06 December 2014

25 years...

I went to an all-girls’ Catholic high school.  Our teachers were compassionate, bright, funny and most importantly: encouraging. We were encouraged to speak up in class, pose questions and debate viewpoints. In other words, we were told our thoughts, ideas, and contributions were valid and necessary.

In hindsight, we learned in a very safe environment—we weren’t diminished because of our sex, and we weren’t held to gender-based stereotypes.  This is probably why, when I took a few classes at the boys’ school across the road, I had no problems speaking my mind.  I know the fact I didn’t automatically defer to post-pubescent male opinion ruffled some teenaged feathers.  When my teachers thanked me for defending ideas and presenting a non-male point of view to classes of 30+ boys—I realized those chalkboard-lined rooms would be probably be training grounds for the real world. In fact, they were.

I was a student, technically in high school but taking University classes, when Marc Lepine screamed “I hate feminists!” as he killed 14 women at L'École Polytechnique.  While that terrible day happened 25 years ago, I remember it as if it was yesterday: the outrage, the fear, the shattering sadness.  Most of the victims were not much older than me.

Much has been written and broadcast this week about the anniversary.  Some, by reporters who were first on scene, others trying to determine the progress (if any) in battle against misogyny and violence against women.

This happens at a time when the news is dripping with alleged assaults against women by Jian Ghomeshi, Bill Cosby and Canadian Members of Parliament.

This happens at a time when Gamergate encompasses long series of seemingly ingrained and systemic misogyny and harassment within video gaming.

This happens at a time when Canada’s Justice Minister doesn’t see harassment in Parliament or in his political party, and claims ignorance of Marc Lepine’s motives. (For the record, we have known Lepine’s motives for decades).

Although we’ve made strides over the past quarter century, we still have far to go.

We are still in a world where star or key employees get the kid glove treatment when accused of sexual harassment and misconduct.

We are still in a world where non-profits provide free labour to police a social media platform’s online harassment, instead of those platforms taking ownership their role in these issues.

We are in a world where an American magazine tries to ban the word “feminist” from pop culture, only to change its mind when the masses object.

Through all of this, there is hope.

Conversation is changing.  Issues of violence against women, sexual harassment and other related issues are now openly talked about because of hashtags such as #IBelieveLucy and #BeenRapedNotReported.

Culture is still shifting.  Although old boys clubs’ stalwarts can still hold power, a new generation of leaders are taking these issues seriously and taking action now.

Communities are reacting.  As of time of writing, Bill Cosby is still slated to perform at my local performance space next month. My friend is spearheading a counter-event to support sexual assault survivors.

Every year I post the names of the 14 women who lost their lives in a horrible act of hatred. They should not be forgotten.

Geneviève Bergeron (1968–1989), civil engineering student
Hélène Colgan (1966–1989), mechanical engineering student
Nathalie Croteau (1966–1989), mechanical engineering student
Barbara Daigneault (1967–1989), mechanical engineering student
Anne-Marie Edward (1968–1989), chemical engineering student
Maud Haviernick (1960–1989), materials engineering student
Barbara Klucznik-Widajewicz (1958–1989), nursing student
Maryse Laganière (1964–1989), budget clerk
Maryse Leclair (1966–1989), materials engineering student
Anne-Marie Lemay (1967–1989), mechanical engineering student
Sonia Pelletier (1961–1989), mechanical engineering student
Michèle Richard (1968–1989), materials engineering student
Annie St-Arneault (1966–1989), mechanical engineering student
Annie Turcotte (1969–1989), materials engineering student

I'm a quill for hire!

26 July 2014

My Darling One: seven years later

You are missed...

cheers! jasmine I'm a quill for hire!

01 July 2014

Mmm…Canada: Strawberry shortcake

140701 Canada Day Strawberry Shortcake 1 

Happy Canada Day to my fellow Canadians, adopted Canadians and everyone who has a bit of Canadianess in side of them :)

One of the lovely things about having an early summer national day is this is the time when some of the most gorgeous strawberries come into season.  From about September until June, we suffer through imports that only a marketer or an accountant in some far off land like Toronto would eat and find palatable: the strawberries I find in the scary megamart conglomerate appear to suffer from some form of gigantism (I often call them cow's heart berries); their rock-hard texture sometimes makes me wonder if these berries were poured into a concrete mould and left to set *too* long; many of the berries are reddish or mostly red with oddly blotched whitish-yellow-green spots (as if someone held the berry in their hand when spraying them with paint, but forgot to turn the berry to ensure it was evenly coated with colour; their cores are as white as snow, and when I sniff them, they smell of…nothing.

Contrast that to the fresh local berries I proffer from my favourite local country market from June until September: sizes very from dainty little gumball-sized jewels to golfball-sized treats (I must admit I prefer the smaller berries that I usually find in August); they are tender and when pressured, yield sweet ruby juices; their happy summer red penetrates the skin and travels through soft flesh to an equally garnet core, and their scent is of…strawberry.

So here we are, in strawberry season, celebrating my fair nation's 147th birthday.  The other week I went to my most marvellous (ex-)manager's house for a bit of a catch up. His lovely wife, upon hearing I would bring strawberries, immediately piped up with shortcake. It was simply lovely…and possibly the best biscuit-style shortcake I've ever had.  I'm asking for the recipe.

So, when thinking about today's recipe, I knew it would be strawberry shortcake--little fluffy biscuits filled with billowy clouds of whipped cream and gorgeous strawberries.  It's red, white and oh so lovely.

The shortcake recipe itself is based on this Canadian Living recipe--I've made some minor changes to the recipe.  The rest is what I call a non-recipe recipe--the strawberries are macerated with balsamic vinegar, and the whipped cream is a crème Chantilly--slightly sweet, and flavoured with a splash of vanilla.

Can you use other fruits or berries?  Of course you can.  But really, in these fleeting months of strawberry season, why would you want to?

Happy Canada Day!

140701 Canada Day Strawberry Shortcake 2Strawberry Shortcake
Yield: 8-10

For the shortcakes:
200g/2 rounded cups/515ml all purpose flour, + more for kneading 1dspn/10ml baking powder
0.5tsp/2.5ml bicarbonate of soda
0.5tsp/2.5ml salt
25g/2Tbsp sugar, + more for sprinkling
55g/0.25c/62ml very cold butter
1 egg, beaten (see notes)
250ml/1c yoghurt
1Tbsp/15ml milk or cream

For the strawberries:
hulled strawberries as you want (see notes)
sugar, to taste
1tsp/5ml balsamic vinegar (see notes)

For the crème Chantilly:
500ml/2c heavy cream
2 heaped tspns icing sugar (to taste)
1tsp/5ml vanilla extract


Start with the biscuits: 
Preheat oven to: 450F/425F (fan-assist) 230C/200C (fan-assist)

Sift together the flour, baking powder, bicarb, salt and 25g sugar.

Grate the butter on the large holes of a box grater, and rub into the flour, so there are butter pieces of varying sizes--ranging from the size of grains of rice, to the size of small pebbles and peas. Alternatively, cut the butter into small cubes and cut into the flour mixture, aiming for the same range of butter bits as above.

Mix together the yoghurt and egg an then pour into the flour mixture. Lightly mix together until just combined.

Turn out the very sticky dough onto a well floured surface and knead for about 10 minutes. Add flour as needed until you have a soft dough.

Roll the dough to a 2.5cm/1" thickness. Using a floured 6.25cm/2.5" biscuit cutter (or larger or smaller, as you see fit), cut rounds of dough. Gather scraps together, re-roll and cut. Place rounds onto a parchment-lined baking sheet. Brush with milk or cream and lightly sprinkle with sugar.

Bake for about 15 minutes. The biscuits should be risen and golden. The bottoms should be a slightly deeper shade of brown and should sound hollow-ish when tapped. If in doubt, slide a paring knife into the top of the biscuit and see that the inside of the biscuit is fluffy and cooked. Set on a cooling rack.

Next, get on with the strawberries: 
Mash them and give them a taste. Add sugar, if the berries need them. Sprinkle balsamic vinegar, to taste. Give the berries a mix and let them macerate.

Lastly, make the crème Chantilly:
Whip the cream, sugar and vanilla together until firm, but still soft.

To assemble: 
Slice a biscuit through its equator. Spoon some of the strawberry juice onto the cut sides of the biscuit halves and then spoon some mashed berries onto the bottom half. Top the berries with a spoon or three of chantilly cream.


  • Re: Eggs -- If in Canada: you'll be better off using an extra large egg, as official sizing seems to have decreased (used to be 56g, but I'm now regularly finding 48g eggs in my "large" cartons). I shall assume other nations have kept sizing sense and not followed suit. 
  • Re: Strawberries--this is totally by eye. I weighed out how many berries I serve per person, and it came out to about 75g, or three or four medium-large berries. 
  •  Re: Balsamic vinegar--if you're using real balsamic, use less than I've indicated. If you're using what's found in your megamart, you may need to boil down the vinegar until it thickens. Let it cool and then use it on your berries.

I'm a quill for hire!