Pictures from Québec

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Above and below: Two views from the train from NYC to Montréal.

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Above: Hot air baloon festival, view from the train, just after passing into Canada.

Below: The lake by Fred’s house. Very Dawson’s Creek!
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Above and Below: A photo-essay about modesty.

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Above: close-up of the lake

Wafu Noodle Salad 和風冷麺サラダ

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A Fred and LS original recipe. We made this cold noodle salad for lunch on Friday and enjoyed it al fresco on the terrace.

Ingredients:

cooked udon noodles, rinsed in cold water

julienned carrots and cucumber and turkey cold cuts

chunks of avocado

wedges of tomato

chopped green onion

Arrange the vegetables on top of the noodles in a bowl. Garnish with some sesame seeds and season with Wafu Dressing. Mix well before eating. If you can’t find Wafu Dressing, any soy, sesame or miso-based Japanese-style dressing will do. A perfect lunch for a late summer day.
Links:

http://wafu.ca/

Update from Quebec

I left New York early on Thursday morning for what was supposed to be a 10 hour train ride up through Upstate New York to Montreal, Quebec, but we were stopped at customs for nearly 2 hours, so I arrived in the Montreal nearly 2 hours late. Fred came to pick me up and whisked me off to his house in the country, about an hour and 15 minutes outside of the city.

Friday, we spent some time out by the lake next to the house, just enjoying the weather. It is quite nice to get out of the city for a little bit. As much as I love NYC, I thought it was really cool to see a real beaver dam and some happy, lazy cows grazing in the countryside. Friday night, we met up with Mark, another friend from Japan who is now living in downtown Montreal. We went to an excellent Vietnamese restaurant for dinner where you can bring your own wine and not have to pay a corkage fee – a fantastic idea we need to implement in restaurants south of the border. Then we walked around a bit, looking for places to get a drink, and we ended up at this rooftop terrace of a bar. The terrace itself was pretty cool, but the sangria we ordered with frighteningly sweet and the crowd was like, tragic or something. Lots of short, short men and some high school kids mixed in. A hilarious parade of oompa-loompas and jailbait. Fun!

This morning, we went to get some brunch and then headed to a suburban shopping mall, more to enjoy the free air-conditioning than anything else. Shopping malls, that cultural nexus that unites us all across this vast continent, from North to South, East to West!

I will upload some picts later when I get a chance. Stay tuned!

Recipe: Gâteau à l’orange

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This is a recipe for an orange cake that I got from Fred in Québec. He got it from his grandmother who got it from a newspaperway back in the day. The ingredients and the recipe are simple, but the results are delicious. Here is my slighty jazzed-up Anglophone version:

Ingredients

4 large free-range eggs

2 cups of white sugar

2 cups of white flour

2 teaspoons of baking soda

a pinch of salt

3/4 cup of vegetable oil (I used a half cup of neutral safflower oil and 1/4 cup of extra virgin olive oil to give the cake that Mediterranean je ne sais quoi)

2/3 cup of freshly squeezed orange juice (about 1 and a half oranges)

Grated rind of 1 orange

1 teaspoon of vanilla extract

powdered sugar (for topping)

Method

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit (177 Celsius).

2. Beat together the eggs and the white sugar for 2 minutes

3. Sift together the flour, baking soda and salt and beat into the egg and sugar mixture

4. Beat in the rest of the ingredients except for the powdered sugar and transfer batter to a ring-shaped cake pan or a Bundt cake pan

5. Bake in the preheated oven for 50 minutes or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean

6. Allow the cake to cool complete, remove from cake pan, invert onto a serving plate and top with sifted powdered sugar. Et voilà, c’est fini! Très simple et délicieux.

VISCA CATALUNYA LLIURE! VIVA CATALUÑA LIBRE! VIVE LA CATALOGNE LIBRE!

The people of Catalonia have voted 'yes' by a margin of 74% to the Statute of Autonomy. Catalonia is a region (or what some consider a "nation without a state") located in the northeastern part of Spain, which includes the vibrant city of Barcelona. The traditional "Catalan Countries" (Paisos Catalans) also includes Valencia, the Balearic Islands, and Northern Catalonia across the Pyrenees, which is now under French jurisdiction.

I had the honor of spending an academic year (2000-2001) studying at the University of Barcelona and have been following the progress of the Catalan people towards greater self-determination ever since.
The Catalans have their own language and culture that is quite distinct from the Castillian (AKA "Spanish") language and culture of central and southern Spain. The Catalonia have historical claims to an independent state dating back to the Middle Ages but eventually, there country was carved up and swallowed up by Spain and France. Also in more recent history, the Catalan language and culture were suppressed during the Franco dictatorship in Spain.

Despite the large margin voting in favor of the Statute of Autonomy, there was also a rather worrying rate of abstention. Slightly less than 50% of registered voters voted in the referendum. Both Spanish nationalists, who believe in maintaining the centralized, unified nature of the Spanish state, and Catalan nationalists, who want nothing less than full independence opposed the Statute. However, the statute was supported by Zapatero's Socialist government in Madrid which is also pursuing talks with Basque nationalists. In concrete terms, the new Statute would give Catalonia's government more tax revenues from the central government in Madrid as well as more say in areas such as the management of immigration, airports and language and culture.

While some may argue that "autonomy" just means an added layer of bureaucratic red-tape, I would still have to say that autonomy is a step in the right direction, with full independence through a democratic process being the most desirable end result in the long term. After all, in the last few weeks, we have seen Montenegro and Serbia become independent countries through peaceful, democratic means, putting the final nail in the coffin of the former Yugoslavia. I think the increasing number of independent, sovereign states in the world is good for democracy and good for the protection of cultural and linguistic diversity. We have other historical examples of peaceful and democratic separations of nation-states, such as the Velvet Divorce of Slovakia and the Czech Republic as well as the independence of Norway from Sweden.

It is interesting to note that while there has been a greater trend towards "national" and regional sovereignty and autonomy, there is also the parallel trend of international integration – such as the European Union. These trends work very well in tandem, even if they sound contradictory at first. The basis of international, interstatal organizations is that of national sovereignty. All parties come to the table as sovereign states. So the Catalan people, should have the right to negotiate in the context of the European Union as a sovereign state, equal in standing to Spain or France or any other E.U. member state. Only then can the system be truly democratic and ensure the protection of cultural diversity in a globalizing world.

Economically, an independent Catalan state is viable.  Along with the the Basque Country, it is one of the most economically developed regions in Spain.  On the socio-cultural level, even though Catalan is considered a "minority language," in absolute numbers, it has more speakers than European "national" languages such as Danish, Norwegian or Finnish. 

Radio-Canada has also recently done a report on Catalonia, comparing the situation there with that of Québec.  Both are regions with minority cultures and languages with nationalist aspirations.  Both have embarked on projects of linguistic and cultural revitalization as a way of countering years of colonialism, assimilation, and neglect.  Catalan leaders interviewed in the report openly admited that Québec served as a model for Catalonia in terms of linguistic and cultural policy.

In a broader context, we can apply the example of Catalonia to other regions/nations without a state.  Certainly, China can learn a lesson or two.  China is still working under outdated, imperialist notions of the Chinese "nation" when it comes to its policies towards Xinjiang (East Turkestan), Tibet, and Taiwan (even though Taiwan is already de facto independent since 1949).  Obviously, China is growing very quickly on an economic level, and it seeks to maintain its territorial integrity as a way of maintaining law and order as well as to ensure its access to natural resources.  However, a "smarter" way to progress would be to allow for state-to-state relations on the political level while maintaining increasingly integrated economic ties.  So in the case of Taiwan – let us be our own country, but let's work together economically.  Otherwise, Chinese policies amount to nothing less than imperialism, no better than the Japanese imperialism of the first half of the 20th century that the Chinese government is so quick to point out and attack Japan for.