Saturday, October 29, 2005

A Blow against the Tyranny of Cinnamon

Don't get me wrong: I actually love cinnamon and so did my sainted mother, gone on these 16 years passed. I remember the buttery toast scored with a cinnamon sugar mix allotted to us on the rare occasions when our good behaviour coincided with her having the inclination allow a breakfast chock full of unhealthful sweets. Years later, during my "curry phase" - a time when, influenced by a good friend's infatuation with a girl from what used to be called Bombay - I was spending untold hours mixing spices and fussing over the likes of machcher jhoi or tangy vindaloos. And cinnamon was almost always there, sweet even subtle handmaiden lending its unique mouth to my creations.

BUT - my Mama never would let the cinnamon bottle even step down from the cupboard when she composed her magnificient Northern Spy Pies, the gustatory pinnacle of my first 4 decades. Her lovely face would scrinch in disgust not only at the very thought of contaminating the tart with cinnamon but, more so, at the unfathomable ubiquity of this barbaric practice of adulteration.

And the abomination continues. Not long ago I was in a truly magnificent little restaurant here in Prince George (yes, Vancouver, there is good food beyond Hope!), Cimo's where they served up a dessert themed on apple pie that would have been magnifico without the seemingly mandatory conspicuousness of that tropical bark.

Actually, to be uncharacteristically fair and honest, I need admit that the dessert was still magnifico even with, perhaps because of the damn cinnamon. But my concern and point stands that as soon as any prospective betrothal of apples and pastry is contemplated, even the best of pastry chefs reach for the cinnamon like a mindless automatons. I wish that some of the better ones, whose handiwork otherwise brims with originality would try just once to be cinnamon-free.

And, lo, my wish has been granted. yesterday on British Columbia's CBC show, All Points West, gourmajournalist Don Genova and the host waxed on about a serendipitous creation, Tarte Tatin Benoit, kind of an upside down apple pie baked in a skillet. I damn near ate the radio! This morning I hustled on down the information highway to the good Don's website and found the recipe which to my consummate delight, is "sans canelle". Merci to Benoit (who, it turns out, was not our Canadien icon, Madame Jehane Benoit but rather an epicurean maestro. name of Benoit Guichard of Jamin in Paris's 16th arrondissement). Like his forefathers who stormed the Bastille, Guichard has struck a telling blow to the a great tyranny that cinnamon has exercised over apple desserts. Vive la liberte!

Thursday, October 27, 2005

And Then There Were None

It took the BC Government several weeks - or one could fairly argue, several years - to begin their glacial and grudging movement on the accumulated grievances professional teachers have regarding working conditions that have worsened famously since the tragic election of May 2001. But if anyone dares call Minister Bond or Gord-O himself slow off the mark when it comes to really important educational issues, hold your fire!

Late last week, the B.C. "First Nations Summit" leader Ed John began issuing letters of outrage when it was brought to his attention that a grade 9 assignment had made reference to the old ditty"Ten Little Indians". It came to light that for reasons that are indeed puzzling this rather silly little rhyme was still embedded in the official curriculum of BC schools.

Well, not for long, for apparently when Eddie John and the Summit — an organization which contrary to popular belief does not speak for all First nations or Aboriginal people in BC — tells the Liberals to jump, their principal response is "how high?" Today (Thursday), less than a week after the grievance first saw light, the Education Minister has hit the delete button for the poem in the curriculum and begged for a summit with the Summit to discuss curricular design and, no doubt, cultural sensitivity.

One does wonder, of course, how this trivial verse had apparently survived generations of change and evolution in the curriculum, given that the literary merit therein is well below borderline. One also has to wonder — because the media have not been able or bothered to go to the source and speak to the teacher — about the context of this material's use. One can imagine (but that is all one can do) that just maybe there was some worthwhile pedagogic goal in exposing students to such material. Certainly there must be rather limited applications for a nursery rhyme in a grade 9 level assignment.

Now, be clear: this Grouse has no big or little qualms with flushing "Ten Little Indians" from the toilet of BC education. But as has been so often the case since 2001, concerns about public process do spring to mind. Will there be other demands generated by the cultural competence experts - or claque - for deletions from curriculum that do matter more and, if so, will there be opportunity, in the form of time and access, for others than the BC Summit to name and frame what is and is not racially degrading?

Saturday, October 22, 2005

BC Teachers Strike - An Unmediated Unsettlement by Mr. Ever-Ready

For a couple of weeks now, the teachers in British Columbia have been on strike. Or, should I follow the lead of the CBC, itself until quite recently shutdown by a labour dispute, and invariably add the adjective "illegal" before the word, "strike"? It is quite remarkable how consistently the national broadcaster does this, as if listeners might otherwise confuse the illegal strike with some other action afoot within the province's school system.

Last Wednesday, no doubt following a script which the Campbell government's handlers had composed well before passing their vindictive and pre-emptive legislation, the inevitable call went out to messianic mediator Vince Ever-Ready. At last, the BC Teachers Union leaders sighed unconvincingly, their concerns would be taken seriously; Mr. Ever-Ready now the harbinger of a veritable spring-like thaw in this gloomy autumnal disruption.

Ha! Even the most gullible - and no one has ever ascribed that quality to the sagacious Ms. Sims -- could surely not have believed that an ostensible neutral called in by one of the sides in the dispute without palpable consultation with the other side, and on the payroll of that more powerful side, and with a history and, no doubt, future of continuing to be on the payroll of that more powerful side, would do anything much different than his paymaster's bidding.

Solemnly Ever-Ready declared an unbreakable impasse very few hours of taking on the well-paid assignment of...breaking the obvious impasse. This set the stage, following the script, for a non-binding set of recommendations which gave the BCTU essentially nothing indeed had its membership bankroll the changes they had been demanding by virtue of their foregone pay. The gloating premier and his myrmidons quickly accepted Ever-Ready's (read, their own) recommendations as did the BCTU which by this time,. could not even expect a graceful retreat route.

Two weeks then, for what? Pals of the Liberal Party like Coalition of BC Business Chair, Kevin Evans spouted away about how the teachers failure to obey the Supreme Court was an assault on the rule of law. But our system, such as it is, received more telling blows through this sordid mismatch than that - we saw a premier, a chap not famous for his lawfulness any way - flout the greater system of the public trust by essentially forcing the BCTU into a, yes CBC illegal strike and then a mediator orchestrated in to make a quick unconvincing show-process of seeking consensus before playing Father Knows Best.

The Return of the Grouse

For several years between 1999 and 2002, the good, quiet and polite readers of the Coast Mountain News, the veritable New York Times of the B.C. Central Coast, suffered through the tedious rants of the Grouse's Perch, a bi-weekly column that ranged and raged all over the political spectrum in sincerest primary intent of causing chagrin. When few bit, the Grouse harrumphed and flew northeast to the grimy airs of B.C.s self-appointed Northern Capital, Prince George. Now, courtesy of Blogger, I have returned in hopes of venting my avian spleen on subjects near and far. I think I shall begin with... The BC Teachers' Strike