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Real Life


What does your Valentine’s Day sound like?

Valentine’s Day is one of those holidays rife with confusion and controversy. Some of us like to call it “Another Hallmark Holiday” (said with a sigh), or Singles Awareness Day (accompanied by rolling eyes), and for others it is the day to take out all your cheese (fromage) reserves and lay it all down for your partner. Others shrug “meh” and I definitely fit into this category year after year, whether or not I have a date once the 14th of February rolls around.

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Happy Lunar New Year! The new year according to the lunar calendar is also known as “Chinese New Year” for those of us in English-speaking countries. Koreans, just like the Chinese, traditionally followed the lunar calendar before adopting the Gregorian calendar of the west, so we Koreans refer to the same horoscopes as the Chinese. For 2014, we celebrate the Year of the Horse, and apparently it is the year of the “Blue Horse” for this cycle. According to the Korean Broadcasting System (KBS), the Blue Horse, unlike a regular horse horoscope character, comes around every 60 years. This is just as unique as the two other “special” horoscopes that I am aware of — The Golden Pig, which happens to be my dad, and the White Horse, which happens to be my sister.

The Lunar New Year is a very big event in Korea; it is considered the most important holiday of all, besides Chuseok or Korean Thanksgiving in the fall. And holidays in Korea mean family and food, not unlike the celebratory traditions of many other cultures. So what does my family do? We make a feast. But what do Korean people make at home to feed a crowd? I am the kind of person who asks my friends from non-Anglo-Saxon backgrounds what their families make at home, so I thought others may be interested in what the dinner table looks like for Korean-Canadian families. So here it is.

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“Kalbi” or barbecue short ribs

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Since arriving in Toronto from Montréal, my holiday has so far consisted of a major ice storm, power outages, and sloppy but frigid weather. Thankfully my family was lucky and celebrated Christmas in a lighted and heated home, and today we dropped by Baldwin Village in Chinatown for dinner. Baldwin Village is a family favourite enclave off of Chinatown that houses some of our favourite long-running restaurants in Toronto, and is just a very pleasant street to walk about between the clutter of downtown. Tonight the streets were sleek and slushy, but the Christmas lights illuminated beautifully on the pavement. Is it weird that I miss the weather being below 0 °C? I can’t wait to be back in the land of real snow in Montréal next week. Happy Holidays and Merry Christmas everyone.

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Rob Ford at the 100th Grey Cup celebrations on November 20, 2012

Sometimes I miss living in Toronto. But this is not one of those times. In the past two days all my friends have been bombarding me with messages of the likes of, “Look what’s happening in your home town!” or “What on earth is going on with your city?” or “Oh dear, Rob Ford.”

I agree, but I’m more concerned for the city: Oh dear, Toronto.

I left Toronto for Montréal before Rob Ford, current mayor of Toronto, was voted in 2010. Ford’s popularity is mainly backed by the support from the city’s suburban ridings which contrasts sharply with the votes from the downtown sectors. Suburban Toronto’s unwavering support for the fumbling, erratic mayor is named Ford Nation, and this enduring love was clearly demonstrated after the Toronto Police confirmed the existence of the video “consistent with what had been previously described in various media reports.” Toronto Police Chief Bill Blair was referring to Gawker.com and The Toronto Star’s assertion that their editor and journalists, respectively, viewed a video of mayor Ford smoking a crack pipe in May. And how did Toronto react to the news on Hallowe’en? Rob Ford’s approval went up by five percent.

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October means many things for different people: school has started to settle for parents and students, others are excited by Hallowe’en candy, and winter is at the doorstep as per the current weather here in Montréal. For me, I also note that the month is Breast Cancer Awareness Month and I feel grateful for my health and think about the many families that are impacted by diseases such as breast cancer. As I young child, I knew how the diagnosis of breast cancer can shake a family as my mother was diagnosed with the disease at a young age. After battling cancer for eleven years she succumbed to the illness more than a decade ago.

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It was bound to happen. I knew that I would eventually become a victim of theft while living here in Montréal because just about everyone in the city gets robbed at one point. But what does this say about Montréal’s crime trends, culture, and urban living?

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Virtually everyone I have known that have, or are, living in this beautiful city has been robbed. That includes stolen cars, stolen electronics, stolen wallets, and home invasions. This is in contrast to the life I lived growing up and working in the Toronto suburbs and downtown neighbourhoods. I actually don’t know anyone who has been a victim of personal (non-business) theft in Toronto. But as soon as I moved here to Montréal a few years back, I knew right away that the crime trends in this city were different.

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Le Comptoir Charcuteries et Vins
4807 St Laurent Blvd.
Montréal, Québec H2T 1R6
(514) 844-8467
www.comptoircharcuteriesetvins.ca

Montréal does food well. There is a reason Anthony Bourdain has a love affair with this city and its chefs, and poutine is the fast food darling du jour. My American relatives wax on about flying in to eat foie gras, nevermind dropping by Toronto to see my dad. And yes, I agree that the gourmet experience is excellent here despite my common complaints that Asian food in Montréal generally sucks and how difficult it can be to find vegetarian food.

But of course, I get to eat the best baguettes my heart desires, and am spoiled with various boulangeries (bakeries) and patisseries (pastry shops) in my francophone neighbourhood. All I have to do is walk around the corner to get to the neighbourhood fromagerie (cheese shop), and a charcuterie (preserved meat shop) is just on the other side of the street. Not to mention a poutine spot at my disposal that features the aptly named poutine, Le Vladmir (after the Russian President Vladimi Putin — get it?).

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