Monthly Archives: November 2014

Hump Day: Nutty as a ‍fruitcake: my picky family’s Christmas feast

Hump DayHump Day
By Brian Cormier
Wednesday, Nov. 26, 2014
Moncton Times & Transcript

About a month from now, many of us will be collapsed on our sofas wearing stretchy pants and complaining about everyone else’s eggnog breath. For all intents and purposes, Christmas will be but a memory as we start to think about making new year’s resolutions as we moan and groan from having eaten too much turkey, stuffing and ‍fruitcake as we cough up tinsel and pick the glass from broken Christmas ornaments out of our feet.

Speaking of ‍fruitcake, I’ve once again started the journey down the lonely path of trying to ‘wow’ everyone at Christmas dinner with a special dessert. Every year I try to make something that would make Martha Stewart green with envy, only to see it sit there unappreciated as the unwashed in my family eat other goodies that they’re more used to.

Trying to get people to try a new dessert at Christmas is not easy. Traditions are strong, and since food is so closely related to the holidays, it’s a tough habit to break despite making a valiant attempt at introducing something new at the table when all everyone wants is the same (but delicious) gooey goodness that we’ve eaten every year since birth. ‘Here, try this new cookie from a recipe I got from (insert name of famous TV chef here)! It’s what everyone in (insert name of foreign country no one can spell or pronounce) eats every Christmas morning as they sit under the tree weeping with emotion while basking in the togetherness of their family.’

fruitcakeAll I get is blank stares. ‘No thanks, we’ll eat the same (insert name of favourite holiday Christmas dessert) we’ve been eating for years.’ And you know what, that’s perfectly fine. I get it. It’s not Christmas without our traditional foods. Really, every culture and religion has their special feasts and holidays with foods so closely associated with them that it would take something dramatic for people to permanently change their traditions.

I mean, it’s not as if we’re ever going to see the entire family singing O Come All Ye Faithful on Christmas Day while sitting around Grandma’s ‘tuna surprise’ casserole. Well, if tuna casserole is your thing on Christmas Day fine… but I don’t remember the stores running out of canned tuna on Christmas Eve.

This year, I decided to make a ‍fruit‍‍cake. Since the holiday is about a month away, now was the time to start planning the booze-laden, delicious dark cake I was going to create from one of the recipes I’d researched online. I’d also received a number of great-looking recipes from friends after issuing a plea on Facebook. They all looked and sounded amazing. I’m a sucker for dark ‍fruitcake. How can anyone not like it? Where’s your humanity? Where’s your soul? There’s nothing quite like biting into a slice of this impossibly sweet treat filled with Frankenstein-like green and neon red maraschino cherries. (Don’t ever look up how the manufacturers make these things. Just eat them in blissful ignorance.)

When I told my mother that I was going to embark on a month-long fruitcake-making journey, she told me that she’d just bought a big one from a local charity organization who’s been selling them for years. I’m sure it’s delicious. I have no doubt. But will taking one bite make you instantly drunk for two weeks like the alcohol-soaked one I was going to make? Would you not be able to drive for a month like after taking a bite of mine? Would you go temporarily blind and lose the ability to smell for three days after your brain was assaulted by my impossibly boozy and sweet concoction which was pretty much just a solid piece of brandy? I think not.

I don’t think ‍fruitcake gets the respect it deserves.

First of all, it’s not cheap. I’m surprised the banks don’t have officials hired just to deal with people who want to make ‍fruitcakes at Christmas. ‘Car loan, sir? See Mrs. Smith down the hall. Mortgage, ma’am? See Mr. Lee upstairs. ‍Fruitcake, sir? Oh you poor thing. I’m so sorry to hear that. Just leave your favourite body part in this bucket and Mr. Jones will see you momentarily. Welcome to the wonderful world of poverty.’

You’d think that something so complicated, fancy and expensive to make would get more respect. Besides, it’s got booze in it. Lots of booze. You could leave it out on your counter for 10 years and it would still taste fresh. It’s the world’s perfect food.

I’m calling Helen Reddy. Time for her to record I Am ‍Fruitcake, Hear Me Roar!

Hump Day: Serial cell users: let’s find a way to endanger this species

Hump DayHump Day
By Brian Cormier
Wednesday, Nov. 19, 2014
Moncton Times & Transcript

I went to a play the other day by a local theatre troupe. I really enjoyed it. It was quite funny with a number of laugh-out-loud lines and the plot included a number of twists and turns that kept the audience wondering how it would end. I thought it was pretty clever – and I really liked the ending. I remember thinking, “Oh now that’s a nice way to bring it all back together.”

Now, before any theatrical performance (or concert, movie screening, etc.), someone will usually stand up in front of the crowd or a voice will come over the speakers asking members of the audience to turn off their cell phones. Although I thought I’d turned off the volume on my cell phone, I was surprised to find out that I hadn’t already done so when I double checked. I usually make a habit of doing so as soon as I sit down at any type of public presentation.

Indeed, one of my pet peeves is someone whose phone goes off when it isn’t supposed to. Of course, we all make mistakes, and we’re all guilty of forgetting to turn down the ringer and then frantically trying to mute the phone when it eventually starts ringing at the exact moment it isn’t supposed to. “And the murderer’s name is (telephone rings so you can’t hear the name)! Goodnight, everyone! Thank you for sitting through our four-hour production!”

After I turned down my phone, I looked around the auditorium and bunch of other people were doing the same thing. No one wants to be ‘that person’ who disrupts the entire play with a cell phone ringing.

Part way through the play, the inevitable happened. A cell phone went off a couple of rows behind me. We could hear the person mumbling in frustration and a few people mumbled back. Mostly, though, it was good-natured chuckling, like the reaction after breaking a glass in a restaurant or something like that. We shared in the person’s embarrassment and felt empathy for what was likely just an honest mistake. Those things happen.

While the audience member was trying to turn off their phone in the dark, the actors on stage continued without missing a beat. Yup, they were real pros! This was the final performance of four, so they were probably used to a cell phone going off in the audience by now.

cellphone banWhen the phone rang in back of me for the second time, there was a bit less good-natured chuckling. The third time, there was no chuckling and some outright anger. Who kept calling this audience member? And why couldn’t they turn off their phone? By the fifth time (maybe sixth, I lost count) the phone rang, there was downright overt anger toward the audience member.

Finally, they got up and left their seat (causing everyone in their row to have to stand up and lose track of the play) to get to a better-lit area so they could figure out how to turn off their phone. “I’m sorry! I’m sorry!” People were not happy. Their theatre experience was being ruined. Mistakes happen, but five or six times in a row?

By this time, there was frustration bordering on fury. It’s not often that I’ve heard an audience turn on someone, but you could just feel the collective blood pressure of the crowd about to burst like a slow cooker that explodes from built-up heat and steam. While it was clear that the phone owner was just as frustrated as anyone that the phone wouldn’t shut off, you’d think that after three calls they would have left to properly turn off the device.

At least the person felt bad. That was obvious. It’s just too bad that the thought of leaving the theatre to take care of the problem only came after five or six calls came in. People need to just get up and move to a private area sooner in situations like that.

There’s a game people play in restaurants now. Everyone in the dining party puts their cell phone in the middle of the table. The first person to get a call because they left their ringer on or check their email has to pay for everyone’s meals.

Perhaps we should implement that same rule inside theatres and cinemas If your cell phone rings, you have to give everyone back their money out of your own pocket. If you hit people in their wallet, maybe then and only then will they finally figure out their phones. It’s an idea whose time has come.

Food Depot launches 30 Days of Community Caring Campaign for 2014 holiday season

fooddepotToday, Food Depot Alimentaire announced the support of several groups and organizations in conjunction with their annual 30 Days of Community Caring Campaign which kicked off today and ends on Dec. 20.

Over the next 30 days, a number of activities will take place in the community with the shared goal of raising food and funds in support of the Christmas box program along with sustaining FDA operations throughout the winter months.

Christmas and the cold winter months create additional costs to low-income families who must turn to food banks for assistance in helping them juggle this financial burden. In past years, FDA would be approached by various organizations on an individual basis to provide assistance. These individual offers of support are now joined together under one huge effort known as the 30 Days of Community Caring Campaign.

“The response by the community over the next month really allows us to sustain our operation through the dreary winter months and into spring,” said Dale Hicks, president of Food Depot’s board of directors. “Without this combined effort many food bank shelves would be empty by early January.”

The 2013 campaign saw the community donate 4,800 turkeys, fill and deliver 1,750 Christmas food boxes, collect 15,000 pounds of food and raise $20,000. “The total in terms of a dollar value exceeded $300,000,” said Mr. Hicks. “It is a significant response and a testimony to the generosity of the community we live in”.

For more information on the campaign, visit www.fooddepot.ca or call 506-383-4281.

The photos below show just a few of the many organizations and individuals who showed up to pledge their support at today’s event.

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Hump Day: Debate over holiday decorations, respect for veterans is without merit

Hump DayHump Day
By Brian Cormier
Wednesday, Nov. 12, 2014
Moncton Times & Transcript

I don’t understand why people get sidetracked by tiny issues when there are so many bigger things to be worried about. I’ve written about this before, but the ludicrous “Christmas decorations are disrespectful to veterans” argument got extra attention this year after former Dragons’ Den star Brett Wilson – a well-known supporter of the military – decided to take on retailers on the issue.

By all accounts, Mr. Wilson is a good person. He’s known to be generous and giving of his time and money. On Nov. 2, he posted a message to Twitter which read in part: “Reminder to retailers – until November 12th – don’t even think about #XmasDecorations.” A CBC headline on the issue suggested that decorations before Remembrance Day showed disrespect toward veterans. Furthermore, he was quoted as saying, “It’s a source of frustration, particularly to some of the veterans that I know who feel that they’re being kinda swept aside in the commercialization of Christmas.”

As Colonel Potter used to say on M*A*S*H, “Moose muffins!” The argument that Christmas decorations in a retail setting are disrespectful to veterans is silly. It suggests society can’t chew gum and walk at the same time.

Canada has a new generation of veterans and fallen soldiers from our involvement in Afghanistan. More recently, two members of our military have been killed by homegrown radicals right here on Canadian soil. Now, as Canada sees mounting pressure for it to become further involved in the efforts to defeat ISIS, are we on the verge of another wave of casualties, physical injuries and veterans suffering from the tragedy of post-traumatic stress syndrome (PTSD)?

Add to that: cuts by the federal government to offices of Veterans Affairs Canada, forcing many veterans – depending on where they live – to find assistance on the telephone rather than in person. I wonder how many veterans have been caught in the hell that is any automated telephone system? ‘Press 1 if you fought for our country and are now suffering from PTSD and having suicidal thoughts.’ (Presses 1.) ‘Thank you for your call, but no one is available to talk to you right now. Have fun with that. Bye.’

dragons den
Brett Wilson, far right, was a cast member of CBC’s popular Dragons’ Den from 2008 to 2011.

Obviously I exaggerate, however I believe Canada’s military and the veterans who fought and continue to fight to protect us deserve a bit more than an overly simplistic campaign by someone of great privilege against retailers who prepare for the biggest shopping season of the year before Remembrance Day.

Mr. Wilson is wasting his power and influence on this issue. There’s no way he or anyone else can convince me that the biggest fish to fry when it comes to problems affecting veterans in 2014 is the fact that you might be hearing Jingle Bells in the background when you’re pinning on your poppy in the lead-up to Veterans’ Week.

What about budget cuts? What about PTSD sufferers who can’t get the treatment they need? Now that’s disrespect, Mr. Wilson – not a Christmas tree, twinkling lights or a poster announcing a sale in a store.

The sad part about all this is that Mr. Wilson has put small retailers on the defensive. With the holiday season being the busiest time of the year for sales, retailers have to do what they can to compete against the big box stores and foreign giants with millions to put behind holiday advertising campaigns. I find it preposterous that a small local bookstore that tries to spark sales before Remembrance Day would be branded by Mr. Wilson as disrespectful toward veterans. First, it’s not true. Second, who appointed Mr. Wilson judge and jury to society on this issue?

Mr. Wilson should be using his power and influence to rail against budget cuts. He should be leading rallies. He should be meeting with politicians – both in government and in opposition – to lobby for more services to veterans.Perhaps he is already doing this. If so, good!

If we’re out hunting moose, i.e. the big issues here – budget cuts, treatment for our injured veterans, PTSD, etc. – then why are we chasing rabbit tracks in the snow and getting obsessed with a bit of glitter and holiday music in the background while we’re getting our poppy? The early Christmas shopping season and Remembrance Day overlap. They will always share some space for a few weeks. Build a bridge and get over it!

We shouldn’t jump to false conclusions that a retailer trying to make a profit is disrespectful of our heroes because of a few baubles in a window. Many of those businesses also support the poppy campaign. Stop making false enemies out of them.