And Repeat

It shouldn't need to be said, but here we are (again): 

Women, all women, should have agency over their own bodies. 

Absence of no doesn't mean yes. 

Coercion is not consent. 

It's not up to women to change how they react. It's up to men to change how they act in the first place. 


The public response to the Aziz Ansari story has been disturbing – and triggering – to watch unfold. People, including many women, surprisingly, are describing the event as simply a "date gone bad". But is it really? Maybe it's because I've been in a similar situation and know the god-awful dread of feeling trapped in the presence of someone that is making it clearly known they don't respect you and won't adhere to your persistent wishes but I feel this was not simply courtship gone awry. This is premeditated behaviour meant to demean and dehumanize women for the sole benefit of male ego. And it is more common than you think. 

The debate seems centred on defining degrees of severity regarding sexual assault but conversation should actually be about consent. There are no shades of grey when it comes to consent. Just yes or no. If a woman is not into your advances, then leave her alone. Period. Don't badger her. Don't further try to coax her. Just stop. 

"Well, she could've just left."

Well, HE could've just stopped. 

"Well, she should've known better."

Well, HE should've known better. 

As a society we've consistently denied women sexual autonomy, then act surprised when women have trouble asserting themselves when it comes to sex. This story is not just about an anonymous woman dubbed Grace in the media who was appalled that a celebrity she looked up to didn't live up to her ideal. This is about all the Graces, the Carols, the Deborahs et all that have learned to be accommodating towards men in difficult situations because eventual compliance can be the only weapon we have against escalation towards something worse. This is about how much of one's dignity we are willing to negotiate away just to secure a relative feeling of "safety". This is about male entitlement in all aspects of society.  

The balance of power sits with men.

The balance for change needs to sit with them as well. 

😁

I know this is starting to feel like a food blog but it's not (at least not entirely). This is just my online space to journal my life and interests and part of those interests right now is learning how to truly nourish and indulge myself through what I eat. BUT I have to make two food posts in a row because something happened this week that made me so happy and so proud at how far I have evolved in just the span of a year that I need to shout from the rooftops and tell everyone who will listen.

On Wednesday, I made the Spanish dish patatas bravas ("fierce potatoes") after reading about it in a cook book I have by Jamie Oliver titled "Food Escapes". I posted it on my Instagram and Twitter, because clearly one cannot only document their life on a blog, and later in the evening this happened: 

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JAMIE FREAKIN' OLIVER HIMSELF (or more likely his social media team) LIKED MY POST!!! OMG!!! 

It's also fascinating to note the reach of celebrity. In Twitter, posts that are "liked" are sometimes, but not always, shared with followers. Who sees it is all down to the science of algorithms. Out of curiosity I looked at the activity for that particular tweet and in the span of less than twenty-four hours, over 25,000 people had viewed my cooking. Amazing. 

I am by no means fashioning myself a pro – although my cooking is damn good – but this just makes me want to try harder and evolve my palate even more. 

Oh - and patatas bravas is absolutely divine. It's shortlisted as one of my favourites. You can get the recipe in this book. 

Patatas bravas is a traditional tapas style dish from Spain. It is made up of fried potatoes and a thick sauce made of onion, garlic, carrots, pepper and tomatoes. I served mine with a side of chorizo (©Deborah Clague). 

Patatas bravas is a traditional tapas style dish from Spain. It is made up of fried potatoes and a thick sauce made of onion, garlic, carrots, pepper and tomatoes. I served mine with a side of chorizo (©Deborah Clague). 

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My favourite celebrity chef, Jamie Oliver. His style is healthy, fresh and easy. 

My favourite celebrity chef, Jamie Oliver. His style is healthy, fresh and easy. 

Homecooking

Last year I started learning how to cook. This year I seek to continue building that skillset by attempting more difficult, and varied, dishes, as well as configuring the cost for eating healthy. My grocery bill has definitely increased as I focus on fresh and organic (where possible) but I'm not dining out as much so I hope to see it balance out. For example: earlier this week, I calculated that the turkey rice soup I make averages about $4.20/bowl (I get about six bowls per batch). In comparison, Tim Hortons charges $2.99/bowl for a serving of similar size with a side of bread. At face value, it appears to be a better business decision to continue dining out. But when ingredients are compared, the playing field shifts. My soup contains rice, humanely-raised turkey (breast), organic broth, heirloom garlic, white onion, carrots, celery, lemon, fresno pepper, turmeric and summer savoury seasoning. The equivalent Tim Hortons offering contains ingredients such as maltodextrin, artificial flavour, disodium insinate and caramel colouring (amongst other unpronounceable components). 

I want to know what I'm eating. I want to be able to pronounce and identify what I am putting in my stomach. 

For my first new dish of the year, I was inspired to take on something that has previously been an addiction of mine. KFC, Popeyes ... fried chicken tenders are VERY tasty but notoriously bad for one's health (and I don't dare look into their actual ingredients). I found an online recipe to replicate the former's famous eleven herbs and spices and decided to attempt them from home. Instead of frying in oil, they are baked in oven. Because of this, taste is not exactly replicated but this alternative is equally as good in its own right. I served with a side of garlic mashed potatoes and seasoned carrots. 

Total cost for this meal was about $8.00/serving, not including the two bottles of wine also consumed. 

To learn this recipe, check out RecipeTinEats.  

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It's only four days into the new year and I already have a feeling 2018 is going to be great. Just today, for instance, I found out there was a credible lead into the rash of thefts in my neighbourhood (of which I was a victim last month). I could attribute this to the natural order of the universe and how karma comes for everyone but I feel there is perhaps another influence to consider. 2018 is no ordinary year. According to the Chinese zodiac, 2018 is the year of the dog! 

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Do you have any idea how much good fortune I have built up with doggos over the years? It's huge. HUGE. I realize this bears no influence on anything but I like to believe. I choose to believe. To kick off this year (which officially starts February 17), I would like to honour some unique, loyal good boys (and girls) that I follow on social media. 

@UNDERBITEUNITE:
Daisy is a happy-go-lucky rescued therapy dog with special needs that brings smiles to everyone she meets while living her best life in Los Angeles. 

@SUPER_SCOOTY:
Scooty was rescued off the streets of Mexico after being hit by a vehicle. He was fully paralyzed but his adoptive family have provided therapy and fashioned him with a set of wheels that allows him to go on adventures (and get in trouble). 

@CANYONPUPPY:
Riley was found abandoned in a remote canyon in Arizona. I don't know how someone could do that to another living creature. The lack of empathy is jarring. However I do know that his new doggo dad was destined to find him.  

That tongue...lol

A post shared by Canyon Puppy (@canyonpuppy) on

@THE.FLUFFY.DUO:
Zen (little guy) is a rescued pomeranian. Hoshi is an eskimo dog that was born without eyes. The duo works together to navigate the world and beautifully demonstrates the power of friendship and teamwork. 

@ARTTHECORGI:
I really, really love corgis. I've only seen two in real life, so I get my fix via Instagram. This guy (and his sister Amelia) are my faves. 

@MONMON20011017:
I follow a number of chihauhuas living the high life in Tokyo. I don't know how this happened. Perhaps it was the result of algorithms revealing my love of Japan and cute dogs. No matter how I came across them, pets in Japan are treated very differently than any other place I've seen. Like, American dogs are spoiled but Japanese dogs take the cake! The photoshoots are insane! This guy in particular reminds me of my Monty. 

@PICASSOTHEWONKYFACEDDOG:
After being shunned by potential adopters because of his unusual looks, Picasso found a forever home and has since become a therapy dog. 

Desiderata

Go placidly amid the noise and haste,
and remember what peace there may be in silence.
As far as possible without surrender
be on good terms with all persons.
Speak your truth quietly and clearly;
and listen to others,
even the dull and the ignorant;
they too have their story.

Avoid loud and aggressive persons,
they are vexations to the spirit.
If you compare yourself with others,
you may become vain and bitter;
for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.
Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans.

Keep interested in your own career, however humble;
it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.
Exercise caution in your business affairs;
for the world is full of trickery.
But let this not blind you to what virtue there is;
many persons strive for high ideals;
and everywhere life is full of heroism.

Be yourself.
Especially, do not feign affection.
Neither be cynical about love;
for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment
it is as perennial as the grass.

Take kindly the counsel of the years,
gracefully surrendering the things of youth.
Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune.
But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings.
Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.
Beyond a wholesome discipline,
be gentle with yourself.

You are a child of the universe,
no less than the trees and the stars;
you have a right to be here.
And whether or not it is clear to you,
no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.

Therefore be at peace with God,
whatever you conceive Him to be,
and whatever your labors and aspirations,
in the noisy confusion of life keep peace with your soul.

With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams,
it is still a beautiful world.
Be cheerful.
Strive to be happy.

Max Ehrmann, 1927

My Favourite Things of the Year

My previous post detailed some personal aspects of my life that happened in 2017. From discovering potential familial ties in the United Kingdom to being offered a job in Saudi Arabia (still can't believe this), it was an interesting year that felt transitional in a sense. I am very excited to see where the next few years take me, but, as always, it's good to reflect as well. On that note, these are some things that brought me joy in 2017: 

 

SONG: "Redbone" by Childish Gambino. This funk/soul, retro-tinged track feels like the type of song that might not be hugely popular upon release but will hold influence on the culture for years to come. 

RUNNER UP: "Praying" by Kesha. 


BOOK: "The Vanished: The Evaporated People of Japan in Stories and Photographs" by Léna Mauger and Stéphane Remael. Nearly 100,000 people disappear in Japan each year. This essay chronicles their stories and reasons for becoming a ghost in modern society. 

RUNNER UP: "5 Ingredients" by Jamie Oliver. I tried to pick a non-culinary title for this but none of the other books I read this year stood out. In terms of lifestyle, however, my favourite celebrity chef is proving immensely influential as I make some positive changes relating to food. I greatly appreciate the easy, peasy, fresh and healthy recipes using a minimum of ingredients, as well as the simplistic design.


FOOD: This takes me two hours to prepare and cook but my rice stuffed roasted peppers with wild garlic, lemon, jalapeño and lingonberry spiced sole are the best thing I learned how to cook this year. The recipe can be found in the Posh Rice cookbook. 

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RUNNER UP: I try to balance learning how to make one healthy dish with something that my thighs won't forgive me for. Of those, this peanut butter and raspberry jam cheesecake brownie is the most sinful thing I made this year (especially deadly topped with vanilla bean ice cream). The recipe can be found in the Flapper Pie and a Blue Prairie Sky cookbook by Canadian food blogger The Kitchen Magpie

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MEME: 

RUNNER UP: "Sad Affleck"
*After posting, I realized this is from 2016, however, I saw it so many times over the past year that I had to include it. It still makes me laugh. And Ben Affleck still looks like he's questioning his life choices. 


MOST USED EMOJI: 😂

RUNNER UP: 😬


MOST SOUND ADVICE I RECEIVED: "Don't lose the good in you to accept the bad in someone else."

RUNNER UP: "Don't ever forget who you are."


EPIC PAUL MAURICE SWEARING FACE: 

RUNNER UP: 


MOST MEMORABLE MOMENT: Conversing with a taxi driver enroute from IOM to Douglas and having him emphatically tell me that I am NOT English, I am Manx. 

RUNNER UP: Bearing witness to the depth of courage and integrity a loved one has gave me a reminder that, while dark and scary at times, the world still has good in it. If the search seems elusive, be that good. It counts. 

Leave a Light

2017 wasn't a great year for me, although great things did happen.

2017 wasn't a bad year for me, although bad things did happen.

The feeling I most associate it with is one of unease. This, I suspect, is a universal feeling of late. It is hard not to feel so when the person elected to the highest seat of power in the most powerful nation on Earth is a misogynistic, race-baiting, Nazi-supporting blowhard that seems hellbent on making life as miserable as possible for any living creature deemed beneath him (and everything deemed beneath him is anyone born without the privilege of obscene inherited wealth). The only thing more disappointing than a living caricature of the Monopoly Man's evil twin being elected to power are the number of people that support and feel emboldened by marks of ignorance. In 2017, I felt like a stranger on my own planet. I assumed we were long past this as a society but I forgot that history often repeats itself. 

And it did in my life too. 

In 2007, my father and I took two major holidays together. The first was to England. We drove all over the country but missed the Isle of Man, my paternal ancestral home (a major storm forced the ferries to shut down). My father was disappointed he didn't make it and always vowed to return but never had the opportunity before passing away at far too early an age. Enter January 2017, in which I felt the perfect bookend to the last decade of travel was to return there with the sole purpose of visiting my Manx motherland. And so I did. I also ran into more potential family history when I discovered my surname on several war monuments including one I came across by chance while exploring the back-end of St. Paul's Cathedral. It was one of the most memorable moments of my life for all the right reasons. My father left his light. I followed. 

Spring was a series of unfortunate events including a solid two weeks where my life turned to unrelenting shit in so many ways. It began with getting my first speeding ticket while enroute to a local lake for a day of hiking. Totally my own fault. Totally deserved. In addition to learning how fast (and impressively smooth) my car rides, I also learned the more important lesson that I am not above the rules of the road. This caution would be needed in the Fall when I witnessed a fatal head-on collision between an impatient driver and a semi-truck. It was one of the most horrific things I've ever seen; the visuals of which still haunt me today. Every so often I will replay the fateful moments that led up to it. The stop at the rest area on the provincial border. Being in a standstill as my car and another both waited for the other to pull out, with them eventually waving me to proceed. The seconds, literal seconds, this took that was the differentiator between us leading or following the semi. The impatient driver probably would have still passed but if these seconds hadn't occurred in the order they had, I would have been hit instead. 

After that, I chipped my front tooth in an embarrassingly banal way. It was fixed by week's end but I have never felt so self-conscious in my life. My smile is THE thing that people notice and comment about me. Without it, I am not myself. I am not THE Deborah Clague that people know. This unfortunate accident taught me that I need to be pro-active about my health and wellbeing and also that enamel-strengthening toothpaste is a wise investment. 

During this period, I was also told some news that was unexpected but always suspected. This taught me the lesson of being careful who I willingly let into my life. Not everyone leaves a light. Some bestow darkness because it is all they know. But the worst blow to my being was when I found out my maternal grandfather, Joseph Ouelette, passed away. Relationships might not always unfold as you feel they should. They might not always follow a traditional, linear pattern or offer closure upon demise. But there is always – ALWAYS – a lesson to be learned when you filter through the memories left behind, good and bad. It can take a bit of strength to reach that clarity while discarding everything else; to acknowledge the history without having its weight break your spirit. This particular branch of my family tree held a lot of weight. In letting go of the past and moving forward with nothing but remembrance of love, I understood my mother's resiliency and realized that I, myself, have a long way to go in developing internal peace.  

My shit Spring ended with something that came completely out of left field. A job offer to work for the President's Office at an international post-secondary institution that would include a very competitive salary, several tiers of bonuses (including a 40% first year bonus and a 30% ongoing relocation allowance), full complement of benefits, pension, health care, subsidized housing, the potential to work on some very prestigious projects and experience a new adventure in life. This sounds like a no-brainer and for a time all I could think about was how this would get me closer to my goal of being a millionaire by the age of forty. But it was the destination that gave me pause. The job offer was in Saudi Arabia, a country with vastly different cultural and gender norms than I am used to. Half the people I mentioned it to told me to take it. That I would be on a compound and not entirely exposed to the realities of it. I would never make this kind of money again. The other half told me that it would be a huge mistake. That I would be on a compound and not entirely exposed to the realities of it. Money is not the most important thing in life after all. In the end, I had several long conversations with my mother who expressed that it was ultimately my decision but that she would be lost without me here. That was all I needed to hear. Several months later, I would receive the Outstanding Service award for my organization confirming that my career is going exactly where I want it to be. 

On another positive note, I spent a lot of 2017 perfecting my culinary ability. Late last year, I was proud of several basic dishes that I knew how to make. I have since expanded to having an entire repertoire that is so delicious I feel I could open a restaurant. My favourite creation, as of right now, are my homemade samosas. But beyond simply developing a skill, this has resulted in a huge lifestyle change for me. With the help and influence of my partner, I have become more aware of what I'm putting in my body and now only aim to eat fresh, organic, unprocessed foods wherever possible. 

2017 may have been a year of unease but that is because I was passive. Ultimately I know that change – and the pursuit of happiness – starts with me. And so the year ends with a commitment to repeat history one more time with the end-goal of positive personal evolution, shining a light for myself, and perhaps others, who need to feel they can conquer hardship in any form. As mentioned, a decade ago I went on two major holidays. One was a road trip throughout England. The second was an excruciating month-long backpacking expedition throughout a country that gave me sensory overload (and, admittedly, a lot of culture shock at the time). 

I've decided that in 2018 I need to return to the place that kicked my ass all those years ago. I need to revisit this as a starting place of closure and renewal. 

I am so excited to return to China.  

I want to leave a light. 

Home Cooking: Za'atar Lemon Roasted Chicken and Saffron-Infused Pomegranate Rice

This weekend I tried something different. After reading "Jamie Oliver's Food Escapes" by my current favourite celebrity chef, I've become intrigued with the cuisine of Morocco, especially a hard-to-find spice called za'atar which a number of recipes from the region incorporate. Za'atar is a very fragrant, tangy blend of sesame seeds, thyme and sumac. After finally finding it in a local specialty store, I pulled together this recipe of za'atar lemon roasted chicken with a side of saffron-infused pomegranate rice. This was a partial success; I don't feel I've developed the palate for this particular spice (and there were too many other ingredients in the rice for the saffron to truly shine through), however, my partner felt it was very reminiscent of the food he ate while living in Africa years ago. He also ate all the leftovers. Yay! 

"Food Escapes" also talked about the communal ovens of Morocco which I found very interesting. Citizens fill clay pots called tangias with a variety of ingredients and drop them off to be slow-cooked over fire all day. The concept is a sharp contrast to the west's expectation of fast-food but I feel this would be so much more delicious (and obviously healthy). I would love to travel to North Africa to experience it. 

Za'atar lemon roasted chicken with saffron-infused pomegranate rice (©Deborah Clague)

Za'atar lemon roasted chicken with saffron-infused pomegranate rice (©Deborah Clague)

Za'atar lemon roasted chicken being readied for the oven (©Deborah Clague)

Za'atar lemon roasted chicken being readied for the oven (©Deborah Clague)

This marks the first time I've cooked with saffron (©Deborah Clague)

This marks the first time I've cooked with saffron (©Deborah Clague)

Prepping ingredients (©Deborah Clague)

Prepping ingredients (©Deborah Clague)