Celebration Parts I & II

When is a party not a party? When it’s run by the government! Or, in this case, not by government but by a not-for-profit that definitely smells like a government initiative. Such was the case this fine holiday weekend, when the smoldering crater of apathy that was Celebrate BC wheezed into action at the Plaza of Nations. It sounds like a neat idea – celebrate BC’s “culture, food and cuisine, entertainment, products, business, industry and tourism” – unfortunately, a lot of those elements were either missing or in short supply.

Food? Well, sure, you could spring $25 for the wine and cheese tasting, or $20 for the fresh food tasting – but how many people could you reasonable expect would do that? Not exactly a family friendly thing, now is it? Wouldn’t it have made sense to have a farmer’s market with local produce on display and for sale? How about a cooking demo or two by some of the local chefs? For those who couldn’t attend the existing “BC” food events, the food fare was limited to some decidedly non-BC food fare: burgers, hot dogs and the like. Go BC cuisine!

Industry had an equally poor showing – none of the companies in attendance were what I would consider “showcase” quality. Where were the big companies, the BC guys who made it on the world stage? Other than a few small players, the industry, business, technology, and tourism segments were poorly represented at the event. And where were the local craftsmen and the artisans?

Though culture had a better showing, with the main stage featuring local performance groups, the big main events were big dollar concerts. The culture beyond the main stage was thin on the ground, expanding the definition of culture to include local sports teams. In fact, local sports teams seemed to make up the majority of the “culture” booths.

Sad. Truly sad. Further confirmation of my earlier sentiments on BC pride.

Meanwhile, across town a real party swung into action on Sunday with the Vancouver Pride 2003 parade in the West End. Pretty impressive for a community that just earned the scorn of the Pope. The antithesis of Celebrate BC, the parade lasted an exhausting two hours and featured not only businesses and local organizations from the gay community, but a significant number of local political leaders. Heck, they even got Hedy Fry to wear a costume straight out of Rio de Janeiro.

The message is clear: if you want to celebrate, find some organizers who actually know the meaning of the term “celebration” and the lyrics to boot.

How to Eat

I was talking with Joseph Yang the other day about what I eat – he noted that I don’t eat a lot, though I do intake a fair amount of junk food. It got me thinking about one of the major life skills that we’re never really taught: how to eat properly.

Sure, our parents are supposed to teach us “how to eat right”, but that’s easier said than done. When you’re a kid, it’s hard not to eat right (of course, your experience may vary with your parentage). You’re not actually involved in the process of deciding a menu, shopping for the food, and preparing it. You just eat. Even the gross stuff is still easy to eat when it’s already prepared for you.

Once you’re out on your own, it’s an entirely different story. What did I eat in university? Hmm. Wow, I’m totally blanking. I know I ate perogies. And meat, there was some meat (possibly hamburgers?) in there somewhere. And pasta, the old standBy. I seem to recall bacon, but the only real image I’m getting is of a puddle of grease in a pan, and that could have been left by the hamburgers. Thinking back on it now, it’s amazing I lived this long once I left home. As students, we all heard horror stories of foreign graduate students dying from malnutrition because all they ate was Ramen noodles, in an attempt to save money. Were we doing any better than the guy with the chopsticks, face down in his bowl in a dorm room somewhere?

Probably not.

The sum total of my culinary training is as follows: boil water, insert (eggs) or (pasta) or (soup mix), wait ten minutes, eat. Even “home economics” in junior high didn’t prepare me. Pita pizza pockets? Why bother learning how to make those yourself, when science and the microwave provided the same feast, ready to nuke? I wasn’t even out of junior high and already my cooking skills were obsolete.

Half the time, we’re just too tired to plan, tired to shop, tired to cook. What would really improve the situation would be a tool that allowed people to plan their meals, providing recipes and generating grocery lists and meal plans with a few clicks of a button. Or better yet, a site that you can tell what you have in your larder, and it will tell you how to make something with the ingredients you already have at hand.

Then again, I guess there are limits to what such a system could do: I doubt it could help you make a meal entirely out of condiments.