Like The Hub?
Join our community.
Join

‘Society, we have a problem’: The best comments from Hub readers this week

Commentary

This week in Hub Forum, readers discussed many topical and pertinent issues, including the role of international students in keeping institutions afloat, how American culture wars are reflected in Canadian reporting, the increase in businesses going bankrupt and the lack of new ones emerging, and the rising trend of student absenteeism.

The goal of Hub Forum is to bring the impressive knowledge and experience of The Hub community to the fore and to foster open dialogue and the competition of differing ideas in a respectful and productive manner. Here are some of the most interesting comments from this past week.

Sign up for our daily Hub Forum email newsletter today.

Are international students keeping Canadian universities afloat?

Monday, January 22, 2024

“I remember having this discussion when I was a student decades ago, and there were a LOT of people who felt that because International students were paying double for tuition than what local students were paying that they were indeed keeping Canadian universities afloat. Many felt that international students were also ‘favoured’ because they paid more.”

Mark

“The major issue is that the boards of so many of our institutes of higher learning are spending on programs and departments that have no marketable value. The boards need to start getting rid of wasted resources so that expenses are in line with revenues.”

— Vance Petersen

What a U.S. culture war story tells us about Canadian media

Tuesday, January 23, 2024

“If race and gender are accepted considerations and are in fact celebrated, it raises the possibility that someone attained their position at least in part due to their ‘identity.’ It can put the question in peoples’ minds and is a disservice to those who achieved their position by merit.”

— Gord Edwards

“Perhaps it has always been thus, but there seems to be an erosion of principles, specifically having them, let alone adhering to them, when the demands of one’s tribe are felt or other costs are required. This seems to be the case at the personal, institutional, and societal levels.”

— Paul Attics

The (one hundred) million dollar question: What is a journalist?

Wednesday, January 24, 2024

“If one looks at the video, the approach of Mr. Menzies to Chrystia Freeland seems rude and a little scary, and this accounts for some of the reaction. However, I would think this goes with the territory as she may not be otherwise available to him. Perhaps the latter is the main question: to what extent do publications with opposing viewpoints have access to government policy-makers in Canada?”

— Karen Quinton

“The secret sauce for the salvation of the industry is not secret. Listen to your audience, have a discussion with them and not a lecture, and talk about what they think is important, not what your colleagues or the special interest groups and nonprofits that clog up your inbox focus on.”

— Hugh Nicholson

“In a healthy and democratic society, the market for effective journalism would likely also be healthy. Sure, disingenuous agenda journalists and attention-mongers would ply their trade, but their audience would be commensurately small.

However, in a society in which many fellow citizens feel unheard, scared, disrespected, and ultimately angry, the market for journalism will be unhealthy as people with this chronic state of mind are more likely to want what panders to these feelings. This quickly becomes a flywheel of negativity, distrust, and falsehood as agenda journalists are rewarded with more and more attention by their tribe. This, of course, becomes an opportunity for disingenuous attention-mongers to also ply their trade successfully to bigger and bigger audiences. Their goal is only attention for monetary gain and personal power reasons. Even worse, there are those whose real goal is to disrupt society. These folks are trying to bring it all down.

Our society is unhealthy, despite all our riches of peace and prosperity, and our citizenry is increasingly spending attention on bad actors. We are all the worse for it.”

— Paul Attics

Business bankruptcies have soared. The bad news is many aren’t being replaced

Thursday, January 25, 2024

“In my opinion, which is shared by many other entrepreneurs, the banking system in Canada is one of the main barriers impeding the growth of new businesses. The risk tolerance of Canadian banks is so low, that a new business cannot get enough lift (financially speaking) to carry them to the stage where a bank would even consider offering a line of credit.”

— Greg Jackson

“In Canada, small business owners know that they can’t turn to the banks for help unless they are willing to pledge personal assets to secure credit. The banks here only want to help when you don’t really need it. So hence was born the idea that you go to the bank for money when you don’t need it because one day it may be needed and they won’t give it to you then.”

— Michael F

Is schooling becoming optional?

Friday, January 26, 2024

“There are laws on the books which school boards can use to ensure that parents have their children at school. It seems provincial authorities are loathe to use the laws they have. It is useless to talk about ‘back to basics’, as many provincial ministers of education are, and then not make sure that the students are in the classrooms. Unless students are convinced of the value of education early in life, it doesn’t stick later in life.”

A. Chezzi

“Children are suffering from an alarming increase in anxiety-related conditions. The pandemic response made this worse, but it was already happening. Obviously, anxiety correlates with absenteeism, and, as such, an increase in the former means an increase in the latter.

Society, we have a problem.”

Paul Attics

Malcolm Jolley: Not just for drinking: On cooking with wine

Commentary

The chief consolation to be drawn from cold weather is good warm food. On the hob or in the oven, in a pot or a roasting tray, good things bubble away, filling the kitchen with appetizing smells and the promise of providing the sustenance to bolster the physical and psychological strength required to survive the long winter in this country. Fortunately, hearty seasonal dishes also invariably pair well with wine, another important component of winter survival.

Some dishes don’t just go with wine, wine goes into them. The most striking example might be the chabrot of Southwestern France. In The Old World Kitchen: The Rich Tradition of European Peasant Cooking (1987) Elisabeth Luard describes chabrot in her recipe for soupe des vendanges, or Grape-Picker’s Soup.

The chabrot is the second course of a three-stage dinner, which begins with the broth of the soup served with bread and cheese and ends with a boiled dinner of the vegetables and meats cooked in the soup. Once the first course is finished, she instructs the host to place bottles of “strong red wine” on the table before the following:

“Fill each plate with very hot fat stock. Each person now adds as much red wine to his plate as he wishes, stirs it around, and then, to be strictly correct, drinks it straight out of the plate. This process is called faire chabrot. No southern-born French country man would miss it for the world.”

Most of us stick to keeping our wine in our glass at the table or actually cooking with it back in the kitchen. When I began my foray into lifestyle journalism, a long time ago, I made the mistake of asking a famous restaurant chef for advice on cooking with wine. The perennial question being did he use fancy wine to cook with, or the cheap stuff most of us do?

Of course, he only used the highest quality wines in his dishes, just as he only used the highest quality meats, vegetables, herbs and anything else. This answer upset the elements of my character forged from my Scottish ancestry. Was it really an insult to the premium farm-raised joint to make gravy with a $10 bottle of plonk?

Only after a few years of hanging out with chefs in their kitchens did I realize that they were almost always just cooking with whatever left-over (i.e. stale) wines the sommeliers had brought them. In a fancy restaurant, the wines by the glass, or the ones at the top of the list, are going to be pretty good. They weren’t spending big on the cooking wine; they were actually saving money by using up what would have been poured down the drain.

Stale wine is oxidized wine, which tastes unpleasantly musty when it’s raw, but it’s fine when it’s cooked. (If you grew up going to Communion or Mass, you’ll recognize the aroma and taste of oxidized wine right away.) Other wine faults, like corked wine or (ironically) heat-affected wine, don’t cook away. Alcohol mostly cooks away. Its boiling point is 78 degrees Celsius, so a long reduced sauce or wine-infused stew will be for all intents and purposes free of it. 

The thing that wine adds to a dish, apart from whatever fruity flavours remain after heating, is acidity. White wines tend to have more. It’s the white wine in a fondue that works on the fat and elevates it to more than just a pot of melted cheese.

Red wines have tannins, which mellow in the mouth when they bind to molecules of fat. In the way that a Cabernet Sauvignon or Sangiovese loves a ribeye steak, so too do beef stews, or buttery mushrooms, like big red wines.

Wines can also bring sweetness from sugar to a dish, as well as vanilla-like flavours from wood treatments. High sugar content and clunky oakiness (from infusions of wood chips or even “tea bags” of oak sawdust) are more often found in cheaper wines because they can mask unpleasant flavours from poor-quality grapes or roughshod cellar treatment.

The English wine writer Fiona Beckett suggests the floor for cooking wine should be about £8, which in turn is about $14. I think that’s about right. Lately, I have been cooking with a Nero d’Avolo red wine made by Cusumano in Sicily that costs $13.95 in Ontario. It works particularly well in the three-ingredient dish below which is a winter weeknight staple in our house. The pan juices from the pork mix with the roasted garlic and wine to make a simple but compelling sauce. What’s left in the bottle is a perfectly good accompaniment to the rustic dish, or can be set aside for the next cooking adventure.

Pork chops with red wine and garlic

This recipe is an adaptation of the one for pan-to-oven pork chops with garlic in Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s River Cottage Meat Book (2004). The original uses “white wine or strong cider” and contemplates the pork chops one most often finds in the U.K., which have a thick rind attached, so spend more time in the oven. Any cut of chops will do. If my butcher has pork sirloin, then I’ll use them.

We always serve these chops as the top part of a one-dish dinner. On the bottom is a soft starch: polenta or mashed potatoes. Next comes a serving of dark greens. If raw, then watercress or arugula. If cooked, then spinach or kale or dandelion or even rapini. The chops and the garlic then settle in with their sauce.

Ingredients:

  • One pork chop per person
  • One or two large unpeeled garlic cloves per person (or more if you can fit them into the pan)
  • One or two large unpeeled garlic cloves per person (or more if you can fit them into the pan)
  • One large glass of red wine (or 250ml or a cup); or enough to partially submerge all the chops in the pan
  • Salt and pepper to season
  • Maybe a splash of olive oil or cooking fat (see below)

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 220C / 425F.

Heat on high on the stove an oven-safe pan, such as an iron skillet, large enough to fit all the chops with space between them for the garlic cloves. Once sizzling hot, using tongs, render fat from the chops to create a frying medium. Loin chops, for instance, should have a bit of fatty rind on the sides. If the chops don’t have fat to render, then use olive oil or another cooking fat.

Sautée the chops on high heat until browned on one side, about three or four minutes. As soon as the chops are placed in the pan, add the garlic. The skins of the garlic may burn, which is fine as they will protect the cloves.

Turn the chops over, browned side up, and let the other side heat up for another minute or two. Then slowly and carefully pour the wine into the pan so that the chops are about halfway submerged. Put the pan into the oven

Cook the chops, garlic, and wine in the hot oven until done. This will depend on the thickness of the chops, but will probably be about 10 minutes. Because the dish comes with a sauce it is ok to err on the side of well-doneness.

Once the meat has cooked, remove the pan from the oven and the chops from the pan. Back on the stove reduce the wine with the garlic to a desired amount and thickness, while scraping the pan for any pork residue.

Serve as desired, with instructions to peel or squeeze out the soft garlic as a condiment to the pork.