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  • Roads and Kingdoms shares Dave Hazzan's reflections on the yougurt-type (but non-yogurt) Icelandic foodstuff skyr.

  • VICE reports on the scene from Glasgow after the launch of the city Tim Horton's in Scotland.

  • Bloomberg features Javiera Quiroga's take on the migration of Chilean vintners south ahead of climate change.

  • VICE notes that climate change will wreck the favourite coastline locations of surfers.

  • Dave Rothery describes at The Conversation how protecting against space probes' environmental contamination challenges exploration.

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  • Bad Astronomy's Phil Plait notes that the Curiosity rover is detectable from Mars orbit.
  • blogTO shares some of the vintage 1980s photos of gritty Toronto in a new book by Avard Woolaver.

  • The Big Picture shares photos of tea from its homeland in China.

  • Imageo shares stunning photos of Jupiter originally taken by the Juno probe.
  • Language Hat links to the new online version of the Australian National Dictionary.

  • The LRB Blog shares an appalling story of a British university that wants to hire an academic to develop a course for 10 pounds an hour.
  • The NYR Daily looks at the films of Romanian director Cristian Mungiu.

  • Starts with a Bang's Ethan Siegel examines the Pillars of Creation of the Eagle Nebula. How long will they last?
  • Torontoist shares photos from the Toronto Pride parade.

  • John Scalzi at Whatever talks about being a late convert to the joys of Harry Potter.

  • Window on Eurasia reports on Stalin's desire to drain the Caspian Sea, the better to exploit offshore oil and irrigate Kazakhstan.

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  • Apostrophen's 'Nathan Smith talks about "cis", "trans", and the non-obvious meaning of this classification.
  • The Big Picture shares photos of a recent sailing festival in Boston.

  • blogTO reports on the trendy charcoal-black ice cream of a store across from Trinity Bellwoods.
  • Centauri Dreams considers the idea of a "runaway fusion" drive.Crooked Timber wonders how a bad Brexit agreement could possibly be worse than no Brexit agreement for the United Kingdom.
  • D-Brief warns of the possibility of sustained life-threatening heat waves in the tropics with global warming.
  • The Everyday Sociology Blog considers how sociology majors are prepared, or not, for the workforce.

  • Language Hat links to a wonderful examination of the textual complexities of James Joyce's Ulysses.

  • The LRB Blog looks at how British big business is indebted to the Conservatives.

  • Marginal Revolution reports on China's emergent pop music machine.

  • Steve Munro reports on the latest on noise from the 514 Cherry streetcar.

  • The NYRB Daily has a fascinating exchange on consciousness and free will and where it all lies.
  • The Planetary Society Blog reports on a successful expedition to Argentina to examine Kuiper Belt object MU69 via occultation.

  • Peter Rukavina celebrates Charlottetown school crossing guard Dana Doyle.

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  • The Independent notes a denial that Scotland's Conservatives will split from the national party. I wonder, thought, if Scotland's political spectrum is going to shift, like Québec's, from a left-right split to a separatist-unionist one?
  • Owen Jones argues in The Guardian that the rampant prejudices of the DUP, including its homophobia, make it an unsuitable coalition partner.

  • Andray Domise argues in MacLean's that a perceived need to fit in means that immigrants can be too ready to dismiss local racisms.

  • Fast Company lets us know that the minimum wage increases in Seattle have not led to higher retail prices.

  • CBC notes the death of Sam Panopoulous, the Canadian man who invented Hawaiian pizza.

  • Adam West, the first man to play Batman on the screen, has died. We all, not just the fandom, are the poorer for his passing.

  • Are the robots not poised to take over our world? What does their absence demonstrate about our underachieving economy? The Atlantic wonders.

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Natalia Manzocco writes for NOW Toronto about how Bloor Street West is going to soon host a First Nations restaurant.

When Tacos el Asador vacated their perpetually-packed corner unit on Bloor for roomier digs across the street earlier this year, it turns out they were making space for a cuisine that's hugely underrepresented in Toronto: First Nations eats. The new tenant at 607 Bloor West is NishDish, a cafe focused on Anishinaabe recipes, as well as products from First Nations and Metis producers.

At the helm of the new cafe is Anishinaabe chef Johl Whiteduck Ringuette, who's been catering under the NishDish banner for some time, offering dishes like wild duck and hominy corn soups, venison stew, buffalo chili, baked bannock and wild rice. Ringuette promises the "marketeria" will include "Indigenous sourced coffee, quick meals, or check out a vast selection of goods and food products sourced from First Nations, Inuit and Metis people."
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Un tire d'érable, $C 3

At a stand set up for Igloofest on Place Jacques-Cartier, below Montréal's Hôtel de Ville, I bought some maple taffy for $C 3. The heated maple syrup cooled very quickly once it was poured onto the ice, quickly becoming edible.
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The Toronto Star's Isabel Teotonio reports on the closure of two No Frills discount grocery stores in the Toronto area, including one in Parkdale, and how the resulting shortage of inexpensive food is causing all kinds of unneeded strains on budgets and diets.

A small group of people huddled in the parking lot of a closed No Frills wait for a shuttle bus to go grocery shopping.

Among them is Chris Wood, 60, who has bronchitis. He should be in bed, but is standing in the cold because Rocca’s No Frills at Coxwell Ave. and Gerrard St. E. closed for repairs in May.

Wood lives nearby, but is waiting for a free company bus to take him to another No Frills. He has little choice. Local green grocers are too expensive. He doesn’t own a car. And he can’t afford to regularly ride the TTC.

“It’s a hassle,” says Wood, who gets by on about $900 a month from Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP). “Being able to shop at a grocery store with lower costs, like No Frills, is quite important for me.”

Two other No Frills stores in the GTA have also recently closed, shedding light on the need for access to affordable and healthy food.

Vi’s No Frills in Parkdale closed in early December for immediate roof repairs — the landlord is hopeful it will reopen in the spring. And Linda’s No Frills in Port Credit, Mississauga, permanently closed in late December when a leasing agreement couldn’t be reached. That site will be redeveloped to include a condo, commercial and office space.
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  • The Broadside Blog's Caitlin Kelly describes a week in her life as a freelance writer.

  • The Dragon's Tales notes how the Indus Valley Civilization did, and did not, adapt to climate change.

  • Language Log reshares Benjamin Franklin's writings against German immigration.

  • The NYRB Daily follows one family's quest for justice after the shooting by police of one Ramarley Graham.

  • The Russian Demographics Blog looks at the Pale of Settlement.

  • Torontoist looks at Ontario's food and nutrition strategy.

  • Transit Toronto reports on how PRESTO officials will be making appearances across the TTC in coming weeks to introduce users to the new system.

  • Window on Eurasia looks at how ethnic minorities form a growing share of Russian emigration, looks at the manipulation of statistics by the Russian state, and suggests Putin's actions have killed off the concept of a triune nation of East Slavs.

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  • blogTO notes the rapid expansion of A&Ws across Toronto's neighbourhoods.

  • Centauri Dreams reports that none of the exoplanets of nearby Wolf 1061 are likely to support Earth-like environments, owing to their eccentric and occasionally overclose orbits.

  • The Dragon's Gaze links to a paper looking at high-temperature condensate clouds in hot Jupiter atmospheres.

  • Lawyers, Guns and Money reports on Trump's unsecured Android phone.

  • Language Log reports on Caucasian words relating to tea.

  • The LRB Blog notes the emerging close links connecting May's United Kingdom with Trump's United States and Netanyahu's Israel.

  • Marginal Revolution shares an interview with chef and researcher Mark Miller and reports on the massive scale of Chinese investment in Cambodia.

  • The Planetary Society Blog looks at the idea of choosing between the Moon and Mars as particular targets of manned space exploration.

  • The Power and the Money's Noel Maurer looks at the mechanics of imposing a 20% tax in the United States on Mexican imports. (It is doable.)

  • The Russian Demographics Blog reports Russian shortfalls in funding HIV/AIDS medication programs.

  • Supernova Condensate warns that Trump's hostility to the very idea of climate change threatens the world.

  • Towleroad shares the first gay kiss of (an) Iceman in Marvel's comics.

  • The Volokh Conspiracy notes the constitutional problems with Trump's executive order against sanctuary cities.

  • Window on Eurasia argues Ukraine is willing to fight if need be, even if sold out by Trump.

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  • The Crux makes the case that, for too long, modern homo sapiens have underestimated the genius of the Neanderthals.

  • D-Brief looks at the efforts of some scientists to develop brewing standards for the Moon.

  • Language Hat examines different languages' writing standards--Turkish, Greek, Armenian--in the late Ottoman Empire.

  • Language Log deconstructs claims that Japanese has no language for curses.

  • Marginal Revolution's Tyler Cowen looks at the standards of truth by which Trump's supporters are judging him.

  • The NYRB Daily looks at the hollow Styrofoam aesthetics of the Trump Administration.

  • Savage Minds considers the idea of personhood.

  • Yorkshire Ranter Alex Harrowell considers key mechanics of populism.

  • Arnold Zwicky meditates, somewhat pornographically, on a porn star of the last decade and public sexuality.

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  • Bad Astronomy's Phil Plait shares a video showing how tacos are made in space.

  • blogTO shares some classic photos of the TTC in the 1960s and 1970s.

  • The Crux goes into more detail about the mesentery.

  • D-Brief notes how the binary star KIC 9832227 is projected to experience a stellar merger in 2022.

  • The Dragon's Gaze links to one paper suggesting that exoplanets and brown dwarfs are as common around A and F stars as around dimmer Sun-like stars, and links to another paper examining the potential of detecting transits of exoplanets orbiting brown dwarfs.

  • The Dragon's Tales links to an article wondering if China's seizure of a US navy drone could set a precedent for satellite seizures.

  • Language Log links to Yiyun Lee's article about abandoning Chinese for English.

  • The LRB Blog remembers philosopher Derek Parfit.

  • The Power and the Money's Noel Maurer looks at the recent riots in Mexico, caused by rising gas prices.

  • Strange Maps shares informative maps exploring the Netherlands' internal distinctions.

  • Window on Eurasia looks at how the Russian language has multiple standards despite Russian official claims, and shares complaints about Kaliningrad's vulnerability.

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Via Towleroad, I came across Alina Simone's delightful feature describing how Céline Dion helped save Montréal's famed deli Schwartz's.

[H]ow did the French-Canadian pop diva become the custodian of Montreal’s premier Jewish culinary institution? That’s the question I’ve come to ask Frank Silva, Schwartz’s general manager, who was brought into the business by his father back in 1982.

Schwartz’s was founded in 1928 by Reuben Schwartz, a Jewish Romanian immigrant who started off as a delivery guy for other local delis. Silva says one day Schwartz realized “what he was delivering was inferior to what he knew from back home. So he figured he could do something better.”

Unfortunately, the Depression was just getting under way. Schwartz had to do whatever he could to stay in business, which meant making his Jewish deli a lot less Jewish.

“He started saying, forget about being kosher, we've got to start to make some money,” Silva says. He adds that they’re no longer certified kosher, but they keep it “kosher style.”

Schwartz was the first and last owner to work behind the counter at the deli. After his death, ownership passed to a partner, and then on to another one and another one, until four years ago when late restaurateur Paul Nakis heard Schwartz’s was for sale. That’s when Celine Dion came into the picture.
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The Globe and Mail's Suresh Doss reviews seven Chinese restaurants of note just to the north of Toronto, in Richmond Hill.

The adage that Toronto’s best Chinese food is uptown and not downtown is never more true than along Highway 7 in Richmond Hill.

The thoroughfare has seen a rapid growth of restaurants and new waves of cuisine that reflect the area’s increasingly diverse and growing population. Diners are seeking out their version of “authentic” and are willing to spend money on it, from $6 bowls of noodle soups to banquet-style set dinners that can cost upwards of $1,500. While all corners of Asia are represented in the dozens of tightly packed strip malls that line the highway, regional Chinese food is a standout attraction.

“In the past, all you saw was Hong Kong-style food, but now you’re seeing everything” a woman remarked as she waited in line at a small noodle shop. “There are so many different styles of Chinese cuisine up here, you won’t find any of this downtown.”

Minutes later, before diving in to a bowl of hot noodles and dumplings, she leaned over from her table and exclaimed, “Have you had anything authentic like this in Chinatown Spadina?”

The reviews are at the link.
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The Toronto Star's Aparita Bhandari reports on how a kosher Chinese restaurant in suburban Thornhill does roaring business with a Jewish clientele on Christmas Day.

At first glance, the menu of Golden Chopsticks restaurant doesn’t seem all that remarkable. The long list of items is the same as many Chinese takeout eateries across the city: egg rolls and sweet and sour chicken balls for appetizers, combo specials featuring General Tao chicken and Hunan beef with steamed rice. It’s the big sign on its window proclaiming “We Are Glatt Kosher” that’s unusual.

It’s a Chinese restaurant for Jews who follow a strict kosher diet and its busiest day of the year is Christmas.

Located in a Thornhill strip mall at the corner of Bathurst St. and Steeles Ave., Golden Chopsticks was the first kosher Chinese restaurant in the city when it opened almost 20 years ago.

Rony Gafny, an observant Jew who had never tried Chinese food, wanted to cater to the predominantly Jewish community in the surrounding neighbourhood when he opened the restaurant.

Jewish people eating Chinese food for Christmas is now part of a North American tradition, says Daniel Koren, a former online editor of Canadian Jewish News, and current media co-ordinator for B’nai Brith Canada. He included Golden Chopsticks in his “For Jewish Christmas: The 10 Best Chinese Restaurants in Toronto” roundup for Canadian Jewish News last year.

“Everybody, who’s Jewish, knows the place because it is the only kosher Chinese place. Or it used to be the only one,” he says. Although Toronto doesn’t have much of a kosher foodie scene compared to say New York or Tel Aviv, there’s a definite interest in kosher food in the city — and that’s brought competition.
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CBC News' Cameron MacIntosh has a wonderful story examining how Icelandic-Canadians still make vinarterta, a classic Icelandic Christmas cake that is now more popular among descendants of Icelandic emigrants in Canada (and elsewhere) than in Iceland.

Now what actually constitutes a vinarterta is an open and sometimes passionate debate. It's generally accepted that the cake dates back to at least the 1870s, when the first big wave of Icelandic immigration came to Canada.

An estimated 20,000 Icelanders — almost one-fifth of the population — left for North America. They were fleeing poverty, ruthless cold and environmental catastrophe in the form of a volcano that had spewed ash all over the island, rendering its agriculture useless.

By the early 1890s, "New Iceland," located around what is now modern-day Gimli, on the shores of Lake Winnipeg, would become the largest Icelandic settlement beyond the island's own shores.

In the following decades, many of those Icelanders ended up changing their names and losing their language; yet somehow, that cake endured, the recipe passed down from generation to generation as a sort of cultural touchstone.

Purists will tell you it's a round cake, with several very thin vanilla-flavoured, cookie-like layers, bound together, without exception, by a filling made of prune and spices, including cinnamon, cloves and cardamom — ingredients that would have been considered specialty items in 1870s Iceland.

These days, you will find different takes on it — blueberry, strawberry, even maple syrup versions. (My own amma would have scoffed at that.)

Most interestingly, what many in North America believe to be the quintessential Icelandic dish is not all that common in Iceland.
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  • Beyond the Beyond notes how astronomers are now collecting dust from space in their gutters, without needing to go to Antarctica.

  • blogTO notes the many lost dairies of mid-20th century Toronto.

  • The Dragon's Gaze looks at how volatiles freeze out in protoplanetary disks.

  • The Dragon's Tales links to a paper considering the exploration of ocean worlds.

  • Far Outliers links to a report of a Cossack mercenary working in North America for the British in the War of American Independence.

  • Lawyers, Guns and Money considers the grave and the life of Homer Plessy.

  • Steve Munro looks at some possibly worrisome service changes for the TTC.

  • pollotenchegg notes trends in urbanization in post-1970 Ukraine.

  • Strange Maps looks at a scone map of the British Isles.

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The National Post carries Bob Weber's article in The Canadian Press describing how a Canadian government program intended to make healthy food more affordable in the North has not worked at all.

A researcher has found that a federal subsidy intended to reduce astronomical food prices for northern families has resulted in stale-dated, unreliable food on store shelves without making grocery bills more affordable.

Tracey Galloway of the University of Toronto, whose findings are to be published in a scientific journal later this month, says the Nutrition North program should be reformed with mandatory price caps on essential food.

“Without price caps and regulatory framework for pricing, the retailers have arbitrary control on how they set prices,” she said from Iqaluit, where she was presenting her results. “We have not seen prices come down over the course of this subsidy.”

Food in the North costs between two and three times what it does in the south. Grapes were recently selling in Nunavut for more than $28 a kilogram.

[. . .]

Nutrition North is a $77-million program that, since it replaced the Food Mail initiative in 2011, has sought to reduce costs by subsidizing shipping to 121 communities in the three territories and the northern regions of the provinces. The federal government is reviewing the program and has held public meetings across the North.
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As someone who enjoyed a very good lunch at Yonge and Eglinton's Fresh this afternoon, Corey Mintz' article in The Globe and Mail makes sense. If something can be done and done well, why not?

Vegans becoming restaurateurs is an old story, often told as a joke. As in, did you hear about the Marxist who tried capitalism?

What’s new is restaurateurs going vegan, and their faith that the market will bear it.

Scrolling through the adventurous menu for Planta, Toronto’s newest vegan restaurant, you’ll find a few cheeky acknowledgments of the authors’ inspirations.

“Habibi” (Arabic for “beloved”) is a nod to the chef’s mother, who helped create the dish, a mix of finely chopped cauliflower, split pea fritters, parsley and mint. “The Italian Job” pizza, enriched with cashew mozzarella and fennel sausage, pays tribute to the 1969 Michael Caine film. And the “18 Carrot Dog” is of course a reference to the solid-gold balls that executive chef David Lee and owner Steven Salm must have in order to charge $17 for a carrot in a hot dog bun.

That veggie dog, a carrot smoked before being fried on a plancha grill, served with mustard, sauerkraut and pickles on a house-baked bun, is a signpost of change, evidenced by the unambiguous strategy spelled out on Planta’s website – “to fill a void in the market of upscale, full service, plant-based dining options” – based on an assumption that guests are willing to pay good money for non-animal food.

We are moving beyond the long-held and false perception that, because meat is expensive, vegetables should be cheap. That’s never been true. The current price of pecans is more than steak. Planta’s move into this market is the signal that customers are ready to value it.
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Nick Rose's Vice article is a wonderful examination, with many hunger-inducing photos, of how Canadian Chinese food came about and what its genesis means.

Last summer, Elyse Bouvier got into her beat-up Volvo station wagon and drove across Alberta in search of something very personal but very foreign.

It was not any kind of spiritual epiphany or Kerouacian pursuit of freedom. Instead, she ate and took dozens of photos of ginger beef at tiny Chinese restaurants across rural Alberta. Through the lens of her camera, she was trying to capture a cuisine that is ubiquitous and mysterious in Canada, and the trip culminated in an exhibition called Royal Cafe: Chinese-Western in Alberta.

But the journey of reconnecting with Canadian Chinese food is not unique to Bouvier. It’s the same one embarked on by chef Evelyn Wu and professor Lily Cho, each of whom have used their professional lens to better understand the food brought to Canada by Chinese immigrants over a century ago—food that remains a staple of the Canadian diet.

[. . .]

Ginger beef is an iconic Canadian Chinese dish made of battered and deep-fried beef and coated in a thick, dark, sweet, vinegary sauce. It’s the perfect springboard off of which to jump into the murky waters of Canadian Chinese food and its origins.

Ginger beef is indigenous to Alberta but can be found, it’s safe to say, on pretty much any Chinese takeout menu in Canada. But like its American cousin General Tso’s chicken, you’ll have a hard time finding anything resembling ginger beef in China—it doesn’t exist. It is neither Chinese nor Canadian, and yet it is both.

So how can one food occupy such a strange, culturally ambiguous place in Canada? Part of the reason is that Canada was, by all accounts, a very strange and culturally ambiguous place when Chinese immigrants arrived here during the second half of the 19th century. And like a lot dishes, from General Tso’s chicken to poutine, a lot of restaurants claim the inventor’s throne, but there is no definitive evidence to support these claims.
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The Daily Herald carried Ana Swanson's Washington Post article looking at the economics of immigrant food in the United States. I'm sure similar phenomena apply in Canada.

Eric Zhou grew up in China's Fujian province watching his father, an accomplished chef, whip up banquets of intricate Chinese dishes. But when Zhou moved to the United States and started working in a Chinese restaurant, he saw that his native cuisine was mostly considered cheap in this country, confined to greasy takeout counters and $7.95 lunch buffets.

So Zhou edged his way into a much more lucrative industry: Japanese food. Years later, he owns four Japanese and Asian fusion restaurants in the Washington area. With Chinese food, he says, "the price in America is too low. Japanese restaurants don't have this problem. To us, it's more suitable. It's a better life."

Zhou, 44, has joined thousands of other Chinese immigrants in the United States in seeking a leg up the economic ladder through Japanese food. From Ames, Iowa, to Lancaster, Pa., Chinese Americans have opened many of the sushi joints that dot suburban malls and city blocks across the country. It's the result of what experts describe as a striking convergence between U.S. ethnic-food preferences and the economic pressures facing a new wave of Chinese immigrants, whose population in the United States has tripled in the past 25 years.

Which cuisines sell well and which do not may seem a combination of chance and cultural tastes. But the outsize role of Chinese Americans in the Japanese food business, according to academics who have studied it, sheds light on deeper forces. The influx of low-wage Chinese immigrants -- China recently eclipsed Mexico as the largest source of immigrants to the United States -- has created fierce competition to provide cheap food. At the same time, Japan's wealth and economic success helped its cuisine gain a reputation as trendy and refined. So for many entrepreneurial Chinese immigrants looking to get ahead, Japanese food has often become the better opportunity.

"Chinese entrepreneurs have figured out that this is a way to make a slightly better living and get out of the ... world of $10, $5 food at the bottom end of the market," says Krishnendu Ray, who leads New York University's food studies program.


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