Alison Gillmor

  • Cooking up coffee

    A few weeks ago, I raised my morning cup of joe to a study published in the journal Heart. The study suggested that, with healthy individuals, moderate amounts of coffee -- defined as three to five cups a day -- might be linked to improved cardiovascular health. The Heart report joins other recent papers linking coffee consumption to reduced levels of disease and increased longevity -- though, as with almost all these kinds of studies, there are cautious caveats that exact connections aren't clear and more study is needed.
  • Hollywood busted over Ghostbusters gender squabble

    Sony Pictures recently made headlines by announcing that the studio was releasing a new "male-driven" movie. Usually this wouldn't attract attention beyond the occasional sarcastic "No! Really?" After all, "male-driven" is Hollywood's default setting. This particular statement drew some fire, however, because it involved the announcement of a new dude-centred Ghostbusters sequel just weeks after Hollywood confirmed the casting of Paul Feig's all-woman take on the same 1984 comedy classic.
  • The president's lost his mojo

    Remember the debut season of House of Cards, the Netflix series about the slippery political climb of scheming sociopath Frank Underwood? The first time we meet Frank, he's killing a dog. The man kills a dog! As everybody knows, dog murder violates standard movie and television rules. (Put it this way: You can do anything you want to a woman onscreen, but God help you if you hurt man's best friend.)
  • Mad Men's delicate, potent nostalgia

    The last half of the final season of Mad Men doesn't begin airing until April 5, but the influential AMC series has already started its long goodbye. A characteristically cryptic promo trailer debuted on Feb. 19. Called "The Party's Over," it has some viewers feeling apprehensive about the show's approaching '70s grooviness. Megan looks cool in bell-bottoms, for example, but we suspect Pete is wearing bad white shoes. "If they give Don Draper a perm," tweeted one fan, "I am OUT."
  • The wonderful and the weird

    The 87th Academy Awards will be broadcast on Sunday. In the spirit of the Oscar season, I would like to submit for your consideration the work of Eddie Redmayne. No, not in the classy, brainy biopic The Theory of Everything. I want to single out his prize-worthy performance in the deranged space-opera flop Jupiter Ascending.
  • Eggs wrapped in sausage a match made in heaven

    Thanks to Karen Makowski, Irene Chomiak and Linda Snider for responding to a request for Scotch (or Scots) eggs. (And Linda, the cookie recipes you need are on their way.) Thanks also to Ina Drummond, who sent in a good Scottish recipe from The Scottish Kitchen by Sue McDougall. Ina also sent in a recipe for cheese potato cakes from that same cookbook. This week, Cathy McGimpsey has seen beef rib-eye hotpot rolls, both fresh and frozen, in the supermarket. She's intrigued, and wonders if anyone has recipes for how to use them.
  • I can stop watching Lost any time — really

    A recent study linking binge-watching with depression has been making some of us uneasy. I got quite antsy, maybe because the story began grabbing headlines just as I started watching Lost. The six-season TV series about a group of stranded plane-crash survivors is potentially the bingey-est viewing experience ever devised to entertain (and simultaneously torture) human beings. Originally airing on ABC from 2004 to 2010, Lost was known for creating obsessive, unbalanced viewers even before binge-watching was a thing. No wonder I had fears for my mental health.
  • Series renews the Kitchen Debate

    One of the oddest incidents in the Cold War was the so-called Kitchen Debate. This impromptu exchange between Richard Nixon, then American vice-president, and Soviet premier Nikita Khrushchev took place in 1959 at the American National Exhibition in Moscow. As the two men stood in a model American kitchen, Nixon talked up the possibilities of consumer capitalism, pointing to the nifty labour-saving devices that surrounded them. Khrushchev, who was quite the comedian, countered by asking if there was a machine that "puts food into the mouth and pushes it down," a deadpan Russian dis of western softness.
  • Brief Encounter lingers on

    Noël Coward, the playwright, actor, songwriter, singer and star of Winnipeg's own CowardFest 2015, is the epitome of Jazz Age chic. Mere mention of his name calls up champagne cocktails and smoking jackets, dry wit and "Darling, how marvellous" dialogue. Trust me to be drawn instead to the sad Coward, the drab Coward, the wartime Coward. My favourite Coward work is Brief Encounter, a resolutely middle-aged, middle-class story where everybody drinks cups of weak tea on the way to muted suburban sorrow.
  • Hard to choose from bunch of banana bread recipes

    WE got a huge response to last week’s request for banana bread recipes. Thanks so much to the many readers who answered the call, including Naomi Doerksen, Lindsay Storie, Jeanette Johnston, Brenda Vincent, Karen Solomon, Carol Gillis, Vicki Lazaruk, Donna Whonder, Wendy Barker, Christie Macdonald, Gina Chodirker, Marcy Mazur and Linda Snider. It was very hard to choose from so many recipes, including some that had been inherited from mothers and grandmothers. I ended up going with a good basic recipe from Margaret Daley-Wiebe, as well as a whole-wheat version from Wendy Phillips of Oakville, Ont.
  • Oscar has a woman problem

    It's commonplace to assume that the entertainment industry is just packed with progressives. You know, those "Hollywood liberals" and "leftie elites" that Fox News is always talking about. But as the 2015 Academy Awards nominations suggest, the movie biz is actually a lot less diverse than the moviegoers its serves, and it remains curiously resistant to closing that gap. In fact, it can be downright anti-progressive, with the academy standing as one of the last comfy clubhouses for middle-aged white guys.
  • Let Amal be our Hollywood tour guide

    The most talked-about attendee at last Sunday's Golden Globes wasn't a big Hollywood celebrity. It was Amal Clooney, who was basically there as her husband's plus-one. Hosts Tina Fey and Amy Poehler -- who ran a notably feminist awards show -- kickstarted the Amal-loving vibe with their opening monologue. They began by pointing out that Amal Alamuddin Clooney "is a human rights lawyer who worked on the Enron case [and] was an adviser to Kofi Annan regarding Syria."
  • When life gives Calgary food writer lemons ...she heads directly to the kitchen

    FOR Gwendolyn Richards, the path to her first cookbook involved a few funny turns. While working as a crime reporter for the Calgary Herald, Richards started a food blog as a creative side project and then began doing monthly food pieces for the newspaper. “Every month I would pitch what I wanted to write about,” explains the 38-year-old food writer and photographer. “A nd I kind of fell into this pattern where everything I pitched was lemon-related.”
  • Downton ditches classy for daffy

    Last Sunday, as Downton Abbey offered up a daffy, slightly deranged season opener, it seemed odd to look back to 2011, when the series seemed to embody the quintessence of Masterpiece Theater "classiness." With its handsome period-piece prestige, DA appeared set to examine the complex class hierarchies of a rapidly changing England. But no. By the second season, with a spate of double amnesia and temporary paralysis subplots, the series had become a posh soap opera. By the third season, it had descended into moments of unintentional comedy. Now, after a letdown fourth series, Downton Abbey is back for a fifth, reigning over PBS's Sunday evenings in its interminable but strangely irresistible way. Four years on, we're still watching Downton Abbey.
  • The strange, sad and silly year that was

    As usual, the year in pop culture provided a tragicomic pageant of the good, the bad, the random and the ridiculous. Here's a brief rundown:
  • Earl Grey squares

    If you like cookies and tea, you want to try cookies made with tea. These convenient slice-and-bake squares offer the subtle citrus taste of Earl Grey.  
  • Combining Hanukkah and Christmas doesn’t have to be like mixing oil and eggnog

    THE snow is falling. The lights are gleaming. It’s beginning to look a lot like... Chrismukkah? Last night, many Winnipeg families began lighting candles to mark Hanukkah, the Jewish celebration of the rededication of the Temple in Jerusalem after a struggle for religious freedom. Other families are busy decorating trees, baking cookies and singing carols to celebrate Christmas and the birth of Jesus.
  • Eggnog Sandwich Cookies

    THESE cakey sandwich cookies have the warm Christmas flavours of eggnog.  
  • Sorkin's show spirals to irrelevancy

    Like a lot of people who write for a living, I wanted to like the Aaron Sorkin series The Newsroom. It's wordy, and I like words. It's idealistic, and I've got ideals. I love the notion that getting out the news is just one fast-talking, crisis-a-minute caper. If only the words weren't such an echo chamber of hollow cleverness. The Newsroom offers the worst kind of Sorkin-talk, with almost nothing between rat-a-tat banter and ponderous speechifying. If only the principles weren't so smug and self-indulgent. Even to me, someone who can't start the day without a cup of coffee and some hard-copy news, the show's defence of old-school journalism feels preachy, patronizing and embarrassingly out of touch.
  • Lemon Thumbprints

    This recipe adds some fresh citrus flavour to a buttery thumbprint cookie. Lemon Thumbprints
  • There has been an awakening

    The trailer for Star Wars 7 dropped the day after American Thanksgiving, with fans rousing themselves from food hangovers for a longed-for first look at The Force Awakens. Some ardent Star Wars lovers headed to the multiplex, often to attend movies they didn't like, just to experience the new offering on the big screen. The trailer was simultaneously released on iTunes and was almost immediately plastered over social media. Not long after that, the Internet was packed with memes, parodies, fan art, even a shot-by-shot Lego replication. By the end of the weekend, the trailer had millions of views, and almost as many reviews, reactions and online rants and raves.
  • Food author thinks we can learn to love bitterness

    Toronto-based food writer and cook Jennifer McLagan has made a career of championing misunderstood foods. In her new book, Bitter, she makes the contrarian case that bitter is often better. McLagan's award-winning Bones (2005) was a reaction to the skinless, boneless chicken breasts that dominated the supermarket aisles. Fat (2008) embraced not just butter but unfashionable ingredients like lard and suet. The Odd Bits (2011) celebrated cuts of meat that North American cuisine has often thrown on the scrap heap.
  • Big apple flavour from vegan bars

    This week we have some vegan apple-cinnamon bars, in response to a request from Judith Shkolny. Thanks to Linda Snider from Glenboro. I've also added a recipe for vegan apple oat squares adapted from the popular vegan cooking blog Oh She Glows. Currently, we have a very seasonal request for homemade hot chocolate mix from Suzanne Thorndycraft, who had a favourite recipe that has gone missing. She remembers it including powdered milk, cocoa, sugar and Coffee-Mate. And Karen Makoswki is looking for good recipes for onion salad, especially ones that include oranges. She wants to use some of the onions her husband grew in his garden this year.
  • Sexiest Man Alive is no Cumberbatch

    It's People vs. the people, in the battle for sexy. Every year since 1985, People magazine has tried to foist the Sexiest Man Alive on a sometimes bemused, sometimes unwilling female public. But in these heady days of participatory media, this kind of top-down, authoritarian approach to sexiness no longer works. The Internet's potential for radical democracy seems to have been fulfilled -- at least in this completely trivial matter -- because women are pushing back. Witness this headline in online magazine Slate: "Who Actually Thinks the Sexiest Man Alive is Sexy?"
  • Nitpickers ruin a perfectly bad movie

    Interstellar, Christopher Nolan's hugely anticipated space epic, opened on Nov. 7. The next week the Internet was flooded with "What Interstellar Gets Wrong" pieces, which poked holes in the sci-fi film's space-time continuum and complained about the use and misuse of gravitational anomalies, event horizons and time-travel paradoxes. This physics-wonk approach was followed by a spate of equally indignant "What Those 'What Interstellar Gets Wrong' Pieces Get Wrong" pieces. These articles counselled the nitpickers to give in and enjoy the cinematic ride through wormholes, hyperspace and one undeniably neat fifth-dimensional tesseract. The writers reminded their pedantic opponents that they were watching a science-fiction movie, so why get all huffy about the "science" part while forgetting the "fiction" part?


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