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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Taking Off the Harness

… The injustice men feel is leading to lower motivation, and maybe that’s good.
(c) 2017, Davd

As i published Men’s Lives Neglected, i noticed that that a remark about society suffering for the injustice men feel, could be taken as a threat; but i didn’t change it because that’s not what i meant—and i thought the explanation might better be a separate ‘post’.

I wrote, “The more ‘Society’ pretends men’s lives don’t matter, the more ‘society’ will suffer for the injustice we feel; and also for lack of what we could contribute.”

The now-famous “Misandry Bubble” essay stated rather well, the motivation that ordinary men acquired with marriage:

To provide ‘beta’ men an incentive to produce far more economic output than needed just to support themselves while simultaneously controlling the hypergamy of women that would deprive children of interaction with their biological fathers, all major religions constructed an institution to force constructive conduct out of both genders while penalizing the natural primate tendencies of each. This institution was known as ‘marriage’. Societies that enforced monogamous marriage made sure all beta men had wives, thus unlocking productive output out of these men who in pre-modern times would have had no incentive to be productive. Women, in turn, received a provider, a protector, and higher social status than unmarried women, who often were trapped in poverty. When applied over an entire population of humans, this system was known as ‘civilization’.

Elsewhere, the author observes, and again i agree, that “Most single men could eke out a comfortable existence by working for two months out of the year.” The very fact that the phrase “marriage strike” is now familiar, indicates that many men have decided against marriage. Relative to a misandric civil marriage and divorce regime (Brown, 2013; Nathanson and Young, 2006) that decision is rational.

Who suffers? If willing, productive workers are good for ‘Society’, then when many men, who would have been such workers had they been given the choice of lifetime faithful marriage, instead become sporadic less motivated workers because they are single rather than risk present day civil marriage; ‘Society’ suffers for lack of their extra labour.

Who suffers? Women who do not find a good, willing bridegroom given Feminist civil marriage, but could commit to traditional lifetime faithful marriage, and could have married had they been able to—those women suffer.

The men who decline to marry, given that civil marriage is biased against them, are not suffering1; they are prudent. Feminist lobbying has made marriage a poorer choice for men, and fewer men are choosing it.

(Some, perhaps many men do suffer, who choose Feminist civil marriage thinking it is traditional lifetime faithful marriage.)

Feminist marriage has hurt ‘Society’ by reducing the motivation of millions of men, to work. It has hurt women who want legitimate children and a committed husband-father to help rear them, by tempting so many women in recent decades, to exploit good men.

Fifty-five years ago, and earlier, marriage was a good choice for the man who had a willing, compatible bride, as well as for the woman who had a willing, compatible bridegroom. Today, the woman has a burden of proof to bear, imposed by pernicious changes in civil marriage—a burden to prove that she will treat the man decently so long as they both shall live, despite legal incentives to exploit him.

Many ‘bad’ women have benefited because exploitation of men has been made so easy. Many good women have suffered because the law no longer supports and confirms their goodness. The women whose morality is somewhat selfish, have been tempted to go bad. And men have been discouraged from marriage and from working full time.

It’s not difficult to imagine how women who don’t bother to take thought, might see short term ‘benefit’ in marriage and divorce law being changed to favour them; but enough decades have now passed, for many intelligent women to recognize that the short term gain is being followed by long term pain. Older workers and employers are becoming aware that younger men—and many younger women—are not as diligent, disciplined workers as their elders were. That is not all there is to my assessment, that society now suffers from neglecting the value of men; but it is enough to demonstrate that society does indeed suffer, and that present-day women suffer.

So there was and is no threat intended—rather, a report of lowered motivation among many younger workers, of fewer marriage opportunities for young women, and a forecast that both these consequences of biasing civil marriage against the men involved, will get more-so rather than less-so. Reduced work incentive and the Marriage Strike are so natural they are simply to be expected, and thus, are already widespread2. Men are taking off the harnesses, and going free, and it’s only natural that more and more men will do so.

I cannot promise you, readers, nor can i promise “society”, that no men will ever get angry and “lash out”. Very possibly some will; and if they lash out at actual injustice, there’s a moral case such men could make, that “society deserves it.” My Christian teachings forbid vengeance, but not all men follow them.

What ought to be done? Offer, at least offer as a legally supported option, traditional lifetime faithful marriage. (cf. e.g. Crane, 2006, Zelinsky, 2006.)3 How many men do you suppose would choose today’s Feminist ‘marriage’ if legally supported fidelity were also available and the difference made clear?

Now suppose, as makes common sense, that divorce from a lifetime covenant marriage were allowed only for grievous fault [as was true of marriage law in the 1950s and in most of North America, the 1960s]; and further, that a spouse at fault could be awarded neither economic support payments from the wronged spouse, nor custody of children of the marriage.

A marriage alternative like that, might bring millions of men back to seriously considering marriage for themselves. It might be preferred by millions more who, in ignorance, have considered entering a civil marriage biased against them.

A marriage alternative like that, might improve the average mental health of children and reduce the crime rate! .. by way of more children being reared in homes with their fathers present.

(I’ll leave as “an exercise for the reader”, the task of describing what kind of men, if any, would prefer today’s civil marriage to covenant marriage, given both alternatives.)

The mid-20th Century may have seen the highest rates of marriage ever, for Europe and North America. We shouldn’t expect marriage rates to return to those levels, especially not given growing ecological scarcity. We could expect a significant fraction of men who now have taken off the harnesses, to put them on again when assured they will be harnessed equally with good wives.

It’s really sad how long Canada has failed to appreciate how socially toxic the loss of covenant marriage has been.

some References:

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.

Brown, Grant A., 2013. Ideology And Dysfunction In Family Law: How Courts Disenfranchise Fathers. Calgary and Winnipeg: Canadian Constitution Foundation and Frontier Centre For Public Policy

Corry, Charles E. and David W. Stockburger, 2013. “Analysis of Veteran Arrests – El Paso County, Colorado“. Colorado Springs, Colorado: Equal Justice Foundation.

Crane,Daniel A. 2006. “A ‘Judeo-Christian’ Argument for Privatizing Marriage”.Cardozo Law Review. 27:3 [January] 1221-1260.

Daniels, Anthony M.D., 2014. “The Worldview that Makes the Underclass”. Speech delivered on May 20, at a Hillsdale College National Leadership Seminar in Dearborn, Michigan, and published in Imprimis,

“Futurist”, 2010. The Misandry Bubble . January 1.

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

Zelinsky, Edward A. 2006. “Deregulating Marriage: The Pro-Marriage Case For Abolishing Civil Marriage”. Cardozo Law Review. 27:3 January, 1161-1220.

Notes:

1… that is, are not suffering given what choices they have. It would also be accurate to say many are denied the happiness that traditional marriage might have given, because such traditional marriage isn’t an available choice.

2. The degradation of marriage from covenant to biased civil contract, it seems fair to say, is not the only reason marriage rates have declined. In the mid-20th Century, wages and benefits were good enough to enable most skilled men to support a family; today they are not. Ecological scarcity is an important reason: The cheap raw materials that fed the Industrial Revolution are mostly exhausted; and population growth has naturally entailed greater demand for the more expensive to extract raw materials that remain. Many men in this decade, whose counterparts two generations ago could readily support a family with their jobs, cannot do likewise now.

3. Crane’s and Zelinsky’s articles are published in the Cardozo Law Review, a publication associated with the Jewish faith. Christian marriage is a lifetime faithful covenant, to call an easily broken contract, marriage, is in conflict with Jesus Christ’s own teachings [Matthew 5:31-32; 19:3-8; cf. I Corinthians 7:10-11]. With two major faiths in support of covenant, it is shocking that Canadian law insists “marriage” must be a mere contract.

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Home Care and Feminist Economics

… a Reflection for International Women’s Day
(c) 2017, Davd

CBC News reports today with some sympathy, demands that U.S. women refuse to work today, for pay or at home. “We are the backbone, the lifeblood of what makes our economy and our political system function,” Rahna Epting, chief of staff of a Washington, D.C.-based advocacy organization, is quoted as saying. “Without us, these things would stop and life stops.”

Pregnancy would stop, yes—and it is ironic that the “right” to abortion on demand is one of the main Feminist goals. But home care, in the personal and in the “housework” sense—no. Paradoxically, home care might cost less in this Feminist century, if men did all or most of it.

In an “Analysis” column on the CBC News website, business writer Don Pittis stated: “Unlike banking and gold mining, child-rearing and looking after grandpa are dismissed by conventional economics as completely different from money-making services.”

False.

Child rearing, “care” provided to children who will never grow up, and senior “care”, are paid work for hundreds of thousands of people, imaginably millions; and the vast majority of them are women.

Hundreds of thousands of others, a larger fraction of them men, provide similar, unpaid care to relatives, friends, and occasionally strangers.

Among those who i have known personally, my father comes first. During my boyhood he went to his mother’s house, about three miles from his own [where i also lived, then] at least twice a week to help her with household tasks she no longer had the strength to do herself. During the growing season, i often bicycled there to mow her lawn and tend her gardens. I don’t recall either of us ever being paid; often i got some kind of treat, such as ice cream and a jam-like topping, when the work was done.

My mother, when her father became unable to live alone without help, in the house where he had reared her, “put him in a facility”. When my father was dying of stomach cancer, it was my sister, with my backing, who had to apply moral pressure to get her to care for him so he could die at home rather than among strangers.

My late sister’s husband and son provided many hours of “home care” during the months when she was dying. The priest of the church i usually attend, did likewise for his wife… all three of them unpaid.

Two of the happiest old men i’ve met this century, were Benedictine monks. They were cared for by the Brothers in their cloister—in the sense that the younger and stronger Brothers did all the heavier work. One of the two, aged 91 if i recall correctly, sat at the reception desk in the monastery’s guest house: It was light work, offering him plenty of time for prayer and reflection; but it was contributory work, and his presence there freed a younger Brother for more active tasks.

A friend i met last autumn cares for his elder sister, sometimes for the sister’s daughter [his niece], and volunteers at a care facility in town, spending some 20 hours per week serving mostly women. He is past 70 himself. Another new friend is chef of the kitchen at a seniors’ clubhouse, putting in about the same amount of time, also unpaid.

One woman in particular, wife of a friend in the ecoforestry movement in Atlantic Canada, cared for her aged father for many months, unpaid, and also worked as a Practical Nurse. My sister cared for a handicapped child until his teens. Women are involved in caring for those who cannot care fully for themselves; the difference in my observations and experience, is that a clear majority of the women are paid1; a greater majority of the men—all those i know personally—are not paid.

That’s Feminist economics from where i sit: Pay the women, expect the men to volunteer. It represents one man’s observations (and experience, including as a single father) and those of other men might be different. What my observations and experience say, what should stand until others provide better facts to refine and correct them, include:
‣ Men do nurturing, more often than we get credit for doing, and usually we do it well;
‣ More women do nurturing for pay; fewer as volunteers2;
‣ Volunteers of both sexes do better nurturing, because we know our beneficiaries better and we like them better.

“Blog” is short for “web log,” and “log” represents notes like a ship’s steersmen write in its journal, not raw material for sawmilling. (I’ve done a little work of both kinds.) This blog is very much in line with that definition: Notes from my observations of and experience with home care, shining some light on questions of gender equality and who does the necessary work of subsistence.

This little light of mine shows me that men can and do cook, clean and nurture. We might more often cook for pay, than women, but definitely more often nurture as volunteers. Some important ecological stewardship work demands physical strengths that are vanishingly rare among women but fortunately for hopes of ecological stewardship, much commoner among men. Pregnancy is
entirely women’s work; and with baby formulas well developed, the only entirely women’s work left.

Feminist economics has succeeded to such extent already, that women are more rewarded relative to work done, than we men. A morally superior Women’s Day action, would be to follow Susan Pinker’s lead and advocate for equal opportunity. My estimate is that men and boys would have more catch-up support coming, than women and girls.

Truth before emotion…

Notes:

1. In preparation for cataract surgery this year, i was directed to purchase expensive “eye drop” medication and, counting both before and after surgery, to administer a total of approximately 250 “drops” to my eyes over approximately 60 days time. When i heard this directive, i could not recall having administered “eye drops” to myself in the past 40 years—perhaps never. As an ecoforestry worker, i had developed a strong avoidance reaction to anything approaching either eye—in a forest, something approaching an eye is most likely a branch or an insect, both of which are to be avoided!

One week before surgery, four days before the first medication was to be “dropped”, i went to the “Alberta Health Services” front desk and said, “I’m due for cataract surgery in a week and need to be taught how to apply eye drops to myself five times a day.” Then i did what the women running the office told me to do. I called a telephone number where another woman asked me questions which i answered until she told me that a Home Care worker would contact me that week. Not to go to extremes of detail, i was expected to wait for aides to administer the drops, from one half hour before scheduled times to one hour afterward, which was something like House Arrest given they were to be administered at 4-hour intervals.

Of 8-10 different Government “home care aides” and nurses, all were women. (I did not meet nor speak to any men during my experience with Government “home care.”)  An older nurse stated that the usual drop droppers are “Home Care aides”; and most recipients are shut-ins.

Within a week, i was administering the drops to myself. Of those who administered them to me, the best was probably a tie between one nurse and my [unpaid] son who had been a Canadian Forces Reserve “medic”.

The “care” i experienced showed a tendency to treat all patients as if they were incompetent, especially by those “with some rank”. The surgeon’s front desk assistant, who i would guess has a nursing credential, was a very helpful exception; she told me in less than one minute, criteria for whether a drop was sufficient, that were adequate and clear.

Many of the paid “Home Care aides” and nurses, do good work and treat the patients they assist humanely. A few, as news stories occasionally report, are cruel, callous, more rarely murderous.

2. This statement is ambiguous and i realize that it is. Definitely, more women than men do nurturing for pay. “Obviously”, more women do nurturing for pay than nurture relative strangers, as volunteers, while more men nurture relative strangers, as volunteers, than are paid for it. Whether more women or more men nurture relative strangers, as volunteers, i shouldn’t say for sure; because a majority of my friends and close kin, are men.

 

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The Usual Breakfast

… in recent years of my life1
(c) 2017, Davd

Make breakfast the best meal of the day, is advice i have read and heard from several sources that seem to me to be nutritionally “savvy”. I do not always follow this advice strictly; my very best meals, like roast beef with fresh baked homemade bread, are usually dinners. Breakfast is not a meal to take hours preparing, so my breakfast standard combines quality with speed; the dinner standard can be more tolerant of long preparation time.

My usual breakfast these days, and for some years now, is a pork chop, fried in a minimum of fat, with chopped onion and oat porridge. Usually i have an apple, or half of a really big apple, as the fruit, and some coffee. The technique is fairly easy to learn, “man food” that is hearty and enjoyable day after day. Most men who read this, i forecast, will like this “usual breakfast” better than something sweeter, and find it gets you going for a day’s work.

When i was a boy, a popular children’s radio show defined a good breakfast as “Fruit, cereal, milk, bread, and butter.” That formula is much better than coffee or tea and pastry; but it’s long on grain and today, many experts still discourage eating large amounts of saturated fats. What’s more, milk allergies and prohibitions are commoner now than then2.

Jet-lag research which came out years after my childhood ended, recommended a high protein breakfast, and while it was more for vegetarians than meat eaters, the famous book Diet for a Small Planet, made the concept of “protein completeness”, the availability of protein in food for body building and repair, widely known.

Neither meat nor grain [nor milk] offers complete protein, “which means” that not all the protein in a portion of meat, grain, or milk, can be used by the body as protein to grow and repair muscle, skin, and all the other “body tissues”. Combining proteins from two different sources—grain and meat, grain and pulses, potatoes and cheese, etc., etc., etc., etc. can make the protein in both, more valuable.

Meat and grain eaten together “balance each other” better than meat and potatoes; potatoes balance better with dairy—milk and cheeses, mainly—than they do with meat. Eat a pork chop with about twice its volume in oat porridge, barley pilaf, or bread, and you’ll get more of the protein for building and maintaining your body than if you had the pork chop with potatoes and the grain with eggs.

I’ve had pork chops for breakfast more than any other meat, the past few years, because i haven’t been catching trout, or fish that size, and beef has been a good deal more expensive. Steak for breakfast is mighty good; pork chops cost about half as much on special, and in my ‘umble opinion, go better with oat porridge3.

To repeat, this is not the only high quality “usual breakfast” i can name: Fried trout or codfish with potatoes is another i often ate when i lived near the Pacific. This pork chop and porridge combination is probably the most available, at a relatively low cost, across Canada [and the US, i expect].

The best way i’ve found to stock my freezer with [future] pork chops, is to buy half or whole boneless pork loin at about $2 per pound. I cut the chops in my kitchen, and have done for years. Pork chops, i believe, fry best if they are about 2 cm [¾ inch] thick. (Like beefsteak, they can benefit from being thicker if grilled over a wood fire.)

As my recent steak blog detailed, cutting steaks and chops from frozen roast sized and larger pieces calls for a serious, rather heavy chef’s knife, a good cutting board, and meat that’s not frozen but very cold, so its texture is stiff and parallel cuts are relatively easy to make. Since the technique is described there, i’ll let you go to that previous blog if you aren’t familiar with it.

Even a half pork loin yields more chops than one man will eat in a week; and when i cut them, the meat is half frozen; so i typically keep 3-8 chops in the fridge proper, and put the others back in the freezer4.

Cooking for myself, i use a stainless steel or cast-iron frying pan that will hold one chop and twice its volume in porridge, with a little room to spare; and that has a well fitting lid—my lids are both stainless steel. Even if the pan is stainless steel rather than cast iron—I season it with fat, (preferably pork fat, but cooking oil will do5.) It can be put away seasoned in the drawer that most stoves have near floor level, underneath the oven.

Come morning, i take out that frying pan, put it on a stove element that it can completely cover but with only a little overhang on all sides; and heat it to sizzling—to where a bit of meat or fat put in it will sizzle right away. That’s when i add the pork chop, meat edge first, and then when the meat edge has seared, i lay it flat to sear one side. (Searing holds in the moisture in the meat, so it cooks but doesn’t dry out.)

While the first side of the chop is searing, or before, i chop enough onion to make about one teaspoonful. (You may decide you want more or less onion for your own liking.) I also get the water boiling for the porridge, unless i have porridge waiting in the fridge.

Rolled oat [or rye] porridge is made from two volumes of water and one of grain. I measure my oats with a big coffee mug, and pour the dry rolled oats into a clean bowl. Then i measure two fills of the same mug, of water, into the cooking pot where i make the porridge, and get that water on the stove—high heat, if electric, hot spot, if on a woodstove.

The mug has now been rinsed and can be turned upside down in the dish rack, to dry. It never really got dirty.

When the meat has been seared on one side—which doesn’t take long—turn it over, add the onion to the pan, and drop the heat to low. On one of those cute glass top stoves, i turn the power right off; the stove top holds enough heat to sear the second side and usually, cook the chop “well done.”

When the porridge water begins to boil (let it reach “a rolling boil”) the oats should be added gradually, stirring as they pour into the water. The heat should stay high just until the water-oats mixture is definitely boiling, and then dropped to a setting [or the pot moved to a part of the woodstove top] where it will continue to boil gently.

Check how the meat and onions are cooking—they should be OK—and then stir the porridge briefly. You’ll probably want coffee with breakfast, so any waiting time that comes next can be spent making coffee (if you haven’t done that already) getting out an apple, or tidying the kitchen. Stir the porridge a few times when you have a few idle seconds, until you see it’s ready.

Porridge cooks quickly. Soon, it will be ready, and the pork chop should be ready about the same time. You can cut through it to be sure there’s no bright pink or red meat inside—pork should be cooked “well done”—and then add twice the volume of porridge, as there is of pork. A little more than twice is OK… the idea is to have pork and onion flavour in that porridge rather than sugar and milk.

Spiced apple porridge also goes well with pork chops, if you want a change of taste, don’t like onions much, or have apples in cooked or frozen form but not fresh. I usually make plain porridge, adding onion to the frying pan, and have a fresh apple (or half of a really big one6.)

There it is: Pork chop, porridge flavoured by the meat and some onion, and i suggest, an apple and some coffee. Heartier and more nourishing than most breakfasts, a meal you can eat daily for weeks without getting bored, and economical.

References:

Castleman, Michael, 1991. The Healing Herbs. Emmaus, PA: Rodale Press.

Lappé, Frances Moore, 1975. Diet for a Small Planet, 2nd ed. NY: Ballantine.

Notes:

1. I eat pork, as do most agnostics, atheists, Christians, and adherents to several smaller ‘religions’. Jews and Muslims abstain from pork, and many Buddhists abstain from meat, as [i have read on a monastery website] do Orthodox monks. Looking at how much pork is offered for sale in ordinary Canadian food stores, i’ll guess that a large majority of Canadians eat pork. This technique, plainly, is for those of us who do.

2. Personally, i can’t follow the formula because i take a thyroid supplement whose directions forbid me to have milk within four hours after the pill. One of my sons is lactose intolerant. He and i can both eat pork chops.

3. If you have an economical source of steak or trout or salmon, i recommend rye porridge with them, or barley pilaf, or whole wheat bread, even pasta. I do eat beef, and salmon—but usually for dinner, not breakfast.

4. Often i buy these pork loins frozen; nearly always, they come already wrapped by the meat packing firm in heavier, stronger plastic than that of which “food bags” are made. Cooking and eating mostly ‘alone’, i often take a pork loin, cut the heavy wrapping at the middle of its length, and work back the plastic far enough to cut 3-4 chops. Then when the chops have been cut from that half of the loin, i pull the plastic back over the remaining meat of that end, and fold it tight against my last cut. I put the still half-frozen pork in the freezer section of the refrigerator, with the folded plastic against a wall or held down by something small. Result: About one third of the original pork loin, never thawed, is back in freezer storage waiting to be cut when the centre chops have been eaten.I then repeat that cut chops, fold plastic, and put back process with the other half… so about two thirds of a whole pork loin, is back waiting to be cut into chops later.

There is nothing wrong with cutting the whole loin into chops and freezing most of them; but the heavy food-grade plastic in which the loins are sold seems to me to be the best plastic wrapping in which to hold the meat until i am ready to thaw it for cooking.

5. Pork fat can be used to season pans for frying beef; bacon fat for frying beef or chicken, and for some kinds of fish. The reverse doesn’t work: Don’t fry pork or chicken in beef fat, nor beef or pork in chicken fat.

6. To hold the other half of an apple, cut the apple straight across, as nearly as you can. Choose the side whose face is “dished in” rather than bulging out, and lay it on a big jar lid, or a small plate. You can put it in the fridge for the next morning, or have it later in the day.

I read in a Rodale Press book, (Castleman, 1991) that apples help keep saturated fats from clogging your arteries.

 

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Winter Frying-Pan Steak

…with celery-onion sauce and pasta:
(c) 2017, Davd

In Canada, the barbecue season is months away in both directions. It’s a good time for another way to enjoy the occasional steak, one that you can cook up when it’s raining or even snowing outside, enjoying the warmth of a kitchen and the convenience of tables and counter tops to work on. It won’t have the special pleasure of smoke grilling, and if you really want to go outdoors and make a hardwood fire to cook you and a friend or two some steaks, pick a day without wind and rain, and enjoy.

Most dinners between now and May or June, most men will be cooking indoors.

As forecast, beef prices are edging down in the stores, months after they fell in the livestock markets. Last autumn i bought a piece of “eye of round” for less than $7 per kilo, and it cooked up tender, between medium and medium rare, in my good 8-inch cast iron frying pan. In the process i confirmed the adaptation of the SCOP formula for seasoning meat sauces.

Usually, being cut into steaks raises the price of a piece of meat—so usually, i buy larger pieces and cut them myself. There is a simple, reliable trick to cutting steaks that are the same thickness all the way across: Not quite freezing the meat. I put that round, as i had put a piece of sirloin in August, into the freezer.

The round, which was about four inches across the long way, a bit less the short way, and nearly a foot long, sat in the freezer for a few hours, checked occasionally; and when it was quite stiff but not quite frozen, out came the meat and out came the heavy chef’s knife. (The same cutting technique works if a frozen piece is allowed to not quite thaw, in a fridge or camp cooler; and it works on pork, even chicken and turkey ‘breast’.)

Serious tradesman cooks care about their knives. When a chef interviews anyone who wants a job in his kitchen, the first thing he asks is “Show me your knives.” The pots and pans belong to the restaurant, but each cook has his own knives (sometimes hers, but commercial kitchens are almost as much men’s territory as welding; women can be found in the trade but they are rare.)

A good main chef’s knive should have weight, balance, a comfortable handle, and steel that will sharpen to a fine edge and hold that edge. For vegetables and fileting fish, lighter weight is fine, but the other qualities apply. Paring and bread knives should have weight, and balance, but not be massive like that main knife. I believe it’s also good to have a same shaped knife about half the size of your big one, for lighter work of the same character.

So get yourself a good chef’s knife for cutting steaks; and if you are not sure you know how to choose, take along a man who does. You’ll save the cost in a few months if you like steak and pork chops. .. and you’ll finally enjoy many detail cutting chores in the kitchen when your knives work with you instead of against you.

Under that piece of meat and that knife, you need a cutting board. My good ones are made of red oak. White oak should do, and i use red or white cedar for seafood. Plastic cutting boards were once popular, but some serious professional cooks told me that the cuts that form in them with use, are hiding places for bacteria. Oak and cedar, they said, contain resins that kill bacteria. (Larch and Douglas fir do also, to some extent. I myself wouldn’t use birch, beech, other fir, maple, poplar, spruce, even pine.) Oak takes cutting longer and better; so for cutting steaks and for chopping, i much prefer oak.

Fish takes less force to cut and much of the time you will be cutting parallel to the board, not down into it… so in my humble opinion, cedar will do.

With the meat not quite freezing and thus quite stiff, you’ll find it easy to hold still and cut with parallel slices. The “grain” of the meat should run the long way of the piece (watch for this when shopping) so that you cut the steaks across [perpendicular to] the grain. That will make them more tender than if cut parallel to the grain.

(The work of cutting almost frozen meat with clean, parallel strokes takes muscle; it is not for petite women. My sister and grandmother were not petite; they could do it.)

I cut my steaks between 2 cm [¾ inch] and 1 inch [2,5 cm] thick for winter pan cooking; maybe a little thicker for summer grilling. The winter thickness will sear well and still have more pink to red meat in the middle, than seared edge… and it will take less time to cook. In the summer, extra cooking time is not such an issue; everyone but the chef, and maybe he too, will be sipping and nibbling while the steaks cook, and in no hurry; and the meat should be absorbing smoke from the hardwood coals that are cooking it.. (What wood to grill on is a story for another time.)

From that piece of round, the 2 cm steaks i cut were probably 5-6+ ounces in weight, which is enough for a serving of meat but is not a big serving for steak. Several were wrapped tightly in plastic bags from the produce i had bought and brought to the kitchen, with almost no air in those bags, and put back to freeze and keep for later. Three stayed in the fridge.

The first steak i cooked, was seared in just a little vegetable oil*, on fairly high heat but before the oil could begin to smoke, a minute or two on the first side, which made it a rich brown colour; then when i turned the meat i dropped the heat on the stove switch and soon after, added chopped onion so the onion could brown just a little, itself. The cast iron pan stayed hot long enough to sear the second side of the steak, and then the steak and onion cooked on low heat while i cut up two [regular cultivated Agaricus bisporus] mushrooms, added them, and in a few minutes, cut into the steak to see how the inside looked. Meanwhile, i chopped maybe two ounces—a quarter cup—of celery*, an eighth of an inch or slightly thinner (cutting across the grain, as with the meat].

You should know what color of the meat inside, represents the degree of rare, medium, or “well done” you like. When the inside is that color, or almost, take out the steak and put it on a plate with a lid over it; and add the celery* and some stock. (I make and use vegetable stock). If you add water instead, add some boullion powder or a half cube. Sprinkle on some pepper, and with mushrooms, i suggest oregano. Let that come to a gentle boil and simmer until the mushrooms and celery are cooked.

Notice a familiar seasoning pattern? With pork, poultry and many kinds of fish, including in chowders, the standard seasonings are Sage, Celery, Onion, and Pepper. They can be your seasoning check-list for turkey stuffing, for instance … as well as for chicken or turkey soup, chowders and fish soups. They are good with pork chops and in pork stew.

The more general check-list is Strong, Celery, Onion, and Pepper; where the Strong herb can be oregano, thyme, sometimes tarragon, instead of sage. With mushrooms, oregano is usually the best Strong herb. With beef but no mushrooms, i usually choose thyme. And of course, you might want to add salt, depending partly on whether and how much stock powder or boullion cube you add.

Back to the cast iron pan: When the celery and mushrooms were cooked, i added cooked fettucine [broad pasta] a little more than twice the amount of the steak, stirred things together, turned off the power, and put the steak back in to warm up, in case it had cooled below ideal eating temperature. As bachelors often do when eating alone, i then ate the meal from that pan.** It was excellent.

The second and third pieces of steak, i cooked the same way, but without mushrooms, using a half slice of fairly fat bacon for the pan seasoning and crumbling it into the sauce when i added the stock. The strong herb was oregano one time and thyme the next. Both were delicious. So if mushrooms are available for a good price, get some; and if not, use bacon; either way it will be a meal worthy of a glass or two of red wine.

Notes:

* Liveche, as i’ve mentioned a few times in earlier food blogs, is a good, rich flavour alternative to celery, and i’ve now seen it growing, obviously perennial, in two Central Alberta gardens.. In this technique, the celery may add texture to the sauce that makes it preferable—what texture you prefer is for you to choose.

** In addition to saving on dish washing, i often give the pan to Fritz to lick, when i’ve emptied it in human terms. Frying pans operate above boiling temperature, even while being seasoned, so that’s safer than letting him lick plates.

 

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