Cooking Breakfast for my Best Friend

… with love and loyalty
(c) 2017, Davd

“If you want love and loyalty,” i read from some Feminist source or sources, “don’t get a wife, get a dog.”

If any of you readers has a citation for that sneer, please provide. It wouldn’t surprise me if there were several variations in the wording, all confessing that women don’t treat marriage as loyally as good dogs treat their close human relationships.

(Let’s edit that “women” into “all too many women….” Let’s allow for the possibility that faithful, loyal, co-operative women exist, even by the millions. Let’s make a major project, of “seeing to it that” all children born from now on, are born to faithful, loyal, co-operative mothers1 — but let’s not forget what The Sneer is telling us: Millions of other women are not faithful, loyal, and co-operative.2)

My own experience fits with the Sneer: I have received love and loyalty from several good dogs3 during my 75 years, and i’m divorced (at her initiative), not married.

The main body of this blog is about giving more back to Fritz, my faithful, loyal, co-operative canine companion of these days, while recognizing that he’s not a human. It began, i suppose, with that old phrase “a dog’s breakfast.”

Fritz eats bones, and enjoys eating them. I don’t. He has a lifespan that i can hope will be more than one-seventh of the human lifespan, but won’t get longer than one-fifth. Many delights of my table wouldn’t interest him: Apples, broccoli, carrots, dill, endive, … and i won’t take you through the rest of the alphabet; you get the idea. I can cook up a real treat for Fritz’ breakfast, using mostly foods i wouldn’t eat anyway; and more mornings than not, this year and the past few years, that’s what i have done.

If i had a big, serious kitchen and big, serious stock pots, i might boil bones sometimes and make soup stock. It’s a good practice and adds glucosamine, a protein valuable to joint health, to your diet. In fact, it’s been more than two years since i had a big, serious kitchen, and i don’t get enough bones at one time to make that soup stock. I do get a few from time to time, and Fritz gets the flavour and glucosamine they produce.

The fat i trim off pork chops and some cuts of beef, sometimes even from chicken legs, would be bad for me, so goes the conventional wisdom. Fritz, with his shorter lifespan, probably doesn’t have time to develop clogged arteries from eating lots of fat, and he definitely enjoys eating it: I avoid a risk to my health by adding a pleasure to his breakfast.

Meat, especially meat that gets frozen for storage and later thawed for cooking, oozes “juice” that all too often is thrown away. I save that “juice”, if it’s at all practical to save it, and boil it the next morning with some fat and maybe some bones4, in a small cooking pot. If the bone, fat, or “juice” had started to decay, the boiling will kill any bacteria involved and minimize the risk to Fritz’ digestion. It also flavours the water, which is also important.

I boil Fritz’ dog food enhancements in a minimum of water, and when they have boiled for a minute or two, i take them off the heat and add about twice the amount of water they boiled in. That reduces the temperature to where i can put a finger or thumb into it without getting burned. I figure cooling the water that much, will prevent its heat from degrading any vitamins in the dry dog food [“kibble”] that i then put into the water.

Then i let the kibble swell and soften by taking up the water… a matter of 10-15 minutes in my experience, though if i’m busy paying attention to something else, the dog food and enhanced water can sit half an hour with no harm. Fritz often reminds me if i’ve let his special breakfast wait longer than the usual 10-15, which is a good (and true) indication that he enjoys it a lot more than he does generic, “nutritionally complete” dry dog food.

“Dry and wet are best for your pet” is a slogan i’ve seen fairly often recently. I began cooking Fritz’ dog’s breakfast months, probably years before i first saw it; and i’ve normally kept the relatively boring, dry kibble available for him after feeding him that special breakfast. If he’s really hungry, he’ll eat dry kibble; the special breakfast is — special. A treat… and also, more bone, meat [juices] and fat than dry dog food alone would provide him.

Reading the nutritional part of a [kibble] dog food bag, i see that minimum protein, fat, and calcium contents are declared; which implies to me that it would be good for the dogs eating that food, for it to contain even more. Making up Fritz’ special breakfasts, i add meat protein, animal fat, and sometimes, bone calcium and phosphorus that, i’m convinced, make the food more nourishing as well as more enjoyable.

It’s a small part of what i ought to be doing for my best friend.5

Notes:

1. Yes, this project will entail a lot of sexual restraint on the part of us men; and deserves to be the subject of a future blog.

2. How many millions of women are best described by The Sneer (as much less faithful, loyal, and co-operative than a good dog); and how many millions are faithful, loyal, and co-operative (worth marrying), i cannot usefully estimate, at least not yet.

3. I have met with dogs who were short on love or loyalty; and women (including my sister and grandmother) who had them in abundance. Overall, in this Feminist-so-far century, and for that matter in the second half of the last, faithful, loyal, co-operative women have made up a significantly smaller fraction of all women, than faithful, loyal, co-operative dogs have been, of all dogs. The Sneer has too much truth in it.

4. Chicken and turkey leg and wing bones, and fish bones, don’t go into the water; it’s a general rule not to feed them to dogs because they might have sharp ends that could poke a hole into a dog’s digestive tract. Not a risk to take.

As it cooks, meat juice tends to turn a tan colour and firm up. Stirring the pot as it approaches boiling, including scraping meat juice off the edges and bottom, will mix that meat juice into the water and make the dog’s breakfast more appealing through and through.

5. I do give him small treats when i eat meat (but not nearly as much relative to my portion, as his weight is relative to mine) and go walking with him when i would rather stay in out of the rain. Most important, i tell him, often, things like “I love you, my friend”, and the classic, the sentence i spoke to his predecessor and mentor George as we headed across Canada in 2005: I’m glad you’re here.

Marriage will be back where it belongs, when most men can honestly tell their wives, daily, I’m glad you’re here… and when most men hear that same sentiment from their wives without hinting for it. Meanwhile, there is all too much truth in The Sneer, and i don’t expect to see marriage back where it belongs before i die. I thank my Creator that i do have love and loyalty in my daily life; and it is only fair that i reward it with the work of cooking a special breakfast as well as with words.

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Remembrance Day Lesson:

…Consider the Effects of War on Men’s [and Social] Health
(c) 2017, Davd

The first poppy i bought this year fell off my jacket on the second or third day i wore it. This wasn’t the first year that happened, nor the second, nor the third year. Surely by now, 99 years and a few days after the Great Armistice, the people who want us to wear those red fabric poppies could have figured out a way to keep them from falling off our clothing.

I found one somebody else had lost, on the ground, and put it on my jacket with a safety pin.

Squads of small children, adolescents and adults, positioned themselves in front of the busiest stores (and busiest public buildings generally) to make sure everyone must either make a donation and pin a poppy on their jackets, or look disrespectful of the self-sacrifice of many thousands of soldiers.

In the week before Remembrance Day, the images of soldiers, mostly men, saluting, marching, sometimes even fighting, may actually take up more newspaper space than advertising of things for sale.

The point of the ceremonies, the big advertisements, was to honour soldiers, especially those who died in war. Most of those soldiers were men. This day when men much more than women were honoured — it was for suffering and dying. What troubles me about that, is not that so few women suffered and died, but that suffering and dying — and killing and imposing suffering in obedience to orders — were treated as rightful ways for men to contribute to social good.

I am troubled that i heard so very little resolve to prevent millions more men from suffering and dying in future. At least after the Titanic sank, there were new rules requiring more lifeboat capacity.

More than greater risk and pain for women, we need reduced risk and pain for men.

November, spelled Movember after an Australian slang word for moustache, is supposed to be the month for men especially, and for everyone, to give thought and effort in support of men’s health. Remembrance Day reminds us all too clearly, that war is worse for men’s health even than alcoholic drink, cannabis, cigarettes1 (and sexual promiscuity.)

World peace would do more for men’s health than any medication, any surgical procedure, even more than the elimination of junk food and TV.

– – – – – Notes – – – – –

1. Caffeine in moderation can be good for men’s (and women’s) health; many say that alcoholic drink and cannabis can also.

 

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HOTdog Relish

a livelier use for green tomatoes.
(c) 2017, Davd

In much of Canada, this first week of October if not before1, the first frost has come and the outdoor tomato plants have died — or maybe many of their leaves have died and they are struggling until another frost finishes killing them. In all of Canada, that day will come before the year ends, and it’s only in tiny fortunate patches, here and there, (if anywhere) where it won’t come before November.

When the cold reality of a Canadian autumn kills your tomato plants — unless you have been very, very diligent about pinching off the late summer flower shoots and very, very fortunate in estimating when the killing frost will arrive — there are likely to be dozens of green tomatoes too small and immature to ripen in a cool room or garage, and too good, really, to throw on the compost heap. Especially too good to leave to rot, given the price of relishes in the stores.

Maybe you’ve made a batch or two of George’s Relish, while the tomatoes were producing really well, with surplus tomatoes and the outer leaves of the cabbages that went into the sauerkraut crock… but now, you expect your family and a few favoured friends will eat all the red tomato crop as fast as it gets ready.

When the green tomatoes are what you have to work with, and maybe some half grown sweet peppers, they can become a very different relish from George’s, one that gives more zip to a hot-dog sausage or some similarly mild food. You don’t have to make bland green tomato relish unless bland is what you really want. You can make a hot dog relish that’s HOT.

HOTdog is as the name implies: Spicier than the usual hot-dog relish; but of the same greener, lighter colour and taste. It goes better with the light taste of most “hotdog” sausages, especially perhaps, with “chicken wieners”… but it isn’t bland; it livens up that long sandwich somewhat. Frankfurters and wieners2 are bland, at least in their North American forms; HOTdog relish helps fix that.

I’ve used the HOTdog technique to make use of surplus green tomatoes for well over a decade. Like George’s, it has repeatedly given superior performance… and like George’s, it’s a “technique” rather than an exact procedure. Reading what follows should give you an idea what to do with those green tomatoes, and what to have on hand when you start. You can make half or a quarter as much it that’s all the green tomatoes you have to use; half again or twice as much if you have a bucketful and big enough pots. Your own tastes can adapt the seasonings to your liking.

A good HOTdog relish should have more green tomato than onion;
‣ more sugar than vinegar;
‣ celery seed, lovage, or celery trimmings;
‣ paprika, coriander, mustard, bay leaf — and distinctively, hot pepper.
Fresh sweet peppers, maybe undersized because of those frosts, are good if you have them (but if i had to pay two dollars a pound for them in a store, i’d more likely increase the paprika powder.)

(I have used a very hot pepper powder which i bought cheaply on sale and which may have been originally grown for Indian cooking; i refer to it as cayenne because it’s that hot. If you decide to substitute jalapeños, for instance, expect to use quite a bit more volume than one t[easpoon]. Likewise, if you have some celery leaves left over from stuffing the Thanksgiving turkey, and decide to use them instead of lovage or celery seed, expect to use more.)

Since this is a technique, the first time you cook with it, give yourself time to think about what you’re putting together and about what you’re tasting as a result. Wouldn’t hurt to cook it up thoughtfully the second and third time, too….

– – – –

Vegetables:
‣ up to 4 l chopped green tomatoes, salted, ‘fridged3 overnight, drained

‣ up to 7 chopped strong medium onions ‣ 1-2 chopped sweet peppers if handy.

Seasonings:
‣ 3 cups each, of vinegar and sugar (I suggest tasting after you’ve put in 2 cups of vinegar and then adding as much of the third cup as “tastes right”.)

‣ 2 T pickling-spice [coriander, bay, hot-pepper, mustard seeds, ¿fennel?, a touch of allspice and-or clove, peppercorns]

‣ up to one T ground mustard, ‣ 4T celery seed4, ‣ t cayenne, ‣ 1-2T paprika powder

Technique:
‣ Chop the onions, green tomatoes, and peppers, add salt in a large bowl, stainless steel pot, or plastic pail. Cover, let stand overnight. Drain.

Mix the dry herbs and spices with the vinegar in a kettle, add the sugar, bring gently to boiling, stirring often until the sugar has dissolved and then stirring occasionally; and simmer, barely bubbling, for about 20 minutes.

‣ Add the salt-softened chopped vegetables, bring back to boiling, simmer at least 10 minutes. Simmered fairly long, say 15-30 minutes, the mixture will probably become reddish, with improving flavour.

‣ Ladle into jars (it’s always good to have plenty of total jar volume available, including 1-3 small jars so nearly all the relish you make can be sealed to let the flavour mellow and mature); adjust their lids, process in boiling water 5 minutes [from return to boil]

‣ Remove the jars from the boiling water, cool on wooden boards, wire racks. or a towel folded at least double, check for seal when they have cooled.

Like most relishes, HOTdog improves with age. The amount left after filling the last jar, the contents of a jar that didn’t seal, will be good. The relish you open in the winter, the following spring, the next summer, will be better — at least, it has tasted better to us.

Notes:

1. . Alberta’s weather forecasts, from Red Deer, Camrose, and Stettler north past Edmonton and Highway 16, call for a snowstorm beginning — overnight October 1 to 2. Vegreville’s forecast, for instance, calls for -7C Monday night. Saskatoon is forecast to see -2, Tuesday and Wednesday nights; Miramichi NB, -2 on Monday night.

I surveyed several correspondents from Atlantic Canada, across to central Alberta the last week of September; a majority were having their first autumn frosts that week, or had seen frost the week before. Generally, first frost comes later on Vancouver Island than anywhere else in Canada except perhaps southern Ontario. (This year, Ontario as far north and west as Thunder Bay, has been hotter than normal in September due to the hurricanes near the Gulf of Mexico, a Thunder Bay correspondent told me… but the farms in the Slate and Kaministiquia valleys had seen “a couple of frosts”, still.)

The forecast for Nanaimo includes historic low temperatures back to 1948, and it’s interesting to read that September 27 is the first day I’ve noticed that a temperature definitely below 0C was recorded in any of those 69 years. The lowest-ever temperatures for the 26th and 28th were above 0, the 25th, 29th and 30th, exactly 0 … and then in the first 5 days of October, one 0.0, two -2,8, -1.1, and -0.6. The possibility of frost increases abruptly as the nights become longer than the days.

2. Wieners, historically, are the sausages most common in or identified with Wien, or Vienna as it usually is written in English. Frankfurters, similarly, are the sausages most common in or identified with Frankfurt. In American usage, which most Canadians follow, the two are not reliably distinguished, and might as well be treated as the same (unless you’re speaking Deutsch.)

3. In autumn weather, the Great Outdoors can very often serve as a refrigerator: Put the stainless steel pot or plastic pail outside on the north or west side of the house, covered against fruit flies and mice (though i expect the vinegar would repel most mice), and to be sure, with a fist sized, clean rock or similar amount of weight on top of the cover; and overnight, most nights, it will be cool.

4. You can substitute about the same amount of crumbled, dried lovage (liveche, Levisticum officinale) if you grow that herb. You can also substitute celery leaf (of which you should expect to use more.)

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George’s Harvest Relish

… with strong good flavours
(c) 2017, Davd

Some time ago, i published a Chili recipe, with the comment, “While pea soup and even pintos with oregano and chili powder, aren’t distinctively men’s [nor women’s] cooking, chili is very often seen as masculine.

This month, as i edited three relish recipes for a friend, i noticed that all three, and this one especially, differ from average relishes by having a stronger, more robust flavour. One might say the same thing about chili. Perhaps that’s what androcentric cooking is, in essence: Vigorous rather than delicate flavourings.

George’s Relish is named for one of the four excellent canines i have had the honour and pleasure to supervise during my adult life. Chosen by my son Erik as a Chow puppy from the Tseshaht reserve near Port Alberni, George showed the first time he really ran, that he was not all-Chow. He ran with the beautifully graceful, efficient lope of a wolf — which gave us a good guess as to what was his sire.

He matured into a stocky but not fat, tall but not lean animal with a smiling face and a strong reddish cast to his coat. In character and in health, he was hardy, good-natured, robust, vigorous.

“George’s relish” began as a variation on “green tomato Chow Chow”; it was developed to use dark brassica leaves (cabbage, broccoli, kale, etc. …) whose flavor might be too strong as a dinner vegetable or salad ingredient; and red at least as much as green tomatoes1.

Considering its reddish colour and its excellent, robust taste — it had to remind us of George; and as we recognized its excellence, we decided it deserved the honour of being named for him.

George’s Relish is both savory and sweet; and like all my food blogs, George’s is a “technique” rather than an exact procedure. Reading what follows should give you an idea how to make it; and your personal likes and preferences can then adjust the specifics. You might want more tomatoes, more brassica leafage, more onion, more or less of the spices.

George’s features the darker vegetable inputs: Kale or outer cabbage leaves, rather than centre-of-the-head cabbage; red and half-red tomatoes, at least as much as green; and some molasses. It seems that the dark Brassica should exceed the onion and the tomato should be as much or almost as much as the onion; and the [5%] vinegar should be 70% to 80% as much as the sugar. [going without paste, more tomato may turn out to be called-for; and unless tomato paste is cheap, that might be the way to go.]

This is a technique for good cooks who know how to taste, smell, and adjust.

–  – –  –

Vegetables:
‣ Dark cabbage, kale, and-or broccoli leafage — a plastic grocery carry-out bag full2
‣ 1 litre chopped green and red tomatoes (double to two litres, and bias to red, and you can eliminate the tomato paste if that is expensive)
‣ 6 medium onions, chopped

Seasonings:
‣ 7 c sugar , ‣ 1/4 c pickling salt   ‣ generous 1/2 c molasses ‣ 4-5 c 5% vinegar
‣ at least 1.5 t ground turmeric [have typically used 2+]
‣ 4 T mustard seeds and ‣ 2T prepared mustard   ‣ 3 T mixed pickling spices

Optionals:
‣ 6 green and 6 red peppers, coarsely chopped (or use paprika powder and more green+red tomato
‣ 4+ cups tomato paste [could sub ketchup or increase tomato above]
‣ 1 t ground ginger

Technique:
‣ Combine cabbage-kale-&c, onion, tomatoes, peppers [if], and salt in a large bowl or plastic pail. Cover, let stand overnight. Drain.

‣ Mix prepared mustard with a little vinegar in a kettle, add remaining vinegar, sugar, molasses, turmeric, ginger, mustard seeds, pickling spices; bring to boil and simmer 20 minutes.

‣ Add the salt-softened chopped vegetables, bring back to boiling, simmer at least 10 minutes [in practice, it has been more like 1/2 hour, with more molasses and spice being added after initial tastings.]

‣ Ladle into jars [7 pints was the original estimate; but i suggest you have at least 4 litres total jar volume available] adjust their lids, process in boiling water 5 minutes [from return to boil]

‣ Remove the jars from the boiling water, cool on wooden boards, wire racks. or towel folded at least double, check for seal when they have cooled.

Like most relishes, George’s improves with age. The amount left after filling the last jar, the contents of a jar that didn’t seal, will be good. The relish you open in the winter, the following spring, the next summer, will be better — at least, it has tasted better to us.

Notes:

1… while HOT-dog was developed to use green tomatoes. Here on Vancouver Island, where Erik and i developed both of them, the gardening season runs long; in good years we picked red ripe outdoor tomatoes through July, August, September, and October. Of the green tomatoes we picked at season’s end, we were able to ripen many indoors. We had less need to find uses for green tomatoes than gardeners with shorter growing seasons.

2. Stuff the bag full “hanging in the air,” so to speak. You don’t need to put it on a table and cram it full under pressure.

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Brotherly Love

… a Report and an Encouragement
(c) 2017, Davd

It occurred to me this week, that just less than twelve years ago, i began a visit to a Benedictine monastery in Saskatchewan. There i met brotherly love, philios free of eros, something i had seen and heard “out in the world”, but more mixed up with other motives and thoughts and feelings than it was in the monastery.

It was not a love of intense feelings. You could call the feelings strong, in the sense that they were able to weather difficulty and disagreement; they were durable feelings — but not excited nor excitable. Three weeks in a household of perhaps two dozen men, were among the most peaceful and also the most enjoyable of that year — and it wasn’t a bad year.

The qualities i best remember of that experience, are truth, goodwill, and equality.

I don’t remember any deceit among those monks, Novices, and Candidates. What i heard might have been untrue by mistake, but never by intention. What they said was what they sincerely meant (and the mistakes were very few, so nearly always, it was factually true.) For 20 days, I didn’t need to guard my listening against deceit, and that made thinking and learning far easier.

With a few exceptions which i won’t detail here, the Brothers all wished one another well and acted accordingly. Christian teaching forbids vengeance and admonishes believers to cleanse themselves of rancor. These men were not perfect; but they were much closer than the average “out in the World”; and the social atmosphere of goodwill extended to us inquirers. Many were the times some Brother, occasionally some Novice or Candidate, offered help with my inquiries. I don’t recall even one effort to exploit me.

(As an older inquirer, who had advanced education and a great deal of relevant knowledge, i may have spoken with the Brothers in a more equal manner than young Inquirers should have done. I may have had a better perspective on the fellowship among the Brothers, than a young lad.

Then again, the young Inquirer might have enjoyed the same relative equality that i did, in those aspects where his skill level was relatively equal to that of the monk with whom he was speaking or working. I never got the experience to compare.)

The men, whose ages ranged from the 20s into the 90s, spoke and worked with me as equals. I might be told something i said was in error (it didn’t happen often, but it did happen) but not scorned nor shamed — rather, gently corrected1.

In Benedictine terms, i was not equal: I would be put through the usual Candidate and Novice stages before becoming an accepted and equal Brother of the Order and the Abbey (had i been received into the community2.) The way I spoke with the Brothers, however, was much more nearly equal than the way i spoke with, for instance, bureaucrats. Equality was the foundation characteristic; inequality was a temporary condition of the learner, and limited (that I noticed) to subject areas where he was indeed inferior.

A dozen years later, i remember brotherly love better than i remember the liturgical ritual that was the main work of the monks. Had i stayed as a Candidate, i believe i would have left the following year, or the year after that, perhaps for some other religious household with a more working set of priorities … because repeating the same ritual daily, is something i might do for five minutes but not for five hours.

Brotherly love is not exclusive to monasteries. “Old Army buddies” and men who have worked together for months and even years in a remote camp, often have it. It can be found in the story of the self rescue of the Shackleton Antarctic expedition. Turnbull, as i read in The Forest People, found it among pygmy men in the Congo basin rainforest. I found it in a Boy Scout troop when i was a large boy. As I wrote in a book review published here in 2015, men bond by sharing hard co-operative work and a little adversity. These Benedictine Brothers seem to have bonded that way, though their work did not seem so very hard when i was there. Perhaps determination to co-operate made up for a lack of adversity.

If you have much brotherly love in your life today, be glad — but don’t think of it as the privilege of a fortunate few. It might be rare today; but (i not only contend but insist) it is normal to the human male condition. If there are very many men in Canada today, whose lives have little brotherly love — that is a sign of bad social health in Canada (and it seems, in many other “developed countries”.)

Tentatively, I would offer brotherly love as an important indicator of personal social health — if your life contains much brotherly love, it is socially healthy3. If it contains little or none, you really ought to reshape it, if you can, toward having more! If you cannot reshape your life to have abundant brotherly love, you are being somehow abused!

Brotherly love ought to be a human right (for male humans, obviously. What the female equivalent might be, i won’t try to say, not having been female.) I seriously urge you who read this, to pay attention to the brotherly love in your lives (if you haven’t been doing already), and to use it as a criterion for making life choices.

You’ll be better for it, i do believe.

Notes:

1. I did not accept all the corrections, nor was my failure to return as a Candidate based in some correction i had not yet accepted (and might not ever accept.) Disagreement on matters other than the essentials of the Faith, was not encouraged but neither was it condemned.

2. The reason I was not blessed to return as a Candidate, and continue my inquiries for several months before they and i decided whether i would become a Novice, was that i had with me, and would not abandon, an old and beloved dog. The Abbey would not allow me to have old George with me in the main monastery; nor allow a Candidate to live in a hermitage (of which two at least were available) so I could keep George there.

Ironically, then, something very close to brotherly love, for George who had no other human to feed and protect him, excluded me from the community. I do believe that my loyalty to George had and has Creator’s blessing; and that my weeks in the Abbey were blessed not as a path to becoming a monk, but as “participant observation” of — brotherly love.

3. Yes, there are other contributors to social health; the statement isan oversimplification taken by itself … but i cannot recall a life with abundant brotherly love , that was socially unhealthy. A good marriage contributes to and indicates, social health — and from divorce statistics, it seems good marriages are much scarcer than they were a few decades ago. Liberty, i believe, contributes to and indicates, social health; and we have much less liberty than a few decades ago.

 

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Men Being a Visible Minority

… Some Lessons, Learning Tasks (and Opportunities?) for Us
(c) 2017, Davd

Women outnumber men in the Canadian population, and have for decades. I recently wrote arguing that rather than replace “he / him” as the generic human pronoun, with an awkward plural1, “she / her” should be employed where men are a small minority and women, a dominant majority2. “They / them” should refer to plural humans; it is worth knowing if one has heard or read reference to one person, or more than one.

Feminism has won, at least for the present, its battle for a gynocentric view of human nature. Schools have been gynocentric environments through the first 8-12 grades, for decades; in this century, universities are as well. Women dominate Government and financial bureaucracies. There remain areas of work which are predominately male, such as commercial fishing, garbage collection, and logging, but the image of a government official as male, is now quite false empirically. “The garbage man” as an expression, still fits the demographics of the work; “The tax man” is now false.

Men and women can rather reliably be distinguished by sight and by voice. Much as some members of racial minorities “passed for white” in the 20th Century, some men could “pass for women”, and some women could “pass for men”, today—but only with effort. As surely as “Afro” and “Asian” minorities are visible—so also are men.

Referring to ourselves, to men, as a visible minority, will i believe, help us understand our true present social condition, and adapt to it. It will “out” women’s advantages and privileges, not entirely but substantially.

With Government bureaucracies in particular, and bureaucracies generally, being women’s domains rather than men’s, we should give up, quickly!, any notion that the bureaucratic personality is masculine. Indeed, we should give up any notion that it is “gender neutral”. A commanding majority of bureaucrats, and of occupants of the feeder positions for all the most senior jobs in government, are women.  Most of those women have menstrual cycles3. Other women are likely sensitive to those cycles; many men are not4.

Menstrual synchrony, the phenomenon of women who live together having a common menstrual cycle, is fairly well known to occur in women’s residences. What of women who work together and do not live with other women, or with only one or two in their household? Might there be menstrual synchrony in offices where mostly women work? Might bureaucracies have common menstrual cycles, such that one could predict when in those cycles a request is most and least likely to succeed?

Imaginably — and referring to bureaucrats as she [etc.] will help us menstrually unequipped men, to be attentive to the subtle indications of the menstrual cycle’s progress, and adapt our conduct to it.

Should we have to do this?

Should Afro-Americans have had to be attentive to the subtle indications of “white” receptiveness or hostility to their truths and their requests? Morally, no. Politically and at work, “to get by”, yes. Our situation is now more like that of Afro-America 60 years ago, than like that of an “equal” ethnic group such as Irish- or German-Canadians….

… and like Afro-America 60 years ago, we are more visible than Irish- or German-Canadians. It is easier to see that the Premier of Saskatchewan is male, than that his ancestry is substantially Germanic. It is obvious that the Premier of Ontario is female; i don’t know what her ethnic ancestry is.

The political usage of “visible minority” does not include us. The factual truth is that men constitute a visible minority of government officials, of newly designated lawyers, of bureaucrats generally, of medical students and newly licensed physicians… as well as of the general population.

For all this century and more than a few years at the conclusion of the last, it has been advantageous to be born a girl rather than a boy in Canada, the USA, much of Europe, … in the “developed world” other perhaps than Japan and Russia. We are a minority in social prospects, as well as in number.

Failing to acknowledge that truth, failing to treat us men as a visible minority that overlaps racial minorities, will not improve our situation. Acknowledging our disadvantaged situation may not quickly improve it, but it offers better hope in the medium and long term, than living a lie.

Notes:

1. To use “they / them” as a generic singular pronoun, destroys the useful information that a plural pronoun contained: That it refers to two or more people. Contriving a gender neutral singular pronoun would seem to have merit. Until a gender neutral singular pronoun be accepted, “she /her” is the most appropriate generic pronoun for members of cohorts where men are a small minority and women, a dominant majority.

2. To quantity the clause, “men are a small minority and women, a dominant majority”, i use a 2:1 criterion: If women outnumber men by more than 2:1 in an occupation, the proper generic pronoun in referring to that occupation, is she (her, hers, etc.) Reverse it, and the proper generic pronoun in referring to an occupation in which men outnumber women by more than 2:1, is he (him, his, etc.) Indeed, many people refer generically to nurses and schoolteachers as she, and to loggers and garbage collectors as he.

This criterion, however, fails to provide generic pronouns for occupations (and hobbies, sports, consumer stereotypes, etc.) which are neither predominately male nor predominately female.

3. Presently, women in government bureaucracy average young enough, that probably most have menstrual cycles; as the workers age, more will be menopausal and post menopausal.

4. I may be less sensitive than most men, since my Mother had “surgical menopause” for medical treatment of some ovarian irregularity, when i was very young, and my sister’s puberty occurred a fairly short time before i completed regular school and moved away to attend university.

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The Neglected Merits of Fraternal Households

Social Efficiency is Not Trivial
(c) 2017, Davd

Three of the best weeks of my life were spent in a small cloistered Benedictine Abbey in rural Saskatchewan. There were a few unoccupied “cells” in the “Enclosure”, and i was housed in one of those for my stay. It was much like a large university “dorm” room, with a sink for washing my hands and face and toilets and showers down the hall; and the monks and Novices had rooms of the same kind. (I think one or two of the most handicapped monks may have had their own toilets.) Most of my waking time was spent at work, in Chapel, or studying and writing. Compared to the Canadian statistical averages, it was pretty austere housing; and the food was good rather than gourmet in quality: The monks ate better than they were housed, in material terms, because they were and are housed so plainly.

Yet they and i lacked for nothing. We had what we needed; what we didn’t have were costly conveniences, duplications, and luxuries. There was a reading room on each floor of the Enclosure, where we could sometimes meet and talk; we were all clean and free of contagious disease, so sharing showers and toilets was no threat to any of us; the main work of the place was prayer, mostly ritual prayer, and the best looking best furnished “room” in the whole Abbey, was the Chapel.

The monks were not perfectly saintly but they came much closer than the general population. Austerity did not harm their character, and many who know monastic ways believe that austerity improves character. (I do still tend to take less rather than more in the way of conveniences and luxuries, since my sojourn there; and some people think my life is also austere.)

The monks were not perfectly happy, but they came much closer than the general population. They had chosen a life of part-time subsistence labour and more prayer per day than the average Roman Catholic prays per week; and the Abbey was well-organized for that life. In the terms they had chosen, they were very successful! They prayed, they supported themselves, their needs were met, they had security… and they did no bureaucratic paperwork, worried over no investments, feared no layoffs from their jobs.

The only women i saw during those three weeks, were two or three cooks who helped with the mid-day meal, one Anglican priest who took a meal among the monks, and several women who sat in the public part of the chapel during weekend Masses. I didn’t notice anyone flirting, much less kissing; it was a place from which sexuality was absent.

(Which proved to me what i’d come to suspect, that eros is not a necessary nor a sufficient cause of happiness.)

So these approximately two dozen men lived well, and happily, on 2-3 hours of work per day, averaged over the year.1. They had ample, good food; solid well heated housing in a part of Canada that is quite a lot colder than where the average Canadian lives, quality clothing, good friends and fellowship.

The “refectory” (the cloister dining room) was comfortable and adequate, and the talk was good2. There was a library, and the reading room on one floor of the Enclosure had a television set from which many Brothers watched the news. The kitchen, where i did some of my volunteer labour, was efficiently laid out with quality equipment.

The chapel was the largest and best room in the monastery, and i spent more time there than in any other except where i slept. About six hours of each day were spent in liturgical ritual. The monks could afford to worship so much more time than they worked, precisely because their work was applied with great—social efficiency.

To provide all those working and social spaces separately to each monk and Novice, would have been impossibly costly; to provide them once to about two dozen men, was economical—precisely because about two dozen men benefited from the social, cooking, eating, and worship spaces. The cost per man, in my estimate, was less for this quality space and equipment, than what a bachelor with a mediocre apartment “by himself”, pays for his much inferior “kit”.

Shared space is more efficient than solo space, with the possible exception of the bedroom where you sleep. Sharing a kitchen, eating table and area, social sitting space, and usually, working spaces be they bathroom, garden, kitchen, laundry, library, woodworking shop, even car garage and the vehicles in it, is more efficient than “having your own”.

Is that obvious? Perhaps for many of you, as you read through this blog, it is obvious. I agree that it’s true, and if i don’t use “obvious” as much as i might, it’s because so many men “live alone” in spite of its painful inefficiency.

Fraternal home sharing is obviously efficient. Not quite as obviously, it’s socially enjoyable, if you team up with men who you like to eat, sit, and work with. The two main reasons i can see that it isn’t common already, are:
‣ marriage is sold to men as the normal way to share a home. Many men live “by themselves” because they expect, or expect to be expected, to marry some time soon. Men who expect to marry should learn about the risks of divorce and the misandry in this century’s divorce laws. They should arrange ahead of time, for their marriages to be stronger and more secure than average.
‣ “social inertia”: Having a home all to yourself is more conventional for unmarried men, (except dorms and fraternity houses at universities, military barracks, monasteries, student house sharing, and work camps. Notice something? All those places are places where men make especially good friendships.)

I argued for “co-operative frugality” before, in 2012, in a blog styled for a readership of ordinary men rather than idealists. The cost numbers in that post were valid for Northern New Brunswick at that time; costs today in Alberta or B.C. or the richer States of the USA, would be higher… but still well below the costs men would pay for the same amenities if each man “owned his own”.

I don’t expect to marry again; i do enjoy the company of good men (as i learned long ago and confirmed at that monastery in 2005). I am willing to correspond, talk on the phone with, then meet and organize to share a household with, like minded men. I am willing to help men who don’t match my style well enough to share a house with, to find men who match their styles. This website has a contact link, and you can use it to send me a message.

Some week soon, i intend to write a follow-up blog on the time efficiency of fraternal households. Not only is finding yourself a household of brothers by choice rather than birth, efficient use of your money, it’s efficient use of your time.

You’ll have more free time as well as less need for money. The monks i met in 2005, chose to use their extra free time in liturgical chapel services. For them, it was an enjoyable choice, and i bless it because they chose and enjoyed it. There are many other good uses of the time and cost efficiency of fraternal households, and there ought to be many more fraternal households enjoying them.

Notes:

1. The famous Misandry Bubble blog says much the same thing in different terms: “A single man does not require much in order to survive. Most single men could eke out a comfortable existence by working for two months out of the year.”

2… unless, i should perhaps mention, there was some reading from the Bible, a Church luminary, or an edifying book chosen by the Brothers in council. This happened at one meal, some days.

 

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How Not to Celebrate Father’s Day!

… It’s not Fatter’s Day
(c) 2017, Davd

Somebody from whom i would have expected better, and who i will not “out” by naming, made up a circular advertising a Father’s Day Hot Dog Eating Contest, and somehow a copy came in front of my eyes. The event is scheduled to take place in a small town, which i will not “out” by naming, and initially i was disgusted by two aspects (but now, methinks i have decided that only one need disgust me.)

The first disgusting aspect of the contest is in its name: A competition whose essence is eating junkish food, to excess. “Hot dogs” are not the worst of junk food, but if you read the “nutrition facts” on the package label, you will see that there is more fat than protein in even the low-fat versions of these cheap sausages. A steak eating contest would have been more healthy; though really—why an eating contest at all? Fatherhood should not be about promoting obesity, and when i occasionally count up the obese in the crowds around me (usually at a church, public meeting, or grocery store) there are more obese women than obese men.

(A Feminist whose name would be familiar to many who read Feminist writings, and who, like the author and site of the eating contest, i will not “out” by naming, once said, “What would the world be like if there were no men? It would be full of fat happy women.” Whether or not she was correct about happy, obesity is more gynocentric than androcentric.)

Father’s Day should not be about eating to excess, unless the food be excellent. (People who think commercial Frankfurters or Wieners are excellent “have another think coming.”) Some shame should rest on the author and the organization that dreamed up and sponsored a contest whose winner is the most piggish, and tried to make Father’s Day its occasion. Based on observation and Feminist aphorism, Mother’s Day would be more suitable, (which is not to seek to burden mothers with bad eating habits, either. If there be any suitable iconic day for overeating, April 1 seems better than either.)

The terms of the contest, the circular went on, required one adult of either sex and one child of either sex, be on each competing “team”. Initially, that offended my sense of equality: Would that same author and organization have dared to promote father-and-child activity for Mother’s Day? Not bleepin’ likely….

But then, the obesity awareness added another perspective: It is true that encouraging children to do any activity with their mothers on Father’s Day is an example of gender inequality—but also, perhaps encouraging obesity with mother-and-child teams is more consistent with the sex distribution of obesity. Which does not go one baby step toward justifying, encouraging obesity. Nothing i can imagine, justifies that.

So, shame on encouraging eating cheap sausages and white buns to excess… and shame on associating such unhealthy activity with Father’s Day.

Surely we can do better.

In these net-misandric times, methinks there is reason to celebrate Father’s Day, and to take care that the celebration honours fathers and mentoring. The focus should be either the kind of fun that involves fathers more than mothers (a fishing trip and a workshop project are two good examples), or more seriously, the distinctive value of fatherhood. Eating junk food, and overeating, fit neither category.

What fits honouring fatherhood well enough, that isn’t masculine but gender neutral as an activity, might be cooking or gardening with fathers, grandfathers, stepfathers, even uncles who happen to practice those skills. Suppose, for instance, that instead of a cheap-sausage-eating contest, there had been a chili cooking session? Chili, meaty or meatless, is a somewhat masculine food choice (as are grilled meats), and there are many ways to make it.

I could have blessed such an event, and maybe even joined in. Chili is quite healthy food, involves far more skill than heating cheap sausage and putting it on a bun, and is more participatory than either a cheap-sausage eating contest or the classic Mother’s Day food activity of taking her to a restaurant.

I’d have preferred the fishing trip, if a place to fish that isn’t crowded can be found, or the workshop project… but perfection might be too much to ask.

Unhealthy eating is “too much” in another sense. It does not foster the good development of children. It is not masculine. Shame on the notion of associating it with Father’s Day.

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Sauce for the Gander is Sauce for the Goose,

… and So is its Absence.
(c) 2017, Davd

Yes, I do believe, there is a problem, a moral wrong, one of the Evils of the World, embodied in the fact that women’s shelters are common and men’s refuges are rare*. Women abuse men, violently and otherwise. The men they abuse deserve protection equally as much as women who are abused by men, deserve protection—either that, or the equality of the sexes is a cruel lie.

Research that considers violence women do to men, as well as the other way ’round, finds that violence done by women to men, is at least half as common as violence men do to women; and no more than twice as common. This is not an essay on statistical inference, and we don’t need to know more exactly than “between half and twice as much”. There ought to be between half and twice as much refuge space for men abused by women, as the other way ’round.

In fact, men’s refuges are vanishingly few.

There are some, i have read, in the UK; and some may be being started in Australia. One tragic hero of the effort to provide some refuge for abused Canadian men, was Earl Silverman, founder of the Men’s Alternative Safe House in Calgary. His frustration after years of efforts to get public funding for men’s safe houses in a century when such funding for women’s shelters* was common—some would say, abundant—ended in suicide in 2013.

A friend of Earl Silverman, with whom I’ve corresponded several times but haven’t met face to face, reported that there was a pattern to the frustration:

To make [bureaucrats] accountable [Earl] asked [them] to respond only in writing. [They most] likely … invite[d Earl] to the office to “discuss” things and then no longer respond to … emails. This is what Earl used to endure as a regular course of business.” (Anonymous, 2017)

The friend concludes, “the only avenue available to you today is by self-financing.”

I would have called it “becoming a charity.”

His message wasn’t as discouraging to me, as it seemed to be to [Anonymous]. Amateur sports teams, Christian churches, gurdwaras, monasteries, mosques, museums, and many private schools are self-financing—if charitable donations to them be included in “self-financing”. I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that many volunteer fire departments, even, are.

A childless friend of my approximate age has “an acreage”, as they call them here in Alberta, less than an hour east of Edmonton. He wants the land to become home to some kind of charitable or “make the world a better place” work; and one of the four possibilities we’re considering, is “a refuge for men who have been abused by women.”

Refuges—most often called “shelters”* if they are for women—should provide safety and sympathy to people who have been wronged, whether those people be male or female. Most abuse victims are capable of doing useful work, and if they had never been abused, most would be expected to work to support themselves.

We had not expected to have taxpayers fund the effort, except indirectly and in part, as they fund churches, colleges, Girl Guides, monasteries, mosques, museums, private schools, temples, and all good works and religious observances which have achieved charitable status with the Canada Revenue Agency. I had figured, and so had my friend here, that we might seek and have a decent chance to obtain charitable “registration”.

While talking with him, the word “charitable” and the phrase “non-profit” have been common; words denoting Government funding have not been. It hadn’t occurred to us to seek Government funding for a men’s refuge, except perhaps “as a test case” some years into the future.

When i invited a friend, a chef whose business venture had failed, to share my home, i didn’t expect to get Government funding for that. Later, when i heard of Earl Silverman’s frustrations, i wrote him with a suggestion he consider coming where i lived then for an extended retreat and recuperation. I didn’t think of Government funding as a consideration; my house guest earlier had helped with the chores, and that was enough.

Can a men’s refuge operate without Government support? The answer, if we widen our field of vision somewhat, is that they have been doing so for centuries, and quite successfully.

Most monasteries are self-supporting, some entirely and some with the help of voluntary donations. Most monks spend more hours per week in prayer and liturgical ritual than in practical work. Yet in the two monasteries where i have spent longer than a day (less than a week in New Brunswick, three weeks in Saskatchewan); the work of the monks and Novices, plus i believe some donations that are less coerced than passing the bag or plate in Sunday church services, supported the community.

If monasteries can be self supporting with monks working more like 20 hours per week than 40 (and praying more than 40 in some monasteries, if the liturgical ritual be counted); then Refuges should be able to support themselves, especially if they have some productive land (or machinery; there is no reason a men’s refuge couldn’t operate a furniture shop or a mechanic shop, for instance.)

I’ve no experience being a woman nor a girl, so i won’t try to include a sketch of what kinds of work women’s refuges could do to be self-supporting. I will say that if i believe men’s refuges can be charitable works supported by the labour of those who benefit and by charitable donations; i believe women’s shelters can be also. (If women are equally capable with us men, doesn’t it follow, obviously
perhaps, that they can support themselves?)

So let me suggest that Government is wiser in expecting men’s refuges to be works of charity, not needing nor getting funding; than they are in paying funding to women’s shelters [refuges by another name].*

Is the Province in debt? Is the Federal Government? Is the Provincial Budget in deficit? Is Ottawa’s? Maybe instead of men’s refuge[s] getting funding, women’s refuges should become the task of “the charitable sector” (which is not saying they should be shut down1.)

What’s sauce for the gander is sauce for the goose, … and so is its absence.

References:

Anonymous, 2017. E-mail messages

Brown, Grant A. 2004 “Gender as a Factor in the Response of the Law-Enforcement System to Violence Against Partners,” Sexuality and Culture, v. 8, Issues 3 & 4, pp. 3-139.

Nathanson, Paul, and Katherine K. Young, 2006. Legalizing Misandry: From Public Shame to Systemic Discrimination against Men Montreal: McGill-Queen’s University Press.

Notes:

* “Men’s Shelter” has another, older, Salvation-Army type usage, as a place where homeless substance dependent men were kept from freezing and starving. That was a main cause of my choice to write “Refuge” for men.

1. I have heard and read that in some cities there are so many that more shelter space is available than is used. In such cases of “excess capacity”, perhaps some shelters should be closed, (or “re-purposed”; i also read and hear that much more helping space is needed for opioid users, for instance.) The main thing i’m saying is that they ought to be able to operate as charitable entities, as i believe men’s refuges can.

 

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The Tax Woman

…to be More Accurate About it
(c) 2017, Davd

Over and over, in the April financial advice and reports, we read about “the taxman”. In a recent post on the CBC Website, the phrasing was “annual date with the tax man” (which is a poor use of ‘date’, since neither personal encounter nor any prospect of romance, be involved… as well as because men are now a shrinking minority in the tax bureaucracy.)

CBC seems to be Feminist enough where the interests and “image” of women can be advanced (which too often, means those of men can be denigrated.) When women have to carry some of the opprobrium, though, the national media empire seems comfortable with using language—like “tax man”—that they would call archaic and patriarchal if the generic male [pro]nouns were being praised.

Last year, some of the examples were:

Tax Season 2015: How to protect your investments from the taxman

Panama Papers only a glimpse into ‘astonishing’ wealth stashed offshore says ” … the financial elite exploit a secretive system to manoeuvre wealth anonymously and ensure the taxman doesn’t take his
cut. ”

Taxman clamps down on snowbirds heading south, hopes to save millions

And again, in a “story” headed: “Uber drivers often unaware of tax obligations”, the text includes “In the eyes of the taxman, each one is an independent contractor” and ” automotive expenses are often subject to the taxman’s microscope.”

There’s a factual error in those “tax man” references, reflecting a quiet, massive social change since the one and two word phrase “taxman” came into common use. The great majority of financial personnel and Government officials now being women, it seems most appropriate to use the female pronouns when the gender of the official is unknown.

CBC’s Neil MacDonald has noticed:

“According to Statistics Canada, women not only comprise 71 per cent of Canada’s 4.1 million public sector jobs at all levels of government, but “gender parity now exists in the public sector with respect to women’s representation in leadership positions.”

Meaning that while women are still a designated group for the purposes of preferential hiring in the public service, they now have most of the jobs and at least half of the most senior jobs.

Cross puts it rather bluntly: “Women are overrepresented in government, and government jobs are the best jobs. Best job security, best pension benefits, best everything.

Further, he says, women now dominate the feeder positions for all the most senior jobs in government.

So when you encounter a bureaucrat whose name you don’t know, whose gender you don’t know, the odds are better than 2:1 and approaching 3:1, that she is a woman.

(Reflect a moment on that last sentence: To end it “… that they are a woman” would be bad logic and bad grammar. The gender neutral plural does not work for good writing nor good speech; rather, against them. No gender neutral singular pronouns have come in to replace “him”: Many people would quite resent being called “it”, and no animate substitute has shown up in frequent use.

The majority presence of women workers in desk jobs (and MacDonald has probably understated it, because statistics are from the past and women have steadily increased their representation in government jobs all this century) gives cause for a change in the generic singular human pronoun, to “she”. Not for loggers and garbage collectors, but for workers in clean advantaged jobs like—those in Canada Revenue Agency.

“It’s high time and past due” (to combine two folk usages too old to call slang) that gynocentrism be extended to the unpopular functions of government.

From now on, it’s more accurate to refer to the tax woman…

… except she might demand you call her a Lady.

 

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