More on Sandwiches

November 23, 2021

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A couple of days ago, I posted something about Five Sandwiches that Made America and I received some flack — mainly from the Everloving — that the real American sandwiches had been omitted. Therefore, as atonement, I did a little research on grilled cheese, the hoagie, hamburger, Reuben, and the BLT.

Grilled cheese:

Image: Michael Graydon And Nikole Herriott

The French have had their croque monsieur since the 1890s, but the grilled cheese sandwich as we know it had to await the invention of sliced bread by Otto Rohwedder in the late 1920s, and was further enhanced with the introduction of cheese slices at the end of the 1940s.

As the Committed Pig notes:

“The name “grilled cheese” didn’t actually come around until the 1960’s; before then it was all “toasted cheese” or “melted cheese” sandwiches. Which brings up a very important point – how you actually cook this sandwich doesn’t really matter, and historically the methods have been all over the map. Records show as early as 1902, a recipe for a “Melted Cheese,” designed to be cooked in a hot oven, appeared in Sarah Tyson Rorer’s ‘Mrs. Rorer’s New Cook Book’. A recipe was also published in 1929 in Florence A. Cowles’ ‘Seven Hundred Sandwiches’ called to broil the ingredients to make “Toasted Cheese.” “Toasted Sandwich,” published in 1939 in ‘The Boston Cooking School Cook Book’, encouraged the ingredients to be broiled or even sautéed in a frying pan coated with butter. And in ‘The Joy of Cooking’ (1953), Irma S. Rombauer wrote that bread and cheese should be heated in a commercial waffle iron – an easy meal for even “the maid-less host” to prepare.”

The Hoagie/sub:

Image: Chelsie Craig

So many names for this ubiquitous American sandwich: hoagie, submarine, grinder, po’boy, hero, wedges, etc. etc. The origin myth is that a local shopkeeper supplied these kinds of sandwiches to the ship workers building submarines at Groton, CT, during the second world war. But a listing two years earlier for a restaurant in Wilmington, DE, serving “submarine sandwiches to go” seems to hit that one on the head.

The concept of piling different ingredients between two long sticks of untoasted bread seems to have arisen spontaneously in several locations around the same time — thus the wide array of local names — hoagie, submarine, grinder, po’boy, hero, wedges, etc. etc. — for what is essentially the same sandwich.

Since its commercialization, the name Subway has become a standard.

Hamburgers:

Where would America be without the hamburger sandwich? It has easily overtaken the hot dog as America’s fast food go-to. Billions are chewed every year, and working a hamburger stand is often a good first step into employment. I’ve never had a Big Mac but I’ve written about them.

According to the Library of Congress, it was Louis Lassen, a New Haven, CT, lunch wagon operator who in 1895 first ground up beef and slapped it between bread. The Lassen luncheonette still exists and they only allow additions of cheese, tomato, and onion, nothing else. But there are other stories from other towns from around the same time. It’s clear that it was an efficient product for both buyer and seller, and pretty soon they were were being sold everywhere.

Competition was so strong that most successful hamburger chains quickly became masters of business efficiency, of delivering an adequate standardized meal and experience for the least cost. Ray Kroc, who opened the first franchised McDonalds in the 1950s, was one such master and he quickly turned McDs into the behemoth.

Reuben:

The Reuben, always associated with kosher delis though definitely not kosher, seems to have come about in the 1920s, probably as a poker game food in Omaha, NE. But Reuben’s Deli in New York has also claimed authorship.

The Canadian version would probably use Montreal smoked meat rather than corned beef.

The BLT:

Although all the ingredients were available there is no evidence of bacon, lettuce, and tomato sandwiches prior to 1900. Food For Thought has found a recipe from the “1903 Good Housekeeping Everyday Cook Book, where a club sandwich included bacon, lettuce, tomato, along with mayo and a slice of turkey.”

This confirms me in my view that the BLT is simply a form of club sandwich. Nothing wrong with that, but not quite as innovative as the other sandwiches.


Wise Words

November 19, 2021

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“We are here to provide for all those who are weaker and hungrier, more battered and crippled than ourselves. That is our only certain good and great purpose on earth, and if you ask me about those insoluble economic problems that may arise if the top is deprived of their initiative, I would answer ‘To hell with them!’ The top is greedy and mean and will always find a way to take care of themselves. They always do.” — the late and much missed Michael Foot.

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[hat tip to Steve Paxton]


I’m A Luddite

November 9, 2021

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I would guess that many people who know me would — absent my computer use — consider me a Luddite: I own no car, no mobile phone, no microwave, I’ve never been on Facebook, I don’t watch much TV, and I have very little time for the things out there.

I might have argued that the term should NOT apply to me because I don’t agree with mindless destruction. But an excellent article in The Conversation has straightened me out on the history of Luddism and I now gleefully accept the designation.

“Our circumstances today are more similar to theirs than it might seem, as new technologies are being used to transform our own working and social conditions — think increases in employee surveillance during lockdowns, or exploitation by gig labour platforms. It’s time we reconsider the lessons of Luddism …

“The contemporary usage of Luddite has the machine-smashing part correct — but that’s about all it gets right. First, the Luddites were not indiscriminate. They were intentional and purposeful about which machines they smashed. They targeted those owned by manufacturers who were known to pay low wages, disregard workers’ safety, and/or speed up the pace of work. Even within a single factory — which would contain machines owned by different capitalists — some machines were destroyed and others pardoned depending on the business practices of their owners …

“Luddism was a working-class movement opposed to the political consequences of industrial capitalism. The Luddites wanted technology to be deployed in ways that made work more humane and gave workers more autonomy. The bosses, on the other hand, wanted to drive down costs and increase productivity …

“It wasn’t the invention of these machines that provoked the Luddites to action. They only banded together once factory owners began using these machines to displace and disempower workers …

Sounds so much like today.

“Today, new technologies are being used to alter our lives, societies and working conditions no less profoundly than mechanical looms were used to transform those of the original Luddites. The excesses of big tech companies – Amazon’s inhumane exploitation of workers in warehouses driven by automation and machine vision, Uber’s gig-economy lobbying and disregard for labour law, Facebook’s unchecked extraction of unprecedented amounts of user data – are driving a public backlash that may contain the seeds of a neo-Luddite movement …

A neo-Luddite movement would understand no technology is sacred in itself, but is only worthwhile insofar as it benefits society. It would confront the harms done by digital capitalism and seek to address them by giving people more power over the technological systems that structure their lives.”

Well-worth taking the time to read the article.


Emerging Photography Awards 2021

November 6, 2021

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The Emerging Photography Awards for 2021 have been announced. I really like these:

Kansas: photographer Rob Darby
Chinese New Year Reimagined: Photographer Horace Li
Woman: Photographer Daniela Constantini

Wise Words

November 5, 2021

The True Growth of Grandview

October 28, 2021

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Back in October of last year, I reported on the publication of a City of Vancouver document called Grandview Woodland: Neighbourhood Social Indicators Profile. I mentioned a couple of interesting graphs but didn’t really have time to delve into the details. Today, I was reminded by a correspondent of the document, who pointed out the population and density figures displayed.

As can be seen, Grandview in 2016 had reached a population equal to its previous highest in the 1990s. During the Community Plan, then Councillor Geoff Meggs wrote that Grandview had “flatlined”. He was, as in so many matters, wrong.

Not only were we not flatlining, but we were attracting young families with children who will be the future of our neighbourhood:

“From 2011 to 2016, Grandview-Woodland was a destination for people between ages 20 and 35; there were more than 125% more 25-year-olds in 2016 than there were 20-year-olds in 2011.” (p.13)

Throughout the Grandview Woodland Community Plan process we were told over and over again by Planners that we needed to increase density in the neighbourhood. When the Community Plan was approved in 2016, the same Councillor Meggs declared himself disappointed that Grandview was “not bearing its share of density.” He –and the Planners — were wrong yet again as the City’ own figures illustrate:

“As of 2016, Grandview-Woodland’s population density was 64 persons per hectare, about 18% denser than the City of Vancouver’s average density overall.” (p.10)

Why am I digging up these figures again? Because the Planners when pushing new developments in Grandview continue to press us to take more density than most other areas of the City. They never give the data and just suggest that somehow we are not pulling our weight.

This is particularly important when we look at the massive towers and new density suggested for the Safeway site at Broadway & Commercial. We know that a number of people have declared their support for the Safeway towers based on their belief that Grandview is somehow falling behind in either population and/or density.

These are false beliefs and it is vital that we move forward ONLY based on true and accurate data.


Dinner Tonight #73

October 26, 2021

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Tonight I cooked a wonderfully spicy mushroom cream sauce with rotini. Delicious!


Safeway Site Meeting

October 21, 2021

The PR company — Pottinger Bird — working for the developers of the proposed towers at the Safeway site, Commercial & Broadway, are holding “information meetings” about the project next week.

The meetings are by invitation only for what they describe as the “stakeholders”. Apparently, neither Grandview Woodland Area Council nor any of the community activists who have devoted so much volunteer time on this project are considered “stakeholders”.

The meetings are on Wednesday 27th October, one from 3-5pm and the other from 6-8pm, at the Cultch.

I urge anyone and everyone concerned about this neighbourhood-altering project to write to Virginia@pottingerbird.com as soon as possible and politely ask for an invitation, noting your concern as a local stakeholder.


Image: Street Art #3B

October 21, 2021

Aberfan: The Death of Childhood

October 21, 2021

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Aberfan disaster, October 1966.jpg

Today is the 55th anniversary of one of the saddest days of my young life. A rain-soaked and ill-sited colliery spoil tip that loomed over the south Wales village of Aberfan collapsed, burying houses and a school, killing 116 children and 28 adults. Lessons had just begun for the morning when the 34m tip spilled 140,000 cubic yards of spoil into the village.

I didn’t know any of the victims, and had not even heard of the village until that morning. But I remember weeping as the news came over the radio, and I am tearing up now as I type this.

The National Coal Board and several employees were found to be responsible and money was raised. But nothing could replace the lives that were lost due to management’s callous disregard for public safety.


What Bad Planning Does To A Neighbourhood

October 9, 2021

As the time draws near for the public to have some say in the development of the so-called Vancouver Plan, I thought it would be interesting to repost this from a little while ago. It was written in relation to a particular project in Grandview but I believe it retains a general relevance today.

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I will be speaking to City Council at a Public Hearing on what many of us consider an out-of-scale building that shows no sensitivity to the neighborhood and which disrespects all the work that was put into the Community Plan just a few years ago. Preparing for the hearing triggered thoughts about the wider context in which development is taking place in Grandview.

In most cases, stately and adaptable Edwardian buildings are being replaced with cookie-cutter back-and-front duplexes. There are serious issues both with why this is occurring and the effect they will have on the long term social fabric of the neighbourhood.

The houses being demolished generally started life as single family properties. But they were large and spacious and their interior structure allowed them to be configured to suit multiple uses. The single family house often developed into a multi-generational home, then perhaps into a rooming house or complex of individual suites, and many saw further use as a renovated SFH with a basement suite helping the mortgage.  Families and neighbour community were encouraged by this kind of architecture.

The replacement duplexes, with their lack of basements and attics and their fixed regular patterns discouraging or inhibiting family growth, are designed for the modern two-person tech couple isolated within their own cells and digital networks. Families and community groups are being replaced by “household units.” This is a fundamental and unwelcome change in the social fabric for a family-friendly residential neighbourhood such as Grandview.

Why is this happening? A generally accepted view is that the planning and development process has been so damaged in Vancouver (we have all heard of relatively trivial projects taking years to complete through the bureaucracy and with tens of thousands in fees attached) that developers are deciding against innovation and are sticking to templated duplex designs they can get through the process with a minimum of fuss and delay.  There still seems to be a market for these at around $1.4 million per half-duplex and a slightly lower profit margin is preferred to the risks of serious delay with any other kind of development proposals.

But should we really be changing the nature of our communities just to suit a failure of competence in the planning process?

The immediate consequences of the trend to demolish old Edwardians and replace them with duplexes are to reduce density and increase  housing costs — absolutely contrary to the shrill claims of the build-build-build brigade.

On a block on Venables that was recently ravaged, we have firm knowledge that two of the houses demolished housed twelve people. They have all been displaced.   The four duplex units that have taken their place will generally have no more than two people living in each, for a total of, say, 8 people.  That is a 33% reduction in density. The affordable rentals were replaced by $1 million+plus price tags. If they are put out for rent, I would be surprised if they were offered at less than $3,000 a month — that’s a 100% increase in the cost for someone used to paying $1,400 or $1,500 a month to live in that space.

An earlier example of this same issue happened when townhouses came to Adanac. We see this happening all over Grandview.

We would do a let better by allowing and incentivizing current owners to increase the number of units on their lots, adding internal suites, laneways, etc. This will increase density while retaining the current neighbourhood look, feel, and scale.  It will reduce costs both by eliminating the need for land acquisition and reducing the bureaucratic burden (especially for heritage homes) that makes such renos and improvements almost impossible these days. It will increase affordability by creating incentives for rents to remain at income-suitable levels. A further benefit would be an increase in work opportunities for smaller local builders who could handle projects of this size.

Whether you agree with these specific ideas or not, it should be clear we cannot keep doing what we are doing.


Biology Pictures

October 8, 2021

The Guardian has a good piece on the 2021 Photography Competition put on by the Royal Society of Biology. One of the winners was this:

Mutualism: Photographer Vishwanath Birje

Some of the others I particularly liked included:

Watering Hole Antics: Photographer Hayden Wood

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Marine Eco-system: Photographer Truong Hoai Vu

The Future of False Creek Housing

October 3, 2021

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Many readers will know that the housing at False Creek South is recognized around the world as a model of integrated planning. The mix of high-, middle-, and low-income households supported by long-term leases from the City has developed into a highly successful community. Unfortunately that community is threatened and the residents stressed by the failure of the City to renew the leases even though discussions have been ongoing for many years.

At the Special Council Meeting on Tuesday (October 5th), Councillor Colleen Hardwick is bringing forward a Motion that would require the City to extend the current leases at least until the lease renewal negotiations are completed. She also wants the residents to “be guaranteed security of tenure in False Creek South at a rate affordable to them.”

The Motion also calls for any community planning for False Creek South to be carried out in public, and that any new development in the area should only take place on vacant land in order to maintain the current housing.

I urge my readers to write to City Council by early Tuesday morning in support of this Motion to retain and improve one of the great successes of housing policy in Vancouver.


What’s Happening at the Port of Vancouver

September 30, 2021

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Van East Election Results

September 27, 2021

Here are the final figures issued by Elections Canada for the 2021 Federal election in Vancouver East:

  • NDP, Jenny Kwan, 27,969 votes (or 56.4% of votes cast)
  • Liberal, Josh Vander Vies, 9,797
  • Conservative, Mauro Francis, 5,399
  • Green, Cheryl Matthews, 3,826
  • PPC, Karen Litzcke, 1,382
  • Libertarian, Golok Buday, 831
  • Communist, Natasha Hale, 387

There were 528 rejected ballots, and the turnout was 54% (49,591 of 91,133 electors)


On Death and De-composing

September 19, 2021

In the spirit of planning ahead, I have been considering what should happen to my body after death.

For many years I have been opposed to the idea of being buried after I die, mainly because it is a waste of space and because the death industry has made it ruinously expensive. Cremation seemed like a logical alternative but the energy required to burn a body successfully is very high and again that seems a waste.

But there are not too many other options allowed in British Columbia.

A decade or two ago I wrote a short story about a Zoroastrian couple in Vancouver and learned a great deal about excarnation. They build dakhma — Towers of Silence — on top of which the body is placed and exposed to the elements and the animals. I quite like that idea, but I’m pretty sure the authorities here would be unhappy and even Zoroastrians have given up the practice.

For a long time I have considered burial at sea to be a reasonably decent ecological solution. But Canadian government regulations make this complicated, expensive, and heavily discouraged.

So, it was with great interest that I read this week an article about body composting which is currently legal in Washington State and Colorado, and will be legal in Oregon next year. The body is placed in an insulated wooden box

“lined with waterproof roofing material and packed with wood chips and straw. Two large spool wheels on either end allow it to be rolled across the floor, providing the oxygenation, agitation and absorption required for a body to compost … After about three months, the vessel is opened and the “soil” is filtered for medical devices like prosthetics, pacemakers or joint replacements. The remaining large bones are then pulverized and returned to the vessel for another three months of composting … In six months, the body, wood chips and straw will transform into enough soil to fill the bed of a pickup truck. Family members can keep the soil to spread in their yards.”

At least 85 people have already been “composted” in this way in Washington, and I seriously think this is something we should press for here in BC. Perhaps the Greens could lead the charge on this.


Build for Need, Dammit!

September 12, 2021

The truth was a long time coming. The City of Vancouver’s grand plans to build housing units — using the policies that have brought our city to such insanity as incentivizing $4,000 per month apartments on the eastside on the basis of their tone-deaf definition of “affordability”, and which continues to propose to incentivize thousands more units than any reasonable population projection can support — was built on a scaffolding of zero data.

Staff at Vancouver Planning and development were, essentially, making it all up in their presentations to City Council in support of urban planning initiatives and individual developments.

Spurred by Sullivan’s eco-density, put on steroids under Vision, and continued under whatever regime we claim to have today at City Hall, Vancouver’s build and build again for growth’s sake — driven by the City’s “expert” staff (some of whom moved on to financially-rewarding careers with developers), combined with the City’s insatiable need for development fees to help balance their inflated budgets, and the RE industry’s need for profit — has failed to deliver the affordable housing we need to meet local salaries, has exacerbated the homeless crisis and all that goes with it, nd has fueled the vast inequities that we see around us in Vancouver every day.

There have been questions raised by activists and urbanists for years about the level and type of housing developments that CoV was pursuing. For more than a decade civic minded figures such as Elizabeth Murphy and CityHallWatch have been actively seeking information, for example, about the existing zoned capacity in the city, and being chastised for asking the question. Even in this blog, I have argued that Planning’s “facts” didn’t seem to match reality (see, for example, Why Are We Building So Much So Fast?)

Things began to become clearer (or at least so we hoped) when Councillor Colleen Hardwick took up the fight. As CityHallWatch described it:

“This breakthrough is largely thanks to persistent efforts by Councillor Colleen Hardwick, who spearheaded a motion, adopted by Council in May 2020, directing City staff to provide planning data upon which the planning department was basing its projections, policies, and development and rezoning recommendations. And thanks to persistent efforts by academics, particularly Prof. John Rose, who accelerated his attempts this past year. Many citizens and community groups also voice their requests for the City to release the data, in writing and in person. It is difficult to understate the amount of effort that went into all the various requests. Previous responses by senior staff were incomplete and unsatisfactory.”

Now, finally, the Director of Planning, Theresa O’Donnell has admitted in a letter to Professor John Rose that a primary graph used to sell the growth policies was “inaccurate and misleading.” The primary trend line had “no data-driven analysis behind” it. “It was an approximation made by staff for illustrative purposes only.” Moreover, the approach used by CoV to determine Development Capacity has “a number of limitations”.

And yet it these “illustrative purposes only” policies that are continuing to drive development and urban planning in Vancouver.

I have my doubts as to whether the majority of the current City Council will have the willingness or understanding needed to follow through on these revelations. What implications do they have for the Vancouver Plan, for example? Will this new willingness to open up by the Director lead to a thorough-going overhaul of transparency at City Hall? What kind of people do we need to elect to hold the staff accountable and to move us to a build for need strategy in the future?


Night Music: Lawyers in Love

July 24, 2021

For Carlito.


Religion as Mosaic in India

July 18, 2021

Here in North America we tend to see religion as black or white: there are “liberal” religions and there are “conservative” religions; and religions tend to be seen as monolithic, like Catholicism or Islam. A new survey published by Pew suggests that religion, and “Christianity” in particular is far more colourful in India.

As they point out in their introduction:

India’s massive population is diverse as well as devout. Not only do most of the world’s Hindus, Jains and Sikhs live in India, but it also is home to one of the world’s largest Muslim populations and to millions of Christians and Buddhists. A major new Pew Research Center survey of religion across India, based on nearly 30,000 face-to-face interviews of adults conducted in 17 languages between late 2019 and early 2020 (before the COVID-19 pandemic), finds that Indians of all these religious backgrounds overwhelmingly say they are very free to practice their faiths.

Yet, despite sharing certain values and religious beliefs – as well as living in the same country, under the same constitution – members of India’s major religious communities often don’t feel they have much in common with one another. The majority of Hindus see themselves as very different from Muslims (66%), and most Muslims return the sentiment, saying they are very different from Hindus (64%). There are a few exceptions: Two-thirds of Jains and about half of Sikhs say they have a lot in common with Hindus. But generally, people in India’s major religious communities tend to see themselves as very different from others.

These perceived differences are reflected in innumerable social protocols that in everyday life tend to keep the religious groups segregated. There is a widespread dislike of inter-marriage, for example:

These social protocols operate within the caste superstructure, each reinforcing the other.

Indians, then, simultaneously express enthusiasm for religious tolerance and a consistent preference for keeping their religious communities in segregated spheres – they live together separately. These two sentiments may seem paradoxical, but for many Indians they are not.

A fascinating analysis that extracts the survey data on India’s millions of Christians illustrates the mosaic of belief systems that fall under the heading of “Christianity” in India.

Most Indian Christians say they believe in karma (54%), which is not rooted in the Christian religion. And many Indian Christians also believe in reincarnation (29%) and that the Ganges River has the power to purify (32%), both of which are core teachings in Hinduism. It is also somewhat common for Indian Christians to observe customs tied to other religions, like celebrating Diwali (31%) or wearing a forehead marking called a bindi (22%), most often worn by Hindu, Buddhist and Jain women.

And much of the divergence in belief can be traced to which caste the Christian considers themselves to be:

I had an uncle who was a professor of sociological statistics in the 1960s and 1970s. I blame him for my interest in this kind of survey.


Britannia Renewal Meeting Tonight

June 1, 2021

Tonight at 6:00pm, Britannia is holding a Community Conversation tonight to report back on what they’ve heard during Renewal consultations.

There will also be an opportunity to offer your thoughts during small group discussions.

Join at: https://us02web.zoom.us/j/89400480304?pwd=NHY4QWh5ek40d1VEN3MyZ1dtcmt1UT09%20%5bgoogle.com%5d#success

The Britannia Renewal project, along with the Safeway site redevelopment, is one of the two major planning concerns for Grandview over the medium term. These meetings are a way for you to stay in touch with decisions that have been, or are close to being, made about a significant community asset and the heart of our district.