Sounds Like Beer: PEI Brewing Company

Again, I was traveling for work to Prince Edward Island for the East Coast Music Awards and was lucky enough to get a guest post spot on the Sounds Like Beer blog run by my friend Matt. Come on over to my post and read about the best (only) brewery on the Island!

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Above: Me and our ex-Atlantic Regional Director holding the two ECMAs that we accepted on behalf of the artists on my label!

Happy beer tasting!

Gaspereau Valley Fibres

You know how you see those photos on Pinterest and you’re all, “Ahhh I would just die to go there”? Yeah, I went there.

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I was in Wolfville, Nova Scotia for a CD launch and I had a couple of hours one afternoon for lunch and some emailing somewhere in town. Obviously, I found the knitting store that was also a cafe: The Wool’n Tart. I had a delicious sandwich, a knit with some lovely ladies who were really welcoming and friendly, and I left with some yarn. (Of course.)

I asked if there was anywhere else in the area and I was told I should go to Gaspereau Valley Fibres. Did I have a car? No. But I was assured that a taxi wouldn’t be too expensive, as it was only 5K away. Ah ha! Run worthy. It was cold, but a gorgeous day, so I set out.

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Golden afternoon sun on the sign to greet me was just the beginning.

IMG_6184Chalkboard outside? Garland can be seen through the window? Tell me more.

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IMG_6172How stunning is this place? The wooden floors creaked as I walked and you could smell the woodsmoke from the crackling fire.

IMG_6168That day was actually their knit night! I was invited to join, but sadly had to get back to Wolfville for my CD launch. Not without buying more yarn. Because, of course.

IMG_6181 IMG_6180 IMG_6174 IMG_6173 IMG_6171 IMG_6169 IMG_6166I bought some balls of yarn from PEI, and some very sweet buttons in the shape of little ducks. Perfect for a baby sweater.

IMG_6177As I was leaving, I realized that I couldn’t very well run back with a paper bag full of yarn so I asked if they could call me a cab. The girl working there asked if I was in Wolfville and when I said yes, offered to bring the yarn to me later as she was planning to meet some friends at the local pub.

I should have expected nothing less from this perfect, small town.

IMG_6183After I had paid and exchanged numbers with my yarn delivery gal, I said hello to the sheep out front.

IMG_6186As I jogged the 5K back into town, I was sad to miss the knit night (knitting in front of a fire on a farm where the yarn is made? Please), but so happy to be in Wolfville where my boyfriend went to school. It’s not a place that I could move right now, of course, as jobs are tough to come by in the music field, but I would just adore to live in the Valley.

One day.

Fresh’s green goddess bowl

So, you’re familiar with Fresh, right? Well, if you’re from Toronto you should be.

ImageFresh is a delicious all-vegetarian and mostly vegan restaurant that serves up delicious, (mostly) healthy meals. I usually go for their Buddha Bowl, but when I recently found out how heavy in calories it was via the Dish, I considered trying something else.

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Green Goddess Bowl as served at Fresh

The Green Goddess Bowl is an odd combination of flavours at first glance, but it works surprisingly well. There’s something really satisfying about trying new combinations of flavours, especially when you’re in a cooking funk. The bowl is topped with tempeh which, though it has an interesting texture, is better than tofu, in my opinion, and healthier than chicken.

There isn’t a “baby bowl” option, as there is for the Buddha Bowl, so when this dish comes out, it looks like enough for four people. When I stretched my leftovers for two additional meals, I wouldn’t be surprised if that was true. I got the soba noodles, which were just delicious, but the brown rice option is probably healthier.

I knew I wanted to make this myself, but I was mystified at the sauce they used. It was creamy and green, but I knew that no dairy was used. That’s when the server reminded me they sold cookbooks. Genius. This recipe for the Green Goddess Bowl came from their re:Fresh Cookbook. This was obviously a must.

So here’s the recipe. I made some changes, which I noted in parenthesis. Enjoy!

Green Goddess Bowl

Tahini Sauce

- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1/2 cup chopped parsley
- 1/2 tsp sea salt (this was too much salt for me – I’d suggest only 1/4 tsp, then add more as needed)
- 2 tbsp lemon juice
- 2/3 cup water
- 1/2 cup tahini

Simple Sauce

- 1/2 cup tamari (not soy sauce)
- 3 tbsp sesame oil
- 1 1/2 inches ginger root, peeled and minced
- 4 tbsp lemon juice

The Bowl

- 1 head broccoli, cut into florets
- 1 head bok choy, chopped
- 1 bunch green kale, chopped
- 1 bunch swiss chard, chopped
- 6 cups cooked brown rice OR cooked soba noodles (Again, love the soba. Also, I didn’t make as much as they called for – we were only two eating and I wanted a greater ratio of greens to starch than they served in the restaurant.)
- 2 sheets nori, torn
- 1/3 cup sunflower seeds, toasted (These take literally NO TIME to toast. Burned my first batch.)
- 1/2 cup pickled ginger
*Note: They don’t give you a tempeh recipe, as this is something you buy in store. I would suggest buying simple tempeh, then marinading it yourself the night before in the simple sauce. I didn’t care to do this… laziness, I guess, so I just ate mine without a protein.

Directions

  1. Tahini sauce: Blend the garlic, parsley, salt and lemon juice in a food processor. Add the water and sesame butter.
  2. Simple sauce: Put all ingredients in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Turn down, and let simmer for 10 minutes. Remove from heat.
  3. Steam broccoli and greens until they are tender and bright green. It may seem like you have way too many greens when they’re raw, but they cook down quite a lot.
  4. Place your desired serving of rice or noodles in a bowl. Drizzle with 2 tbsp tahini sauce (I used more. So, so good). Place nori on top.
  5. Arrange the cooked greens and broccoli on the rice or noodles and sprinkle toasted sunflower seeds on top. Drizzle with 2 tbsp of simple sauce.
  6. Garnish with pickled ginger.
  7. For those of you that have a man’s man in your life and dislike eating a meal without meat (sigh), I would suggest cooking a chicken breast in the simple sauce. It actually tasted quite delicious.
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My take on the Green Goddess Bowl

So, doesn’t look too bad, eh? It tasted wonderful. Just like at the store. I think it’s a good idea for restaurants to publish a cookbook. I wonder if some places worry that if they do, people will cook at home and not come back… couldn’t be farther from the truth for me. I loved making this, but it was a time-consuming process and if I get a craving, the first thing I want to do is go to my closest Fresh and order a bowl in under 20 minutes!

Post-mortem: Canada Reads 2014

I thought Sarah Gadon took some cheap shots with her feminist perspective.

I thought Donovan Bailey would have rather raced the 100m again instead of sit around the table with the other panelists.

I thought Sam Bee was crazy thinking all Canadians would want to read Cockroach. 

ImageThis year’s Canada Reads debates were particularly difficult. It was the first time I had already read 4 of the 5 books when they were announced as contenders. Over the holidays I read Cockroach by Rawi Hage, and with that I was set for the debates. The only problem was that I was going to be in Vancouver for work when they were happening. 

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Gorgeous view from my friend Kate’s condo

I was thrilled when I got to the airport Monday morning and while lazily checking twitter and waiting for my flight, I saw everyone talking about the debates. I couldn’t believe my timing! It was tough having to only stream on my phone without watching twitter and participating with the conversation, but alas – can’t win ‘em all.

When I woke up in Vancouver on Tuesday morning with a jet-lag hangover, I was happily realized that the debates would be running from 7am-8am Vancouver time, finishing up just in time for me to get to my 8:30am meeting. Luckily, Wednesday was the same. Thursday my flight was at 10am so I was desperately hoping the Sky Train wouldn’t cut off my LTE and it didn’t. Yes, I cried on the Sky Train in the midst of rush hour. I clung to my phone as I witnessed Wab Kinew deliver his final plea; The Orenda should be the book to change Canada. I was flooded with relief when it was.

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Last year, I had some issues with the debates. Though I really enjoyed the panelists and most of the books chosen, I thought that it was tacky and somewhat useless to have the theme of the competition to be “Turf Wars.” Though some books have a geographical stamp on them, it doesn’t make them better than any other book. When it was announced that one of Canada’s regions was “Prairies and North,” I knew that it wasn’t worth the argument. I was, however, really pleased with the quality of the debates and brought to tears by the fierce passion of Jay Baruchel when he championed for Two Solitudes and ultimately lost to Trent McClellan’s defence of Lisa Moore’s February

This year, it was so exciting to see the theme of Canada Reads actually strive to mean something. Yes, the book that could change Canada is a hugely lofty, unattainable goal, but at least its aim was to get the conversation started around important issues affecting our nation. Discussions touched on racism, reconciliation, immigration, the environment, and intersexuality. 

These are heavy issues. It must have been a weighty week for these panelists, knowing that they were representing large groups of people who are affected by the worlds in which these books have been built. They rose to the challenge, however. Well, Donovan Bailey tried. I found he was quite out of his element (there’s always one on the panel) but he kept his spirits up, and took the debates seriously. 

Sarah Gadon really surprised me. When I first met her at the Canada Reads announcement back in 2013, it was clear that she adored Kathleen Winter’s Annabel. I loved on the first day of the debates where she described coming back to Canada for the debates after being in Europe. She said that usually when she’s away for work, she feels a sense of relief, excitement, and homecoming as she flies across Canada. After having read The Orenda, however, this time she said she felt uneasy. I so related to that, and after having recently flown into Vancouver, it was still really fresh in my mind. 

ImageSarah’s criticism of The Orenda, however, I found to be flawed. She claimed that it didn’t have a women’s point of view.
A) One of the three narrators, Snowfalls, is a woman.
B) It should not be a book’s job to represent all possible points of view unless it is a text book.
Why does Boyden have to write in a woman’s perspective at all? He’s the author. He chooses what story he wants to tell. The same thing happened last year when people complained that the protagonist in David Bergen’s The Age of Hope was too depressed, too unhappy. Hello? That’s because he wrote her to be that way. Sam Bee heard some similar criticism towards the protagonist in Cockraoch and defended it really well by saying, “I’m not one to rewrite an author’s work.” 

Unfortunately Sarah was at the wrong end of some pretty strange and dogged criticism of Annabel. The first comment of Winter using the term “hermaphrodite” instead of “intersex” was understandable had she written a book that took place now, but for a book that was set in the 60s, was a pretty small complaint. Now, more on Annabel but first…

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The pregnancy in Annabel. Apparently it would have been physically impossible for Annabel/Wanye to become pregnant. I believe that. Sarah argued that the pregnancy was merely a metaphor; a situation created to represent a bigger part of the story. Stephen, Sam and Wab all took great offence to this. They thought that it was misleading Canadians and offensive to intersex people to have this “lie” “ruin the end of the novel.” Wab said that yes, it’s fiction but Winter set the situation up as a true story. Again, I take offence to this. It would have been one thing if they had made the point once, but to harp on it over, and over and to have that be one of the facts that tipped the scales in the book getting voted off, was a real shame. Annabel is a beautiful, gripping book that opens eyes and hearts and would have done a lot for Canadians, I think, had it been chosen as the book that could change Canada. 

The last thing that really stood out to me in the debates was Stephen Lewis’ issues he found with the violence during the torture scenes in The Orenda. I’ve already spoken to how I felt about those scenes, and I was unsurprised that a panelist would bring them up in a negative light. It was Wab’s defence of Stephen’s criticism that I found so compelling. He said that it’s not easy for Westerners to view the torture scenes in The Orenda from anything other than a Western point of view. He spoke of torture being a ritual that honoured other warriors, but he also spoke of his own spirituality and his experience with Sun Dance ceremonies. These dancers fast for days, then dance for a four-day period in the hot sun without food or water. The section of that debate is available on the CBC Books site and I encourage you to watch it. Wab is so measured, confident and intelligent. It’s very powerful to watch.

Click here to view [6 minutes 10 seconds] 

These debates filled me with a lot of passion and a lot of hope. I learned so much, and I have continued to read more books by aboriginal authors (Medicine Walk by Richard Wagamese) and about First Nations in the 1600s (Fathers and Crows, by William T. Vollman). It’s always so exciting to talk about books with friends, but this year was something really special. Don’t know how the CBC Books team will top this next year. I wish them luck… 

Oh, and #WabKinewForPrimeMinister

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On critique and The Orenda

As Canada Reads approaches, I’ve been following the #CanadaReads2014 hashtag. Wab Kinew, who is defending The Orenda in the debates, which take place next week, has been tweeting back and forth with a few people about the Haudenosaunee representation in The Orenda and the reception of the novel in the aboriginal community. I had read some back and forth, but there’s only so much you can get in 140 characters, so I asked if there was a specific critique that I could read to learn more.

Wab Kinew recommended this article by Hayden King in Muskrat Magazine: Critical Review of Joseph Boyden’s “The Orenda”: A Timeless, Classic Colonial Alibi.

If you’re interested, I strongly suggest you read King’s critique. It’s well written, and he makes some excellent points. I won’t attempt to summarize his article, but there were a few things that stood out to me that I felt were worth discussing.

1) The representation of the Haudenosaunee
2) The reasons behind the disappearance of the Huron

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With that, let’s go back a few months.

In September, I went to the IFOA to see Joseph Boyden speaking about his week-old novel, The Orenda, with Matt Galloway. Though Matt had recently interviewed Boyden on Metro Morning, he was up to the task and led an interesting, relaxed interview while still asking some tough questions.

Though I hadn’t read The Orenda at the time, it was clear that there were two main issues that readers and members of the aboriginal community were focusing on; the violence, and the portrayal of the Haudenosaunee.

To the violence, Boyden responded, and I paraphrase, that in actual fact, if you count the number of pages where the violence occurs, it’s a very small number in comparison to the larger scope of the novel. It’s not violence for violence’s sake. It’s meant to be a historical representation of traditional methods of warfare between the Wendat and Haudenosaunee, which Boyden researched. I cannot speak to his research, nor his sources, of course.

To the representation of the Haudenosaunee, Boyden spoke to the extensive research he conducted and the two and a half years it took him to even write the first 50 pages. During this research, Boyden consulted Canada’s foremost experts on the history and culture of the Haudenosaunee, the Huron and the Jesuits, one being poet George Sioui, a Huron Elder and a University of Ottawa professor. Boyden said that he would have had a great deal of trouble writing the book if he hadn’t had his approval.

I read The Orenda shortly thereafter and I really enjoyed it. The violence was extremely descriptive and horrifying, yes, but it was so unlike anything I have ever witnessed, let alone read about before, it didn’t even seem real. It was so foreign, my mind couldn’t even imagine it. To give context: I recently almost fainted on the TTC when reading a scene in Vincent Lam’s The Headmaster’s Wager where a surgery was taking place. I don’t have the strongest of stomachs.

In terms of the representation of the Iroquois, I understood why Boyden felt he needed to do extensive research and seek permission, but I thought the Jesuits eclipsed them as enemy number one.

ImageThe only featured Iroquois characters in The Orenda are Snow Falls (soon becomes Wendat) and Tekakwitia, the face of the enemy as a torturer. In his critique, Hayden King states: “So readers learn very little except that they’re [the Iroquois] a menace, lurking in the dark forest, waiting to torture or cannibalize.”

I think that I, as the reader, deserve a little more credit here. As Sleeps Long says in the novel, “We kill one another because we have been killed. We will continue to eat one another until one of us is completely consumed.” It’s clear that this war is a two-way street. It’s how the novel begins: Bird kills Snow Falls’ family, and kidnaps her. The Iroquois retaliate.

I didn’t come away from The Orenda thinking that the Iroquois were the enemy, but rather the Jesuits. Forcing religion on anyone should be a crime and with the arrival of new disease and weapons, the writing was on the wall. Call it white guilt, call it whatever you want, but I cringed throughout most of the book. I’m a proud Canadian. I love my country, but it’s embarrassing to read a fictional narrative based on a true story of how the settlers arrived here.

Of course, there’s no right or wrong answer. I think it’s a really interesting debate, and though I’m not of aboriginal descent, I’ve read the book, and I wanted to join the conversation. It’s a challenge, though. As non-aboriginals who want to learn more, attempts to engage and ask questions are met by resistance. Case in point.

ImageNow, Taiaiake Alfred made it clear in earlier tweets that, “…through all this debate, I’ll make clear for others that I know and respect and consider both you and @josephboyden friends,” so I wasn’t offended by this remark, but it did make me think about access and critique. If you go back to the conversation, you’ll see that neither I, nor another twitter user, John Richardson, are taking sides, or blatantly disagreeing with Taiaiake, simply attempting to engage.

The question is: do we have a place in this debate if we don’t know all the facts? Maybe not. But can anyone?

It’s the asking questions and the discussion that I find fascinating. I didn’t learn even close to enough Canadian history in high school. We had one dedicated course in grade 10 and I took it in my second language, French. Over the past few years it’s become clear to me how much I have missed and how much work I have to, and want to, undertake to come to understand this country’s history. Heck, I’m one of the founding members of the League of Canadian History Champions that aims to engage a younger generation in our country’s past. It’s something that I am passionate about.

I know that I have a lot to learn, but I have to start somewhere. If we’re met with resistance when we try to learn, how can we begin to understand?

I really look forward to the conversations that will surround the Canada Reads debates. I hope that the panelists don’t take it easy on Kinew. He’s an eloquent, passionate speaker and I trust that he can stand up for himself and state his case, and the case of The Orenda, whatever it may be.

I look forward to continuing to learn more, and welcome any and all comments.

Sounds like beer

My good friend Matt Gibson, a lawyer turned beer blogger, has been kind enough to lead me through some amazing beer tastings over the last few years. Lately, we’ve both been getting more adventurous with our tastings; he’s now taking the Prud’homme Beer Certification and, well, I’ve simply started tasting on my own. But still! It’s exciting, and I’ve been getting more and more into it.

Clearly, I’m a big fan of Canada. This has led me to love all things local, and when I travel, I always make sure to try any local flavour that the city or town has to offer. With the rise of craft beer over the last few years, it’s become much easier to obtain local beers when traveling and it’s been a really fun way to do beer tastings!

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Earlier this month, I went to Wolfville for a CD launch of Kitchen Party, a fabulous disc of new music that I just produced with the record label I manage, Centrediscs.

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I was chatting with Matt, and he asked if I would like to do a guest post on his blog and taste some brews that the East Coast has to offer. Tough sell… not.

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To read the post and check out what I thought about these brews, head on over to Matt’s blog.

You can follow Matt on twitter @matt_gibson86

I liked this so much, that I plan to ask him to let me try this again for the trips I have coming up this spring (what do you say, Matt?). For work/pleasure, I have a few jaunts coming up, so come back and visit throughout the spring to hear about local beers from:
- Vancouver
- Winnipeg
- Charlottetown
- Ottawa
- Vienna (!)

If you’ve been to any local breweries at any of the above locations and have some recommendations, please do let me know!

The book that could change Canada: Half-Blood Blues

Is Half-Blood Blues by Esi Edugyan the book that could change Canada?

Represented by: Donovan Bailey (with the cutest headshot, I might add.)

I read Half-Blood Blues for my book club when it had just been awarded the Giller Prize. This book takes place in pre-war Europe, Germany and Berlin, and follows Hiero, a black, German trumpet player of extraordinary skill. The story is told by Sid Griffiths, however, another musician working with Hiero. One day, Hiero is arrested and never seen again. 50 years later, Sid and his friend Chip are participating in a documentary about Hiero and a mysterious letter sets Sid on a track to come to terms with his past.

I really liked the fact that this novel was fresh – pre-war Europe, a black, German musician – it wasn’t a story I had been told before. Hiero is a character you can really connect to, and the way Sid treats him is unfortunately all too familiar and it’s an interesting story of jealousy.

Alternatively, this book seemed underdeveloped and I was quite surprised that it won the Giller. Maybe I’m a sucker for a big, thick, book, but I think that this book stopped and started at two different places without fully telling either story. It seemed dis-jointed. It also has scenes with Louis Armstrong that  didn’t actually happen in real life. I feel that historical figures should be woven into a story if there’s historical proof behind certain events taking place, though that’s just my personal preference.

I think this book is up against some pretty big contenders and might have a tough road ahead as the book that could change Canada. Let’s hope Donovan Bailey is up to the challenge!

Just because it’s the best, let’s relive this gem. One of those “where were you when” moments for me.

When the books were announced, I was lucky enough (read: 10 year old self freaking out) to meet Donovan and ask him a few questions about His involvement in Canada Reads and why he chose to champion Half Blood Blues. To the latter, Donovan said that he saw a lot of himself in Heiro. He could also relate with different cultures mixing together. Even more than that, however, was the atmosphere of working with a “team” (the band) under intense pressure to accomplish something really important and special. That aiming for success with an obsessive perfectionism of repeating something, be it a scale or a 100 m dash over and over until it was perfect.

Donovan didn’t think that because this book takes place outside of Canada that it will be a problem. “I’ve been to 191 different countries,” he said. “Canada is a melting pot of people and culture. How many hyphens do we need before we throw everything out and just call ourselves Canadian? There’s conflict within all of us, and everyone shows who they truly are throughout the book. That’s relatable.”

When asked how he felt his experience has prepared him to defend Half Blood Blues, Bailey quipped, “Well, I’m a huge Stephen Lewis and Samantha Bee fan, so…”

Wishing Donovan the best of luck representing Esi in this competition!

The book that could change Canada: The Orenda

It’s here.

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What a shortlist we have this year! I am thrilled that the book I thought could change Canada, right from the beginning, was The Orenda, by Joseph Boyden, and now it’s in the final five. Not to mention that two of my other most favourite books have made it!

I will admit that this year I will miss my Christmas Canada Reads reading sessions as I’ve already read four of the five books! Just more time to get me excited about the titles and, Sophie’s choice; how a panel will ever choose between such amazing novels.

Over this week, I’ll be posting about each book one by one. CBC Books was kind enough to invite me to the launch last week and beforehand, 4 other bloggers and I were given the opportunity to speak to each author and panelist. (Save Stephen Lewis – for some reason he wasn’t around until the launch.)

Let’s begin with the book I thought could change Canada, The Orenda.

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Here’s what I had to say about The Orenda as one of 10 bloggers asked by CBC Books to pick the novel we thought could change Canada:

“It was shocking and embarrassing to me as the years passed in university to realize how little I actually knew about our history in Canada. In recent years, I’ve been reading almost exclusively Canadian literature and though not all of it tackles Canada’s history, there are some novels that really stand out as educational without reading like a textbook. The Orenda by Joseph Boyden is far from a Canadian History textbook and I believe can truly inspire social change in Canada. Canada Reads last year featured Indian Horse by Richard Wagamese, and many Canadians had their eyes opened to a boy’s life in a residential school. Then, in the last year, Idle No More has taken centre stage in Canadian media. To feature The Orenda in this year’s Canada Reads would be a natural complement to the conversation that has already begun. This novel will educate Canadians, open their minds and encourage them to learn more about our history, the indigenous peoples of Canada, and how they can, themselves, make a change.”

Representing The Orenda is Gemini-nominated Wab Kinew. He’s a hip hop artist, award-winning journalist, and Director of Indigenous Inclusion at the University of Winnipeg.

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Wab and Joseph were the first two we were lucky enough to interview. What handsome men! And, in case you missed it, here’s a fabulous photo of the two of them just before the live show with Jian Ghomeshi.

Photo courtesy of @CBCLive (@eltee)

Also, matching.

Boyden said he was thrilled to have Wab representing him. He said that he’s seen it already since The Orenda was released, but he’s really hoping that the inclusion of his novel in Canada Reads will inspire conversation. Wab added, “You’re always stronger when you deal with the truth. We have to sort it out. We’re neighbours.”

The Orenda follows three characters: an older Haudenosaunee warrior, an Iroquois girl he captured and made his own daughter and a young Jesuit who has moved into their village in an attempt to “save their souls” by bringing them to God.

For any of you who read Indian Horse last year, I strongly believe that The Orenda has a similar value and importance to contemporary Canadian society. I  feel very connected to our country and passionate about its history, but know very little other than the facts. What Boyden brings to us is a series of intertwined human stories. He presents our history as a dynamic, exhaustibly researched novel that captivates the imagination and confronts some difficult truths.

Sainte Marie among the Iroquois, a 17th c. Jesuit mission on which The Orenda is based

I’ve heard many people say that The Orenda doesn’t seem like a book they would pick up. That’s one of the amazing things about Boyden’s writing and why he’s one of my all-time favourite authors. He presents a story to you that’s so well written, so compelling that you learn to trust him. Since reading Through Black Spruce, Three Day Road and now The Orenda, I have become extremely interested in native history in Canada.

“With Idle No More, reconciliation is now more important than ever,” said Wab. “This book shows what it is about native culture that native people fight for.”

Full disclosure: there are some difficult scenes to read. “Caressing,” was a form of torture that played a part in Indigenous warfare. If a member of another tribe was captured, he was to be tortured slowly, for all to see. The longer he lasted without crying out and instead singing his death song, the more respect he garnered from his captors. In some cases, if a warrior had required days of torture and kept his pride until the very end, his captors would eat parts of his flesh or drink his blood upon his death to show their respect and to gain some of his power.

My boyfriend and I went to see Boyden interviewed by Matt Galloway at the IFOA in late September and when someone complained that his book was too violent, he said that when you consider the whole book, the number of violent pages were actually quite few. Yes, they are graphic, but not for shock value. This ceremony was part of the Indigenous culture at the time, and has a deserved place in the book. If you’re squeamish, power through. This book is worth it.

But how will The Orenda fare in Canada Reads?

I was extremely impressed by Wab’s composure. When he spoke about the book with Jian at the launch he was confident and well-spoken. He presented his argument for The Orenda passionately and with class. As it’s obviously quite evident, I adored this book and think that many Canadians could benefit from reading it.

People watch the news and they see Idle No More protests and come to their own conclusions about the movement; sometimes with very little of the facts known and / or understood. To understand this part of native history, and our own, I think would be quite powerful for many Canadians. The sad thing is that I think that most of the people who watch and listen to Canada Reads are likely more open-minded than those who don’t (the CBC’s all a bunch of lefties, right?) and maybe this book would preach to the choir. Regardless, no matter how much we think we know, this book presents all sides of the story. I also found it quite accessible. The language was eloquent, but not overbearing and Boyden did a fabulous job of setting the scene and introducing characters and their backgrounds without assuming knowledge from the reader.

I think that Wab’s greatest competition as a panelist will be in Sarah Gadon who is representing Annabel by Kathleen Winter. What do you think? Have you read The Orenda yet?

Healthy coconut banana bread oats

So this is one of those meals that doesn’t photograph well, but is actually amazing.

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This is a recipe that I adapted from Kath Eats Real Food; Whipped banana oatmeal. I like to have the whipped banana oatmeal usually on weekends when I’ll have more time to prepare and eat it. Since I first had this oatmeal, I’ve been adding things to it depending on what I’ve had in the cupboard. Over the past few weeks I’ve honed in on an amazing combination and I really can’t get enough of it, so I wanted to share the recipe.

This warm oatmeal is the perfect way to start a cold morning (know we have lots of those coming up…). It tastes like coconut banana bread and to top it off, it’s filled with delicious seeds and other goodies to make it a really nutritious, healthy way to start your day. The peanut butter gives it a rich, nutty flavour and the prunes… I love prunes. When my nutritionist gushed about prunes, I rolled my eyes. Prunes are for the elderly, I thought. I was wrong. They now taste like candy. And let me tell you – when you come across a prune in these oats, it’s exciting.

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Healthy Coconut Banana Bread Oats
(also vegan and gluten free!)

Prep time: 5 minutes
Cook time: 10 minutes
Serves: 1

1/3 cup of oats (I use Quaker large flake)
1/3 cup of water
1/3 cup of coconut milk (not in a can)
1/2 banana, chopped thinly
1 tsp of coconut extract
pinch of salt
1 tsp chia seeds
1 tbsp hemp hearts
1 tbsp ground flax (or flax seeds – ground flax digests better)
1 1/2 tbsp raw pumpkin seeds
1 tbsp shredded, unsweetened coconut
1 tbsp unsweetened peanut butter of choice (I go crunchy)
4-5 dried prunes, chopped

Add the oats, water, coconut milk, banana, coconut extract and salt to a small pot and turn it to medium high. As the mixture is heating, whisk it to incorporate the bananas. As they heat, they’ll break down into the mixture and add flavour without being chunky (who likes the texture of bananas anyway).

Once the mixture has started to thicken and you can’t see any more banana, add the chia, hemp hearts, flax, pumpkin seeds and shredded coconut. Keep the mixture on the heat, stirring often, until it reaches your desired consistency. Grab a spatula and get it into a bowl. Add the peanut butter and prunes on top. Stir in.

If this recipe sounds like a lot of ingredients for a small bowl of oats, I promise you, it’s worth it. When you keep your dried nuts and seeds in tupperware or mason jars, it’s also really easy to measure everything out quickly.

Enjoy!

Review: Son of a Certain Woman by Wayne Johnston

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When I read the synopsis of this novel, I was a little taken aback. In a nutshell, Percy Joyce has a genetic disorder that has resulted in oversized hands, feet, lower lip and a port wine stain on his face (yes, that’s apparently the technical term).  

Percy lives with his mother, Penelope, who’s the most beautiful woman to ever grace St. John’s. Before Percy was born, her fiancee, Jim Joyce, left her alone; unmarried and pregnant. To help pay the rent, Penelope has a border live with them: Pops, the science teacher from the high school directly across the street. Also around the house frequently is Medina, who is Jim Joyce’s sister, or Penelope’s almost sister-in-law. Now, here’s where it gets a little freaky. 

- Penelope sleeps with Pops once a month to earn some extra money that’s added to the rent. 
- Penelope is actually a lesbian and desperately in love with her sister-in-law, Medina, who stays over secretly most nights.
- Percy is, like the rest of St. John’s, in love with his mother. 

So. 

The stage is clearly set right from the beginning of the book to be a horse of a different colour. 

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I really didn’t have any interest in reading this book. 

I haven’t read any of Wayne Johnston’s work, though Colony of Unrequited Dreams is most certainly on my TBR list. Reading the synopsis of this book, I thought, “There’s no way I’m going to relate to anything in this book,” but that’s where I was wrong. Johnston writes these larger-than-life characters (no pun intended.) that seem so outrageous, yet he writes them so simply, so human, that’s impossible not to relate to them. 

No, I haven’t been caught between my boarder and sister-in-law, but I’ve been caught in tricky situations before and I could totally relate to how Penelope was feeling. No, I haven’t had to go to school with the burden of over-sized limbs, but I know what it’s like to lie to make yourself seem more interesting. 

I just loved this book. It was so real, and the storyline was extremely well-crafted. There were no big surprises, but it wasn’t predictable either. There were many times I burst out laughing, which I most certainly wasn’t expecting. There’s a scene at the end of the book that’s hilarious, raunchy, and shocking and I won’t tell you more, but my goodness. Johnston certainly has an imagination.

I was so pleased that I picked up this book and I would urge you to do the same. I would say that this was “unjustly and inexplicably excluded from the Giller Prize shortlist,” but something makes me think that’s been said already…

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hoto courtesy of Vicki Ziegler