child labour

October 22, 2010

I think child labour is harmless within certain limits. Before Craig Kielburger comes knocking, there is precedent for children working without harm (and for much benefit). Ontario’s summer holidays for schools was structured around the summer farm work season. The children were then free to assist their families in the fieldwork and harvest.

In many countries around the world, progressive schools institute a holiday for harvest times of coffee, cacao or other crops. They understand that the children will miss school anyway since it is the only way that families can survive. And even during the school year, the children are expected to help out. It is only a newer idea that it is a bad thing for children to work.

Work is a great teacher for children; it teaches responsibility, appreciation for leisure, and helps them understand what will be expected of them in life. The problem is when work shadows other activities – especially playing and school. The issue is sometimes of need (poorer families need their children to work) and sometimes of greed (exploitation of children as was very recently documented in the diamond mines of Zimbabwe). It’s all about finding a healthy balance with the need and condemning the greed.

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the ritual of dinner

October 10, 2010

I’m reading “The Ritual of Dinner” by Margaret Visser that I just got from some friends. It is about the customs of eating together and how they came to be. How could you not love a book that starts with …

“Violence, after all, is necessary if any organism is to ingest another. Animals are murdered to produce meat; vegetables are torn up, peeled, and chopped; most of what we eat is treated with fire; and chewing is designed remorselessly to finish what killing and cooking began. People naturally prefer that none of this should happen to them. Behind every rule of table etiquette lurks the determination of each person present to be a diner, not a dish. It is one of the chief roles of etiquette to keep the lid on the violence which the meal being eaten presupposes.”

I’m looking forward to the rest!

coffee anyone?

August 31, 2010

A great idea for anyone who loves coffee. The Indie Coffee Passport – allows the bearer to try great coffee at 24 independent coffee shops in Toronto including Manic, I Deal and Crema. $20 for 24 coffees? Sign me up!

alegno nose

August 5, 2010

I really miss the previous owner of Alegno. I think her name is Samantha but I can’t remember; she left to open a Yoga studio about 8 years ago. She was kind, charming, funny, and always made everyone feel special – a stark contrast to the current tyrant that owns the place. I have been going to Alegno for about 12 years and keep going now because their pizza is pretty good; I wish I could say the same for the customer service or the current owner’s general demeanour. Samantha sold the restaurant to one of her wait staff (who we disliked all the way back then), and things have gotten progressively worse.

The current owner is often rude but we overlook it because the location is convenient and the food is pretty good (cooked daily by the original Indian chef for at least the last 12 years). Last night was a perfect example for really bad customer service. I, fortunately or unfortunately, have been born with a very acute sense of smell. If something has something I dislike in it or smells off, I can normally smell it a mile away. So when our pizza arrived at the table, I immediately smelled the unmistakable Read the rest of this entry »

soul sistas

May 23, 2010

A nice place to have food that is good for you but tastes great – Soul Sistas in Huntsville. Sweet Lorraine, the cook and server brought me a bowl of organic brown rice with grilled vegetables, hemp seeds, sunflower seeds and Braggs seasoning – an non-fermented, non-heated alternative to soy sauce. Nice when you need a break from the usual restaurant grease.

I also tried the spinach crust pie which is actually a quiche with pressed spinach leaves formed into a crust – a tasty and innovative way to go gluten-free. One word of caution, stay away from the coffee – actually all the coffee I tasted up here is pretty terrible and stale. When Tim’s competes for best coffee, you know something is wrong. Overall, we need more places like Soul Sistas – tasty food that’s good for you and doesn’t leave you feeling bloated.

caprese deconstructed

May 23, 2010

Up North this weekend and had a craving for tomatoes, baguette and olive oil (maybe a little bocconcini to round out a Caprese salad which happens to be one of my very favourite foods). WTF is happening to our supermarkets? Monobrands? Monocultures? I knew it was bad but this seemed worse.

If you need good baguette then Ace is available up here because all other baguettes tend to suck as you leave the GTA. I wish it wasn’t true. Nothing would make me happier than to support a small local bakery, but it ain’t happening anytime soon it seems. We brought good olive oil with us so that was covered.

We forgot salt and had to buy some. We had to read every freakin’ label to make sure it was just plain old sea salt. Why is it so difficult to find sea salt without all the additives to make it free-flow? So we had to settle on the one brand of fleur-de-sel which ended up costing double or triple of what sea salt normally costs.

Bocconcini was only available in factory sealed tubs by Tre-Stella, Read the rest of this entry »

blue blood sucking

May 17, 2010

I just watched a documentary on the relationship between a shorebird and a crab-like creature – the red knot and the horseshoe crab. The birds depend on the excess horseshoe crab eggs as fuel for their multi-day migration from the southern hemisphere to the arctic where they mate.

The horseshoe crab has a very interesting history – it is a very old creature and scientists, ecologists and medical researchers are very interested in it for various reasons. In particular, its miracle blue blood is of great interest to medical researchers and led to a disturbing scene (to me) in the documentary of a row of horseshoe crabs being bled. I couldn’t help thinking of the ethics behind this practice even though the blue blood is life-saving for humans. In fact, this catch-bleed-return policy is not without trouble; there is a 10% to 15% mortality rate.

The medical research and blood extraction is not the horseshoe crab’s worst problem. It was (and still is) over-harvested for use as bait for eel and conch traps. Millions of horseshoe crabs were harvested (easily since they crawl to the beach to lay their eggs) until the effects were seen on the red knot population that depends on them for food. Currently there is a moratorium in some states and the outlook seems promising, but the timing is critical – will the horseshoe crabs rebound before red knots go extinct?