Assessing the Haggis

I was just about haggised out after putting together last week’s round up of Robert Burns activities and dinners. Then Chef Martin Kouprie of Pangaea (1221 Bay Street) sent me a message on Twitter. He was holding a haggis competition for his kitchen staff; the winning dish would be served in the restaurant on Robert Burns Day. Would I like to come and be a judge?

I was of two minds; my experience with offal – all organs and all animals (I’ve only recently learned to like foie gras) – hasn’t been good. But then I remembered the advice of Vogue food writer Jeffrey Steingarten, that you must try a food at least ten times before you can determine that you truly don’t like it. I’d had haggis once before and found it repulsive, but here was an opportunity to try seven additional versions of the dish, created by seven different professional cooks who would be pulling out all the stops to make the lowly stuffed sheep’s stomach into gourmet fare.

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When Your Food Makes You Swell Up and Fall Down

allergychocolatecake

There’s nothing more delightful than an ice cream cone on a warm summer evening. Strolling along and licking at a scoop of chocolate gelato as the sun sets is one of the season’s great pleasures – a pleasure unknown to anyone with a life-threatening dairy allergy, where the joy of a cold treat can swiftly be cut short by having your throat swell up and your breathing cut off.

 

Anaphylaxis is the most severe reaction to a food allergy, and the most dangerous, but even milder reactions can cause discomfort and frustration. Allergy-sufferers who experience severe, life-threatening reactions from common food allergens such as peanuts, shellfish, eggs or dairy often carry a device called an Epi-pen which contains an antidote that can be used if they accidentally ingest a food they’re allergic to. But while the Epi-pen will save the life of a person suffering from anaphylactic shock, there is no ongoing treatments for food allergies as there are for other allergens such as mold or dust where weekly injections of the allergen can be administered to build up resistance. Avoidance is the only real option for people who find that certain foods make them sick.

 

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The Women’s Culinary Network – A Kinder, Gentler Approach to the Kitchen

chefThere’s an old saying that goes “If women ruled the world, there would be no war.” Now I don’t actually believe this for a second, and despite my dislike of Bush and Cheney, I honestly believe they are the “softening factor” that is keeping Condoleeza Rice from turning the Middle East and North Korea into a literal dead zone. And we can all come up with examples of really scary women who really shouldn’t be running anything coughAnnCoultercough because their world view is just the teensiest bit warped.

But in general, women are likely to be more nurturing and empathetic than aggressive. In the realm of the restaurant industry, particularly the more mainstream businesses, being a woman in a kitchen can be pretty tough. There’s generally a lot of cursing, a lot of testosterone, and in some places, cheese throwing. And that’s when service is at its busiest. Downtime can quickly devolve to an adolescent level, which can be even worse.

A partial solution to the concerns that women in the food industry might have is the Women’s Culinary Network. Created in 1990 by four female chefs who found themselves working together in a small kitchen, the Network aims to create a place where female culinary professionals can get together to share experiences and define a supportive work environment.

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