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In the Kitchen With Granny

Today I woke up and took a good look in the mirror; Fingers padding lightly across my skin, as I lean in to really see myself. I look into my tired blue eyes and know that I look like both of my grandmothers.  I have the round, kind face of my Granny Dorothy, and the body of my Granny Eileen. It’ll just have to do.

The two of them were as different as night and day. Granny Dorothy was an educated woman who married late in life to a sour, strict, everyone’s-going-to-burn-in-hell-baptist.  Her wits and grit kept the bills paid, and her sense of humour kept her alive. Had she been born today, she likely never would have married. She would have worked her way around the world. Alas, the 1930’s had other plans for her.

Granny Eileen on the other hand, was on husband number three when I came along. She’d raised six kids on her own. She was a resourceful woman with a heart of gold who didn’t take a lick of shit from anyone, especially her husband.

Both of these women taught me to make something from nothing.  Whether it was in the kitchen, or out in the world at large. They taught me how a woman could be both strong and kind.

Every year, I keep them close as I plant my garden, and every harvest season, as I take to the kitchen. These rituals keep me close to them. I’m a sentimental traditionalist when it comes to my kitchen. During the summer, I find myself preserving the same things with the same recipes that they did all those years ago.  I throw in a few more odds and ends, just because I find comfort in the routine of being in the kitchen during harvest season.

This morning I slipped on a jersey knit dress that put me in mind of Granny Dorothy. She knew what she was doing with those old house dresses. Simple, tidy, and most importantly when you’re preserving; cool. I listened to interviews with authors as I sterilized jars, peeled and chopped fruit, remembering how my Granny Eileen’s gnarled up hands seemed to be able to create anything.

During the summer months, I yearn for the slow, simple days of childhood summers. I recall the flavour of each stage of the harvest; radish, carrots, and beans snapped straight from the plant and tossed directly into our mouths.  No garden was immune to kids raiding it for a snack. We sucked on sour rhubarb stalks, and cringed at the bitterness of currents. We raided the ditches and gullies, picking raspberries and blackberries when we were lucky enough to find them. Each ripening carried back to the kitchens of our grannies where it was made into something wonderful.

 

Except pastry. I learned how not to make pastry from both of my Grandmothers. Kind of like how not to choose a mate. As it turns out, Granny Eileen  insisted that if I followed the recipe on the box of Tenderflake, my pastry would be just fine. She also lied. Years later my aunt laughted at me so hard tears streamed down her face; Granny used pre-made pastry and was full of shit. Granny Dorothy on the other hand was honest with me but produced pastry with a texture so fearsome that the dog wouldn’t even eat it.  From this I learned that sometimes we don’t always get what we need from family. Sometimes we have to reach out to become wiser and better.

 

The quiet stretches in my kitchen necessary for the process of preserving and canning gives me time to commune with the spirit of these two women. They are with me here in the steam and heat, and smell of cooked fruit. They are with me when I take a jar of something I preserved from the pantry and serve it to my family and friends. My grannies are always with me at my table.

 

 

 

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The Niqab Debate; A Feminist Canadian Perspective

maninchapsI’ve debated whether or not to write this post.

Let me be clear, the Niqab is a political, social and emotional hot button, and our Canadian Conservative spin-doctors hit the nail on the head when they reeled in this red herring.

This is and is not a political issue. It is because it addresses the clusterf^@k that happens when church and state mix. It is not because we should be focused on the complete erosion of democracy that has been achieved by the Conservative government.

I am by no means a social conservative. I am, however, amongst other fabulous and wonderful things, a feminist.

As a woman, the idea that any faith or culture requires a woman to hide her body reinforces the grand debate about the inequality between women and men.

It’s all bullshit folks. Women, men, and everyone who lives in the spectrum between these binary ideas of gender, deserve to be treated equally according to their achievements, gifts and status as a human being.

This morning, sipping my coffee, I read a social media post, (read it folks- it makes a great point, the twitter handle is @manwhohasitall ), which emphasized how screwed up our culture is when it comes to assigning value to typical gender roles.

The title of the article was; If we gave fathers the same nonsensical advice we give working mothers. Here are a few of the more ridiculous quotes;

TODAY’S DEBATE: Is fatherhood the end for career men?

RISE & SHINE FRAZZLED DADS! Wife & kids asleep? Now is the time to declutter cupboard under the sink & snack on your open pores. ‘Me time’.

Working husband & father? Feeling overwhelmed? YOUR FAULT. Drink more water, get up earlier & dress in your ‘wow’ colours.

Now that we have established the double-standard that still exists for working women, let me dive right in to Canadian politics and culture.

People flee to this country because it has a reputation for being nice, for offering equal opportunity, and not allowing our citizens to slit one another’s throats in the street because of basic human rights such as gender, religion, or ability differences.

You know why that exists folks? Because we separate religion from politics.

Given that the history of the niqab as religious versus cultural choice is debatable, let me hit you with a feminist, Canadian, patriotic perspective; women are sick and damn-tired of being told what to do. As Canadians, we’re sick and damn-tired of people from other countries coming here and telling us that they want the same religious-cultural government that they fled from.

If your argument is that not being allowed to wear the niqab is a religious right, perhaps you can cover your face and symbolically demean women in another country. I would never dream of travelling to Saudia Arabia, wearing a bikini and whining about being persecuted for wearing it. It just doesn’t happen.

I wouldn’t mind if all heterosexual men were mandated to wear ass-showing chaps so I could size up my next pony-ride, but I doubt that’s ever going to happen. Because it’s sexist and demeaning.

I agree with Naheed Nenshi’s latest article in the Globe and Mail which talks about Canada being a country of hope. I do not agree with starting down a slippery slope of mixing church and state via the not-so-subtle misogynistic tradition of devaluing the feminine in the name of religion, a la Niqab.

Don’t give me the ridiculous argument about Hallowe’en or Newfie Mummers. It’s not the same and you know it. You know why?  Because females and males participate equally in both. Because no one shows up at airport security, in a courtroom, or in any other situation with their face hidden. It’s a slap in the face of every woman who has ever had to fight to vote, be legally considered a person, been paid less than a man for the same job, the list goes on and on.

Yes, mandating an uncovered face would be telling women what to do, and men too. It’s also telling citizens that we are all accountable for our actions, that hiding behind religion or cultural traditions which symbolically treat women as the property of men will not be tolerated.

Like it or not, allowing the niqab to be worn in public flies in the face of women’s rights in North America. We have worked damn hard to achieve the reduced level of inequality that we have now.

Misogyny cannot hide behind a veil. Instead, that veil screams to North American women that it is alive and well.

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Wine: The Cure-All for Driver Training, PMS and Annoying Old Ladies

"Pour yourself a drink, put on some lipstick and pull yourself together." ~Liz Taylor~
“Pour yourself a drink, put on some lipstick and pull yourself together.”
~Liz Taylor~

Let’s work backward from the annoying old lady shall we?

Given that I, myself am an annoying old lady according to my kiddo’s generation, you can take this with a grain of salt.

DO NOT ask forty-something year old women if they are married and have a family (in the same breath).  If you must ask, you clearly don’t know me well enough to ask and clearly it is none of your damn business darling.

First of all, it does not endear us to you, and second of all because you’re likely to get an answer that confuses your out of touch moronic-question-asking priorities. My answer, “No, and yes,” with a smile that silently said, “All the better to eat you with you gauche old cow“, was clearly confusing. So, I did what I thought most prudent under the circumstances; spun on my well turned-out heels and walked away.

Women are not baby-factories or defined by their marital status any more. We have credentials, and likely a better grip on our own personal world of finance, family and friendship than any man whom may have coddled previous generations of women through life. We generally do not subscribe to the rule of, the bigger the sin, the bigger the diamond. We conduct ourselves with discretion and expect our wonderful men to carry themselves the same way.

We also have PMS.

I don’t care what we think big-pharma is pulling over our eyes. I already KNOW they’re killing us while making trillions of dollars off of our unnatural lifestyles. What I also know is that I get tired, bitchy, and a tad prone to tears when mother nature comes to collect on all the party time down under. Whilst preaching the benefit of some wonder-contraceptive today, my body was secretly laughing.

“Maybe you’re just PMS’ing”, a pal said when I told her I was feeling a bit edgy.

Nah, I don’t PMS. I was a skeptic, but have this new wonderful-better-than-gawd-birth-control, ” I giggled like a mad woman, “I don’t get periods any more.” Ah, yes, the beauty of aging. Clearly that was the confidence of over two decades of successful birth control and no unwanted pregnancies speaking, not my rational self.

But mother nature can be even more cruel than little old ladies who judge you according to whether or not you’re married and as miserable as they are. Mother nature promptly, and without warning tapped me on the head with her magic-menstruation-cudgel. Wonderfreakingful.

The only thing that could possibly have been better is if I were wearing brand new panties and white short-shorts in a canoe a thousand miles away from a tampon, which, just in case you’re wondering, has happened to every Canadian woman who has ever had an in-the-great-outdoors-adventure.

Perfect.

The only good part about my day was getting home before dawn, and actually having time to run some errands and see my kiddo. Who, incidentally hates me by default because he’s a teenager. “Are you ever actually going to take me driving?”. I think he may have even made eye contact while he  spoke, so it must have been really important to him.

It’s a good thing he asked after I’d had a chance to load up on some vintage vino, with one particularly lovely Shiraz from the Southern Barossa Valley which was silently wooing me from the trunk like a secret lover who had managed to squirrel away a few hours for passionate love-making..

So there you have it.  After having some old bag call into question my value as a woman because I’m not with-band-on-ring-finger, having the equivalent of a rogue-wave-in-a-mud-puddle anomaly of a period arrive, and have to sit through a driving lesson with my teenager, I am finally resigning myself to being completely and utterly in the moment.

It doesn’t hurt to have some classic jazz and a lip-smacking, seductive wine to help me get my Zen on. So long as no strangers ask me any more judgmental-quasi-Christian-have-you-been-saved-questions, we all just might make it out of this week alive. Cheers to you my fellow fearless ladies. May your wine racks overfloweth!