Monthly Archives: June 2013

Restaurants and the experience of eating out

Venite ad me, omnes qui stomacho laboratis, et ego restaurabo vos“. 

Translation: “Come to me, whose stomach screams in misery, and I will restore you.”  Motto on the door of the first restaurant, Paris 1765.

It seems strange to think that there was a time without restaurants in either America or Europe until a certain Roze Boulanger opened his business in pre-revolution France.  There were taverns that served alcohol, and inns where clients could expect a meal prepared by the innkeeper served at a common table, but no menu selection was available, nor was it offered all day. There indeed was no establishment that served selected cooked meals to their clientele.  The term “restaurant” itself used to mean a broth  of concentrated meat juices that was prescribed to restore one’s strength (hence the origin of the name).  Mr Boulanger had to fight in court for his right to serve meat (forbidden at the time unless you were member of a guild) as part of a variety of dishes available to the public in his establishment, but others quickly opened their own “restaurants” and the rest is history.

I discovered this by reading The invention of the restaurant: Paris and modern gastronomic culture by Rebecca Spang, which tells of the evolution of the early history of restaurants, and of the concept of gastronomy (fancy eating) as a new facet of popular culture.  Something that was once the realm of aristocracies and their personal kitchens became available to the emergent bourgeoisie, and eventually to everyone.

Canada is not exactly the most high-profile country as far as haute cuisine is concerned, but we have carved our own unique niche in the gastronomy and hospitality business.  Canadians at table : food, fellowship, and folklore: a culinary history of Canada by Dorothy Duncan covers the entire length of Canada’s history with food, starting with its first European settlers’ attempt to adapt their food habits to a new world with First Nations’ practices (most notably pemmican), and to integrate local plants and fauna into their diets. In addition to providing glimpses at what Canadians ate and how it evolved to the present day, the book covers topics like the importance of public markets for new settlers, the proliferation of cookbooks written by organizations for fundraising, and the history of local supermarkets and restaurant chains that became national brands.  Restaurant menus from different eras give readers an idea of what Canadians’ experience of eating out involved.

For those in the mood for a lighter read, You gotta eat here! : Canada’s favourite hometown restaurants and hidden gems is all about the lesser known but still excellent local restaurants and diners all over the country, including some in Winnipeg, which are worth discovering when you visit.  The book includes recipes of favourites from each establishment and fun descriptions of the author’s eating experiences.  The book has just arrived in our collection and has inspired me to try out “maple fried oatmeal.”  Also, kudos to the authors for including Schwartz’s Deli, a Montreal institution.  On a more local note, Russ Gourluck’s books about Winnipeg’s North End neighborhood and Portage Avenue contain many stories about popular local eateries, some no longer in existence, but others who are still very much part of the city’s popular attractions.

If you are looking for the best places to eat in the whole world, if you want to REALLY eat out, there is a book for that: Ultimate food journeys : the world’s best dishes & where to eat them. Whereas a travel guide is a book filled with information on what to see and where to stay with some recommendations on where to eat, this book is the reverse: it’s all about global gastronomy and the best places to eat with some recommendations on where to stay and sights to see.  The book is gorgeously illustrated and is very thorough in its coverage of every continent.

After World War II, speed – as symbolized by the automobile – became a symbol of the new modernity and restaurants adapted by introducing fast food (or, if you prefer, “good food, quickly”) and the drive-in/drive-through service.  Car hops and curb service : a history of American drive-in restaurants, 1920-1960 tells the story of this trend which first appeared in California and spread to the entire continent.  The book is full of great historical photographs as well as reproductions of menus and memorabilia spanning the 1920-60’s decades that preceded large fast food chains.

Food trucks : dispatches and recipes from the best kitchens on wheels deals with another aspect of the evolution of restoration: the mobile kitchens, or food trucks which serve an incredibly diverse variety of meals to a pedestrian clientele (hence the term “street food”) at affordable prices.  Even though the focus is on American cities, it is worth the read for the personal anecdotes from the owners of those movable feasts.

I am sure everyone has their own favourite eating-out spots, so please give suggestions, or share memories of places no longer open for business.


When Nature Calls

Camping is nature’s way of promoting the motel business.

Dave Barry

It’s that time of year again. Summertime, when nature calls. The lure of the great outdoors is almost irresistible, and it tends to bring out the inner adventurer in a lot of us. For some people, that means heading to the cabin or to parts unknown. Some prefer a trailer, others a tent. Then there are those hardy few who march into the wilderness with only a knife and some matches. Me, I reach for my handy list of books. Here are a few of my choices when staying home is more than half the fun.

  Going to the lake is as much a part of summer as sunscreen for some lucky people. Cabins and cottages provide the comforts of home with all the advantages of being away. Life at the cottage moves at a different pace, providing us with memories that keep us going through the long winters. When it comes to writing about life at the lake, nobody does it better than Charles Gordon.

   For those who get restless staying in the same place for more than a day or so, there’s always that perennial favourite – the road trip. Whether you’re hauling a trailer or setting up a tent, Canada is filled with places to discover and explore. Beauty Tips from Moose Jaw is the book to read when you want to find out more about our home and native land. Will Ferguson provides all of fun of being on the road, without all of the hassles. See Canada from coast to coast, top to bottom, tiny towns to colossal cities,  Will’s been there and done that, and he’ll make your sides ache with laughter as he tells his tales.

  Staying closer to home doesn’t mean that you’ll be giving up the chance to explore some of the best nature has to offer. Manitoba Wild: Scenic Secrets of Manitoba and Manitoba Picnic Perfect will you take you to stunning spots that are so close to home you won’t believe that you’ve never been there before.

  While I am most definitely not an outdoorsperson, as you’ve probably already guessed from the quotation at the top of this blog, I really admire/wonder at people who have the drive and the skills to survive in the wild. I like to think that by having read these books  that I, too, am prepared for anything Mother Nature can throw at me.

For example, you never know when you’ll encounter a herd of stampeding elephants in the Whiteshell…

The Ultimate Worst-Case Scenario Handbook

or the living dead in the Interlake…

The Zombie Survival Guide: Complete Protection from the Living Dead

  For those rainy day when you can’t get outside, or if you’re stuck in the city, books can provide the perfect getaway. Reading one of Jake MacDonald’s books is the next best thing to being there. Or in some cases, even better than actually being there, since his books don’t have any mosquitoes and it’s far less likely that you’ll come face to face with a very large wild animal. You can’t go wrong with anything he’s written, but for what it’s worth my favourites are Houseboat Chronicles: Notes from a Life in Shield Country and Grizzlyville: Adventures in Bear Country.

   Ah, yes, summertime and the great outdoors. There’s nothing like it. Where will you go when nature calls? I know where I’ll be heading – to the hammock in my backyard, book in hand.


Celebrating Indigenous Literature in Manitoba

Centering Anishinaabeg Stories

Pueblo author Leslie Marmon Silko begins her book Ceremony by saying “If you don’t have the stories, you don’t have anything.”  Stories have the power to heal, to shape worldviews, to share information, pass on cultural teachings as well as to entertain.  Silko’s book was cited as one of the most important books in contemporary literature by renowned Native American author Sherman Alexie.   In the brand-new book Centering Anishinaabeg Studies, Anishinaabeg people’s stories are seen as having the answers to many issues experienced in communities and the world, they are “vessels of knowledge.”

June 21st is National Aboriginal Solidarity Day in Canada.  People across the country will be attending festivals.  Here in Winnipeg, there is a street festival on Selkirk Avenue (look for us!) in the vibrant North End and on Saturday – an all day festival at the Forks.  Earlier this spring Winnipeg Public Library saw the opening of the new Aboriginal Resources Area at the Millennium branch and on June 18th we celebrated Indigenous literature with the Aboriginal Writers Collective in honour of National Aboriginal Solidarity Day.  The celebration was a hit.  In case you didn’t know – there are so many talented writers in our community!

Below, I have included a selection of some suggested literature by Aboriginal authors who hail from Manitoba.

In Search of April Raintree This list would be severely lacking if this book wasn’t suggested. Beatrice Mosionier’s beautifully written story of two sisters who are taken from their parents by social services is one of our most requested books when we do community outreach.

7 Generations, a Plains Cree Saga If you haven’t heard of this graphic novel get yourself to the library and pick it up!  David Alexander Robertson and Scott Henderson have created graphic story of a young Aboriginal person who learns the story of his ancestors.

Kiss of the Fur Queen

Kiss of the Fur Queen A few years ago I met a woman who traveled to Manitoba from California after finding this book in a used bookstore.  She was seeking the author, Thomson Highway, and on her way to visit The Pas which is featured in the novel.  This is the kind of impact this book can have.  It is a powerful story of survival and the coming of age of two remarkable brothers who were forced to attend residential school.

Bone Memory  In 2004 the Aboriginal Writers collective put out this chapbook highlighting the work of different members of the collective.  We are looking forward to their next chapbook – being launched in the fall!

This is a small northern town

This is a Small Northern Town This book is a collection of poems by Cree writer Rosanna Deerchild centering on the experience of growing up as a girl in a small divided Northern Manitoba town.

Wolf and Shadows   Duncan Mercredi is one of the founding members of the Aboriginal Writers Collective and a poet in his own right.  This is one of his collections of poetry which confront the tensions between traditional knowledge and urban living.

All My Best

Joe From Winnipeg: All My Best Ian Ross, creator of the popular radio personality Joe from Winnipeg, put some of his favourite commentaries in this book.  It is a humourous take on some of those everyday issues we all wonder about including little dogs with nail polish.

Manitowapow  This book, edited by Niigaanwewidam James Sinclair and Warren Cariou, was the On the Same Page winner this year.  It is full of incredible gems by Indigenous leaders, authors, activists and academics from the province of Manitoba.  Some of the stories were written a long time ago and some are more contemporary but they tell the (often untold) story of this place we call Manitoba.


Halfbreed  Maria Campbell spent a year as a writer in residence at the University of Winnipeg which of course makes her a honourary Winnipegger! Her memoir is still taught in schools and details the racism and sexism she experienced as a Metis woman.

Brothers in Arms  Among the various children’s books Jordan Wheeler has written (check them out in our Children’s section!) the three stories in this book are a recommended read for teens and adults.  They are the stories of two brothers and their experiences, struggles and successes as First Nations men.

I Knew Two Metis Women Gregory Scofield looks at the life of his mother and his adopted aunty through this collection of poems – a poetic biography.

Winnipeg Public Library’s collection of literature by Indigenous writers is growing and this list really only taps the surface of a huge number of titles which cross all genres, formats and defy all expectations!  Happy reading.


20 minutes aaaaand Go!

Summer funHere at Winnipeg Public Library Youth Services we’ve been getting ready for summer for some time and for good reason:  it’s our busiest, most program-filled time of the year.  Our goal is to provide you and your family with quality programs and services that are full of learning opportunities and – of course – lots of fun!

But it’s MORE than just fun and games
Our summer programming for children and families has some serious purpose behind it, though.  Just Google “summer learning loss” and you’ll see what I’m getting at.  The learning backslide that can take place over July and August can really eat into all the progress to be made come the fall (one study noted that teachers can spend between 4 and 6 weeks re-teaching material).  And, of course, it’s no surprise that summer learning loss is even more of an issue for families that don’t have ready access to a wide range of high-interest reading material for their children.  This fact sheet,  produced by Scholastic, talks a bit about the consequences of income gaps but also clues you in to some great, research-based “good news” about preventing summer learning loss (Hint:  having a ton of great reading material around the house and letting children pick what they like goes a long way to getting – and staying – school-ready.)

Brother and sister reading together

Here’s where we come in!  Year-round, Winnipeg Public Library provides you access to thousands of titles to make reading an enjoyable – and totally affordable – habit for children and families.

Remember we offer both both print and eBook  formats. For eBook options you’ll definitely want to check out all our Tumblebook products, along with BookFlix and Disney Online eBooks – all available to you streaming and free with your Library card.

Beyond our collections we layer on a wide-range of programs for children of all ages and, in the summer,  an amazing reading incentive program:  the TD Summer Reading Club.  (Here’s the link to the national program’s website, with great art by illustrator Matt James.)

A daily habit

This year we’re running our TD Summer Reading Club (theme: Go!  so get ready for travel and adventure-inspired programming!) just a bit differently.  Instead of tracking the number of books that children read (or that families read together) we’re encouraging participants to track 20 minutes of reading a day.  This change reflects the growing consensus that many of the benefits that come from being a strong reader are based more on the activity being part of a regular routine (versus how many titles a child may be able to complete in a given time).

Our goal is to help you make your children life-long readers and we think encouraging this kind of consistency through programs like the TD Summer Reading Club does just that.  If you’re looking for ideas for ways to get going with 20-minutes-a-day, this tip sheet may help.  (And be sure to check out this neat infographic on why not to skip that 20 minutes!)

So what are you waiting for?

We launch our Summer Reading program this Saturday, June 22nd at the Millennium Library.  Join us at 10:30 a.m. in the Children’s Services area for a celebration featuring members of the Goldeyes, mascot Goldie and the zany musical talents of Mr. Mark the One Man Band! (Note: the last time Mr. Mark was on stage with Goldeyes players at the library, the players all ended up with buckets on their heads, getting played like human drums. It should be a good show!).  Be among the first in the city to get your free Summer Reading kit complete with an activity booklet, stickers, a fun passport, bookmarks and – most important of all – your reading tracking calendar (track all those 20-minute days for chances to win all kinds of great prizes).

Stay tuned to to check in with our @ the Library newsletter when it hits our homepage later this week.  It will have the full listings of all our programming options for you and your family.  In the meantime, our Summer Reading page with links is up and running – have a look here.

Happy reading – see you at the Library this summer!


Your Guide to Binge Viewing

TV A couple of weeks ago, Netflix released 15 new episodes of the cult hit Arrested Development. This was a remarkable achievement in many ways, considering that the show was broadcast on Fox for three seasons a decade ago and then was cancelled. The show slowly built up a loyal following based on syndicated reruns  and DVD sales. There were always rumours that an Arrested Development movie was in the works, but nobody expected that we would get over eight hours of new material all at once. This left the fans with a conundrum: Do you sensibly watch one or two episodes at a time and space it out over a week? Do you treat it like a network TV show and just watch one a week? Or do you get together with a group of friends and watch them all at once? There is a word for the third option.

Binge viewing.

Binge viewing is a fairly recent phenomenon, isn’t it? Back in the day, you would faithfully record your weekly installment of Friends or Seinfeld and pretty much watch them within a couple of days. You did this because everyone else did it and if you wanted to talk about it with your friends or co-workers you had to keep up.

Nowadays, entire series are available on streaming sites like Netflix or are available on DVD to buy or to borrow from your library. You tend to want to binge view these shows, either because they become addictive or, in the case of a library DVD, you need to get them back in a week.

So to help you out, we’ve compiled a list of a few of our favourite shows to binge view. Enjoy (in moderation if you can – we dare you!).

When it comes to approaching a new series, I tend to look at how many seasons have already happened. My rule of thumb is, if it is four or less, I will probably try to watch it. Anything more than four, and I’ll probably give it a pass. For example, I’ve heard great things about the show House M.D., but I’ve never seen an episode, and at eight seasons, it feels a bit daunting. I’m sure there are some who wouldn’t mind the challenge, but for my time, shorter is sweeter.

Here are a few series that you may want to sit down and spend a weekend with:

Veronica Mars

vmars[1]Veronica Mars is your typical high school kid, with the exception that her dad used to be the sheriff and now runs a detective agency. The first season revolves around solving the murder of her best friend, and most episodes end on a cliff-hanger, so you’ll probably have a hard time watching just one at a time. The show lasted for three seasons, but then a unprecidented kickstarter campaign raised enough money to reunite the cast for a Veronica Mars reunion movie, being filmed this month. You have a year to get caught up!

Downton Abbey

downton-abbey-castBritish series tend to run only six or seven episodes at a time, so even though there are three seasons so far, you can easily get caught up. I don’t usually go for the whole “costume drama” thing, but after watching the first episode of series one, I had to find out more about the Granville clan and their household.


homelandMy wife and I watched all of season one over a weekend.The thrust of the first season is answering the question, “is this guy a terrorist or what?” and there are enough twists and turns and cliffhangers that I couldn’t imagine trying to watch one a week, as it originally aired.


firefly11There was only one season of Joss Whedon’s follow-up to Buffy the Vampire Slayer, but that didn’t stop it from becoming a huge hit on DVD. There is a dedicated following of “Browncoats” who often call for a reunion, or another movie, or a web series, or anything. With the success of the Veronica Mars kickstarter, is a Firefly kickstarter-funded project far off?

Freaks and Geeks

Freaks and GeeksAnother “One and Done” series with a dedicated fan base. Freaks and Geeks, produced and written by Paul Feig and Judd Apatow, follows a group of high schoolers, circa. 1980. Throughout the total of 18 episodes, you get to see early performances from Seth Rogen, James Franco, Linda Cardellini, Busy Phillips, Jason Segal, and the wonderful inclusion of SCTV’s Joe Flaherty as a dad.

So those are our picks. What are your favourite shows to binge view? -Trevor

Cook by the Book: CAKES!

“A cake is a party, a birthday, a wedding. A cake is what’s served on the happiest days of your life.” – from Eat Cake by Jeanne Ray

Eat CakeLike Ruth in Eat Cake, I love to bake. Measuring ingredients, mixing them up and creating a delicious treat for others can be very satisfying. May’s cake theme led to some interesting discussions about the differences between cake flour and regular flour. (Cake flour has less protein, so it absorbs less moisture, resulting in lighter cakes). We also learned that animal bone char is sometimes used in the processing of sugar, a fact that was confirmed on the Rogers Sugar website.

Fortunately, the beet sugar available in Manitoba appears to come from their Alberta plant, so it is free of bone char.

If you’re a novice baker, you might want to try Piece of Cake by Camilla V. Saulsbury. Judy served three cakes to guests and their favourite one was the Five Spice Mandarin cake. Robin also chose a cookbook by Saulsbury and was similarly pleased. The Pumpkin Pound cake was so good, she and her husband managed to eat half of it in one sitting – no icing necessary. If you are an icing lover, try the easy icing for the Lazy Daisy Sheet cake. It’s a yummy combination of coconut, whipping cream, and pecans.

For Vegans, try the silken tofu icing from Have Your Cake and Vegan too by Kris Holechek.  And if you’re not ready to give up your dairy products try the Mojito Pound Cake – it has one pound of butter in the icing! Lynda really liked the flavours in this rum and mint infused cake. Mary enjoyed the old time recipes from Vintage Cakes by Julie Richardson and shared her lemon streamliner cake with the group – delicious!

Baking gluten free can often be a challenge, as Tanise discovered. She wasn’t impressed with the coconut cupcakes from Gluten Free Cupcakes by Elana Amsterdam. She even made them twice, thinking maybe she had made a mistake the first time, but they still didn’t turn out. Ingrid also went gluten free, adapting her recipe with quinoa flour. Step-by-Step Cakes by Caroline Bretherton has great pictures and easy to follow instructions, but Elaine found the British measurements a little frustrating to use and also noted that British cakes tend to be denser and sweeter than we’re used to.

Ready to get out your mixing bowls? Drop by your local branch to check out any of these titles.

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Cook by the Book is a book club for foodies! Based on the monthly theme, members choose a cookbook available at the library and then make one or two recipes at home. We all take pictures of our culinary creations and then get together to share our experience – good or bad – with the group. Registration is full for this session, but we’ll start up again in the Fall. Watch for details in the September issue of @ the Library.

Gearing up for summer – Youth Programming Teaser!!

Not that we’d know it from the weather we’re having, but summer is almost upon us!  Switching out wardrobes and jackets, heading out for more walks, dusting off the bicycles and – yes – making plans for how to keep kids and teens busy during 2 months of lazy, hazy days.

Here at Winnipeg Public Library we’re thinking about that last one a lot (so hopefully you can think about it a bit less!).  Our July/August @ the Library newsletter will hit our website later this month (hardcopies just after that) and I can tell you that the Teen, Tween (ages 9-12), and Children’s sections are jam-packed with programming options.

goAt the heart of our programming for children (ages 0-12) is all the fun that goes along with our roll-out of the TD Summer Reading Club (registration begins June 24th).  Have a look at the national site for a taste of the theme (Go!) for this year’s programming and a peek at the great artwork created by artist Matt James. (Check out I Know Here by Laurel Croza to see some of Matt’s illustration work.)

For teens (ages 13-17) we have something designed by us especially for them:  Teen SRC – a completely on-line summer reading club experience comes complete with chances for teens to win a ton of great prizes by showing off their creative talents.  Last year over 200 teens across the city registered and checked in with us throughout the summer and we’re looking to reach even more this year.

Early bird registration for Teen SRC is open right now.  Teens that register by June 28 will be entered in a prize draw.

Stay tuned to this space later this month for the complete low-down on summer programming and great tips for preventing summer learning loss.  “See” you then!

– Monique