It always puts a smile on my face when a restaurant menu contains a note saying something to the effect of “Please advise your server of any allergies or intolerance”.
To me, that means I’m in a restaurant that will likely take some extra precautions to do its best to ensure my food won’t cause me issues. This definitely takes some of the guesswork out of dining out.
Over the last 13 years, since the discovery of my intolerance to wheat products, the number of restaurants that have adjusted their menus to accommodate wheat-free/gluten-free diets has been impressive and heartwarming. And over that span of time, the improvement in the ingredients, recipes and dishes that have been offered has been spectacular.
I hear the same from friends and colleagues with sensitivities to nuts, eggs, dairy and shellfish. It is getting easier to make informed choices.
When it comes to dining, it is certainly a competitive market. I genuinely respect those establishments that have gone the extra mile to retain and attract clients by helping them navigate their options whether through little icons next to menu items, menus that specifically address dietary concerns, or in extremely well-informed service staff.
I admit that I have to contain my shrieks of delight when the server or the chef says, “Tell us what you’d like and we’ll see how we can modify it.”
Being the over-apologetic Canadian that I am, on a few occasions, I have apologized for asking so many questions about the menu, but I have been met with much reassurance. One chef even went so far as to say that it helps keep things interesting and challenging in the kitchen, in finding clever ways to make the menu work for the client. That completely made my day!
But what happens when a restaurant makes no such accommodations? Continue reading
A couple of months ago, I overheard a young lady and her colleague on the elevator, in a conversation that went something like this:
“Are you going to the pizza lunch?”
“Yes, I guess we have to. It’s mandatory.”
“Except for those people who asked for gluten-free.” She started shaking her head and continued, “Come on, it’s a free lunch.”
Ever since that conversation I still find myself shaking my head in disbelief that anyone could say something so unenlightened. Whether a person has an allergy, an intolerance, a medical condition, a dietary restriction or a preference, people’s food choices need to be respected. Period!
I suspect that the young lady in question probably does not have a family member with a food allergy or intolerance, for her to say that a lunch being free is a good reason to eat something that could pose an allergy risk.
In my case, wheat can turn my world completely upside down for about 24 hours. Imagine if you will, your absolute worst stomach flu, resulting in frequent, persistent, urgent and (please excuse the vulgarity) “explosive” trips to the washroom. Then add the sensation of something sharp painfully working its way through the digestive system. Continue reading
Not too long ago, I was listening to an interesting report on the evolution of artificial intelligence (AI) and the types of jobs that could be replaced by robots. Of course, the occasionally insecure writer in me wondered, could robots replace writers and screw up my retirement plan?
While I am certainly not an expert in the field, nor should this blog post be interpreted as an expert opinion, the Pollyanna in me says if it could happen, we are probably some time away from that.
To me, a good story really boils down to three things: the reader, the writer and the story itself.
For a story to be successful, it needs to engage the reader and resonate on a human level. It needs to connect with readers on an intellectual and on an emotional level. The story needs to stir up feelings in the reader to keep them coming back for more.
To achieve that, the writer needs to tap into their imagination, their emotions, their experience, or all three. Plus, with each writer’s unique point of view in the way that they craft a story, additional layers of interest are created and the writer’s sense of style is stamped on the story, much like a fingerprint.
A good story could be a testimonial of human experience that discusses the strong emotions felt along the way such as the struggle, the pain and the joy. A good story can take us to a world we could only imagine. Good stories can also scare the crap out of us, play with our minds, or inspire us.
To do all of the above requires heart and passion. Continue reading
In late September, I had the good fortune of attending the Jann Arden concert at the National Arts Centre in Ottawa. Not only is Jann’s concert an evening of superlative music, but between songs, Jann charms the audience with her hysterically funny stories. I hope she never puts her musical career on hold, but if she ever does, she could easily have a brilliant future as a stand up comedienne!
In one of her stories, she tells of how the Columbia House Record Club was responsible for exposing her to such a diverse range of music in her formative years as a musical artist, an opportunity she might not have otherwise found growing up in rural Springbank, Alberta.
As she told the story, I could not help but draw a parallel to my own musical education which I owe almost entirely to MuchMusic (and its French-speaking sister station, MusiquePlus), back when they were “The Nation’s Music Station”, airing music videos “24 hours a day, in stereo”.
Today’s reality of YouTube, Vevo, iTunes and video on demand is a dream come true, allowing Continue reading