Monthly Archives: February 2009

Books to sink your teeth into

I love food. Always have, always will. The most memorable moments from my childhood involve food. Making mud pies at the beach, playing house with plastic food, making “salsa” and peppery carrot soup… just to name a few.

It’s no coincidence my favourite books as a kid have some foodie element to them. Let’s discuss.

Teddy Rabbit by Kathy Stinson

Teddy Rabbit

Teddy Rabbit

A book about Tony, a little boy from Toronto who’s going to the Teddy Bears’ Picnic at Centre Island. But Tony’s worried – he doesn’t have a real teddy  – his favourite toy is a plush Rabbit. It’s okay though, the kids’ “Teddies” are all kinds of animals, and Tony and Rabbit are welcome to join the picnic.

Yum Yum: Tony’s mom packs carrots in a paper bag for the picnic. The kids and Teddy animals eat sandwiches, cookies, berries with honey, tinned tuna and carrots. Stéphane Poulin’s artwork is drool-worthy.

Fish Fry by Susan Saunders

Edith goes to a fish fry picnic on a Texas forest riverbank with her family. There, she and gangly Eugene Greene meet an unwelcome reptilian visitor.

Yum Yum: Cookies, cakes, pies, and huge jars of pickles. Butter beans, potato salad, hush puppies, deviled eggs, fried catfish and watermelon cooling in the river. S.D. Schindler’s detailed illustrations make me hungry.

Too Many Babas by Carolyn Croll

Too Many Babas

Too Many Babas

A group of Russian grandmothers all want a hand in Baba Edis’ soup. In this story, too many cooks is not a good thing!

Yum Yum: Their first pot of soup is too garlicky, peppery and salty. When the Babas delegate and organize tasks, their cabbage, potato, bean and carrot soup is delish! My 1979 edition’s sepia illustrations lack pizazz, but the updated version has colourful folk art.

Chicken Soup With Rice by Maurice Sendak

Chicken Soup With Rice

Chicken Soup With Rice

This rhyming book of months is a delight! I enjoyed my birth month most of all:

“In May I truly think it best to be a robin lightly dressed concocting soup inside my nest. Mix it once, mix it twice, mix that chicken soup with rice.”

– Sendak

My copy is well-loved, and taped up.

Yum Yum: Chicken soup with rice, all the time! Sendak’s illustrations set the tone for the month, but always incorporate the book’s namesake.

A Difficult Day by Eugenie Fernandes

A Difficult Day

A Difficult Day

Melinda has crumbs in her bed, she can’t sleep well, a nasty boy punches her in gym class, and she’s rude to her Mom. On the whole, it’s a rough day.

Yum Yum: At bathtime Melinda feels like a noodle in a beautifully illustrated bowl of chicken soup. Later, she and her sympathetic Mom share chocolate chip cookies under the bed.

And let’s not forget my favourite of the bunch…

Bread and Jam for Frances by Russell Hoban

Bread and Jam for Frances

Bread and Jam for Frances

Frances is a fussy yet lovable badger.  She soon grows tired of her favourite food and yearns to spice things up! This book reminds me of my childhood bread and jam infatuation  – every day for breakfast – bread cut in half, both cut sides facing me.

Yum Yum: Spaghetti and meatballs, veal cutlets and elaborate packed lunches complete with hardboiled eggs, a pickle and a cardboard salt shaker. Lillian Hoban’s simply-coloured illustrations don’t skimp on detail.

So many mouth-watering reads! What were your favourite books as a child?


Geocaching, Moments Stopping

Hey all – it’s almost been about a month now. Thanks for dropping by and checking this thing out.

Just wanted to let you all know that today I am posting my Geocaching piece!! It’s up there at the top of the front page, but you can always find it by searching geocaching in the search tab. Don’t forget that search tab there – you can hop to any entry you like, just type in a keyword!

It was a really neat piece to work on, and I hope you’ll enjoy the fruits of my labour.

Also, you might have noticed the new header image. It’s a photo by Greg Williams of the infamous and dynamic photography duo, MomentStop. Greg, along with his cousin Jake Williams (a J-school cohort), maintain a photo blog with some pretty beautiful shots. You can check it out using the link on the sidebar.

Just a couple updates…Comment and let me know what you like, and what you don’t like. I’m open for suggestions, criticisms, anything to make this more readable.

So for now, keep reading, and I’ll keep writing.



-ness suffix: forming nouns from adjectives, and occasionally other words, expressing: 1 state or condition, or an instance of this (happiness; a kindness). 2 something in a certain state (wilderness).” – The Oxford Canadian Dictionary

“Ness” is more useful than that. Given its ability to modify many words and turn them into adjectives, I think it can serve even as a noun. Ness as a noun would encompass several or all adjectives applied to a person, object, state, or condition.

ness noun: the overall tone or appearance of a person, object, state or condition.”

Imagine, for example, you see  a homeless person on the street. You want to describe their appearance, smell, tone of voice, style of dress, everything – you could use the word ness to encompass all of these factors. “His ness was really sour (or insert your adjective here).”

Some of you might think there are existing words that can do what ness can do. But I don’t think there are. You might use the word “aura” but aura has a more spiritual connotation than is sometimes desired. You could use “nature”, but to discuss the nature of something seems old-fashioned.

You could use a couple words  like “overall appearance”, “general idea”, or “the sum of all parts”, but these expressions are longwinded and unnecessary.

Normally I don’t make up words, or at least give much thought to the words I do make up. But ness is different. It is multipurpose.  Ness is fluid, and can apply to any situation.

Ness has been in my vocabulary for many years, though I started giving the word more attention after a conversation my brother and I had about the movie Twilight.

“The movie wasn’t very explainingful of their ness,” I said.

Now before you get high on your grammar horses, I realize “explainingful” is not, nor should ever be a real word. This sentence, albeit shameful for a 4th year Journalism student, was a valid idea, blurted out in excitement. I tried to reach for the words to say that the film did not fully explain all the different qualities that vampires possess. As far as Twilight is concerned, the Cullen family (who are vampires) have pale skin cold to the touch, they drink animals’ blood instead of humans’, they move really fast, their eyes change colour when they are hungry, and they can smell humans from a great distance.

I wanted to say that the movie did not fully explain all of these elements as thoroughly as the book. When I said “their ness”, I was referring to all these elements as a group. I did not have to say each item separately, because they all fall into the Cullens’ “ness”. You follow?

I really believe that “ness” should be updated in the Old Oxford English. Thoughts?

Not so Hot Pot

When it’s cold outside, there’s nowhere else I’d rather be than in an all-you-can-eat restaurant, so warm its windows are fogged up.

Or so I thought.

Little Sheep Mongolian Hot Pot (1344 Bank St.) just opened at Bank and Riverside, and some friends and I went to check it out. Upon entering, we were hit with a wall of aroma, a complex layer of savoury scents. We weren’t sure what we were smelling, but we were hungry, and eager to chow down.

The place was hopping. During our hour-long wait, the manager appeased us with “Chinese desserts”. These were little balls with sweet sesame paste in the centre, rolled in a coating of whole sesame seeds. The starchy, gooey texture with a subtle crunch was odd, but a welcome surprise.

After unsuccessful waiting games of I-Spy and Movie-Star-Movie, number 32 was called – our table was ready. We were led to a speedily-wiped table, slick with moisture from either cleaning cloths or the latest occupants’ soup broth.

We ordered two pots of half mild, half spicy broth. The dinner special included delicately sliced beef, lamb and chicken, an array of many exotic foods I’d never heard of, and a selection of 9 different bottomless beverages.

I was parched and scrambled up from the table, glass in hand. I’d had my eye on the red juice fountain since we walked in. The flavour was sickeningly sweet and decidedly strawberry. Not thirst-quenching in the least, but what did I really expect from vivid red juice? Water would be my next pick.

Our sweaty server soon arrived with the soups and sliced meats. He turned the tabletop burners on, and soon the broths were bubbling away. The soups were teeming with garlic cloves, ginger, peppercorns, and chopped red chilies, among other unfamiliar pods and berries.

With the bovine and ovine slices already on our table, the glowing green refrigerators beckoned to us, their trays full of curious morsels. The familiar (broccoli, baby bok choy, yams) sat alongside the mysterious (cloud ear fungus, kelp, quail eggs and lotus roots). Shiny flat and vermicelli rice noodles seemed dull next to a cheery trio of white, yellow and green Shanghai style noodles.

The ungarnished trays looked appetizing only when brimming. Pools of leftover liquid in neglected and emptying trays were a turnoff.

Plates piled high, and armed with wooden chopsticks, we dunked our choices into the gurgling pots. The meats took less time than expected – only 30 seconds for a tender bite. The spicy soup was sour, with a zing of heat. The mild soup was salty at first taste, yet complex herbal flavours soon emerged.

The soups truly were the “highlight” of the meal – we spent more time with our faces in a pot instead of enjoying each other’s company.

By all-you-can-eat standards, my portions were meager. It wasn’t because I didn’t like the food. After my first plate, I felt like I’d had enough. The bright fluorescent lights, the heady steam wafting up from every direction, watching a friend’s raw squid jiggle its way into the boiling potion – I felt totally overwhelmed.

I stepped out for some air. Everyone at the table must also have had their fill, because when I returned, the table was cleared, and they were ready to go.

This place is not for the faint of heart. The food is tasty and unusual for a meat-and-potatoes palate, yet the atmosphere, presentation, and overall tidiness of the spot is seriously lacking. The restaurant is a welcome addition to Ottawa’s food scene, but these kinks must be worked out.

As my friends and I returned into the cold, tummies full and our clothes smelling of soup, we all agreed on one thing: Mongolian Hot Pot was an experience.

However, not an experience that I wish to repeat.