Saturday, January 20, 2007

Have you discovered "Scrubs" yet?

If you haven't yet discovered NBC's Scrubs, you're missing out on some great TV comedy! Their musical episode that aired on Thursday was brilliant. It was based on the fantasies of a female patient with a brain aneurysm. One of her symptoms was that she was perceiving everyone to be singing their conversations. Entertainment Weekly called the "Guy Love" song in the episode by Zach Braff (J.D.) and Donald Faison (Turk) both "genuine" and "genuinely funny." I agree. (By the way, they are professing their friendship-based love for one another, as opposed to romantic love.) Check it out by watching the above video... and if you haven't seen Scrubs or given it a chance, please do so before it's too late. Already in its sixth season, it won't be around much longer, despite its critical acclaim. (It will always live in syndication, though, so at least fans won't lose the show completely!) Scrubs reminds me a lot of M*A*S*H, which mixed laughs and drama, hence the term "dramedy."

Scrubs is also responsible for one of the best half-hours ever (!) of episodic TV with "My Screw Up" that aired on February 24, 2004. I taped it and re-watched it dozens of times... to the point of obsession. I truly didn't see the end coming. Click here to read what The Vidiots said about the episode. (This is the one that starred Brendan Fraser in his last periodic stint on the series, in case you're a fan and need a hint...) I found the music in this episode haunting, especially "Winter" by Joshua Radin.

Happy belated 1st birthday, Ethan!

This is my cute little nephew Ethan... son of my sister Sherri and her partner Phil. Uncle Brian completely forgot your first birthday, buddy! (He was born on January 18, 2006.) Sorry!! Man, that's gonna cost me. *hands a kidney over to my sister* Some interesting trivia: Sherri and Phil built their own straw bale house a few years ago... one of the few in New Brunswick. Thank goodness for Amazon, which allows you to buy a gift, have it wrapped and even add a written greeting! *phew*

Speaking of the Fredericton Daily Gleaner... that reminds me of a funny story...

You recognize comedian and actor Howie Mandel, right? He's the host of the NBC hit primetime game show Deal or No Deal. Well, I lived in Fredericton, New Brunswick, from 1986-94. Anyway, to make a long story short, Mandel came to Fredericton to perform his stand-up routine at The Fredericton Playhouse. (He was hilarious, by the way.) At one point during the performance, he noticed someone in the audience taking notes. The pen she was using had a light on the end of it, so it kind of stood out in the crowd. He called her on it... "Are you a reviewer?" he asked her from the stage. She was. "What's the name of the newspaper you write for? "The Daily Gleaner," she said. "The what??" Mandel asked, laughing. "The Gleaner!" she yelled. And then he asked what most people have often wondered: "What the f**k is a gleaner?" The crowd roared. And I still don't know what the f**k a "gleaner" is.

Met an interesting lady today...

This is a photo of Claudy Lynch when she was going by "Claudy Mailly." From 1984-88, she was the Progressive Conservative Member of Parliament for the Quebec riding of Gatineau. She was married to the late well-regarded Canadian journalist Charles Lynch. She currently lives in Albert County, New Brunswick. She was helping out the Moncton SPCA's board of directors with some governance issues today. Very interesting! She certainly knows her stuff. I was struck by her compassion for both animals and people. Claudy is also a former newspaper columnist with the Moncton Times & Transcript and Fredericton Daily Gleaner.

Anyone remember "Hats Off"?

Does anyone remember Hats Off or were we the only family on Earth who played this? We spent hours and hours with this game. The object was to "flip" as many of your six "hats" as possible into the colour-coded area. Lots of fun and pretty simple for little kids.

Cormier's Law

The volume and timing of a cat's vomiting on hardwood floors is directly in proportion to the newness of said floors and the length of time between the vomiting and when the owner of the cat is likely to discover it.

Hillary Clinton announces presidential bid

This will be interesting to watch! I wonder how she'll do against Barack Obama? Click here for a video report from CTV. Check out her official campaign website here.

Friday, January 19, 2007

I'm feeling retro tonight... Remember Foster Brooks?


Some of you *cough* older *cough* folks may remember the Dean Martin Celebrity Roasts that aired in the 1970s. I remember that my entire family would sit down to watch these specials and would laugh and laugh and laugh! As a kid, one of my favourites was Foster Brooks, whose shtick was to act drunk. He was so funny and I still laugh looking back at his antics. Hysterical. If you do a search for him on YouTube, several other videos pop up. Do yourself a favour and watch some of them.

Sad day in music...

That's Denny Doherty on the left, member of one of my favourite groups of all time -- The Mamas & the Papas. Sadly, Doherty died today at the young age of 66 in Mississauga, Ontario, reportedly from an abdominal aneurysm. He was born in Halifax. Click here for Doherty's homepage. While I'm at it, I'd like to mention that the well-publicized "fact" that Cass Elliot (a.k.a. Mama Cass) died by choking on a ham sandwich in 1974 is actually a huge myth. Click here to read what really happened! Click on the photo for a write-up on the group.

You know it's time to feed the cats when...

... you see one of them tearing through the house with its newfound bootie -- a bag of four biscuits bigger than her entire body. Sheesh! Those are mine, ya crazy cat! Time to give you your supper, I guess.

Retro Toy Commercial: Kenner Smash-up Derby


If you were a boy growing up in the 1970s like I was, you likely remember this great toy. My brother and I played with these incessantly until our wild cousins from Boston came to visit and wrecked them permanently. Stuff flew off that wasn't supposed to! This is likely a bit too violent for today's more conservative tastes, but back then it was loads of fun!

Real estate market picking up?

Is this another sign of spring? The real estate market seems to be picking up. I hadn't had a call on my house for three whole months! All of a sudden, I have three sets of potential buyers coming to visit within 24 hours! I hope this bodes well for an imminent sale. I have a condo beckoning my name!

Great political and social satire!

"Et Dieu créa Laflaque" airs on Radio-Canada each Sunday evening at 8:30 p.m. I don't watch a lot of French TV, but this is the one show I don't miss. The computer-generated animation is wonderful and the turnaround time quite timely! Very recent news items are normally covered in the show -- quite an accomplishment for an animated series! My only criticism is that it is very focused on Quebec politics... but that is to be expected with any show originating out of Radio-Canada in Montreal. Their spoofs on politicians are particularly brilliant and hilariously exaggerated. A real treat! Click on the photo for more information.

Does anyone remember "Henry"?

Does anyone remember the "Henry" comic strip? It ran for years and years. It wasn't terribly funny, but it was usually the first strip that little kids could "read" because the words were few and far between. I came upon Henry again recently. Certainly a trip down memory lane! Click on the comic for more information.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Amazing animal rescue yesterday in Oklahoma!

A news helicopter from KWTV in Oklahoma saved the life of a deer stranded on the ice yesterday. The helicopter got down close enough to the animal to literally blow it across the ice to the shore, saving its life. Wow! Amazing footage. Congrats to KWTV helicopter pilot Mason Dunn for this wonderful act of kindness. He says he just wanted to scare the deer into helping itself, but -- as you can see on the footage -- it was completely unable to stand up. The force of the wind from the helicopter's rotor blades ended up working an unexpected miracle! Click on the photo to watch the video. (A short commercial plays before the main video. Please be patient.)

There are signs of spring despite the weather...

Hot cross buns are in the bakeries!
Cadbury Creme Eggs are in the stores!

There are no poutines like those made by...

Brian Cormier
Hump day
Published Wednesday January 17th, 2007
Appeared on page D6, Moncton Times & Transcript

I think traditional foods are one of the strongest links to the past that we have. No matter what your ethnic background is, you likely have some foods that serve up some powerful memories.

Perhaps there are certain meals only served at family birthdays. Perhaps Easter. Maybe Thanksgiving. And of course, there's always the Christmas holiday period, with its variety of specialty dishes only eaten at that time of the year.

What I find fascinating is to find differences among similar traditions in the same ethnic and cultural groups. If you're an Acadian from the Metro Moncton area, you've most likely noticed that in how poutines râpées are made in different households.

If you're unfamiliar with this Acadian delicacy that was adapted from a dish made by German immigrants years ago, suffice it to say that this meat-filled potato dumpling looks like a large grey snowball. Basically, you mix drained grated potatoes with cooked mashed potatoes, add salt, then meat in the middle. Put them in water and boil for about three hours and voilà!

What I find so interesting about poutines (not to be confused with the Quebec version of poutine - french fries covered with cheese curds and gravy) - is that every community seems make them differently.

My father, an avid poutine maker, insists on only salt pork for his poutine meat. There's no hamburger or anything else for him. To even suggest such a thing would pretty much have you brought into the woods for a walk and never come back. Can you say "shallow grave," boys and girls?

Some people call for a mixture of salt pork and pork shoulder. Others put a mixture of pork and bacon. Some people mix onions in with the meat or the potato mixture itself.

This Christmas, I tried poutines made by my aunt that had salted green onions in them. But with all traditional food, we usually prefer what we were brought up on. Even if I buy poutines these days, they're just never "right." Either there's not enough salt or the meat inside is just not the same as what I'm used to.

What people put on their poutines is another area of debate. For me, I'm purely a white sugar man. And no, putting sugar on it doesn't make it a dessert. If it did, it would be like eating the heaviest dessert on earth. A couple of poutines in even the heartiest eater is usually more than enough to satisfy an appetite.

One of the more common poutine accompaniments is brown sugar. I'm a big brown sugar fan, but not necessarily for poutines. I've heard that some put molasses. I'll have to try that one. Someone I know puts ketchup on theirs. (OK, time for that walk in the woods.) Ketchup on poutines is just wrong. Wrong, I tells ya! Yuck.

The canned poutines that were acceptable in a pinch are no longer around. They weren't like homemade - kind of like canned peas versus fresh peas - but they were better than nothing. And since making poutines is so labour intensive, they at least satisfied a craving.

It's funny about poutines, since you're at the mercy of the potatoes you buy, they sometimes don't come out exactly as planned. Different people swear by different kinds of potatoes. If you take out too much water, they're hard as rock. If you leave in too much or boil them too hard, they fall apart. Then there's how much meat and what kind to put in. And there's the mysterious question of how much salt to put in. That seems to be one of the secrets to good poutine-making right there: the balance of seasoning.

One thing about those who eat poutines but who don't make them themselves, they're always on the lookout for a good poutine. They'll try every bakery. They'll try every farmers' market booth. They'll try everyone who sells them on the side out of their kitchen.

The first words out of anyone's mouth after they're told of a new "poutine place": "Were they good?" "What kind of meat was in them?" "Were there any onions?" "Were they salted enough?" "How much were they?" "Were they as good as fill-in-the-blank's?"

If you think people are fussy about their poutines, don't even get me started on meat pies. I've seen near civil wars started over what kind of meat to include. Do you include vegetables? What kind of pastry? How much gravy? Right up there with poutines râpées, meat pies are another tradition that is very jealously guarded among families.

But no one beats my mother's "pâté" from her family's old Acadian recipe from Prince Edward Island. This meat pie has no gravy. It looks like a large calzone and you slice it and eat it cold. Yes, cold - preferably with a big glass of milk. And yeah, it's gotta have rabbit in it, too. Heaven!

People around here know nothing about this style of meat pie, but they're the best! Better than any of your own meat pies, for sure. (Wink!) And for the love of God, if I see one more person put a slice of my mother's pâté in the microwave to heat it up before eating, I swear I'm bringing you for one of those walks in the woods to tie you to a tree and throw poutines at you!

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

The cats are back safe and sound...

... after nearly two weeks in a kennel. Thanks to Lynda Bannister at K9 & Kitty Country near Salisbury for taking such great care of Cindy, Casey and Charlotte! It's good to have the house back to normal!

Radio-Canada archive item re: poutine râpée from 1970

FYI: This is only available in French. If you understand the language, click here for a Radio-Canada archive item from nearly 37 years ago re: Acadians' beloved poutine râpée! Very interesting.

Looking for poutines râpées this week?

After my column today, I got this great e-mail from Audrey Williston, who told me about "the very best poutines" around. They're made by the volunteers at "Notre Centre" in Grande-Digue. Audrey writes: "They sell them the third week of each month, and as luck would have it, they'll be doing so tomorrow (Thursday the 18th), Friday & Saturday. They cost $2.50 each and are worth every cent! Call 532-1133 to pre-order. They'll explain when ready for pick-up each day, etc. I have eaten many poutines, and these are by far and away the very best." So there you go! Give them a try! Thanks for writing, Audrey! (UPDATE: April 2/07 -- This is a corrected version of what was previously posted. My apologies for any inconvenience and thanks to Audrey for correcting the error.)

Lots of chilly willies in Moncton today!


It's freakin' freezin' here in this part of the world! The windchill is -36 C (-33 F). My face nearly froze off just walking from the parking garage to the office. Lordy! There'll be lots of chilly willies and willie-ettes in Moncton today! Be careful out there and take precautions against the cold. And for the love of God, keep your pets inside unless you have a 200-lb St. Bernard who needs to poop. Even then, let him back in right away! ;-)

There are no poutines like those made by. . .

Don't forget to check out my Hump Day column today exclusively on page D6 of the Moncton Times & Transcript.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Finally back in my house...

... after the floors were redone. Getting organized, although most has been done -- which is great. Still gotta unpack, straighten up, etc. The cats come back tomorrow. So life is getting back to normal!

Poutine râpée and pâté

My paternal grandmother (Léonie Cormier) holding up a poutine râpée - likely in the 1950s

Pâté (an Acadian meat pie from Prince Edward Island)

As I said in this post, tomorrow's Hump Day column will mention poutine râpée and pâté. You may be familiar with poutine râpée... but pâté is a type of Acadian meat pie from Prince Edward Island that my mother makes. You eat it sliced and cold. Delicious with a glass of milk! If you click on the photo, you'll see a larger version of it. The pâté is quite large... as you can see when comparing it to the butcher knife next to it. (Click on the photo for a larger view.) These are "dry" meat pies, i.e. no gravy. Both of these old Acadian delicacies are quite labour-intensive to make, so they're usually made in big batches to make it worth the while. I've never heard of anyone freezing poutine râpée... and unfortunately the texture and flavour of pâté really doesn't stand up well in the freezer, so both these "treats" are best eaten fresh. They don't last long anyway! I really need to learn how to make these so that the tradition doesn't fall by the wayside. Besides, I can't imagine a Christmas without either one! (I should mention that the meats in pâté usually consist of pork, beef, chicken, rabbit and other wild meats if available. Onions are also included.)

Monday, January 15, 2007

Foolishness!

Excerpt from a Canadian Press wire story on the infamous Gregory Despres murder trial currently underway in Fredericton: "A U.S. border official says Gregory Despres, the man on trial for the slaying of an elderly New Brunswick couple, could not be denied entry to the United States even though he had an arsenal of weapons with him. Tim Donnell, a director of customs and border security at the Calais, Maine, border crossing told court he saw Despres as he approached the crossing on the morning of April 25, 2005. Donnell says he could see the handle of what turned out to be a sword sticking out of his backpack. Customs officers also found Despres was carrying a knife, pepper spray, a chainsaw, brass knuckles and a small axe. Still, Donnell says Despres could not be detained because he had a legitimate U.S. passport." Click here for the entire article.

So the U.S. is making Canadian tourist and business airline travellers carry a passport effective January 2007, but they're letting their own "citizens" enter the country despite having a cache of weapons? Even if they were confiscated, don't you think they could have checked with the RCMP or something? Isn't carrying a concealed weapon against the law? Since when is carrying pepper spray in Canada legal? They should have shipped him back across the border to New Brunswick to face the music here for carrying all that crap with him. My God...

Foolishness!

Winter's here!

Well, it was bound to happen. Despite unseasonably warm temperatures and a nearly complete lack of snow, Old Man Winter has finally clued in that he'd better get a move on. Lots of snow in the forecast -- between 15-20 cm depending on which weather website you visit. Great! *rolls eyes* That's all I need now that I'm ready to move back into the house now that the floors are finally done. I'll have to shovel out a path for the movers early tomorrow so that they can get everything back into the house. Ironically, they'll likely track a bunch of snow into the house, too... all over the floors that had to be fixed because of a flood in the first place! They'd better not ruin my new floors! *cries like a little girl*

Sunday, January 14, 2007

This week's Hump Day column...

... will be about family food traditions -- specifically that old Acadian favourite, poutine râpée! I also talk about meat pies. There's one thing about these two traditional dishes: everyone has their certain way of making them and God help anyone who makes them differently. Look for Hump Day exclusively in Wednesday's Moncton Times & Trancript at the bottom of the editorial page. It will be posted online here on Thursday.

Check out the new hardwood floors! The inconvenience is all worth it. Very nice!