Exhibit – Politics of Fashion – Fashion of Politics

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When you choose your outfit in the morning, do you ever think about the statement you’re making? Sure, what we wears tells the world about who we are, but what about consciously choosing to make a political statement to the world? The latest exhibit at the Design Exchange is all about people who do just that – and the clothes they’ve worn.

Politics of Fashion – Fashion of Politics, guest curated by Jeanne Beker, is really a two-part exhibit. In the first section, political statements through fashion are laid out semi-chronologically, starting with the 60s youth-quake in Britain and the raising of hemlines as a means of self-expression and creativity.

Issues such as the Vietnam war, sexual freedom (the topless swimsuit by Rudi Gernreich), homosexuality (Bowie’s boots, Klaus Nomi’s tuxedo, RuPaul’s corset for the MAC VivaGlam campaign), and racism (a selection of pieces by African-American designer Patrick Kelly, who intentionally incorporated imagery of racial stereotypes into his designs, as well as pieces from the 1998 collection of varying length chadors by Hussein Chalayan) are all represented.

Various western sub-cultures and their “uniforms” are also prevalent, with a vast selection of Vivienne Westwood pieces from the 70s punk era, as well as pieces demonstrating the mod and skinhead styles that were worn at the time.

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Lucky Dip – Monday, November 28th, 2011

Oh, hippies… Occupy Toronto protesters have taken over the basement of St. Patrick’s Market, a building owned by the city but leased out to various food shops, and the soon-to-be home of The Grove food emporium. The hippies occupiers swear to run a food strike and then a hunger strike unless they can become legitimate tenants of the space. [Toronto Star] [Globe and Mail]

Let it be noted that we are the architects of our own demise. Canada and Mexico are arguing that the US’s super-awesome Country of Origin Labelling laws violate the free trade agreement our countries have all been roped into. Which means that, besides forcing the US to stop labelling the food it sells so that consumers can know where it comes from, the chance of getting similar laws here in Canada (which local food advocates have requesting for years) is pretty much screwed. [Food Safety News]

Poor weather in the US south means that peanut butter is now too expensive to stock at food banks. [Village Voice: Fork in the Road]

You know how it just takes some people a while to figure out where they’re supposed to be and what they’re supposed to be doing? Writer Sarah B. Hood finally found her “thing”, cooking in the historic kitchen at Fort York. [Toronto Tasting Notes]

Yet again, this holiday season, Brits are in the aisles of Waitrose fighting over the last Heston Blumenthal Christmas pudding. [Independent]

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Lucky Dip – Thursday, November 10th, 2011

I hope to hell that my friend Steven Davey compiled this list of meaty dishes from Toronto restaurants over a year’s worth of reviews and didn’t spend the last few weeks running around town on a meat bender. Because this is a list to block arteries. [NOW]

This is a new twist on the pop-up restaurant, the location stays the same, but the chef and the food vary from week to week. [The Grid]

Want a quieter restaurant where people can actually have a conversation? Turn off the music. People will unconsciously talk more quietly because there’s less sound to talk over. [Inside Scoop SF]

If you eat some tasty truffles this year, check to see where they came from. They might just be from Tennessee (where they’ve been deemed to be every bit as good as the Italian ones), and they’ll have been hunted by the most adorable dogs. [Garden & Gun]

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Lucky Dip – Tuesday, October 25th, 2011

After a whole lot of wine last night, I’m super-excited that today is National (well, in the US, who’s quibbling?) Greasy Foods Day. Pass the fried chicken. [Bites]

Oh come on… kids who drink more soda are more likely to be violent? Or maybe they’re violent because they’re frustrated by stupid, biased studies. [Globe and Mail]

Speaking of studies, you know how you were supposed to drink 8 glasses of water, and then you didn’t have to… maybe we actually should. Preliminary studies show a link between low water consumption and high blood sugar. Further research will be needed to determine if it’s causal or if people who don’t drink a lot of water are replacing it with soda and juice, but still… drink some water. [Toronto Sun]

Dear McDonald’s, even worse than the bad press you might get from that lady who goes around swabbing your Playlands and testing for germs would be banning said lady from entering your premises. Because that just makes you look like you *know* you’ve got something to hide. And did you really think she wouldn’t go to the press with the letter from your lawyers? [Consumerist]

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Lucky Dip – Tuesday, October 18th, 2011

Remember when the theme at McDonald’s was “you deserve a break today, eat your food and go away”? So what’s up with the fancy new decor and now, in California, TV and a whole McDonald’s channel? Now they want us to linger? [Toronto Star]

Does “ethnic food” exist? [Wall Street Journal]

Cara (owners of Harvey’s, Swiss Chalet and Milestones) are set to buy Prime Restaurants, which include Casey’s, East Side Mario’s and Bier Markt). [Financial Post]

I’m not sure whether to be pleased or horrified – the Girl Scouts of America have come up with a “locavore” badge. [LA Weekly]

Rob Rossi’s Bestellen will not be a German restaurant. Just so you know. [Toronto Life: The Dish]

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Lucky Dip – Thursday, September 8th, 2011

How awesome is this? Supermarkets that grow produce on those vast expanses of useless flat roof. Win-win-win. [Toronto Star]

Polish up your resume, wanna-be restaurant critics; rumours are that Sam Sifton, critic for the New York Times is moving on to the national desk. Who will get the tasty top job? [Eater]

Who cares about celebrities when you’re enjoying a good steak frites? La Societe overcomes its reputation as a richy-rich hangout. [NOW]

Cookbooks as literature. [The Awl]

McDonald’s here in Canada is getting all swankified. But you’ve gotta love Eater’s reasoning on the inclusion of fireplaces; “it’s cold in Canada”. That’s right, all year long – that day in July when the temperature cracked 40°C – that was just a dream. A cup of coffee in front of the McD’s fireplace will be a welcome reprieve from shivering in our unheated igloos. [Eater]

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Two Meals

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Most of us, if we’re lucky, eat three times a day – or more. We can look at this activity as either a chore, or a joy. We can take pleasure in every flavour, every spice, every texture and smell, or we can look at eating as something we have to do to stay alive, but man, doesn’t it get tedious after a while?

Recently, I had the opportunity to experience both ends of the spectrum.

April marked the 20th anniversary of the last time I had eaten at McDonald’s. I wanted to mark the occasion in some way but none of the options were appealing – especially the ones that might get me arrested. Instead I chose to do the most radical thing I could think of, which was to go and eat a meal at McDonald’s. Heck, I’ve eaten bull’s testicles, it couldn’t be that bad, could it? And to counter the McDonald’s meal, a few days later I would be attending the Slow Food Banchetto feast, a five-course meal created by 25 of Toronto’s top chefs.

The McDonald’s meal, as expected, was disgusting. The burgers were greyish brown and had the spongy texture of crepe soles on a pair of shoes. The McChicken sandwich was bland and beige and resembled a flat disc of breaded particleboard (which would have been more palatable, knowing how mechanically-deboned chicken is actually made). The fries smelled and tasted of rancid grease. The fruit pies were spit out and thrown away, they were so soggy and bland. The first few bites of the meal took me hurtling back to 1989, when this was something I would have described as delicious, but my grown-up self could not stomach that food or the hard seats, bright lights, chaotic service area or the aura of sadness and defeat that permeated the restaurant.

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Happ McAnniversary to Me

It’s my 20 year McAnniversary this month. April of 1989 was the last time I ate anything from McDonald’s. I don’t remember the exact date because it wasn’t really a marker at the time. My boyfriend and I had been to the Toronto Zoo where we visited the Americans pavilion. There were huge info walls explaining that the Amazon rain forest was disappearing as more and more land was cleared to make space for cattle farms – to raise beef for US and Canadian burger chains. At the time, McDonald’s was the only food available to purchase at the Toronto Zoo (how’s that for irony?) and I made the decision then and there to never eat at McD’s again.

The task has been a surprisingly easy one. Living in downtown Toronto, I have plenty of other options and am still boggled at how people can choose McD’s over a block full of great ethnic restaurants. There has been some pressure over the years, with many people not understanding or respecting my decision, but I’ve managed to stick to my promise to myself.

In those 20 years, I’ve been inside a McDonald’s exactly four times. Twice on road trips in the early 90s along highway 401 when I needed to use the washroom, back when the rest stops consisted of a service station and a fast food restaurant. I won’t eat their food, but I will pee in their toilets, thank you very much. Rest stops are now more like tiny malls with a donut shop and a magazine/variety store as well as the restaurant and gas station, so I no longer have to go inside the McDonald’s to pee, and can usually find a candy bar or something to eat if I’ve not bothered to pack a snack. The other times were to drop off toys for a holiday toy drive and once when I was meeting someone at Dundas subway station, which has its own McD’s outlet.

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If this is the Gospel of Food, Maybe that Explains Why I’m Not Religious

You know how you can go through life believing and trusting someone until you catch them, maybe not in an outright lie, but in a tiny fib, or an omission, and then everything after that is tainted with confusion as you try to determine just how honest they’re being?

Thus is my relationship with author Barry Glassner and his book The Gospel of Food.

Glassner attempts to debunk a variety of theories and commonly held opinions and beliefs about food and eating, and for the most part, he writes a well-thought-out argument in which he supports his claims. When it suits him. That is, he tends not to bring up any documentation that might refute his claims, which makes me question not just the issues in dispute, but everything he writes.

I can agree with his opening claim that people who enjoy what they eat have more joyful lives overall, as opposed to people who deny themselves real food on the pretense of health or dieting. In the chapter False Prophets he references writer Emily Green who has written against non-fat dairy products and similar items which she refers to as “nonundelows” for their prefixes of non-, un- de- or low-; foods that have been modified to have their nutritional value, fat, calories etc., removed.

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Don’t Eat This Book

As I mentioned a few weeks ago in my opening editorial, I firmly believe that most people who care about good food know that junk food is bad for them. How can you not know that fact? What worries me, and apparently, also worries Morgan Spurlock, is that even though we all know this to be true, people are still cruising through the drive-through and eating McJunk. Even after seeing SuperSize Me, Spurlock’s 2003 documentary, we’re still putting crap into our bodies in place of food.

Don’t Eat This Book is even more loaded with information than Spurlock’s film. In many ways, it’s easier to digest (heh!), as you can take your time, set the thing down, or go back and reread all the interesting bits. Which you need to do on occasion, because Spurlock really writes in the same way that he talks – fast and furious. This can be amusing, or a bit overwhelming, and after the fifth or sixth Simpson’s-esque “mmmmm… food reference” comment, even a bit annoying.

What he does do is give you facts. All the stuff he relays onscreen during his 30-day McDonald’s diet in SuperSize Me is right there in black and white. In fact, Don’t Eat This Book could almost be considered the literary companion to the film, as Spurlock is able to give more detail about what he went through during the 30 days of the documentary, as well as the reaction to the film after the fact, particularly the reaction by the bigwigs at McDonald’s and the various ways that company tried to control the publicity the film got, especially in countries with a smaller, more concentrated market such as Australia and Japan. The Subway chain, clearly not getting Spurlock’s message of “all junk food = bad”, and hoping to divert former McDonald’s customers to their supposedly healthier options, tried to strike a deal to give away copies of the SuperSize Me DVD to customers who purchased $15 or more of their food. Spurlock quickly put the kibosh on this deal, proving his intention to be true to his message, as the deal would have made him a cool $2.5 million. He is also particularly skeptical of the “healthy options” offered by many fast food chains in the wake of SuperSize Me’s popularity, and shows how, in many cases, they are no healthier than the deep-fried, chemical-loaded concoctions those same chains are known for.

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