Friday, February 28, 2014

Dining with Oscar

With Academy Awards time here, it occurs to us that no one has produced a menu for Oscar-watching--certainly a case of serious neglect in the food pages of the daily papers. So, we have taken it as our duty to provide an Oscar Night Menu.

For the cocktail hour: Dean Martinis, Cary Grant Scotch on the Roxy, Harvey Weinstein Wallbangers, and, of course, lots of Goldwasser; plus, for the abstemious, Katy Perrier

Appetizers: Sushi Maclaine, Leonardo DiCapocollo, and Brad Pitt-ed Olives

Salad: Sydney Mixed Greens-treet and Marisa Tomeitoes with Ralph Fiennes Herbs or Martin Balsamic Vinaigrette

Main Course: The obvious choice--Veal Oscar. This combination of veal, asparagus, lobster or crab, and bearnaise sauce was created, it is said, for King Oscar II of Sweden. King Oscar's personal fadeout came in 1907, twenty years before the first Oscars were presented (Best Picture: "Wings." No, not "Chicken Wings.") Even so, Veal Oscar seems correct. (Although some aging Hollywood cowboys are holding out for Stagecoach Stew and Quick Draw Beer.)

Option: Ingmar and Ingrid Bergman Smorgasbord

Wines: Brigitte Bordeaux and Ron Burgundy

Desserts: Kardashian Cheesecake -- Box Office Bombe

Coffee: Al Cappuccino

Bon appetit!

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Back to Crimea

Current news from Ukraine has brought Crimea back into the news for the first time since the mid-nineteenth century. The Crimean War, remembered now from Tennyson's "Charge of the Light Brigade," was fought between 1853 and 1856. The combatants were Russia on one side and an alliance of Britain, France, the Ottoman Empire and Sardinia on the other. Russia lost.

It was in the Crimean War that Florence Nightingale distinguished herself as the epitome of nursing--the classic "Lady with the Lamp." And, it was the Crimean War that gave names to three articles of clothing: the balaclava, the cardigan sweater, and raglan sleeves.

Raglan sleeves (in which the sleeves flow in an unbroken line to the collar) are named for Lord Raglan, Fitzroy Somerset, who wore a coat in this style. Raglan was overall commander of British forces at Crimea.

The balaclava, which has become an essential garment for winter adventurers and terrorists, was worn by soldiers in the bitter Crimean winters. It takes its name from Balaclava, where the Light Brigade charged.

And the cardigan, favorite garment of Perry Como, Mr. Rogers, and grandfathers everywhere, is named for James Brudenell, Earl of Cardigan, who, with other British officers, wore such a sweater--but not when he led the ill-fated charge of the Light Brigade in the Battle of Balaclava, as directed by Lord Raglan.

Fashion news from the front.

Friday, February 21, 2014

CBC Sports Non-coverage

Those who listened to the radio broadcast of the Canada-US women's hockey game for an Olympics gold medal saw the winning goal every bit as clearly as those who were watching the game on television.

In the final three minutes and twenty-six seconds of one of the most dramatic games in memory, CBC TV elected to cut to a studio announcer saying are we ever excited, someone outside a government building in Washington, DC, a guy reading tweets from listeners saying are we ever excited, a commercial, and a promotion announcement.  When the studio announcer came back after the promo, she said, "Well, that's it. Canada scored. Game over. Our team won."

If CBC continues this kind of non-coverage, we can foresee TV-casts of other major events:

"They're just about to award the Oscar for Best Picture. Excitement is running high! We'll be back right after this commercial for Zippo Hair Remover."

"The Archbishop of Canterbury is about to place the crown on the new monarch's head. It's an awesome historic moment. But first, this promotion announcement for Dragons' Den."

"The white smoke is arising from the Vatican chimney, and we should know momentarily who will reign as the next Pope. Our hearts are full. Let's go to Jimmy for some comments on Twitter."

There was some concern when Rogers outbid CBC for NHL broadcast rights. It turns out that may have been a good thing.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

The Three Amigos

The meeting in Mexico between the leaders of that nation, Canada and the United States has been dubbed a gathering of "The Three Amigos," recalling the 1986 film starring another Steve--Martin--Chevy Chase and Martin Short.

But we think a better analogy is to Disney's "The Three Caballeros," which came out in 1944. In this mix of cartoon and live action, Donald Duck heads (or waddles) south and meets Jose Carioca, a cigar-puffing parrot from Brazil, and Panchito Pistolas, a pistol-packing Mexican rooster.

They end up dancing the samba, and meet someone very like Carmen Miranda. We hope the same comes true for Senors Harper, Obama and Pena Nieto.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

The Great Valentine's Day Mystery

As Valentine's Day, 2014 approaches, Justice Minister Peter MacKay announced that a team of RCMP special investigators is close to solving one of the nation's longest and most troubling mysteries. "I can assure you," said Minister MacKay, "that before the day is over, we will know who the who is in 'Guess Who'.

"For decades," Canada's top law enforcement official continued, "people have been plagued by receiving cards signed 'Guess Who.' And, I might add, some of these cards have contained hurtful messages."

"Indeed that's so," said Prime Minister Stephen Harper. "I am still wounded by a Guess Who card I received in Grade Three. I do not look like Humpty Dumpty."

"Be warned, Mr. or Ms. Who," declared MacKay, "we are on to you."

As the news conference came to a close, the Justice Minister was handed a box of chocolate-coated anchovies. The accompanying card was signed "Guess Who."

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

A Dangerous Occupation

Today--February 12--is the birthdate of Abraham Lincoln. Lincoln, perhaps the greatest of United States presidents, was also the first to be assassinated. He would be followed by James A. Garfield, William McKinley, and, most familiar to our time, John F. Kennedy.

But there were attempted assassinations of many more--thirteen, by count, including very near misses of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Harry Truman and Ronald Reagan.

Today's "Writer's Almanac," a laudable production of American Public Media, told the story of Lincoln's train ride to Washington for his inauguration. An assassination attempt was feared, and Allan Pinkerton--who later formed the famous Pinkerton's Detetctive Agency, for which Dashiell Hammett worked--rode the train with him.

This story was turned into an excellent, if little known, 1951 film called "The Tall Target." In it, Dick Powell plays the detective guarding Lincoln. But in the film, he is not called Allan Pinkerton. By a strange forecasting, he is called...John Kennedy.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Rob Ford, the Musical

Bob Sledd, our roving sports reporter, has been slow to check in from Sochi. When making his travel arrangements, Bob mistakenly thought Sochi was in Northern Alberta. Then, after arriving in the Russian resort, he was trapped in an elevator for two days, surviving only on a protein bar and the ink in his ballpoint pen.

However, Bob is now on the job, and he reports (we are not making this up) that a Russian ski coach declared that "women do not have the right bodies for ski jumping. Their bodies are made for having babies and doing housework." Bob says, "Good luck to this guy in ever getting another date--except possibly for a one-way trip in a luge."

Meanwhile, on the home scene, it is reported that movie makers have obtained rights to "Crazy Town," the Rob Ford story. Watch for this to be followed by "Rob Ford, the Musical," "Rob Ford, the Video Game," and "Rob Ford, the Wind-up Toy"--wind it up and it swears at you in a Jamaican accent.

And federal finance minister Jim Flaherty has brought forth his government's 2014 budget. Special offer: for fifty bucks, Jim will come to your house and balance your budget. Call 1-800-BudgeGuy.

Monday, February 3, 2014

The Feared Month of February

Feared by radio announcers, that is. When confronted by "February" in a script, announcers look as helpless as Peyton Manning watching the ball sailing over his shoulder. When they are forced to speak it, "February" comes out as "Fooburry," "Feboobery," "Febrewery," or some other mangled version of the month's name.

"Who gave us this wretched name for the month?" they cry. And the answer is: Ancient Romans. This was the month for our toga-clad ancestors to observe a period of purification. They called it "Februo," which translates as "I purify by sacrifice."

Other people in other places at other times have called it something else. To the Anglo-Saxons it was "Sprout-kale," as this was when kale and cabbage began to appear. And in wet weather, the month was known as "Fill-dyke." "We like those names," announcers say. "We can pronounce sprout-kale and fill-dyke."

But February endures, and cello-voiced announcers for whom "Puspokladany" and "Xenocrates" roll smoothly off the tongue even after a three-martini lunch, are done in by the four syllables beginning with F.

But hold on! Only twenty-five more days until March!

Saturday, February 1, 2014

First the kickoff, then the cookoff

Whenever an important football game is on the calendar, newspaper writers start bringing out game day recipes. These are often daunting for the average football fan. A typical recipe might begin "Take one large ox and dice into bite-size pieces." Reading such instructions, average f.f. says, "The heck with it. I'll go for the traditional--beef jerky and a six-pack."

We were surprised that not more viewers went with Denny Boyd's Grey Cup Special--Pot Roast in Coffee--so for Super Bowl Sunday, we have turned to James Barber's 1994 collection, "Peasant's Choice." This is Barber's Six-Pak Stu (that's how he spells it) and he promises a good time palate-wise even if your team doesn't triumph.

Ingredients: 1 pound stewing beef, cubed; 2 tablespoons butter; 2 onions, chopped; 1 1/2 bottles beer; 1 tablespoon vinegar; 1 bay leaf; 1/2 teaspoon basil; 2 tablespoons flour; 2 tablespoons oil; 1 potato, diced; 1 1/2 teaspoons sugar; 1 clove garlic, chopped; 1 teaspoon thyme; salt and pepper.

Pre-heat oven to 350.  Lightly coat beef in flour. Brown beef in butter and oil in a fry-pan over high heat. Reduce heat and add onions and potato. Add other ingredients, stir well, pour into casserole dish, and bake for 1 1/2 to 2 hours. Serves four.

While it's baking, you can drink that other half-bottle of beer and watch to see if Governor Chris Christie joins Renee Fleming in singing the national anthem.