Thursday, April 30, 2015

Dominion's "Its Mainly Because of the Meat" Cookbook - Vintage Cookbook TBT

Vintage Cookbook: Dominion's "Its Mainly Because of the Meat" Cookbook
Publication Details: Published by Dominion Stores Ltd., 1969

The Dominion chain of grocery stores was once Canada's largest and dominated the supermarket scene. It was far larger than any of its rivals, but it, for a variety of reasons, basically collapsed in the 1980's and now the only stores that still operate under the Dominion name are in Newfoundland.

One of Dominion's ubiquitous advertising slogans was "Its Mainly Because of the Meat". I remember the TV ads that ran with this slogan and a smiling butcher from when I was a kid, but the slogan ran back to before I was born. Hence 1969's "Its Mainly Because of the Meat" cookbook that was released by the chain and available at its stores.

This cookbook is really worth tracking down as a throwback to a different, and certainly not always better, era of cooking in Canada. The cookbook has a certain camp value, with some of the least appetizing  and unintentionally bad photos of  dishes to ever appear in any cookbook that I have ever seen, and some truly awful (as well as some very good) recipes. These recipes, however, act as a window to a style of cooking and retain their charm, even if one would never make them.

The worst of the book's dated moments are centred around two areas. In an attempt, presumably, to appear "sophisticated", the cookbook includes some faux "International" recipes spread throughout that are humourously inauthentic. The "Pork Chop Suey" springs to mind as does what has to be the most atrocious recipe for "enchiladas" ever put to page. One need only glance at it to know that it should not be prepared.

The cookbook's entire "Sausage" recipe section contains one recipe after another that are so bad they are almost long as one were to never actually try them! The "Mock Spaghetti" recipe (that uses hot dogs) and the "Pilaf with Franks" (a name that rather speaks for itself) are particularly heinous.

However, there are lots of really good classic recipes, dozens of them, especially when it comes to steaks, roasts and stews. The cookbook also contains very useful charts related to cuts of beef, roasting times, storage of meat, etc.

Today we are sharing two recipes exactly as they originally appeared, both of which stand up well, over forty years later.

Vegetables and Short Ribs (Serves 4)

3 to 4 pounds beef short ribs
salt and pepper
1 onion, sliced
1 cup tomato juice
8 small white onions, peeled
4 medium potatoes, halved and peeled
8 carrots, sliced
3/4 pound whole green beans

- Brown ribs slowly on all sides; pour off fat and season with salt and pepper.
- Add sliced onion and juice; cover and simmer for 2 hours or until tender.
- Add whole onions and potatoes; cover and simmer for 30 minutes, basting several times with liquid in pan
- Add carrots and beans, cover and simmer until meat and vegetables are tender

Veal Goulash Paprika (Serves 8)

2 tablespoons butter or margarine [Editor's note: Do NOT use margarine!!!]
3 cups thinly sliced onions
3 pounds shoulder of veal cut in 1 1/2 inch cubes
1 tablespoon paprika
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup hot beef broth
1 cup julienne cut green peppers
1 cup peeled, diced tomatoes
1/2 teaspoon caraway seeds
1/2 cup sour cream
cooked egg noodles

- Brown onions and meat in kettle over medium heat, stirring to brown all sides.
- Add paprika, salt and broth; cover and cook over low heat 30 minutes
- Add green peppers, tomatoes and caraway seeds; recover and cook 30 minutes longer or until tender
- Blend in sour cream. Serve with noodles

As an added is a Dominion stores radio jingle!

Alberta's CCF - A Planned Future for the Farmer, Fisherman & Worker! Leftist TBT

With the NDP in Alberta, to the surprise of basically everyone, possibly on the path to an historic victory or historic gains in the provincial election on Tuesday, today's Leftist Throwback Thursday looks at a CCF election flyer from Edmonton!

This leaflet, for a post-war federal candidate, shows the CCF's emphasis on economic planning, security and justice and reflects it strongly socialist ideology at the time.

Despite the humorous fear-mongering of some right wingers, however, sadly the Alberta NDP of today (as well, of course, as its sister parties across Canada and nationally) are nowhere near this radical -- but their election would, never-the-less, reflect a real shift in the politcal leanings and traditions of what has long been seen as a bastion of conservatism.

(Click on images to enlarge)

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Baltimore's uprising

As is always the case when the disenfranchised, marginalized and racialized rise up in anger in North America, where we like to think there is no need for such actions, Monday's uprising in Baltimore is being predictably portrayed in the terms that we have come to expect.

That the "rioters" are undermining all the "good" being supposedly done by peaceful protests and are "hurting their own cause", turning it into now somehow "mindless" violence and looting.

For example, the creator of "The Wire", (the famous show that looked at many of the issues facing Baltimore that have led it here) David Simon, has opined:

But now — in this moment — the anger and the selfishness and the brutality of those claiming the right to violence in Freddie Gray’s name needs to cease.  There was real power and potential in the peaceful protests that spoke in Mr. Gray’s name initially, and there was real unity at his homegoing today.  But this, now, in the streets, is an affront to that man’s memory and a dimunition of the absolute moral lesson that underlies his unnecessary death.
If you can’t seek redress and demand reform without a brick in your hand, you risk losing this moment for all of us in Baltimore.  Turn around.  Go home.  Please.

Yet, the fact is that given the increasing escalation of police militarization, brutality and racist violence across North America and the United Sates despite countless protests, and given that even the President acknowledged that the media outside of it ignored the peaceful protests in Baltimore, this desire to rise up does not come out of nothing.

Despite the hand-wringing and protestations of surprise and horror from those who are, actually, complicit in bogus narratives that seek to contain any and all radicalism, people do not riot, unless they are white sport's fans, for no reason.

We really should not be surprised, however. This emphasis and spin on uprisings is as long as their history.

Take this example:

Witnesses also reported gangs of youths, some on motorbikes, roaming the streets, looting supermarkets, shopping malls and shops on Saturday.

Some of the gangs also entered wealthy residential areas...and gunfire could be heard in the city centre as well as outlying districts.

Residents also said that banks were broken into and hundreds of young men carted away televisions, fans and stereo equipment...before setting the building alight.

The looting has prompted residents in some set up vigilante groups to protect private property. Outside some apartment blocks, guards armed with machine guns had taken up posts....


But it is also about Egypt during its uprising in 2011, not Baltimore.

In fact this was, of course, the narrative of the authorities in Egypt. The uprising was the actions of violent, criminal hooligans. That this narrative was not widely accepted in North America had much to do with our assumptions about the country and our willingness to see injustice abroad that we assume does not exist at home.

Why did the Egyptian revolution occur?

The widely accepted belief is that it occurred due to police brutality and corruption, extreme inequality (the western media delighted in harping on the lack of opportunity for the Egyptian middle class), and a social inability to deal with the issues facing the Egyptian poor while plumping the bank accounts of the Egyptian upper classes.

All of which is true.

But it is all true in the USA as well. In the United States this is also greatly abetted by a terrible history and legacy of extremely violent systemic racism against a large part of its own population.

Never mind the brutality of Reaganomics and the neo-Reaganomics of Clinton, but in 2008, when the upper class friends of the Democrats and Republicans needed help, coming in their Rolls-Royce absurdity to beg that the average person bail them out for the incompetent and lazy fools that they are, suddenly, as Newsweek put it, we were "all socialists now"!

What that really meant was "socialism" for the rich alone.

The "free market" only really ever applies to those living in poverty, after all.

So what about the ongoing Baltimore uprising?

Is it the  manifestation of unreasoning violence by thugs, the disgruntled, and those who simply need, as one widely shared video has implied,  "good parenting"?

That is a good part of the way much of the media is framing it. Basically as was done in  Egypt in 2011 above.

But surely, I am certain the liberal will object, Egypt has and had much greater inequality than the USA, right?

According to the CIA the levels of inequality are, actually, greater in the US.

From Ferguson to New York the countless cases of extreme racist police brutality left unpunished and with no one held to account is also entirely analogous.

When people are pushed to the point where options for political action simply do not seem to exist, and are between a far right that despises you and a liberal political class that is fully complicit in your ongoing oppression, uprisings like the one occurring in Baltimore are an inevitable result.

I think this is worth remembering when we hear white mainstream media commentators demanding not that the police promise to end their actual violence, but that community activists disavow the supposed "violence" of those in revolt as Wolf Blitzer did when interviewing Baltimore's Deray McKesson Tuesday.

McKesson threw it back in Blitzer's face, saying:

"Yeah, there should be peaceful protests,” the community organizer replied. “And I don’t have to condone it to understand it, right? The pain that people feel is real.”
“And you are making a comparison,” McKesson added. “You are suggesting this idea that broken windows are worse than broken spines, right?”
“And what we know to be true is the police are killing people everywhere. They’re killing people here. Six police officers were involved in the killing of Freddie Gray, and we’re looking for justice there. And that’s real. The violence the police have been inflicting on communities of color has been sustained and deep.”

This is why Baltimore rises.

Monday, April 27, 2015

11 More Vintage Streetscape Postcards of Toronto, Etobicoke, Hamilton & Oakville

As I noted in a previous blog post I am a big fan of both vintage postcards and streetscape photography. I am especially fond of seeing the two combined!

Here are eleven more examples of streetscape postcards of Toronto, Etobicoke, Hamilton and Oakville.

(Click on images to enlarge)

Downtown Toronto pre-Sheraton, Hilton & Eaton's Centre!

A view of the "Hotel Toronto" the Hilton


Another downtown view. From the back of the card:
"The City and central core can be seen almost growing before your eyes, as new structures constantly replace the old or fill the empty spaces. Toronto is a hive of activity and one of the fastest growing cities in North America"


Hart House

The Eaton Centre. From the back of the card:
"One of Canada's largest and most adventurous development projects is situated on 15 acres of land bounded by Yonge, Queen, Bay and Dundas streets in Toronto's downtown core. It offers excitement, variety, quality and convenience to an estimated  100,000 daily visitors"

The Roadway Inn & Seaway Hotel
From the back of the card:
"Over-looking the Toronto Parklands and Lake Ontario, about 10 minutes drive to downtown or Toronto International Airport - 300 spacious, air-conditioned rooms - colour TV - free parking - outdoor pool"

Hamilton City Hall

Downtown Hamilton at night.
Note the Woolworth's on the left!

With 16 Mile Creek, Dunn & Lakeshore Rd., Oakville Centennial Building and
Gairloch Gardens

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Fred Checkers and the state of democracy in the NDP

It has long been apparent (as I have written about at some length before) that the drift away from any meaningful internal democracy within the NDP is a very pronounced one. The party is highly centralized, member resolutions are only symbolic and are totally ignored by the leadership and its clique come election time (frankly, it is not even clear to me why they bother with resolutions at their conventions at all anymore), the party will disregard its own constitution at will and invalidate internal elections or nominations it does not like (or seemingly stack them as the ONDP seems to have in the case of the disgraceful Adam Giambrone nomination) and the NDP will sometimes prevent members from even running for a nomination in the first place!

There are a few examples of this last phenomenon, whereby the party disallows potential candidates who the powers-that-be deem will be somehow "problematic" or likely to go off-message. Stuart Parker and Paul Manly come to mind.

The latest example, and the most Orwellian I am aware of to date, involves Jacob Kearey-Moreland who was seeking the nomination in Simcoe North.

Keary-Moreland was barred, at the last minute and after weeks of campaigning, for running for the nomination not for anything he had said or done, but because of the perception on the part of some cabal within the leader's office (accountable to no one other than themselves) that he might be problematic in the future.

What were his transgressions from orthodoxy? It seems the party elite did not like the settings on his Facebook group page (as they were unable to monitor him to the extent of their liking) and:

"The party had told me they had reservations about my nomination from the get-go. Not only was my hair long and my attire unsuited, but my reputation of anti-authoritarianism gave them pause, and then more pause for concern." 
He said the party head office had concerns about whether it could trust him to stay on message and "now they believed they had uncovered evidence that I was not trustworthy."

While, of course, the Liberals and Conservatives use similar internal tactics, the NDP has always branded itself and the party membership  has believed itself to be different -- though in actuality from the expulsion of the Waffle on it has trended towards today's reality.

It is also profoundly and sadly ironic that a party with the once proud tradition of principled anti-authoritarian instincts would repudiate this so hypocritically in its own internal practices.

How did the party apparently discover that he had a "closed" member's only Facebook group?

It turns out they (in violation, I  might add, of Facebook's policies) have a federal party Facebook troll (for lack of a better word) named Fred Checkers who is the eyes of the head office's orthodoxy enforcers in that specific social media forum.

Fred Checkers, of course, is not a real person, (despite the heart-warming profile picture of Tom Mulcair getting licked in the face by a large dog that they sport) but Fred takes, apparently, great interest in what the real people who are running for or want to run for the NDP are doing.

This farcical, creepy and very juvenile surveillance tactic really can only have flowed from a mind or hive mind with a profoundly totalitarian instinct.

Sadly, it is also indicative of so much of what is wrong with mainstream bourgeois politics.  Tightly scripted, poll-driven, messaging aimed at ever smaller groups of "wedge" voters, run entirely by the leader and their staff and inner circle, largely fatuous and specious rhetoric and with ever smaller differences of any meaning between the lot of them.

These are the narrow-minded, unimaginative, pandering and intellectually empty circumstances that give rise to "Fred Checkers".

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Running for the NDP in Scarborough in 2000...and striking a pose with Howard Hampton! Leftist TBT

(Click on image to enlarge) 

This week's Leftist Throwback Thursday is, I must admit, a totally personal one!

Pictured is a (much) younger (and lighter) me with then ONDP leader Howard Hampton at an NDP campaign office during the 2000 federal election campaign.

I was running in Scarborough-Agincourt under the Alexa McDonough led party at the time, but Howard stopped by the Scarborough Centre campaign office and I happened to be there. NDP activist Maureen Telford took the photo and, as was the custom for many still at the time (in the dark ages), mailed me a copy!

I was running against the anti-choice, anti-LGBT rights Liberal MP Jim Karygiannis who, sadly, has now brought his views to Toronto City Council after winning a seat in the last council election in 2014.  (You can read about his views in a piece I wrote for rabble).

It was a Chretien Liberal sweep over Stockwell Day...and I came a distant fourth.

Still proud I ran though -- in what were darker and harder days for a more principled party.

The Meat & Potato Cuisine I Love with Steak Magnifico, Pot Roast & more! Vintage Cookbook TBT

Steak Magnifico! The name says it all!
Vintage Cookbook: The Meat & Potato Cuisine I Love, Jules J. Bond

Publication Details: Leon Amiel Publishing, 1978

This great little cookbook exemplifies a style that was common in the 1970's with its often over-the-top recipes and its photos that are so of the era -- colourful and very staged with cutlery, red wine at the ready, etc., almost as a "still life".

It has some truly excellent and timeless "meat-and-potato" recipes, like Steak Tartare, ham steak and chop recipes, pot pies and hashes and many more. If you are a fan of cooking meat, this one is worth seeking out.

Today we share four excellent recipes  (Steak Magnifico...the name really says it all!)...but stay-tuned as we will be preparing the incredible "Grilled Dill Steak" from the book in a future post! 

(Click on scans to enlarge)

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

The NDP and the strategic voting narrative

Given the nature of our electoral system in Canada the shadow of "strategic voting" hangs over many provincial elections and basically all federal contests since 1988, including the upcoming one. Voters, genuinely and rightly scared of the possibility of Harper being reelected to a second majority term, will often begin to think in terms of which party is best poised to defeat his government.

There is little doubt that in the event of a minority parliament the Liberals and the New Democrats (along, one would assume, with the Greens) would work together in a more or less formal way to prevent another Harper administration. No amount of partisan silliness from those inclined towards one-or-the-other of these parties will change the fact that Canadians know this to be true and that it factors into their political thinking.

In an piece about how Justin Trudeau might govern in a minority situation, Paul Adams outlined why, despite some assertions to the contrary, if necessary it is obvious that Trudeau would be far, far more likely to work with the NDP as opposed to with Harper:
Right now, it seems very unlikely Trudeau could win a majority — so let’s look at the two most likely Liberal minority government scenarios, each of which is likely to produce a different style of government. 
The first scenario is what would happen if the current polls were to hold through election day. The Conservatives would end up with the largest number of seats, but not enough for a majority. In this scenario, the pressure on the opposition parties — all of whom are campaigning on getting rid of Harper — to get together and dump him would be enormous. Whatever Trudeau’s pronouncements before the election on coalescing with the NDP, he would pay a huge political price if he were seen to be propping up the Harper Conservatives. 
In this case, Trudeau would have to make some sort of arrangement with the NDP to take power. And that arrangement would have a progressive cast — on taxes and pensions, perhaps. Take a look at the agreement the Liberals crafted with the NDP in their ill-fated 2008 bid to oust Harper. It was sculpted to address the economic crisis of the time, but it gives us a hint of what a future Lib-NDP pact might look like. (The 2008 bid failed, by the way, not because its progressive policies were unpopular, but because of the frail leadership of Stéphane Dion and its reliance on parliamentary support from the Bloc Québécois.) 
The other scenario sees the Liberals win more seats than the Conservatives, which would allow them to take power without an agreement with any other party. In this situation, Trudeau almost certainly would try to govern with an eye to calling another election before long and making his bid for a majority.
The same, I think it is very safe to say, is true of Tom Mulcair. It is basically impossible, despite the attempts of Liberal partisans to point, somewhat misleadingly, to the 2004 letter that Jack Layton signed with then opposition leader Harper, to see a scenario in which he would prop up a Harper government instead of seeking to work with the Liberals and Greens or, should the NDP win more seats than any other party, doing what Adams suggests Trudeau would do in that circumstance.

These political realities are why so many progressive voters intentions end up being predicated, for-better-or-worse, on the idea that they should seek to "Stop Harper" or vote with an eye to making Election Day "Harper's Last Day".

What is less clear is how and why the NDP and its partisans have allowed the strategic voting narrative to again revert to being seen, essentially, as one that somehow naturally means voting Liberal or as one that would primarily benefit the Liberals.

In the latter case, it should be perfectly clear that any sincere strategic voting campaign would benefit the NDP far more than any other party for the rather obvious reason that they hold significantly more seats in parliament than either the Liberals or Greens. 59 more seats than the Liberals in fact.

It would be simply ludicrous to call for "strategic voting" against incumbents!

Thus, a genuine strategic voting campaign of whatever type would have people voting for a New Democrat in, at a minimum, 95 seats as its starting point. Were such a campaign to succeed, in other words, the NDP would be virtually guaranteed to again win significantly more seats than either the Liberals or Greens.

In the past, the fact that Liberals had far more incumbents in parliament (whether as opposition or while in government) formed the basis of their ability to morph strategic voting and getting people to "hold their nose" and vote for the "lesser-of-evils" into de facto calls to vote Liberal. The logic of the appeal being that they were the clear alternative to the Conservatives (or, for a time, the Reform Party) not so much for ideological reasons as for the reason that they could win in far more ridings.

While no Liberal leader ever did, or would, call for actual strategic voting, (as no leader of a major political party outside of a formal electoral alliance would ever  advocate voting against some their own candidates and nor should they be expected to), they and their partisans were well aware that such calls would be primarily of benefit to them.

On its face, this should now be true for the New Democrats. Yet it is clearly not. Strategic voting still seems to be framed in our discourse as meaning, in most cases, as voting for or benefiting the Liberals.

One might expect New Democrat partisans to, while obviously not technically backing actual strategic voting, seek to make the narrative as one that made Canadians naturally think that it meant voting for the NDP as the Liberals did for themselves in the past.

For the most part, however, New Democrat partisans and commentators oppose strategic voting not with a gentle nudge-and-a-wink but with a ferocity that seems totally self-destructive.

As a personal example, when I wrote a piece recently that not so much favoured strategic voting (as I am actually completely opposed to it) but rather pointed out that it is a necessary tactic if your primary political goal is the defeat of Harper above all other considerations, it was not Liberals who were angry about it, it was overwhelmingly New Democrats.

This would be totally counter-intuitive were it not for the fact that strategic voting remains, in their view, despite the existing reality of parliament, as basically still a call to vote Liberal and as long as they continue to see it as such, and allow it to be framed in the broader consciousness as such, that is what it will be.

It is somewhat understandable why they feel this way. After the 2011 election, and with the death of Jack Layton, the polls slowly but surely shifted, despite the NDP's almost over-the-top efforts to present themselves as mature and "ready to govern", back in the Liberal's favour and their new seeming saviour of a leader, Trudeau, did all that he could to reassert the Liberal brand as the one real "alternative".

Despite the objective reality of what actual strategic voting would mean, again he has and will try to frame voting to "Stop Harper" as meaning "vote Liberal".

However, in fact, believing this to be what it means not only aids in obfuscating the actual composition of parliament but it also capitulates to this view and may actually help to facilitate a Liberal renaissance.

Old political narratives, it seems, die very hard. While New Democrats should be framing strategic voting as not something to be denounced but as in essence meaning a vote for them, it is as if a bizarre combination of truly blind partisanship and an inferiority complex is holding them back. Like they have even themselves never accepted their rise as the new political reality. As if they do not realize that "strategic voting" would mean they start at a base of 95 seats!

If the NDP themselves do not think that they are the "natural" alternative to Harper, as a low key, past Liberal style embrace of strategic voting would imply, why would anyone else?

New Democrats should seek to shift the strategic voting narrative so that it reflects the actually existing present parliamentary situation as opposed to denouncing (and thereby also alienating) its proponents as Liberal "dupes" or with some total nonsense about the Liberals and Tories being the "same" that, frankly, absolutely no one outside of the cult believes anymore.

Otherwise they are accepting the way strategic voting was framed in past elections. If they do not want outcomes like those of 1988  or 1993 they need to stop acting as if the political paradigms of those elections remain true today.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Art: 49 Camp

49 Camp - Acrylic and Mixed Media on Canvas by Natalie Lochwin
Click on image to enlarge.

(Prints of Natalie's art are available, email for details)

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Montreal Steak Spice Salmon Fillets

Today we are going to look at a really easy and really tasty way to make a salmon fillet in the oven or on the BBQ.

For this you want to get a boneless fillet with the skin still on one side.

Place the fillets on a plate and season liberally with Montreal style steak spice (you can use any steak spice of your choosing, of course, but I find that this one works best with salmon). Place a lemon slice on the thickest part of the fillet and let the seasoned fillet sit out at room temperature for 15 minutes.

We are going to cook the fillet using the "Canadian method" popularized by James Beard.

Preheat your oven to a very hot 450-500 degrees. Place the salmon skin side down on a baking tray grill or on a foil lined baking tray and put the tray on the middle oven rack.

Cook the fillet, lemon slice on top and without turning, 10 minutes for every inch of thickness at the fillet's thickest part. This method I find produces the best results and, done properly, ensures the salmon is not dry. It is really important not to overcook salmon -- although it is overcooked, sadly, all too often.

Take out and let stand 3 minutes before serving. You will usually have to separate the fillet from the skin (this is easy with a spatula).

If doing on the BBQ cook the same way but watch for flare ups (especially if charcoal BBQing...which you should be!). You will want to cook with the top on for a good portion of the cook time over very hot coals.

The steak spice encrusted salmon is simply delicious.

Serve with a nice salad or rice, some extra lemon wedges and a white wine or a hearty red wine that you would have with steak.


Saturday, April 18, 2015

A beginner's guide to charcoal grilling a steak...with Schwartz's Montreal Steak Spice & Grilled Salami

Today, as we head into BBQ season, we will be taking a look at the basic technique of charcoal BBQing actually rather easy treat for special events that many find very intimidating. We will also be looking at the very impressive results one can get by tossing salami, summer sausage, pepperoni or meats of this type on the grill.

There is always a debate between charcoal and propane or gas barbequing . Many, rather mistakenly in my opinion, see charcoal barbequing as somehow "difficult" or very time consuming, which, as we will demonstrate here, is simply not true.

Flavour wise, however, there is no real debate. Charcoal barbequed food tastes better. Period. It gets a smoky taste that is not achievable with standard propane barbequing.

For this post we are going to set up the barbeque and grill some seasoned Rib Eyes and T-Bones.

I am using a Weber standard style BBQ. Webers are great BBQs. Very well made and quite inexpensive. A basic Weber model will run $120-150 (and only the worst propane BBqs are available for so low a price) and will last for years. The one that I own, which is a more "deluxe" model, with a side table and some other "extras" is more than that, but I got mine for $50 at a yard sale. To show how long and how quality an investment a Weber is, I had my first grill for over 8 years (and I gave it away, so it may still be going strong) and this "used" one I have had for 5 years.

A Charcoal Chimney!
The most common complaint people have is that they find charcoal hard to get burning. But with a simple and very cheap ($10-20) accessory (that is actually sometimes included with a new Weber), the Charcoal Chimney, it is really easy and quick to get it started. In addition it requires absolutely no stater fluid,  thereby avoiding that awful taste that can be imparted to the food we all remember and have encountered when charcoal is over-drenched in fluid by an inexperienced BBQer.

You place the chimney in the bottom of the BBQ, removing the grill rack itself of course, pour the charcoal in the top and stuff old newspaper underneath (the sections for this are separated). You lite the newspaper on fire and the flames will get the charcoal burning. This takes at most 5-10 minutes. When the charcoal is good and red hot, you simply use the handles to turn the chimney over and dump out the charcoal. It is that simple.

Within a few minutes of emptying the chimney, you are ready to go.

For this BBQ I used "chunk" charcoal. I prefer this to briquets for doing steak, as chunk charcoal burns very hot, very fast. (As we will relate in future posts, briquets are better for BBQing for a long time, as when doing a whole chicken or roast).

When cooking steak on the BBQ, I like to wait for the charcoal to be red hot. This technique will sear in the flavour and juiciness , and gives the steak a great texture.

I seasoned the steaks with Schwartz's Montreal Steak Spice from the famous deli in Montreal. They have a whole array of seasoning blends that you can buy at the deli or order online. They are all excellent. The steak spice is a terrific blend of salty and spicy (though very mildly so). If this is unavailable Club House Montreal Steak Spice is quite good, or season simply with salt and pepper or whatever else you like.

No matter what you are seasoning the steaks with, you should let them sit at room temperature for about half-an-hour after seasoning and prior to grilling.

I cook my steaks rare, though many people prefer steaks medium rare. A steak one inch thick will require only a very short cooking period once the charcoal is red hot. Half inch grocery store cuts even less. I do about two-three minutes a side, then turn the steaks 90 degrees on the grill and do them another minute a side to create those visually appealing cross-hatch grill marks.  (This is entirely optional).

The way to tell if your steak is how you like it depends on the "give". Never cut open or puncture a steak to gauge its "doneness". This will allow the juices out, which really hurts the steak. The more give there is on the steak when gently pressed with a spatula or tongs, the rarer it is. A lot of springiness means it is rare. A little more resistance and it is medium rare. Once the springiness or give is gone or almost gone, you are heading into medium and well done territory.

If this is your thing, fine. But it really does turn a delicious steak into shoe leather.

It is always worth noting that if you really think it is underdone for your taste after all is said and done, you can always toss it back on the grill. When you have overcooked a steak, there is no way to "undo" it. So err on the side of flavour and rare!

After the steaks are done, take them off and let them sit for a minimum of two minutes on a flat platter/plate, prior to serving. This is essential to maintaining juiciness.

For an extra a steak with some grilled shrimp!

Following these easy steps, especially with a little practice, will produce excellent BBQed steak every time. For this type of grilling, with no marinade, I suggest the fattier cuts of meat, like Rib Eye or T-Bone. I find a nice marbled cut of meat, with white lines of fat throughout, produces the best BBQ results.

As a side holiday idea that is a real crowd pleasing delight (kids love it), try BBQing pepperoni or salami "logs".

For this take a large size salami, summer sausage, or pepperoni (or other large size cured meat) of your choosing (and there are, of course, some very high end ones,  though for this blog we used a medium priced spicy salami and a dirt cheap No Name pepperoni. The kids will go crazy for the No Name brand me!)

Let sit out at room temperature for about a half hour. Cut the meat in half down the middle.

Place both sides on the grill a bit off to the side so the heat of the charcoal is a bit more indirect. You do not want the meat to burn as it will if you put it right above the center of the charcoal. Grill the meat for about 8 minutes a side or until your desired texture/crunch. Remember, these meats are already cooked, so the length on the grill is about creating a flavour, not cooking!

Slice into smaller pieces and serve.

This is an easy and really delicious treat. It entirely changes the texture of the meat, giving it a "crunch" that it is very satisfying, reduces its fattiness and adds new levels of smokiness. Your guests or family will love it.

Friday, April 17, 2015

Art: I Hate My Friends

I Hate My Friends - Acrylic on Canvas by Natalie Lochwin
Click on image to enlarge.

(Prints of Natalie's art are available, email for details)

Thursday, April 16, 2015

The Strawberry Connection with Strawberry Shortcake, Strawberry Muffins & the Strawberry Fog - Vintage Cookbook TBT

Vintage Cookbook: The Strawberry Connection, Beatrice Ross Buszek
Publication Details: Nimbus Publishing, Three Editions, 1984-1988

Beautifully and charmingly illustrated throughout, The Strawberry Connection is one of the most lovely and whimsical cookbooks I own. Done in only two colours, black and, of course, strawberry red, it still is more enjoyable to look at and simply flip through than many full colour, high budget cookbooks. 

The book was part of a series she did, that included the Blueberry, Sugar Bush and Cranberry Connection cookbooks. 

Made in the 1980's it went through three printings,  making it rather successful for an independently produced book. Among the many things that make it striking and noteworthy is its typeface, which is all hand-lettered by the author herself, "at Cranberrie Cottage in Nova Scotia Canada". 

The book reflects its maritime heritage at times, and is dedicated to, among others, "Nova Scotia Strawberry Pioneers". But it also draws on strawberry lore and recipes from around the world. 

The book has everything strawberry!  Pies, desserts, muffins, jams & jellies, cakes & cookies, "potpourri", soups, salads, puddings, wines & drinks! It is also full of little snippets of, as the cover itself says, "flavour, fact and folklore". It has quotes from times and places as far afield as modern California, 17th century Russia & 15th century England.

Today we are sharing three recipes from the cookbook, all exactly as originally presented. Two are classics (how can one not share a strawberry shortcake recipe!), and one, a drink with gin, for no other reason than I like any drink with gin!

Strawberry Muffins

1 cup small strawberries
1/4 cup butter
1/3 cup sugar
2 2/3 cup flour
4 tsp. baking powder
1 cup milk
1/2 tsp. salt
1 egg, beaten

Cream butter and sugar, add well-beaten egg. Sift flour, salt and baking powder, keeping aside about 1/4 cup flour. Mix all together, adding milk slowly. Toss strawberries in 1/4 cup flour. Fold into the mixture. Bake in a hot oven about 15-20 minutes.

Strawberry Shortcake

3 cups crushed strawberries
2 cups sifted flour
1/2 tsp. salt
4 tsp. baking powder
1 T. sugar
1/3 cup shortening
3/4 cup milk
(sliced bananas)

Mix and shift dry ingredients. Knife in shortening. Add milk slowly and when dough is soft, knead it on a floured board. Cut with floured biscuit cutter. Brush tops with butter and bake at 450 degrees for about 15 minutes. 
While still hot, split biscuits and butter both sides. Fill the shortcakes with heaps of crushed berries sweetened to taste. Top with fruit and then whipped cream.
Sometimes shortcakes are served with banana too. Personally I prefer that only strawberries be used.

Strawberry Fog

1 jigger Hayman's Gin (ok...the editor admits that he added the Hayman's can use any gin!)
1/2 tsp. sugar
4 crushed strawberries
juice of 1/2 large lemon

Shake well with ice. Strain into glass. Fill up with soda water.

1946's "Canada on the Threshold of a New Era" - A Speech by Tim Buck

In 1946 Tim Buck, who we have featured before, gave a speech in Toronto that the Labour-Progressive Party, as the Communist Party was called at the time, republished as a leaflet.

The leaflet is interesting for a couple of reasons.

First, it shows how the party was tailoring its message as the Cold War began to dawn and relations between the former World War II allies began to turn dangerously confrontational. This was a time when the LPP had reached the height of its electoral success on all three levels of government, which was to ebb dramatically as it came under relentless attack over the coming years.

Second, the leaflet has some really terrific illustrations! While the illustrator is not named, you can still enjoy their propaganda work!

(Click on images to enlarge)