a Christmas of mud and slush is just as typical if December weather in this part of the country as one of ice and snow drifts could be. But if ever there is a time of year when the spirit should defy the weather, it ought to be forgiving others their trespasses against us, and rejoicing to think that they should forgive ours against them. As Tiny Tim said, "God bless us every one."

Before moving to other topics of the day, Wiltshire expressed his thoughts on seasonal gift-giving:

There are many of us I hope who will be able to look back to the celebration of Christmas in 1911, and in the ten years or so that preceded it, and smile to think of the foolish excesses in the matter of gift making that marred them for many people. The tyranny of the Christmas present presses heavily in this country and in the United States, and if we do not rise against it it may yet crush the sweetness out of the day for all but the ultra prosperous. We have seen how the American people revolted and established a "safe and sane" manner of observing their great national holiday, and it ought to be no harder to bring about a return to the simplicity of earlier Christmases. To my mind, the gift making should be confined to children, and those who believe in Santa Claus and his reindeers. Too often among grown up people Christmas giving degenerates into a mere exchange of cheques for equal amounts. Posterity will build monuments to the man or woman who rescues us from this monster of conventionality.

The Flaneur's opinions were originally expressed in the December 23, 1911 edition of the Mail and Empire.

Thursday, December 08, 2011

Friday, December 02, 2011

vintage national lampoon ad of the day

Vintage Ad #1,765: The Horniest Rock Group in the World

"Flee." - Dave Marsh, summarizing the discography of Chase in the 1979 edition of The Rolling Stone Record Guide

All three of  Chase's records were bestowed with the guide's lowest rating on a five star scale, which wasn't a star but a square, defined as "worthless: records that need never (or should never) have been created. Reserved for the most bathetic bathwater."

Was Chase's style of jazz-rock fusion deserving of snarky scorn? A YouTube search came up with a ltelevision performance that lives up to their horny billing.

The group's career was cut short when leader Bill Chase and three other members were killed in a plane crash in 1974.

Source: National Lampoon, May 1972 

Sunday, November 27, 2011

dining with peter lorre

Peter Lorre at dinner , between 1955 and 1964. City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1257, Series 1057, Item 3429 (Alexandra Studio).

One of the joys of digging through the treasure chest of photos uploaded by the City of Toronto Archives  is finding unusual pictures that end up distracting me from what I’m supposed to be searching for. Take the shot above, found while seeking "dinner" photos.

The scene: a nice restaurant, somewhere in Toronto during the late 1950s or early 1960s (any historic culinary experts good at identifying it?). Actor Peter Lorre is being interviewed by writer Frank Rasky. Lorre holds a sausage, which resembles the breakfast variety despite the picture being taken at dinner, in his fork. He gives it an odd glance. Is Lorre:
  • Pondering his next answer?
  • Discovering there's something wrong with the sausage?
  • Illustrating a point to amuse the interviewer? 
  • Demonstrating a dining technique director Fritz Lang left on the cutting room floor after shooting M?
  • Simply preparing his next bite?

Sunday, November 20, 2011

notes from the santa claus parade (1918 edition)

Vintage Ad #1,753: Oh Joy! Santa Claus Comes to Toyland

While there will be a lot of happy faces at today's Santa Claus Parade today in Toronto, I suspect they may not match the joy expressed along the procession route in 1918. That year's parade rounded out a week that began with the signing of the armistice that ended World War I. Despite the other celebrations and parades that week, Torontonians weren't too pooped to watch Santa make his journey through the city. And a journey it was: back then, the route began at Yonge and Eglinton and made its way south until it reached Eaton's Toyland at the corner of Albert and James (an intersection that survived the construction of the Eaton Centre).

Monday, October 31, 2011

countdown to halloween: the peanuts book of pumpkin carols (5)

Shivery Yells

A ghost costume seems odd for Snoopy - were his World War I flying ace goggles being repaired? Also don't recall "gooey stuff in our hair" being a part of Halloween ritual, unless (a) it refers to coloured hairspray being applied too liberally, (b) liquid latex or face putty application went wrong, or (c) it was habit for kids to stick their chewed-up Chiclets or Double Bubble in a friend's hair.

Happy Halloween

A little Peanuts happy dance is a fine way to welcome Halloween. Fingers crossed rain stays away for trick-o-treaters or anyone planning to hit Toronto's Halloween hotspots tonight. One piece of advice: Church Street is fantastic for observing the creativity people put into their costumes (like last year's Lego people and Barbie in a box) in a party-like atmosphere, but is not recommended for the claustrophobic once half the city descends upon the closed-off stretch.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

countdown to halloween: the peanuts book of pumpkin carols (4)

O Pumpkin Cards

Have you sent the Great Pumpkin a card (or ecard) yet? Time's a-wastin'! Get to it! Now! No delay!

I'm Dreaming of the Great Pumpkin

Judging from the glint in his eyes, it looks like Snoopy knows what Linus is getting from the Great Pumpkin this year, doesn't it? It probably won't be Bing Crosby warbling this ode to the monarch of the pumpkin patch.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

countdown to halloween: the peanuts book of pumpkin carols (3)

Pumpkin Wonderland

While out in the pumpkin patch, you can play fun games involving a dash of romance with other vegetables growing nearby. Take this suggestion from the "Hallow-e'en" chapter of Mary E. Blain's 1909 guide to merriment, Games For All Occasions:

All are blindfolded and go out singly or hand-in-hand to garden. Groping about they pull up first stalk of kale or head of cabbage. If stalk comes up easily the sweetheart will be easy to win; if the reverse, hard to win. The shape of the stump will hint at figure of prospective wife or husband. Its length will suggest age. If much soil clings to it, life-partner will be rich; if not, poor. Finally, the stump is carried home and hung over door, first person outside of family who passed under it will bear a name whose initial is same as that of sweetheart.

The Halloween Song

Even with the change of season, it's not the same without the chestnuts roasting on an open fire. I'd suggest roasting pumpkin seeds, but the wrath of the Great Pumpkin might fall on me. Maybe this carol should have been sent back to its original writer, Mel Torme, for revisions.

Also of note: Charlie Brown is depicted in a clown costume, not a hole-riddled sheet. While he hoped this would lead to fewer rocks in his sack while trick-or-treating, the good ol' Charlie Brown luck reared its head again.

To be continued...

Friday, October 21, 2011

countdown to halloween: the peanuts book of pumpkin carols (2)

Up in the Pumpkin Patch

Several days before Halloween, Snoopy and Woodstock tested the lone tree in the pumpkin patch to see if it would support them in case they dressed up like bats or vampires. The odds of those costumes being their final choice was low: every year, the World War I flying ace was on the prowl for root beer and the dastardly Red Baron.

Great Pumpkin is Comin' to Town

The Great Pumpkin that Linus carved wasn't as comfy as Snoopy's doghouse, but it was good enough for a quick nap. As he drifted off, the beagle wondered who would warble this carol better: Fred Astaire or Frank Sinatra?

To be continued...

Thursday, October 20, 2011

countdown to halloween: the peanuts book of pumpkin carols (1)

The Peanuts Book of Pumpkin Carols - 

While recently cleaning around my desk, I found a booklet that fits the season: a collection of Halloween carols courtesy of the Peanuts gang. Published by Hallmark, possibly in the late 1960s, it provides a perfect accompaniment to your annual viewing of It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown. While the booklet may not make you sing "It's a Long Way to Tipperary" like the special does... offers a pumpkin-laced spin on a variety of Christmas carols and songs. The fear of diehard believers in the Great Pumpkin like Linus that Halloween was becoming a "forgotten holiday" proved groundless, though the universe still doesn't resound with pumpkin carols.

The Twelve Days of Halloween

Based on the picture, it's day 12 of Sally showering her "sweet babboo" with holiday gifts. It's possible that these aren't really bats, but members of Woodstock's Beagle Scout troop costumed by Ms. Brown. Out of all of the carols in the booklet, this one is the most likely candidate for an elementary school teacher stumbling upon it and deciding it would be an adorable choice for the class Halloween skit.

To be continued...

Thursday, October 13, 2011

spicy pickle chips

Hipster Chips

Take one purveyor of tasty hipster pickles. Combine with a venerable Detroit snack food manufacturer. Use one of Motown's finest food destinations as a backdrop for testing the new concoction.

Result: splitting a bag of McClure's Spicy Pickle chips with your partner-in-crime on a warm Canadian Thanksgiving weekend morning while walking by rows of beautiful potted plants.

Photo taken October 8, 2011

UPDATE OCT 15/11: You can purchase both flavours at Scheffler's Deli at St. Lawrence Market ($1.59/bag). We tried the Garlic Pickle flavour and while tasty, they lacked the zestyness of the Spicy Pickle chips. Worth a try once you've finished going through all the cheese and meat samples.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

renowned editors of canadian newspapers: john ross robertson

John Ross Robertson

Philanthropist. Amateur sport advocate. Municipal political kingmaker. Populist conservative publisher. Collector. Historian. Imperialist. Just a few of the terms that could be applied to the many passions of John Ross Robertson. Nearly a century after his death, legacies such as the Hospital for Sick Children and the public utilities he campaigned for continue to affect the lives of Torontonians.

The profile touches upon Robertson's contributions to the preservation of  Toronto's past. The collection of pictures he donated to the Toronto Public Library remains a key part of the Baldwin Room Canadian Historical Picture Collection. He also published six volumes of Robertson's Landmarks of Toronto, which collected historical sketches originally published in the Telegram. A sample of the introduction to the first volume, published in 1894:

One hundred years ago Chippewas in their wigwams were the only inhabitants to welcome the first white man, who with axe in hand hewed from forest trees a primitive log cabin on a half acre, now covered by palatial marts of business, valued in the millions. The rise, the progress, the development and material advancement of such a place should interest all who claim Toronto as a residence, whether as sturdy pioneers from the motherland, or as native-born descendants of those whose strong arms turned the forest trees into homes, or, like the Egyptians of old, fashioned the clay into the conventional red brick which to-day stands as a memorial of the early days of the closing century. The effort of the publisher in this volume is to give a readable and reliable history of the old houses and historic spots in the former town of York, with a glimpse at many of the familiar forms and faces of those who have aided in upbuilding Toronto.
Though dotted with errors, the series provides an interesting look at Toronto's development from John Graves Simcoe to the eve of World War I. Robertson edited a number of other historical works, including the diary of Simcoe's wife Elizabeth.

Monday, September 12, 2011

vintage toronto sun letter of the day

anti-monty python letter

Monty Python's Flying Circus has offended plenty of people over the years. Sometimes, as in this letter, one's outrage at the show could easily be a sketch from the show. All that's missing from this letter is a "Dear Sir" salutation rendered in pompous tones.

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

foods men like (5)

Back for a final go-round after a summer hiatus...

Foods Men Like Pages 24-25

For a page featuring two recipes beginning with the letter S and a baseball player adorned in S emblems, you'd think the illustrator would have included foods that started with S. Unless the that apple in his glove is a spartan, or the cupcake/muffin on the table is strawberry-chocolate flavoured, there is a distinct lack of S-foods. There is the possibility the connection lies in a theme of sweetly-flavoured items men can enjoy. "Sweet" begins with "S"!

Thursday, August 25, 2011

renowned editors of canadian newspapers: george mccullagh

George McCullagh

Discovered deep in the stacks of the University of Guelph's library: a pamphlet published by the Thomson newspaper chain circa 1959 spotlighting major editors of the past.

This particular profile glosses over the darker edges of George McCullagh's life: depression, an early battle with the bottle, the political naivete demonstrated in his radio broadcasts, the misadventure of the Leadership League, a thirst for power, and the exact nature of his death (heart attack or suicide?). Whatever your verdict of him is, McCullagh packed an awful lot into 47 years before flaming out.

LINK: An old Historicist piece surveying McCullagh's life.

Friday, August 19, 2011

renowned editors of canadian daily newspapers: george brown

George Brown

Discovered deep in the stacks of the University of Guelph's library: a pamphlet published by the Thomson newspaper chain circa 1959 spotlighting major editors of the past.

1959 was a key year for scholars of George Brown, as the first half of J.M.S. Careless's biography Brown of the Globe was published (volume two followed four years later). During the 1960s the founding publisher of the Globe was honoured with a postage stamp to celebrate the 150th anniversary of his birth and a new college that still bears his name.

LINK: An old Historicist piece about the circumstances of Brown's demise.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

renowned editors of canadian daily newspapers: j.e. atkinson

J.E. Atkinson

Discovered deep in the stacks of the University of Guelph's library: a pamphlet published by the Thomson newspaper chain circa 1959 spotlighting major editors of the past. The selection of honorees covers Canada from coast to coast throughout the 19th and first half of the 20th centuries, from the pre-Confederation career of Joseph Howe to several figures who died during the early 1950s. This series of Toronto-related excerpts begins with a profile of Joseph "Holy Joe" Atkinson, the crusading editor who shaped the Star.

Friday, July 29, 2011

a modest proposal for fixing toronto's finances

From the nearly 24 hours of deputations in front of Toronto City Council's Executive Committee at City Hall (which ended shortly before this post was written), one of the first clips to receive media play was a satirical jab by North York taxpayer Mary Hynes at how far some people could implement suggestions from KPMG in the Core Service Review.

We first heard her speech last night on As It Happens while driving little Haruki across the city to weekend kitty daycare. There was a momentary risk of driving off the elevated section of the Gardiner Expressway while we laughed. It is reassuring to see that the antics of the Mayor and his allies are starting to rouse Torontonians out of their stupor and prove we're not just the anonymous "taxpayers" he claims to respect.

Priceless bit: note stony expression on Mayor Ford's face when Councillor Adam Vaughan asks Ms. Hynes if she is Margaret Atwood. - JB

Monday, July 18, 2011

jos. a. bank clothiers proudly presents the herb tarlek collection

The Herb Tarlek Collection at Jos. A. Bank

This window was an attention-grabber - several fellow bypassers marvelled in disbelief at the fashions on display. As I placed my camera back in its case, a couple stopped for a second, exchanged stares, then uttered in unison "Herb Tarlek!"

Photo taken along Boylston Street in Boston on June 11, 2011 - JB

Friday, July 15, 2011

does toronto's mayor know about this?

Does Rob Ford Know About This?

Toronto Mayor Rob Ford has made battling graffiti/graffiti-style art one of his priorities during his reign of uncompetence. This week, Mr. Ford suggested that the good citizens of our city should call 911 if they spot anyone "causing graffiti" (which led to the #new911calls hashtag on Twitter). Though the message above was photographed before Mr. Ford urged Torontonians to tie up emergency phone lines, the words seem like even more of a dare.

Can Mr. Ford and his cadre on City Council up the ante by sending Councillor Giorgio Mammoliti out with a camera to document taggers in action? Set aside funds once allocated to useless things like child care and trees to create a crack anti-graffiti black ops squad?

Keep trying Rob. Keep trying.

Photo taken June 30, 2011 - JB

Monday, July 11, 2011

road safety in detroit, 1929

Detroit Sign Gives Grim Warning

Any Detroit historians know where, despite the fuzzy background of the picture, this grim sign was placed to keep "autoists" safe and sound?

Source: The Evening Telegram, February 26, 1929. - JB

Friday, July 08, 2011

postcard from france, 1975

Found Postcard - Front

One of the joys of buying used books is finding mementos left by previous owners. A greeting from the author. A note hoping the recipient enjoys the gift they received. Recipes for upside-down cake. Business cards for neo-Nazi organizations. A bookmark from a long-gone bookstore. Photographs from over a century ago.

And postcards such as one found in copy of Spadina: A Story of Old Toronto, a study of the residents and neighbours of the various homes that lent their name to one of downtown's main arteries. A postcard of a French chateau sent to friends or family who resided near the home profiled in the book.

The writer had a wonderful time in France visiting old acquaintances and soaking up the local lifestyle...

Found Postcard - Back

"I think Canada is an idea in the mind of God" - now there's a quotable line.

We also learned that 35 years after the postcard was written, the ink smudged as if it was laid down 35 seconds ago. - JB

Tuesday, July 05, 2011

you gotta have art

This is a friendly public service announcement to those in the world who find any kind of art, fine or not, unworthy of public support. Perhaps the cold-hearted, controversy-seeking executives of Sun Media (whose coverage of a play about a terrorism suspect assisted the federal government's last-minute decision to pull funding for Summerworks and whose TV channel went off the deep end its in attack on arts funding) had parents who determined that "you gotta have art" was a dangerous message to impart onto their budding shapers of public opinion.

Based on the song "Heart" from the musical Damn Yankees, the "You Gotta Have Art" campaign was a Detroit television staple in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Marvelling at the Diego Rivera frescos on your way into the Detroit Institute of Arts might make you dance too.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

amherstburg needs flour and peas!

ugc 1797-05-17 peas wanted in amherstburg

Another odd item about my hometown discovered while researching an unrelated topic...

Source: Upper Canada Gazette, May 17, 1797 - JB

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

foods men like (4)

pages 18-19

New England Clam Chowder: once upon a time I liked ready-to-serve canned versions whose texture was similar to wallpaper paste. Along with my taste for most tinned soups, this liking went by the wayside (Manhattan-style seems better suited for long-term preservation in the cupboard). Condensed versions were usually suspect thanks to the transparent gelatinous blobs that never mixed well with milk. These days I make my own with a little help from Better than Bouillon's clam base.

Noodles Romanoff: synonymous with Noodle Roni in my mind. Fancy mac n' cheese-ish side dish. Haven't eaten Noodle Roni or its relatives Lipton Noodles & Sauce/Knorr Sidekicks in years - either my tastebuds changed, the recipes changed, or my organs finally recognized there was nothing remotely natural in these products.

Onion Rings: for sheer size, unless a restaurant is gunning for a spot in the Guinness book, no onion rings will ever top those Dad and I shared at the Holiday Inn French Quarter in Perrysburg, Ohio thirty years ago. We're not talking slightly thicker than usual - these rings were at least 2" high, which created a challenge for little me to slide them into my mouth. Either the largest onions that arrived in that week's shipment were used for our meal, or the restaurant was involved in secret government development of mutant vegetables.

pages 20-21

Me football player. Me like giant chunk of pork. Me eat with big fork. Me like even if pork chunk not recipes beside it, or me am eating giant pork hock.

pages 22-23

Foodies take note: May 20 is National Quiche Lorraine Day. You can decide if quiche a dish for a real man, or if a hearty reuben sandwich is a more masculine meal.

Apart from the shape and using fresh potatoes instead of McCain's, there's nothing "raw" about the raw fries. Seems the author was trying to raise the ruggedness quotient after the quiche recipe.

To be continued... - JB

Friday, April 29, 2011

there is the swong, how about the swing?

BBC election coverage, 1970

Monty Python skit, 1970

Given some of the swings predicted for Monday night's election, shouldn't one of the broadcasters following the results resurrect BBC's swingometer?

Friday, April 15, 2011

impressions of st. lawrence market, 1942

Impressions of St. Lawrence Market

Illustrated by Betty Maw. Originally appeared in the April 1942 issue of The Canadian Forum. - JB

Monday, April 04, 2011

dad's sporting life

Recreational Hockey, 1960s style

Back in the mid-1960s, Dad played hockey in a recreational league in Leaside. He seemed to have enjoyed it, though I did wonder why I had never seen him strap on a pair of skates. He occasionally talked about the experience, including stories of other players who'd had a cup of coffee in the NHL. But one story stuck out. The way I remember him telling me the tale, someone in the league got their hands on a pair of skates Detroit Red Wings star Alex Delvecchio left behind at Maple Leaf Gardens. The future Hall-of-Famer's skates were passed around either Dad's team or the league and whoever was able to fit into them gave them a go.

True? Hard to say. Dad was full of tall tales that proved to have a grain of truth in them. Or my memory is fractured for having paid half-attention to them rather than etching them in full detail on my brain.

Trophy Winner

Not sure what the trophy that Dad is holding in this picture from early 1963 was awarded for. It might related to his lifeguard duties at the Leaside Memorial Gardens...

Award of Merit

...while this certificate definitely is. Luckily he never had to use his training on Amy and I during the many hours all of us spent in the water.

Dad, Granddad and a Car
Dad and Granddad posing by a car, summer 1961.


Ten years. Gone by so fast. - JB

Monday, March 28, 2011

take a real good look in the mirror of your mind

wt 69-01-03 mirror of your mind

"Mirror of Your Mind" appears to have been a syndicated piece of filler that tackled the tough social (and social perception) issues of the day.

Source: Weston Times, January 3, 1969 - JB

Friday, March 25, 2011

food this man likes (or a simple soup for an average workday)

Lemony Red Lentil Soup with Cilantro

When you have nine-to-five schedules, making a tasty, healthy homemade dinner can feel like the worst chore in the world, especially if it's been a rocky day at the office or a busy night looms ahead. The eating out option is fine occasionally, but your waistline and wallet will complain if you do it too often. You want something speedy yet nourishing.

That's when cookbooks like Mark Bittman's Kitchen Express have come to our rescue. After successfully testing a few recipes while we borrowed it from the library, we knew we had to have our own copy...which would up under the Christmas tree. Organized by season (a structure we've ignored), the cover promises that any of the four hundred plus recipes inside take twenty minutes or less to whip up. Of the dishes we have tried, Bittman's Lemony Red Lentil Soup with Cilantro has made the most return appearances on our table.

Cook a chopped onion in olive oil in a saucepan until soft; add one cup of red lentils and four cups chicken broth and bring to a boil; continue simmering until the lentils are soft. Puree a handful of cilantro with a few tablespoons of olive oil and a pinch of salt; set aside. If you like, puree half the lentils until almost smooth; return them to the pan. Add about two tablespoons of lemon juice or more to taste. Stir in the cilantro puree, adjust the seasonings, and serve with crusty bread or a mound of rice in the center.

The beauty of Bittman's book is that because many of the measurements in the recipes are imprecise, there's plenty of leeway to adjust each ingredient to match your taste and encourage experimentation. As far as this recipe goes, our main adjustments are:

  • Drop the extra olive oil added with the cilantro
  • Add the cilantro at the end of the cooking process and puree it within the soup with a hand blender instead of doing so on its own - JB

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

foods men like (3)

pages 12-13

Note that the meal pictured, a footlong sub loaded with lettuce, tomato and cheese, is not accompanied by a recipes on these pages. Perhaps a hearty sub was considered a manlier dish in 1970 than a cold vegetable soup favoured by the likes of Lisa Simpson?

Also impressive: that the sub does not appear to have been crushed while stuffed in the businessman's suitcase. Maybe subs were all he carried in that particular suitcase (the papers on the side were coupons for his favourite sub shops)...which reminds me of a story I read the other night. During the first decades of the 20th Century, the president of the Cincinnati Reds baseball team was a colourful local politician named August "Garry" Herrmann. According to Donald Dewey and Nicholas Acocella's book The Ball Clubs:

Even for a business renowned for its outsized personages, the new Cincinnati boss seemed like a character out of Dick Tracy. Called a "walking delicatessen" by some, he seldom ventured anywhere without an ample supply of sausages that he would munch on whenever the opportunity presented itself. One more than one occasion, he bolted from a public function because of some mixup that had left sausages unavailable.

If Herrmann was around today, I imagine his primary sausage supplier would flaunt their association with him, or a reporter would accompany him during one of his emergency runs for meat links.

Gazpacho? A cooling, tasty treat, especially in the summer.

Hash browns, home fries, rosti, whatever you want to call them - unless you burn them or toss the wrong seasoning in, it's hard to screw up a comforting side of fried potatoes. My preference is either thinly shredded and cake-like or lightly pan-fried with herbs.

pages 14-15

While the illustrator takes a break, consider these recipes. The one dish I might frown at is the jelly omelet, unless a savoury preserve like red pepper jelly was used.

pages 16-17

Two ends of the culinary cost spectrum: the stereotypical businessman's feast/fancy night out meal and a comfort food whose prepacked form offers cheap eats. The professor chooses neither and goes for a smiling fish (which, we can assure, is not tainted with Joker toxin).

One of the rare times I've eaten a steak and lobster combo happened at La Castile in Mississauga. Back in the days when vendors of my former employer could indulge their clients with a holiday treat, one of our printers sprung for a Christmas season meal. With price as no object, I went to town. After a large appetizer of Oysters Rockefeller, the steak and lobster was placed in front of me. My eyes bulged as I determined that excess was the restaurant's forte - the lobster must have been several pounds, and the steak wasn't a puny cut.

Somehow I downed the entire meal, with a suspicion that never again would I wolf down such a hefty crustacean unless a financial windfall came my way. I needed all the energy from the meal to battle a snowstorm that hit during our meal...slowly but safely I drove some co-workers back along Dundas to drop them off downtown.

Kraft Dinner was often the lunch waiting for me when I came home from morning Kindergarten. Sometimes sliced hot dogs were added. Ketchup was never part of the equation. As time rolled on, I discovered that Kraft was my least favourite brand of mac n' cheese due to its inability to stay creamy for very long. Catelli, one-shot brands with cartoon characters or cavemen...any other brand that had a stronger, cheesier, saltier taste and the ability to stay creamy was tops in my books. Then came President's Choice Deluxe White Cheddar Macaroni and Cheese and, except for the occasional box of Spirals, Kraft was permanently left in the dust. By university, it was an occasional treat - never did succumb to the KD diet that the two guys in the above video enjoy.

These days, it's handy to keep at least one box around the house for emergency situations or for comfort food while sick (when it acts like chicken soup).

To be continued... - JB

words of advice to pedestrians on a busy sunday afternoon in kensington market

Try Less

Photo taken on Augusta Avenue, March 20, 2011. - JB

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

there's no point in taking these signs down now

Leftover Signs...Or Gearing Up for the Next Election?

Found on King-Vaughan Road a week ago, these signs would have been leftover from the Vaughan federal by-election back in November. Given the reaction of the opposition parties to today's federal budget, this supporter of the current Minister of State for Seniors may as well leave them up. Though not officially declared, it's all-but-certain now that Canada is heading into a full federal election campaign by the end of this week.

Picture taken March 14, 2011 - JB

Monday, March 14, 2011

foods men like (2)

pages 06-07

No illustrations to accompany today's first batch of recipes.

Though stroganoff has many elements I like in a dish (saucy beef, mushrooms, a bed of egg noodles), it's never been a dish that's tempted me to order it in a restaurant or make it on my own. Possible reasons:

1) One of my favourite dishes as a kind was Mom's sauerbraten (aka "steak and noodles"), which is a distant cousin. Main differences: instead of mushrooms and sour cream, brown sugar and worcestershire sauce were key ingredients.

2) Any Noodle Roni/Lipton Noodles & Sauce sidedish marketed as stroganoff tended to be crappy (Romanoff noodles on the other hand...).

3) Seeing students down mass quantities of stroganoff at Creelman Hall during my university daze.

Blue cheese dressing? Back in the early 1980s, Malibu's Le Grand Cochon restaurant served up a tasty, extra-creamy version...and plenty of it!

Sample some chocolate cake prepared by the chefs of Crowded House.

pages 08-09

Nine out of ten doctors agree: digestion of fried chicken will be aided if the whole bird is surrounded by a ring of cherry tomatoes or red jujubes as it is being carved (the tenth suffered an acid reflux just by thinking about the potentially clogged arteries resulting from this dish).

The non-illustrated chili sounds like a classic rendition of the comfort dish. This recipe isn't far removed from what Mom used to serve my family in the winter, accompanied by mounds of hot buttered toast. Forty years on, you might add some cilantro or spice it up with a dash of chipotle powder, ground ancho or other dried chilies. If you want to eliminate meat altogether, we've had great luck with a hearty sweet potato and black bean chili from Eating Well magazine.

pages 10-11

All of these dishes sound tempting: date bars are another dessert Mom makes that warm my tummy, eggs benny are a brunch staple, and it's rare that I will turn my nose at a fish dish. Betty is on to something.

If you like eggs Benedict, feast your eyes on the version served up at Reservoir in Montreal, which is sided with the thickest, meatiest hunk of bacon I have ever been served.

To be continued...

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

foods men like (1)

front cover

One of the highlights of going to the Elora Festival's book sale every spring is surfing through the tables of formerly-loved (or never-used-despite-all-good-intentions) cookbooks. For as little as a quarter, dedicated browsers will find flip past every Better Homes & Gardens cooking guide ever published to find recipe books ranging from local women's institutes to collections of Len Deighton's swingin' Sixties cookstrips.

It was at one Elora sale that I discovered Betty Crocker's vision of the diet a North American male should enjoy, complete with the cutesy illustration style beloved of book designers and board game makers circa 1970.

inside front

It's interesting to contrast the cartoony style used by artist Murray Tinkelman in this book and the work he has done for clients like the New York Times.

We'll keep the table of contents under wraps, so that every dish comes as a surprise (this series needs an element of suspense to keep readers coming back for more...). If you're ready, let's dive into the secrets of male eating known only to Ms. Crocker.

The recipes start with a scene inspired by the recent mission to the moon:

pages 04-05

In space, no one can hear you eat pie.

In space, no one, other than mission control, can hear you complain when you discover that the chef back in Houston decided to pay you back for playfully tossing them into the low-gravity simulated and made you blueberry pie—deep dish style and apple cobbler. When you return to Earth, you'll fix his wagon but good...if the hallucinations of rainbows trailing shooting stars ever wear off.

To be continued...